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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 inany 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 storner 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 hunan 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.
dark Earth and the clouds where she is resting. This
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,
Walton. 6 8 This beautiful lyric is one of several recovered from
the very rare Elizabethan 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. 9 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
a certain depth and chivalry of feeling, --in the rare and noble quality of disinterestedness (to put it in one word), --he has no superior, hardly perhaps an equal, amongst our Poets; and after or beside Shakespeare's Sonnets, his Astrophel and Stella, in the Editor's judgment, offers the most intense and powerful picture of the passion of love in the whole range of our poetry.--Hundreds of years: 'The very rapture of love,' says Mr. Ruskin; 'A lover like this does not believe his mistress can grow old
or die.' 12 19 Readers who have visitel Italy will be reminded of
more than one picture by this gorgeous Vision of
more beautiful than Rosaline.
book, first reprinted (it is believed) in Mr. W.
J. Linton's ‘Rare Poems,'in 1883. 15 23 that fair thou owest : that beauty thou ownest. 16 25 From one of the three Song-books of T. Campion,
who appears to have been author of the words which he set to music. His merit as a lyrical poet (recognized in his own time, but since then forgotten) has been again brought to light by Mr. Bullen's taste and research :---swerving (st. 2) is his
conjecture for changing in the text of 1601. 20 31 the star Whose worth's unknown, although his height
be taken: apparently, Whose stellar influence is uncalculated, although his angular altitude from the plane of the astrolabe or artificial horizon used by
astrologers has been determined. 20 32 This lovely song appears, as here given, in Putten
ham's 'Arte of English Poesie,' 1589. A longer and inferior form was published in the 'Arcadia' of 1590: but Puttenhain's prefatory words clearly assign
his version to Sidney's own authorship. 23 37 keel: keep cooler by stirring round. 24 39 expense : loss. - 40 prease : press. 23 41 Nativity, once in the main of light : when a star has
risen and entered on the full streain of light; another of the astrological phrases no longer familiar.