Page images
[ocr errors]

“ Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread : “ Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw “ Daily devours apace, and nothing said : “ But that two-handed engine at the door “ Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.”

Return, Alpheus, the dread voice is past,23 That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse, And call the vales, and bid them hither cast Their bells, and flowerets, of a thousand hues. Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use Of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing brooks, On whose fresh lap the swart-star sparely looks; Throw hither all your quaint enamelld eyes, That on the green turf suck the honied showers, 24 And purple all the ground with vernal flowers : Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine, The white pink, and the pansy freak’d with jet, The glowing violet,25 The musk-rose, and the well attir'd woodbine, With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, And every flower that sad embroidery wears : Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed, And daffodillies fill their cups with tears, To strew the laureat hearse where Lycid lies ; For, so to interpose a little ease, Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise.Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurl'd, Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides, Where thou perhaps, under the whelming tide, Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world ; Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied, Sleep'st by the fable of Bellarus old, Where the great Vision of the guarded Mount 26 Looks towards Namancos and Bayona's hold;

Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth :
And, O, ye dolphins ! waft the hapless youth.

Weep no more, woful Shepherds, weep no more,
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor;
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves :
Where, other groves and other streams along,
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves,
And hears the unexpressive nuptial song
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the saints above,
In solemn troops and sweet societies,
That sing, and, singing, in their glory move,
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Now Lycidas, the shepherds weep no more;
Henceforth thou art the genius of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wander in that perilous flood.

Thus sang the uncouth swain to the oaks and rills,
While the still morn went out with sandals gray ;
He touch'd the tender stops of various quills,
With eager thought warbling his Doric lay :
And now the sun had stretch'd out all the hills,
And now was dropt into the western bay:
At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blue:
To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.

1666 Without the meed of some melodious tear.”—Catullus uses the word in a like sense, when alluding to the elegies of Simonides in his touching expostulation with his friend Cornificius, whom he requests to come and see him during a time of depression :

Paulum lubet allocutionis
Mæstius lacrymis Simonideis.

Prythee a little talk for ease, for ease,
Sad as the tears of poor Simonides.

the age.

17 Begin, and somewhat loudly,&c.

Hence with denial vain,&c. The first of these lines has a poor prosaic effect, like one of the inane mixtures of familiarity and assumed importance in the “ Pindaric” writers of

And “hence with denial vain" is a very unnecessary piece of harshness towards the poor Muses, who surely were not disposed to ill-treat the young poet.

18 Clos'do'er the head,&c.—The very best image of drowning he could have chosen, especially during calm weather, both as regards sufferer and spectator. The combined sensations of darkness, of liquid enclosure, and of the final interposition of a heap of waters between life and the light of day, are those which most absorb the faculties of a drowning person. Haud insubmersus loquor.

19« Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream."--The river Dee, in Spenser's and Drayton's poetry, and old British history, is celebrated for its ominous character and its magicians.

20 Sanguine flow'r inscribed with woe.”—The ancient poetical hyacinth, proved, I think, by Professor Martyn,


[ocr errors]

in his Virgil's Georgics, to be the turk’s-cap lily, the only flower on which characters like the Greek exclamation of woe, AI, AI, are to be found. The idea in Milton is from Moschus's Elegy on the Death of Bion:

Νυν, υακινθε, λαλει τα σα γραμματα, και πλεον αι αι
Βαμβαλε σοις πεταλοισι.
Now more than ever say, 0, hyacinth!

Ai, ai; and babble of your written sorrows. 21 “ Last came and last did go..

“ This passage,” says Hazlitt, “ which alludes to the clerical character of Lycidas, has been found fault with, as combining the truths of the Christian religion with the fiction of the Heathen mythology. I conceive there is very little foundation for this objection, either in reason or good taste. I will not go so far as to defend Camoens, who, in his Lusiad, makes Jupiter send Mercury with a dream to propagate the Catholic religion; nor do I know that it is generally proper to introduce the two things in the same poem, though I see no objection to it here; but of this I am quite sure, that there is no inconsistency or natural repugnance between this poetical and religious faith in the same mind. To the understanding, the belief of the one is incompatible with that of the other, but, in the imagination, they not only may, but do constantly, co-exist. I will venture to go farther, and maintain that every classical scholar, however orthodox a Christian he may be,


is an honest Heathen at heart. This requires ex

. planation. Whoever, then, attaches a reality to any idea beyond the mere name, has, to a certain extent (though not an abstract), an habitual and practical belief in it. Now, to any one familiar with the names of the personages of the heathen mythology, they convey a positive identity beyond the mere

We refer them to something out of ourselves. It is only by an effort of abstraction that we divest ourselves of the idea of their reality; all our involuntary prejudices are on their side. This is enough for the poet. They impose on the imagination by the attractions of beauty and grandeur. They come down to us in sculpture and in song. We have the same associations with them as if they had really been: for the belief of the fiction in ancient times has produced all the same effects as the reality could have done. It was a reality to the minds of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and through them it is reflected to us.”-- Lectures on the English Poets (Templeman's edition), p. 328.

22 How well could I have spar'd,&c.—“ He here animadverts," says Warton, “to the endowments of the church, at the same time insinuating that they were shared by those only who sought the emoluments of the sacred office, to the exclusion of a learned and conscientious clergy.” An old complaint! Meantime the church has continued mild and peaceful. An incalculable blessing !

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »