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of the poets
antiquated song; for there are several parts in it where not only the thought but the language is majestic, and the numbers sonorous; at least, the 'apparel is much more gorgeous
many made use of in Queen Elizabeth's time, as the reader will see in several of the following quotations.
What can be greater than either the thought or the expression in that stanza,
To drive the deer with hound and horn
Earl Percy took his way!
The hunting of that day! This way of considering the misfortunes which this battle would bring upon posterity, not only on those who were born immediately after the battle, and lost their fathers in it, but on those also who perished in future battles which took their rise from this quarrel of the two earls, is wonderfully beautiful, and conformable to the way of thinking among the ancient poets.
Audiet pugnas vitio purentum
Hor. 1 OD, ii. 23.
Shall read with grief the story of their times. What can be more sounding and poetical, or resemble more the majestic simplicity of the ancients, than the following stanzas ?
The stout Earl of Northumberland
A vow to God did make,
Three summer's days to take,
All chosen men of might,
The hounds ran swiftly through the woods
The nimble deer to take,
An echo shrill did make.
Vocut ingenti clamore Cithæron
GEORG. jii. 43.
His men in armour bright;
All marching in our siglit.
Fast by the river Tweed, &c. The country of the Scotch warriors, described in these two last verses, has a fine romantic situation, and affords a couple of smooth words for verse.
If the reader compares the foregoing six lines of the song with the following Latin verses, he will see how much they are written in the spirit of Virgil:
Adversi campo apparent, hustasque reductis
Æn. xi. 605. vii. 682, 712.
- Præneste sends a chosen band,
The rocks of Hernicus besides a band,
Earl Douglas on a milk-white steed,
Most like a baron bold,
Whose armour shone like a gold,
Our English archers bent their bows,
Their hearts were good and true;
Full threescore Scots they slew.
No slackness there was found;
Lay gasping on the ground.
Out of an English bow,
A deep and deadly blow. Æneas was wounded after the same manner by an unknown hand in the parley.
Has inter voces, media inter talia verba,
Æn. xii. 318.
But of all the descriptive parts of this song, there are none more beautiful than the four following stanzas, which have a great force and spirit in them, and are filled with very natural circumstances. The thought in the third stanza was never touched by any other poet, and is such an one as would have shined in Homer or in Virgil :
So thus did both these nobles die,
Whose courage none could stain;
The noble Earl was slain.
Made of a trusty tree,
Unto the head drew he.
So right his shaft he set,
In his heart-blood was wet.
Till setting of the sun ;
The battle scarce was done.
One may observe, likewise, that in the catalogue of the slain, the author has followed the example of the great ancient poets, not only in giving a long list of the dead, but by diversifying it with little characters of particular persons.
And with Earl Douglas there was slain
Sir Hugh Montgoinery,
One foot would never fly:
His sister's son was he;
Yet saved could not be.
The familiar sound in these names destroys the ma
jesty of the description; for this reason I do not mention this part of the poem but to shew the natural cast of thought which appears in it, as the two last verses look almost like a translation of Vingil.
Cadit et Ripheus justissimus unus
Æn. ii. 426.
Then Ripheus fell in the unequal fight,
In the catalogue of the English who fell, Witherington's behaviour is in the same manner particularized very artfully, as the reader is prepared for it by that account which is given of him in the beginning of the battle; though I am satisfied your little buffoon readers (who have seen that passage ridiculed in Hudibras) will not be able to take the beauty of it: for which reason I dare not so much as quote it.
Then stept a gallant 'squire forth,
Witherington was his name,
To Henry our king for shame,
And I stood looking ou.
Non pudet, O Rutuli, cunctis pro talibus unam
Æn, xii. 229.