Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

.

.

.“ So learned was thy chance, thy haste had wit,

And matter from thy pen flowed rashly fit; .
What was thy recreation, turns our brain; . .
Our rack and paleness is thy weakest straine ;
And when we most come near thee, 'tis our bliss
To imitate thee where thou dost amiss."

This is true enough, though the writer did not think so.Endymion Porter says of Donnes"!

[ocr errors]

Poets, be silent-let your numbers sleep
; For he is gone that did all Fancy keep. ..

Time hath no'soul but his exalted verse."

[blocks in formation]

« 'Tis held that comets princes' deaths foretell; . .
: Why should not his have needed one as well, : .,.

Who was the prince of wits, 'mongst whom he reign'd
High as a prince, and as great state maintain'd ?”
" But what do I? A diminution 'tis ... !! .
To speak of him in verse so short of his,
Whereof he was the master. “ All indeed,
Compared with him, piped on an oaten reed.”

bi Moreradi. It is remarkable that the writer, of whom this could be said by persons of repute, (whether truly or not is no matter) in an age which produced Shakspeare and the elder dramatists

-besides Spenser, Sydney, Herbert, Raleigh, and a host of minor names-should so long have remained unknown in an after age, one of the distinguishing boasts of which is, that it has revived a knowledge of, and a love for its great predecessor, at the same time that it has almost rivalled it.

In pieces that can be read with unmingled pleasure, and admired as perfect wholes, the poetry of Donne is almost entirely deficient. This may serve, in some degree, to account for the total neglect which has so long attended him. Almost every beauty we meet with, goes hand in hand with some striking deformity, of one kind or another; and the effect of this is, at first, so completely irritating to the imagination, as well as to the taste, that, after we have experienced it a few times, we hastily determine to be without the one, rather than purchase it at the price of the other. But the reader who is disposed, by these remarks, and the extracts that will accompany them, to a perusal of the whole of this poet's works, may be assured that this unpleasant effect will very soon wear off, and he will

soon find great amusement and great exercise for his thinking faculties, (if nothing else) even in the objectionable parts of Donne; for he is always, when indulging in his very worst vein, filled to overflowing with thoughts, and materials for engendering thought.

The following short pieces are beautiful exceptions to the remark made just above, as to the mixed character of this poet's writings. The first is a farewell from a lover to his mistress, on leaving her for a time. For clearness and smoothness of construction, and a passionate sweetness and softness in the music of the versification, it might have been written in the present day, and may satisfy the ear of the most fastidious of modern readers ; and for thought, sentiment, and imagery, it might not have been written in the present day;--for, much as we hold in honour our living poets, we doubt if any one among them is capable of it. In fact, it is one of those pieces which immediately strike us as being purely and exclusively attributable to the writer of them—which satisfy us, that, but for him, we never could have become possessed of them—which bear a mark that we cannot very well expound, even to ourselves, but which we know no one could have placed on them but him: and this, by-the-bye, is one of the most unequivocal criterions of a true poet. Perhaps the piece itself will explain better what we mean, than any thing we could say of it.

“ As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go;
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
The breath goes now—and some say, no;
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
"Twere profanation of our joyes
To tell the laity our love. .
Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull, sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which alimented it.
But we're by love so much refin'd,
That ourselves know not what it is ; *

[ocr errors]

Inter-assured of the mind,
Careless eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls, therefore (which are one)
Though I must go, indure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And tho' it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circles just,
And makes me end where I begun."

The simile of the compasses, notwithstanding its quaintness, is more perfect in its kind, and more beautiful, than any thing we are acquainted with. Perhaps the above is the only poem we could extract, that is not disfigured by any of the characteristic faults of Donne. Several of them have, however, very few. The following is one of these. It has an air of serious gaiety about it, as if it had been composed in the very bosom of bliss. The versification, too, is perfect. It is called, « The Good-Morrow.

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did till we lov’d. Were we not wean’d till then ?
But suck'd in country pleasures childishly?
Or snorted we in the seven sleepers' den?
'Twas so.--But* this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever beauty I did see,
Which I desir'd and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now, good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For Love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room, an every-where.

* i. e. Except this.

Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,

Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world-each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, ,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two fitter hemispheres,
Without sharp North, without declining West?
Whatever dies was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, both thou and I

Love just alike in all, and such loveš never die.” The following, though not entirely without the faults of his style, is exceedingly graceful and elegant:

The Dream.
“ Dear love, for nothing less than thee .
Would I have broke this happy dream;
It was a theme
For reason, much too strong for phantasy;
Therefore thou wak'dst me wisely; yet
My dream thou brok'st not, but continued it.
Thou art so true, that thoughts of thee suffice
To make dreams truths, and fables histories.

As lightning, or a taper's light,
Thine eyes, and not thy noise, wak'd me;
Yet I thought thee
(For thoạ lov'st truth) an angel, at first sight;
But when I saw thou saw'st my heart,
And knew'st my thoughts, beyond an angel's art,
When thou knew'st what I dreamt, when thou knew'st when
Excess of joy would wake me, and came then,
I must confess it could not chuse but be
Profane to think thee any thing but thee."

What follows is extremely solemn and fine, and scarcely at all disfigured by the author's characteristic faults :

::The Apparition.
“ When by thy scorn, O murderess, I am dead,
And that thou thinkest thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee (fain'd vestal) in worse arms shall see.

Then thy siek taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tired before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think

Thou call'st for more,
And in false sleep from thee shrink';
And then, poor aspen wretch, 'neglected thou,
Bathed in a cold quicksilver sweat, wilt lie,

A'verier ghost than 1."
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee. And since my love is spent,
I had rather thou should'st painfully repent,
Than by my threatenings rest still innocent.”

The next specimens that we shall give of this singular writer will be taken from among those of his poems which unite, in a nearly equal proportion, his characteristic faults and beauties; and which may be considered as scarcely less worthy of attention than the foregoing, partly on account of that very union of opposite qualities, but chiefly on account of their remarkable fullness of thought and imagery; in which, indeed, his very worst pieces abound to overflowing... *

Notwithstanding the extravagance, as well as the ingenuity, which characterise the two following pieces, there is an air of sincerity about them, which renders their general effect impressive, and even solemn; to say nothing of their individual beauties, both of thought and expression. ...

* The Anniversary....

[ocr errors]

“ All kings, and all their favourites ;
All glory of honours, beauties, wits; *
The sun itself, which makes times, as these pass, ·

Is elder by a year now than it was
When thou and I first one another saw.

All other things to their destruction draw:
Only our love hath no decay;

This, no to-morrow háth, nor yesterday;
But truly keeps his first, last; everlasting day.

Two graves must hide thine and my corse;
If one might; death were no divorce.
Alas! as well as other princes, we
(Who prince enough in one another be)
Must leave at last in death these eyes and ears, .
Oft fed with true oaths, and with sweet salt tears.

« НазадПродовжити »