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one of these, indeed, it might naturally be supposed that his temperament, in a high degree sensitive and susceptible, would peculiarly incline him; and it was not, therefore, long before his seclusion became doubly interesting to him through the influence of the tenderest of the affections, an influence, indeed, to which, with the young and imaginative, solitude has been found very generally to lead.
The object of his attachment was a descendant of an ancient and honourable house, a daughter of Cunningham of Barnes, a lady young, and beautiful, and accomplished, and possessing, like himself, an enthusiastic love for retirement. Yet it would appear from the tenor of his poems, that, notwithstanding this congeniality of taste, it was long before he had made any deep impression on the heart of his mistress, and that he had had some reason to complain of her coldness and reserve. At length, however, he was made happy by a return of affection, and the day was even fixed for the celebration of their nuptials, when, by one of those inscrutable decrees of Providence to which, in this world of trial and probation, we are called upon to submit, she was suddenly snatched from him by the hand
of death, a violent fever terminating her life, and, with her, all his fondest dreams of happiness on earth.
To a heart of such keen sensibility as was our poet's, alive to all the finer feelings of humanity, yet taught by habit and secession from general society to centre all its hopes and wishes on one beloved object, the shock must have been for a time almost overwhelming. If we may judge, indeed, from his poetical effusions, it was never entirely surmounted, but has thrown over the greater portion of them that interesting air of melancholy which so much attaches us to the writings of Petrarch. In fact, the most striking affinity may be found between the passion and the poetry of the two bards; they had each alike to lament the reserve and the loss of the objects of their first affection; and their sonnets may with equal propriety be divided into those which were written previous to, and after their respective deaths.
It shall now be my pleasing task to select from these two classes of our author's sonnets a few instances, which will assuredly prove with what exquisite taste and feeling, with what delicacy of
thought and felicity of expression, this neglected poet of the early part of the seventeenth century could utter the sorrows of his heart.
From the first and second specimens, culled from those sonnets which were written during the progress of his amour, we may form some idea not only of the person of his mistress, but of the character of her mind, which appears to have been both amiable and of a superior cast.
O sacred blush empurpling cheeks, pure skies
With crimson wings, which spread thee like the morn ;
That can at once both bless and make forlorn ;
That trembling stood before her words were born;
So sweetly you from love's "dear hope warn" me,
The frail and transitory existence of youth and female charms was never more impressively whispered in the ear of unrelenting beauty than through the medium of the following sonnet :
Trust not, sweet soul, those curled waves of gold,
Nor voice, whose sounds more strange effects do show
Dark hyacinth, of late whose blushing beams
The cruel tyrant that did kill those flowers
Of the various pieces which, in this section of his sonnets, the poet has composed to lament the insensibility of his mistress, or to soothe his own sorrows, I shall select one which will immediately remind the reader of a passage on the same subject in Shakspeare's Henry the Fourth. To say that this little poem has any pretensions to rival the celebrated invocation of our great dramatist, which I consider, indeed, as incomparable, would be absurd; but it may be averred, that for the brief and restricted nature of the sonnet, it has merit of no common kind.
SLEEP, Silence' child! sweet father of soft rest!
Come as thou wilt, and what thou wilt bequeath,
Much, however, as from this portion of his works our bard might be supposed fettered and absorbed by the cruel uncertainties of love, there is every reason to conclude from the sonnet I am about to quote, and which forms a part of these early productions, that he suffered not his mind to be enervated and broken down by a state of suspense; but that, as his lines nobly express it, an honest ambition, and the desire of living well, if not long, bore him up against all the suggestions of indolence or despair.