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.“ So learned was thy chance, thy haste had wit,
And matter from thy pen flowed rashly fit; .
This is true enough, though the writer did not think so.Endymion Porter says of Donnes"!
Poets, be silent-let your numbers sleep
Time hath no'soul but his exalted verse."
« 'Tis held that comets princes' deaths foretell; . .
Who was the prince of wits, 'mongst whom he reign'd
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,
Inter-assured of the mind,
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
And now, good-morrow to our waking souls,
* i. e. Except this.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown,
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.
As lightning, or a taper's light,
What follows is extremely solemn and fine, and scarcely at all disfigured by the author's characteristic faults :
::“ The Apparition.
Then thy siek taper will begin to wink,
Thou call'st for more,
A'verier ghost than 1."
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....
“ All kings, and all their favourites ;
Is elder by a year now than it was
All other things to their destruction draw:
This, no to-morrow háth, nor yesterday;
Two graves must hide thine and my corse;