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SIR JOHN DENHAM.
WITH MEMOIR AND DISSERTATION,
REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.
LIFE OF EDMUND WALLER.
It is too true, after all, that the lives of poets are not, in general, very interesting. Could we, indeed, trace the private workings of their souls, and read the pages of their mental and moral development, no biographies could be richer in instruction, and even entertainment, than those of our greater bards. The inner life of every true poet must be poetical. But in proportion to the romance of their souls’ story, is often the commonplace of their outward career. There have been poets, however, whose lives are quite as readable and as instructive as their poetry, and have even shed a reflex and powerful interest on their writings. The interest of such lives has, in general, proceeded either from the extraordinary misfortunes of the bard, or from his extremely bad morals, or from his strange personal idiosyncrasy, or from his being involved in the political or religious conflicts of his age. The life of Milton, for instance, is rendered intensely interesting from his connexion with the public affairs of his critical and solemn era. The life of Johnson is made readable from his peculiar conformation of body, his bear-like manners, his oddities, and his early struggles. You devour the life of Gifford, not because he was a poet, but because he was a shoemaker; and that of Byron, more on account of his vices, his peerage, and his domestic unhappiness, than for the sake of his poetry. And in Waller, too, you feel some supplemental interest, because he united what are usually thought the incompatible characters of a poet and a political plotter, and very nearly reached the altitudes of the gallows as well as those of Parnassus.
March 1605 was the date, and Coleshill, in Hertfordshire, the place, of the birth of our poet. He was of an ancient and honourable family originally from Kent, some members of which were distinguished for their wealth and others for the valour with which, at Agincourt and elsewhere, they fought the battles of their country. Robert Waller, the poet’s father, inherited from Edmund, _his_ father, the lands of Beaconsfield, in Bucks, and other territory in Hertfordshire. These had been in 1548-9 left by Francis Waller, in default of issue by his own wife, to his brothers Thomas and Edmund, but Thomas dying, Edmund inherited the whole. Robert, on receiving his estates, quitted the profession of the law, to which he had attached himself, and spent the rest of his life chiefly at Beaconsfield, employed in the manly business and healthy amusements of a country gentleman. He died in August 1616, and left a widow and a son–the son, Edmund, being eleven years of age. It was at Beaconsfield. We need hardly remind our readers, that a far greater Edmund–Edmund Burke–spent many of his days. It was there that he composed his latest and noblest works, the “Reflections on the French Revolution,” and the “Letters on a Regicide Peace;” and there he surrendered to the Creator one of the subtlest, strongest, brightest, and best of human souls. Shortly after Burke’s death, the house of Beaconsfield was burnt down, and no trace of it is now, we believe, extant.
Mrs. Waller’s brother, William, was the father of John Hampden. His wife, Elizabeth Cromwell, the aunt of the great Oliver, was, however, and continued to the end, a violent Royalist; and Cromwell, although he treated both her and her son with kindness, and on the terms of their relationship, was so provoked at hearing that she carried on a secret correspondence with the Stewart party, that he confined her under a very strict watch in the house of her daughter, Mrs. Price, whose husband was on the side of the Parliament. It is exceedingly probable that from the “mother’s milk” of early prejudice was derived that spirit of partisanship which distinguished alike the writings and the life of the poet. It is possible, too, that contact with men so far above moral heroism and rugged mental force as Cromwell and Hampden, instead of exciting emulation, led to envy, and that his divergence from their political path sprung more from personal feeling than from principle.
He was educated, first, at the grammar school of Market, Wickham; then at Eton; and, in fine, at King’s College, Cambridge. Accounts vary as to his proficiency–one Bigge, who had been his school-fellow at Wickham, told Aubrey that he never expected Waller to have become such an eminent poet, and that he used to write his exercises for him. Others, on the contrary, have alleged that it was the fame of his scholarship which led to his election for Agmondesham, a borough in Bucks, when he was only sixteen years of age. This story, so far as his premature learning goes, seems rather apocryphal; but certain it is, that when scarcely eighteen, he had become M.P. for the above-mentioned borough. The parliament in which he found himself, was one of those subservient and cringing assemblies which James I. was wont to summon to sit till they had voted the supplies, and then contemptuously to dismiss. It met in November 1621, and after passing a resolution in support of their privileges, which James tore out of the Journals with his own hand, and granting the usual supplies, was dissolved on the 6th of January 1622. Waller was probably as silent and servile as any of his neighbours. He began, however, to feel his way as a courtier, and overheard some curious and not very canonical talk of James with his lords and bishops, the record of which reminds you of some of the richer scenes of the “Fortunes of Nigel.” The next parliament was not called till 1624, when Waller was not elected. The electors of Agmondesham, who had, meantime, obtained fuller privileges, chose two matured members to represent them, and the precocious boy lost his seat.
Waller’s “political and poetical life began nearly together.” It was in his eighteenth year that he wrote his first poetical piece–that on the escape of Prince Charles from a tempest on his return from Spain. It is a tissue of smooth and musical mediocrity. It shews a kind of stunted prematurity. The perfection which is attained by a single effort is generally a poor and tame one. This poem of Waller’s, like several of his others, has all that merit which arises from the absence of fault, and all that fault which arises from the absence of merit–of high poetic merit, we mean, for in music it is equal to any of his poems. Much has been said about the model which he followed in his versification, the majority of critics tracing in it an imitation of Fairfax’s Tasso. The fact seems to be that Waller, with a good ear, had a very limited theory of verse. He worshipped smoothness, and sought it at every hazard. He preferred the Jacob of a soft flowing commonplace to the rough hairy Esau of a strong originality, cumbered with its own weight and richness. We think that this excessive love of the soft, and horror at the rude, materially weakened his genius. The true theory of versification lies in variety, and in accommodation to the necessities and fluctuations of the thought. The “Paradise Lost,” written in Waller’s rhyme, would have been as ridiculous as Waller’s love to Saccharissa expressed in Milton’s blank verse. The school before Waller were too rugged, but surely there is a medium between the roughness of Donne, and the honied monotony of the author of the “Summer Islands.” The practice of running the lines into one another, severely condemned by Johnson, and systematically shunned by Waller, has often been practised with success by poets far greater than either–such as Shelley and Coleridge. It is remarkable that Dryden, while he praised, did not copy our poet’s manner, but gave himself freer scope. Pope, on the other hand, pushed his love of uniform tinkle and unmitigated softness to excess, and transferred this kind of luscious verse from small poems, where it is often a merit, to large ones, where it is a mistake. In his “Iliad,” for instance, the fierce ire of Achilles, the dignified resentment of Agamemnon, the dull courage of Ajax, the chivalrous sentiment of Hector, the glowing energy of Diomede, the veteran wisdom of Nestor, the grief of Andromache, the love of Helen, the jealousy of Juno, and the godlike majesty of Jupiter, are all expressed in the same sweet and monotonous melody–a verse called “heroic,” by courtesy, or on the principle of contradiction, like _lucus a non lucendo_. In Waller, however, his poems being all, without exception, rather short, you never think of quarrelling with his uniformity of manner; and rise from his lines as from a liberal feast of hot-house grapes, thankful, but feeling that a _few more_ would have turned satisfaction into nausea. Yet you feel, too, that perhaps his selection of small themes, and the consequent curbing of his powers, have sprung from his fastidiousness in the matter of versification. The sermons, the satires, the speeches, the odes, and the didactic poems of the fastidious are generally _short_, and do not, therefore, fully mirror the amplitude, or express the energy of their genius. To his poem on the escape of Prince Charles, succeeded that on the Prince, and two or three others of a similar kind; all finding their inspiration, not as yet in that love of others which animated his amatory effusions, but in that love to himself and his own interest which marks the incipient courtier, who is beginning, in Shakspeare’s thought, to hang his knee upon “hinges,” that it may bend more readily to power. Yet his case shews that there is a certain incompatibility between the profession of a courtier and that of a poet. He often began his panegyrics with much fervour, but the fit passed, or his fastidious taste produced disgust at what he had written, and it was either not finished, or was delayed till the interest of the occasion had passed away.
After the death of James I., Charles called a new parliament in 1625, and in it Waller took his place for Chipping-Wycombe, a borough in Buckinghamshire. This parliament met in London, but was adjourned to Oxford on account of the Plague. In Oxford, it proved refractory to the king’s wishes, and refusing to grant him a tithe of the supplies which he demanded, was summarily dismissed. Waller was not re-elected in 1626, when the next parliament was summoned, but secured his return for Agmondesham in March 1627. He appears to have been in these years a silent senator, taking little interest or share in the debates, but retiring from them to offer the quit-rent of his versicles–a laureate without salary, and yet not probably much more sincere than laureates generally are; for although his loyalty was undoubted, his expressions of it in rhyme are often hyperbolical to a degree.
In his twenty-sixth year, he married an heiress, the daughter of Mr. Banks, a wealthy London citizen. In this there was nothing singular but the fact, that he, as yet obscure, distanced a rival of great influence, whose suit was supported by royalty–namely, Mr. Crofts, afterwards Baron Crofts–gave rather a romantic and adventurous air to the match. He retired soon after to Beaconsfield, where he spent some happy years in the enjoyment of domestic society, pursuing, too, his studies under the direction of Morley, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, a distinguished scholar of the time, who resided with him. During this period he is said to have read many poets, but to have written little poetry. Although the king, jealous of his subjects, had, in 1632, by a most absurd and arbitrary decree, commanded all the lords and gentry in the kingdom to reside on their own estates, Waller did not at the time consider this an exceeding hardship. Indeed, his feelings were on no subject, and under no pressure of circumstances, either very profound or very lasting.
His wife died after having borne him a son and a daughter–a son, who did not long survive his mother; and a daughter, who became afterwards Mrs. Dormer of Oxfordshire. From under this calamity Waller, yet only thirty years of age, rebounded with characteristic elasticity. He came back, nothing both, to the society he had left, and was soon known to be in quest of a fair lady, whom he has made immortal by the sobriquet of Saccharissa. She was the eldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester, and her name was the Lady Dorothy Sidney. This lady was counted beautiful. Her father was absent in foreign parts. She lived almost alone in Penshurst. It added to her charms, at least in a poetical eye, that she was descended from Sir Philip Sidney; a man whose name, as the flower of chivalry and the soul of honour, is still “like ointment poured forth” in the estimation of the world–whose death rises almost to the dignity and grandeur of a martyrdom–and who has left in his “Arcadia” a quaintly decorated, conceived, and unequally chiselled, but true, rich, and magnificent monument of his genius. In spite, however, of all Waller’s tender ditties, of the incense he offered up–not only to Dorothy, but to her sister Lady Lucy, and even to her maid Mrs. Braughton–his goddess was inexorable, and not only rejected, but spurned him from her feet. The poet bore this disappointment, as all poets, Dante hardly excepted, have borne the same: he transferred his affections to another, who, indeed, ere Saccharissa-like the sun had set in the west, had risen like the moon in the east of her lover’s admiration, and soon, although only for a short time, possessed the sky alone. This was his Amoret, who is said to have been Lady Sophia Murray. The Juliet, however, was not one whit more placable than the Rosalind– she, too, rejected his suit; and this rejection threw Waller, not into despair or melancholy, but into a wide sea of miscellaneous flirtations, with we know not how many Chlorises, Sylvias, Phyllises, and Flavias, all which names stood, it seems, for real persons, and testified to a universality in the poet’s affections which is rather ludicrous than edifying. His heart was as soft, and shallower than his verse.
Saccharissa married Lord Spencer, afterwards the Earl of Sunderland, who was killed at the battle of Newbury. After his death, she was united to a Mr. Robert Smythe; and she now lies at Brinton, in Northamptonshire, while her picture continues, from the walls of the gallery at Penshurst, to shed down the soft, languishing, and voluptuous smile which had captivated the passions, if it could hardly be said to have really touched the heart, of her poetical admirer. He not very long after his twofold rejection, consoled himself by marrying a second wife. Her name was Breaux or Bresse; and all we know of her is, that she bore and brought up a great many children.
In 1639, the urgencies of the times compelled Charles to call a new parliament, and it was decreed that politics instead of love and song should now for a time engross our poet. And there opened up to him unquestionably a noble field of patriotic exertion had he been fully adapted for its cultivation–his firmness been equal to his eloquence, and his sincerity to his address–had he been more of a Whig in the good old Hampden sense, and less of a trimmer. As it is, he cuts, on the whole, a doubtful figure, and is no great favourite with the partisans of either of the great contending parties. He was again elected member for Agmondesham, and when the question came before the House, whether the supplies demanded by Strafford should be granted, or the grievances complained of by the Commons should be first redressed, he delivered an oration, trying with considerable dexterity to steer a medium course between the two sides. In this speech, while contending for the constitutional principle advocated by the Commons, and expressing great attachment to his Majesty’s person, he maintained that the chief blame of the king’s obnoxious measures lay with his clerical advisers, and concluded by moving that the House should first consider the grievances, and then grant the royal demand. Charles, who had personally requested Waller to second the motion for instantly granting the supplies, was not, we imagine, particularly pleased with his “volunteer” laureate’s conduct; and his temporary defection did not tend to allay the royal fury at the parliament, which burst out forthwith in an act of sudden and wrathful dismissal.
This session, called from its extreme brevity the Short Parliament, ended in May. In November met that memorable assembly, destined not to separate till it had outlived a monarchy and a hierarchy, and seen a brewer’s son take the sceptre instead of the descendant of a hundred kings, the Long Parliament. Waller, again member for Agmondesham, had made himself popular by his speech in the beginning of the year, and was chosen by the Commons to manage the prosecution of Judge Crawley for advising the levy of ship-money. He conducted the case with talent, acuteness, and moderation. Soon after, however, as the gulph widened between the king and the parliament, his position became extremely awkward. His understanding on the whole was with the parliament, although he did not approve of some of their measures, but his heart was with the royal cause. He first of all, along with a others (whose example was imitated by Fox and his party during the French Revolution), retired from parliament, but in consequence of the permission or request of the king, he speedily resumed his seat. When Charles put himself in a warlike attitude in August 1642, Waller sent him a present of a thousand broad pieces. Still his plausible language, the tone of moderation which he preserved, and his connexion with Cromwell and Hampden, rendered the popular party unwilling to believe him a traitor to their cause, and he was appointed, after the battle at Edgehill, one of the commissioners who met at Oxford to treat of peace. Here, it is said, that one of those compliments which cost the subtle Charles so little (Waller was last in being presented to the king, and his Majesty told him, “Though last, you are not the lowest nor the least in my favour”), gained over Waller, and suggested to him the scheme of his famous plot. We do not think so little of our hero’s intellect, or so much of his heart, as to credit this story. Though not aged, he was by far too old to be caught with such chaff. He knew, too, before, Charles’ private sentiments towards him, and we incline with some of his biographers to suppose that these words of royalty were simply the signal to Waller to fire the train which the king knew right well had already been prepared.
Poets are in general poor politicians and miserable plotters. They seldom, even in verse or fiction, manage a state plot well. Scott, at least, has completely failed in his treatment of the Popish plot in “Peveril,” and they always bungle it in reality. They are either too unsuspicious or too scheming, too shallow or too profound. That mixture of transparency and craft, of simplicity and subtlety, requisite to all deep schemes, and which Poe (himself a confused compound of the genius, the simpleton, and the scoundrel) has so admirably exemplified in the “Purloined Letter,” is not often competent to men of imagination and impulse. Waller was not a very creative spirit; but here he was true to his class, and failed like a very poet. He had a brother-in-law named Tomkins, clerk of the Queen’s Council, and possessed of much influence in the city. Consulting together on national affairs, it struck them simultaneously that energetic measures might yet save the court. They saw, or thought they saw, a reaction in favour of the royal cause, and they determined to try and unite the royalists together in a peaceful but strong combination against the parliament. They appointed confidential agents to make out, in the different parishes and wards, lists of those persons who were or were not friendly to their cause; and to secure secresy, they prohibited more than three of their party from meeting in one place, and no individual was to reveal the design to more than two others. Lord Conway, fresh from Ireland, joined the confederacy, and probably the counsels of such an ardent soldier served to modify the original purpose, and to give it a military colour. Meanwhile, Sir Nicholas Crispe, a bolder spirit than Waller, had organised a different scheme in favour of Charles. He had, when a merchant in the city, procured a loan of L100,000 for the king; he had then raised and taken the command of a regiment; he had obtained from Charles a commission of array, which Lady Aubigny, ignorant of its contents, was to deliver to a gentleman in London. Crispe’s plan was bold and comprehensive. He intended to remove the king’s children to a place of safety, to enlist soldiers, collect magazines, and raise monies by contribution, to release the prisoners committed by the parliament, to arrest some of the leading members in both Houses, to issue declarations, and whenever the conspiracy was ripe, to raise flags at Temple Bar, the Exchange, and other central spots.
It was impossible that two such plots could escape collision with each other–or that either should be long concealed. On the 31st May 1643, a fast-day, Pym is seated in St. Margaret’s Church, hearing sermon. A messenger enters and gives him a letter. He reads hastily–communicates its intelligence in whispers to those beside him, and hurries out. No time is lost. Pym and his party could not trifle now though they would, and would not though they could. Waller and Tomkins are seized that night in their houses, and overwhelmed with fear, confess everything. It is suspected that Waller was betrayed by his sister, Mrs. Price, who was married to a zealous parliamentarian. A strange story is told, that one Goode, her chaplain, had stolen some of his papers, and would have got a hold of them all, had not Waller, having DREAMED that his sister was perfidious, risen and secured the rest. Clarendon, on the other hand, says that the discovery was made by a servant of Tomkins, who acted as a spy for the parliament. At all events, they were found out, and, in their terror and pusillanimity, they betrayed their associates. The Duke of Portland and Lord Conway were instantly arrested. Lady Aubigny, too, was imprisoned, but contrived to make her escape to the Hague. Even the Earl of Northumberland was involved in the charges which now issued in a trembling torrent from the lips of the detected conspirator, who confessed a great deal that could not have been discovered, and offered to reveal the private conversations of ladies of rank, and to betray all and sundry who were in the slightest degree connected with the plot. Tomkins had somehow got possession of Crispe’s commission of array, which he had buried in the garden, but which was now, on his information, dug up. Never did a conspiracy fall to pieces more rapidly, completely, and, for the conspirators, more disgracefully.
This discovery proves a windfall to the parliamentary party. Pym hies to the citizens and apprises them, in one breath, at once of their danger and their signal deliverance. The Commons draw up a vow and covenant, expressing their detestation of all such conspiracies, and appoint a day of thanksgiving for the escape of the nation. Meanwhile Waller and Portland are confronted, when the one repeats his charge and Portland denies it. Conway, too, maintains his innocence, and as Waller is the only evidence against either him or Portland, both are, after a long imprisonment, admitted to bail. Tomkins, Chaloner (the agent of Crispe), Hassel (the king’s courier between Oxford and London), Alexander Hampden (Waller’s cousin), and some subordinate conspirators, are arraigned before a Council of War. Waller feigns himself so ill with remorse of conscience, that his trial is put off that he “may recover his understanding.” Hassel dies the night before the trial. Tomkins and Chaloner are hanged before their own doors. Hampden escapes punishment, but is retained in prison, where he dies; and the subordinates just referred to (Blinkorne and White) are pardoned. Northumberland, owing to his rank, is only once examined before the Lords. Those whose names were inserted in the commission of array are treated as malignants, and their estates seized.
Waller, having received some respite, employed the time in petitioning, flattering, bribing, confessing, beseeching, and in the exercise of every other art by which a mean, cowardly spirit seeks to evade death. He appealed from the military jurisdiction to the House of Commons, and was admitted to plead his cause at their bar. His speech was humble, conciliating, and artful, but failed to gain the object. He was expelled from the House, and soon after was sisted before the Court of War, and condemned to die. He was reprieved, however, by Essex, and at the end of a year’s imprisonment, the sentence was commuted into a fine of L10,000, and banishment for life. He was sent to “recollect himself in another country.” He had previously expended, it is said, L30,000 in bribes.
Waller’s conduct in this whole matter was a mixture of cowardice and meanness. Recollecting his poetical temperament, and the well-known stories of Demosthenes at Cheronea, and Horace at Philippi, we are not disposed to be harsh on his cowardice, but we have no excuse for his meanness. It discovers a want of heart, and an infinite littleness of soul. We can hardly conceive him to have possessed a drop of the blood of Hampden or Cromwell in his veins, and cease to wonder why two high-spirited ladies of rank should have spurned the homage of a poetic poltroon, whom instinctively they seem to have known to be such, even before he proved it to the world.
“Infamous, and _not_ contented,” Waller repairs to the Continent, first to Rouen, then to Switzerland and Italy, in company with his friend Evelyn, and, in fine, settles for a season in Paris. Here he keeps open table for the banished royalists, as well as for the French wits, till his means are impaired by his liberality. A middling poet, a pitiful politician, a fickle dangler in affairs of love, Waller was an admirable _host_, and not only gave good dinners and suppers, but flavoured them delicately with compliment and repartee. In Paris he recovered his tone of spirits, and, had his money lasted, might have remained there till his dying day. But fines and bribes had exhausted his patrimony, and he was compelled first to sell a property in Bedfordshire, worth more than L1,000 a-year, then to part with his wife’s jewels, and in fine to sell the last of these, which he called “the rump jewel.” His family, too, had increased, and added to his incumbrances. His favourite was a daughter, Margaret, born in Rouen, who acted as his amanuensis. At last, through the intercession of his brother-in-law, Scroope, he was permitted to return to England. This was on the 13th of January 1652. During all his residence on the Continent, he had continued to amuse himself with poetry, “in which,” says Johnson, “he sometimes speaks of the rebels and their usurpation, in the natural language of an honest man.” If this mean that Waller, when he uttered such sentiments, was, for the nonce, sincere, it is quite true; but if the Doctor means that Waller was, speaking generally, an honest man, it is not true; and Dr. Johnson repeatedly signifies, in other parts of his life, that he does not believe it to be true. He speaks, for instance, of the “exorbitance of his adulation,” of his “having lost the esteem of all parties,” and says, “It is not possible to read without some contempt and indignation, poems ascribing the highest degree of _power_ and _piety_ to Charles the First, and then transferring the same _power_ and _piety_ to Oliver Cromwell.” In keeping with this, Bishop Burnet asserts, that “in the House he was only concerned to say what should make him applauded, and never laid the business of the House to heart.”
Waller, returning, found his mother still alive at Beaconsfield, where Cromwell sometimes visited her; and when she talked in favour of the royal cause, would throw napkins at her, and say that he would not dispute with his aunt, although afterwards, as we have seen, her spirit of political intrigue compelled him to make her a prisoner in her own house. The poet took up his residence near her at Hall-barn, a house of his own erection, and on the walls of which he hung up a picture of Saccharissa, whence he hoped, it may be, draw consolation for the past, and inspiration for the future. Here Cromwell, who probably despised Waller in his heart, as often men of action despise men of mere literary ability, especially when that ability is not transcendent, but whose cue it was to conciliate all men according to their respective positions and capabilities, paid great attention to his kinsman. Waller found Cromwell well acquainted with the ancient historians, and they conversed a good deal on such topics. It is said, that when Waller jeered him on his using the peculiar phraseology of the Puritans in his conversation with them, the Protector answered, “Cousin Waller, I must talk to these men in their own way;” an anecdote which is sometimes quoted as if it proved that Cromwell had no religion; whereas it only proved that he had at heart no cant. It was not as if he had privately avowed infidelity to his kinsman. Cromwell found _cant_ prevalent on his stage, just as any great actor of that century found _rant_ on his, and, like the actor, he used it occasionally as a means of gaining his own lofty ends, and as a foil to his own genuine earnestness and power.
The Protector, however, seems to have profoundly impressed even Waller’s light and fickle mind; and the panegyric which he produced on him in 1654, is not only the ablest, but seems the sincerest of his productions. He had hitherto been writing about women, courtiers, and kings; but now he had to gird up his loins and write on a man. The piece is accordingly as masculine in style, as it is just in appreciation; and, with the exception of Milton’s glorious sketch in the “Defensio pro populo Anglicano,” and Carlyle’s lecture in his “Heroes and Hero-worship,” it is, perhaps, the best encomium ever pronounced on the Lord Protector of England–almost worthy of Cromwell’s unrivalled merits and achievements, and more than worthy of Waller’s powers. It is said, that when twitted with having written a better panegyric on Cromwell than a congratulation to Charles II., he wittily replied, “You should remember that poets succeed better in fiction than in truth.” Perhaps in this he spoke ironically; certainly the fact was the reverse of his words. It is because he has spoken truth in the first, and fiction in the second, of productions, that the first is incomparably the better poem. Sketches of character taken from the life are better than those where imagination operates on hearsays and on recorded actions. And certainly few men had a better opportunity than Waller of seeing in private and in undress, and with an eye in which native sagacity was sharpened by prejudices, partly for, partly against, the Man of that century–a man in whom we recognise a union of Roman, Hebrew, and English qualities–the faith of the Jew, the firmness of the Roman, and the homespun simplicity of the Englishman of his own age–in purpose and in powers “an armed angel on a battle-day;” in manners a plain blunt corporal; and in language always a stammerer, and sometimes a buffoon; the middle-class man of his time, with the merits and the defects of his order, but touched with an inspiration as from heaven, lifting him far above all the aristocracy, and all the royalty, and all the literature of his period; who found his one great faculty–inflamed and consecrated commonsense–to be more than equal to the subleties, and brilliancies, and wit, and eloquence, and taste, and genius, of his thousand opponents–whose crown was a branch of English oak, his sceptre a strong sapling of the same, his throne a mound of turf–who economised matters by being at once king and king’s jester, and whose mere _clenched fist_, held up at home or across the waters, saved millions of money, awed despots, encouraged freedom in every part of the world, and had nearly established a pure form of Christianity over Great Britain–who gave his country a model of excellence as a man, and as a ruler, simple, severe, ruggedly picturesque, and stupendously original, and solitary as one of the primitive rocks–whose eloquence was uneven and piercing as the forked lightning, which is never so terrible as when it falls to pieces –and highest praise of all, whose deeds and character were so great in their sublime simplicity, that the poet, who afterwards sung the hierarchies of heaven, and the anarchies of hell, was fain to sit a humble secretary, recording the thoughts and actions of Cromwell, and felt afterwards that he had been as nobly employed when defending his grand defiance of evil and arbitrary power, as when he did
“Assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to man.”
We have seen pictured representations of Cromwell and Milton seated together at the council-table, in which the painter wished more than to insinuate that Milton was the superior being; but in our judgment the advantage was on the other side, and the poet seemed to bear only that relation and proportion to the Protector which the eloquent Raphael, the “affable archangel,” the bard of the war in heaven, does to the Gabriel or the Michael, whose tremendous sword mingled in and all but decided the fray. And we thought what a junction were that of the two powers–of the sword and the pen, the actor and the recorder, the man to do, and the poet to sing! Waller in his panegyric sees and shews in a few lines Cromwell’s relation to Britain, and that of both to the world:–
“Heaven that has placed this island to give law, To balance Europe, and her states to awe, In this conjunction does on Britain smile, _The greatest leader and the greatest isle_.”
He saw that in Cromwell, and in Cromwell alone, had the power of Britain come to a point: IT was made, if not to be the governor to be the moderator of the earth, and HE was sent to govern it, to condense its scattered energies, to awe down its warring factions, and to wield all its forces to one good and great end. In him for the first time had the wild island, the Bucephalus of the West, found a rider able, by backing, bridling, and curbing him, to give due direction and momentum to his fury, force, and speed.
He has scattered some other precious particles of thought in this poem, such as:–
“Lords of the world’s great waste, the ocean, we Whole forests send to reign upon the sea.”
“The Caledonians, arm’d with want and cold.”
“The states, changed by you,
Changed like the world’s great scene, when without noise, The rising sun night’s vulgar lights destroys.”
“Illustrious acts high raptures do infuse, _And every conqueror creates a Muse_.”
When Cromwell died, Waller again lifted up his pen, and indited a short lamentation over his loss. After the Restoration, he was one of the first to read a poetical recantation of his errors in verses addressed to Charles II. In 1661 he was returned to parliament for Hastings, in Sussex, and sat afterwards at various times for Chipping-Wycombe, and Saltash. In parliament, he was rather famed for his lively sallies of wit, than for his logic, sense, or earnestness. In private, his spirits, even without the aid of wine,–which he never drank,–continued to a great age unusually buoyant. As he advanced in life he became more religious, and intermixed a vein of devotion with his verse. When eighty-two, he bought a small estate in Coleshill, near his native place, desirous, he said, “to die, like the stag, where he was roused.” His wish, however, was not granted. Seized with tumours in his legs, he went to Windsor to consult Sir Charles Scarborough, then waiting on the king. Sir Charles, at Waller’s request to know the “meaning” of these swellings, told him that they showed that his “blood would no longer run.” On this the poet quietly repeated a passage from Virgil, and returned to Beaconsfield to die. Having received the sacrament, and shared it with his children, and expressed his faith in Christianity, he expired on the 21st of October 1687. He was buried in the churchyard of Beaconsfield. He left five sons and eight daughters. His eldest son being an imbecile, Edmund, his second, inherited the estates, and having joined the party of the Prince of Orange, sat for Agmondesham for some years, but became ultimately a Quaker. The fortunes of the rest of his family are not particularly interesting, and need not be related.
As a character, our opinion of Waller has been already indicated. He was indecisive, vacillating, with more wit than judgment, and with more judgment than earnestness. In that age of high hearts, stormy passions, and determined purpose, he looks helpless and not at home, like a butterfly in an eagle’s eyrie. A gifted, accomplished, and apparently an amiable man, he was a feeble, and almost a despicable character. The parliament seem to have thought him hardly worth hanging. Cromwell bore with him only as a kinsman, and respected him only as a scholar. Charles II. liked to laugh at his jokes, and to Saville his company was as good as an additional bottle of wine. His only chance of fame as a man of action arose from his connexion with the plot, which, however, in its issue covered him with infamy, as all bad things bungled, inevitably do to those who attempt them.
Although he unquestionably in some points improved our correctness of style and our versification, there is not much to be said either for or against his poetry. It is as a whole a mass of smooth and easy, yet systematic, trifling. Nine-tenths of it does not rise above mediocrity, and the tenth that remains is more distinguished by grace than by grandeur or depth. His lines on Cromwell we have already characterised. It may seem odd, but in his verses on the head of a stag, which Johnson singles out as bad, we see more of the soul of poetry than in any of his other productions.
Let our readers, if they will not be convinced by our assertion, listen to some of these lines:–
“So we some antique hero’s strength, Learn by his lance’s weight and length– As these vast beams express the beast
Whose shady brows alive they dress’d. Such game, while yet the world was new, The mighty Nimrod did pursue;
What huntsman of our feeble race
Or dogs dare such a monster chase? * * * * *
Oh, fertile head, which every year Could such a CROP of WONDER bear!”
In his amorous and complimentary ditties, he is often very successful. So, too, is he in much of his “Divine Poetry,” particularly the lines at the end, beginning with–
“The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,” Lets in new light through chinks which time hath made.
These contain a thought, so far as we remember, new and highly poetical.
We may close by saying a few words on a question which Dr. Johnson has started in his “Life of Waller” in reference to sacred poetry. That great and good man, our readers remember, maintains that the ideas of the Christian theology are too simple for eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and too majestic for ornament, and “that faith, thanksgiving, repentance, and supplication,” are all unsusceptible of poetical treatment. He grants that the doctrines of religion may be defended in a didactic poem, and that a poet may not only describe God’s works in nature, but may trace them up to nature’s God. But he asserts that “contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and the human soul, cannot be poetical.” It is curious to remember that, up to Johnson’s time, the best poetry in the world had been sacred. There had been the poetry of the Bible, in which truth of the deepest import was expressed, now in “eloquence,” now in “fiction,” and now in language most gorgeously “ornamented,” and in which “Faith” in Isaiah, “Thanksgiving” in Moses, “Penitence” in David, and “Supplication” in Jeremiah, had uttered themselves in sublime, or lively, or subdued, or tender strains –the poetry of the “Divine Commedia,” of the “Jerusalem Delivered,” of the “Faery Queen,” of the “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained,” of the “Night-Thoughts,” of “Smart’s David,” all poetry, let it be observed, not defending religion merely, or confining itself to the praise of God’s lower works, but entering into the depths of divine contemplation, into the very adyta of the heavenly temple. And it is no less interesting to recollect that in spite of Dr. Johnson’s sage diction, sacred poetry of a very high order has, since his day, abounded. Cowper has extracted it from “the intercourse between God and the human soul;” Montgomery has made now “the supplication,” and now the “thanksgiving,” of the poor negro ring in every ear, and vibrate through every heart; Coleridge has expressed, in his sounding and splendid measures, at one time his “faith,” and at another his “repentance;” Pollok has with true, although unequal steps, followed Milton and Dante, both into the heaven of heavens, and into the gloom of Gehenna; and Wordsworth, Southey, Croly, Milman, Trench, Keble, and a host more have, by their noble religious hymns, shamed the wisdom of the Sadducee, and darkened the glory of the song of the sceptic. Why argue about principles while we can appeal to facts? Why shew either the probabilities against, or the probabilities for, good sacred poetry, while we see it before us, gushing from a thousand springs, and gladdening every corner of the church and of the world?
Dr. Johnson says, “Whatever is great, desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the name of the Supreme Being. Omnipotence cannot be exalted. Infinity cannot be amplified. Perfection cannot be improved.” All this is as true as it is pointedly expressed; but though true, it is nothing to the purpose–nay, bears as much against prayer as against poetry. What meant the Psalmist when he said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord?” Did he aspire to exalt Omnipotence or to amplify perfection? No; but only first to shew his own feeling of their magnitude; and, again, to raise himself a step toward an approximately adequate conception of the Most High. So in religious poetry. We cannot add to, or exalt God, but we can raise ourselves up nearer to Him, and attain, if not a full understanding, a deeper feeling of the elements of His surpassing excellence and glory. Indeed, as the highest poetry (in Milton, for instance) blossoms into prayer, so the truest prayer, often by insensible gradation, becomes poetry.
Dr. Johnson says, that “of sentiments purely religious, the most simple expression is the most sublime.” True, and hence, the best religious poetry is at once sublime and simple. He adds, “Poetry loses its lustre and its power, because it is applied to the decoration of something more excellent than itself.” On this principle, poets should never sing of God’s works in nature–of the ocean, or the sun, or the stars–no, nor of the heroic achievements of man’s courage, or of the self-sacrifices of his love–for are not all these more excellent than poetry? Dr Johnson’s theory would hush the “New Song” itself, and perpetuate that silence which was once in heaven “for half-an-hour.”
Long before the Doctor vented this paradox, Cowley, in his preface to his poems, had written the following eloquent and memorable sentences on this subject:–“When I consider how many bright and magnificent subjects Scripture affords, and proffers, as it were, to poesy, in the wise managing and illustrating whereof the glory of God Almighty might be joined with the singular utility and noblest delight of mankind, it is not without grief and indignation that I behold that divine science employing all her inexhaustible riches of wit and eloquence, either in the wicked and beggarly flattering of great persons, or the unmanly idolising of foolish women, or the wretched affectation of scurril laughter, or the confused dreams of senseless fables and metamorphoses. Amongst all holy and consecrated things which the devil ever stole and alienated from the service of the Deity–as altars, temples, sacrifices, prayers, and the like–there is none that he so universally and so long usurped as poetry. It is time to recover it out of the tyrant’s hands, and to restore it to the kingdom of God, who is the Father of it. It is time to baptize it in Jordan, for it will never become clean by bathing in the waters of Damascus.
“What can we imagine more proper for the ornaments of wit and learning in the story of Deucalion than in that of Noah? Why will not the actions of Samson afford as plentiful matter as the Labours of Hercules? (Perhaps from this Milton took the hint of writing his “Samson Agonistes.”) Why is not Jephtha’s daughter as good a woman as Iphigenia? and the friendship of David and Jonathan more worthy celebration than that of Theseus and Pirithous? Does not the passage of Moses and the Israelites into the Holy Land yield incomparably more poetic variety than the voyages of Ulysses and Aeneas? Are the obsolete, threadbare tales of Thebes and Troy half so well stored with great, heroical, and supernatural actions (since verse will needs find or make such), as the wars of Joshua, of the Judges, of David, and divers others? Can all the transformations of the gods give such copious hints to flourish and expatiate on as the true miracles of Christ, or of His prophets and apostles? What do I instance in these few particulars? All the books in the Bible are either already most admirable and exalted pieces of poetry, or are the best materials in the world for it.
“Yet,” he adds with great judiciousness, “though they be so proper in themselves to be made use of for this purpose, none but a good artist will know how to do it, neither must we think to cut and polish diamonds with so little pains and skill as we do marble. He who can write a profane poem well, may write a divine one better; but he who can do that but ill, will do this much worse, and so far from elevating poesy will but abase divinity. The same fertility of invention–the same wisdom of disposition–the same judgment in observance of decencies–the same lustre and vigour of elocution–the same modesty and majesty of number– briefly, the same kind of habit–is required in both, only this latter allows better stuff, and therefore would look more deformedly drest in it.”
The errors of a great author are often more valuable than his sound sentiments; because they tend, by the reaction they provoke, and the replies they elicit, to dart new light upon the opposite truths. And so it has been with this dogma of the illustrious Lexicographer. It has led to some admirable rejoinders from such pens as those of Montgomery, and of Christopher North, which have not only rebutted Johnson’s objections, but have directed public attention more strongly to the general theme, and served to shed new light upon the nature and province of religious poetry.
Of the Danger His Majesty (being Prince) Escaped in the Road at St Andero.
Of His Majesty’s receiving the News of the Duke of Buckingham’s Death
On the Taking of Salle
Upon His Majesty’s Repairing of St. Paul’s
The Countess of Carlisle in Mourning
In Answer to One who writ a Libel against the Countess of Carlisle
Of her Chamber
On my Lady Dorothy Sidney’s Picture
Of the Lady who can Sleep when she Pleases
Of the Misreport of her being Painted
Of her Passing through a Crowd of People
The Story of Phoebus and Daphne, applied
On the Friendship betwixt Saccharissa and Amoret
The Battle of the Summer Islands
Of the Queen
The Apology of Sleep, for not Approaching the Lady who can do anything but Sleep when she Pleases
A La Malade
Upon the Death of my Lady Rich
For Drinking of Healths
Of my Lady Isabella, Playing on the Lute
Of Mrs. Arden
Of the Marriage of the Dwarfs
From a Child
On a Girdle
On the Discovery of a Lady’s Painting
Of Loving at First Sight
A Panegyric to my Lord Protector, of the Present Greatness, and Joint Interest, of His Highness, and this Nation
On the Head of a Stag
The Miser’s Speech, in a Masque
Chloris and Hylas, made to a Saraband
In Answer of Sir John Suckling’s Verses
An Apology for having Loved Before
The Night-Piece; or, a Picture Drawn in the Dark
On the Picture of a Fair Youth, Taken after he was Dead
On a Brede of Divers Colours, Woven by Four Ladies
Of a War with Spain, and Fight at Sea
Upon the Death of the Lord Protector
On St. James’s Park, as lately Improved by His Majesty
Of Her Royal Highness, Mother to the Prince of Orange; and of her Portrait, Written by the Late Duchess of York, while she Lived with her
Upon Her Majesty’s New Buildings at Somerset House
Of a Tree Cut in Paper
Verses to Dr. George Rogers, on his Taking the Degree of Doctor of Physic at Padua, in the Year 1664
Instructions to a Painter, for the Drawing of the Posture and Progress of His Majesty’s Forces at Sea, under the Command of His Highness-Royal; together with the Battle and Victory obtained over the Dutch, June 3, 1665
Of English Verse
These Verses were Writ in the Tasso of Her Royal Highness
The Triple Combat
Upon our Late Loss of the Duke of Cambridge
Of the Lady Mary, Princess of Orange
Upon Ben Johnson
On Mr. John Fletcher’s Plays
Upon the Earl of Roscommon’s Translation of Horace, ‘De Arte Poetica;’ and of the Use of Poetry
On the Duke of Monmouth’s Expedition into Scotland in the Summer Solstice
Of an Elegy made by Mrs. Wharton on the Earl of Rochester
Of Her Majesty, on New-Year’s Day, 1683
Of Tea, Commended by Her Majesty
Of the Invasion and Defeat of the Turks, in the Year 1683
A Presage of the Ruin of the Turkish Empire; Presented to His Majesty King James II. on His Birthday
To the King, on His Navy
To Mr. Henry Lawes, who had then newly set a Song of mine in the Year 1635
The Country to my Lady Carlisle
To the Queen-Mother of France, upon Her Landing
To my Lord of Leicester
To Mrs. Braughton, Servant to Saccharissa
To my Young Lady Lucy Sydney
To my Lord of Falkland
To my Lord Northumberland, upon the Death of his Lady
Lord Admiral, of his late Sickness and Recovery
To the Queen, occasioned upon sight of Her Majesty’s Picture
To Sir William Davenant, upon his Two First Books of Gondibert
To my Worthy Friend, Mr. Wase, the Translator of Gratius
To a Friend, on the different Success of their Loves
To my Lady Morton, on New-Year’s Day, at the Louvre in Paris
To a Fair Lady, Playing with a Snake
To his Worthy Friend Master Evelyn, upon his Translation of ‘Lucretius.’
To his Worthy Friend Sir Thomas Higgons, upon his Translation of ‘The Venetian Triumph’
To a Lady Singing a Song of his Composing
To the Mutable Fair
To a Lady, from whom he Received a Silver Pen
To a Lady in Retirement
To Mr. George Sandys, on his Translation of some Parts of the Bible
To the King, upon His Majesty’s Happy Return
To a Lady, from whom he Received the Copy of the Poem entitled, ‘Of a Tree Cut in Paper,’ which for many years had been Lost
To the Queen, upon Her Majesty’s Birthday, after Her happy Recovery from a Dangerous Sickness
To Mr. Killigrew, upon his Altering his Play, ‘Pandora,’ from a Tragedy into a Comedy, because not Approved on the Stage
To a Person of Honour, upon his Incomparable, Incomprehensible Poem, entitled, ‘The British Princes,’
To a Friend of the Author, a Person of Honour, who lately Writ a Religious Book, entitled, ‘Historical Applications, and Occasional Meditations, upon several Subjects
To the Duchess of Orleans, when she was taking Leave of the Court at Dover
To the King
To the Duchess, when he Presented this Book to Her Royal Highness
To Mr. Creech, on his Translation of ‘Lucretius’
Peace, Babbling Muse
Behold the Brand of Beauty Toss’d
While I Listen to thy Voice
Go, Lovely Rose
Sung by Mrs. Knight to Her Majesty, on Her Birthday
PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUE:–
Prologue for the Lady-Actors, Spoken before King Charles II
Prologue to the ‘Maid’s Tragedy’
Epilogue to the ‘Maid’s Tragedy,’ Spoken by the the King
Another Epilogue to the ‘Maid’s Tragedy,’ Designed upon the first Alteration of the Play, when the King only was left Alive
EPIGRAMS, EPITAPHS, AND FRAGMENTS:–
Under a Lady’s Picture
Of a Lady who Writ in Praise of Mira
To One Married to an Old Man
An Epigram on a Painted Lady with ill Teeth
Epigram upon the Golden Medal
Written on a Card that Her Majesty tore at Ombre
To Mr. Granville (now Lord Lansdowne), on his Verses to King James II
Long and Short Life
Translated out of Spanish
Translated out of French
Some Verses of an Imperfect Copy, Designed for a Friend, on his Translation of Ovid’s ‘Fasti’
On the Statue of King Charles I., at Charing Cross, in the Year 1674
Epitaph on Sir George Speke
Epitaph on Colonel Charles Cavendish
Epitaph on the Lady Sedley
Epitaph to be Written under the Latin Inscription upon the Tomb of the only Son of the Lord Andover
Of Divine Love
Of the Fear of God
Of Divine Poesy
On the Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, Written by Mrs. Wharton
Some Reflections of his upon the Several Petitions in the same Prayer
On the Foregoing Divine Poems
LIFE OF SIR JOHN DENHAM
POEMS UPON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.
The Destruction of Troy, an Essay on the 2d Book of Virgil’s Eneis
On the Earl of Stafford’s Trial and Death
On my Lord Croft’s and my Journey into Poland
On Mr. Thomas Killigrew’s Return from Venice, and Mr. William Murrey’s from Scotland
To Sir John Mennis
Sarpedon’s Speech to Glaucus, in the Twelfth Book of Homer
Friendship and Single Life, against Love and Marriage
On Mr. Abraham Cowley, his Death, and Burial amongst the Ancient Poets
A Speech against Peace at the Close Committee
To the Five Members of the Honourable House of Commons, the humble Petition of the Poets
A Western Wonder
A Second Western Wonder
On Mr. John Fletcher’s Works
To Sir Richard Fanshaw, upon his Translation of ‘Pastor Fido’
To the Hon. Edward Howard, on ‘The British Princes’
An Occasional Imitation of a Modern Author upon the Game of Chess
The Passion of Dido for Aeneas
The Progress of Learning
Elegy on the Death of Helfry Lord Hastings, 1650
Of Old Age
THE POETICAL WORKS
WALLER’S POETICAL WORKS.
OF THE DANGER HIS MAJESTY [BEING PRINCE] ESCAPED IN THE ROAD AT ST ANDERO.
Now bad his Highness bid farewell to Spain, And reach’d the sphere of his own power–the main; With British bounty in his ship he feasts Th’ Hesperian princes, his amazed guests, To find that watery wilderness exceed
The entertainment of their great Madrid. Healths to both kings, attended with the roar Of cannons, echo’d from th’affrighted shore, With loud resemblance of his thunder, prove Bacchus the seed of cloud-compelling Jove; 10 While to his harp divine Arion sings
The loves and conquests of our Albion kings.
Of the Fourth Edward was his noble song, Fierce, goodly, valiant, beautiful, and young; He rent the crown from vanquish’d Henry’s head, Raised the White Rose, and trampled on the Red; Till love, triumphing o’er the victor’s pride, Brought Mars and Warwick to the conquer’d side: Neglected Warwick (whose bold hand, like Fate, Gives and resumes the sceptre of our state) 20 Woos for his master; and with double shame, Himself deluded, mocks the princely dame, The Lady Bona, whom just anger burns,
And foreign war with civil rage returns. Ah! spare your swords, where beauty is to blame; Love gave th’affront, and must repair the same; When France shall boast of her, whose conqu’ring eyes Have made the best of English hearts their prize; Have power to alter the decrees of Fate, And change again the counsels of our state. 30 What the prophetic Muse intends, alone
To him that feels the secret wound is known. With the sweet sound of this harmonious lay, About the keel delighted dolphins play,
Too sure a sign of sea’s ensuing rage, Which must anon this royal troop engage; To whom soft sleep seems more secure and sweet, Within the town commanded by our fleet.
These mighty peers placed in the gilded barge, Proud with the burden of so brave a charge, 40 With painted oars the youths begin to sweep Neptune’s smooth face, and cleave the yielding deep; Which soon becomes the seat of sudden war Between the wind and tide that fiercely jar. As when a sort of lusty shepherds try Their force at football, care of victory Makes them salute so rudely breast to breast, 47 That their encounter seems too rough for jest; They ply their feet, and still the restless ball, Toss’d to and fro, is urged by them all: So fares the doubtful barge ‘twixt tide and winds, And like effect of their contention finds. Yet the bold Britons still securely row’d; Charles and his virtue was their sacred load; Than which a greater pledge Heaven could not give, That the good boat this tempest should outlive. But storms increase, and now no hope of grace Among them shines, save in the Prince’s face; The rest resign their courage, skill, and sight, To danger, horror, and unwelcome night. 60 The gentle vessel (wont with state and pride On the smooth back of silver Thames to ride) Wanders astonish’d in the angry main,
As Titan’s car did, while the golden rein Fill’d the young hand of his adventurous son, When the whole world an equal hazard run To this of ours, the light of whose desire Waves threaten now, as that was scared by fire. Th’ impatient sea grows impotent, and raves, That, night assisting, his impetuous waves 70 Should find resistance from so light a thing; These surges ruin, those our safety bring. Th’ oppress’d vessel doth the charge abide, Only because assail’d on every side;
So men with rage and passion set on fire, Trembling for haste, impeach their mad desire.
The pale Iberians had expired with fear, But that their wonder did divert their care, To see the Prince with danger moved no more Than with the pleasures of their court before; 80 Godlike his courage seem’d, whom nor delight Could soften, nor the face of death affright. Next to the power of making tempests cease, Was in that storm to have so calm a peace. Great Maro could no greater tempest feign, When the loud winds usurping on the main, For angry Juno labour’d to destroy
The hated relics of confounded Troy; His bold Aeneas, on like billows toss’d
In a tall ship, and all his country lost, 90 Dissolves with fear; and both his hands upheld, Proclaims them happy whom the Greeks had quell’d In honourable fight; our hero, set
In a small shallop, Fortune in his debt, So near a hope of crowns and sceptres, more Than ever Priam, when he flourish’d, wore; His loins yet full of ungot princes, all His glory in the bud, lets nothing fall
That argues fear; if any thought annoys The gallant youth, ’tis love’s untasted joys, 100 And dear remembrance of that fatal glance, For which he lately pawn’d his heart in France; Where he had seen a brighter nymph than she That sprung out of his present foe, the sea. That noble ardour, more than mortal fire, The conquer’d ocean could not make expire; Nor angry Thetis raise her waves above
Th’ heroic Prince’s courage or his love; ‘Twas indignation, and not fear he felt, The shrine should perish where that image dwelt. Ah, Love forbid! the noblest of thy train 111 Should not survive to let her know his pain; Who nor his peril minding, nor his flame, Is entertain’d with some less serious game, Among the bright nymphs of the Gallic court, All highly born, obsequious to her sport; They roses seem, which in their early pride But half reveal, and half their beauties hide; She the glad morning, which her beams does throw Upon their smiling leaves, and gilds them so; 120 Like bright Aurora, whose refulgent ray
Foretells the fervour of ensuing day, And warns the shepherd with his flocks retreat To leafy shadows from the threaten’d heat.
From Cupid’s string, of many shafts that fled Wing’d with those plumes which noble Fame had shed, As through the wond’ring world she flew, and told Of his adventures, haughty, brave, and bold, Some had already touch’d the royal maid, But Love’s first summons seldom are obey’d; 130 Light was the wound, the Prince’s care unknown, She might not, would not, yet reveal her own. His glorious name had so possess’d her ears, That with delight those antique tales she hears Of Jason, Theseus, and such worthies old, As with his story best resemblance hold. And now she views, as on the wall it hung, What old Musaeus so divinely sung;
Which art with life and love did so inspire, That she discerns and favours that desire, 140 Which there provokes th’advent’rous youth to swim, And in Leander’s danger pities him;
Whose not new love alone, but fortune, seeks To frame his story like that amorous Greek’s.
For from the stern of some good ship appears A friendly light, which moderates their fears; New courage from reviving hope they take, And climbing o’er the waves that taper make, On which the hope of all their lives depends, As his on that fair Hero’s hand extends. 150 The ship at anchor, like a fixed rock,
Breaks the proud billows which her large sides knock; Whose rage restrained, foaming higher swells, And from her port the weary barge repels, Threat’ning to make her, forced out again, Repeat the dangers of the troubled main. Twice was the cable hurl’d in vain; the Fates Would not be moved for our sister states; For England is the third successful throw, And then the genius of that land they know, 160 Whose prince must be (as their own books devise) Lord of the scene where now his danger lies.
Well sung the Roman bard, ‘All human things Of dearest value hang on slender strings.’ Oh, see the then sole hope, and, in design Of Heaven, our joy, supported by a line! Which for that instant was Heaven’s care above The chain that’s fixed to the throne of Jove, On which the fabric of our world depends; One link dissolved, the whole creation ends. 170
 ‘St. Andero’: St. Andrews. He had newly abandoned his suit for the Infanta.–
 ‘Arion sings’: Alluding to the deliverance of Charles I., on his return from Spain, from a violent storm in the Bay of Biscay, October 1623.
 ‘Sort’: a company.
 ‘Adventurous son’: Phaeton.
 Henrietta, afterwards Queen.
OF HIS MAJESTY’S RECEIVING THE NEWS OF THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM’S
So earnest with thy God! can no new care, No sense of danger, interrupt thy prayer? The sacred wrestler, till a blessing given, Quits not his hold, but halting conquers Heaven; Nor was the stream of thy devotion stopp’d, When from the body such a limb was lopp’d, As to thy present state was no less maim, Though thy wise choice has since repair’d the same. Bold Homer durst not so great virtue feign In his best pattern: of Patroclus slain, 10 With such amazement as weak mothers use, And frantic gesture, he receives the news. Yet fell his darling by th’impartial chance Of war, imposed by royal Hector’s lance; Thine, in full peace, and by a vulgar hand Torn from thy bosom, left his high command.
The famous painter could allow no place For private sorrow in a prince’s face:
Yet, that his piece might not exceed belief, He cast a veil upon supposed grief. 20 ‘Twas want of such a precedent as this
Made the old heathen frame their gods amiss. Their Phoebus should not act a fonder part For the fair boy, than he did for his heart; Nor blame for Hyacinthus’ fate his own,
That kept from him wish’d death, hadst thou been known.
He that with thine shall weigh good David’s deeds, Shall find his passion, nor his love, exceeds: 28 He cursed the mountains where his brave friend died, But let false Ziba with his heir divide; Where thy immortal love to thy bless’d friends, Like that of Heaven, upon their seed descends. Such huge extremes inhabit thy great mind, Godlike, unmoved, and yet, like woman, kind! Which of the ancient poets had not brought Our Charles’s pedigree from Heaven, and taught How some bright dame, compress’d by mighty Jove, Produced this mix’d Divinity and Love?
 ‘Buckingham’s death’: Buckingham was murdered by Felton at Portsmouth, on the 23d of August 1628, while equipping a fleet for the relief of Rochelle. Lord Lindsey succeeded him. The king was at prayers when the news arrived, and had the resolution to disguise his emotion till they were over.
 ‘Pattern’: Achilles.
 ‘Painter’: Timanthes in his picture of Iphigenia.  ‘Fair boy’: Cyparissus.
ON THE TAKING OF SALLE.
Of Jason, Theseus, and such worthies old, Light seem the tales antiquity has told; Such beasts and monsters as their force oppress’d, Some places only, and some times, infest. Salle, that scorn’d all power and laws of men, Goods with their owners hurrying to their den, And future ages threat’ning with a rude
And savage race, successively renew’d; Their king despising with rebellious pride, And foes profess’d to all the world beside; 10 This pest of mankind gives our hero fame, And through the obliged world dilates his name. The prophet once to cruel Agag said,
‘As thy fierce sword has mothers childless made, So shall the sword make thine;’ and with that word He hew’d the man in pieces with his sword.
Just Charles like measure has return’d to these 17 Whose Pagan hands had stain’d the troubled seas; With ships they made the spoiled merchant mourn; With ships their city and themselves are torn. One squadron of our winged castles sent, O’erthrew their fort, and all their navy rent; For, not content the dangers to increase, And act the part of tempests in the seas, Like hungry wolves, those pirates from our shore Whole flocks of sheep, and ravish’d cattle bore. Safely they might on other nations prey– Fools to provoke the sovereign of the sea! Mad Cacus so, whom like ill fate persuades, The herd of fair Alcmena’s seed invades, 30 Who for revenge, and mortals’ glad relief, Sack’d the dark cave and crush’d that horrid thief.
Morocco’s monarch, wond’ring at this fact, Save that his presence his affairs exact, Had come in person to have seen and known The injured world’s revenger and his own. Hither he sends the chief among his peers, Who in his bark proportion’d presents bears, To the renown’d for piety and force,
Poor captives manumised, and matchless horse. 40
 ‘Salle’: Salle, a town of Fez, given to piracy, was taken and destroyed in 1632 by the army of the Emperor of Morocco, assisted by some English vessels.
 ‘Horse’: the Emperor of Morocco, in gratitude to Charles, sent him a present of Barbary horses, and three hundred manumitted Christian slaves.–
UPON HIS MAJESTY’S REPAIRING OF ST PAUL’S.
That shipwreck’d vessel which th’Apostle bore, Scarce suffer’d more upon Melita’s shore, Than did his temple in the sea of time,
Our nation’s glory, and our nation’s crime. When the first monarch of this happy isle, Moved with the ruin of so brave a pile,
This work of cost and piety begun,
To be accomplish’d by his glorious son, Who all that came within the ample thought Of his wise sire has to perfection brought; 10 He, like Amphion, makes those quarries leap Into fair figures from a confused heap;
For in his art of regiment is found A power like that of harmony in sound.
Those antique minstrels, sure, were Charles-like kings, Cities their lutes, and subjects’ hearts their strings, On which with so divine a hand they strook, Consent of motion from their breath they took: So all our minds with his conspire to grace The Gentiles’ great Apostle, and deface 20 Those state-obscuring sheds, that like a chain Seem’d to confine and fetter him again;
Which the glad saint shakes off at his command, As once the viper from his sacred hand:
So joys the aged oak, when we divide The creeping ivy from his injured side.
Ambition rather would affect the fame Of some new structure, to have borne her name. Two distant virtues in one act we find,
The modesty and greatness of his mind; 30 Which, not content to be above the rage, And injury of all-impairing age,
In its own worth secure, doth higher climb, And things half swallow’d from the jaws of Time
Reduce; an earnest of his grand design, To frame no new church, but the old refine; Which, spouse-like, may with comely grace command, More than by force of argument or hand.
For doubtful reason few can apprehend, And war brings ruin where it should amend; 40 But beauty, with a bloodless conquest finds A welcome sovereignty in rudest minds.
Not aught which Sheba’s wond’ring queen beheld Amongst the works of Solomon, excell’d
His ships and building; emblems of a heart Large both in magnanimity and art.
While the propitious heavens this work attend, Long-wanted showers they forget to send; As if they meant to make it understood
Of more importance than our vital food. 50
The sun, which riseth to salute the quire Already finished, setting shall admire
How private bounty could so far extend: The King built all, but Charles the western end. So proud a fabric to devotion given,
At once it threatens and obliges Heaven!
Laomedon, that had the gods in pay,
Neptune, with him that rules the sacred day, Could no such structure raise: Troy wall’d so high, Th’ Atrides might as well have forced the sky. 60
Glad, though amazed, are our neighbour kings, To see such power employ’d in peaceful things; They list not urge it to the dreadful field; The task is easier to destroy than build.
… Sic gratia regum
Pieriis tentam modis…–HORACE.
 ‘St. Paul’s’: these repairs commenced in the spring of 1633.  ‘Monarch’: King James I.
 ‘Western end’: the western end, built at Charles’ own expense, consisted of a splendid portico, built by Inigo Jones.  ‘Sacred day’: Apollo.
THE COUNTESS OF CARLISLE IN MOURNING.
When from black clouds no part of sky is clear, But just so much as lets the sun appear, Heaven then would seem thy image, and reflect Those sable vestments, and that bright aspect. A spark of virtue by the deepest shade
Of sad adversity is fairer made;
Nor less advantage doth thy beauty get, A Venus rising from a sea of jet!
Such was th’appearance of new-formed light, While yet it struggled with eternal night. 10 Then mourn no more, lest thou admit increase Of glory by thy noble lord’s decease.
We find not that the laughter-loving dame Mourn’d for Anchises; ’twas enough she came To grace the mortal with her deathless bed, And that his living eyes such beauty fed; Had she been there, untimely joy, through all Men’s hearts diffused, had marr’d the funeral. Those eyes were made to banish grief: as well Bright Phoebus might affect in shades to dwell, 20 As they to put on sorrow: nothing stands, But power to grieve, exempt from thy commands. If thou lament, thou must do so alone;
Grief in thy presence can lay hold on none. Yet still persist the memory to love
Of that great Mercury of our mighty Jove, Who, by the power of his enchanting tongue, Swords from the hands of threat’ning monarchs wrung. War he prevented, or soon made it cease, 29 Instructing princes in the arts of peace; Such as made Sheba’s curious queen resort To the large-hearted Hebrew’s famous court. Had Homer sat amongst his wond’ring guests, He might have learn’d at those stupendous feasts, With greater bounty, and more sacred state, The banquets of the gods to celebrate.
But oh! what elocution might he use, What potent charms, that could so soon infuse His absent master’s love into the heart
Of Henrietta! forcing her to part 40 From her loved brother, country, and the sun, And, like Camilla, o’er the waves to run Into his arms! while the Parisian dames
Mourn for the ravish’d glory; at her flames No less amazed than the amazed stars,
When the bold charmer of Thessalia wars With Heaven itself, and numbers does repeat, Which call descending Cynthia from her seat.
 ‘Mourning’: Carlisle was a luxurious liver, and died in 1636, poor, but, like many spendthrifts, popular. He had represented Prince Charles at his marriage with Princess Henrietta at Paris.  ‘Dame’: Venus.
IN ANSWER TO ONE WHO WRIT A LIBEL AGAINST THE COUNTESS OF CARLISLE.
1 What fury has provoked thy wit to dare, With Diomede, to wound the Queen of Love? Thy mistress’ envy, or thine own despair? Not the just Pallas in thy breast did move So blind a rage, with such a diff’rent fate; He honour won, where thou hast purchased hate.
2 She gave assistance to his Trojan foe; Thou, that without a rival thou may’st love, Dost to the beauty of this lady owe,
While after her the gazing world does move. Canst thou not be content to love alone? Or is thy mistress not content with one?
3 Hast thou not read of Fairy Arthur’s shield, Which, but disclosed, amazed the weaker eyes Of proudest foes, and won the doubtful field? So shall thy rebel wit become her prize. Should thy iambics swell into a book,
All were confuted with one radiant look.
4 Heaven he obliged that placed her in the skies; Rewarding Phoebus, for inspiring so
His noble brain, by likening to those eyes His joyful beams; but Phoebus is thy foe, And neither aids thy fancy nor thy sight, So ill thou rhym’st against so fair a light.
OF HER CHAMBER.
They taste of death that do at heaven arrive; But we this paradise approach alive.
Instead of death, the dart of love does strike, And renders all within these walls alike. The high in titles, and the shepherd, here Forgets his greatness, and forgets his fear. All stand amazed, and gazing on the fair, Lose thought of what themselves or others are; Ambition lose, and have no other scope, 9 Save Carlisle’s favour, to employ their hope. The Thracian could (though all those tales were true The bold Greeks tell) no greater wonders do; Before his feet so sheep and lions lay,
Fearless and wrathless while they heard him play. The gay, the wise, the gallant, and the grave, Subdued alike, all but one passion have; No worthy mind but finds in hers there is Something proportion’d to the rule of his; While she with cheerful, but impartial grace, (Born for no one, but to delight the race 20 Of men) like Phoebus so divides her light, And warms us, that she stoops not from her height.
 ‘Thracian’: Orpheus.–
As lately I on silver Thames did ride, Sad Galatea on the bank I spied;
Such was her look as sorrow taught to shine, And thus she graced me with a voice divine.
You that can tune your sounding strings so well, Of ladies’ beauties, and of love to tell, Once change your note, and let your lute report The justest grief that ever touch’d the Court.
Fair nymph! I have in your delights no share, 9 Nor ought to be concerned in your care;
Yet would I sing if I your sorrows knew, And to my aid invoke no Muse but you.
Hear then, and let your song augment our grief, Which is so great as not to wish relief. She that had all which Nature gives, or Chance, Whom Fortune join’d with Virtue to advance To all the joys this island could afford, The greatest mistress, and the kindest lord; Who with the royal mix’d her noble blood, And in high grace with Gloriana stood; 20 Her bounty, sweetness, beauty, goodness, such, That none e’er thought her happiness too much; So well-inclined her favours to confer,
And kind to all, as Heaven had been to her! The virgin’s part, the mother, and the wife, So well she acted in this span of life,
That though few years (too flew, alas!) she told, She seem’d in all things, but in beauty, old. As unripe fruit, whose verdant stalks do cleave Close to the tree, which grieves no less to leave 30 The smiling pendant which adorns her so, And until autumn on the bough should grow; So seem’d her youthful soul not eas’ly forced, Or from so fair, so sweet a seat divorced. Her fate at once did hasty seem and slow; At once too cruel, and unwilling too.
Under how hard a law are mortals born! 37 Whom now we envy, we anon must mourn;
What Heaven sets highest, and seems most to prize, Is soon removed from our wond’ring eyes! But since the Sisters did so soon untwine So fair a thread, I’ll strive to piece the line. Vouchsafe, sad nymph! to let me know the dame, And to the Muses I’ll commend her name;
Make the wide country echo to your moan, The list’ning trees and savage mountains groan. What rock’s not moved when the death is sung Of one so good, so lovely, and so young?
‘Twas Hamilton!–whom I had named before, But naming her, grief lets me say no more. 50
 ‘Galatea’: the lady here mourned was the Duchess of Hamilton, a niece of Buckingham; she died in 1638.  ‘Gloriana’: Queen Henrietta.
 ‘Sisters’: Parcae–
ON MY LADY DOROTHY SIDNEY’S PICTURE.
Such was Philoclea, and such Dorus’ flame! The matchless Sidney, that immortal frame Of perfect beauty on two pillars placed, Not his high fancy could one pattern, graced With such extremes of excellence, compose; Wonders so distant in one face disclose! Such cheerful modesty, such humble state, Moves certain love, but with as doubtful fate As when, beyond our greedy reach, we see 9 Inviting fruit on too sublime a tree.
All the rich flowers through his Arcadia found, Amazed we see in this one garland bound. Had but this copy (which the artist took From the fair picture of that noble book) Stood at Kalander’s, the brave friends had jarr’d, And, rivals made, th’ensuing story marr’d. Just nature, first instructed by his thought, In his own house thus practised what he taught; This glorious piece transcends what he could think, So much his blood is nobler than his ink! 20
 ‘Dorothy Sidney’: see Life for an account of ‘Saccharissa.’  ‘Philoclea and Dorus’: the reader may turn for these names and their histories, to the glorious, flowery wilderness of the ‘Arcadia.’ Sidney was granduncle to Dorothy.
Had Dorothea lived when mortals made
Choice of their deities, this sacred shade Had held an altar to her power, that gave The peace and glory which these alleys have; Embroider’d so with flowers where she stood, That it became a garden of a wood.
Her presence has such more than human grace, That it can civilise the rudest place;
And beauty too, and order, can impart, Where nature ne’er intended it, nor art. 10 The plants acknowledge this, and her admire, No less than those of old did Orpheus’ lyre; If she sit down, with tops all tow’rds her bow’d, They round about her into arbours crowd; Or if she walk, in even ranks they stand, Like some well-marshall’d and obsequious band. Amphion so made stones and timber leap
Into fair figures from a confused heap; And in the symmetry of her parts is found A power like that of harmony in sound. 20 Ye lofty beeches, tell this matchless dame, That if together ye fed all one flame,
It could not equalise the hundredth part Of what her eyes have kindled in my heart! Go, boy, and carve this passion on the bark Of yonder tree, which stands the sacred mark Of noble Sidney’s birth; when such benign, Such more than mortal-making stars did shine, That there they cannot but for ever prove The monument and pledge of humble love; 30 His humble love whose hope shall ne’er rise higher, Than for a pardon that he dares admire.
OF THE LADY WHO CAN SLEEP WHEN SHE PLEASES.
No wonder sleep from careful lovers flies, To bathe himself in Saccharissa’s eyes.
As fair Astraae once from earth to heaven, By strife and loud impiety was driven;
So with our plaints offended, and our tears, Wise Somnus to that paradise repairs;
Waits on her will, and wretches does forsake, To court the nymph for whom those wretches wake. More proud than Phoebus of his throne of gold 9 Is the soft god those softer limbs to hold; Nor would exchange with Jove, to hide the skies In dark’ning clouds, the power to close her eyes; Eyes which so far all other lights control, They warm our mortal parts, but these our soul! Let her free spirit, whose unconquer’d breast Holds such deep quiet and untroubled rest, Know that though Venus and her son should spare Her rebel heart, and never teach her care, Yet Hymen may in force his vigils keep,
And for another’s joy suspend her sleep. 20
 She is said to have been like Dudu–
‘Large, and languishing, and lazy,
Yet of a beauty that might drive you crazy.’
OF THE MISREPORT OF HER BEING PAINTED.
As when a sort of wolves infest the night With their wild howlings at fair Cynthia’s light, The noise may chase sweet slumber from our eyes, But never reach the mistress of the skies; So with the news of Saccharissa’s wrongs, Her vexed servants blame those envious tongues; Call Love to witness that no painted fire Can scorch men so, or kindle such desire; While, unconcern’d, she seems moved no more With this new malice than our loves before; 10 But from the height of her great mind looks down On both our passions without smile or frown. So little care of what is done below
Hath the bright dame whom Heaven affecteth so! Paints her, ’tis true, with the same hand which spreads Like glorious colours through the flow’ry meads, When lavish Nature, with her best attire, 17 Clothes the gay spring, the season of desire; Paints her, ’tis true, and does her cheek adorn With the same art wherewith she paints the morn; With the same art wherewith she gildeth so Those painted clouds which form Thaumantias’ bow.
OF HER PASSING THROUGH A CROWD OF PEOPLE.
As in old chaos (heaven with earth confused, And stars with rocks together crush’d and bruised) The sun his light no further could extend Than the next hill, which on his shoulders lean’d; So in this throng bright Saccharissa fared, Oppress’d by those who strove to be her guard; As ships, though never so obsequious, fall Foul in a tempest on their admiral.
A greater favour this disorder brought Unto her servants than their awful thought 10 Durst entertain, when thus compell’d they press’d The yielding marble of her snowy breast. While love insults, disguised in the cloud, And welcome force, of that unruly crowd. So th’am’rous tree, while yet the air is calm, Just distance keeps from his desired palm; But when the wind her ravish’d branches throws Into his arms, and mingles all their boughs, Though loth he seems her tender leaves to press, 19 More loth he is that friendly storm should cease, From whose rude bounty he the double use At once receives, of pleasure and excuse.
 ‘Insults’: exults.
 ‘Palm’: Ovalle informs us that the palm-trees in Chili have this wonderful property, that they never will bear any fruit but when they are planted near each other; and when they find one standing barren by itself, if they plant another, be it never so small (which they call the female), it will become prolific.–FENTON.
THE STORY OF PHOEBUS AND DAPHNE, APPLIED.
Thyrsis, a youth of the inspired train, Fair Saccharissa loved, but loved in vain; Like Phoebus sung the no less am’rous boy; Like Daphne she, as lovely, and as coy!
With numbers he the flying nymph pursues, With numbers such as Phoebus’ self might use! Such is the chase when Love and Fancy leads, O’er craggy mountains, and through flow’ry meads; Invoked to testify the lover’s care,
Or form some image of his cruel fair. 10 Urged with his fury, like a wounded deer, O’er these he fled; and now approaching near, Had reach’d the nymph with his harmonious lay, Whom all his charms could not incline to stay. Yet what he sung in his immortal strain, Though unsuccessful, was not sung in vain; All, but the nymph that should redress his wrong, Attend his passion, and approve his song. Like Phoebus thus, acquiring unsought praise, He catch’d at love, and fill’d his arms with bays. 20
 ‘Daphne’: Ovid’s _Metamorphoses_, b. i.
ON THE FRIENDSHIP BETWIXT SACCHARISSA AND AMORET.
1 Tell me, lovely, loving pair!
Why so kind, and so severe?
Why so careless of our care,
Only to yourselves so dear?
2 By this cunning change of hearts,
You the power of Love control;
While the boy’s deluded darts
Can arrive at neither soul.