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Summary of Book First
THE Elizabethan Poetry, as it is rather vaguely termed, forms the substance of this Book, which contains pieces from Wyat under Henry VIII to Shakespeare midway through the reign of James I, and Drummond who carried on the early manner to a still later period. There is here a wide range of style;from simplicity expressed in a language hardly yet broken-in to verse, through the pastoral fancies and Italian conceits of the strictly Elizabethan time,-to the passionate reality of Shakespeare: yet a general uniformity of tone prevails. Few readers can fail to observe the natural sweetness of the verse, the singlehearted straightforwardness of the thoughts:-nor less, the limitation of subject to the many phases of one passion, which then characterized our lyrical poetry,-unless when, as in especial with Shakespeare, the 'purple light of Love' is tempered by a spirit of sterner reflection. For the didactic verse of the century, although lyrical in form, yet very rarely rises to the pervading emotion, the golden cadence, proper to the lyric.
It should be observed that this and the following Summaries apply in the main to the Collection here presented, in which (besides its restriction to Lyrical Poetry) a strictly representative or historical Anthology has not been aimed at. Great excellence, in human art as in human character, has from the beginning of things been even more uniform than mediocrity, by virtue of the closeness of its approach to Nature:-and so far as the standard of Excellence kept in view has been attained in this volume, a comparative absence of extreme or temporary phases in style, a similarity of tone and manner, will be found throughout:-something neither modern nor ancient, but true and speaking to the heart of man alike throughout all ages.
52 iii whist: hushed, quieted.
Rouse Memnon's mother: Awaken the Dawn from the dark Earth and the clouds where she is resting. This is one of that limited class of early mythes which may be reasonably interpreted as representations of natural phenomena. Aurora in the old mythology is mother of Memnon (the East), and wife of Tithonus (the appearances of Earth and Sky during the last hours of Night). She leaves him every morning in renewed youth, to prepare the way for Phoebus (the Sun), whilst Tithonus remains in perpetual old age and grayness.
1. 23 by Peneus' stream: Phoebus loved the Nymph Daphne whom he met by the river Peneus in the vale of Tempe. L. 27 Amphion's lyre: He was said to have built the walls of Thebes to the sound of his music. L. 35 Night like a drunkard reels: Compare Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 3: "The grey-eyed morn smiles,' &c.-It should be added that three lines, which appeared hopelessly misprinted, have been omitted in this Poem. Time's chest: in which he is figuratively supposed to lay up past treasures. So in Troilus, Act III, Scene 3. Time hath a wallet at his back', &c. In the Arcadia, chest is used to signify tomb.
vii A fine example of the highwrought and conventional Elizabethan Pastoralism, which it would be unreasonable to criticise on the ground of the unshepherd like or unreal character of some images suggested. Stanza 6 was perhaps inserted by Izaak Walton.
viii This beautiful lyric is one of several recovered from the very rare Elizabethan Song-books, for the publication of which our thanks are due to Mr. A. H. Bullen (1887, 1888).
One stanza has been here omitted, in accordance with the principle noticed in the Preface. Similar omissions occur in a few other poems. The more serious abbreviation by which it has been attempted to bring Crashaw's Wishes' and Shelley's 'Euganean Hills,' with one or two more, within the scheme of this selection, is commended with much diffidence to the judgment of readers acquainted with the original pieces. xiii Sidney's poetry is singularly unequal; his short life, his frequent absorption in public employment, hindered doubtless the development of his genius. His great contemporary fame, second only, it appears, to Spenser's, has been hence obscured. At times he is heavy and even prosaic; his simplicity is rude and bare; his verse unmelodious. These, however, are the 'defects of his merits.' In a certain depth and chivalry of feeling, in the rare and noble quality of disinterestedness (to put it in one word), he has no superior, hardly perhaps an equal, amongst our Poets; and after or beside Shakespeare's Sonnets, his Astrophel and
Stella, in the Editor's judgment, offers the most intense and powerful picture of the passion of love in the whole range of our poetry.-Hundreds of years: "The very rapture of love,' says Mr. Ruskin; 'A lover like this does not believe his mistress can grow old or die.' 62 xix Readers who have visited Italy will be reminded of more than one picture by this gorgeous Vision of Beauty, equally sublime and pure in its Paradisaical naturalness. Lodge wrote it on a voyage to the Islands of Terceras and the Canaries;' and he seems to have caught, in those southern seas, no small portion of the qualities which marked the almost contemporary Art of Venice, -the glory and the glow of Veronese, Titian, or Tintoret. From the same romance is No. 71: a charming picture in the purest style of the later Italian Renais
The clear (1. 1) is the crystalline or outermost heaven of the old cosmography. For a fair there's fairer none: If you desire a Beauty, there is none more beautiful than Rosaline.
Another gracious lyric from an Elizabethan Songbook, first reprinted (it is believed) in Mr. W. J. Linton's 'Rare Poems,' in 1883.
xxiii that fair thou owest: that beauty thou ownest.
From one of the three Song-books of T. Campion, who appears to have been author of the words which he set to music. His merit as a lyrical poet (recognized in his own time, but since then forgotten) has been again brought to light by Mr. Bullen's taste and research: swerving (st. 2) is his conjecture for changing in the text of 1601. Xxxi the star Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken: apparently, Whose stellar influence is uncalculated, although his angular altitude from the plane of the astrolabe or artificial horizon used by astrologers has been determined.
This lovely song appears, as here given, in Puttenham's 'Arte of English Poesie,' 1589. A longer and inferior form was published in the Arcadia' of 1590; but Puttenham's prefatory words clearly assign his version to Sidney's own authorship.
73 xxxvii keel: keep cooler by stirring round. xxxix expense: loss.
Nativity, once in the main of light: when a star has risen and entered on the full stream of light;-another of the astrological phrases no longer familiar. Crooked eclipses: as coming athwart the Sun's apparent
Wordsworth, thinking probably of the 'Venus' and the "Lucrece,' said finely of Shakespeare: 'Shakespeare
could not have written an Epic; he would have died of plethora of thought.' This prodigality of nature is exemplified equally in his Sonnets. The copious selection here given (which from the wealth of the material, required greater consideration than any other portion of the Editor's task),-contains many that will not be fully felt and understood without some earnestness of thought on the reader's part. But he is not likely to regret the labour.
upon misprision growing: either, granted in error, or, on the growth of contempt.
With the tone of this Sonnet compare Hamlet's 'Give me that man That is not passion's slave,' &c. Shakespeare's writings show the deepest sensitiveness to passion:-hence the attraction he felt in the contrasting effects of apathy.
grame: sorrow. Renaissance influences long impeded the return of English poets to the charming realism of this and a few other poems by Wyat.
Pandion in the ancient fable was father to Philomela.
In the old legend it is now Philomela, now Procne (the swallow) who suffers violence from Tereus. This song has a fascination in its calm intensity of passion; that 'sad earnestness and vivid exactness' which Cardinal Newman ascribes to the master-pieces of ancient poetry.
Exquisite in its equably-balanced metrical flow. liii Judging by its style, this beautiful example of old simplicity and feeling may, perhaps, be referred to the earlier years of Elizabeth. Late forgot: lately.
Printed in a little Anthology by Nicholas Breton, 1597. It is, however, a stronger and finer piece of work than any known to be his.-St. 1 silly: simple; dole: grief; chief: chiefly. St. 3 If there be : obscure: Perhaps, if there be any who speak harshly of thee, thy pain may plead for pity from Fate. This poem, with 60 and 143, are each graceful variations of a long popular theme.
lviii That busy archer: Cupid. Descries: used actively: points out. The last line of this poem is a little obscured by transposition. He means, Do they call ungratefulness there a virtue?' (C. Lamb).
White Iope: suggested, Mr. Bullen notes, by a passage in Propertius (iii, 20) describing Spirits in the lower world:
Vobiscum est Iope, vobiscum candida Tyro.
cypres or cyprus,-used by the old writers for crape: whether from the French crespe or from the Island whence it was imported. Its accidental similarity in