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The hounds ran swiftly through the woods
The nimble deer to take,
And with their cries the hills and dales
Vocat ingenti clamore Citharon,
VIRG. GEORG. iii. 43.
Citharon loudly calls me to my way:
Lo, yonder doth Earl Douglas come,
All men of pleasant Tividale,
The country of the Scotch warrior, described in these two last verses, has a fine romantic situation, and affords a couple of smooth words for verse. If the reader compares the foregoing six lines of the song with the following Latin verses, he will see how much they are written in the spirit of Virgil:
Advancing in a line, they couch their spears-
Adversi campo apparent: hastasque reductis
JN. xi. 605. vii. 682, 71%
With those who plough Saturnia's Gabine land:
The rocks of Hernicus-besides a band,
But to proceed:
Earl Douglas on a milk-white steed,
Rode foremost of the company,
Our English archers bent their bows,
Full threescore Scots they slew.
No slackness there was found;
Lay gasping on the ground.
Turnus, ut antevolans tardum præcesserat agmen, &c.
EN. ix. 47. 269.
With that there came an arrow keen
Which struck Earl Douglas to the heart,
Has inter voces, media inter talia verba,
Æneas was wounded after the same manner by an unknown hand in the midst of a parley.
EN. xii. 318.
Thus, while he spake, unmindful of defence,
But of all the descriptive parts of this song, there are none more beautiful than the four following stanzas, which have a great force and spirit in them, and are filled with very natural circumstances. The thought in the third stanza was never touched by any other poet, and is such a one as would have shined in Homer or in Virgil:
So thus did both these nobles die,
The noble Earl was slain.
He had a bow bent in his hand,
Against Sir Hugh Montgomery
This fight did last from break of day
For when they rung the ev'ning bell
One may observe, likewise, that in the catalogue of the slain, the author has followed the example of the greatest ancient poets, not only in giving a long list of the dead, but by diversifying it with little characters of particular persons.
And with Earl Douglas there was slain
Sir Charles Carrel, that from the field
Sir Charles Murrel of Ratcliff too,
Sir David Lamb so well esteem'd,
The familiar sound in these names destroys the ma
jesty of the description; for this reason I do not mention this part of the poem but to show the natural cast of thought which appears in it, as the two last verses look almost like a translation of Virgil.
-Cadit et Ripheus justissimus unus
Qui fuit in Teucris et servantissimus æqui.
Then Ripheus fell in the unequal fight,
N. ii. 426.
Then stept a gallant 'squire forth,
In the catalogue of the English who fell, Witherington's behaviour is in the same manner particularized very artfully, as the reader is prepared for it by that account which is given of him in the beginning of the battle; though I am satisfied your little buffoon readers, who have seen that passage ridiculed in Hudibras, will not be able to take the beauty of it: for which reason I dare not so much as quote it.
That e'er my captain fought on foot,
We meet with the same heroic sentiment in Virgil.
Non pudet, O Rutuli, cunctis pro talibus unam
ÆN. xii. 229.
For shame, Rutilians, can you bear the sight
What can be more natural, or more moving, than the circumstances in which he describes the behaviour of those women who had lost their husbands on this fatal day?
Next day did many widows come
They wash'd their wounds in brinish tears,
Their bodies bathed in purple blood.
They kiss'd them dead a thousand times,
Thus we see how the thoughts of this poem, which naturally arise from the subject, are always simple, and sometimes exquisitely noble; that the language is often very sounding, and that the whole is written with a true poetical spirit.
If this had been written in the Gothic mansong ner, which is the delight of all our little wits, whether writers or readers, it would not have hit the taste of so many ages, and have pleased the readers of all ranks and conditions. I shall only beg pardon for such a profusion of Latin quotations; which I should not have made use of, but that I feared my own judgement would have looked too singular on such a subject, had not I supported it by the practice and authority of Virgil.