« PreviousContinue »
Our author has more imitations, and even translations, from the Italian poets than Surrey; and he seems to have been more fond of their conceits*. Petrarch has described the perplexities of a lover's mind, and his struggles betwixt hope and despair, a subject most fertile of sentimental complaint, by a combination of contrarieties, a species of wit highly relished by the Italians. I am, says he, neither at peace nor war. I burn, and I freeze. I soar to heaven, and yet grovel on the earth. I can hold nothing, and yet grasp every thing. My prison is neither shut, nor is it opened. I see without eyes, and I complain without a voice. I laugh, and I weep. I live, and am dead. Laura, to what a condition am I reduced, by your cruelty !
Pace non trovo, e non ho da far guerra;
E temo, e spero, ed ardo, e son en un ghiaccio:
E nulla stringo, e tutto 'l mondo abraiccio.
Nì mi vuol vivo, nì mi trae d'impaccio.
E bramo di perir, e cheggio aita ;
Ed ho in odio me stesso, ed amo altrui :
Egualmente mi spiace morte, e vita :
* (These conceits found a later imitator in Cowley.-ASHBY.]
1 This passage is taken from Messen Jordi, a Provencial poet of Valencia.
[Mossen, not Messen, Jorge de Sant Jorde (not a Provencial but a Limosin poet, whether of Valencia or Catalonia does not appear), was posterior to Petrarch by almost a couple of centuries. See Sarmiento, $ 365. 503. Ritson. MS. note. I am pretty well satisfied, he adds, that no such person as Messen Jordi ever existed, Obs. p. 30. By the late masterly poet and elegant scholar, Thomas Russell, fellow of New Coll. Oxon. the self-satisfaction here expressed by Ritson was left on a shallow basis. That Mossen (Anglicè m ?) Jordi had more than a poetical existence, is fully ascertained by Velasquez in his “ Origines de la Poesia Castellana," 1754: the German translator of which work, in 1769, tells us, that “Jordi signifies George, his family name not being known :" but Gaspar Escolano, in Historia de Valencia, identifies him by saying, “that he composed sonnets, &c. in the Valencian Lemosine language with great applause, and that Petrarch had taken much from
him.” Mr. Russell further observed, that Beuter in his Chronicle was the first who asserted that Jordi lived as early as the year 1250, and that he was imitated by Petrarch in the passage cited in the text : while the marquis de Santillana, who died in 1458, countenanced a different hypothesis, by making Jorden contemporary with himself, according to Sarmiento in his “Memorias para la Poesia :" and if this authority be allowed, Jordi must have imitated Petrarch instead of being copied by him. But in either case the existence of Mossen Jordi is equally proved ; as also the resemblance of the passages, whichever of the two we suppose to have been the original. Camoens also took the hint of a similar epigrammatic sonnet, which is appended to Mr. Russell's able vindication of our poetical historian in the Gent. Mag. for Dec. 1782.-PARK.]
m Sonn. ciii. There is a Sonnet in imitation of this, among those of the Uncertain Auctours at the end of Surrey's Poems, fol. 107. And in Davison's Poems, B. ii. Canzon. viii. p. 108. 4th edit. Lond. 1621, 12mo.
Wyat has thus copied this sonnet of epigrams.
I finde no peace, and all my warre is done :
And my delight is causer of this strife.o It was from the capricious and over-strained invention of the Italian poets, that Wyat was taught to torture the passion of love by prolix and intricate comparisons, and unnatural allusions. At one time his love is a galley steered by cruelty through stormy seas and dangerous rocks; the sails torn by the blast of tempestuous sighs, and the cordage consumed by incessant showers of tears: a cloud of grief envelops the stars, reason is drowned, and the haven is at a distance P. At another 9, it is a spring trickling from the summit of the Alps, which gathering force in its fall, at length overflows all the plain beneath". Sometimes it is a gun, which being overcharged, expands the flame within itself, and bursts in piecesø. Sometimes it is like a prodigious mountain, which is perpetually weeping in copious fountains, and sending forth sighs from its forests ; which bears more leaves than fruits ; which breeds wild beasts, the proper emblems of rage, and harbours birds that are always singing. In another of his sonnets, he says, that all nature sympa
"That which locks, i.e. a key. • Fol. 21, 22.
[This Sonnet will be found with some
I want both eyes and tongue, yet ere I cry,
will; Twixt death and life small difference I
make, All this (deere dame) endure I for your
4 Fol. 25. * Fol. 25.
• Fol. 29. tFol. 36.
thises with his passion. The woods resound his elegies, the rivers stop their course to hear him complain, and the grass weeps in dew. These thoughts are common and fantastic. But he adds an image which is new, and has much nature and sentiment, although not well expressed.
The hugy okes have rored in the winde,
Eche thing, methought, complayning in theyr kinde. This is a touch of the pensive. And the apostrophe which follows is natural and simple.
O stony hart, who hath thus framed thee
So cruel, that art cloked with beauty!
The place of slepe, wherein I do but wake,
Besprent with teares, my bed, I thee forsakelu But such passages as these are not the general characteristics of Wyat's poetry. They strike us but seldom, amidst an impracticable mass of forced reflections, hyperbolical metaphors, and complaints that move no compassion.
But Wyat appears a much more pleasing writer, when he moralises on the felicities of retirement, and attacks the vanities and vices of a court, with the honest indignation of an independent philosopher, and the freedom and pleasantry of Horace. Three of his poetical epistles are professedly written in this strain, two to John Poines", and the other to sir Francis Bryan: and we must regret, that he has not left more pieces in a style of composition for which he seems to have been eminently qualified. In one of the epistles to Poines on the life of a courtier, are these spirited and manly reflections.
Myne owne John Poins, since ye delite to know
The causes why that homeward I me draw,
· Fol. 24. * Fol. 25.
He seems to have been a person about the court. See Life of Sir Thomas Pope,
* The court was perpetually moving from one palace to another.
Lesse to esteme them, (than the common sort)
In pursuit of this argument, he declares his indisposition and inabi. lity to disguise the truth, and to flatter, by a variety of instances. Among others, he protests he cannot prefer Chaucer's Tale of sir THopas to his PALAMON AND ARCITE.
Praise sir Topas for a noble tale,
On others lust to hang both night and day, &c. I mention this circumstance about Chaucer, to show the esteem in which the Knight's Tale, that noble epic poem of the dark ages, was held in the reign of Henry the Eighth, by men of taste.
The poet's execration of flatterers and courtiers is contrasted with the following entertaining picture of his own private life and rural enjoyments at Allingham-castle in Kent.
This is the cause that I could never yet
* to speak favourably of what is bad. * perhaps the reading is tongue.
b In large fields, over fruitful grounds. [Rather“in pleasant meads," says Ritson. But this emendation is disputed by a writer in the Gent. Mag. for Dec. 1782, p. 574, who cites the following passage from Shakspeare, to evince that leas and meads were distinct.
Thy rich leas
sheep, And fat meads thatch'd with stover,
· Tempest, Act 4.--Park.]
Save that a clogge doth hang yet at my heelec;
Thou shalt be judge how do I spende my time.d In another epistle to John Poines, on the security and happiness of a moderate fortune, he versifies the fable of the City and Country Mouse with much humour.
My mother's maides, when they do sowe and spinne,
They sing a song made of the feldishe mouse, &c. This fable appositely suggests a train of sensible and pointed observations on the weakness of human conduct, and the delusive plans of life.
Alas, my Poins, how men do seke the best,
• Probably he alludes to some office which he still held at court; and which sometimes recalled him, but not too frequently, from the country.
. Fol. 47.
(From Horace; Submovet lictor. ASHBY.]
e halbert. A parade of guards,&c. The classical allusion is obvious.
8 So read, instead of bryars.