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Herbert's poems are, as might be expected, almost entirely on the graver realities of this life, or the weighty concerns of another. He probably destroyed the productions of his courtly days. Of them, at least, none have reached us. He alludes to the devotional turn of his poetry in the following piece entitled "Jordan," which commences with a very fantastical stanza.
Who says that fictions only and false hair
Not to a true, but painted chair?
Is it not verse, except enchanted groves
Catching the sense at two removes.
Shepherds are honest people—let them sing—
Who only plainly say, "My God, my king."—
This is more in the style of Waller, and is worth quoting.
If, as a flow'r doth spread and die,
Nipt in the bud:
The sweetness and the praise were thine;
For, as thou dost impart thy grace,
The greater shall our glory be:
The measure of our joys is in this place,
The stuff with thee.
Let me not languish, then, and spend
But with delays.
All things are busy: only I
To water these.
I am no link of thy great chain,
To my poor reed.
Some of the stanzas in the devotional pieces are neatly finished, and have much point—as these:
"All may of thee partake,
Nothing can be so mean,
Will not grow bright and clean.
That turneth all to gold.
Cannot for less be told.—
His longest poem, "The Church Porch," is for the most part written in an uncouth and ungraceful style—yet, though we smile at its quaintness, who but must admire the good sense of the exhortation in the following stanzas on conversation?
If thou be master-gunner, spend not all
That thou canst speak at once;—but husband it,
And give men turns of speech. Do not forestall,
By lavishness, thine own and other's wit:
Be calm in arguing—for fierceness makes
Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.
Why should I feel another man's mistakes,
More than his sicknesses or poverty ?—
Calmness is great advantage—he that lets
Another chafe, may warm him at his fire,
Mark all his wanderings, and enjoy his frets,
As cunning fencers suffer heat to tire.
Truth dwells not in the clouds: the bow that's there
Lastly—let the reader take the following as a specimen of something rather more fanciful than the poems we have hitherto transcribed.
"Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave
Let me once know.
And ask'd, if Peace were there.
'Go, seek elsewhere.'
I did—and going did a rainbow note:
'Surely,' thought I,
I will search out the matter;'
Did break and scatter.
Then went I to a garden, and did spy
A gallant flow'r,
'Peace at the root must dwell.'
What show'd so well.
At length I met a rev'rend, good old man:
Whom, when for Peace
'There was a prince of old,
Of flock and fold.
'He sweetly liv'd: yet sweetness did not save
His life from foes.
There sprang twelve stalks of wheat:
To plant and set.
'It prosper'd strangely, and did soon disperse
Through all the earth.
That virtue lies therein;
By flight from sin.
'Take of this grain, which in my garden grows,
And grows for you—
And peace, which every where
Is only there.'"
To speak of the faults of these poems, faults which abound in a far greater degree in the pieces which remain, than in those we have selected, would be useless to the purposes of our Review. It is our aim to pick out a few flowers which, in this case as in some others, are almost lost amid weeds—yet let it not be inferred that we have done this so completely in the present case, as that nothing but rubbish remains. On the contrary, we think that those who have a real relish for devotional poetry will find passages in Herbert that may refresh and delight them: at the same time, no reader of taste, and rational views of religion, but must lament and wonder at the strange and almost incomprehensible turn of some of the poems. What are we to make of the following?
"My God, a verse is not a crown:
No point of honour or gay suit;
Nor a good sword, nor yet a lute.
It cannot vault, or dance, or play,
It never was in France or Spain,
With my great stable or domain.
It is no office, art, or news;
Nor the exchange, or busy hall—
I am with thee, and—most take all."
The quaintness and oddity of the following are, however, compensated for by some excellent lines.
"When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
Let the world's riches, which dispersed lie,
So strength first made away;
Then beauty flow'd; then wisdom, honour, pleasure:
Perceiving that alone, of all his treasure,
'For if I should,' said he,
'Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
And rest in nature, not the God of nature,—
'Yet let him keep the rest—
But keep them, with repining restlessness—
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.'"
Art. III. The instructive and entertaining Fables of Pilpay, an Ancient Indian Philosopher. The fifth edition. London, 1775.
The Fables of Pilpay have been long since translated into most of the European languages; but, after enjoying a temporary popularity, which is attested by the number of editions that have been published in different countries, they have sunk into unmerited neglect. The cause of this may be easily traced. The great success of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, that mine of oriental imagery and invention, produced a series of imitations, which, under the titles of Chinese, Persian, Turkish, and other Tales, must have sickened the appetites which they were intended to delight; and as Pilpay shared with them the applause of the reading public of that day, he was, also, doomed to partake in the indifference which succeeded the interest they at first excited. Literature has as many changes of fashion as are found in the minor departments of taste; and this alone might explain sufficiently why any book should, after a certain period, cease to entertain; but in the present case we may discover a more obvious reason for the obscurity into which our Indian philosopher has fallen, in the inelegant version of the French translation which was made for the use of English readers. Under this disadvantage, it could hardly be expected that Pilpay should maintain his ground against the hosts of writers who have, in turn, been the admiration of this novel-reading age and country. Even his claim