Page images

Perhaps the poet intended a hint to the squires of his time. He tells us of another wife, who had a considerable acquaintance among the wood-gods. It is not so easy to relate her story; but she would be a charming person by the time she was thirty, and make a delicate heart content! His account of her is certainly intended as a lesson to old gentlemen.

“ The gentle lady, loose at random lefte,
The greene-wood long did walke, and wander wids
At wilde adventure, like a forlorne wefte;
Till on a daye the Satyres her espide
Straying alone withouten groome or guide:
Her up they tooke, and with them home her ledd,
With them as housewife ever to abide,
To milk their goats, and make them cheese and bredd.”

She forgets her old husband Malbecco, who has just arrived at the spot where she lives,

[blocks in formation]

(who was the person that had taken his wife from him).

He fainted, and was almost dead with feare,
Ne word he had to speake, his griefe to tell,
But to him louted low, and greeted goodly well;

And, after, asked him for Hellenore.
'I take no kecpe of her,' sayd Paridell,

She wonneth in the forest, there before.'
So forth he rode as his adventure fell.”

A great noise is afterwards heard in the woods, of bagpipes and “shrieking hubbubs ; the old man hides in a bush; and after awhile

" The jolly Satyres full of fresh delight

Came dauncing forth, and with them nimbly ledd
Faire Hellenore, with girlonds all bespredd,
Whom their May-lady they had newly made:

She, proude of that new honour which they redd,
And of their lovely fellowship full glade,
Daunst lively, and her face did with a lawrell shade."

What a sunny picture is in this line !

“The silly man, that in the thickett lay

Saw all this goodly sport, and grieved sore;
Yet durst he not against it do or say,
But did his hart with bitter thoughts engore,
To see th' unkindness of his Hellenore.
All day they daunced with great lustyhedd,
And with their horned feet the greene grass wore;
The wiles their gotes upon the brouzes fedd,
Till drouping Phæbus gan to hyde his golden hedd.

Tho up they gan their merry pypes to trusse,
And all their goodly heardes did gather rownd."

he runs away,

The old gentleman creeps to his wife's bed's-head at night, and endeavors to persuade her to go away with him ; but she is deaf to all he can say; so in the passion of his misery, and supernatural strength of his very weakness,

-“runs with himself away,” — till, under the most appalling circumstances, he undergoes a transformation into Jealousy itself! a poetical flight, the daringness of which can only be equalled (and vindicated, as it is) by the mastery of its execution.

See the passage ; which, though a half-allegory, is calculated to affect the feelings of the poetical reader, almost as much as Burley and his cavern in “Old Mortality” do readers in general. It is at the end of Canto X. book 3.

Spenser has a story of “Foolish God Faunus," who comes on Diana when she is bathing; for which he is put into a deerskin, and she and her nymphs hunt him through wood and dale. Fauns and Satyrs, it is to be observed, are represented as wise or foolish, according as the poet allegorizes the elements of a country life, and the reflections, or clownish impulses, of sequestered people. The Faun, in particular, who was the more oracular of the two, might be supposed either to speak from his own knowledge, or to be merely the channel of a higher one, and so to partake of that reverend character of fatuity, which is ascribed in some countries to idiots. The Satyr was more conscious and petulant: he waited more especially upon Bacchus; was loud and saucy; may easily be supposed to have been noisiest and most abusive at the time of grapes; and it is to him, we think, and him alone (whatever learned distinctions have been made between satyri and satura, or the fruit which he got together, and him who got them), that the origin of the word satire is to be traced ; that is to say, satire was such free and abusive speech, as the vintagers pelted people with, just as they might with the contents of their baskets.

To make Satyr, therefore, clever or clownish, or both, just as it suits the writer's purpose, is in good keeping. To make him revengeful for not having his will, is equally good, as Tasso has done in the “ Aminta.” To make him old, and scorned by a young mistress, is warrantable, as Guarini has done in the “ Pastor Fido; » and even a touch of sentiment may not be refused him, if visited by a painful sense of the difference of his shape ; which is an imitation of the beautiful Polyphemic invention of Theocritus, and was introduced into modern poetry by the precursor of those poets, the inventor of the sylvan drama “Beccari.” But we cannot say so much for another great poet of ours, Fletcher, who, spoilt by his town breeding, and


thinking he could not make out a case for chastity, and the admiration of it, but by carrying it to a pitch of the improbable, introduces into his “ Faithful Shepherdess” a Satyr thoroughly divested of his nature, the most sentimental and Platonical of lovers, and absolute guardian of what he exists only to oppose. The clipping of hedges into peacocks was nothing to this. It was like changing warmth into cold, and taking the fertility out of the earth. Elegance was another affair. The rudest things natural contain a principle of that. You may show even a Satyr in his graces, as you may a goat in a graceful attitude, or the turns and blossoms of a thorn. But to make the shaggy and impetuous wood-god, with his veins full of the sap of the vine, a polished and retiring lover, all for the metaphysics of the passion, and bowing and backing himself out of doors like a “sweet signior," was to strike barrenness into the spring, and make the “ swift and fiery sun,” which the poet so finely speaks of, halt and become a thing deliberate. Pan, at the sight, should have cut off his universal beard. Certainly, the Satyr ought to have clipped his coat, and withdrawn into the urbanities of a suit of clothes. He should have “walked gowned.”

However, there is a ruddy and rough side of the apple still left; and with this we proceed to indulge ourselves, cutting away the rest. Fletcher is a true poet, and could not speak of woods and wood-gods without finding means to give us a proper taste of them. His Satyr comes in well.


Satyr. Through yon same bending plain,

That flings his arms down to the main,
And through these thick woods have I run,
Whose bottom never kiss'd the sun

Since the lusty spring began;
All to please my master Pan
Have I trotted without rest
To get him fruit; for at a feast
He entertains, this coming night,
His paramour, the Syrinx bright.

[ocr errors]

Here be grapes, whose lusty blood
Is the learned poet's good,
Sweeter yet did never crown
The head of Bacchus; nuts more brown
Than the squirrel's teeth, that crack them;
Deign, oh, fairest fair, to take them.
For these, black-eyed Dryope
Hath oftentimes commanded me
With my clasped knee to climb :
See how well the lusty time
Hath deck'd their rising cheeks in red,
Such as on your lips is spread.
Here be berries for a queen;
Some be red, some be green.”

(How much better than if he had said “ some be red and
some be green.” He is like a great boy, poking over the
basket, and pointing out the finest things in it with rustic

“ These are of that luscious meat,
The great god Pan himself doth eat:
All these, and what the woods can yield,
The hanging mountain or the field,
I freely offer; and ere long
Will bring you more, more sweet and strong:
Till when humbly leave I take,
Lest the great Pan do awake,
That sleeping lies in a deep glade,
Under a broad beech's shade.
I must go,

I must run,
Swifter than the fiery sun.”

In this passage, Mr. Seward, in his edition of “Beaumont and Fletcher,” has a note containing an extract from The

« PreviousContinue »