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And stop a month and blaze around her,
Yet leave her Virgo, as he found her.
But 'twas in optics and dioptricks,
Our dæmon play'd his first and top tricks :
He held that sunshine passes quicker
Through wine than any other liquor;
That glasses are the best utensils
To catch the eye's bewilder'd pencils;
And though he saw no great objection
To steady light and pure reflection,
He thought the aberrating rays,
Which play upon a bumper's blaze,
Were by the doctors look’d, in common, on,
As a more rare and rich phenomenon !
He wisely said, that the sensorium
Is for the eye a great emporium,
To which these noted picture stealers
Send all they can and meet with dealers.
Our doctor thus with “stuff'd sufficiency
Of all omnigenous omniciency,
Began (as who would not begin
That had, like him, so much within ?)
To let it out in books of all sorts,
Folios, quartos, large and small sorts :
Poems, so very grave and sensible
That they were quite incomprehensible;
Prose which had been at learning's fair,
And bought up all the trump’ry there ;
The tatter'd rags of ev'ry vest
In which the Greeks and Romans drest,
And o'er her figure, swoll'n and antic,
Scatter'd them all with airs so frantic,
That those who saw the fits she had,
Declar'd unhappy Prose was mad!
Epics he wrote and scores of rebusses,
All as neat as old Turnebus's !
Eggs and altars, cyclopædias,
Grammars, prayer-books-oh! 'twere tedious
Did I but tell the half, to follow me.
Not the scribbling bard of Ptolemy,
No-nor the hoary Trismegistus,
(Whose writings all, thank heav'n! have miss'd us,)
E'er fill’d with lumber such a ware-room
As this great porcus literarum !”
Art. VIII. Olor Iscanus. A Collection of some Select Poems
and Translations, formerly written by Mr. Henry Vaughan, Silurist. Published by a Friend.
"Flumina amo, Sylvasque inglorius.”— Virg. Georg. London, printed by T. W. for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at his shop, at the signe of the Prince's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard. 1651. Small 8vo.
This little volume has long lain hid in undeserved oblivion. Henry Vaughan, the Silurist, as he loved to be called, appears to have been a very accomplished individual, though given, as we learn from Anthony Wood, to be “ singular and humoursome.” He has not, indeed, scaled the highest heaven of invention, nor even succeeded in bestowing fame and celebrity on his favorite river of Isca ; but if a considerable command of forcible language, and an occasional richness of imagery, be sufficient to arrest a poet fast falling into total oblivion, we think we shall be justified in selecting the “ Olor Iscanus” as the subject of an article. This little production is moreover peculiarly adapted to our purposes. We could not recommend a reprint of the whole, though the poetry only runs to sixty-four small octavo pages, for there are many parts in which the author falls into dulness or obscurity, or where, following the cold and vapid taste of the times, he spends his strength on frigid and bombastic conceits ; but, at the same time, Vaughan possessed both feeling and imagination,-flowers which not unfrequently shew themselves above the weeds which the warped judgment of the age encouraged to grow up in too great luxuriance. Added to this, he is a translator of no little skill; and has succeeded in turning many of the metrical pieces of Boëtius, and some of the odes of Casimir, into free and forcible English. It is very much to be lamented, that he did not give more of his attention to this good service ; for we cannot help thinking there are very few versions in the language executed with more ability than those which we shall presently submit to the reader.
These poems chiefly come under the head of what is usually termed occasional poetry:-a species of writing ill adapted to carry the fame of the author down to Posterity, a personage generally too busy in pursuing her own trifles, to attend to those which may have caught the attention of an individual of a former age. Sometimes, however, the occasion is a general one; and at others, the writer rises above his subject, and making it
but the stepping-stone of his course, wings a lofty and enduring flight. Probably, Henry Vaughan contemplated some more lasting and worthy theme than eulogies and elegies upon his friends, if we may judge from the following address to his native Isca, the theme of the first poem in this volume :
“ But Isca, whensoe'er those shades I see,
And those lov'd arbours must no more know me,
When I am laid to rest hard by thy streams,
And my sun sets where first it sprang in beams,
I'll leave behind me such a large kind light,
As shall redeem thee from oblivious night,
And in these vows which (living yet) I pay,
Shed such a precious and enduring ray,
As shall from age to age thy fair name lead,
'Till rivers leave to run, and men to read.”
By this “precious and enduring ray” is intended, we presume, the identical little book from which we have been brushing the cobwebs and wiping the dust, and whose“ scattered beams” we are about to let fall once more on the public, who, most unaccountably, as the Silurist would think, are little aware of their brightness, though rivers have not left to run, nor men to read. After celebrating the Isca, our author proceeds to the charnelhouse, his reflections on which are written with a vigorous pen. It may be that, in this following quotation from it, there are few new ideas; but it breathes forth a vigorous strain of morality, which shall be “as a modicum of salt to charm away the rottenness of oblivion :”
“Where are you, shoreless thoughts, vast-tenter'd * hope,
Ambitious dreams, aims of an endless scope,
Whose stretch'd excess runs on a string too high,
And on the rack of self-extension die?
Cameleons of state, air-mongring + band,
Whose breath (like gunpowder) blows up a land,
Come see your dissolution, and weigh
What a loath'd nothing you shall be one day.
As th’ elements by circulation pass
From one to th' other, and that which first was
Is so again, so 'tis with you. The grave
And nature but complot: what the one gave
* Tenter'd, extended.
† Air-mongring, dealing in air, or unsubstantial visions.
The other takes. Think, then, that in this bed
There sleep the relics of as proud a head,
As stern and subtle as your own; that hath
Perform’d or forc'd as much; whose tempest wrath
Hath levellid kings with slaves; and wisely, then,
Calm these high furies, and descend to men.
Thus Cyrus tam'd the Macedon; a tomb
Check'd him who thought the world too strait a room.
Have I obey'd the powers of a face,
A beauty, able to undo the race
Of easy man? I look but here, and straight
I am inform’d; the lovely counterfeit
Was but a smoother clay. That famish'd slave,
Beggar'd by wealth, who starves that he may save,
Brings hither but his sheet. Nay, the ostrich-man,
That feeds on steel and bullet,—he that can
Outswear his lordship, and reply as tough
To a kind word, as if his tongue were buff,
Is chapfall’n here: worms, without wit or fear,
Defy him now; death hath disarm’d the bear.
Thus could I run o'er all the piteous score
Of erring men, and having done meet more.
There shuffled wills-abortive, vain intents-
Fantastic humours-perilous ascents-
False, empty honours,—trait'rous delights,
And whatsoe'er a blind conceit invites-
But these, and more, which the weak vermins swell,
Are couch'd in this accumulative cell,
Which I could scatter; but the grudging sun
Calls home his beams, and warns me to be gone:
Day leaves me in a double night, and I
Must bid farewell to my sad library,
Yet with these notes. Henceforth with thought of thee
I'll season all succeeding jollity,
Yet damn not mirth, nor think too much is fit :
Excess hath no religion, nor wit;
But should wild blood swell to a lawless strain,
One check from thee shall channel it again.”
The following is part of an address to an usurer, who had obliged the poet with loans of money ; the whole is written with vast freedom and richness of expression :
“But wilt have money, Og? must I dispurse?
Will nothing serve thee but a poet's curse?
Wilt rob an altar thus; and sweep at once
What, Orpheus-like, I forced from stocks and stones?
'Twill never swell thy bag, nor ring one peal
In thy dark chest. Talk not of shrieves, or gaol-
I fear them not; I have no land to glut
Thy dirty appetite, and make thee strut
Nimrod of acres ; I'll no speech prepare,
To court the hopeful cormorant, thine heir;
Yet there's a kingdom at thy beck, if thou
But kick this dross, Parnassus' flow'ry brow
I'll give thee, with my Tempe—and to boot,
That horse which struck a fountain with his foot.
A bed of roses I'll provide for thee;
And chrystal springs shall drop thee melody.
The breathing shades we'll haunt, where ev'ry leaf
Shall whisper us asleep, though thou art deaf.
Those waggish nymphs, too, which none ever yet
Durst make love to, we'll teach the loving fit;
We'll suck the coral of their lips, and feed
Upon their spicy breath-a meal at need ;
Rove in their amber tresses, and unfold
That glist'ring grove, the curled wood of gold;
Then peep for babies, a new puppet-play,
And riddle what their prattling eyes would say.
But here thou must remember to dispurse,
For, without money, all this is a curse;
Thou must for more bags call, and so restore
This iron age to gold, as once before.
This thou must do, and yet this is not all ;
For thus the poet would be still in thrall :
Thou must, then, (if live thus,) my nest of honey!
Cancel old bonds, and beg to lend more money.”
These spirited verses and the following copy to a friend, complaining of the general poverty of poets, make us fear that our author did not find the flowery paths of poesy and philosophy (which Wood says he followed, instead of the study of the law) a fortunate choice. The spirit, however, of the man, rich or poor, is to be envied, who could thus console himself. Speaking of poets, he says:
“ Woeful profusion! at how dear a rate
Are we made up! all hope of thrift and state
Lost for a verse! When I by thoughts look back
Into the womb of time, and see the rack
VOL. III. PART II.