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Collier; to Dean Church's “Spenser,” in “English Men of Letters;" and to “Spenser and his Poetry,” by the late Professor Craik. A series of papers on Spenser, written by “Christopher North,” in Blackwood's Magazine, in the years 1833-1835, are worthy of the subject and of the eloquent-sometimes perhaps too eloquentwriter. Professor Wilson's admiration of Spenser is unbounded. There is no affectation in his praise ; and it is better sometimes for a young student to read such generous, if occasionally unguarded, criticism, catching as he reads the glow of the writer's enthusiasm, than to follow the tamer comments of more cautious critics. Every word about Spenser in Leigh Hunt's delightful volume “Imagination and Fancy" should be read, and cannot fail to be read with pleasure.]
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY-SAMUEL DANIEL– MICHAEL DRAYTON-CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE-GEORGE CHAPMAN.
THERE are several poets of this period who, although never likely to be much read, will always keep an honoured place in the history of English verse. Prominent among the number stand the names of Sir Philip Sidney, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Christopher Marlowe, and George Chapman; and I will try to tell the young reader as much about these poets as it is perhaps necessary that he should know.
The name of Sir Philip Sidney stands preeminent in the Elizabethan age, not so much for his poetry as for his many virtues as a gentleman, a soldier, and a scholar. A recent editor of Sidney's works has
advised students to give days and nights to the study of his poetry. Such advice addressed to a youthful and enthusiastic reader can only breed vexation and disappointment. Sidney's verse, although not without distinct poetical worth, has many crudities and conceits. There is little in it comparatively of high value, and assuredly nothing that calls for a large sacrifice of time and labour. In his fine treatise, the "Apologie for Poetrie," Sidney objects to far-fetched words and impertinent conceits. In his day, as in our own, verse-makers were apt to mistake extravagant allusions and a fantastic use of words for the inspiration of the poet. Sidney himself was not free from the fault he had the critical sagacity to discover. He often plays upon words; his imagery is sometimes strained and affected, his fancy "high fantastical ;” and as conceits in poetry retain no life beyond the age that produced them, there is much in his verse that is without significance for the modern reader. Charles Lamb has said that some of Sidney's sonnets are among
best of their sort. It would be more correct to say that Sidney's best work is to be found in them. Several of the sonnets, indeed, read like the painful efforts of a scholar's wit rather than of a poet's fancy; but there are others which possess sweetness and strength, and much of that subtle charm of rhythm which belongs to the Elizabethan lyrists. The following sonnet, for instance, has a quaint melodiousness characteristic of the time :
“O kiss, which dost those ruddy gems impart,
Or gems or fruits of new-found paradise ; Breathing all bliss and sweet'ning to the heart ; Teaching dumb lips a nobler exercise ! O kiss, which souls, even souls together, ties By links of love and only nature's art, How fain would I paint thee to all men's eyes ! Or of thy gifts, at least shade out some part. But she forbids ; with blushing words she says She builds her fame on higher-seated praise. But my heart burns ; I cannot silent be. Then, since, dear life, you fain would have me peace, And I, mad with delight, want wit to cease, Stop you my mouth with still, still kissing me.” Sidney's love-poetry was inspired by Lady Rich, who, when a young girl-her maiden name was Lady Penelope Devereux-seems to have been affianced to the poet. Sidney's life and her life might have been different had this early attachment been brought to a happy ending. Worldly guardians, however, thought they were doing the girl profitable service by marrying her to Lord Rich, a nobleman whom she regarded with indifference. Lady Rich's career was brilliant and sad. In the court of England, says Mr. Minto, she was “the most conspicuous and fascinating woman of her generation.” Her wit and beauty were praised in no measured language by the Elizabethan poets, and that she should form the theme of Sidney's verse is not surprising in that age of courtly gallantry. As a lyric poet, Sidney, like so many of his contemporaries, was occasionally very happy, and Mr. Palgrave, in his invaluable “Golden
Treasury," has inserted a favourable specimen of the poet's craft as a lyrist. By repeating the burden of the first line at the end of the stanzas, and omitting four or five lines, Mr. Palgrave has added to the music of the verse. The poem shall be transcribed from his version, although it may be questioned whether such a treatment of the piece is wholly justifiable on the part of an editor.
“My true love hath my heart and I have his ;
My true love hath my heart and I have his.
My true love hath my heart and I have his." The weakest portion of Sidney's poetry is his version of the Psalms, or, rather, of about forty psalms, his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, having done the largest and by far the best portion of the work.
[Sir Philip Sidney's best sonnets are to be found in selections. His “ Apologie for Poetrie " should be read. It forms one of Mr. Arber's cheap and valuable “ English Reprints.”] Samuel Daniel, it will be seen, was born two years before Shakespeare, and died three
, years later than that poet. He has
been styled by Southey "the tenderest of all tender poets”-a judgment which has in it more of affection than of criticism ; but the opinions