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Music, when soft voices die,
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
P. B. Shelley
End of the Golden Treasury
Summary of Book First
THE Elizabethan Poetry, as it is rather vaguely termed, forms the substance of this Book, which contains pieces from Wyat under Henry VIII to Shakespeare midway through the reign of James I, and Drummond who carried on the early manner to a still later period. There is here a wide range of style ;from simplicity expressed in a language hardly yet broken in to verse, through the pastoral fancies and Italian conceits of the strictly Elizabethan time,-to the passionate reality of Shakespeare yet a general uniformity of tone prevails. Few readers can fail to observe the natural sweetness of the verse, the single-hearted straightforwardness of the thoughts:-nor less, the limitation of subject to the many phases of one passion, which then characterized our lyrical poetry,-unless when, as with Drummond and Shakespeare, the 'purple light of Love' is tempered by a spirit of sterner reflection.
It should be observed that this and the following Summaries apply in the main to the Collection here presented, in which (besides its restriction to Lyrical Poetry) a strictly representative or historical Anthology has not been aimed at. Great Excellence, in human art as in human character, has from the beginning of things been even more uniform than Mediocrity, by virtue of the closeness of its approach to Nature:-and so far as the standard of Excellence kept in view has been attained in this volume, a comparative absence of extreme or temporary phases in style, a similarity of tone and manner, will be found throughout:-something neither modern nor ancient, but true in all ages, and like the works of Creation, perfect as on the first day.
Rouse Memnon's mother: Awaken the Dawn from the dark Earth and the clouds where she is resting. Aurora in the old mythology is mother of Memnon (the East), and wife of Tithonus (the appearances of Earth and Sky during the last hours of Night). She leaves him every morning in renewed youth, to prepare the way for Phoebus (the Sun), whilst Tithonus remains in perpetual old age and grayness.
1. 23 by Peneus' stream: Phoebus loved the Nymph Daphne whom he met by the river Peneus in the vale of Tempe. This legend expressed the attachment of the Laurel (Daphne) to the Sun, under whose heat the tree both fades and flourishes.
It has been thought worth while to explain these allusions, because they illustrate the character of the
Grecian Mythology, which arose in the Personification of natural phenomena, and was totally free from those debasing and ludicrous ideas with which, through Roman and later misunderstanding or perversion, it has been associated.
1. 27 Amphion's lyre: He was said to have built the walls of Thebes to the sound of his music.
1. 35 Night like a drunkard reels: Compare Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 3: The gray-eyed morn smiles' &c.-It should be added that three lines, which appeared hopelessly misprinted, have been omitted in this Poem.
Time's chest in which he is figuratively supposed to lay up past treasures. So in Troilus, Act III, Scene 3, 'Time hath a wallet at his back' &c.
A fine example of the highwrought and conventional Elizabethan Pastoralism, which it would be ludicrous to criticize on the ground of the unshepherdlike or unreal character of some images suggested. Stanza 6 was probably inserted by Izaak Walton.
This Poem, with xxv and XCIV, is taken from Davison's 'Rhapsody,' first published in 1602. One stanza has been here omitted, in accordance with the principle noticed in the Preface. Similar omissions occur in XLV, LXXXVII, C, CXXVIII, CLX, CLXV, CCXXVII, CCXXXV. The more serious abbreviation by which it has been attempted to bring Crashaw's Wishes' and helley's
Euganean Hills' within the limits of lyrical unity, is commended with much diffidence to the judgment of readers acquainted with the original pieces.
Presence in line 12 is here conjecturally printed for present. A very few similar corrections of (it is presumed) misprints have been made :-as thy for my, XXII, 9: men for me, XLI, 3: viol for idol, CCLII, 43: and one for our, 90: locks for looks, CCLXXI, 5: dome for doom, CCLXXV, 25-with two or three more less important. This charming little poem, truly old and plain, and dallying with the innocence of love' like that spoken of in Twelfth Night, is taken, with v, XVII, XX, XXXIV, and XL, from the most characteristic collection of Elizabeth's reign, England's Helicon,' first published in 1600. 10 XVI Readers who have visited Italy will be reminded or more than one picture by this gorgeous Vision of Beauty, equally sublime and pure in its Paradisaical naturalness. Lodge wrote it on a voyage to the Islands of Terceras and the Canaries;' and he seems to have caught, in those southern seas, no small portion of the qualities which marked the almost contemporary Art of Venice, -the glory and the glo of Veronese, or Titian, or Tintoret, when he most resembles Titian, and all but surpasses him.
The clear (1. 1) is the crystalline or outermost heaven of the old cosmography. For resembling (1. 7) other
12 XVIII that fair thou owest that beauty thou ownest.
17 XXVII 18 XXIX - XXX
copies give refining: the correct reading is perhaps revealing. For a fair there's fairer none: If you desire a Beauty, there is none more beautiful than Rosaline.
upon misprision growing: either, granted in error, or, on the growth of contempt.
With the tone of this Sonnet compare Hamlet's 'Give me that man That is not passion's slave' &c. Shakespeare's writings show the deepest sensitiveness to passion:-hence the attraction he felt in the contrasting effects of apathy.
20 XXXIII grame: sorrow. It was long before English Poetry returned to the charming simplicity of this and a few other poems by Wyat.
21 XXXIV Pandion in the ancient fable was father to Philomela. 23 XXXVIII ramage: confused noise.
23 XXXIX censures: judges.
25 XLI 26 XLIV
the star Whose worth's unknown, although his height
Nativity once in the main of light when a star has risen and entered on the full stream of light ;-another of the astrological phrases no longer famil Crooked eclipses: as coming athwart the Sun's apparent course.
Wordsworth, thinking probably of the 'Venus' and the 'Lucrece,' said finely of Shakespeare: 'Shakespeare could not have written an Epic; he would have died of plethora of thought.' This prodigality of nature is exemplified equally in his Sonnets. The copious selection here given, (which from the wealth of the material, required greater consideration than any other portion of the Editor's task),—contains many that will not be fully felt and understood without some earnestness of thought on the reader's part. But he is not likely to regret the labour.
By its style this beautiful example of old simplicity
cypres or cyprus,-used by the old writers for crape; whether from the French crespe or from the Island whence was imported. Its accidental similarity in spelling to cypress has, here and in Milton's Penseroso, probably confused readers.
28 XLVI, XI.VII 'I never saw anything like this funeral dirge,' says Charles Lamb, 'except the ditty which reminds Ferdinand of his drowned father in the Tempest.
As that is of the water, watery; so this is of the
This 'Spousal Verse' was written in honour of the
1. 15 shend: put out. L. 39 a noble peer: Robert
1. 11 Eliza: Elizabeth. L. 27 twins of Jove: the stars Castor and Pollux: baldric, belt; the zodiac. A fine example of a peculiar class of Poetry:that written by thoughtful men who practised this Art but little. Wotton's, LXXII, is another. Jeremy Taylor, Bishop Berkeley, Dr. Johnson, Lord Macaulay, have left similar specimens.
Summary of Book Second
THIS division, embracing the latter eighty years of the seventeenth century, contains the close of our Early poetical style and the commencement of the Modern. In Dryden we see the first master of the new in Milton, whose genius dominates here as Shakespeare's in the former book,-the crown and consummation of the early period. Their splendid Odes are far in advance of any prior attempts, Spenser's excepted: they exhibit the wider and grander range which years and experience and the struggles of the time conferred on Poetry. Our Muses now give expression to political feeling, to religious thought, to a high philosophic statesmanship in writers such as Marvell, Herbert, and Wotton: whilst in Marvell and Milton, again, we find the first noble attempts at pure description of nature, destined in our own ages to be continued and equalled. Meanwhile the poetry of simple passion, although before 1660 often deformed by verbal fancies and conceits of thought, and afterward by levity and an artificial tone,-produced in Herrick and Waller some charming pieces of more finished art than the Elizabethan: until in the courtly compliments of Sedley it seems to exhaust itself, and lie almost dormant for the hundred years between the days of Wither and Suckling and the days of Burns and Cowper.-That the change from our early style to the modern brought with it at first a loss of nature and simplicity is undeniable: yet the far bolder and wider scope which Poetry took between 1620 and 1700, and the successful efforts then made to gain greater clearness in expression, in their results have been no slight compensation.