페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

tion, the manly and vigorous language in which they clothed their fine thoughts, were beyond his reach. Yet he is neither without tenderness, nor fancy, and writes about nature in an easy, luxuriant style, and with a zest and heartiness which is sometimes charming. In one respect he might have been worthily imitated, by the poets of the century succeeding his own; for he describes nature naturally, singing, in mellifluous notes, of beauty which he has himself observed and enjoyed. Had Browne yielded himself up to the sweet influences of the country, instead of suffering his powers to be in subjection to the potent spirits around him, he might have left a rural poem, which would have given as much pleasure to this generation, as his pastorals seem to have given to his contemporaries. As it is, he afforded suggestions to a poet of a far higher order, for Keats would not have written "Endymion " if he had not first read the pastorals of Browne.

STANLEY. And his "Philarete" produced a "Lycidas." No mere rhymester ever succeeded in thus quickening the poetic life in other men; and therefore is Browne entitled to a place in the noble fraternity of poets.

TALBOT. Some of Browne's rural passages have a genuine ring about them, which is very pleasant. One feels sure that he loved what he wrote about, and found a poet's enjoyment in his work. His poems abound with similies, and the greater number, indeed, all the best of them, are taken from the sights, with which a country liver is most familiar. Let me read you two or three of these passages. They will give a fair notion of Browne's style. The first picture I select may be entitled

66

SQUIRREL HUNTING.

As a nimble squirrel from the wood,
Ranging the hedges for his filbert food,
Sits pertly on a bough his brown nuts cracking,
And from the shell the sweet white kernel taking,
Till (with their crooks and bags) a sort of boys
(To share with him) come with so great a noise,
That he is forced to leave a nut nigh broke,
And for his life leap to a neighbour oak;
Thence to a beech, thence to a row of ashes;
Whilst, through the quagmires and red water plashes,
The boys run dabbling through thick and thin:
One tears his hose, another breaks his shin;
This, torn and tatter'd, hath with much ado
Got by the briars; and that hath lost his shoe ;
This drops his band; that headlong falls for haste ;
Another cries behind for being last.

With sticks and stones, and many a sounding hollow,
The little fool, with no small sport, they follow."

And now I will read you the description of

A MAY-DAY SCENE.

"As I have seen the Lady of the May,
Set in an arbour (on an holiday),

Built by the May-pole, where the jocund swains
Dance with the maidens to the bagpipe's strains,
When envious night commends them to be gone,
Call for the merry youngsters one by one,
And for their well performance soon disposes-
To this a garland, interwove with roses;
To that a carved hook, or well-wrought scrip,
Gracing another with her cherry lip;
To one her garter, to another then
A handkerchief cast o'er and o'er again;
And none returneth empty that hath spent
His pains to fill their rural merriment."

My next extract may bear the title of

THE LULLABY.

"But, as when some kind nurse doth long time keep
Her pretty babe at suck, whom, fall'n asleep,

She lays down in his cradle, stints his cry
With many a sweet and pleasing lullaby ;
Whilst the sweet child, not troubled with the shock,
As sweetly slumbers as his nurse doth rock."

The following description, quaint, delicate, and beautiful, may have bewitched the soul of Keats, and charmed the fancy of Leigh Hunt. Although far inferior to that drawn in the "Eve of St. Agnes," we shall do no dishonour to the great junior poet, if we call it

MADELINE DISROBING.

"And as a lovely maiden, pure and chaste,
With naked iv'ry neck, and gown unlaced,
Within her chamber, when the day is fled,
Makes poor her garments to enrich her bed :
First puts she off her lily-silken gown,

That shrieks for sorrow as she lays it down;
And with her arms graceth a waistcoat fine,
Embracing her as it would ne'er untwine.
Her flaxen hair ensnaring all beholders,
She next permits to wave above her shoulders;
And though she cast it back, the silken slips
Still forward steal and hang upon her lips;
Whereat she, sweetly angry with her laces
Binds up the wanton locks in curious traces,
Whilst (twisting with her joints) each hair long lingers,
As loth to be enchained but with her fingers.
Then on her head a dressing like a crown;
Her breast all bare, her kirtle slipping down.

E

Prepares for sweetest rest, while sylvans greet her,
And, longingly, the down-bed swells to meet her.
So

[ocr errors]

But to what the poet compares this fair maiden need not

concern us.

HARTLEY. Neither should the passage itself, nor the quotation which preceded it, if we kept strictly to our compact. The lines, however, are not only pretty in themselves, but are a good specimen of Browne's style; we must, therefore, forget that the recital of them is out of order.

TALBOT. There has been more than one offence of this kind committed already, of which I am innocent; there will, I trow, be many more, before our readings are concluded. But I will return at once into the narrow region of poetry which we have elected to explore, and read you, as my last illustration from "Britannia's Pastorals,"

AN EARLY MORNING SCENE.

"By this had Chanticleer, the village cock,
Bidden the good wife for her maids to knock ;
And the swart ploughman for his breakfast staid,
That he might till those lands were fallow laid ;
The hills and valleys here and there resound
With re-echoes of the deep mouth'd hound
Each shepherd's daughter with her cleanly pail,
Was come a-field to milk the morning's meal;
And ere the sun had climbed the eastern hills,
To gild the mutt'ring bowers and pretty rills;
Before the labouring bee had left the hive,
And nimble fishes which in rivers dive
Began to leap, and catch the drowned fly,
I rose from rest, not infelicity."

HARTLEY. It is impossible to treat any poet fairly, by

CO

short extracts from his writings; but a luxuriant, discursive, I had almost said, slip-shod poet like Browne, should be read continuously, or not at all. The charm, whatever it may be, of his poems, is greatly owing to the feeling that runs through them, and to their rhythmical cadence. And yet, if only to prove the truth of TALBOT's assertion, I feel inclined to transgress even more than he has done, and to read one non-rural passage from the Pastorals, which touches on the feelings and aspirations of the poet. The egotism of a poet, unlike other egotism, is universally attractive. You will like Browne all the better when I have read it:

“What now I sing is but to pass away
A tedious hour as some musicians play;
Or make another my own griefs bemoan,
Or to be least alone when most alone.
In this can I as oft as I will choose,
Hug sweet content by my retired muse,
And in a study find as much to please
As others in the greatest palaces.
Each man that lives, according to his power,
On what he loves bestows an idle hour;
Instead of hounds that make the wooded hills
Talk in a hundred voices to the rills-

I like the pleasing cadence of a line,

Struck by the concert of the sacred nine.
In lieu of hawks, the raptures of my soul
Transcend their pitch and baser earth's control.
For running horses, contemplation flies
With quickest speed to win the greatest prize.
For courtly dancing, I can take more pleasure
To hear a verse keep time and equal measure.
For winning riches, seek the best directions
How I may well subdue mine own affections.

« 이전계속 »