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He was afterwards one of Cromwell's majors-general, and kept watch. and ward over the royalists of Surrey. From the sequestrated estates of these gentlemen, Wither obtained a considerable fortune; but the Restoration came, and he was stripped of all his possessions. He remonstrated loudly and angrily; his remonstrances were voted libels, and the unlucky poet was again thrown into prison. He published various treatises, satires, and poems during this period, though he was treated with great rigour. He was released, under bond for good behaviour, in 1663, and survived nearly four years afterwards, dying in London on the 2d of May 1667.
Wither's fame as a poet is derived chiefly from his early produc tions, written before he had imbibed the sectarian gloom of the Puritans, or become embroiled in the struggles of the Civil War. A collection of his poems was published by himself in 1622, with the title, Mistress of Philarete; his Shepherds' Hunting,' being certain eclogues written during the time of the author's imprisonment in the Marshalsea, appeared in 1633. His 'Collection of Emblems, Ancient and Modern, quickened with Metrical Illustrations,' made their appearance in 1635. His satirical and controversial works were numer ous but are now forgotten. Some authors of our own day-Southey in particular—have helped to popularise Wither, by frequent quotation and eulogy; but Mr. Ellis, in his 'Specimens of Early English Poets,' was the first to point out that playful fancy, pure taste, and artless delicacy of sentiment, which distinguish the poetry of his early youth.' His poem on Christmas affords a lively picture of the manners of the times His 'Address to Poetry,' the sole yet cheering companion of his prison solitude, is worthy of the theme, and superior to most of the effusions of that period. The pleasure with which he recounts the various charms and the 'divine skill' of his Muse, that had derived nourishment and delight from the meanest objects' of external nature—a daisy, a bush, or a tree; and which, when these picturesque and beloved scenes of the country were denied him, could gladden even the vaults and shades of a prison, is one of the richest offerings that have yet been made to the pure and hallowed shrine of poesy. The superiority of intellectual pursuits over the gratifications of sense, and all the malice of fortune, has never been more touchingly or finely illustrated.
The Companionship of the Muse.-From the 'Shepherds' Hunting."
See'st thou not in clearest days,
It shall never rise so high
With detraction's breath and thee:
Ii thy verse do bravely tower,
In my former days of bliss, As she makes wing she gets power
Her divine skill taught me this, Yet the higher she doth soar,
That from everything I saw,
I could some invention draw,
Through the meanest object's sight;
Or the least bough's rustlëing. For, if I could match thy rhyme,
By a daisy, whose leaves spread, To the very stars I'd climb;
Shut when Titan goes to bed ; There begin again, and fly
Or a shady bush or tree, Till I reached eternity.
She could more infuse in me, But, alas ! my muse is slow;
Than all Nature's beauties can For thy page she flags too low :
In some other wiser man.
By her help I also now
Some things that may sweeten gladness, And myself put up a-mewing:
In the very gall of sadness. But if I my cage can rid,
The dull loveness, the black shade, I'll fly where I never did :
That these hanging vaults have made; And so for her sake I'm crost,
The strange music of the waves, Though my best hopes I have lost, Beating on these hollow caves : And knew she would make my trouble This black den which rocks emboss, Ten times more than ten times double : Overgrown with eldest moss; I should love and keep her too,
The rude portals that give light Spite of all the world could do.
More to terror than delight: For, though banished from my flocks, This my chamber of neglect, And confined within these rocks,
Walled about with disrespect. Here I waste away the light,
From all these, and this dull air, Aud consume the sullen night,
A fit object for despair, She doth for my comfort stay,
She hath taught me by her might And keeps many cares away.
To draw confort and delight.
Therefore, thou best earthly bliss,
Though they as a trille leave thee,
Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive Though of all those pleasures past,
thee, Nothing now remains at last,
Though thou be to them a scorn,
That io nought but earth are born,
Than I am in love with thee!
Though our wise ones call it madness, (Whence she would be driven, too, Let me never taste of gladness, Were 't it mortal's power to do.)
If I love not thy maddest fits She doth tell me where to borrow
Above all their greatest wits. Comfort in the midst of sorrow :
And though some, too seeming holy, Makes the desolatest place
Do account thy raptures folly, To her presence be a grace;
Thou dost teach me to contemn And the blackest discontents
What makes kuaves and fools of them. Be her fairest ornaments.
Sonnet upon a Stolen Kiss.
Rank misers now do sparing shun; Though others' purses be more fat,
Why should we pine or grieve at that? And dogs thence with whole shoulders Hang Sorrow! care will kill a cat,
And therefore let's be merry.
For nuts and apples scrambling.
Hark! how the roofs with laughter sound; Ned Squash hath fetched his bands from Anon they'll think the house goes rond, pawn,
For they the cellar's depth have fouud, And all his best apparel ;
And there they will be merry.
The wenches with their wassail bowls And those that hardly all the year
About the streets are singing : Had bread to eat, or rags to wear,
The boys are come to catch the owls, Will have both lothes and dainty fare, The wild mare in is bringing. And all the day be merry.
Qur kitchen-boy hath broke his box;
And to the dealing of the ox, Now poor men to the justices
Our honest neighbours come by flocks, With capons make their errants ;
And here they will be merry. And if they hap'to fail of these,
They plague them with their warrants: Now kings and queens poor sheepcotes But now they feed them with good cheer,
have, And what they want they take in beer, And mate with everybody ; For Christmas comes but once a year,
The honest now may play the knave, And then they shall be merry.
And wise men play the noddy:
Some youths wiil i jw a mumming go, Good farmers in the country nurse
Some others play at Rowland-bo, The poor,
that else were undone ; And twenty other game boys mo, Some landlords spend their money worse,
Because they will be merry.
Then, wherefore, in these merry days, Drab and dice their lands away,
Should we, I pray, be duller ? Which may be ours another day,
No, let us sing some roundelays, And therefore let's be merry.
To make our mirth the fuller :
And, while we thus inspired sing, The client now his suit forbears,
Let all the streets with echoes ring; The prisoner's heart is eased ;
Woods and hills, and everything, The debtor drinks away his cares,
Bear witness we are merry. And for the time is pleased.
LADY ELIZABETH CAREW.
LADY ELIZABETH CAREw is believed to be the author of the tragedy of 'Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry,' 1613. Though wanting in dramatic interest and spirit, there is a vein of fine sentiment and feeling in this forgotten drama. The following chorus, in act the fourth, possesses a generous and noble simplicity :
If we a worthy enemy do find,
To yield to worth it must be nob.y done;
In base revenge there is no honour won.
We say our hearts are great, and cannot yield;
Because they cannot yield, it proves them poor:
A noble heart doth teach a virtuous scorn.
To scorn to lie; to scorn to do a wrong;
To scorn a free-born heart slave-like to bind.
But if for wrongs we needs revenge must have,
And let our hate prevail against our mind?
She would to Herod then have paid her love,
To fix her thoughts all injury above
Is virtuous pride. Had Mariam thus been proud,
RICHARD CORBET (1582-1635) was the son of a man who, though only a gardener, must have possessed superior qualities, as he obtained the hearty commendations, in verse, of Ben Jonson. The son was educated at Westminster and Oxford, and having taken orders, he became successively bishop of Oxford and bishop of Norwich. The social qualities of witty Bishop Corbet, and his never-failing vivacity, joined to a moderate share of dislike to the Puritans, recommended him to the patronage of King James, by whom he was raised to the mitre. His habits were rather too convivial for the dignity of his office, if we may credit some of the anecdotes which have been related of him. Meeting a ballad-singer one market-day at Abing don, and the man complaining that he could get no custom, the jelly doctor put off his gown, and arrayed himself in the leathern jacket of the itinerant vocalist, and being a handsome man, with a clear full voice, he presently vended the stock of ballads. One time, as he was confirming, the country people pressing in to see the ceremony, Corbet exclaimed: Bear off there, or I'll confirm ye with my staff." The bishop and his chaplain, Dr. Lushington, it is said, would sometimes repair to the wine-cellar together, and Corbet used to put off his episcopal hood, saying: 'There lies the doctor;' then he put off his gown,