Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ But this sublime paroxysm did not last long. The soldiers soon recovered their wonted self-possession, and cried out, “ Long live Odoacer, king of Italy !' to which the crowd, as if suddenly transmuted from the Roman into another character, answered, with a magnificent shout, that reverberated through the empty halls of the Capitol, · Odoacer, king of Italy ! Thus was the very name of Rome expunged from the sovereignties of the world; and all her glory, her greatness, and her crimes, reduced to an epitaph.”

CHAP. XIV.

· NEGLECTED POETS.

OUR Bachelor and his Egeria seldom differed in opinion, but when, as such things sometimes happen in the best-regulated families, a discord chanced to disturb the harmony of their conjugal duets,-if the gentleman was ever positively in the right, the lady certainly was rarely in the wrong. The only occasion on which any thing like a durable controversy arose between them, was one evening when, conversing, with their wonted taste and acumen, on the comparative merits of the ancient and modern poets of England, the nymph remarked, that no improvement had been made in our poetical phraseology since the age of Shakspeare, notwithstanding the manifest advancement of the language generally for every other purpose of communication.

.“ I do not know,” said she, “any poet of our own time that, in the music of his numbers, excels Richard Lovelace for example, especially in those effusions which he appears to have written from the immediate impulse of his feelings. Tommy Moore himself has given us nothing more melodious than some of his songs ; indeed, the Irish bard, with all his tenderness, is not often so truly impassioned. I wonder that the musical composers, who seem so sadly at a loss for tolerable verses, and who waste so much of their tuneful sweetness on the rancid rhymes of the lamplighting muses of the green-room, never think of applying to those amiable unfortunates, the neglected poets. I am sure that Bishop can find nothing more worthy of his best music than the following pretty little song by Lovelace.”

TO LUCASTA.
Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,

That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,

To war and arms I fly.

True ; a new mistress now I chase,

The first foe in the field;
And, with a stronger faith, embrace

A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such,
• As you, too, shall adore ;
* I could not love thee, dear, so much,

Loved I not honour more.”

“ But although song-writing, particularly of the amatory strain, was, without question, the forte of

Lovelace, many of his other poems possess a high degree of beauty. His address to the grasshopper is singularly elegant, and so sprinkled over with the sparkling dew of true poetical sensibility, that it requires only to be once read to be ever after remembered, and referred to as one of the happiest specimens of the poetry of fancy.”.

TO THE GRASSHOPPER.
“O thou that swing'st upon the waving hair

Of some well-filled oaten beard,
Drunk every night with a delicious tear,

Dropp'd thee from heav'n, where now thou’rt rear'd.

The joys of earth and air are thine entire,

That with thy feet and wings dost hop and fly ; And, when thy poppy works, thou dost retire

To thy carved acorn-bed to lie.

Up with the day, the sun thou welcom’st then,

Sport'st in the gilt-plats of his beams,
And all these merry days mak’st merry men,

Thyself, and melancholy streams.

But ah, the sickle! golden ears are cropp’d;

Ceres and Bacchus bid good night;
Sharp frosty fingers all your flow'rs have topp'd,

And what scythes spared, winds shave off quite.

Poor verdant fool! and now, green ice, thy joys

Large and as lasting as thy perch of grass, Bid us lay in 'gainst winter, rain, and poise

Their floods with an o’erflowing glass.”

“ And the little ode addressed to the rose is also as sweet and fanciful as any thing of the kind that the best of our bards have since written."

TO THE ROSE.
“ Sweet, serene, sky-like flower,
Haste to adorn her bower :

From thy long cloudy bed
Shoot forth thy damask head.

Vermilion ball that's given,
From lip to lip in heaven;

Love's couch's coverlid :
Haste, haste, to make her bed.

See ! rosy is her bower,
Her floor is all this flower;

Her bed a rosy nest,
By a bud of roses prest.”

“ I acknowledge,” replied Benedict, « that these are very pretty things; and I am, like you, a little disposed to wonder how compositions of so much merit should have fallen so entirely into oblivion, as to be only known to a few bookworms. I suppose it must be owing to a little degree of quaintness, I would almost say pedantry, which makes the language and imagery not sound quite so pleasantly to our ears as it did to those of our ancestors, when that sort of style was more in unison with the ideas and sentiments then in fashion."

“ Ah !” said Egeria, “ that is just the way that all the moderns depreciate the merits of their predecessors. They never think how their own paltry performances will be considered hereafter, but set up a standard of excellence, formed according to a narrow scale of their own, by which they have themselves worked, and will not even allow the grace of success, in having written fashionably according to the taste of the times, to authors who have declined from popularity, although to have written so was nevertheless merit. I scarcely know of one eminent writer, for whom the bad taste of his age is alleged in extenuation of his faults, but Shakspeare ; and yet, considering the singular judgment and good sense of that great poet, one should have thought that there was less excuse for him than for his inferiors. But, after all the clatter and criticism that we hear of the Elizabethan age, I hope that some independent editor will yet arise to do justice to the writers of the early part of Charles I.'s reign, particularly to the poets, of whom we never hear mention made, and seldom meet with a quotation. The works of Carew are in themselves a rich treasury of pleasing passages. The following song, in the peculiar fashion of that time, I am sure you will acknowledge, even with the defects of that fashion, is remarkably beautiful.”

“ Would you know what's soft? I dare
Not bring you to the down or air ;
Nor to stars to show what's bright;
Nor to snow to teach you white.

Nor, if you would music hear,
Call the orbs to take your ear ;
Nor to please your sense bring forth
Bruised nard, or what's more worth.

« PreviousContinue »