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scriptures speak any sense, or no sense at all.”*
On this mystical plan of interpretation, he published in 1602, “ Tractatus in Revelationem Christi modo Cabalistico explicatam,” 4to.; and in 1621, “ Tractatus de Bestia Apocaliptica,” 12mo. Nor are any of his theological works, indeed, free from the same erudite enthusiasm ; for a similar mode of interpretation may be traced in his “ Apparatus in Revelationem Jesu Christi,” 4to. 1607, and in his “ Spiraculum Tubarum, n.d. Ecce Sponsus Venet,” 4to. 1633.
The profound oriental learning, indeed, of Alabaster, together with the assumption of a faculty which could penetrate into, and unfold the dispensations of Providence to the remotest period of time, could not fail, in an age prone to the marvellous, to make a strong impression on the minds of his contemporaries. With what faith and admiration he was looked up to, as a person gifted, in this way, with very extraordinary powers, may be learnt from the following
Biographical History of England, vol. ii. p. 169. edit. of 1775.
lines addressed to him by his ingenious and accomplished friend Robert Herrick.
lead the way
TO DOCTOR ALABASTER. Nor art thou lesse esteem'd, that I have plac'd (Amongst mine honour’d) Thee (almost) the last : In great Processions
many To him, who is the triumph of the day, As these have done to Thee, who art the one, One only glory of a million, In whom the spirit of the Gods doth dwell, Firing thy soule, by which thou dost foretell When this or that vast Dinastæ must fall Down to a Fillit more Imperiall. When this or that Horne shall be broke, and when Others shall spring up in their place agen: When times and seasons and all yeares must lie Drown'd in the sea of wild Eternitie : When the Black Dooms-day Bookes (as yet unseald) Shall by the mighty Angell be revealed : And when the Trumpet which thou late hast found Shall call to judgment; tell us when the sound Of this or that great Aprill day shall be, And next the Gospell wee will credit thee: Meane time like earth-wormes we will crawle below, And wonder at Those Things that thou dost know.*
* Hesperides, or Works both Human and Divine, of Robert Herrick, Esq. ; 1648. p. 302.
Much, however, as Alabaster was latterly renowned for his theological and philosophical acquirements, he had enjoyed early in life, and continued to maintain to the day of his death, a reputation equally great and extensive for the critical acumen of his classical taste and the beauty of his Latin poetry. In 1992, and in the twenty-fifth year of his age, he wrote his “ Roxana,” a Latin tragedy, which was acted, as soon as finished, at Trinity College, Cambridge, and procured the author the most unbounded applause.* So highly, indeed, was this drama esteemed, that forty years after its first representation at Cambridge, namely in 1632, it issued from the press surreptitiously, and in a very imperfect form, an occurrence which stimulated the author to publish a genuine edition during the course of the same year.
The Roxana of Alabaster, though certainly a work of considerable merit, is written as Warton
“ Dr. Fuller informs us," (see his Worthies in Suffolk, p. 70.) says Granger, “ that when his Latin tragedy of Roxana was acted at Trinity College in Cambridge, the last words
sequar, sequar,' were so hideously pronounced, that a gentlewoman present fell distracted, and never afterwards recovered her senses." — Biographical History, vol. ii. p. 169. note.
justly observes, too much " in the style and manner of the turgid and unnatural Seneca;" but when that elegant and interesting commentator proceeds to say that this drama “ has been mentioned by Dr. Johnson as a Latin composition, equal to the Latin poetry of Milton," he has assuredly charged that upon his illustrious contemporary which he never dreamt of asserting. The passage in Johnson, with the preceding context, is as follows. “I once heard Mr. Hampton, the translator of Polybius, remark, what I think is true, that Milton was the first Englishman who, after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classic elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very few: Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they have succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt verse than they provoke derision. If we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster's Roxana.”+ Now it will, I
* Milton's Smaller Poems, apud Warton, 2nd edit. 1791.
† Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, vol. i. p. 76. Sharpe's Edition.
think, be readily admitted, that no equality with the poetry of Milton could be intended by these words; they were meant merely to imply, what is, in fact, really the case, that this drama is, as a classical production, a spirited and extraordinary effort for the period in which it was written And more especially will this be allowed, when we recollect the youth of the writer, and that, as he has himself told us, it was the work of only a fortnight.
The drama, however, was not the only province of poetry in which Alabaster endeavoured to excel; he had projected, and in part executed, a species of Epic poem in honour of Elizabeth and her reign, which was to have extended to twelve books, and which he termed Eliseis.
Of this elaborate undertaking which, notwithstanding the popularity of its subject, was never committed to the press, Mr. Todd, in his edition of Spenser, has given us the following account.
“ The Eliseis,” he says, “ is preserved among the manuscripts in Emmanuel College, Cambridge; and is numbered 1. 4. 16. I have been favoured by the master of that society with the