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With this stanza he concludes a long piece, persuading Clarastella from her resolution of going into a nunnery.
"Thyself a holy temple art
For beads we'l tel our kisses o'r agen,"
* • • • *
In the observations prefixed to this article, we have not given the poets of Heath's school much credit for nature or feeling—nor do they indeed deserve it. In Heath himself, however, we occasionally meet with touches which betoken that the man did sometimes peep out from beneath the fantastic versifier. It is not unfrequent with him to speak of his love in terms more tender than hyperbolical comparisons can convey, and he sometimes paints the charms of his mistress and the warmth of his passion with an earnestness and strength of expression which leave little doubt of their-reality. The following verses, termed " Love's Silence," are a proof that our author could sometimes fall into a natural vein.
"Ay me! when I
And say, I love not with my tongue, but heart.
* * • *
O when thou see'st me stand thus mute and blind,
My love's deep sea's as silent, as profound:
The lover thus enthusiastically addresses his Clarastella. "Oh those smooth, soft, and rubie lips,
Whose rosie and virmilion hue
Then on this holy altar, I
Nothing can be .more low or ludicrous than the most of the occasions which Heath thought worthy of being celebrated in song, provided they happened to his mistress. Clarastella could not lose her "black fan," get a cold, or get dust in her eye, bat Mr. Heath was straight at her feet with a copy of verses in his hand. When we think of the nature of the subjects which he chose, we cease to wonder so much that many of them should be vilely handled, as that they should be selected, and being selected that any thing good could ever be written about them. It is easy to believe that the man who could chuse the most trivial accidents and the most low and familiar occurrences for his themes, would treat them in a corresponding style. But we cannot help both being surprised and lamenting to see ingenuity of thought, liveliness of fancy, and richness of expression wasted upon them.—And yet this is the case in some of the poems before us.—It is the case in one which we will venture to extract, which " builds the lofty rhyme" on no less a groundwork than the bite of an insect, which the quick-eyed lover espied on the fair hand of his mistress.
"Behold how like a lovely fragrant rose
Midst a fair lillie bed,
Art could not die a crimson half so good
As this was made by th' tincture of her bloud.
The cunning leech knew that the richest bloud
In azure veins did lie;
Resolv'd thus to feed high;
O how I envy thee, smal creature, and
Ev'n wish thy shape on me,
From the occasional poems which follow Clarastella, we shall make only one and that the last of our extracts, which shews our author had some talents for humour.—It is called A sudden Phansie at Midnight, and is as follows, excepting the two last lines, which add nothing to, but easily might take away from, the pleasure of the reader.
"How ist we are thus melancholie? what
It makes no matter Sirs,
How say you yet to th' tother subsidie?
Yes, yes: and let our Ganymede nimbly flie
And fil us of the same poetick sherrie
Ben Jonson us'd to quaffe to make him merrie.
Such as would make the grey-beard botles talk
Had they but tongues, or had they legs, to walk:
Such as would make Apollo smile, or wu'd
After the occasional poems, follows a crowd of worthless Elegies and Epigrams, in the rear of which again come Satyrs as worthless as their companions.
Our readers will now be able to judge of Robert Heath at his best. Of the inferior part of this volume it is useless to take up our time and space in giving any. specimens. Suffice it to say, that the bad is very bad indeed. The total absence of what is called taste in our poet is very remarkable. The unconscious manner in which he slides from the really beautiful to what is disgusting or ridiculous, prevents us from giving what might be made the most favorable view of his talents. Perhaps some of his most sparkling sentiments and expressions may yet sleep in the little volume which we have just closed: but, if they do, they are so intertwined and united with the worthless matter, that we found it impossible to separate them, or in such small and crumbling fragments only as to render them unfit for introduction here. Though it cannot be said that Heath soars very high, yet his course is unequal. His versification is one while harmonious in the extreme, at another as rugged—his language is sometimes rich, forcible, and copious; at another, flimsy, poor, and bald. He, at one time, discloses glimpses of fancy, feeling, and sentiment, and in the next page goes grovelling on in the dark, as if a ray of light or reason had never by any chance fallen on his path. He may be compared to that species of wine which when brisk is an elegant beverage, but which, when flat and stale, of which there is more than an equal chance, loses all its inspiriting qualities, becomes disgusting to the palate, and excites surprise that in any state it could be thought delightful. Of the history or circumstances of Robert Heath we know nothing, save that Esquire is tagged to his name, and that he says of himself,
"No peasant bloud doth stein or chil my veins."
Mr. Ellis, in his Specimens, gives two short extracts from him, and we do think that he was not unworthy of the notice of Mr. Campbell, who has included in his British Poets many whose merits we cannot help thinking inferior to those of Robert Heath. It should not be forgotten that these poems were sent out into the world without the consent of the author, who probably was abroad at the time of their publication. This we learn from the address of the "■ Stationer to the reader," who confesses the greatness of his presumption in having ventured to the press without the author's knowledge: "but," says he, "the gallantness and ingenuity of the gentleman is so eminent in every thing, that I could not imagine but that the meanest of his recreations (for such was this) might carry much in it worthy of public view: besides, the approbation of some friends hath heightened my desire of publishing it; who, upon their revising it, do assure me it is a sweet piece of excellent fancie and worthy to be called the author's own issue."
The commendatory lines which follow, addressed " to my honoured friend Mr. R. H. on his rich Poems and Satyrs," by G. H., clearly shew that the author was then abroad, and that he was a person of honour and fortune.
"Thy dainties are for foreign palates, we
Are bless'd with scraps, that too, no thanks to thee, &c."
From some of his poems Heath appears to have been a cavalier, and after the execution of Charles probably found it convenient to travel.
Art. III. Tlie Life of the Right Honourable Francis North, Baron of Guilford, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under King Charles II. and King James II.; wherein are inserted the Characters of Sir Matthew Hale, Sir George Jeffries, Sir Leoline Jenkins, Sidney Godolphin, and others, the most eminent Lawyers and Statesmen of tliat time. By the Hon. Roger North. London, 1742.
This old piece of legal biography, which has been lately republished, is one of the most delightful books in the world. Its charm does not consist in any marvellous incidents of Lord Guilford's life, or any peculiar interest attaching to his character, but in the unequalled naivete of the writer—in the singular felicity with which he has thrown himself into his subject—and in his vivid delineations of all the great lawyers of his time. He was a younger brother of the Lord Keeper, to whose affection he was largely indebted, and from whom he appears to have been scarcely ever divided. His work, in nice minuteness of detail, and living picture of motive, almost equals the auto-biographies of Benvenuto Cellini, Rousseau, and Cibber. He seems to be almost as intensely conscious of all his brother's actions, and the movements of his mind, as they were of their own. All his