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Oh, there an hostess was,
Paid for our titles dear as any where. This, then, was harder fortune than they met with in a previous instance, where, if the charge was rather high, the personal attractions of the landlady afforded some compensation in the eyes of the four Oxford clerks:
'Twas quickly morning, though by our short stay
And every welcome from her adds an item. We will add the picture of a dignified clergyman, well beneficed and well fed, whom they met in the company of Sir Fulk Greville (soon after created Lord Brooke) at Warwick Castle, and who is understood to be the Reverend Samuel Burton, Archdeacon of Gloucester:
With him there was a prelate, by his place
Lord abbott of some covent standing yet ;
Plenty of flesh, of livings, and of friends. There was not a drop of gall in the merry-hearted bishop; but, as may be supposed, he had but small respect for puritans or puritanism, and he never loses an opportunity of a good-natured gibe at them or it.
POETS OF THE FRENCH SCHOOL.- CAREW.
Both our poetry and our prose eloquence continued to be generally infected by the spirit of quaintness and conceit, or overrefinement and subtlety of thought, for nearly a century after the first introduction among us of that fashion of writing. Even some of the highest minds did not entirely escape the contagion. If nothing of it is to be found in Spenser or Milton, neither Shakspeare nor Bacon is altogether free from it. Of our writers of an inferior order, it took captive not only the greater number, but some of the greatest, who lived and wrote from the middle of the reign of Elizabeth to nearly the middle of that of Charles II., – from Bishop Andrews, whom we have already mentioned, in prose, and Donne both in prose and verse, to Cowley inclusive. The style in question appears to have been borrowed from Italy: it came in, at least, with the study and imitation of the Italian poetry, being caught apparently from the school of Petrarch, or rather of his later followers, about the same time that a higher inspiration was drawn from Tasso and Ariosto. It is observable that the species or departments of our poetry which it chiefly invaded were those which have always been more or less influenced by foreign models: it made comparatively little impression upon our dramatic poetry, the most truly native portion of our literature; but our lyrical and elegiac, our didactic and satirical verse, was overrun and materially modified by it, as we have said, for
nearly a whole century. The return to a more natural manner, however, was begun to be made long before the expiration of that term. And, as we had received the malady from one foreign literature, so we were indebted for the cure to another. It is commonly assumed that our modern English poetry first evinced a disposition to imitate that of France after the Restoration. But the truth is, that the influence of French literature had begun to be felt by our own at a considerably earlier date. The court of Charles I. was far from being so thoroughly French as that of Charles II. ; but the connection established between the two kingdoms through Queen Henrietta could not fail to produce a partial imitation of French models both in writing and in other things. The distinguishing characteristic of French poetry (and indeed of French art generally), neatness in the dressing of the thought, had already been carried to considerable height by Malherbe, Racan, Malleville, and others; and these writers are doubtless to be accounted the true fathers of our own Waller, Carew, Lovelace, and Suckling, who all began to write about this time, and whose verses may be said to have first exemplified in our lighter poetry what may be done by correct and natural expression, smoothness of flow, and all that lies in the ars celare artem — the art of making art itself seem nature. Of the four, Waller was perhaps first in the field; but he survived almost till the Revolution, and did not rise to his greatest celebrity till after the Restoration, so that he will more fitly fall to be noticed in a subsequent page. The other three all belong exclusively to the times of Charles I. and of the Commonwealth.
Thomas Carew, styled on the title-page “ One of the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, and Sewer in Ordinary to His Majesty,” is the author of a small volume of poetry first printed in 1640, the year after his death. In polish and evenness of movement, combined with a diction elevated indeed in its tone, as it must needs be by the very necessities of verse, above that of mere good conversation, but yet in ease, lucidity, and directness rivalling the language of ordinary life, Carew's poetry is not inferior to Waller's; and, while his expression is as correct and natural, and his numbers as harmonious, the music of his verse is richer, and his imagination is warmer and more florid. But the texture of his composition is in general extremely slight, the substance of most of his pieces consisting merely of the elaboration of some single idea ; and, if
he has more tenderness than Waller, he is far from having so much. dignity, variety, or power of sustained effort. His
His songs beginning “ He that loves a rosy cheek,” and “ Ask me no more where Jove bestows, when June is past, the fading rose,” are in all the collections of extracts: the following is less hackneyed:
Amongst the myrtles as I walked,
“ Thou fool,” said Love, “know'st thou not this,
In yon enamoured pansy by;
In brightest lilies that there stand,
“ 'Tis true," said I: and thereupon
With that I stopt: said Love, “ These be,
This may seem sufficiently artificial, and no doubt is so; and, when she reader comes to the streamers of the fair lady's blood waving in the peach and the rose-bud, he may be disposed to demur to the claim of Carew to be reputed above the seductions of a striking metaphor, however violent or eccentric. But the distinc
tion of this French school of poetry is certainly not that it altogether eschews conceits and false thoughts : on the contrary, it is decidedly addicted to what is brilliant in preference to what is true and deep, and its system of composition is essentially one of point and artifice; but all this is still to a certain extent in subordination to the principles and laws of good writing; the conceit is always reduced at least to fair rhetorical sound and shape; it is not made alone the substitute for every other attraction, the apology and compensation for every other vice of style, the prime ingredient and almost only thing needful in the composition; when the thought is false and absurd, it is not tortured into still greater absurdity and grotesqueness by the perpetration of all sorts of violence upon the words.
There is more quaintness, however, in the poetry of Lovelace than in that of Carew. The poems of Colonel Richard Lovelace are contained in two small volumes, one entitled Lucasta, published in 1649; the other entitled Posthume Poems, published by his brother in 1659, the year after the author's death. They consist principally of songs and other short pieces. Lovelace's songs, which are mostly amatory, are many of them carelessly enough written, and there are very few of them not defaced by some harshness or deformity; but a few of his best pieces are as sweetly versified as Carew's, with perhaps greater variety of fancy as well as more of vital force; and a tone of chivalrous gentleness and honor gives to some of them a pathos beyond the reach of any mere poetic art. He has written nothing else, however, nearly so exquisite as his well-known lines to Althea from prison ; and therefore, familiar as that song is likely to be to most of our readers, it would be unfair to substitute any other specimen of his poetry : –
When love with unconfined wings
Hovers within my gates,
To whisper at the grates ;
And fettered to her eye;
Know no such liberty.
1 Reprints of both have been produced by Mr. Singer; 12mo, Chiswick, 1817 and 1818.
2 Misprinted “Gods” in the original edition.