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for William Browne," says his impartial and judicious reviewer, “no very lofty praise for bim; but some share of the attention of the lovers of English poetry, and of those interested in the history of our noble language, we are bure he deserves. He is merely a descriptive poet, and has not attempted to reach the higher walks of poetry. There is no passion of any kind in his productions, nor is there either pathos or humour. His invention, which is esteemed the soul of poetry, gives birth to but a tame and languid progeny of characters and incidents. Yet, with all this, he is an amiable and pleasing poet, and his faults and vices are chiefly attributable to the want of taste, judgment, and knowledge of mankind, incident to the very early age at which he wrote. He seems to have observed the face of nature with the quick eye of a lover; and the scenes and incidents which he could draw from actual experience, he has developed with a natural and lively pen. Had he trusted to nature more confidently, and more implicitly followed the bent of his own genius, strengthened by time, he would have excelled in the ethical cast of poetry in which Cowper is 80 eminent a master; and would, like him, have made rural descriptions the ornaments, and not the staple, of his poetry. On the whole, his muse cannot be said to possess either the soaring ambition of the eagle, nor yet the equable dignity of the majestic swan; but she is not without the meek and placid beauty of the dove, and, like her, affects the woods, and sends from their recesses many a deep and tender note."
As a pleasing specimen of Browne's talent in describing rural objects, the author of the extract we have quoted selects the following verses as an example, and compares them with a lovely picture of a morning landscape, from the pen of Leigh Hunt, an author of real genius, whether regarded as a critic, a poet, or an essayist.
And as within a landskip that doth stand
A huntsman here followes his cry of hounds,
Make the beholder's eyes to take no rest. The lines which follow, from Leigh Hunt's story of “Rimini,” show the different style in which rural objects are described by that natural poet.
The sun is up, and 'tis a morn of May
And chase the whistling brine, and swirl into the bay. Campbell, Hallam, Chambers, Craik, and other critics who have passed their judgment on the poetical character of Browne, concur in opinion, on all leading points, in their estimate of his genius. Southey observes : "that Browne was a poet who produced no slight effect upon his contemporaries. George Wither, in his happiest pieces,
has learned the manner of his friend; and Milton may be traced to him. In our days, his peculiarities have been caught, and his beauties imitated by men, who will themselves find admirers and imitators hereafter.” The late Henry Neele, in his admirable "Lectures on English Poetry," from the reign of Edward III., to the time of Cowper and Burns, records his opinion of Browne in still more unmeasured terms of praise. “It has been complained,” he remarks,“ that English literature, however rich in other respects, is very defective in pastoral poetry; but this is a complaint which can only be made by critics, who are ignorant of the existence of such a poet as Browne. He is a writer thoroughly and entirely English. His scenery is English. He paints not Arcadia or Utopia; but he takes us to the leafy shores of Devon, and the fertile banks of Tamar, and describes their beauties with the ardour of a lover, and the truth of a painter. His music is not of the oaten stop, or of the pastoral pipe, or of the wild harp of antiquity; but of the ploughman's whistle, the milk-maid's song, the sheep-bell, and the minstrelsy rung out from beneath some neighbouring spire. Browne confines himself to the scenery of manners which he has seen and known. His works, although full of truth and nature, are richa in poetry and imagination; for to these nature and truth are not opposed, but are the best and surest inspirers and auxiliaries."
In the Cabinet series of the English poets, published in a cheap and convenient form by H. G. Clarke and Co. of London, the poetical works of William Browne are included. Among other testimonies to his merits, as a descriptive poet, the editor quotes the subjoined eloquent passage from Miller's "Rural Sketches,”—a modern author who has written some very pleasing poetry, and whose prose compositions are admired for their elegance of style :-" There is a green look about his pages, he carries with him the true aroma of old forests, his lines are mottled with rich mosses, and there is a gnarled ruggedness upon the stems of his trees. His waters have a wet look and a splashing sound about them, and you feel the fresh air play around
you while you read. His birds are the free denizens of the fields, and they send their songs so life-like through the covert, that their music rings upon the ear, and you are carried away with his 'sweet pipings.' He heard the sky-lark sing in the blue dome of heaven before he transferred its warblings to his pages, and inhaled the perfume of the flowers he described; the roaring of the trees was to him an old familiar sound; his soul was a rich storehouse for all that is beautiful in nature. But he is dead, and needs not our praise. He has erected for himself a monument which will stand securely when we are forgotten. Nearly two centuries have already swept over his grave, and (so far as our limited research has been carried) no one has arisen to do his memory that justice which it deserves."
Ꭱ 0 B Ꭼ Ꭱ Ꭲ Ꮋ Ꭼ Ꭱ Ꭱ Ꭵ Ꮯ Ꮶ .
Born, 1691 ; Died, 1660. ROBERT HERRICK was one of the sweetest lyrical poets of the age in which he lived. Like many others of the early votaries of the muse, his productions were neglected, and his name scarcely known, until many years after his death. In Nicholl's “History of Leicestershire" some account is given of his life. “The Gentleman's Magazine” for 1796 and 1797 called public attention to his poetical merits; and Dr. Drake in his “Literary Hours," a pleasing and instructive work, assisted to rescue several of his most delightful effusions from unmerited oblivion. Ellis, also, in his “Specimens of the Early English Poets,” rendered similar assistance ; and, at a later period, the fullest justice has been done to his varied excellences by an able writer in the fifth volume of “ The Retrospective Review." There is nothing sufficiently remarkable in the life of Herrick to demand a lengthened notice. He was born in London in the year 1591. His father was an eminent goldsmith in Cheapside. He received his education at St. John's College, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and took orders as a clergyman of the Church of England. In 1629 he was presented by Charles I. to the living of Dean Prior, in Devonshire. In this retreat, he spent nineteen years without any interruption to his duties as a clergyman; and, during that period, he composed many of his most popular poems. He was a favourite with the most distinguished patrons of literature in his day. Amongst other eminent persons by whom he was esteemed were Ben Jonson, and the celebrated John Selden. Under the government of Oliver Cromwell, he was deprived of his living, in common with many others of the Episcopal clergy; but it was restored to him after Charles II. came to the throne, in 1660. He lived to an advanced age; the precise period of his death has not been ascertained; it is supposed to have taken place in 1660. His compositions were published in 1648, under the title of “ Hesperides, or the works, both human and divine, of Robert Herrick.”
Herrick's writings cannot be recommended as entirely free from objection on the ground of morality. The fascination of his style, and the flowing melody of his versification, render his impurities of thought the more dangerous; and when it is recollected, that he was a member of the sacred profession, even the vices of the times afford no justification of his grossness. Notwithstanding this defect, selections have been made from his productions eminently distinguished for beauty and simplicity. As a religious poet, he was not so celebrated as for his lyrical effusions, though his “Dirge of Jeptha," and his “Litany of the Holy Spirit,” are characterized by pure sentiment and deep feeling. Dr. Nott, of Bristol, published in 1810 a selection of Herrick's poems, with an account of his life. Dr. Drake classes Herrick's poetry under the divisions of Amatory, Anacreontic, Horatian, Moral, and Descriptive; and he gives several felicitous illustrations of each. His pathetic verses addressed to “Blossoms” and to “Daffodils, which will be found among our selections under the division of Natural History, are written in a spirit of tender melancholy that leaves a pleasing and moral impression on the mind.
The sacred poems of Herrick are entitled, “ Noble Numbers, or his Pious Pieces.” They consist of a series