Page images
PDF
EPUB

And yet the face continues good,

And I have still desires,
Am still the self same flesh and blood,

As apt to melt

And suffer from those fires;
Oh! some kind power unriddle where it lies,
Whether my heart be faulty, or her eyes !

She every day her man does kill,

And I as often die;
Neither her power then, nor my will

Can question'd be:

What is the mystery?
Sure beauty's empires, like to greater states,
Have certain periods set, and hidden fates."

There are, among Suckling's minor pieces, two of a different description from any we have extracted ; and they are great favorites with us, (who, to "own the soft impeachment,” are a little given to the romantic,) because they shew that even he-courtier, soldier, and fine gentleman as he was-could feel and write of love, as if it were not always a trifle or a toy-still less an itching of the blood-but a noble and pure, and consequently an ennobling and purifying affection of the mind. It is remarkable, too, that these pieces are addressed to a person who seems to have been at once an intimate friend of the writer, and his rival in loving the same lady. This, more than anything else could, proves to us (who, when the critical pen is out of our hand, profess to know something of such matters,) that the feeling in question is of what we should call the right sort; we hold, as a private theory of our own, that two persons of

love one and the same person of the other sex knowingly, not only without its weakening those bonds of friendship that may have previously existed between them, but to the manifest strengthening and tightening of them. We hold that this may happen ; that it ever has happened, is more than we shall say; and that it ever will happen, is more than we have any desire of proving in our own persons. But these pleasant egotists, the Poets, are inciting us to follow their tempting example, which must not be. They have a prescriptive privilege to be egotists; which it is to be hoped we critics never shall : for poetry generally begins in egotism ; whereas criticism would be pretty sure to end there.

We shall close our extracts from the minor pieces of Suckling, by giving one of those which have led to the above re

for one sex may

VOL. IX. PART I.

D

marks. The reader will find it to be in many parts most exquisitely thought and felt, and expressed throughout with a simplicity and purity worthy of such thoughts and feelings.

My dearest rival, least our love
Should with eccentric motion move,
Before it learn to go astray,
We'll teach and set it in a way,
And such directions give unto't,
That it shall never wander foot.
Know first then, we will serve as true
For one poor smile, as we would do
If we had what our higher flame,
Or our vainer wish, could frame.
Impossible shall be our hope;
And love shall only have his scope
To join with fancy now and then,
And think, what reason would condemn :
And on these grounds we'll love as true,
As if they were most sure t'ensue:
And chastely for these things we'll stay,
As if to-morrow were the day.
Mean time we two will teach our hearts
In love's burdens to bear their parts :
Thou first shalt sigh, and say she's fair;
And I'll still answer, past compare.
Thou shalt set out each part o'th' face,
While I extol each little

grace:
Thou shalt be ravish'd at her wit;
And I, that she so governs it:
Thou shalt like well that hand, that eye,
That lip, that look, that majesty ;
And in good language them adore :
While I want words, and do it more.
Yea we will sit and sigh a while,
And with soft thoughts some time beguile;
But straight again break out, and praise
All we had done before, new-ways.
Thus will we do, till paler death
Come with a warrant for our breath.
And then whose fate shall be to die
First of us two, by legacy
Shall all his store bequeath, and give
His love to him that shall survive;

For no one stock can ever serve

To love so much as she'll deserve." The above piece leads us to a remark which cannot in fairness be omitted in describing Suckling's poetry. It is is,that, notwithstanding he is freer in his opinions of women and of love, than any of his contemporaries, he is without comparison the purest and most unexceptionable of them in his mode of expression. The truth is, the ear is the most canting and hypocritical member of the body; and it frequently becomes delicate and fastidious in proportion as its fellow-servants become less so.

In turning to Suckling's prose, (which consists entirely of private letters, with the exception of a kind of remonstrance on what should be the nature of the king's conduct in the beginning of the Long Parliament-and an argument addressed to Lord Dorset, called "an account of Religion by Reason,”)—the first observation that it occurs to us to make, is on the marked difference between his manner of addressing men and women. With the first-at least with his companions—he is himselfairy, gay, negligent, witty, and natural;--with the second, he is, though frequently elegant, yet laboured, antithetical, and artificial. We shall find several portions in each of these kinds, well worth extracting. Nothing can be more charming in its way, than the following bantering dissuasion from love, addressed to an intimate companion.

" Jack,

Though your disease be in the number of those that are better cured with time than precept, yet since it is lawful for every man to practise upon them that are forsaken and given over (which I take to be your state) I will adventure to prescribe to you ; and of the innocence of the physic you shall not need to doubt, since I can assure you I take it daily myself.

“ To begin methodically, I should enjoin. you travel ; for absence doth in a kind remove the cause (removing the object) and answers the physicians' first recipe, vomiting and purging; but this would be too harsh, and indeed not agreeing to my way. I therefore advise you to see her as often as you can, for (besides that the rarity of visits endears them) this may bring you to surprise her, and to discover little defects, which though they cure not absolutely, yet they qualify the fury of the fever: as near as you can, let it be unseasonably, when she is in sickness, and disorder; for that will let you know she is mortal, and a woman, and the last would be enough to a wise man: if you could draw her to discourse of things she understands not, it would not be amiss.

“Contrive yourself often into the company of the cry'd up beauties ; for if you read but one book, it will be no wonder if you speak or write that style; variety will breed distraction, and that will be a kind of diverting the humour.

“I would not have you deny yourself the little things (for these agues are easier cured with surfeits than abstinence) rather, if you can, taste at all : for that (as an old author saith) will let you see

That the thing for which we woo,
Is not worth so much ado.

“ But since that here would be impossible, you must be content to take it where you can get it. And this for your comfort I must tell you, Jack, that mistress and woman differ no otherwise than Fontiniack and ordinary grapes; which though a man loves never so well, yet if he surfeit of the last, he will care but little for the first.

“ I would have you leave that foolish humour, Jack, of saying you are not in love with her, and pretending you care not for her; for smothered fires are dangerous, and malicious humours are best and safest vented and breathed out. Continue

your

affection to your rival still, that will secure you from one way of loving, which is in spite ; and

preserve your friendship with her woman; for who knows but she may help you to the remedy.

“ A jolly glass and right company would much conduce to the cure; for though in the scripture (by the way it is but Apocrypha) woman is resolved stronger than wine, yet whether it will be so or not, when wit is joined to it, may prove a fresh question.

Marrying, as our friend the late ambassador hath wittily observed, would certainly cure it; but that is a kind of live pigeons laid to the soals of the feet, a last remedy, and, to say truth, worse than the disease.

“ But, Jack, I remember I promised you a letter, not a treatise. I now expect you should be just, and as I have shewed

you

how to get out of love, so you (according to the bargain) should teach me how to get into it. I know you have but one way, and will prescribe me now to look upon Mistress Howard ; but for that, I must tell you afore-hand, that it is in love as in antipathy; the capers which will make

my

Lord of Dorset go from the table, another man will eat up. And, Jack, if you would make a visit to Bedlam, you shall find, that there are rarely two there mad for the same thing.

Your humble Servant."

In giving a few examples of Suckling's more laboured and artificial style of letter writing, we shall chuse such only as have merit sufficient to almost compensate for these great defects-such as evince great activity of mind, are filled with ideas, images, and fancies; and abound in elegant compliments and most happy turns of thought and expression.

In this letter he waxes alınost, if not quite romantic; and we could half persuade ourselves that he was as serious and sincere as he wished himself to be thought. And doubtless he was so for the moment.

“When I receive your lines, my dear Princess, and find there expressions of a passion; though reason and my own immerit tell me, it must not be for me; yet is the cozenage so pleasing to me, that I (brib'd by my own desires) believe them still before the other. Then do I glory that my virgin-love has stayed for such an object to fix upon, and think how good the stars were to me, that kept me from quenching those flames (youth or wild love furnished me withal) in common and ordinary waters, and reserved me a sacrifice for your eyes. -While thought thus smiles and solaces himself within me, cruel remembrance breaks in upon our retirements, and tells so sad a story, that (trust me) I forget all that pleased fancy said before, and turn my thoughts to where I left you. Then I consider that storms neither know.courtship, nor pity, and that those rude blasts will often make you a prisoner this winter, if they do no worse.

“While I here enjoy fresh diversion, you make the sufferings more, by having leisure to consider them; nor have I now any way left me to make mine equal with them, but by often considering that they are not so: for the thought that I cannot be with you to bear my share, is more intolerable to me, than if I had borne more—–But I was only born to number hours, and not enjoy them

-yet can I never think myself unfortunate, while I can write myself,

Aglaura,

Her humble Servant."

The two following are in a different style, and may be cited as perfect specimens of a finished courtliness—such as it would become a courtier of inferior rank to address to one who was his superior. There is nothing in Pope's Letters of this class that is equal to these:

• My Noble Lord
“ Your humble servant had the honour to receive from your

hand a letter, and had the grace upon the sight of it to blush. I but then found my own negligence, and but now could have the opportunity to ask pardon for it. We have ever since been upon a march, and the places we are come to, have afforded rather blood than ink; and of all things, sheets have been the hardest to come by, especially those of paper. If these few lines shall have the happiness to kiss your hand, they can assure you that he that sent them knows none to whom he owes more obligation than to your lordship, and to whom he would more willingly pay it; and that it must be no less than necessity itself that can hinder him from often presenting it. Germany hath no whit altered me, I am still the humble servant of my Lord- -that I was, and when I cease to be so, I must cease to be

John Suckling.”

“ Madam, “ The distrust I have had of not being able to write to you any thing which might pay the charge of reading, has persuaded me to for

« PreviousContinue »