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Sweet Sun, when thou look’st on,
Pray her regard my moan !
To yield some pity woo her!
Tell her, her beauty dreads one.
[From the Sixe Idillia.]
Like as the rising morning shows a grateful lightening,
THE PRAYER OF THEOCRITUS FOR SYRACUSE.
O Jupiter, and thou Minerva fierce in fight,
[Born about 1555: died before 1616. His Diana was first published in 1592. An edition by Mr. W.C. Hazlitt was published by Pickering in 1859.]
Almost nothing is known of the life of Henry Constable. He belonged to a Yorkshire family ; he was educated at Cambridge ; he was acquainted with the Earl of Essex, with Anthony Bacon, with the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, with the Countess of Pembroke and Lady Rich. His sonnets to the soul of Sir Philip Sidney seem to prove that he was honoured with the friendship of the auther of the Defence of Poesie. As 'a Catholic and an honest man,' as he calls himself, Constable could not escape suspicion in the suspicious England of his time. He passed much of his life in exile, wandering in France, Scotland, Italy, and Poland, and was acquainted with prisons and courts.
The slight but graceful genius of Constable is best defined by some of the epithets which his contemporary critics employed. They spoke of his 'pure, quick, and high delivery of conceit.' Ben Jonson alludes to his 'ambrosiac muse.' His secular poems are 'Certaine sweete sonnets in the praise of his mistress, Diana,' conceived in the style of Ronsard and the Italians. The verses of his later days, when he had learned, as he says, “to live alone with God,' are also sonnets in honour of the saints, and chiefly of Mary Magdalene. They are ingenious, and sometimes too cleverly confuse the passions of divine and earthly love. In addition to the sonnets we have four pleasant lyrics which Constable contributed to England's Helicon. We select two of these pastorals, one being an idyllic dialogue between two shepherdesses ; the other, “The Shepherd's Song of Venus and Adonis.' These things have at once the freshness of a young, and the trivial grace of a decadent literature, so curiously varied were the influences of the Renaissance in England. Shakespeare and Constable begin where Bion leaves off. Constable was neither more nor less than a fair example of a poet who followed rather than set the fashion. His sonnets were charged and overladen with ingenious conceits, but the freshness, the music, of his more free and flowing lyrics remain, and keep their charm.
A PASTORAL SONG BETWEEN PHILLIS AND AMARILLIS, TWO
NYMPHS, EACH ANSWERING OTHER LINE FOR LINE.
Heigh ho silly sleights :
Eyes like beams of burning sun :
Happy man is he:
Fie upon such treachery.
Heigh ho guileful grief ;
Heigh ho silly swain :
Was he not kind to her again?
Heigh ho shepherds God is he :
Troth-plight broke will plagued be.
Fie on false deceit :
There can be no grief more great.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho equal meed : She was beguild that had betrayed,
So shall all deceivers speed.
Heigh-ho hard of heart :
Scorners shall be sure of smart.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho lovely sweet :
Phillis. Methinks, love is an idle toy,
Heigh-ho busy pain :
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, coy disdain :
Phillis, Well, Amarillis, now I yield,
Shepherds, pipe aloud : Love conquers both in town and field,
Like a tyrant, fierce and proud.