« PreviousContinue »
There is much of the flowery voluptuousness of some of Spenser's descriptions in the following opening stanzas. The poet, who drops asleep on Flora's mantle, sees a fairy-vessel, superbly decorated, sail on through a sunny bay, and land its fair freight of an hundred nymphs among the green rushes and reeds of an enamelled meadow. This fair group,
Als fresche as flowrs that in the May upspreids
are Venus, Aurora, Flora, May, and her sister Months, the goddess of the woodis grene, with their attendants. Cupid leads on another group, with Bacchus, the gladder of the table ; and this brilliant assemblage dance under the trees, and sing love-ditties to the harp and lute, till, incited by Venus, they attack the poet, who is defended by Reason, shielded by his GOLDEN TERGE. As is usual in such contests, this, though stoutly maintained, is at last gained by Love. The shout of victory awakens the poet,—the fairy-vision has filed, -he is again alone in the forest where he fell asleep, with the birds singing merrily, and the brook flowing on.
As a teacher of life, Dunbar deserves notice. The following lines have a tone of cheerful good
sense and moral dignity not frequent among writers of the fifteenth century:
Follow on pity; fly trouble and debate;
Though all the werk (f) that ever had living wight,
(a) Wisdom. (6) A-fore, before. (c) Merchandize, treasure, &c. (d) Thou canst enjoy all the remainder only with bale, or sorrow. (e) No longer than a sound. (f ) Possessions.
But meat, drink, clothes, and of the laif (a) a sight!
DUNBAR'S DANCE OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS THROUGH HELL, a bold and spirited sketch of the personified vices, mixes the comic and grotesque with the horrible in a manner more wild than agreeable. It is literally a dance; the figures of this hideous, and yet ludicrous masque, or mumming, just appear, startle the spectator, and evanish, before his alarm gives place to the disgust or contempt which their prolonged appearance could not fail to produce.
GAWIN DOUGLAS, third son of the Earl of Angus, named BELL-THE-Cat, flourished about the same time as Dunbar. He was born in 1475, studied at St Andrews, and travelled. Douglas, through his family-interest, obtained high church preferment, and was Bishop of Dunkeld. During the regency of the Duke of Albany, he found it necessary to seek protection at the court of Henry VIII., and died in London of the plague in 1521. His original works are King Hart, an allegorical romance on human life, in which a warfare is car
ried on by Queen Pleasaunce against King Hart, which, after a long struggle, ends in a union. Age comes to their castle, and must be admitted ; Remorse or Conscience follows him ; Pleasaunce elopes, and Decrepitude siezes King Hart, who dies. -Douglas's PALACE OF HONOUR is a long moral allegory. Neither of these poems is suited to the taste of this impatient and straight-forward generation ; and Douglas is now only known in his translation of the Æneid. It is the first metrical translation of any classic into the English tongue, and is admired both for its fidelity and spirit. To each book an original prologue is prefixed; some of which are highly extolled by Warton, who has given a prose version of one or two of them in modern English, though the Scotch of both Douglas and Dunbar was not materially different from the language of the best contemporary English writers. The landscapes drawn by our elder poets, required immense breadth of canvas :- they would have pleased Mr Bowles. To every rock, every leaf, every tree, the poets had an attentive eye ; but they had no knowledge of keeping, nor much of perspective. Their descriptions resemble the verbose prayers of the early reformers :-no object in na. ture was forgotten that could by any means be lugged in. The classic Bishop was deeply tinged with the prevailing taste. His descriptions are full to satiety-rich till they cloy ; his language has a kind of ill-assorted splendour, which, however, is often pleasing ; his images and epithets are occasionally original and happy; and amidst his ornate writing he has many agreeable little touches of nationality.
SIR DAVID LYNDSAY belongs to a rather later period of our poetical history. He was born in 1490, and educated at St Andrews, long the most distinguished of the Scottish universities. He afterwards went abroad to France and Germany ; but he could not have been long on his travels, as, while yet very young, he was placed near the person of James V., then a mere child. Here he was page, playmate, and assistant-tutor ; and he remained in the service of the King till he saw his royal master expire. Lyndsay enjoyed the confidence of his sovereign through his life ; but was more trusted than rewarded. He was made Lord Lyon of Scotland, an office of high dignity but small emolument; and was appointed to several embassies. As the domestic companion of James V., from the infancy to the maturity of that prince, he must have been familiar with scenes which tend more to extend the knowledge of life than to cherish the growth of delicacy. James V. was himself the author of some of the most indecent ballads in the language ; but, in the opinion of many, their wit and liveliness redeem their indecency. There is hardly such excuse for the habit. ual grossness of Lyndsay.
A courtier, a man of the world, latterly a zeal.