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Praises of old English Poets, from W. Browne's Britannia's Pastorals.
William Browne, in his BRITANNIA'S PASTORALS, of which the First Book was published in 1613, in folio, and the Second Book in 1616; and both parts were reprinted in 2 vols. sm. 8vo. 1623,* gives the following praises of some of our old English Poets, in Book 2, Song 2.
"SIDNEY began, and (if a wit so mean
May taste with him the dews of Hippocrene),
sung the Pastoral next, his muse my mover:
And on the plains full many a pensive lover
Shall sing us to their loves, and praising be
My humble lines the more for praising thee.
Thus shall we live with them by rocks, by springs,
As well as Homer by the death of kings.
Then in a strain beyond an oaten quill,
The learned Shepherdt of fair Hitching hill,
The first book is dedicated to Edward Lord Zouch; and has commendatory verses by J. Selden, both Latin and English; Michael Drayton; Edward Heyward, of the Inner Temple; Christopher Brooke; Fr. Dynne, of the Inner Temple; and Thomas Gardiner, of the same.
The second book is dedicated to William Earl of Pembroke, and has commendatory verses by John Glanville; Tho. Wenman, of the Inner Temple; W. Herbert; John Davies, of Hereford; Charles Croke (in Latin); Unton Croke, of the Inner Temple; Anth. Vincent; John Morgan; Tho. Heygate; and 'Augustus Cæsar; all three of the Inner Temple; G. Wither; W. B.; and Ben Jonson.
A new edition of Browne's Poems was published in 1772, by T. Davies, in 3 small vols. to which were added some short notes, by the Rev. W. Thompson, of Queen's Coll. Oxford.
Sung the heroic deeds of Greece and Troy
In lines so worthy life, that I employ
My reed in vain to overtake his fame:
All praiseful tongues do wait upon that name.
Our second Ovid, the most pleasing muse
That heaven did e'er in mortals brain infuse,
All-loved Drayton, in soul-rapping strains,
A genuine note of all the nymphish trains
Began to tune; on it all ears were hung,
As sometime Dido's on Æneas' tongue.
Jonson, whose full of merit. to rehearse,
Too copious is to be confind in verse;
Yet therein only fittest to be known,
Could any write a line which he might own.
One so judicious; so well knowing, and
A man whose least worth is to understand;
One so exact in all he doth prefer
To able censure; for the theatre.
Not Seneca transcends his worth of praise ;
Who writes him well shall well deserve the bays.
Well-languag'd DANIEL; Brooke,* whose polish'd
Are fittest to accomplish high designs;
Whose pen, it seems, still young 'Apollo guides;
Worthy the forked hill, for ever glides
• CHRISTOPHER BROOKE was a Yorkshireman, who, after having left the University (whether Oxford or Cambridge, is not known), settled in Lincoln's Inn to study the law, where he became acquainted with the eminent wits of his day; especially after he had publisbed An Elegy to the Memory of Henry Prince of Wales, Lond. 1613, 4to. In the year following he became a Bencher, and Summer Reader of his House; and wrote anc. ther book, entitled, Eclogues, dedicated to his much-loved friend, Mr. Will. Browne, of the Inner Temple, Lond. 1614, 8vo. He had a brother, Sam. Brooke, D.D. Archdeacon of Coventry, and Master of Trinity College, a learned divine, who died Sept. 16th, 1631. Wood's Ath. F. 1. 220.
Streams from thy brain, so fair, that Time shall see
Thee honour'd by thy verse, and it by thee.
And when thy temple's well-deserving bays,
As in a chrystal glass, fill'd to the ring
With the clear water of as clear a spring,
A steady hand may very safely drop
Some quantity of gold, yet o'er the top
Not force the liquor run; although before,
The glass of water could contain no more:
Yet so, all worthy BROOKE, tho' all men sound
With plummets of just praise thy skill profound;
Thou in thy verse those attributes canst take,
And not apparent ostentation make,
That any second can thy virtues raise,
Striving as much to hide, as merit praise.
Davis and Wither, by whose muse's power
A natural day to me seems but an hour;
And could I ever hear their learned lays,
Ages would turn to artificial days:
These sweetly chanted to the Queen of waves,
She prais'd; and what she prais'd, no tongue depraves.
Then base contempt, unworthy our report,
Fly from the Muses, and their fair resort, .
And exercise thy spleen on men like thee;
Such are more fit to be contemn'd than we.
'Tis not the rancour of a cank’red heart,
That can debase the excellence of art;
Nor great in titles make our worth obey,
Since we have lines far more esteem'd than they.
For there is hidden in a Poet's name,
A spell, that can command the wings of Fame,
And maugre all Oblivion's hated birth,
Begin their immortality on earth;
When he, that 'gainst a muse with hate combines,
a May raise his tomb in vain to reach our lines.". P 2
The following is his praise of SPENCER. Having spoken of the bards of Italy and France in his first song of this book, he goes on,
"But let us leave, fair Muse, the banks of Po;
Thetis forsook his brave stream long ago;
See in haste she sweeps
And we must after.
Along the Celtic shores; the Armoric deeps
She now is entering: bear up then ahead,
And by that time she hath discovered
Our alabaster rocks, we may descry,
And ken with her, the coasts of Britanny.
There will she anchor cast, to hear the songs
Of English shepherds, whose all-tuneful tongues
So pleas'd the Naiades, they did report
Their songs perfection in great Nereus' court:
Which Thetis hearing, did appoint a day
When she would meet them in the British sea;
And thither for each swain a dolphin bring,
To ride with her, whilst she would hear him sing.
The time prefix'd was come; and now the star
Of blissful light appear'd, when she her car
Stay'd in the narrow seas. At Thames' fair port
The nymphs and shepherds of the Isle resort;
And thence did put to sea with mirthful rounds,
Whereat the billows dance above their bounds;
And bearded goats, that on the clouded head
Of any sea-surveying mountain fed,
Leaving to crop the ivy, list'ning stood
At those sweet airs, which did intrance the flood.
In jocund sort the Goddess thus they met;
And after reverence done, all being set
Upon their finny coursers, round her throne,
And she prepar'd to cut the wat'ry zone
Ingirting Albion, all their pipes were still,
And Colin Clout began to tune his quill
With such deep art, that every one was given
To think Apollo, newly slid from heaven,
Had ta'en a human shape to win his love,
Or with the Western swains for glory strove.
He sung the heroic knights of fairy land,
In lines so elegant, of such command,
That had the Thracian* play'd but half so well,
He had not left Euridice in Hell,
But, ere he ended his melodious song,
An host of angels flew the clouds among,
this swain from his attentive mates,
To make him one of their associates
In Heaven's fair quire: where now he sings the praise
Of Him that is the first and last of days.
Divinest SPENCER, heaven-bred, happy muse!
Would any power into thy brain infuse
Thy worth, or all that poets had before,
I could not praise till thou desir’st no more.
A damp of wonder and amazement struck Thetis' attendants; many a heavy look Follow'd sweet SPENCER, till the thickening air, Sight's farther passage stop'd. A passionate tear Fell from each nymph; no shepherd's cheek was dry; A doleful dirge, and mournful elegy Flew to the shore. When mighty Nereus' queen, In memory
of what was heard and seen, Employ'd a factor, fitted well with store Of richest gems, refioed Indian ore, To raise, in honour of his worthy name, A piramis, whose head, like winged Fame, Should pierce the clouds; yea, seem the stars to kiss, And Mausolus' great tomb might shroud in his. Her will had been performance, had not Fate, That never knew how to commiserate,