|« Prev||Notes Explanatory and Biographical||Next »|
EXPLANATORY AND BIOGRAPHICAL
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK I
English lyrical religious poetry is less easily divisible than our secular verse into well-marked periods, whether in regard to matter or to manner. Throughout its long course it has in great measure the groundwork of a common Book, a common Faith, and a common Purpose. And although incidents from human life and aspects of nature are not excluded (and have in this selection, when possible, been specially gathered, with the view of varying the garland here presented)--yet meditation, prayer, and praise will ever be the three great keys, successively rising in order of lyrical intensity, through which this music of the heart of Christianity expresses itself. Certain differing waves of feeling and expression may however be traced, and have suggested the tripartite division which will here be followed;--whilst yet we may say, as was said of the blessed Spirits met by Dante as be entered Paradise,
... tutti fanno bello il primo giro,
E differentemente han dolce vita,
Per sentir più e men l' eterno spiro.
If we take our First Book as covering about the space between 1500 and 1680, we begin with a preliminary or tentative period, when the joyous and picturesque mediaevalism of Dunbar's Nativity passes at once into the sombre style characteristic of the thirty agitated and painful years which were the birth-throes of the Reformation. This was an ungenial atmosphere for sacred song. Yet the reign of Elizabeth was hardly more fertile--the Renaissance movement in our poetry led English writers into the pleasant paths of a revived and (with them) innocent classicalism: whilst the unsettled elements in the religious sphere, the dominance of Genevan doctrine--fervid indeed, but narrow, ultra-dogmatic, and rarely blessed by the smile of the Muses--were conditions equally disfavourable.
When the tide begins to flow more freely, our sacred poetry was enriched by such splendid outbursts of pure lyrical enthusiasm as the odes by Spenser and Milton, with which the Elizabethan 330 age maybe said almost to begin and to close. But lyrics of this class are only too rare; and our religious verse tends to fall into that didactic vein which seems characteristic of the English genius; it is meditative, introspective, personal, yet seldom in the modern more subtly analytical manner. And as the seventeenth century advances, it is varied by some singular and attractive specimens of mystical poetry, in which we may perceive at once the wide literary scholarship of that age and the effect of the evil days of the Commonwealth Usurpation, driving men for peace into the solitude of their own bosoms.
Our first period, it will be seen, is, however, by far most richly indebted to two writers, trained in the school of doctrine and practice which found its earliest great teacher in Richard Hooker. With this spirit, gradually systematized and widened, until it became the genuine and enduring representative of the mind of the English Church, Herbert and Vaughan were deeply imbued--with its broad scholarly learning, its liberal acceptance of art and culture, its faith at once rational, deeply founded, and fervent,
--The gracious creed that knows how to forgive,--
its strong and living sense of the underlying unity of the Christian Church through all her centuries of change or development.--But Theology, as such, is not within the purpose of this little book. In the City of God are many mansions; and whichever may be ours, the religious elements just enumerated, it is undeniable, made powerfully towards poetry: they may be easily traced throughout as inspiring Herbert in his quiet Wiltshire Valley and Vaughan among the wild hills of Brecon.--The difference between the respective poetical gifts of these two men--gifts which a just criticism must rate very high--may be best left to the reader's discrimination and enjoyment. Only this need here be noted, that both are instinct with the fervour, with the strangeness, of the Celtic sensitive imagination; concealed indeed in some degree by Herbert's academical training, but everywhere pervading his disciple's work with a certain fascinating intensity.
Vaughan long over-lived the Restoration: after which date the condensed style, not free from overstrained fancy and 'conceit,' popular hitherto in the seventeenth century, gradually gave way to a greater simplicity of thought and language, a less imaginative colouring;--to what, in a word, we might call the modern manner. To this time naturally belongs the beginning of religious song for public use. Perhaps the specimens here given might have been ranged with the hymns of the next hundred years. But they are placed in our first book because in style and in thought they are yet closely allied to the preceding period: they unite our own hymnology, looked at as a whole, with the last echoes of the Elizabethan age.331
William Dunbar, 'a poet,' said Sir Walter Scott, 'unrivalled by any that Scotland has ever produced,' was educated at the University of S. Andrews, entered the Franciscan Order, but seems to have lived much about the Scottish Court, or employed on secular business. He was the last great representative of Chaucer's School in Scotland; he stands on the boundary between the world of the Middle Ages and the world of the Renaissance. Like the rich and lovely architecture of his time, Dunbar's poetry is the fine flower of expiring Mediaevalism.
The graceful hymn here given is reprinted from Mr. H. M. Fitzgibbon's excellent little Selection of Early English Poetry (W. Scott, 1887). The spelling has been modernized; a process without which, small as are the substantial deviations from modern usage, the early Scottish orthography has, at first sight, the aspect of an unknown tongue.
Thomas, second Lord Vaux of Harrowden, held state appointments under Henry VIII, and was among the first of those high-born and high-educated writers with whom our modern literature begins.
II and III, published in the Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576, reflect the gloom of that unhappy period between the middle of the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Great is the contrast between their tone and the joyous brilliancy of Spenser's noble ode--published 1596-- which follows.
l. 15 trinal triplicities: A treatise on the Heavenly Hierarchy (erroneously ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, but of early date), which was held as an authority for many centuries, ranks the Angels in three main Orders, each subdivided into three. 'The names' (Dictionary of Christian Biography, 1877), 'appear to have been obtained by combining with the more obvious Seraphim, Cherubim, Archangels, and Angels, the five deduced from two passages of S. Paul, Eph. i. 21, and Col. i. 16.'
Compare Milton, Par. Lost, v. 748:--
the mighty regencies
Of Seraphim and Potentates and Thrones
In their triple degrees.
Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis:332
with obvious reference to his romantic or amorous writings, Arcadia or Astrophel.
Humfrey Gifford, 'Gentleman,' probably from a Devonshire family in the Bideford country, published his one book, (preserved now in a single copy), A Posie of Gilloflowers, in 1580. His verse is fresh, simple, spirited, and singularly modern in style.
Printed as prefatory to a Bible of 1594.
Edmund Bolton, a critic and historian, published his main work in 1624. But the Carol appears in the great Elizabethan Anthology, England's Helicon, 1600.
Robert Southwell, of Horsham S. Faith's, Norfolk, was trained at Douai and Paris: at Rome, in 1578, entered the Society of Jesus: in 1586 returned to England: by 1590, for performance of his religious duties as a priest was imprisoned, thirteen times racked, and judicially murdered by the Elizabethan Government in 1595
Ben Jenson said to the poet Drummond at Hawthornden (1618-9) that 'so he had written that piece, the Burning Babe, he would have been content to destroy many of his.' Fervour and sincerity of devotion, passionate intensity of faith in the Lord and Master under Whose name he served, has never received more beautiful expression than in this and the following poem, which their martyr--author probably thought out or (if the thirteen torturings of the persecutors left him the power), wrote down during his imprisonment.
Taken, with several other inedited or little known early hymns, charming through their simplicity and depth of feeling, from the 'Illustrative Poems' appended by Mr. W. T. Brooke to his edition of Christ's Victory and Triumph (Griffith & Co., 1888). It has been ascribed mainly to Dr. Nicholas Postgate, Missioner in the Roman Communion, 'who, for baptizing a child, and exercising other priestly functions, was executed at York' in 1679, at 82 years of age.
Of Barnabe Barnes, says Dr. Grosart, who has edited his poems with his usual loving diligence, little is known but that he was son to Richard, Bishop of Durham, studied at Oxford, and served under Lord Essex in his expedition to France. His sonnets show truth of 333 feeling and freedom from ingenious 'conceits': he seems to have formed his style upon that of Sir P. Sidney, to whose Astrophel he makes reference.
Printed 1601; signed F. B. P. in a British Museum manuscript. 'Founded upon Cardinal Peter Damiani's Ad perennis vitae fontem' (W. T. Brooke).
John Donne was educated at Hart Hall, Oxford, and Trinity, Cambridge: admitted at Lincoln's Inn, travelled widely in Europe, and accompanied Lord Essex on his expeditions in 1596 and 1597. Took Holy Orders in 1614: in 1620 was appointed Dean of S. Paul's.
Donne's poems were first collected in 1633: they cover an extraordinary range in subject, and are throughout marked with a strange originality almost equally fascinating and repellent. It is possible that his familiarity with Italian and Spanish literatures, both at that time deeply coloured by fantastic and far-fetched thought, may have in some degree influenced him in that direction. His poems were probably written mainly during youth. There is a strange solemn passionate earnestness about them, a quality which underlies the fanciful 'conceits' of all his work. Donne, like Herbert and Vaughan, who show the same intensity and quaintness, was of Welsh descent.
The details of Thomas Campion's life share in the darkness which covers almost all our Elizabethan poets. By profession he was a Doctor of Medicine. His first English songs appeared in 1601; but we may reasonably suppose that he had practised poetry, as well as music, for some years previously. Campion's songs are admirable for their union of melodious simplicity, beauty, and strong common sense. So rare are the music-books in which they appeared, that they were practically rediscovered for us by Mr. A. H. Bullen, who has published the best in his charming selection of Lyrics (Nimmo, 1889).--No. XXVII, originally printed 1606, is from Mr. Bullen's volume. This is a song of great force and originality. The unknown writer saw deep into human nature.
William Drummond: educated at the High School and (newly founded) University of Edinburgh. On the Continent, 1606-9; settled for life at 'classic Hawthornden' 334 1610. His letters, journal, and library show a very wide and well-chosen range of study: they perhaps present the first detailed picture we have of a man of literature in the modern sense. Drummond's (published 1616 and 1623) is the only Scottish poetry which reflects the finest features of the English Elizabethan Renaissance: he has exquisite feeling, meditative grace, charm of form and style. In the troubles of Scotland during the reign of Charles I he used all his influence towards peace, moderation, culture, rational loyalty and unfanatical religion; but his counsels were far too wise for acceptance by either party of the day.
This rendering (5 stanzas, of 8 in the Roman Breviary text), appears to have been written by Drummond for a translation of the Primer or Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary: a copy of which, dated 1615, is in the British Museum (W. T. Brooke).
George Herbert was born in Montgomery Castle, son to Richard and Magdalen Newport (descended in the female line from Bleddyn, Prince of Powys, and Gwenllian, daughter to Gruffydd, Prince of North Wales), an admirable woman, whose loving care (the father dying early) trained her son's early years. He was educated at Westminster School and Trinity, Cambridge, and soon distinguished for varied and sound study. Elected Public Orator 1620: made enduring friendship with Dr. Donne, Bishop Andrewes, and Francis Bacon. His interests were divided between entering a profession, and the Court; where he seems to have been in favour with James I. But by 1627 Herbert's hopes of royal advancement ended. After much inward conflict, he decided on Holy Orders: retired from Cambridge, his health beginning to fail; married, and in 1630, at the request of his kinsman Philip, Lord Pembroke, was presented with the cure of Bemerton, a village between Salisbury and Wilton. There the little road-side church, almost as in his days, still
Crouching entrench'd in slopes of daisy sod,
And duly deck'd by Herbert-honouring hands:--
And here--suffering also from advancing consumption,--he lived that saintly life of 'detachment' which his poems reveal--say rather, embody. When no longer 335 able to walk to Salisbury Cathedral he would take his lute and play: The Sundays of Man's Life (XLIII), being the lines which he chose for his last song here--Singing on earth, as Izaak Walton says, such hymns and anthems as the Angels and he, and his holy friend N. Ferrar now sing in Heaven. He lies nameless beneath the altar in his little church at Bemerton.
For many details in this sketch, as in those of Marvell, Vaughan, and others, the writer is indebted to those careful editions of their works by which Dr. A. Grosart has conferred services of high value upon our literature.
This sonnet, (to which a title has been prefixed, whilst for the rest of Herbert's his own have been retained), was sent by him to his Mother as a New Year's gift in 1608--Herbert's first year at Cambridge--in order, he says, to declare his resolution 'That my poor abilities in poetry shall be all and ever consecrated to God's glory.'
The idea here is that costly monuments keep the dust of the body artificially apart from its natural companion, the dust of the earth; and that tombs will at the Last Day fall and do homage to the dead. Dust is the head of man's stem or pedigree; his life, like the sand contained in the hour-glass, is destined in its turn to dust.
The appearance of a church interior, in the early seventeenth century, is admirably characterized in this and the following poem.
Herbert seems to have written this curious autobiographical poem when in ill-health or low spirits, and in remembrance of a time of morbid depression (St. vi).
l. 1 My flesh began ... appears equivalent to challenged. l. 17 cross-bias: an image from bowling, when a ball sent on a curve strikes the opponent's aside. The 'conceit' in the last line may mean; Although forgotten of God, unless my love to Him still continues in my desolation, let me never be able to love Him.
Deep thought, simple yet subtle ideas, manly lucid language, give a very high rank among our serious lyrics to this and to No. LX.
St. i 'The aspects of the planets were their apparent positions in regard to one another as seen' and calculated beforehand 'from the earth' (Grosart). Upon these aspects astronomy greatly relied for its predictions. St. iii The chemist analyses the creature, the substance 336 before him,--until he discovers its callow, simple, unclothed, elements; which are only seen by ordinary spectators dressed out and disguised within the composite substance presented to the senses. In this poem we trace Herbert's friendship and co-operation with Francis Bacon.
This lovely poem, which, as the reader will find, must have been studied as a model by Vaughan, was clearly written after a time of depression--due, perhaps, to the increasing ill-health of Herbert's later years; the 'consumption' alluded to by Izaak Walton in his Life. St. i, l. 3 demesne: seemingly used for property; the flowers, beside what their spot of earth grants them, gain joy through the contrast of Spring after frost. To the metrical skill and beauty of l. 4 S. T. Coleridge draws attention. St. iii chiming ... bell: calling to prayer. St. iv Offering at Heaven: compare Vergil's equally charming phrase on a young tree's growth,
Exiit ad caelum ramis felicibus ...
St. vii l. 6 Swelling through store: puffed up by wealth or place.
Archbishop Leighton, as quoted by Dr. Grosart, has a remark which appears tacitly to refer to this poem, and explains its title. 'Whatsoever be the matter of [human actions], the spiritual mind hath that alchemy indeed of turning base metals into gold, earthly employments into heavenly.'--Tincture (p. 50, St. i) may refer to the Elixir, regarded as a cleansing or transmuting liquid. But the more obvious sense will be, 'if coloured or tinged with this thought, For God's sake.'
Christopher Harvey's Synagogue, intended as 'shadow' or sequel to Herbert's Temple, was published 1640. The writer was educated at Brasenose, Oxford; and died Vicar of Clifton in Warwickshire.
William Habington, son to a country gentleman, educated in the Jesuit College of S. Omer and at Paris, and married Lucy Herbert (daughter to the first Baron Powys);--the Castara to whose honour his poems are inscribed.
'This Hymn was made by Sir H. Wotton, when he was an Ambassador at Venice, in the time of a great sickness.' Quitting diplomacy, he became Provost of Eton: whence in 1638 he wrote to Milton, then in his 337 youth, an admirable letter, congratulating him on the beauty of Comus, and giving counsel derived from his own experience, for Milton's Italian journey.
Much in the style of Chidiock Tychbourne's pathetic little Elegy, My prime of youth ... , printed in Dr. Hannah's valuable Poems by Raleigh, Wotton, &c. 1875.
Milton imagined this magnificent Ode at dawn of Christmas 1629,--having then lately passed his 21st birthday. He here treats Nature (p. 61, St. ii, iii) as guilty,--as representing a fallen world. The heathen religions of antiquity are similarly regarded as demon-worship, rather than the corruptions of, or the efforts to reach, divine truth: and the tradition that the power of the pagan Gods ended at the Nativity is worked out at length. He begins with the deities of Greece and Rome, passing thence to Syria and Egypt.
twice batter'd god: Dagon.--Libyc Hammon: as worshipped in the Libyan Oasis.--In the legend of Osiris,--blended here with Apis,--he was described as shut up in a carved chest and cast upon the Nile.--But it is the mythological scholarship of his day, before the authentic Egyptian authorities were deciphered, which Milton here offers.
1. 6 if, sad share ... If you, the Seraphim, desire to sympathize with us, but are through your fiery nature unable to give tears, give burning sighs.--Milton's earlier poetry has several of these elaborate fancies.
Sir William Davenant, dramatist, poet, and adherent of Charles I during the Civil War. His poetry belongs mainly to the thoughtful style of his century; but he has left some excellent pieces in a lighter vein.
Sir Thomas Browne was educated at Winchester and Broadgate Hall, (now Pembroke College), Oxford. Became M.D. at Leyden, and settled as a physician in Norwich. The Religio Medici, (whence the hymn printed is taken), his most famous work, was first published 1642. Passages in this and in his Hydriotaphia are amongst the very finest efforts of English prose. He was honoured by Dr. Johnson with a short biography.
Thomas Pestel was a Chaplain to Charles I. Mr. W. T. Brooke, (see note on XII), publishes this from his 338 Sermons. The next he dates 1660: It makes us wish, he justly observes, that 'more of Pestel's work had survived.'
Of Robert Herrick's life, again, very little has survived. Probably trained in Westminster School, he went thence to S. John's and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Some years he then seems to have spent in London: in 1629 becoming Vicar of Dean Prior, a sequestered Devon village not far from Totnes. Ejected thence for the heresy or 'malignity' (as triumphant Puritanism named it) of remaining loyal to his Church and King, he published his one volume of sacred and secular song: was restored to his Vicarage in 1662, and lies buried at Dean Prior.
Herrick is in the first rank of English lyric poets. In virtue of his airy touch, his fluent melody, his simple directness of style, his graceful lucidity, he may be called an Elizabethan born out of his age. But his range of subjects, his exquisite pictures of country life (see XCIV), his union of humour with seriousness (XCV), mark the gradual development of our lyrical poetry, and its enfranchisement from Renaissance limitations, during the Stuart period.
Mildmay Fane, second Earl of Westmoreland, was friend of Herrick, who dedicated to him his beautiful Harvest Home picture, The Hock-cart, and begged the Earl to publish his own verses: which were privately printed in 1648.
apples (p. 78, l. 17) pin-apples (Grosart).--These emigrants are apparently supposed to be flying westward beyond the reach of Laud's ecclesiastical administration. But Marvell, at least in youth, held so equable an attitude between the contentions of his day, remaining, indeed, a lover of the Monarchy at heart, that the motive of the poem was probably only chosen to gratify his intense feeling for natural scenery and imaginative hyperbole by this lovely picture.
Andrew Marvell was of Trinity, Cambridge: made the grand tour of those days: in 1650-2 taught the little Mary, daughter to General Lord Fairfax. In 1657 he 338 was employed with Milton (at his recommendation) as a secretary in the Foreign Department of the Protectorate. He entered the House of Commons as Member for Hull, 1659, and sate there till his death:--in 1663 accompanying the first (Howard) Earl of Carlisle on his embassy to 'Muscovy,' and writing much political verse. This is of very small value as poetry. But Marvell, when he is great, is among our greatest poets in felicity of touch and vividness of penetrative imagination. Of this the Coronet (C) is a fine example. Here Marvell seems allegorically to shadow forth how hard it is to offer human gifts,--such as Poetry,--to Heaven, in a truly disinterested and devotional spirit.
The selection from Vaughan's poetry here given will probably be the largest mass of unfamiliar verse to most readers. It is also so condensed in style, filled with such strokes of penetrative imagination, not without fantastic touches, that it will require the careful study which it eminently repays. Rather full notes have been therefore added.
Henry Vaughan was descended from the branch of that ancient and noble family settled in Breconshire, which in Roman days formed part of the region Siluria: whence the Poet always signs himself Silurist. He was born at Scethrog (properly Ysgythrog, peaked, or craggy), near Usk, between Crickhowel and Brecon: in 1638 entered Jesus College, Oxford: thence went to London, where he was familiar with men of letters: took the degree of Doctor of Medicine: by 1647 practised at Scethrog or Newton, where his Silex Scintillans (Spark-giving Flintstone), published 1650 and 1655, Thalia Rediviva, 1678, and other books were written. Except that he married and had children nothing is known of the poet-physician's long life in his native place: only the tombstone in his parish church-yard of Llansantfraed records--'Henricus Vaughan M.D. | Siluris: | Servus inutilis | Peccator maximus | Hic jaceo | Gloria! + miserere.'--To this good man's humble confession let us, however, allow ourselves to add his ancient family motto: 'Safe is the owner of a clear Conscience.'
Wordsworth, who owned a copy of the very rare Silex Scintillans, may have had this poem before him when writing his Ode upon Intimations of Immortality.--Vaughan's my glorious train answering to the trailing clouds of glory ... of the later Poet.
An excellent example of the writer's skill in blending natural scenery with moral and religious thought:--It may be compared with the power of uniting figure-subjects with landscape which a few painters, (notably our own G. Mason), have shown.
The omnipresence of God in Nature is almost more constant and consistent in Vaughan's poetry than in Wordsworth's. Equally characteristic is the intensely imaginative picture of the higher heavens, the wide sweep of Vaughan's brush in painting them, exemplified in St. iv, l. 5, 6.
Man ... flowers;--so in the only Original text of 1650. Ingenious conjecture has here read and ... flowers, Angels ... But the phrase as it stands is quite Vaughan's manner and gives sense. On the principles of safe emendatory criticism, it should therefore be left undisturbed.
It is obviously against the persecutions and grinding tyranny, (stigmatized by Hallam with honest wrath, but disingenuously extenuated by more than one writer of our day), suffered by the country at the hand of the Puritans and Cromwell, that Vaughan (1655) makes this beautiful protest.
The original title is--Rom. Cap. 8. ver. 19. Etenim res Creatae exerto Capite observantes expectant revelationem Filiorum Dei. This seems to be a version framed by Vaughan to suit the imagery of this eminently characteristic poem;--the Vulgate giving Nam expectatio creaturae, revelationem filiorum Dei expectat.
What breadth of sympathy,--what a strange power of living (as it were) the very life of Nature,--what eager tenderness and humanity,--in this most original poem!--It should be compared with the singular history of a Book, given in CVIII.--Realism, in Vaughan, is penetrated, or, rather, identified, with Idealism.
l. 17-20, This ... rack: some confusion or misreading must be here. The syntax becomes clearer if we place l. 19, 20 after l. 16, and suppose made understood after the were now of l. 15. Yet this transposition seems to weaken the contrast drawn between the fall of Salem and the glorification of Bethlem.
Magdal-castle: the Magdala whence Mary has been called was probably the Migdol (Tower) near Tiberias, where the remains of a watch-tower still exist. The name Magdalene may however mean 'the twiner or plaiter of hair,' and this interpretation possibly induced Vaughan to dwell so fully on the point. He returned to the subject in some lovely lines of his Thalia Rediviva (1678), where, in the description of a Beauty, he says
Her hair laid out in curious setts
And twists, doth show like silken nets,
Where--since he play'd at hit or miss--
The god of Love her pris'ner is,
And fluttering with his skittish wings
Puts all her locks in curls and rings.
It should be remembered that the identification whether of Mary of Magdala or Mary of Bethany with the Sinner of S. Luke vii is only conjectural, if not improbable.--Whether Vaughan was aware or not of this, he has left us no more curious and original poem than his Mary Magdalen, a figure as vivid, life-like, and quaint as one in a mediaeval missal.
for one twenty ... Possibly, common insensate things may outlast one who has lived twenty years; referring to the life-time of the unknown youth lamented in this pathetic poem:--to which, as to the following, Vaughan has prefixed no title.
St. vi. l. 3 well: dell has been conjectured, but the Welsh ffynnon stands for fountain or for springhead, and may have influenced Vaughan to use well in the sense of watery recess.
From Crashaw to Norris (CL) we are in the strange, attractive, remote region of mysticism and ecstasy, having its origin in Plato, but probably drawing more from Philo, Plotinus, and later sources. Oxford in the fifteenth century had her Renaissance movement, which has profoundly affected England ever since. The Cambridge Platonist movement was less diffused, less enduring:--yet it deserves study, not only as a singular exhibition of a phase which constantly recurs in the human mind, but from the merit of the literature which it has left.
Richard Crashaw, from the lately-founded Charter House, entered Cambridge in 1631, passing from Pembroke to Peterhouse: was ejected in 1644 with many more who refused to bow down before the 342 Scottish Covenant:--that transient idol which the Presbyterian party had set up and was trying to force upon reluctant England. He joined the Roman Communion about 1646, in which year his little volume of English poetry was published: Soon retired to France; thence to Rome: was made Canon in the Basilica Church of our Lady in Loreto, where he presently died and was buried.
Crashaw represents sensuous Mysticism, as the three poets who follow are intellectual mystics. Like Quarles, (though not to the same degree), he quits the ideal point of view, the high Platonic aether. We cannot say of him, as has been said of that 'Son of Light,' Origen, the great founder of Christian Mysticism, that he 'is never betrayed into the imagery of earthly passion used by the monastic writers,' and which also marked the style of the Italian Marino, from whose Herod Crashaw has left a brilliant paraphrase.
Yet this mode of feeling has its place; it also demands and deserves its compartment in a Sacred Anthology. Crashaw's work in poetry, as a whole, is incomplete and irregular; Pope, whilst praising him, was correct in recognizing that he was an amateur rather than an artist. It was the same with Marvell:--neither, one would say, did justice to his fine natural gift. But Crashaw has a charm so unique, an imagination so nimble and subtle, phrases of such sweet and passionate felicity, that readers who may be tempted by the very scanty specimens which alone it has been here possible to offer, to turn to his little book, will find themselves surprised and delighted, in proportion to their sympathetic sense of Poetry, when touched to its rarer and finer issues.
St. i. l. 4 wake the Sun: So in the popular mediaeval hymn Verbum bonum ... the Blessed Virgin is addressed
Ave, Solem genuisti,
Ave, Solem protulisti.
Joseph Beaumont, born of that Leicestershire family which rivals the Tennysons of Lincolnshire in poetical fertility, was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he began that immense range of study which was characteristic of the 'Polymaths' of the seventeenth century. With his friend Crashaw thrust forth in 1644, he retired to Hadleigh, where he 343 wrote his Psyche, or Love's Mystery,--an allegory of Life filling between thirty and forty thousand lines. Beaumont's later years, despite the political troubles of his time, were prosperous: be made a happy marriage (1650), and after 1660 became Head of Jesus and of his old College successively: Regius Professor of Divinity in 1674. Thenceforward he seems to have lived and worked at Peterhouse, where his epitaph in the Chapel still commemorates him as
Poeta, Orator, Theologus praestantissimus.
The pieces here printed, (which do not represent the mystical style of the Psyche), belong to 1652: CXLIV was doubtless suggested by the contrast of Beaumont's home-happiness in quiet Hadleigh, and the wretched state of England under the Commonwealth, and is a lesson as true for the nineteenth century as the seventeenth.
Henry More, the most interesting figure among our poetical mystics, went from Eton to Christ's, Cambridge, where he lived an ideal student's life among books, friends, and disciples, yet distinguished also for charitable deeds.
In youth he passed through a stage of bewildered thought, accompanied with the common miseries of scepticism, which he described in a few powerful lines,--till he reached clear vision;
Νυν δε τ' Ερωσ με πτεροισι θεοσσυτοσ εξυπερειδει,
Νυξ απεβη μεν υναρ τε ...
--blessed henceforward with a firm happy philosophic Christian faith,--which in mode of expression was influenced not only by Plato and his later mystical followers, but by the mediaeval Theologia Germanica, by Ficino of Florence,--(probably in his Theologia Platonica)--and Descartes, then the leading thinker in Europe. But he moved through this labyrinth of speculation, safe in the singleness of heart, the Monocardia, as he terms it,--the faithfulness to the 'Good and the True,'--to the Sincerity which, (as on his death-bed 'he professed with tears' to the friend who watched by him), had been his lifelong pursuit. More's 'unwavering allegiance to reason,' which he held 'the glory and adornment of all true religion, and the special prerogative of Christianity' was 'the counterbalancing principle' in his mind to his mystical theories: (J. H. Overton, The Church in the Eighteenth Century).344
R. Southey remarks on More that 'as a poet,--strange and sometimes unreadably uncouth as he is, there are lines and passages of the highest feeling and most exquisite beauty.' His many poems cannot in his own age have been popular, and will never be so. Yet it is impossible to glance at them without an impression of strange imaginative force, of singular and delightful depth of mystical conviction.
The two remarkable philosophical flights here chosen are briefer, not lower, than More's more sustained poems. Difficult at first sight from their weight of condensed thought, from the remoteness of the ideas presented, they remind of the passionate power, the imaginative fury, of Lucretius:--but their Christian Platonism lifts them in tone into a larger aether, regions happier and higher, than could be reached by the pupil of Empedocles and Epicurus.
In St. i. the order of l. 3 and 4 has been conjecturally transposed.
John Norris was educated at Winchester and Exeter College, and Fellow of All Souls, Oxford. He held the living of Bemerton, formerly G. Herbert's, (1691). 'That old and tranquil parsonage was to him a happy hiding place:' and Bene latuit is his fitting epitaph.--Norris wrote much and ably on metaphysical subjects: was greatly influenced by the Cambridge Platonists, More and Cudworth. His poems were published 1684, and passed through a tenth edition by 1730:--one proof, out of many, how exaggerated is the criticism which describes that period as devoid of inner life and spiritual aspiration.
Norris may be reckoned the last among our Christian Platonists of the seventeenth century. He has 'the same noble tone of spiritualised thought and wistful, imaginative, speculation, and a like golden haze over it all' (C. J. Abbey):--not without some share in the fancifulness and overstrain prevalent in his day.
Francis Quarles, son to a country gentleman of Romford: educated at Christ's, Cambridge: studied at Lincoln's Inn: was for a time secretary to Archbishop Usher in Ireland, but lived mainly as an author, publishing much in verse and prose from 1620 onward. He was a devoted royalist, and suffered accordingly:--dying of grief, it is said, at the robbery and destruction of his library.345
The inconstancy of Fame has no better example than Quarles. He moralizes his song too much; this work is marred by fantastical lapses from good taste; by a fatal facility. Yet,--unless indeed a man's performance, when he has had free play, is always the measure of his natural gift,--Quarles has written so well, so sincerely, sometimes, (see CLI), so fervently,--that had he remembered how, in Poetry, Matter, however good, is of no ultimate avail without adequate Art, he might, we may easily believe, have deserved to retain some part of that immense popularity which he enjoyed among his contemporaries.
George Wither, educated at Magdalen, Oxford, was a lawyer; served on both sides in the Civil War; made a Major General by Cromwell, but was deprived of his spoils after the Restoration.--'His best poems,' says Hallam, 'were published in 1622, with the title of Mistress of Philarete. Some of them are highly beautiful ... I think there is hardly anything in our lyric poetry of [that] period equal to his lines on his Muse.' But this promise was swamped by false fluency and the 'grovelling puritanism into which he afterwards fell.'
Jeremy Taylor: Educated at Caius, Cambridge: made Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, by favour of Archbishop Laud: was imprisoned for his support of Charles I: lived poor and retiredly in Wales, but was once or twice more imprisoned:--moved to Lisburn and in 1660 was made Bishop of Down and Connor,--with Dromore, where he was buried, in addition. He united learning and fervent eloquence perhaps more than any other English writer.
Richard Baxter: A man eminent for candour, charity, and goodness, but inconsistent and wavering in his public career during the evil days of the Civil War, Protectorate, and Restoration. He was a very voluminous polemical writer, but best known in his own day and since through his excellent manuals of practical piety. 'Read any of his works; they are all good,' said Dr. Johnson to Boswell.
Samuel Crossman: Educated at Pembroke, Oxford: was ejected from his rectory in Essex for nonconformity in 1662: returned to the Church, and died 346 Dean of Bristol. His Sacred Poems were published 1664.
John Austin: Entered S. John's, Cambridge; left in 1640, on joining the Roman Communion; qualified for the Bar. This hymn was published 1668 in his Offices.
My Lord, my Love--translated from a phrase of S. Ignatius--'Ο εμοσ Ερωσ εσταυρωται.
John Mason, of Clare Hall, Cambridge, was some time Vicar of Water Stratford; but fell into strange aberrations, which, according to W. T. Brooke's conjecture, ended in religious mania.--His Spiritual Songs are dated 1683.
Thomas Shepherd: for a short time a clergyman in Buckinghamshire; afterwards Congregational Minister at Northampton and Bocking. With an edition of J. Mason's Songs of Praise, he published Penitential Cries, 1692.
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK II
The changes which occur in poetical style, as we have noticed, are marked less strongly upon our religious than on our secular song. Yet something of the clear diction and the easy metrical flow of Pope is traceable in the hymns of Addison: whilst the plain, even the prosaic, manner of De Foe has a counterpart in Ken's writing. But the didactic tone, the repressed undercurrent of feeling, which in many ways colour our secular poetry during the second and third quarters of the eighteenth century, in religious verse soon gave way before what is generally known as the Evangelical movement. This in some degree was doubtless a reaction towards warmth, enthusiasm, and (as we might say) Nature, from the argumentative habit, the constant appeal to reason and common sense, the studied moderation of tone, which were the general tendencies of the time.--But the motives and men by whom the religious school in question was led from Watts, Toplady, and the Wesleys, to Cowper,--its strength and its weakness--need not here be dwelt on. Suffice it to note that the poetry of the full-charged heart now found vent and relief, not in imaginative ode or didactic meditation but in the form of hymns; amongst which many of the most beautiful, not less than the most practically 347 precious, poems of that class existing in any literature, are found. These hymns indeed have often, to modern eyes, a conventional style, due to two causes: the phraseology common to the Evangelical school, and the general literary manner of the time. But the manner of one age is always the conventionality of the next: and they to whom this quality is repulsive in our eighteenth-century writers should remember that the styles which seem natural to us will probably, under the same law, seem artificial to those who live in the 'summers that we shall not see.'
Abraham Cowley, of Westminster School and Trinity, Cambridge: a supporter of Charles I and his Queen:--by his contemporaries (and Milton's) held the greatest poet of his time. But cleverness and sense, both of which he has to a very high degree, when wanting good taste and that indescribable something which eternally severs poetry from verse, have long since placed him amongst those writers who are rarely read, but never read without profit.
the Tyrrhene seas: Addison here obviously refers to a violent storm by which, when sailing from Marseille to Italy during December 1699, he was assailed in the bay of Genoa. His vessel was driven back to Monaco, whence he took boat to Savona.
Thomas Ken was Scholar of Winchester 1652, Fellow of New College, Oxford, by election from school: studied music and physical science in addition to the ordinary subjects. Was chosen Fellow of Winchester, and Prebendary (1669): resided there for some years and wrote his famous Manual of Prayers (1675). Chaplain at the Hague to Princess Mary: consecrated Bishop of Bath and Wells 1685, at the special choice of Charles II, who honoured the courage of 'the little black fellow who would not give poor Nelly [Gwyn] a lodging' in his house at Winchester.
After Monmouth's invasion Ken saved the lives of many rebels: as Bishop he gave away his whole income, and was unbounded in kindness and aid to the poor. In 1688 he was one of the Seven Bishops who resisted James II: but, with much hesitation, found himself unable to take the Oath required by William III, and was deprived of his See in 1691. Henceforth he lived mostly in personal poverty at Longleat; troubled often by Nonjuring disputants and failing health; yet comforted by many 348 friendships with old and young: for, childless himself, like Watts and Keble, he was distinguished by love for children. He received unfailing and reverent kindness from Lord Weymouth, under whose roof he died, and was buried at Frome Selwood, the nearest village in his old diocese.
Poetry more absolutely sincere, more high-minded than Bishop Ken's, does not exist. But heaviness of style, prolixity, want of charm and of variety, has sunk most of his work irretrievably. It is but the selection of a selection which is here offered. Three justly-famous Hymns have, however, been printed in full. The curious textual questions connected with them have been discussed by Dean Plumptre of Wells in his admirable Life of Ken (1888):--a book which puts the man and his age before us with singular vividness. The text given in Ken's Manual for Winchester College, 1695, has been followed, with a few alterations from his revised edition of 1709.
Ken for many years before his death suffered grievously from rheumatism and other disorders, resorting to Bath and Clifton for relief. But disease grew upon him, and his latter days were overshadowed by terrible tortures. This poem,--beautiful from its simplicity and depth of pathos, (as CLXXXVI through its dramatic straightforwardness),--with others is ascribed by Dean Plumptre to this melancholy period. Ken says himself:--
I some remission of my woes
Feel, while I hymns compose.
Nahum Tate: at Trinity, Dublin: Poet Laureate after Shadwell; friend of Dryden. He translated the Psalms in conjunction with Dr. Brady, and has been criticized too severely for failing of success in a task where to succeed was impossible.
John Pomfret: of Queen's, Cambridge, and Rector of Malden, Bedfordshire. This little song is an oasis in a wilderness of commonplace.
Isaac Watts received a thorough classical education, and entered the 'Independent' ministry. His health failed in 1712 and the rest of his life he passed in Sir T. Abney's house; dying there of old age; after long and devoted work to his flock and literature. He was buried in Bunhill Fields.349
Watts may be counted (if we exclude Milton), as one of the earliest well-read and scholarly students among the nonconformists. His views as an Independent were modified and enlarged by his sweet devout temper; may we not add,--by his gift in poetry? And 'every Christian church,' as Dr. Johnson finely remarked, 'would rejoice to have adopted' one so fervently devout, so faithful to his duty,--we may add, so much more truly gifted by nature as a poet, than common Fame has recognized. As with C. Wesley and other good men, fluency, want of taste and finish, the sacrifice, in a word, of Art to direct usefulness, have probably lost them those honours in literature to which they were born. But they have their reward.
The Calvinism within which the tender-hearted Watts was bound captive is doubtless too perceptible in this beautiful lyric. A similar vein of feeling may, however, be traced, centuries before, in that 'apathy' which S. Clement of Alexandria ascribes to the perfect Christian, who is 'so absorbed in the Divine Love that he can no longer be said to love his fellow-creatures, in the ordinary sense of the word.' Yet as we learn, (Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria), how 'there were many in Clement's own time who shrank from that too ethereal ideal, which, to use his own phrase, touches earth with but one foot,' so in this hymn the gracious spirit of Poetry seems to soften the grim atmosphere of Geneva.
The admirable author of this hymn almost apologized for publishing it. Yet few child-pictures have been drawn in words or colours of more perfect tenderness.
Philip Doddridge: a nonconformist minister of much and varied reading: Head of a theological College at Northampton: a greatly esteemed and popular author of his day: died and was buried at Lisbon.
John Byrom: trained at Merchant Taylors' and Trinity, Cambridge: his first publication was a Pastoral in the Spectator. After early poverty, he lived a retired blameless literary life on his property by Manchester. One of the many men of strong feeling in whom faith burned like 'a hidden flame' through the eighteenth century.
Christopher Smart: student and fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge: His life was one of literature actively followed as a profession; didactic, satirical, and religious. But his work is singularly unequal: only under the stress of illness and mental overexcitement did he reach the level of serious genius shown in our two specimens. Smart was eminent for wit, conviviality, kindliness, and carelessness, valued as a friend by men like Johnson and Garrick:--a type of one who has 'no enemy but himself.'
During a severe illness (1754-1756) Smart's mind partially failed: whilst in confinement he is believed to have written the 'Song to David' which he published in 1763:--the Hymn on his Recovery has been dated about 1756. It seems that he never regained full sanity, although the disease was rather eccentricity than madness: and despite hard labour, be died under confinement for debt.
'My poor friend Smart,' Dr. Johnson said to Boswell, in 1763, 'showed the disturbance of his mind, by falling upon his knees, and saying his prayers in the street.... Now although, rationally speaking, it is greater madness not to pray at all, than to pray as Smart did, I am afraid there are so many who do not pray, that their understanding is not called in question.'
Some traces of Smart's excited spirit are visible in CCIII:--far more in CCIV, which may be described in a phrase of C. Lamb's as 'a kind of medley between inspiration and possession'; and in its noble wildness and transitions from grandeur to tenderness, from Earth to Heaven, is unique in our Poetry. It has been greatly abridged as here printed.
Michael Bruce: born and bred near Lochleven in Fifeshire: well educated in the village school, where he was a typical specimen of the poor, brave, Scottish student of those days, who could find in Latin literature lifelong strength and enlightenment and culture. Bruce was next at the University of Edinburgh (1762) in company with John Logan: teaching during his vacations, and after in the country schools of his native district. But this life was too hard for him: consumption set in, and he died in his sleep at twenty-one:--his copy of Holy Scripture,--turned down at the text Weep ye not for the dead... beside him.351
Immediately after the death of Bruce, Logan secured all his papers. What followed has been the subject of much controversy. But the Editor cannot resist the conclusion that Logan, (whose after career was unsatisfactory), managed to gain himself credit for the authorship of most of his fellow-student's poems;--publishing them with more or less verbal alteration, and destroying all the original manuscripts. Yet, even as we have them, their grace, music, fine descriptive skill, and spiritual feeling, sufficiently prove that, had longer years been granted him, Michael Bruce might have fulfilled the renown of which his youth gave promise so remarkable.
Thomas Olivers: A shoemaker by trade; converted from a dissolute life by Whitefield's preaching, he became, first, a zealous assistant of John Wesley, and then was employed in his printing-office.
The musical service in a Synagogue at Westminster suggested to Olivers the noble Ode here printed: (C. J. Abbey).
Augustus Montague Toplady: of Westminster School and Trinity, Dublin: sometime Vicar of Broadhembury, Devon: published his hymns in 1776. A zealous Calvinist; studied and wrote much: powerfully and bitterly opposing John Wesley. But his fervour of nature, when directed to worthier purpose, inspired Toplady with this splendid Lyric; which, in beauty and intensity of feeling, has a rival in CCXII,--a hymn truly sublime through the simplicity of its absolute self-surrender.
the balance: Toplady seems here to have had in view a phrase from the famous hymn, Vexilla Regis, by Fortunatus the sixth-century poet,--who describes the Cross, whilst bearing the Saviour's Body, as Statera facta saeculi:--'His Body there in balance lay,' in J. Keble's version.
Charles Wesley; younger brother to John: At Westminster School; Student of Christ Church, Oxford, where he worked diligently: was ordained; went on a short mission to the Indians of Georgia; afterwards, a Methodist preacher in England.
The dramatic vividness and fervour of this lyrical Monologue (founded upon Genesis xxxii)--the music and consoling sweetness of faith in CCXXI, may 352 justify the opinion on the Hymnist's natural gift expressed in the previous Note upon Watts; who, with the charming candour natural to him, said, 'It was worth all the works he himself had written.'
Philip Skelton:--Scholar in Trinity, Dublin: worked as clergyman at Monaghan and elsewhere; being always distinguished for good sense, devotedness, self-denial, and success: published much; mostly on religious subjects. Retired in old age to Dublin; published his hymns in 1784.
This poem,--much indebted for its beauty to its scientific accuracy,--is an interesting example of the practical, the positive, spirit for which the eighteenth century has been often inconsiderately and indiscriminately censured.
John Cennick: For a time, a Calvinistic Methodist; afterwards a Moravian preacher:--To this period the hymn printed doubtless belongs.
John Newton: Began life as a sailor; was employed in the African slave-trade; profligate and miserable, yet worked perseveringly at Latin and mathematics. He awoke to the sense of Sin and of Mercy: left the sea: studied for Holy Orders: was ordained to the curacy of Olney (1765), and became friend of William Cowper. In 1779 Newton was made rector of a City church; He had the generosity of a large heart, grateful for his conversion to piety and happiness; and hence, doubtless, a singular gift in winning his hearers.
Mere bare simplicity and sincerity suffice to range this hymn amongst the most powerful in our Anthology: John Bunyan, or the great twelfth-century religious poet, Jacopone of Todi, who wrote the Canzone Mirami, Sposa, un poco In sulla Croce ignudo, might have been proud, or thankful, to own it.
These hymns were written at Olney in North Buckinghamshire between 1771-1779, at the suggestion and under the influence of John Newton. That influence was not wholly for good; Assurance of Salvation--a cardinal point in the creed of his 353 Calvinist friend,--was physically and morally impossible to Cowper's tremulous, sensitive, nature. The Hymnal was not far advanced, when he again fell beneath the insanity of ten years before. His mind gradually recovered its proper tone:--and the jointly-written book, about one-fourth of which is by Cowper, was the first by which (1779) he became known as an author.
Mr. Abbey, in the excellent Church in the Eighteenth Century, assigns this brilliant lyric to J. Newton. It is however, marked C. in the first edition of the Olney Hymns,--the sign placed to distinguish Cowper's work:--to which, in point of style, it also clearly belongs.
This beautiful poem was written in 1765, at the moment when Cowper, after his earliest fit of derangement, was deciding to quit London as his home, for ever. That the country, however, could not give lasting peace to that delicate and troubled spirit, is shown by the companion poem, of at least equal beauty, O happy shades ..., written in 1773;--apparently whilst the second attack (above noticed) was approaching.
William Blake: Mr. A. Gilchrist has well recounted the story of this singularly attractive poet and painter. A long life could hardly have fewer events; only a sixty years' cheerful and happy struggle against starvation: but the beautiful soul of the man, devoted to his art and his loving wife and his God, gives it an unique interest,--a fascination, rarely raised by any biography. And in Blake, more than most, the man is identified with the artist; the spell which the life holds over the sympathetic reader is renewed and confirmed by the poet-painter's designs and verses. The drawing may be often faulty; the syntax imperfect; yet there is a subtle simplicity, a tenderness springing equally from the heart and the imagination,--sometimes a sublimity of idea, which give the best work of Blake's youth a peculiar place of its own, high up amongst our 'treasures for ever.'
The soul of that child-like and celestial painter Fra Angelico, might have entered into Blake, (who in 1789 can have known nothing of the monastic Italian artist)--when writing this and the two following pieces for his Songs of Innocence.
The work of each was in truth irradiated by mystic 354 inward enthusiasm, by constant presence of the spiritual life, by intensity of vision:--To men of this class the Invisible world is the Visible,--the Supernatural, was the Real.
James Montgomery: son to a Moravian missionary: edited a newspaper at Sheffield; wrote much verse: published his hymns in 1853:--the period to which CCXXXIX may conjecturally be assigned.
Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Grant: Educated at Magdalene, Cambridge: then sat in the House of Commons for several years: Governor of Bombay from 1834 to his death.--The two hymns here printed have a simple directness of thought and expression worthy of our Elizabethan poets.
Anna Laetitia Barbauld: daughter to Dr. Aikin: established a school near Diss: wrote on Education: Distinguished and loved for a truly highminded and sympathetic nature.
Our Second Book ranges from about 1680 to 1820. By this latter date that fertile outburst of poetry, which gave a brilliance to the first half of this century, second only to that of the Elizabethan age, had fully established itself. And already also the dominant schools of religious thought and practice familiar to us all, (from whatever angle of view we may estimate them), were working their way to the surface. There is now sufficient general acquiescence in regard to the character of the Evangelical movement to render discussion of it here unnecessary. An opposite reason dispenses with any critical sketch of the modes of thought upon religion which are represented in this Third Book. Attention may however be called to the close parallelism between the impulses which, respectively, supplied their wealth of poetic material and inspiration to Herbert and Vaughan, and, in our own day, to the two admirable writers who hold a place similar to theirs in this section of our anthology.
Reginald Heber: At Brasenose, Oxford, and early distinguished for brilliant ability and energy. Was appointed in 1822 Bishop of Calcutta, where he worked with equal devotion and success, till apoplexy cut him off at Trichinopoli.--In poetical style he was our last eminent representative of Pope and Addison.
Henry Hart Milman, of Eton and Brasenose, Oxford: author of several plays, poems and histories, ably written in a somewhat artificial style. Professor of Poetry at Oxford, 1821. Canon of Westminster and Dean of S. Paul's.--The hymns here given were published, together with those by Bishop Heber, in 1827.
All the poems selected from Wordsworth belong to the later half of his life, with exception of CCLXIV, which was 'composed on the beach near Calais,' 1802.
are from the Christian Year, published 1827.
John Keble, educated by his father, before his fifteenth birthday was elected Scholar of Corpus, Oxford: First Class in the Classical and Mathematical Schools, 1810: Fellow of Oriel, 1811: ordained Priest 1816, when be asked a friend to 'pray for me that I may free myself from all pride, all ambition, all uncharitableness':--The prayer was granted, and it may form the motto for Keble's long, useful, and saintly life. He was chosen unanimously Professor of Poetry at Oxford 1831: settled as Vicar at Hursley near Winchester 1835, where his days henceforth were passed, divided between prose and poetry and the devout performance of duty: resting by his beloved wife at last in the peace of his own green churchyard, beside the church rebuilt by him from the proceeds of the Christian Year.
Keble's work as a co-operator with J. H. (Cardinal) Newman, Dr. Pusey, and others, in the religious movement to which his poetry gave its earliest definite character is, perhaps, sufficiently illustrated in the selection here offered.
In refinement of feeling for nature, in the human, sympathetic attitude towards things inanimate, and again, in the sense how often these are more happily gifted than mankind, we are here closely reminded of Vaughan. Yet it is hardly probable that his very rare little books should have fallen in Keble's way by 1827.
No essay on Keble as a poet would be in place here. Yet it may be noticed that, like Vaughan, his work, 356 if not always clear either in its main lines or its phrases, is filled with admirable imaginative touches, with true and tender felicities, which deserve and reward readers,--careful, devoted, it might almost be said, microscopic.
They say ... crown: the author here refers in a note to Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living, c. xi, sect. 3.
These beautiful stanzas, said Mr. Keble's wife, on the day of his death, 'I know were in his dying thoughts.' She survived him but a few weeks.
St. iv We change our posture: so Dante (Purg. vi, 149) compares Florence, in her sick state, to
Che non può trovar posa in su le piume,
Ma con dar volta suo dolore scherma.
Richard Chenevix Trench: Born at Dublin, educated at Trinity, Cambridge. Theological Professor at King's College: Dean of Westminster, 1856: Archbishop of Dublin, 1864. In Philology and Biblical exegesis he ranks high amongst our prose-writers, and his poetry is penetrated by the high purity and nobility of his character.
Henry Alford: Educated at Ilmington School, and Trinity, Cambridge: of which College he became Fellow. A learned Greek Scholar; edited the New Testament. Dean of Canterbury, 1857.
Hartley Coleridge: eldest son to Samuel Taylor: Scholar of Merton, Oxford, and Fellow of Oriel. Lived mostly in the Lake Country, a gentle, dreamy man, who from feeble health and want of will failed to fulfil the promise of his youth; whilst, in Wordsworth's beautiful phrase, Nature preserved for him throughout 'a young lamb's heart among the full-grown flocks.'
Carolina Baroness Nairn: Born (daughter to L. Oliphant) and died at Gask in Perthshire. A high-minded woman, whose 'heart was in every good and Christian work of her time.'
The Leal, Faithful. P. 242 sae dear's... It is a hard-fought and dearly-won battle, by which sinful man may reach Heaven.
Henry Francis Lyte: Of Trinity, Dublin: left Ireland for Brixham, Devonshire, through ill-health, and died at Nice. Published his Poems 1833.
The maid is not dead, but sleepeth, is the Author's motto for these very tender and original lines. Mr. Lyte's book has other lyrics, not within the scope of this selection, similarly distinguished by pathetic delicacy. His style often unites the characteristic merits of Addison and of Cowper.
song that may not die: CCCX is dated, Berryhead, September, 1847. The writer died in the following November.
From the Lyra Innocentium, published 1846: CCCXXI-CCCXXX, from the Miscellaneous Poems, written at many different dates.
Prefixed are the words 'Make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.'
Originally written for the Christian Year, from admission to which its personal character probably excluded it. This poem may be placed beside the beautiful Ode to Evening by Collins, as one of the rare successes of English poetry in the unrhymed lyric.
Composed 'for the Tomb of the old Biddlecombes, May 24, 1861.'
Dated Dec. 8, in Conceptione B.M.V., 1844.' The hymn 'was written for the Lyra Innocentium, but withheld from publication at the time, with Mr. Keble's consent but against his wish.'
William Barnes, of a family who had held lands in Dorset for centuries, was born in a farmhouse within that beautiful Vale of Blackmore upon which his poems love to dwell. Educated in the country: at first placed in a lawyer's office; then conducted schools at Mere and Dorchester: made himself master of many languages, ancient and modern; obtained a degree from S. John's, Cambridge. By study and love of the Dorset folk and their ancient speech was led to write poems in hope of preserving the dialect. Ordained in 1847; in 1862 Rector of Winterbourne Came near Dorchester. And there, strenuously to the last doing his duty from cottage to cottage, yet studying and writing much on many subjects, Barnes' years passed quickly and happily on, till, in full Christian hope and peace, he was laid to rest within his little tree-shadowed churchyard.
The poetry of Barnes, like that of Burns, is inseparable from the dialect. This, however, (easily 358 as it may be mastered), has barred the lyrics of Barnes from their due place amongst the most varied in subject, the most perfect in form, the purest and sweetest in tone, which our literature contains. Humour and pathos, character and landscape, within the limits of the local sphere which he scarcely quits, each is at his command: of all modern poets he is the most truly and delightfully Idyllic.--The few specimens here given, it is hoped, may tempt genuine lovers of poetry to test this criticism for themselves:--the writer does not fear their verdict.
From Poems ... in common English, 1868. It is worthy of Blake at his best in its sweet picturesque simplicity.
Adelaide Anne Procter: daughter to a poet best known as 'Barry Cornwall.' Her poems appeared in 1858, 1861, 1862.
From Poems, D. M. Main, Glasgow, 1886:--a volume marked by delicate and original thought, expressed with simple grace. For his acquaintance with the book, the Editor is indebted to Miss C. G. Rossetti.
Published 1849.--Arthur Hugh Clough was educated at Rugby, Scholar of Balliol and Fellow of Oriel (1842), Oxford: afterwards in the Education Office: died and was buried at Florence.
John Campbell Shairp: born at Houstoun, Linlithgowshire, of an old Lowland Scottish family: trained at Edinburgh, Glasgow University, and Balliol, Oxford. Worked as Master at Rugby, and afterwards as Professor of Humanity at S. Andrews: was there chosen Principal of the United Colleges; Elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford (1877).
Richard Hurrell Froude: At Eton and Oriel, Oxford: friend and co-operator with John Keble and John Henry (Cardinal) Newman in their movement for religious revival.
The editor trusts that he has here dealt with the free permission of reprinting graciously given him, in a mode which will not be disapproved by one to whom, in company with millions, he owes a gratitude best expressed by silence,--a reverence such, che nol divia sermone.
The singular beauty of the view from the ancient Taurominium near Etna, often noticed, called forth from the writer (Ap. 26, 1833), during his journey in Sicily, this deeply-felt expression of one among the divers morals that Nature can teach. The Messina deals with an analogous moral, as the motto given in the author's Verses (1868) shows: Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.
The text prefixed is From His mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword.
Originally prefaced by the words of Sophocles, Antigone, 332 -. Greek[πολλα τα δεινα, κουδεν ανθρωπου δεινοτερον πελει,]--Many are the wondrous things of Nature, and none is more wondrous than Man.
Written after the death of Miss Mary Newman. Dr. Pusey (Jan. 1828) says of the author that he had 'lost,... after only 24 hours' cessation of apparently strong health, his youngest sister. Every consolation, which a brother can have, he has most richly--her whole life having been a preparation for that hour.'
It is dated Oxford, April, 1828:--CCCLXXV, Horsepath, September 29, 1829.
Dated, The Oratory, 1856; and published in the Author's very impressive and pathetic tale of early Christian life in Africa, Callista.
Written At Sea, in the Straits of Bonifazio, between Sardinia and Corsica, June 16, 1833.
St. vi Whither we rush: Refers to the real motion of the Sun and his planets through celestial space.
From Poems and Hymns (1880) by John Sharp, now for more than fifty years the much-respected Vicar of Horbury, near Wakefield.
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley: son to Edward, Bishop of Norwich: at Rugby under Dr. Arnold: Scholar of Balliol, Fellow of University, Oxford: Canon of Canterbury, Dean of Westminster, 1863. Best known by his Life of Dr. Arnold and works on the history of the Jewish and the Eastern Church.
Christopher Wordsworth: nephew to the Poet: educated at Winchester; Fellow of Trinity, Cambridge. 360 Master of Harrow: Bishop of Lincoln, 1869. Eminent for scholarship and integrity of life.
Frederick William Faber: of Harrow School and University, Oxford: entered the Roman Church in 1845 and established the Oratory of S. Philip Neri in London: labouring zealously till his early death. His hymns were first published complete in 1862.
'Verse sung at the Way of the Cross at the Oratory.'
The poetry of Mr. Richard Wilton, (of S. Catherine's, Cambridge: Rector of Londesborough), Woodnotes, 1873, and Lyrics, 1878, deserves wider acceptance than it has hitherto received.
'The East window of Kirkby Wharfe or Grimston Church is filled with stained glass,... the subject being the Crucifixion.'
From Days and Hours by Frederick Tennyson, 1854:--another noteworthy and too-neglected book.
Charles Tennyson, born at Somersby, Lincolnshire, next brother to Frederick and senior to Alfred, was educated at Louth and Trinity, Cambridge: ordained 1835; married a sister of Emily, Lady Tennyson, and spent most of his life as Vicar of Grasby in the Wolds,--taking the surname of Turner under the will of a relation. His, as his nephew Hallam Tennyson truly writes, was an alma beata e bella:--a man of noble simplicity, tenderness, purity of heart, 'at once childlike and heroic.' The devoted love of his brother Alfred is expressed in the beautiful stanzas dated Midnight, June 30, 1879.
This poet was master of what may be termed the Idyllic sonnet; under which form he gave many pictures of his country and its indwellers, with his thoughts upon this and the other life. These Sonnets, (published collectively in 1880), have the charm of a singular humanity; of an originality which sometimes touches upon quaintness. No verse more sincere, more tender, more worthy of study, is contained in our Anthology.
scroll of prayer: 'The extract from the Book of the Dead, which was put into the hands of the deceased.'
Thou shalt not lose: so Petrarch, in one of those passages whose ethereal beauty reminds us of the 361 Paradise scenes by Fra Angelico, speaking of the souls in Heaven;
Tanti volti che 'l Tempo e Morte han guasti
Torneranno al lor più florito stato.
L. 10 oorali: a drug extracted from Strychnos toxifera; It acts by paralysing the nerves of motion, whilst those of sensation are left unimpaired.
Readers should remember that this poem forms in truth a little drama, wherein it is not the Poet, but the Hospital Nurse, who speaks throughout. The two little girls, whose story was published in a magazine, are the only characters here drawn from actual life.
This hymn, often printed as Anonymous, and so classed in former issues by the Editor, is by Sir Edward Denny, and was originally published in his Hymns and Poems, 1848 (W. T. Brooke).
The writer was educated at Exeter, Oxford, and died whilst this book was in the press.
|« Prev||Notes Explanatory and Biographical||Next »|