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beauty and elegance to the best of those composed by Tasso, Petrarch, and Milton. It is generally admitted that the author of “Paradise Lost” admired, and studied deeply the poetry of Drummond, and is said to have been indebted to him for some of the finest thoughts contained in his own minor pieces. “ If any poems,” says Pinkerton, “possess a very high degree of that exquisite delicacy which we so much admire in Comus,' those of Drummond do. Milton may often be traced to him. If we had no Drummond, perhaps we should never have seen the delicacies of Comus,' 'Lycidas,' ' Il Penseroso,' and 'L'Allegro.""
An edition of Drummond's poems was published in 1656 by Edward Phillips, the nephew of Milton. The following observations show the high reputation which the Scotch poet enjoyed even at that early period. “His poems,” says Phillips, “are the effects of a genius the most polite and verdant that ever the Scottish nation produced. If I should also affirm, that neither Tasso, nor Guarini, nor any of the most neat and refined spirits of Italy, nor even the choicest of our English poets, can challenge any advantage above bim, it could not be adjudged an attribute superior to what he deserves. And for the history, had there been nothing else extant of his writings, consider but the language bow florate and ornate it is consider the order, and the prudent conduct of the story, and you will rank him in the number of the best writers; and compare him even with Thuanus himself. Neither is he less happy in his verse than prose; for here are all those graces met together, that conduce any thing towards the making up a complete and perfect poet; a decent and becoming majesty, a brave and admirable height, and a wit so flowing that Jove himself never drank nectar that sparkled with a more sprightly lustre."
There is an eloquent critique in the ninth volume of "The Retrospective Reviews on Drummond's works. After quoting several of his most beautiful sonnets, as, for example, those to the “Nightingale;" on “Night;" on "Sleep; on the “Pleasures of a Lonely Life;" and on“ Spring;” the reviewer winds up with the fol
lowing graceful compliment to the poetic genius of the author :“Drummond loved the country with that deep and placid love which a calm and contemplative poet alone feels. He had suffered deeply-he possessed a rich store of learning,—he had a wise and thoughtful turn of mind,-and, feeling a lively cherish for all the charms of nature, he indulged his genius in poeticophilosophical reflections upon life, its vicissitudes, hopes, sorrows, and vanities. To one of this mood, no form of poetry is so admirably adapted as the sonnet; the entire, the unique, the harmonious, the dignified sonnet, that little poem, big with one fine sentiment, richly adorned and delicately wrought, never tiring-never flagging,—which bursts forth with an organ-like peal, and proceeds in a sustained and majestic march, until the soft and melodious close sweetly and gently winds up the whole. When a silver voice takes its course through a fine sonnet, like many of those of our author, we listen to it as to an oracle; when the sound ceases, we feel as if a revelation had been made, and the very silence becomes musical. No poem leaves the mind in a finer mood than the grand and solemn sonnet.”
It has been already observed that the poetical claims of Drummond did not, for a great length of time, attract public attention. After the edition of his works, which appeared in 1656, and to which we have referred, many years elapsed before it was found necessary to print another impression. In 1711, however, a Scotch publisher in Edinburgh brought out a new edition of his compositions, both in prose and poetry, to which an account of his life was prefixed. From this memoir Dr. Drake collected the materials which form one of the most interesting essays, on the genius of this amiable poet, that has ever been written. It will be found in the first volume of his “Mornings in Spring," and is deserving of an attentive perusal, not merely for the taste and feeling displayed in the composition, but for the number of beautiful specimens of Drummond's poetry which are interwoven with the narrative. In modern times several favourable notices of his
poetical works have been written by Warton, in his “ Essay on Poetry;" by Pinkerton, in his “Specimens of the Ancient Scottish Poets," and by Lord Woodhouselee, in his “ Life of Kames.”
BORN, 1588; DIED, 1667.
Though living scorned, and never read,
Dr. William King.
A few admirers of our old English poetry have taken great pains to extol the writings of George Wither, though some authors and critics, of no mean reputation have ridiculed his poetry and depreciated his talents. The most interesting and copious account of his life and works will be found in Willmott's “Lives of the Sacred Poets.” He was the son of respectable parents, and born at Bentworth, in Hampshire, in 1588. After receiving an excellent preliminary education from a celebrated schoolmaster in an adjoining parish, he entered, in 1603, Magdalen College, Oxford. He had not been long there before he began to exercise his poetical talents; and his father, being apprehensive that injurious results would follow from this early devotion to the muses, prematurely recalled him from the University to follow agricultural pursuits. To a boy of his education and ripening taste, the humble and laborious pursuit marked out for him by his parent was peculiarly dislasteful. He accordingly made his way to London, and entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn. He was then only eighteen years old; and soon after his arrival in the great city, he became acquainted with William Browne, the eminent pastoral poet, whose literary tastes were congenial with his own. Wither soon discovered that his love of poetry was stronger than that of law; and in 1613 he published a volume of poetical satires on the manners of the times, entitled, “ Abuses Stript and Whipt,” for which he was committed to the Marshalsea, and lay there for several months. Of his sufferings during his confinement, he published an affecting account in a work called “Scholler's Purgatory." Ho was, however, consoled in his adversity by the sympathy of his friends and admirers, who visited him in multitudes while in prison, and ministered to his necessities.
Wither did not suffer his misfortunes to depress his spirits, nor to weaken the powers of his mind. While in prison," says Mr. Campbell, "he wrote his 'Shepherd's Hunting,' which contains, perhaps, the finest touches that ever came from his hasty and irregular pen; and besides those prison eclogues, he composed his 'Satire to the King-a justification of his former satires, which, if it gained him his liberation, certainly effected it without retracting his principles.” From this time he continued to write poetry and prose to the day of his death. The writer of his life in Gorton's " Biographical Dictionary” adds the following particulars respecting his subsequent career :-“He attached himself to the party of the Puritans; and when the civil war broke out, he took an active part on the side of Parliament, and sold an estate to raise a troop of horse, and obtained the rank of major. On the Restoration, he lost all that he had amassed by his previous employment; and having published a piece denominated Vox Vulgi,' which was deemed seditious, he was committed to Newgate, and afterwards to the Tower, where he was denied the use of pen, ink, and paper. In this confinement he remained more than three years, and wrote several things, by the connivance of the keeper, which were subsequently published; but he reached the age of seventynine, and died May 2, 1667.” His “Hymns and Songs of the Church” are held in high estimation. The brief specimens we have given of his poetry are sufficient to prove, that he possessed abilities of the highest order. À writer in Chambers's “Cyclopedia of English Literature" observes, with reference to the masterly compositions which he penned when in confinement:“Some of his happiest strains were composed in prison; his limbs were incarcerated within stone walls and iron bars, but his fancy was among the hills and plains, with
shepherds hunting, or loitering with poesy by rustling boughs and murmuring springs. There is a freshness and natural vivacity in the poetry of Wither, that render his early works a 'perpetual feast. We cannot say that it is a feast' where no crude surfeit reigns,' for he is often harsh, obscure, and affected; but he has an endless diversity of style and subjects, and true poetical feeling and expression.”
Willmott's narrative of Wither's trial and imprisonment, of his noble conduct during the prevalence of the plagne in London, and of the many severe trials which it was his lot to endure, is extremely touching and interesting. Wither was married to an excellent woman; and during the time he was confined in Newgate, her absence and destitute condition, and the poverty to which his children were reduced in consequence of his imprudence, were the subject of frequent religious meditation. It was his custom to give vent to his feelings in the most impassioned poetical compositions. His biographer has selected the following simple verses as a specimen of his poetry, composed under these afflicting circumstances. He wrote a letter to his beloved children a few days before his trial, which resembles in tone and feeling Sir Walter Raleigh's celebrated epistle to his wife, composed a short time previous to his execution. The subjoined production is alike admirable for its pathos and siniplicity:
Thereof be therefore heedful,
Them favour not the less,
In this our great distress.
Out of this land of life.
d husband to my wife. *
* In the beautiful letter addressed to his wife by Sir Walter Raleigh, men under the fear of immediate execution, he says, after alluding to the Tanity of human life:"Teach your son, also, to love and fear God while he is yet young, that the fear of God may grow up with him, and then God will be a husband to you, and a father to him—a husband and a father that cannot be taken from you.” Quarles in his “Prayers and Meditan tions” frequently uses the same image.