« PreviousContinue »
and institution that tend to crush, debase, ami brutalize him, it has done more to refine the taste, to kindle the imagination, to enlarge the understanding, to give strength to the reasoning powers, and to supply the mind with images of beauty, tenderness, and sublimity, than all other books which have been borne down to us on the stream of time: while our present permanent version has secured for our language what Tithonus begged of Aurora— immortality; and secured, besides, what he forgot to ask—perpetual youth. But above all and beyond all this, it is The (hiEat Lever Job Elevatino
THS JlOiliL WORLD.1
THOMAS SACKVILLE. 153G—1608.
Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, and ultimately Earl of Dorset and lord high treasurer of England, deserves consideration, if for no odier reason, as the author of the first regular English tragedy, entitled "Ferrex and Porrex." It is also called "The Tragedie of Gorboduc," and was acted before Queen Elizabeth in 1561. The story is this. Gorboduc, an ancient king ol Britain, divided, in his lifetime, his kingdom between his sons Ferrex and Porrex. They quarrel for sovereignty, and Porrex kills his brother. Their mother Viden, who loved Ferrex best, rovenged his death by entering Porrex's chamber in the night and murdering liim in his sleep. The people, exasperated at this, rose in rebellion, and killed both Viden and Gorboduc. The nobility then assembled, collected an army, and destroyed the insurgents.
Every act of this play is closed by something like the chorus of the Greek tragedy, namely, an ode in long-lined stanzas, drawing back the attention of the audience to the substance of what has just passed, and illustrating it by moral reflections. The following ode closes the third act, the moral beauties as well as the spirit of which must strike every reader. Sir Philip Sidney, in his "Defence of Poesy/' says that this whole tragedy is «full of notable morality."
11 cannot but nlve room to the following just and beauUful remarks of Mrs. Ellis, in her work entitled the "Poetry of Life :"—
"With our established Ideas of beauty, grace, pathos, and sublimity, either concentrated in the minutest point, or extended to the wideat range, we can derive from the Scriptures a fund of gratification not to be found In any oUier memorial of the past or present time. From the worm that grovels In the dust beneath our feet, to the track of Uie leviathan In the foaming deep—from the moth that corrupts the secret treasure, to tltc eagle that soars above his eyrie in the clouds—from the wild ass in the desert, to the lamb within the shepherd's fold—from Uie consuming locust, to the cattle on a thousand bills—from the rose of Sliaron, to Uie cedar of Lebanon—from the clear crystal stream, gnshing forth out of the flinty rock, to the wide waters of the deluge—from the barren waste, to the fruitful vineyard, and the land flowing with milk and honey—from the lonely path of the wanderer, to the gatherer of a mighty niulUtude— from Uie tear that falls in secret, to the din of battle and the shoot of a triumphant host—from the solitary In the wilderness, to the satrap on the throne—from the mourner clad in his sackcloth, to the prince in purple robes—from the gnawlngs of the worm that dleth not, to the seraphic vision of the blessed—from the still small voice, to the thunders of Omnipotence—from the depths of hell, to tltc regions of eternal glory, there Is no degree of beauty or deformity, no tendency to goo 1 or evil, no shale of darkness or gleam of light, which does not come within the coiriilzMnrc of tlx; Holy Scriptures; and, thcrcfare, there is no expression or conception of the mind that may not hero find a corresponding picture; no thirst for excellence tliat here may not meet with its full supply; and no condition of humanity excluded from the unlimited scope of adaptation and sympathy comprehended in the language and spirit of the Bible.''
The lust of kingdom knows no sacred faith,
Through bloody slaughter doth prepare the ways
0 wretched prince! nor dost thou yet record
Thus fatal plagues pursue the guilty race,
The wicked child thus brings to woful sire
But the poem by which Sackvillc is best known, is entitled "The Mirror for Magistrates." In it, most of the illustrious but unfortunate characters of English history, from the Conquest to the end of the fourteenth century, are made to pass in review before the poet, who, conducted by Sorrow, descends, like Dante, into the infernal regions. Each character recites his own misfortunes in a separate soliloquy. But Sackville finished only the preface called the 11 Induction," and one legend, the Life of the Duke of Buckingham. He left the completion of the whole to Richard Baldwyne and Georgo Ferrers. These called in others to aid them, and the whole collection or set of poems was published in 1559, with this title, "A Mirror for Magistrates, wherein may be seen, by example of others, with how grievous plagues vices arc punished, and how frail and how unstable worldly prosperity is found, even of those whom fortune seemeth most highly to favor."
The whole poem is one of a very remarkable kind for the age, and the part executed by Sackville exhibits a strength of description and a power of drawing allegorical characters scarcely inferior to Spenser, and had he completed the whole, and with the same power as that exhibited in the commencement, he would have ranked among the first poets of England.
ALLEGORICAL CHARACTERS IN HELL.
And first, within the porch and jaws of hell,
Her eyes unstcadfast, rolling here and there,
Whirl'd on each place, as place that vengeance brought,
So was her mind continually in fear,
Tost and tormented with the tedious thought
Of those detested crimes which she had wrought;
With dreadful cheer, and looks thrown to the sky,
Wishing for death, and yet she could not die.
Next, saw we Dhead, all trembling how he shook,
And, next, within the entry of this lake,
Sat fell Retcxoe, gnashing her teeth for ire:
Devising means how she may vengeance take;
Never in rest, till she have her desire;
But frets within so far forth with the fire
Of wreaking flames, that now determines she
To die by death, or 'veng'd by death to be.
When fell Revenoe, with bloody foul pretence,
His face was lean, and some-deal pined away,
His food, for most, was wild fruits of the tree,
Whose wretched state when wo had well beheld,
With tender ruth on him, and on his fears,
In thoughtful cares forth then our pace we held;
And, by and by, another shape appears
Of greedy Cahe, sti',1 brushing up the briers;
But let the night's black misty mantles rise,
By him lay heavy Sleep, the cousin of Death,
And next in order sad, Oin-AnE we found:
There heard we him with broke and hollow plaint
Crook-back'd lie was, tooth-shaken, and blear-eyed;
And fast by him pale Maladt was placed:
But, oh, the doleful sight that then we see 1
We turn'd our look, and on the other side
A grisly shape of Famixe mought we see:
Writh greedy looks, and gaping mouth, that cried
And roar'd for meat, as she should there have died;
Her body thin and bare as any bone,
Whereto was left nought but the case alone.
And that, alas, was gnawen every where,
Great was her force, whom stone-wall could not stay:
Where you may count each sinew, bone, and vein. 1
Lastly, stood War, in glittering arms yclad,
Cities he saok'd, and realms (that whilom flower'd
SIR THOMAS OVERBURY. 1581—1013.
Sia Thomas OvEaurnir, a miscellaneous writer, and "one of the most finished gentlemen about the court'' of James I., is well known by the tragic circumstances of his death. Born of an ancient family in Gloucestershire, after taking his degree at the University of Oxford, he entered the Middle Temple as a law student. B'.it his inclinations turning more to polite literature, he made an ellbrt to advance his fortune at the court, and was successful. But opposing the infamous Countess of Essex in one of her criminal schemes, he was, by her influence, thrown into the Tower, and was soon after taken oif by poison administeied to him by her means, with the knowledge of her husband. The murder, though committed on the 13th of September, 1013, was not discovered till two years after, when all was brought to light, and four of the parties concerned were executed. But James, to his lasting disgrace, pardoned the two principals, the Countess of Essex and her husband, that base favorite of James, the Earl of Somerset.
The murder of this accomplished man is one of the most disgraceful passages in the history of England, and the sympathy which his late excited is demonstrated by the many elegies and tributes of grief which were poured forth from all quarters "on the untimely death of Sir Thoi»as Overbury, poysoned in the Tower." Sir Thomas is known in letters, both as a poet and prose writer. In the former character, his chief productions are his once famous poem called " The Wife,'1 and a smaller one called "The Choice