Page images
PDF
EPUB

Morton. I think Barnabe Barnes, whom you mentioned on a former day as the friend of William Percy, used that signature.

Bourne. Not exactly, though it is different only by transposition: he signed himself by the name of Parthenophil.

Elliot. As we are not likely to arrive at any satisfaction on the point, let us open the book.

Bourne. The titles to the several divisions of his poems are in Latin, "Author ipse Philopartheos ad libellum suum," and " Amoris Prmludium, vel Epistola ad Amicam," although the stanzas to which they apply are all English.

Elliot. The author seems to have been one of those who wrote because they repented of their folly: a principal part of his production, I perceive, is headed " Sic incipit Stultorum Tragicomedia."

Bourne. That precedes the quotation I read about the variety and contrariety of love; an excuse for the wavering nature of the "Sonnets," as the author calls them, that succeed.

Elliot. Yet sonnets they are not, for they are sometimes only stanzas of six lines each.

Morton. The word sonnet, as we have seen, had a very indefinite application among our elder poets, and it often does not mean at all what the Italians seem to have understood by it.

Bourne. If you will give me the book, I will point out to you some of the best of these sonnets; for they are by no means all worth reading, supposing we had time to go through them.

Elliot. With all my heart.

Bourne. The following is a pretty allegorical description, rather ingenious, and elegantly worded.

"To seeke aduentures as Fate hath assignde,
My slender Barke new notes vpon the Maine;
Each troubled thought an Oare, each sigh a winde,
Whose often puffes haue rent my Sayles in twaine.
Loue steeres the Boat, which for that sight he lacks,
Is still in danger of tenne thousand wracks."

Morton. It is pretty, certainly; and the author has given a new turn in the two last lines, which is very happy.

Bourne. His talent is more fully exemplified in another portion of the volume, called "Love decyphered," where, having been rejected by Alcilia, he triumphs in his regained freedom.

"Loue and Youth are now asunder, Reasons glory, Natures wonder; My thoughts long bound are now inlarg'd, My follies penance is discharg'd, Thus time hath altered my state;Repentance neuer comes too late!Ah well I finde that Loue is naught,

But folly and an idle thought;

The difference is twixt Loue and me, That Loue is blinde and I can see."

Elliot. That is exceedingly pleasant and playful in its way: it aims at nothing more than it accomplishes, and the form and facility of the versification are well suited to the author's supposed state of feeling.

Bourne. I do not think you will like less the description of his mistress, in the three following stanzas, from a different part of the volume.

"Faire is my Loue whose parts are so well framed
By Natures special order and direction,
That she her selfe is more then halfe ashamed
In hauing made a worke of such perfection:
And well may Nature blush at such a feature,
Seeing her selfe excelled by her creature

Her body is straight, slender and vpright, Her visage comely and her lookes demure, Mixt with a chearfull grace that yeelds delight:Her eyes like starres, bright shining, cleare and pure, Which I describing Loue bids stay my pen, And says it's not a worke for mortall men.

The ancient Poets write of Graces three,

Which meeting altogether in one creature, In all points perfect make the same to bee,

For inward vertues and for outward feature:But smile Alcilia and the world shall see, That in thine eyes a hundred graces bee!"

Morton. We are much obliged to you for introducing us to a poet who can write with so much ease and delicacy.

Elliot. The first stanza is a little faulty; for if Nature might be envious of the beauty of her work, it is the very reason why she should not be ashamed of its perfectness.

Morton. Ah! quittez d'un censeur la triste diligence, to borrow a line from Racine. Do not blame where there is really so much to commend; besides a little ought to be allowed for the necessity of the rhyme.

Elliot. Perhaps I was somewhat hypercritical. If the next quotation be as good, I will find no fault with it.

Bourne. I am afraid we can afford no more time at present to "Alcilia." Before we finally dismiss Bastard's Chrestoleros, so frequently mentioned, I wish to show you an epigram in it which renders it valuable, not merely as containing notices of poets whose works have come down to us, but of some regarding whom we have hitherto only heard the names; such, for instance, as Dr. Eeds, Dean of Worcester. At least we learn from Bastard for what species of composition Dr. Eedes was celebrated, which we did not know before.

Morton. Wood, I perceive, only asserts that he wrote various MS. poems in Latin and English.

Bourne. And Ritson and the rest re-echo him: from the following lines in the Chrestoleros we find that he was an author of epigrams.

"Ad Richardum Eeds. "Eeds onely thou an Epigram dost season, With thy sweete tast and relish of enditing,

With sharpes of sense, and delicates of reason,
With salt of witt and wonderfull delighting.
For in my iudgement him thou hast exprest
In whose sweet mouth hony did build her nest."

Elliot. I do not suppose you quote that for its own merit, but merely as a matter of biography.

Bourne. Precisely so; and it too frequently happens, as I have once before remarked, that such is the chief value of the productions of our old English epigrammatists.

Elliot. It is to be lamented, then, that not a few of those who are called poets of the reign of Queen Elizabeth did not write epigrams: their works would then, at least, have been endurable.

Bourne. I am not such a bigot to old versification (not to dignify it by the name of poetry), as to dispute the truth of your remark in some particular instances: one of them, indeed, is an author I intended to bring before you to-day, I mean Barnabe Googe, who, though a voluminous writer, and especially translator, has produced nothing original that I have ever seen worth preserving.

Elliot. An additional confirmation of Sir John Denham's celebrated couplet,

"Such is our pride, our folly, or our fate, That few but such as cannot write translate!"

Morton. Googe was the translator of Pallingenius's " Zodiac of Life." Bourne, The same; yet I cannot deny that by

« PreviousContinue »