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Stand useless there, until we are produc'd Unto the torture, and our souls infus'd To learn afflictions, I begin to doubt That, as some tyrants use, from their chain'd rout Of slaves to pick out one, whom, for their sport, They keep afflicted by some ling'ring art: So we are merely thrown upon the stage, The mirth of fools, and legend of the age. When I see, in the ruins of a suit, Some nobler brest, and his tongue sadly muteFeed on the vocal silence of his eye, : And knowing, cannot reach, the remedy; When souls of baser stamp shine in their store, And he, of all the throng, is only poor ; When French apes for foreign fashions pay, And English legs are drest th' outlandish way, So fine, too, that they their own shadows woo, While he walks in the sad and pilgrim shoe, I'm mad at fate, and angry, ev'n to sin, To see deserts and learning clad so thinTo think how th' earthly usurer can brood Upon his bags, and weigh the precious food With palsied hands, as if his soul did fear The scales could rob him of what he laid there : Like devils, that on hid treasures sit, are those Whose jealous eyes trust not beyond their nose, But guard the dirt, and the bright idol hold Close, and commit adultery with gold. A curse upon their dross ! How have, we sued For a few scatter'd chips; how oft pursued Petitions with a blush, in hope to squeeze, For their souls' health, more than our wants, a piece! Their steel-ribb'd chests and purse (rust eat them both!) Have cost us, with much paper, many an oath, And protestations of such solemn sense, As if our souls were sureties for the pence. Should we a full night's learned cares present, They'll scarce return us one short hour's content: ’Las, they're but quibbles,-things we poets feign, The short-liv'd squibs and crackers of the brain. But we'll be wiser, knowing 'tis not they That must redeem the hardship of our way. Whether a higher power, or that star Which nearest heav'n is, from the earth most far,
Oppress us thus; or angeld from that sphère,
By our strict guardians are kept luckless here,
It matters not-we shall one day'obtain
Our native and celestial scope again."
From the extract we shall next make, we may gather rather a lively picture of the manners of the age in which the poet wrote. He is inviting a friend to leave his retirement, and share the pleasures of the town. Speaking of the length of time since he saw him, and of the intervening changes, he exclaims :
“ Abominable face of things!-here's noise
Of bang'd mortars, blue aprons, and boys, '
Pigs, dogs, and drums; with the hoarse, hellish notes
Of politicly deaf usurers' throats ;
With new fine worships, and the old cast team
Of justices, vex'd'with the cough and phlegm.
Midst these, the cross looks sad'; and in the shire-
Hall furs of an old Saxon fox appear, ..
With brotherly ruffs and beards, and a strange sight
Of high, monumental hats, ta’en' at the fight
Of Eighty-eight; while ev'ry burgess foots"
The mortal pavement in eternal boots.
Hadst thou been bach'lor, I had soon divin'd
Thy close retirements, and monastic mind;
Perhaps some nymph had been to visit ; or
The beauteous churl' was to be waited for,
And, like the Greek, ere you the sport would miss,
You stay'd and strok'd the distaff for a kiss.'
Why, two months hence, if thou continue thus,
Thy memory will scarce remain with us.
The drawers have forgot thee, and exclaim
They have not seen thee here since Charles's reign;
Or, if they mention thee, like some old man
That at each word inserts--Sir, as I can
Remember-so the cyph'rers puzzle me
With a dark, cloudy character of thee;
That (certs :) I fear thou wilt be lost, and we
Must ask the fathers ere't be long for thee.
Come! leave this sullen state, and let not wine
And precious wit lie dead for want of thine.
Shall the dull market landlord, with his rout
Of sneaking tenants, dirtily swill out
This harmless liquor? Shall they knock and beat
For sack, only to talk of rye and wheat ?
O let pot such preposterous tippling be;
In our metropolis, may I ne'er see
Such tavern sacrilege, nor lend a line
To weep the rapes and tragedy of wine!
Here lives that chemic quick-fire, which betrays
Fresh spirits to the blood, and warms our lays;
I have reserv’d,'gainst thy approach, a cup,
That, were thy muse stark dead, shall raise her up,
And teach her yet more charming words and skill,
Than ever Cælia, Chloris, Astrophil,
Or any of the threadbare names inspir'd
Poor rhyming lovers, with a mistress fir’d.
Come, then--and while the snow-icicle hangs
At the stiff thatch, and winter's frosty fangs
Benumb the year, blythe (as of old) let us,
'Midst noise and war, of peace and mirth discuss.
This portion thou wert born for: why should we
Vex at the times' ridiculous misery?
An age that thus hath fool'd itself, and will
(Spite of thy teeth and mine) persist so still.
Let's sit, then, at this fire, and while we steal
A revel in the town, let others seal, -
Purchase, or cheat, and who can, let them pay,
Till those black deeds bring on the darksome day.
Innocent spenders we! A better use
Shall wear out our short lease, and leave th' obtuse
Rout to their husks: they and their bags, at best
Have cares in earnest—we care for a jest.”
The following piece is entitled “ Monsieur Gombauld,” and appears to have been written after reading his romance of Endymion, a work composed by the author at a very advanced age :
" I've read thy soul's fair night-piece, and have seen
Th’amours and courtship of the silent queen;
Her stol’n descents to earth, and what did move her
To juggle first with heav'n, then with a lover;
With Latmos' louder rescue, and (alas !)
To find her out, a hue and cry in brass ;
Thy journal of deep mysteries, and sad
Nocturnal pilgrimage; with thy dreams, clad
In fancies darker than thy cave; thy glass
Of sleepy draughts; and as thy soul did pass
In her calm voyage, what discourse she heard
Of spirits; what dark groves and ill-shap'd guard
Ismena led thee through; with thy proud fight
O'er Periardes, and deep-musing night
Near fair Eurotas' banks ; what solemn green
The neighbour shades wear; and what forms are seen
In their large bowers; with that sad path and seat
Which none but light-heel'd nymphs and fairies beat,
Their solitary life, and how exempt
From common frailty—the severe contempt
They have of man—their privilege to live
A tree or fountain, and in that reprieve
What ages they consume : with the sad vale
Of Diophania ; and the mournful tale
Of th' bleeding, vocal myrtle :—these and more,
Thy richer thoughts, we are upon the score
To thy rare fancy for. Nor dost thou fall
From thy first majesty, or ought at all
Betray consumption. Thy full vigorous bays
Wear the same green, and scorn the lean decays
Of style or matter; just as I have known
Some chrystal spring, that from the neighbour down
Deriv'd her birth, in gentle murmurs steal
To the next vale, and proudly there reveal
Her streams in louder accents, adding still
More noise and waters to her channel, till
At last, swoll'n with increase, she glides along
The lawns and meadows, in a wanton throng
Of frothy billows, and in one great name
Swallows the tributary brooks' drown'd fame.
Nor are they mere inventions, for we
In the same piece find scatter'd philosophy,
And hidden, dispers’d truths, that folded lie
In the dark shades of deep allegory,
So neatly weav’d, like arras, they descry
Fables with truth, fancy with history.
So that thou hast, in this thy curious mould,
Cast that commended mixture wish'd of old,
Which shall these contemplations render far
Less mutable, and lasting as their star;
And while there is a people, or a sun,
Endymion's story with the moon shall run."
The versification of these poems is also well worthy of notice, both for the facility of the rhyme, and the variety and ease of the rhythm, by which the poet is'enabled to adapt his verse to all kinds of subjects, from the gravest to the gayest.
Perhaps his command over the language is more particularly shewn in the subsequent extracts, which we likewise quote with other views.
Apostrophizing Fletcher, on the posthumous publication of his plays, 1647, he says:
“ I did believe (great Beaumont being dead)
Thy widow'd muse slept on his flow'ry bed.
But I'am richly cozen'd, and can see
Wit transmigrates—his spirit stay'd with thee ;
Which, doubly advantag'd by thy single pen,
In life and death now treads the stage agen.
And thus are we free'd from that dearth of wit
Which starv'd the land, since into schisms split,
Wherein th' hast done so much, we must needs guess
Wit's last edition is now i' th' press.
For thou hast drain'd invention, and he
That writes hereafter, doth but pillage thee.
But thou hast plots; and will not the Kirk strain
At the designs of such a tragic brain ?.
Will they themselves think safe, when they shall see
Thy most abominable policy?
Will not the Ears assemble, and think 't fit
Their synod fast and pray against thy wit?
But they'll not tire in such an idle quest-
Thou dost but kill and circumvent in jest ;
And when thy anger'd muse swells to a blow,
'Tis but for Field's or Swansteed's overthrow.
Yet shall these conquests of thy bays outlive
Their Scottish zeal, and compacts made to grieve
The peace of spirits; and when such deeds fail
Of their foul ends, a fair name is thy bail.
But, happy! thou ne'er saw'st these storms our air
Teem'd with, ev'n in thy time, though seeming fair.
Thy gentle soul, meant for the shade and ease,
Withdrew betimes into the land of peace.
So nested in some hospitable shore,
The hermit-angler, when the mid seas roar,
Packs up his lines, and (ere the tempest raves)
Retires, and leaves his station to the waves.
Thus thou diedst almost with our peace; and we,
This breathing time, thy last fair issue see,
Which I think such, (if needless ink not soil
So choice a muse,) others are but thy foil ;