« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
(1861 – 1891)
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 in especial with Shakespeare, the
purple light of Love' is tempered by a spirit of sterner reflection. For the didactic verse of the century, although lyrical in form, yet very rarely rises to the pervading emotion, the golden cadence, proper to the lyric.
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 and speaking to the heart of man alike throughout all ages.
4 Rouse Memnon's mother : Awaken the Dawn from the
dark Earth and the clouds where she is resting. This is one of that limited class of early mythes which may be reasonably interpreted as representations of natural phenomena. 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. 3 1. 23 by Peneus' stream : Phoebus loved the Nymph
Daphne whom he met by the river Peneus in the vale of Tempe. L. 27 Amphion's lyre : He was said to have built the walls of Thebes to the sound of his music. L. 35 Night like a drunkard reels : Compare Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 3: The grey-eyed morn smiles,' &c.-It should be added that three lines, which appeared hopelessly misprinted, have
been omitted in this Poem. 4 6 Time's chest: in which he is figuratively sup
posed to lay up past treasures. So in Troilus, Act III, Scene 3, Time hath a wallet at his back' &c. In the Arcadia, chest is used to signify
tomb. 6 7 A fine example of the highwrought and conventional
Elizabethan Pastoralism, which it would be unreasonable to criticize on the ground of the unshepherdlike or unreal character of some images suggested. Stanza 6 was perhaps inserted by Izaak
Walton. 6 8 This beautiful lyric is one of several recovered from
the very rare Elizabethau Song-books, for the public cation of which our thanks are due to Mr. A. H.
Bullen (1887, 1888). 8 12 One stanza has been here omitted, in accordance
with the principle noticed in the Preface. Similar omissions occur in a few other poems. The more serious abbreviation by which it has been attempted to bring Crashaw's Wishes' and Shelley's 'Euganean Hills,' with one or two more, within the scheme of this selection, is commended with much diffidence to the judgment of readers acquainted with the
original pieces. 13 Sidney's poetry is singularly unequal ; his short life,
his frequent absorption in public employment, hindered doubtless the development of his genius. His great contemporary fame, second only, it appears, to Spenser's, has been hence obscured. At times he is heavy and even prosaic; his simplicity is rude and bare ; his verse unmelodious. These, however, are the 'defects of his merits.' In