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THESE last-mentioned writers Carew, Lovelace, Suckling, Denham, and Cleveland — were all, as we have seen, cavaliers ; but the cause of puritanism and the parliament had also its poets as well as that of love and loyalty. Of these the two most eminent were Marvel and Wither. Marvel's era, however, is rather after the Restoration. George Wither, who was born in 1588, covers nearly seventy years of the seventeenth century with his life, and not very far from sixty with his works : his first publication, his volume of satires entitled Abuses Stript and Whipt, having appeared in 1611, and some of his last pieces only a short time before his death in 1667. The entire number of his separate works, as they have been reckoned up by modern bibliographers, exceeds a hundred. Two songs or short poems of Wither's, inserted by Percy in his Reliques,' — the one beginning
Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair ?
Or make pale my cheeks with care
rosy are ?
Be she fairer than the day,
Or the flowery meads in May;
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be? the other entitled The Stedfast Shepherd, an exquisitely graceful as well as high-thoughted carol, first recalled attention to this forgotten writer ; his high merits were a few years afterwards more fully illustrated by Mr. Octavius Gilchrist in the Gentleman's Magazine ; and he was subsequently made more widely known by the specimens of him given by Ellis, among the rest the passage of consummate beauty (previously quoted by Gilchrist) from his Shepherd's Hunting, published in 1615, while he was confined in the Marshalsea, in which, breaking out into what we may call a hymn or pæan of gratitude and affection, he recounts all that Poetry and his Muse still were and had ever been to him :-
my former days of bliss
Her divine skill taught me this, –
That from every thing I saw
1 Vol. iii. pp. 190 and 264.
I could some invention draw, And raise pleasure to her height Through the meanest object's sight. By the murmur of a spring, Or the least bough's rusteling; By a daisy, whose leaves spread Shut when Titan goes to bed ; Or a shady bush or tree, She could more infuse in me Than all Nature's beauties can In some other wiser man. By her help I also now Make this churlish place allow Some things that may sweeten gladness In the very gall of sadness. The dull loneness, the black shade, That these hanging vaults have made; The strange music of the waves Beating on these hollow caves; This black den, which rocks emboss, Overgrown with eldest moss ; The rude portals, that give sight More to terror than delight; This my chamber of neglect, Walled about with disrespect; From all these, and this dull air, A fit object for despair, She hath taught me by her might To draw comfort and delight. Therefore, thou best earthly bliss, I will cherish thee for this, Poesy! — thou sweet'st content That e'er heaven to mortals lent. Though they as a trifle leave thee Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive thee Though thou be to them a scorn That to nought but earth are born; Let
my life no longer be Than I am in love with thee. Though our wise ones call thee madness, Let me never taste of gladness If I love not thy maddest fits More than all their greatest wits.
And, though some, too seeming holy,
Do account thy raptures folly,
Thou dost teach me to contemn
What makes knaves and fools of them.
One excellence for which all Wither's writings are eminent, his prose as well as his verse, is their genuine English. His unaffected diction, even now, has scarcely a stain of age upon it, - but flows on, ever fresh and transparent, like a pebbled rill. As a specimen of his clear and easy narrative style, we will transcribe a few passages from the Introduction to his Abuses Stript and Whipt, in which, by way of explaining the occasion of the work, he relates the history of his life to that date. After telling us that he had been well grounded at school in the Latin and Greek grammar, he proceeds to give an account of his first experience of Oxford :
It is the spring of knowledge, that imparts
A thousand several sciences and arts;
A pure clear fount, whose water is by odds
Far sweeter than the nectar of the gods ;
Or, for to give 't a title that befits,
It is the very nursery of wits. .
There once arrived, 'cause my wits were raw,
I fell to wondering at each thing I saw;
And, for my learning, made a month's vacation
In noting of the place's situation ;
The palaces and temples that were due
Unto the wise Minerva's hallowed crew;
Their cloisters, walks, and groves .
But, having this experience, and withal
Gotten some practice at the tennis ball,
My tutor, telling me I was not sent
To have my time there vain and idly spent,
From childish humours gently called me in,
And with his grave instructions did begin
To teach ; and by his good persuasions sought
To bring me to a love of what he taught.
Then, after that, he laboured to impart
The hidden secrets of the Logic art;
Instead of Grammar rules, he read me than
Old Scotus, Seton, and new Keckermann.
He showed me which the Predicables be,
As Genus, Species, and the other three.
So, having said enough of their contents,
Handles in order the ten Predicaments;
Next Postprædicamenta, with Priorum
Perihermenias et Posteriorum,
He, with the Topics, opens, and descries
Elenchi, full of subtle fallacies :
These to unfold indeed he took much pain,
But to my dull capacity in vain ;
For all he spake was to as little pass
As in old time unto the vulgar was
The Romish rite, which, whether bad or good,
The poor unlearned never understood;
But of the meaning were as far to seek
As Coriat's horse was of his master's Greek,
When in that tongue he made a speech at length,
To show the beast the greatness of his strength ;
For I his meaning did no more conjecture
Than if he had been reading Hebrew lecture.
His Infinities, Individuities,
Contraries, and Subcontrarieties,
Divisions, Subdivisions, and a crew
Of terms and words such as I never knew,
My shallow understanding so confounded,
That I was gravelled like a ship that 's grounded ;
And, in despair the mystery to gain,
Neglecting all, took neither heed nor pain.
Yea, I remained in that amazing plight
Till Cynthia six times lost her borrowed light.
But then, ashamed to find myself still mute,
And other little dandiprats dispute,
That could distinguish upon Rationale,
Yet scarcely heard of Verbum Personale ;
Or could by heart, like parrots, in the schools
Stand prattling, these methought were pretty fools ;
And therefore, in some hope to profit so,
That I like them at least might make a show,
I reached my books that I had cast about,
To see if I could pick his meaning out;
And, prying on them with some diligence,
At length I felt my dull intelligence
Begin to open, and perceived more
In half an hour than half a year before.
And, which is strange, the things I had forgot,
And till that very day remembered not
Since first my tutor read them, those did then
Return into my memory again :
So that with which I had so much to do
A week made easy, yea, and pleasing too.
Afterwards he betook himself to court:-
But there I viewed another world, methought,
And little hope, or none, of that I sought.
I saw I must, if there I aught would do,
First learn new fashions, and new language too.
If I should have been hung, I knew not how
To teach my body how to cringe and bow;
Or to embrace a fellow's hinder quarters,
As if I meant to steal away his garters.
When any stooped to me with congees trim,
All I could do was stand and laugh at him.
Bless me, thought I, what will this coxcomb do ?
When I perceived one reaching at my shoe.
But, when I heard him speak, why I was fully
Possessed we learned but barbarism in Tully.
There was not any street but had a wench
That at once coming could have learned them French.
Grecians had little there to do, poor souls,
Unless to talk with beggarmen in Paul's.
All our school Latin would not serve to draw
An instrument adjudged good in law.
Nay, which is more, they would have taught me fain
new-learn my English tongue again ;
As if there had been reason to suspect
Our ancient-used Hampshire dialect. Though still disappointed in his hopes of preferment, he con. tinues to believe there is a happy time to come — Which,” he says in conclusion,
when I have most need of comfort, shall
Send me true joy to make amends for all.
say it be not; whilst I draw this air,
I have a heart, I hope, shall ne’er despair ;
Because there is a God, with whom I trust
My soul shall triumph when my body's dust.
Yet, when I found that my endeavours still
Fell out as they would have 't that wished me ill ;