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To the Patron of Poets, Mr. Endymion Porter.
A considerable portion of the volume is occupied with epigrams and contemptible couplets; the former, without the smallest point-and the latter, for the most part, having no other alliance to poetry than their being in rhyme. One or two extracts will shew the nature of these epigrams. They are the best and most decent we can find.
Upon Gubbs. .
Upon Purson Beanes.
That part of the volume, which he entitles “ His Noble Numbers,” consists of a series of pieces on religious subjects, most of which possess but little poetical merit. There are a few, however, on which he has scattered his spring flowers. One of the best is “ The Dirge of Jephthah's Daughter, sung by the Virgins.”
“ O thou! the wonder of all days!
Above the rest
And bring fresh strewings to thy tomb. vo.. V. PART 1.
Thus thus, and thus we compass round
Of this smooth green,
Too soon, too dear did Jephthah buy,
Thou paid'st the debt,
Thy father brought with him along
But to thy woe;
For which obedient zeal of thine,
And to make fine
Receive, for this thy praise, our tears ;
With tears, distillid
To gild thy tomb; besides, these cauls,
The bashful bride,
When we conduct her to her groom :
We cowslip balls
No, no; our maiden pleasures be
Or if we have
Sleep in thy peace, thy bed of spice,
To starve or wither
And now farewell, young Herrick! for young is the spirit of thy poetry as thy wisdom is old : and mayest thou flourish in immortal youth, thou boon companion and most jocund songster! May thy purest poems be piped from hill to hill, throughout England ; and thy spirit, tinged with superstitious lore, be gladdened by the music! May the flowers breathe incense to thy fame, for thou hast not left one of them unsung! May the silvery springs and circumambient air murmur thy praises, as thou hast warbled theirs ! And may those, who live well, sing, and those, who love well, sigh sweet panegyrics to thy memory! Ours shall not be wanting, for we have read thee much, and like thee much, and would fain hope that this our paper, being nearly all made up of thy thoughts and language, may be liked as well as we like thee!
ART. VIII.- Enchiridion ; containing Institutions,
s Contemplative. " Practicall.
(Ethicall. Moral Economicall.
(Politicall. Written by Fra : Quarles. London, 1702. 12mo.
Francis Quarles, the author of this excellent little book, has met with hard measure from the wits and poets who succeeded him. Popular as he was in his own day, that popularity was very short lived-more so, indeed, than merited popularity should be. As a devotional and pious poet, he was, of course, proscribed by the profligate and licentious court of Charles the Second, and those who called him a dull writer meant, in fact, no more than that he was a serious one. Pope, with the usual hastiness of satirists, took the ridicule upon trust, without examining into its justice, and has accordingly mentioned our author amongst the heroes of the Dunciad, in a line which has the dishonour of undervaluing the efforts of two good writers, and one well meaning man. For a long period subsequent, the names of “ Wither, Quarles, and Blome,” were used but as the synonymes of neglected and deservedly neglected scribblers. Of late, however, the merits of our author have excited more attention. It could not, indeed, be, that the character and intellect of a man, like Quarles, should fail, in the end, of being candidly and properly appreciated.
The pretensions of Quarles as a poet may be easily adjusted. Like Herbert, Wither, and Crashaw, he endeavoured to mix the waters of Helicon with the waters of Sion; to give devotion some of the attractions and ornaments of verse; and it can be no disgrace to Quarles, if, in common with these and other greater men, he had but little success in his attempt. He wanted, indeed, almost all the requisites for a poet. With
great sagacity and good sense, which, where human nature was concerned, seldom allowed him to be mistaken, he had little or no fancy, and scarcely any perception of harmony. Pious enthusiasm therefore in him supplied the place of poetic fervor, and much conceit was substituted for imagination. Wanting the real afflatus of the bard, and yet glowing with heavenly energies, feeling his own want of power, and yet conceiving himself to be strengthened from above, he struggled and lashed himself to give his thoughts a vent worthy of their importance. But his struggles are unfortunately all against the grain. He is continually quaint, where he meant to be poetical; and turgid, where he intended to be sublime. He either soars into the regions of bombast or extravagance, or sinks down into a state of very prosaical flatness. Like other persons, who endeavour to divest themselves of their own intellectual character for another which is unattainable, he loses what was really valuable in his prose style, without supplying its place with any better quality, and we miss his own admirable vein of contemplative good sense, without finding any thing which compensates for the deficiency. His poetry is, therefore, never likely to be popular. Probably the cuts which accompany his Emblems have done more than any thing else to enlarge the period of their existence. And yet the poetry of Quarles is not entirely deficient in merit. That, indeed, in a man of his high rank of intellect would be impossible. There are, as we may perhaps hereafter shew, occasionally spirited and harmonious passages interspersed. Still these are but few, and we believe the general character of Quarles's poetry must remain as we have given it above.
As a prose writer, Quarles stands upon much more distinguished ground. He has been excelled by none of his contemporaries in vigour or nervousness of language. He is generally brief, pithy, and concentrated, as perhaps most contemplative and serious writers are; yet when he allows himself to expatiate, there is sometimes a rich copiousness and singular sweetness in his diction, which rise even to the highest eloquence. This is, however, not often. His principal characteristics were sagacity, penetration, and good sense; and, marked by these distinguishing features, his style is generally clear, perspicuous, and forcible. It is only in the fervor of his devotion, or the enthusiasm of prayer, that he is carried beyond his usual sententiousness and brevity, and that traces of a higher power are suffered to develope themselves. Quarles, with too much coolness and intellectual self possession to be a mystic, was ever intensely devout. In him, religious enthusiasm operated over a temperament naturally calm, and thus increased the vigour and interest of his speculations, without leading