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ART. III. Pharonnida, a Heroic Poem, by William Chamber· layne, of Shaftesbury, in the County of Dorset. *Iσκε ψεύδεα πολλά λέγων ετυμοισιν όμοια.
Hom. Odess. lib. 21. Printed for Robert Clavel, at the sign of the Stag's Head, near i St. Gregorie's Church, in St. Paul's Church Yard, 1659, 8vo. , pp. 371.
Whilst the stream of time carries down so many of the productions of human ingenuity into total oblivion, it deposits a few, which deserve to be kept in remembrance, upon its silent shores, where they remain until some lucky wanderer discovers, and holds them up to the admiration of the world. Long did the flower to which we now draw the attention of the public, waste its sweetness on the desert air,' before any industrious bee settled upon its leaves, and extracted a portion of its collected sweets. Until very recently indeed, it has obtained no other notice than a passing recognition of its having existed. We claim not, however, the merit of having first discovered its value ; nor have we any title to be so considered, for our readers are aware, that one living author* at least has already given us such a taste of the honey, as to induce us to wish for a more copious supply. Of William Chamberlayne little more is known, than that he was a physician at Shaftesbury in the reign of Charles the First, whose cause during the civil wars he espoused; and, as is to be inferred from the conclusion of the third book, was present at the second battle of Newbery.t However rich he might be in the gifts of nature, he was not very plentifully endowed with those of fortúne, as we collect from the beginning of the first book, where he complains of poverty, and the bad reception his poem had met with. In the preface of the poem also he informs us, that fortune had placed him in too low a sphere to he happy in the acquaintance of the age's more celebrated wits. He died on the 11th of January, 1689, having lived to the age of 70 years,
* Mr. Campbell; who states that he has found no other mention of Chamberlayne than what is contained in Langbaine. He is, however, noticed by Winstanley, Jacob, Wood, and Grainger, but without any farther information than that he was the author of this poem, and the play mentioned in the text; and without any comment upon either.
+ His poetical labours, in all probability, suffered some interruption from his more warlike occupations, and this supposition is strengthened by the circumstance of the two last books commencing with a new paging, and being printed in a different type.
and was buried at Shaftesbury, in the church-yard of the Holy Trinity, where his son, Valentine Chamberlayne, erected a monument to his memory. Besides this poem he wrote a tragicomedy,* called “ Love's Victory," which was afterwards acted under the title of “ Wits led by the nose, or a Poet's Revenge.” Langbaine, in his account of this play, mentions Pharonida, adding, that though it had nothing to recommend it, yet it appeared in prose in the year 1683, as a novel, under the name of 6. Eromena, or the noble Stranger.” We think, however, that when our readers have perused the abstract of the story which we propose to give, and the different extracts with which it will be interspersed, they will totally dissent from the judgment pronounced by this useful but tasteless author. The garb, indeed, in which the poem is clothed, is sufficiently uninviting ; the materials, to be sure, are rich, but the workmanship is awkward and ungraceful. Yet notwithstanding this inauspicious covering, and the obstructions which the involved and unharmonious diction, and the poverty and insignificance of the rhyme,t present to the complete enjoyment of the poem, there is a pure and tender strain of feeling and morality, and a richness of imagery, that cannot fail to interest the heart and please the imagination of every lover of poetry. How far it is entitled to the name of a heroic poem, we leave to others to determine; but we cannot help observing, that the vigorous conception of the story, the unity and symmetry of the design, and the sustained dignity of the personages and of the sentiments, make out a claim to that title, which we are by no means inclined to dispute. The main story is carried on with deep and varied interest, and developed with great, but unequal, power; and every incident which might, by possibility, be considered as improbable, is accounted for from plausible causes, with a scrupulousness and care which is very remarkable, when contrasted with the singular carelessness which distinguishes some other parts of the poem. Upon the whole, the work is somewhat too long, arising perhaps, from the absurd and pedantic determination of the author to extend it to precisely five books, each containing the same number of cantos. In a few of the latter cantos, his muse soars with a comparatively feeble wing, but she soon resumes her vigour, and again mounts into the sublime regions of impassioned poetry. The genius of Chamberlayne, however, is rather tender and pathetic, than strong and
* Published in 1658.
+ To these may be added, the inaccurate printing and erroneous punctuations, which incessantly occur.
lofty ; his narrative rather calm and equable, than rapid and overpowering ; but it is at the same time diversified with occasional bursts of deep pathos, of glowing and vehement passion. He delights to wander into the unknown regions of space and eternity ; contemplates with solemn pleasure the soul of man, disrobed of its earthly covering, and speculates with earnestness upon its ethereal nature and future destiny. But the more grave and serious parts of this delightful poem are enlivened and adorned with all the exuberance of a rich and inexhaustible fancy, pure, sparkling, and luminous, as the earth with the dew of heaven. The characters of the personages of the poem are rather general than individual ; they are painted with broad shades, rather than with distinct and minute touches. Those of Pharonnida and Argalia, the heroine of the story, and her lover, are of a noble and dignified description; and although a pitch above the tone of the ordinary feelings and actions of humanity, are beings of flesh and blood ;-that of Pharonnida, a lofty but gentle minded female, whose irrepressible passion for Argalia leaves no room in her full heart for the operation of other feelings, is touched off with a fine and delicate pencil. But the character of Almanzor possesses more individuality and fire, than any other in the poem, — ambitious, bold, impetuous, resolute, and unscrupulous of the means necessary to accomplish his objects; he is also cunning, secret, and undermining-he is audaciously wicked, or sanctimoniously virtuous, as it suits his purpose; he possesses, as occasion requires, the savage and unrelenting ferocity of the tiger, or the wily and dangerous stillness of the serpent.-But we will no longer delay introducing our readers to the poem itself. The outline of the story is as follows: . As Ariamnes, a Spartan Lord, and a noble train, were one day hunting on the shores of the “ far famed Bay of Lepanto," their attention was attracted to a fierce engagement between a Turkish and a Christian ship. Victory was inclining to the side of the Turks, when the combat was suddenly interrupted by a violent storm, which, however, soon subsided, and left the “uncurled ocean” spotted only with the wrecks of the lately contending ships. The fury of the elements had not abated the ardour of such of the hostile parties as escaped, and the battle was renewed on shore. The hunters, on coming down to the beach, were struck with the sight of a single Christian, defending himself against a party of the Infidels, by whom he was almost overpowered. They flew to the assistance of this brave warrior, and rescued him from his foes, whom they put to flight. Ariamnes conveyed Argalia, (for such was the name of the stranger,) with his wounded friend
ships.ch of the hostithe hunters, fm a single
Aphron, to his palace, where the latter soon recovered from his wounds. The two friends were about to take leave of their noble host, when he was summoned to attend his sovereign, the King of the Morea. The strangers were invited, and promised to accompany him to court, but they were prevented from performing this promise, by the unexpected illness of Aphron. One day, during the convalescence of Aphron, Argalia strayed into a neighbouring forest; and whilst he was reclining under the shade, two females passed at a short distance before him:
“ A pair of virgins, fairer than the spring;
Their morning carols, drop.”Almanzor, a Spartan noble, happened to enter the grove which shrouded the two damsels; and no sooner did he behold, than he advanced towards them, but with such speed as to excite their alarm and immediate flight. Almanzor pursued, and seized one of them, whose name was Florenza. 'He first attempted to seduce her; but, failing in that attempt, he had recourse to violence, and had nearly accomplished his purpose, when Florenza's lover, who was at no great distance, hearing her shrieks, came to her assistance, and fell in endeavouring to effect her rescue. In the mean time Florenza again fled, but in vain; her pursuer again seized her, who .
o with her shrieks did fill
Voice of harmonious music.”Argalia, roused from the slumber into which he had fallen, hurried to the spot from which the shrieks proceeded. Almanzor, doubly enraged at being a second time baffled, impetuously assailed him; but his blind fury was no match for the temperate valour of Argalia, under whose hand he would certainly have fallen, but for the interference of his followers, who opportunely arrived' in search of their master. They fell upon Argalia, and, with the loss of two of Almanzor's relatives, had nearly overpowered him, when a second troop came up: finding Almanzor wounded, they very wisely concluded Argalia to have been the aggressor, and seized and conveyed him to the king's palace as a murderer. In this part of the narrative, the poet has introduced a short episode, which, as it contains some exceedingly beautiful lines, we do not choose to omit. : The Queen of the Morea had died in giving birth to an only daughter, whom, with her dying words, she desired might be called Pharonnida. Before she expired, she addressed the King in the following beautiful lines; breathed from the bottom of a soft and tender soul :
murderer. O seized and concluded up: finghad
“ This, this is all that I shall leave behind,
What wondrous change dwells in eternity.”
This only child was the darling and solace of the royal widower, amidst " woes that would have shaken his soul to earth,”
“ Had not this comfort stopp'd them, which beguiles
Stealing his heart through all the guards of grief." When Pharonnida arrived at woman's estate, her father chose a palace in the Vale of Ceres, near to his capital of Corinth, for her residence, and assigned her a guard of one hundred noble Spartan youths, the command of which, he gave to Almanzor, the bold, haughty, and ambitious man before mentioned. Whenever the king visited this favored daughter, (which he was at this time doing) there was a peculiar custom that she should sit in judgment on all cases that occurred during the time of his visit.-Before her tribunal, the accused Argalia was fated to appear;—the day of his trial having come on, the Princess ascended the seat of justice,—the prisoner was brought forth, who
“In this low ebb of fortune did appear,
Rifled one drop of blood, nor rage begot
The wrongful charge was made, but
“ His noble soul still wings itself above