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Shall I dive into the sea,
And bring thee coral, making way
Through the rising waves that fall
In snowy fleeces ? Dearest, shall
I catch thee wanton fawns, or flies
Whose woven wings the summer dyes
Of many colours ? Get thee fruit,
Or steal from Heaven old Orpheus' luto ?
Holy virgin, I will dance
Round about these woods as quick
As the breaking light, and prick
Down the lawns, and down the vales
Faster than the windmill-sails.
So I take my leave, and pray
All the comforts of the day,
Such as Phoebus' heat doth send
On the earth, may still befriend
Thee and this arbour ! 1

of the exquisite appeals, to Death, or against Death :

Lay a garland on my hearse

Of the dismal yew;
Maidens, willow branches bear;

Say, I died true;
My love was false, but I was firm

From my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lie

Lightly, gentle earth ; 2

and

Weep no more, nor sigh, nor groan ;
Sorrow calls no time that's gone ;
Violets plucked the sweetest rain
Makes not fresh nor grow again ;

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or of the Passionate Lord's ecstasy over' only melancholy', of which Il Penseroso itself shows reminiscences :

Hence, all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights

Wherein you spend your folly !
There's nought in this life sweet,
If man were wise to see 't,

But only melancholy :
Oh, sweetest melancholy !

Welcome, folded arms, and fixed eyes,
A sigh that piercing mortifies,
A look that 's fasten’d to the ground,

A tongue chain'd up without a sound !
Fountain-heads, and pathless groves,
Places which pale passion loves !
Moonlight walks, when all the fowls
Are warmly housed, save bats, and owls !

A midnight bell, a parting groan !

These are the sounds we feed upon ;
Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley :
Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.

The Faithful Shepherdess is one song. There are pauses of dialogue, full of tranquil poetry, of plot, or a semblance of plot, just for rest to the singer's throat. Then out melody bursts from heath, grove, or river. English poetry has nothing to match it; not its, in other ways, unparalleled superior, A Midsummer Night's Dream ; not Comus. From the Satyr's joyous amazement, in the first scene, at the sight of the fair vestal Clorin :

Lowly do I bend my knee,

In worship of thy deity ; 5
to his vigil in the wood, where his great master, Pan,

Entertains a lovely guest,
Where he gives her many a rose,
Sweeter than the breath that blows
The leaves ; 6

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thence, to his flitting with a wounded swain in his arms,

Through still silence of the night,

Guided by the glow-worm's light, with the final parting from the maiden he reverently loves, the poet has transfigured the 'rude man and beast'. It is a new being that would have surprised and charmed graceless Ovid no less than self-dedicated Clorin.

Fletcher's fancy, like the god's 'flower plucked with holy hand ', has a kindly magic power. From it, in turn, the rough amorous god of field and forest rises etherealized — like his satellite-into the beneficent genius of fold and cot,

that keep'st us chaste and free

As the young spring, 8 with priests as gracious, good, and tuneful. Wanton, heartless, heart-breaker, Adonis-persecuting Venus he remoulds into a

Fair sweet goddess, queen of loves,

Soft and gentle as thy doves; o the broom-man's humble wares become things of beauty to be purchased with kisses :

For a little, little pleasure,

Take all my whole treasure ; and the beggar's rags and homespuns realize Ariel's life of bliss :

In the world look out and see,

Where's so happy a prince as he ! Even a dead landlord, revisiting his inn, bids the guests regale on his best, with no bill to follow, except for a decent funeral ! 12

Whatever the theme, be it the awaking to a sense of the witchery of :

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Beauty clear and fair,

Where the air
Rather like a perfume dwells ;

Where the violet and the rose

Their blue veins in blush disclose
And come to honour nothing else.

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Where to live near,

And planted there,
Is to live, and still live new;

Where to gain a favour is

More than light, perpetual bliss,

Make me live by serving you ; be it a merry threat against teetotallers :

He that will to bed go sober

Falls with the leaf still in October ; or the hard problem :

Tell me, dearest, what is love ? 15 the touch is always light and happy. Fletcher has the gift, as Shakespeare in his Songs, of spontaneity. Like Shakespeare, he is in them impersonal, though after a different fashion. Shakespeare's lyrics suggest character, whether of the singer, or of the scene they diversify. Fletcher's usually breathe neither of the particular play in which they occur, nor of the poet, but of his real period. His genius, when actually he was writing under James, is distinctly Elizabethan. His poetry partakes of the essence of that golden age, with its double front; on one side patriotism and enterprise, often heroic, often rapacious, and Renaissance romance on the other. Ralegh represented both aspects; Fletcher, in his lyrics, the second. As poet he is ever on the wing, and sings as he flies. To us it is an abrupt plunge from the pure ether of his lyrics

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to his mere earth, either tragedy, or comedy, An early seventeenth-century audience felt no shock at the contrast, of which probably neither it nor the author was particularly sensible.

The high poetical rank of Fletcher's songs is indisputable. Yet, unless in anthologies, they do not appear, until recent times, to have been printed apart from his and his colleague's dramas. Beaumont, while still living, was introduced to the public as a poet. As a translator he is well entitled to praise. His juvenile version of Ovid's metamorphosis of Prodromus, though selected unfortunately for modern taste, indicates an intuitive feeling for the analogy between the Elizabethan and the Augustan spirit. It explains the bygone fondness for Dan Ovid as the prince of story-tellers. The bulk of his original writing, unless we override tradition and internal evidence, and share equally between him and Fletcher the lyrics in the pieces in which he collaborated, is, but for an occasional line, such as

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characterized by sheer mediocrity. It is made up for the most part of cobwebs and spluttering fireworks, with two capital exceptions.

But then, what exceptions ! How could our English Helicon do without Beaumont's reminiscences of Ben Jonson's fellowship !

What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid ! heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtile flame,
As if that everyone from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jost,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest

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