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Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid,
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the

Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine ;
But cloud instead and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men
Cut off, and, for the book of knowledge fair,
Presented with a universal blank
Of Nature's works, to me expunged and rased,

And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.13 From the same deep well of pathos—if similarly selfcentred-rose the tears which watered the funeral-wreath of the girl-wife, little more than bride, dead in child-birth :

Methought I saw my late espoused saint

Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,

Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,
Rescued from Death by force, though pale and faint.
Mine, as whom washed from spot of child-bed taint

Purification in the Old Law did save,

And such as yet once more I trust to have
Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind.

Her face was veiled ; yet to my fancied sight

Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined
So clear as in no face with more delight.

But, oh! as to embrace me she inclined,

I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night.14 These, it is true, were involuntary sobs extorted by positive heartaches. They were not Byronic confidences exchanged with the outside world, or even with a circle of admirers. They were no appeals for condolence. Still, with their echoes in our ears, we well may mourn the more for the general rigour of self-repression. It is the secret of the failure—this a positive failure, as, notwith

standing Coleridge's admiration, it seems to me—of Paradise Regained. The Christ Milton might have painted had he given the rein to his natural instinct of Divine compassion ! As it is, the one grace, accordant with its Quaker genesis, which the composition possesses, is that of an equably calm and chill winter sunset. The poet's purity, his moral dignity, too exalted for visible emotion, were not similarly out of tune with the marvellous tale of the fall of Angels and Man. Flaws there bear testimony at all events to a Titanic consciousness of power. In it, from it, over it shines a colossal character. If it was no habit of Milton's to ask for sympathy, if he moves on a plane above vulgar admiration, as little does he condescend to seek to excite curiosity by hiding himself. Simply, his was become a hermit soul. Yet it remains one, when visible, worthy in the highest degree of contemplation. We should find it hard to name its equal for personal grandeur in English literature.

The Poetical Works of John Milton, edited by David Masson. Macmillan & Co., 1874.

1 L'Allegro. 2 Il Penseroso. 3 Song on May Morning. 4 Arcades, Song, ii.

5 Letters of Wotton, ed. L. Pearsall-Smith. Two vols. Henry Frowde, Clarendon Press, 1907.

6 Comus, Song. ? Comus, Spirit “ Epilogizes”. 8 On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, xx. 9 Lycidas. 10 To the Nightingale : Sonnets, i. 11 Paradise Lost, Book II, vv. 666–73. 12 Ibid., Book XII, vv. 645–9. 13 Ibid., Book III, vv. 21-50. 14 On his Deceased Wife : Sonnets, xxiji.




THE confessed disciple of Sidney, with

His shepherd's lay, yet equaliz'd of none, and of

Divinest Spenser, heav'n-bred, happy Muse! a master of Keats ; author of poems, golden apples of the Hesperides, had he but suffered them to ripen on the bough.

Never was a more unmistakable poet so given to tantalizing admirers with the promise of beauties, which he insists upon expanding to tedium, or into caricatures. Nature equipped him for a poet, and, I can only suppose, as in some other cases, overdid her work. She supplied either an excess of facility, or too much modesty for him to understand that he was his proper self only when at his highest. What that was he probably never measured, whether for good or for ill. If the possession of a critical faculty highly developed checks inspiration, the utter want of the gift is almost equally injurious. Browne cannot have had it in any degree; or he would not continually have spoilt his choicest verse by tasteless additions. Thus, whether the earlier part of the famous epitaph on Lady Pembroke be his, or, as I think it, by Ben Jonson, he at all events went far towards marring it by the second half. His tendency similarly to blur his undisputed work with his own sleeve is so habitual that the falling-off is even an argument in the doubtful instance for his authorship. This absence of the


instinct when to stop, and a habit of diffuseness, are grave faults. So is a passion for extravagant conceits, as that

A mead a wanton river dresses

With richest collars of her turning esses ; as if the stream were a Lord Chief Justice; or that the poet's pen

blubb’ring her sable tears lets fall

In characters right hieroglyphical.5 Such defects may among them account for a dearth of popularity in Browne's own time, unless for the excellent humour of Lydford Journey. Certainly they explain the neglect, but very partially dissipated yet, which has since enveloped him.

If the general reading public had patience, as perhaps it cannot be expected to have, it would find that the mannerisms and fantastic phrasings, the tediousness itself, are more than balanced by intrinsic beauties. Nowhere, not even by Herrick, in English poetry since Chaucer—with the one universal Stratford-on-Avon exception to all rulesis physical nature treated with such insight as in Britannia's Pastorals. Apparent all over the surface as are the literary trickeries of the period, we feel throughout, under the Oxford scholar and the Templar, the inborn rural instinct. One is satisfied that the orchestra of dawn is described from personal experience, when

The mounting lark, day's herald, got on wing,
Bidding each bird choose out his bough and sing.
The lofty treble sang the little wren;
Robin the mean that best of all loves men ;
The nightingale the tenor, and the thrush

The counter-tenor sweetly in a bush.?
With a realism which enhances the picturesqueness, Night



draws in his verse for us her gradual curtain over the landscape :

Now great Hyperion left his golden throne
That on the dancing waves in glory shone,
For whose declining on the western shore
The oriental hills black mantles wore,
And thence apace the gentle twilight fled,
That had from hideous caverns ushered
All-drowsy Night, who in a car of jet
By steeds of iron-grey, which mainly sweat
Moist drops on all the world, drawn through the sky,
The helps of darkness waited orderly.
First thick clouds rose from all the liquid plains ;
Then mists from marishes, and grounds whose veins
Were conduit-pipes to many a crystal spring ;
From standing pools and fens were following
Unhealthy fogs ; each river, every rill
Sent up their vapours to attend her will.
These pitchy curtains drew 'twixt earth and heaven,
And as Night's chariot through the air was driven,
Clamour grew dumb, unheard was shepherd's song,
And silence girt the woods ; no warbling tongue
Talk'd to the Echo; satyrs broke their dance,
And all the upper world lay in a trance.
Only the curled streams soft chidings kept ;
And little gales that from the green
Dry summer's dust, in fearful whisp’rings stirr’d,

As loath to waken any singing bird. 8 The Devon patriot hymns as accurately as exultantly the delights and glories of his fair fatherland :

Hail thou my native soil ! thou blessed plot
Whose equal all the world affordeth not !
Show me who can so many crystal rills,
Such sweet-cloth’d valleys or aspiring hills ;
Such wood-ground, pastures, quarries, wealthy mines ;
Such rocks in whom the diamond fairly shines ;
And if the earth can show the like again,
Yet she will fail in her sea-ruling men.

leaf swept

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