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38. braid and narrow.
Such antithetical expressions are a
common feature of ballad poetry, and their meaning must not be pressed. But this phrase seems to have a special propriety here broadly, far and wide; narrowly, carefully.
14. Toll for the brave
"THIS little poem might be called one of our trial-pieces, in regard to taste. The reader who feels the vigour of description and the force of pathos underlying Cowper's bare and truly Greek simplicity of phrase, may assure himself se valde profecisse in poetry" (F. T. P.).
"Given an ordinary newspaper paragraph about wreck or battle, turn it into the simplest possible language, do not introduce a single metaphor or figure of speech, indulge in none but the most obvious of all reflections,-as, for example, that when a man is drowned he won't win any more battles-and produce as the result a copy of verses which nobody can ever read without instantly knowing them by heart. How Cowper managed to perform such a feat, and why not one poet even in a hundred can perform it, are questions which might lead to some curious critical speculation."-Leslie Stephen, Hours in a Library, Vol. II.
That Cowper did not achieve his success by accident may be inferred from his reply to Johnson's criticism of Prior's verse: "To make verse speak the language of prose without being prosaic, to marshal the words of it in such an order as they might naturally take in falling from the lips of an extemporary speaker, yet without meanness, harmoniously, elegantly, and without seeming to displace a syllable for the sake of the rhyme, is one of the most arduous tasks a poet can undertake." (Southey's Life of Cowper, ch. 12.)
Mr. Storr quotes from Lord Stanhope's History of England, chap. LXVI., as follows:
"Lord Howe had no sooner come back from this successful cruise, than with equal spirit he pressed the re-equipment of his fleet for another expedition in aid of Gibraltar. But the return of our ships to Portsmouth, joyful as at first it seemed, was dashed by a grievous disaster, which, though occurring in a peaceful harbour, equalled the worst calamities of war. Royal George, of 108 guns, commanded by the gallant Admiral Kempenfeldt, was deemed the first ship in the British navy. It had borne a conspicuous part in the celebrated action of Lord Hawke on the coasts of Brittany, and since that time had been repeatedly the flagship of nearly all our great commanders. In order to stop a slight leak previous to a new expedition, it became necessary to lay this vessel slightly on her side. But so little risk was anticipated from the operation, that the Admiral
with his officers and men remained on board. Nay more, as is usually the case on coming into port, the ship was crowded with people from the shore, especially women and children; and the number of women only has been computed at three hundred. Such was the state of things at ten o'clock on the morning of the 29th of August, the Admiral writing in his cabin, and most of the people between decks; and it is supposed that the carpenters in their eagerness may have inclined the ship a little more than they were ordered, or than the commanders knew, when a sudden squall of wind arising, threw the ship fatally upon her side, and her gun-ports being open, she almost instantly filled with water and went down. A victualler which lay alongside was swallowed up in the whirlpool which the plunge of so vast a body caused, and several small craft, though at some distance, were in the most imminent danger. About three hundredchiefly sailors were able to save themselves by swimming and the boats; but the persons that perished-men, women, and children-though they could not be accurately reckoned, amounted, it is thought, to almost a thousand. Of these no one was more deeply and more deservedly lamented than Admiral Kempenfeldt himself. He was held, both abroad and at home, to be one of the best naval officers of his time; the son of a Swedish gentleman, who, coming early into the English service, generously followed the ruined fortunes of his master, James the Second, but who, after the death of that monarch, was recalled by Queen Anne, and who has been portrayed by Addison in his excellent sketch of Captain Sentry.'
Metre.-Iambic; three accents in each line. The first line is to be read very slowly, the first two monosyllables each taking the place of a dissyllable: Tóll for the brave. So 1. 25: Weigh the véssel úp. Cp. Shakespeare's "Stáy, the King hath thrówn his wárder dówn.'
Cowper himself speaks of the poem as written in Alexandrines, i.e. lines of six iambic feet. It was probably an afterthought, therefore, to divide the long lines into two. The choice of metre was determined by the air for which Cowper composed these words as a song.
4. Fast by, close beside, very near. Cp. Milton, Paradise Lost, II. 725, "Fast by Hell Gate." This use is now obsolete except in poetry, but was once fairly common in prose. comes naturally from the original sense of the adverb, ‘firmly,' 'fixedly.'
25. weigh, raise, as in the expression 'to weigh anchor.' From A.S. wegan, 'to carry.'
"In 1782 and the following year attempts were made to lift the ship by means of cables passed under her keel. These failing, it was blown up by help of divers in 1839 " (F. Storr).
27-8. There may be a reminiscence of these lines in Campbell's Battle of the Baltic (G. T., CCLI. 55-63).
31. Cp. Campbell again in Ye Mariners of England (G. T., CCL. 25, 26), “With thunders from her native oak She quells the floods below."
15. All in the Downs the fleet was moor'd
JOHN GAY was born at Barnstaple in 1688. He was apprenticed to a London silk-mercer, but soon abandoned this trade for literature. He dedicated his first poem to Pope, who became his friend. His most famous achievement is his Beggar's Opera, 1728, which was said to have made "Gay rich and Rich (the manager) gay." But little of his work is now read except the two ballads of Black-Eyed Susan and 'Twas when the Seas were Roaring, and perhaps his Fables. He was a great favourite in society, and the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry took him to live with them in his last years. Dying in 1732, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Pope wrote his epitaph, beginning "Of manners gentle, of affections mild; In wit a man, simplicity a child."
1. Downs, "The part of the sea within the Goodwin Sands, off the east coast of Kent, a famous rendezvous for ships. It lies opposite to the eastern termination of the North Downs" (N. E. D.).
2. streamers, flags. Cp. Shakespeare, Henry V., III., Prologue, 6, "His brave fleet With silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning."
15. chance is probably a verb for 'it chance,' but practically takes the place of an adverb 'by chance.' Cp. Shakespeare, IÏ. Henry IV., II, i. 12, It may chance cost some of us our lives" Merry Wives, v. v. 230, “How chance you went not with Master Slender?" Also cp. No. 36. 95.
16. Of all the girls that are so smart
"A LITTLE masterpiece in a very difficult style: Catullus himself could hardly have bettered it. In grace, tenderness, simplicity, and humour, it is worthy of the Ancients: and even more so, from the completeness and unity of the picture presented' (F. T. P.).
HENRY CAREY (died 1743) was a musician and a writer of operas and burlesques, the most famous of which is Chrononhotonthologos, "the most tragical tragedy ever yet tragedized by any company of tragedians. The authorship of God Save the King is sometimes attributed to him, and was claimed for him
by his son, but apparently without reason. Sally in our Alley, first published about 1715, won praise, according to Carey himself, from the divine Addison.' Carey also said that the poem owed its origin to his having ‘dodged' a 'prentice treating his mistress to various London amusements.
35. lurch. "The phrase 'to leave in the lurch' was derived from its use in an old game; to lurch is still used in playing cribbage.... The game is mentioned in Cotgrave: F. lourche, the game called Lurche, or a Lurch in game; il demeura lourche, he was left in the lurch.' He also gives: Ourche, the game at table called lurch'” (Skeat). To leave in the lurch' has come to mean leave in a forlorn condition.'
17. Go fetch to me a pint o' wine
BURNS stated that the first four lines were old. Messrs. Henley and Henderson (Poetry of Burns, Vol. III.), say: ballad, O Errol, it's a bonny place, in Sharpe's Ballad Book (1823) begins thus:
"Go fetch to me a pint of wine,
Go fill it to the brim;
That I may drink my gude Lord's health,
Tho' Errol be his name.
And Burns may have had little more than some such suggestion for his brilliant and romantic first quatrain.'
2. tassie, S., goblet. French, tasse.
4. service, i.e. in token of my duty to her.
5. Leith, the Port of Edinburgh.
6. ferry, across the Firth of Forth.
7. rides, floats at anchor.
the Berwick-law, North Berwick Law, in Haddingtonshire, overlooking the Firth of Forth. Law is a Scottish and Northumbrian term for a hill, especially one more or less round or conical.
12. thick. Another reading is deep.
18. If doughty deeds my lady please
ROBERT GRAHAM, of Gartmore, on the borders of Perth and Stirling, was in early life a planter in Jamaica. He was chosen rector of Glasgow University in 1785, in opposition to Burke ; and represented the county of Stirling in parliament from 1794 to 1796. Scott inserted this song in the first edition of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, under the impression that it
was of the age of Charles I. It had, he wrote after the real authorship had been discovered, "much of the romantic expression of passion, common to the poets of that period, whose lays still reflected the setting beams of chivalry."
1. doughty, valiant, applied both to persons and things. It is an old English word corresponding to the German tüchtig, capable. It is still in use, but always with an archaic, and generally with a humorous flavour.
12. trow, believe. Cp. Luke (A.V.) xvii. 9, “I trow not."
14 dight, equip, dress. The verb was derived from the Latin dictare, and originally meant to dictate,' then 'to appoint, ordain.' The meaning 'put in order, array, dress,' is, however, an early one; and this is the use that has survived in literature chiefly in the past participle.
16. squire. See No. 12. 12 and note.
23. No maiden blames me for her ruin. Skaith, S., hurt, damage used as a verb in No. 38. 13. Cp. English scathe, and Germ. schaden. 66 Ha, how grete harme and skaith for evermare that child has caucht, throw lesing of his moder," Douglas, Virgil.
25. ride the ring. Cp. Scott in Rosabelle (G. T., CCLXXXI. 21), ""Tis not because the ring they ride." "A ring was suspended, not tightly fastened, but so that it could easily be detached from a horizontal beam resting on two upright posts. The players rode at full speed through the archway thus made, and as they went under passed their lance-points, or aimed at passing them, through the ring, and so bore it off. See Ellis's Brand's Popular Antiquities, re-edited by Hazlitt " (Prof. Hales).
19. Sweet stream, that winds through yonder glade THE limpid purity of the stream and the smoothness of its surface find their counterparts in the exquisite purity and simplicity of the language and the unbroken melody of the verse. 4. Cp. Gray in his Elegy (No. 36. 73), "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife. We may contrast the surroundings of the heroine of Matthew Arnold's Requiescat : "Her life was turning, turning, In mazes of heat and sound."
9. watery glass, the smooth and transparent surface of the stream.
20. Sleep on, and dream of Heaven awhile
By his dates (1763-1855) SAMUEL ROGERS, the contemporary of Wordsworth and Byron, belongs to the period covered by the Fourth Book of the Golden Treasury. But though the influence of Wordsworth and the new romantic movement is manifest in