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move all the charms of diction and freshness of expression, which the work itself possessed, and to convert the felicitousness and force of its language into prettiness and insipidity. Such transmutations of the original productions of genius, such meltings down of the massive gold of our ancestors for the purposes of modern frippery, have much of bad taste in them, if not something of profanation. They resemble, in the boldness of their attempts and the weakness of their execution, the impotent endeavours of the modern Greeks, to repair the mighty monuments of their forefathers' power and politeness ; “who," to use the words of a great author, “ can do no more for the preservation of those admirable specimens of art, than to whitewash the Parian marble with chalk, and incrust the porphyry and granite with tiles and potsherds.” To those only can such literary metamorphoses present attraction, who prefer Shakspeare fresh from the alembic of Dryden, and are wishful to see all the bold irregularities and exquisite touches of genius transformed to one flat level of even mediocrity.
Of the poetry interspersed in the Arcadia, there is much good, but much more bad, in its composition. It is not, however, our present design to consider Sir Philip in his poetical character. We shall only observe by the way, that, in general, his prose is much superior to his poetry. There is frequently about the latter, and particularly in his sonnets, a kind of clogged and cumbrous restraint, which appears to shackle and confine the natural and accustomed play of his thoughts, in attempting to bound himself within the limits of verse. The breathings of his feeling do not proceed in their usual unobstructed manner, and his spirit does not seem to move at large under the incumbrance to which it is subjected. There is, also, a more frequent recurrence of conceit, and mean and unsuited images, disgracing sentiments lofty and elevated, by their juxta-position. The success of his injudicious attempt to model the English metre after the example of the Roman is well known, and the reasons of his failure are too evident to need any exposition. Of his poetry, the following specimen, part of a very beautiful song, shall suffice.
“ What tongue can her perfection tell,
That doth present those even browes,
Her nose, her chinne pure ivory weares ;
The tippe is jewell of the eare.”—p. 139. The character of Sir Philip Sidney, as a writer, is thus given by his friend, Lord Brook, with more, perhaps, in it of justice, than such characters generally possess.-—“ His end was not writing even when he wrote, nor his knowledge moulded for tables or schools : but both his wit and understanding beat upon his heart, to make himself and others not in words or opinion, but in life and action, good and great.” Sir Philip Sidney appears to have been possessed of a quick and lively sensibility, of a noble and generous heart, whose emotions, unrestrained by fear and unobstructed by dissimulation, gushed forth, with a spirit of joyous gladness, from their sacred fountain of feeling. To think loftily and to act magnanimously, to speak eloquently and to write poetically, appear in him, prerogatives not derived, but inherent: as if, of all that was elevated or extraordinary in man, he was the sole and rightful proprietary. His most heroic actions were done without any apparent consciousness of their greatness: his most exquisite productions were finished without any apparent effort or labour, and yet are such as no effort or labour can mend. Like the sudden and delightful breathings of an Æolian harp, his overflowings of thought seem to burst forth unstimulated and unexcited, deriving none of their melody from the promptings of a musician's finger, and having in them nothing of earthly aid or human operation. His power does not seem so much to lie in the intellect as in the heart: not so much in the conflicting strife of intellectual prowess, or in the gigantic grasp of mental mightiness, as in the deep-drawn sighings of the soul-as in officiating as the high priest of its sanctuaryas in exhaling from thence its clouds of imprisoned myrrh and frankincense to heaven. The current of his emotions flows on in unperturbed and imperturbable serenity, undisturbed by troublous eddy or agitated ferment, catching and reflecting all the beauties which expanded nature presents, and receiving splendour and brightness from the silvery gleams which his fancy sheds upon it in its course. Around it are all the luxuriant delights of earth, above it is all the varied grandeur of heaven, and the voice of sadly pleasing and melancholy inspiration is heard along its shores. He appears, indeed, to have followed the counsel which he reports his muse to have given him— “ Looke in thy heart and write;" and never was that writing unworthy of his character, when he gave utterance to the voice of inspiration within. When left to his own delightful windings along the green and bowery bye-paths he loved to frequent, when undriven from his haunts to join and commune with the vulgar herd of pilgrims to the sacred fountains of Castaly, when uncontaminated by bad example and uncorrupted by imitation, be never fails to awaken in the mind those feelings of ineffable transport, so seldom called forth to refresh and resuscitate it. Inferior as he must be acknowledged to be, to his contemporary, Shakspeare, it was not in the province of tenderness or the art of exciting pity. There, Sidney reigns pre-eminent and almighty, established on the eternal foundations of nature. With all the sweetness of Fletcher, without his fantastical wildness; with all the lovely pensiveness of Spenser, without his allegorical hardness; with much of the delicacy of Carew, and of the fanciful richness of Jeremy Taylor; our author possessed a kind of peculiar and subtle spirit so completely his own, as to be equally indescribable and inimitable. We may compare it to that finishing touch which evening gives to a beautiful landscape, where the want of glare and distinctness is well compensated by the mellowing softness of twilight's first approach; or to that fairy-like and round-circling line which appears, to the wanderer on the waves of the ocean, to connect and join its distant blue waters to the sky, thus uniting the opposite harmonies and assimilating the amalgamating tints of earth and
heaven. This, whether proceeding from some perfection of fancy or exquisite refinement of nature, is, perhaps, the cause which renders the perusal of Sir Philip Sidney's works so exceedingly soothing and delicious in the open presence of nature; when, upon some green bank or near some shady fountain, we hang enamoured over his pages, and, dividing ourselves between the sequestered delights of nature herself and the deep-toned inspirations of her favoured prophet, enjoy the rich draughts of intellectual luxury. There is also another circumstance which perhaps contributes to heighten our satisfaction in his compositions, and this is, the constant recurring recollection of the author which forces itself upon our minds, and compels us with his writings continually to associate the memory of the writer. Every great and noble sentiment, every peaceful image of happiness, and touching expression of sadness, which his works contain, seem so manifestly and closely identified with his own feelings, so narrowly and essentially connected with and derived from his own heart, so undeniably the outpourings and workings of his own soul, that it is as impossible, in reading the produce tions of Sidney, not to revert to and remember himself, as in the dark and gloomy personifications of Byron not to recognise his own personal and individual character. As we the imaginations of the former, we can almost fancy 1mm breathing through his own pages, or that we are holding a colloquy with his disembodied spirit: we participate in the distresses of his personages as if they were parts of himself, and therefore to be worshipped; as if they were the representatives and continuations of his own mind, and therefore to be respected. Our minds are filled with mingling remembrances of himself and his fate, of the promise of his youth and the brightness of his manhood, of the radiant progress of that star, which shed its first beams upon the peaceful glades of Penshurst, and diffused its dying glories over the bloody field of Zutphen. If with such emotions we peruse the works of Sidney, who would wish to rob him of that additional splendour, which his personal character has given to his writings and associated with his works? Who would wish to remove that sacred veil of protection, which the nobleness of his life has spread over the meanest of his productions? Little need as there is of such a protection, yet surely the immunities of virtue should never be destroyed. Such a deprivation will, however, little affect the fame of Sir Philip Sidney. He will, we may venture to predict, as long as living language and vivid description shall have attraction, be considered by posterity not less admirable as a writer than memorable as a man... . It has been the fate of the Arcadia to be the sport of popular caprice, and to experience all the extremes of admiration and neglect. Immediately on its publication, it was
received with unbounded applause. To this, many causes contributed—the high reputation of the author, his rank, his bravery, his unfortunate and premature death, and the real excellence of the work. The ladies were desirous of perusing what might be considered as the testament of so accomplished a courtier; the nobility regarded with eagerness the production of him who was their model and pattern; and the scholars turned with respect to the words of one who was equally qualified to shine in a college or a court. Thus the Arcadia became the favourite promptuary and text-book of the public: from it was taken the language of compliment and love: it gave a tinge of similitude to the colloquial and courtly dialect of the time, and from thence its influence was communicated to the lucubrations of the poet, the historian, and the divine. Imitators in abundance came forth to add their supplements and continuations to it, and the works and person of Sir Philip Sidney were for a long time held up to universal and unqualified admiration. . But the enthusiasm of praise, like all other enthusiasm, will at length have an end, and happy may its victims account themselves, if the height which momentary fondness has raised them to, do pot in the end contribute to increase the rapidity of their dent, and precipitate the violence of their fate. What a speaking illustration is furnished on this subject, by the fates of Aquinas, Ramus, Malbranche, and Picus of Mirandula; who would, in the zenith of their reputation, have ever believed that the world would one day be as silent of them as it is now? And, indeed, it is remarkable enough, how few of those who have astonished their contemporaries by their wit and genius, and whose names were in their own age held up to an almost idolatrous admiration, have left behind them memorials sufficient to justify their fame. In the scanty remains which time has left us of the genius of Crichton, we seek in vain for that intellectual vigour and refinement, which, pervading science at a glance, left all others at an immeasurable distance; and before which, universities themselves and assemblages of the learned shrunk dismayed and confounded. In the compositions of Rochester, what foundation can we find for that reputed predominancy of wit which all his contemporaries allowed him, and which seemed almost to excuse his profligacy and extenuate his vice. - We look in vain, in the productions of such men, to find an adequate cause for the lavishness and superabundance of praise which was heaped on them by the devotion of their co-evals. It is as if some vivifying charm, some exquisite but fugacious investment of brightness, which hallowed them to the eyes of our forefathers, had departed and left us to inquire what could be that radiance of which we see no