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CHAPTER III.

Fondlings! keepe to th' citty,
Ye shall have my pitty;

But my envy not:

Since much larger measure

Of true pleasure,

I'me sure's in the country gott.

PATRICK CAREY.

Two or three days elapsed before our next meeting— glorious summer days they were, the sky unflecked by a cloud, the hot July sun crowning the woods and hills with a dazzling splendour, the sea calm as a lake, and so clear that you could see the fishes, darting hither and thither in the blue depths. In such weather, and in such scenes existence is a luxury. All intellectual doubts and spiritual perplexities are for awhile forgotten. To lie on the soft grass in the shadow of the trees, to listen to the sweet voice of the Lyn, to float idly in a boat upon the sea, was enough for me. Simple pleasures like these are ever the most satisfying; and, when they are fairly earned as a relief from labour, they are blessedness itself.

STANLEY, who had visited a relative at Bristol, returned to Lynmouth in the steamer, and on the evening after his arrival, our conversation commenced as follows:

:

HARTLEY. Our earlier poetic literature is loaded with wretched eclogues, piscatory and pastoral; and the fact that Pope commenced his career as a writer of pastorals,

proves how strong a hold that style had upon men of genius even in his day.

STANLEY. Gay, a native of Barnstaple, was born in 1688, the birth-year of Pope, and the two poets were warm friends through life. You will remember that it was at Pope's request that Gay wrote "The Shepherd's Week," in order to ridicule the pastorals of Ambrose Philips. Gay's work produced a greater effect than either Pope or its author had anticipated. "The Shepherd's Week" was intended for a burlesque; but it formed in reality a new style of pastoral, which ultimately proved the destruction of the harsh, stilted eclogues that had formerly been in fashion. Southey writing of these poems of Gay says:

"With bad eclogues I am sufficiently acquainted from Tityrus and Corydon, down to our English Strephons and Thirsisses. No kind of poetry can boast of more illustrious names, or is more distinguished by the servile dullness of imitated nonsense. Pastoral writers, more silly than their sheep, have, like their sheep, gone on in the same track one after another. Gay struck into a new path. His eclogues were the only ones which interested me when I was a boy, and did not know they were burlesque."*

*The pastorals of Ambrose Philips, which Gay undertook to ridicule, were highly successful in his own day, and are neither better nor worse than most compositions of the kind. Pope, indeed, was so irritated by the praise bestowed upon Philips in the Guardian, that the two poets are said to have lived "in a perpetual reciprocation of malevolence." I do not know that Gay's poems were opened in the course of our discussions; but, as Southey's opinion of his pastorals was read, I am tempted to extract a passage from one of them. In the burlesque which I have selected, a forsaken maiden, whose

TALBOT. Southey and his friend Wordsworth, also struck into a new field, in which since their day, some of our best poets have expatiated. "The Ruined Cottage,” “Michael,” and some other poems the names of which just now I do not remember, may have suggested "Dora," "Walking to the Mail," and "Edwin Morris," if not the two loveliest rural poems in our language,—" The Miller's Daughter," and "The Gardener's Daughter."

sweetheart has taken up with another lass, thus in homely language mourns her fate:

6

“‘Ah Colin, canst thou leave thy sweetheart true?
What I have done for thee will Cicely do?

Will she thy linen wash, or hosen darn,
And knit thee gloves made of her own spun yarn?
Will she with huswife's hand provide thy meat?
And every Sunday morn thy neck-cloth plait,
Which o'er thy kersey doublet spreading wide
In service time drew Cicely's eyes aside?

Whilom with thee 'twas Marian's dear delight
To moil all day and merry-make at night,
If in the soil you guide the crooked share,
Your early breakfast is my constant care.
And when with even hand you strow the grain,
I fright the thievish rooks from off the plain;
In misling days, when I my thresher heard,
With happy beer I to the barn repair'd;
Lost in the music of the whirling flail,
To gaze on thee I left the smoking pail :
In harvest, when the sun was mounted high,
My leathern bottle did thy draught supply,
Whene'er you mowed, I followed with the rake,
And have full oft been sunburnt for thy sake;
When in the welkin gathering showers were seen,

STANLEY. I fear, from HARTLEY's opening remarks, he is about to propose that we should spend the evening in the perusal of sundry dust-covered pastorals, which are embalmed in the "complete edition of the poets of Great Britain."

HARTLEY. Truly not I. I am no poetical resurrectionist, and should be loath to disinter those mouldy remnants of the past. But you should remember that of the pastoral poets who flourished more than two centuries ago, there are some, whose writings still preserve their vitality, and keep their memory green. Among these is William Browne, who like Gay is a Devonshire worthy, and whose name at least, as the author of "Britannia's Pastorals," is tolerably familiar.

As a poet, Browne met with great applause in his own age,* and Ben Jonson praises him heartily in the following lines :

"Some men, of books or friends not speaking right, May hurt them more with praise, than foes with spite; But I have seen thy work and I know thee,

And, if thou list thyself, what thou canst be.

I lagged the last with Colin on the green;
And when at eve returning with thy car
Awaiting heard the jingling bells from far,
Straight on the fire, the sooty pot I placed,
To warm thy broth, I burnt my hands in haste.
When hungry thou stoodst staring like an oaf,
I sliced the luncheon from the barley loaf;
With crumbled bread I thicken'd well thy mess,
Ah, love me more, or love thy pottage less!'

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* It is said that Browne's friend Pattison possessed no book at his death, except "Britannia's Pastorals;" a strange selection, if it were a matter of choice.

For though but early in these paths thou tread,
I find thee write most worthy to be read.

It must be thine own judgment, yet that sends
This thy work forth; that judgment mine commends.
And where the most read books on authors' fames,
Or like our money-brokers, take up names
On credit, and are cozened; see that thou,
By offering not more sureties than enow,
Hold thine own worth unbroke, which is so good
Upon the exchange of letters, as I would

More of our writers would, like thee, not swell

With the how much they set forth, but the how well."

Drayton, too, in his poetical "Epistle on Poets and - Poesy," yokes him with the two Beaumonts, and terms the trio,

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Rightly born poets, and in these last days,

Men of much note, and no less nobler parts."

TALBOT. Poets praised poets in those days as indiscriminately, and sometimes with as little truth, as they praised the great men to whom they dedicated their works. We have more taste in the present age, and, I would venture to hope, more honesty. As for Browne, if the poets commended him, he repaid them in honied phrases. Indeed, Browne was in great measure spoilt by the age in which he lived. It was an era of great men, and of great poets; but to be thus great, needed a strength of wing which Browne did not possess. He had imbibed those fashionable faults which then passed current for beauties, and all that was meretricious in his brother poets is still more visible in his own poems; but the noble imagina

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