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Tell her that's young,
That had'st thou sprung
Small is the worth
Bid her come forth,
Then die ! that she
May read in thee;
That are so wondrous sweet and fair ! 14 The fragrance in it—the atmosphere—the colour, issuing from inward warmth, and from inward life! Here we do not see—with what admiration we may—the consummate artist in language and metres carving, filing, veneering, inlaying, polishing, and gilding. The fabric, to its dying close, seems to grow before our eyes, touched by a light, a glow, as strange—we will hope, as delightful—to poet as to reader.
If the singer did not develop the poetic soul-germ as nature had designed, I am afraid it must have been that he would not. He was far from contemptuous of a poet's renown; he hoped and expected to be venerated as one in future ages ; he chose to be crowned at once by his own generation, and in a lady's boudoir. A poet, to be ranked among the great, ought to let himself go, to suffer the spirit to carry him whither it will. Waller, I suspect, was always on guard to repress the least symptom of divine madness. He had a horror of becoming ridiculous. Here is, I believe, a clue to the frigidity which numbs the
sympathy modern readers would gladly feel. I am not equally satisfied that it convicts his contemporaries of misplaced enthusiasm. As other creatures may possess faculties of which man has no conception, so it may be with other eras in literature. I confess to a suspicion sometimes, and a hope, that Waller's own period may have been endued with a poetic sensibility enabling it to find at the hearth of his sparkling wit a comfort beyond us. It is a curious question whether it appreciated the warmth as fully as the flame in the single instance in which we recognize in him the presence of both.
The Poems of Edmund Waller (Johnson's Poets, vol. xvi). 1790.
Upon the Death of the Lord Protector.
12 The Bud. 13 On a Girdle.
SIR JOHN SUCKLING
SUCKLING'S was a short career, but eventful, passed in a blaze of notoriety. Son of a Secretary of State, he was born and bred in a Court, and early became a favourite of King Charles and Queen Henrietta. He inherited wealth, which he spent freely at the gaming table, and in the dissipations of fashionable life. His was a nature to carry him gaily into adventures, without sufficient sturdiness to see him safely through them. At the same time, it included enough elasticity for him to live down rebuffs. Thus a futile attempt to retrieve his embarrassed fortunes by a rich marriage brought him the disgrace of a cudgelling by a rival. The affront was not avenged by him; yet it neither clouded permanently his reputation as a gentleman, nor dashed his own self-confidence. He had served, with distinction, it is said, campaign in Germany under Gustavus Adolphus. On the armed rising of the Scottish Covenanters under Lesley against the King's Church policy, he raised, at his own expense, a troop of horse. It ran away with the rest of the Royal Cavalry at Newburgh. Finally, having been a principal in a wild plot for the forcible rescue of Strafford from the Tower, he fled to France. In Paris, having used up his courage and hopefulness, as well as his estate, he ended his life, it is generally supposed, by suicide.
A scholar trained at Westminster and Trinity, and a wit, he played the author in the intervals of gallantry, gambling, soldiering, and political intrigues. A weighty epistle by him to Jermyn, afterwards Lord St. Albans, on the disputes
between King and Parliament attracted much notice. His habits of life did not even hinder him from employing his pen in a defence of Religion by Reason. But it was as a poet—though, after the affectation of his day, he disclaimed the title—that he expected to be recollected ; and it is as a poet that, if dimly, we must try to see him. A lyric poet; for of the plays he wrote-Aglaura, The Goblins, Brennoralt, and The Sad One—the two which are dimly remembered survive, each in virtue simply of a song; in Aglaura, of
Why so pale and wan, fond Lover ? and, in the comedy of The Goblins, of
A health to the Nut-brown Lasse,
Let it passe—let it passea rough draft for Sheridan's
Let the toast pass ! I do not think that a survey of his active life assists us much to understand his career in letters. We should infer from his doings a character made up of warm impulses, without equivalent strength of will. Passion, both spiritual and sensual, is consistent with them. So is the refinement of fits of dissoluteness by an element of romance. The rioting might conceivably have been followed by stages of remorse. Spasms of religious exaltation might have ended, not as with Crashaw, in the Chapter of Loretto, but at la Trappe. The whole is compatible with a poet's genius, and work to correspond. Or, on the contrary, an adventurous nature, finding its field in action, might have suffered an extinction of any ethereal spark in the brain.
Neither one nor the other fate was Suckling's. He continued to the end man of the world, and of the pen. Contemporaries, many of them carping and jealous, recognized
in him poetic powers of the highest. · Posterity remains uncertain as to the degree ; it has never denied the reality of what there is ; and the reality has won its admiration, not its affection. There is seldom a glow, unless phosphoric, as of animal desire ; never a sigh of remorse, though many of satiety; only once a positive groan of Vanitas vanitatum; nowhere a battle-cry, the joyousness of chivalry ; only one hint at a doubt that woman can be more than a beast of chase, if not, as oftener, among the hounds, or even a tigress and man-eater; no glimpse of a God in Heaven, or a soul in nature. On the other hand, cut diamonds in profusion sparkle. Gaiety is present, not unmixed with malice, and sometimes malignity; an air of good society; a fine choice of pure diction; if not a largeness of ideas, precision and sureness in their exposition ; more than enough of a poet's sensibility to surprise, disappoint, and trouble that there is none of the sympathy.
Wit, the sudden gleam from the flint, was what he valued in himself most; and it abounds. It caught the Town in the Session of the Poets, not that there its occasional flashes any longer dazzle. Spite against his contemporaries is more durably apparent—against all but Lord Falkland, who in his passion for theology,
had almost forgot his poetry.
Better stuff of the kind may be found in the game of Love, Reason and Hate, at barley-break, with Folly, Fancy, and Pride for mates, where Love always ends by being coupled to Folly, and in Hell ; 2 in the sardonic advice to a lover to feast high :
Spare diet is the cause love lasts ; 3