« ZurückWeiter »
dressing of the thought, what may be done by correct and natural expression and smoothness of flow, without high imagination or depth of thought. Waller, of the four, was Grst in the field, but he did not rise to his greatest celebrity till after the Restoration. Carew, Lovelace, and Suckling all belong exclusively to the reign of Charles I. and of the Commonwealth.
Carew was a courtier, and loose and reckless in life. The Celia whom he celebrates in his verse is said to have repaid his flatteries by falsehood; and thus disappointed, he plunged madly into pleasure, and thereby hastened his end. Before his death he is said to have bitterly and sincerely repented the license of his past life. At the time he wrote, the passionate and imaginative verse of the Elizabethan period was not wholly exhausted, and it has been observed that the genial and warm tints that still colored the landscape were in some measure reflected back by Carew. His short pieces and songs, now the only productions of his that are read, are graceful in sentiment and style, and were, in his day, exceedingly popular.
Lovelace, "whose fate and history would form the groundwork for a romance," wrote a volume of poems dedicated to Lucy Sacheverel, to whom he was betrothed. Her poetical appellation, according to the affected taste of the day, was Lucasta. When the civil wars broke out, Lovelace devoted his life and fortunes to the service of his king, and on joining the army, he wrote to his Lucy this beautiful song, which has been so often quoted, and has more true feeling and correct sentiment than any piece of his time : —
"Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
"Trne, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
'• Yet this inconstancy is such
As you, too, shall adore;
Commanding a regiment at the siege of Dunkirk, Lovelace was severely, and it was supposed mortally, wounded. False tidings of his death were brought to England, and he returned to find his idolized Lucy married to another, — a blow from which he never recovered. He became utterly reckless, wandering about London in obscurity and poverty; and the accomplished Lovelace, fearlessly brave, handsome in person, a polished high-born courtier and an elegant scholar, in his thirty-seventh year died miserably in an obscure lodging in Shoe Lane. "Lucy Sacheverel," saj's Mrs. Jameson, "was of noble blood; but her lover has bequeathed her to posterity forever as faithless and heartless, light as air, false as water, and rash as fire." Lovelace's best poem is addressed "To Althea from Prison."
Sir John Suckling, who, as has been aptly said, "moved gayly and thoughtlessly through his short life, as through a dance or a merry game, died in 1641, at the age of thirty-two. He is the author of a small collection of poems, as well as of four plays. His poetry, though he is classed with the adherents of the French school of propriety and precision, is characterized by a more impulsive air and more impetuosity of manner than that of Waller, Lovelace, or Carew; he has, moreover, a sprightliness and buoyancy which is all his own. His famous ballad of "The Wedding" is quoted by critics as the very perfection of gayety and archness in verse. This one familiar stanza has in its way never been excelled : —
"Her feet beneath her petticoat
In Brand's "Popular Antiquities" this verse is quoted in illustration of the popular notion in former times that the sun danced on Easter-day, — a superstition still held by many of the Irish peasantry.
Inferior to Suckling in natural feeling, yet excelling him in correctness and in general powers of versification, is Edmund Waller, born in 1605. His mother was a sister to the celebrated John Hampden, but is said to have been so violent a Royalist that Cromwell made her a prisoner to her own daughter in her own house. Her son, the poet, who was witt\* and accomplished, but cold and selfish, and destitute of high principle and deep feeling, was either a Roundhead or a Royalist as the time served. At twentyfive a widower, gay and wealthy, he became a suitor to Lady Dorothea Sidney, eldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester, who, unmoved by all the poetry in which the heartless wit celebrates her under the name of Sacharissa, gave her hand to the Count of Sunderland. It is said that Waller, meeting her long afterward when she was far advanced in years, the lady asked him playfully when he would again write such verses upon her. "When you are as young, Madam, and as handsome as you were then," was his heartless replay.
Waller's political course was throughout mean and abject; while a member of Parliament under Cromwell, he plotted the return of Charles, for which he was tried, imprisoned a year, and heavily fined. He celebrates Cromwell in one of his most vigorous odes, and no sooner is the king restored to the throne, than he is ready with a congratulatory address.
Charles, who admitted the poet to terms of courtly intimacy, remarked to Waller the inferiority of the royal offering to the panegyric on Cromwell; as ever, witty and self-possessed, he replied, "Poets, Sire, succeed better in fiction than in truth." Waller's wit and sagacity made him the delight of the House of Commons. He served in all the parliaments of Charles's reign; and at the accession of James II., in 1685, we find him re-elected at the venerable age of eighty. He died on the 21st of October, 1687. Waller in early manhood devoted his muse to the world of fashion and taste, and he wrote in the same strain till he was upward of fourscore. He was styled by his cotemporaries the "maker and model of melodious verse." Pope and Dryden — poets who had not sufficiently studied the excellent models of versification furnished by the old poets and their rich poetical diction — have both confirmed this eulogium. More discerning critics have allowed him sportive sparkling wit, elegance of fanc\- and Btj-le, and easiness of versification, which, in our interpretation of the divine meaning of poet, but poorly atone for lack of genuine feeling and the royal power of interpreting Nature to man.
Carew and Waller represent the popular court poets of their school, whose aspirations seem to have been bounded by the narrow circle in which they revolved. "Satisfled," says a discerning critic, " with the empty applause of a court, they asked not to live in future generations, or to sound the depths of the human heart. A panegyric on a fine lady was the loftiest theme of their ambition. The heart appears to have had nothing to do with the poetical homage offered and accepted."
This poem to Celia — Carew's best — is an example of this style of poetry : —
"Ask me no more where Jove bestows
"Ask me no more whither do stray
"Ask me no more whither doth haste
"Ask me no more if east or west
Equally elegant and extravagant is this from Waller, on "A Girdle:" —
"That which her slender waist confined
These pretty poetical poesies, dedicated to the Delias and Celias, the divine Sacharissas and fair Amorets, who, with their rosy cheeks and coral lips, are as insipid as