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When I to them must never
Speak more with tongue or pen,
To see my face again,
Which, rip’ning into sin,
And brings destruction in.
With her besotting wine,
With faith and love divine.
Let us upon thee call,
For what may yet befall :
So constant let us be,
We may all meet in thee. With many errors and inconsistencies in his public character, Wither was in private life exceedingly amiable and much beloved. In the relations of husband and father he was a model for imitation. Willmott has recorded of him, that “his love to his wife and children was constant and unchanging: at a period when every man's hand was against his neighbour, it is delightful to recollect that one family was united in the bond of Christian amity; and that while the night without was dark and tempestuous, the humble charities of the poet's fireside were preserved inviolate.” His various works in prose and poetry are extremely voluminous. In modern times several reprints of them have appeared; and ample justice has been done to their merits by the most competent critics. His exquisite “ Address to his Muse," written during his incarceration, is one of the most finished of his compositions. As a Sacred poet he has been assigned a high rank among his contemporaries. Ellis has published several of his best pieces in his “Specimens of the Early English Poets.” In reference to his first productions, that judicious critic observes, that "they gave proof of genuine poetical talents, and were characterized by playful fancy, pure taste, and artless delicacy of sentiment." An essay was published many years ago
in “ The Gentleman's Magazine,” in which his excellence as a prose writer and a poet is correctly appreciated. Craik has delineated his character, with judgment and ability, in the second volume of his "Sketches of the History of Literature and Learning in England."
BORN, 1588; DIED, 1623. This author was born in the city of London about the year 1588.
He was the son of Dr. Giles Fletcher, nephew of Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London, and cousin of the celebrated dramatist. He was educated at Westminster School, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge, and apparently before he took his bachelor's degree, Fletcher wrote his noble poem entitled “Christ's Victorie;" the first edition of which appeared in 1610. About two years after, he received ordination; and he subsequently became rector of Aldferton in Suffolk, where he died about 1623. His claims to the character of a poet rest entirely on this one great work, which has been pronounced one of the finest religious poems in the English language. Headley, in his “Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry,” gives it the highest praise, and considers that it resembles the most sublime efforts of Spenser's muse. Milton is supposed to have borrowed several of Fletcher's happiest ideas. Whether this be the fact or not, there are passages in “ Christ's Victorie and Triumph,” which forcibly remind the reader of several remarkable scenes in “ Paradise Lost.”
The information respecting the life of this admirable poet is very limited. "Willmott observes, in reference to the brief sketch he has given of Fletcher's life: "Of his manners and conversation, of all that imparts a peculiar interest to biography, no anecdotes have been observed. The earlier years of his life were spent in the cloistered quiet of a college ; and his latter days, we have reason to fear, were worn out in sorrow and sickness. His most
17?E is much truth in the subjoined remarks by
*t with reference to the long-continued neglect of arlier writers :-“It is the present fashion,” he ves, "to speak with veneration of old English fure; but the homage we pay to it is more akin e rites of superstition than the worship of a true
Our faith is doubtful; our love cold; our #dge little or none. We now and then repeat the of some of the older writers by rote; but we are looking into their works. Though we seem disto think highly of them, and to give them every for a masculine and original view of thought, as er of literary courtesy and enlargement of taste, > afraid of coming to the proof, as too great a trial
caudour and patience. Dr. Johnson said of those is generally, that they were sought after because were scarce, and would not have been scarce had beeu much esteemed. His decision is neither true ry nor sound criticism. They were esteemed, and ved to be so." here is no author who flourished in the brilliant era "nglish poetry, which we have referred to in the
eding sketches, to whom the foregoing observations :ly with more force than to William Browne. He s one of the sweetest descriptive poets of his time, ecially in the department of pastoral composition. wile he was living, he had “ troops of friends” to ar and encourage his literary performances. Ben
wrote complimentary verses in commendatiou
lasting memorial exists in his poem, and in it we may discover the author looking mildly and beautifully forth. Although several poems had appeared in Italy, founded upon the life and resurrection of our Saviour, Fletcher claims the merit of having been the earliest of our own poets who strung his lyre to this noble theme. In the management of the subject, he was naturally influenced by the character of the Faery Queene.' Spenser died in 1598, 1599. At this time Fletcher could scarcely have been more than twelve or thirteen years old; but it is evident that his study of that charming poem commenced in childhood. In the preceding remarks it has been sometimes necessary to bring Fletcher into direct comparison with Milton. The peculiar excellences of the * Paradise Regained' and 'Christ's Victorie,' are not difficult to define. In scriptural simplicity of conception and in calm and sustained dignity of tone, the palm of supe. riority must be awarded to Milton; while in fertility of fancy, earnestness of devotion, and melody of expression, Fletcher inay be said to rival his sublime 9.1c
*Christ's Victorie' consists of a series of pictu, 38, and is deficient in unity. The power of the wr ter comes out in occasional touches of great vigour and beauty, indeed, but rendered comparatively ineffestive by their uncertainty. His poem, to employ his own magnificent image, does not blaze like a rock or diamond. It has not the lustre of one great luminous whole, unbroken in the purity of its splendour; its brilliancy is dazzling, but fragmentary. Fletcher drew his sacred imagery from Spenser; Milton, from the Bible. The first flashes; the second shines.”
The solemn verses inserted elsewhere, on “Mercy Brightening the Rainbow," may be taken as a favourable specimen of Fletcher's richness of 'style and power of description. Several other specimens are given by Willmott in his admirable criticism, and by the Rev. R. Cattermole, in his “Selections of Sacred Poetry.” Hallam's work on the “Literature of Europe” may be referred to for some judicious remarks on the comparative merits, as poets, of Giles Fletcher and his brother, Phineas.