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and rustle over his moist sepulture ?—or, having no name, besides that unmeaning assumption of eternal novity, did ye think to get one by the noble prize, and henceforth to be termed the STREAM DYÈRIAN?
And could such spacious virtue find a grave
I protest, George, you shall not venture out again—no, not by daylight—without a sufficient pair of spectacles— in your musing moods especially. Your absence of mind we have borne, till your presence of body came to be called in question by it. You shall not go wandering into Euripus with Aristotle, if we can help it. Fie, man, to turn dipper at your years, after your many tracts in favour of sprinkling only!
I have nothing but water in my head o'nights since this frightful accident. Sometimes I am with Clarence in his dream. At others, I behold Christian beginning to sink, and crying out to his good brother Hopeful (that is, to me), “ I sink in deep waters ; the billows go over my head, all the waves go over me. Selah.” Then I have before me Palinurus, just letting go the steerage. I cry out too late to save. Next follow—a mournful procession--suicidal faces, saved against their wills from drowning ; dolefully trailing a length of reluctant gratefulness, with ropy weeds pendant from locks of watchet hue-constrained Lazari–Pluto's half-subjects—stolen fees from the grave—bilking Charon of his fare. At their head Arion-or is it G. D. ?-in his singing garments marcheth singly, with harp in hand, and votive garland, which Machaon (or Dr Hawes) snatcheth straight, intending to suspend it to the stern God of Sea. Then follow dismal streams of Lethe, in which the half-drenched on earth are constrained to drown
downright, by wharfs where Ophelia twice acts her muddy death.
And, doubtless, there is some notice in that invisible world, when one of us approacheth (as my friend did so lately) to their inexorable precincts. When a soul knocks once, twice, at death's door, the sensation aroused within the palace must be considerable ; and the grim Feature, by modern science so often dispossessed of his prey, must have learnt by this time to pity Tantalus.
A pulse assuredly was felt along the line of the Elysian shades, when the near arrival of G. D. was announced by no equivocal indications. From their seats of Asphodel arose the gentler and the graver ghosts—poet or historian—of Grecian or of Roman lore—to crown with unfading chaplets the half-finished love labours of their unwearied scholiast. Him Markland expected-him Tyrwhitt hoped to encounter-him the sweet lyrist of Peter House, whom he had barely seen upon earth, with newest airs prepared to greet — ; and, patron of the gentle Christ's boy,—who should have been his patron through life—the mild Askew, with longing aspirations leaned foremost from his venerable Æsculapian chair, to welcome into that happy company the matured virtues of the man, whose tender scions in the boy he himself upon earth had so prophetically fed and watered.
1 GRAIUM tantum vidit.
CYDNEY'S Sonnets—I speak of the best of them
are among the very best of their sort. They fall
below the plain moral dignity, the sanctity, and high yet modest spirit of self-approval, of Milton, in his compositions of a similar structure. They are in a truth
what Milton, censuring the Arcadia, says of that work (to which they are a sort of after-tune or application), “ vain and amatorious” enough, yet the things in their kind (as he confesses to be true of the romance) may be “ full of worth and wit.” They savour of the Courtier, it must be allowed, and not of the Commonwealths-man. But Milton was a Courtier when he wrote the Masque at Ludlow Castle, and still more a Courtier when he composed the Arcades. When the national struggle was to begin, he becomingly cast these vanities behind him ; and if the order of time had thrown Sir Philip upon the crisis which preceded the Revolution, there is no reason why he should not have acted the same part in that emergency, which has glorified the name of a later Sydney. He did not want for plainness or boldness of spirit. His letter on the French match may testify, he could speak his mind freely to Princes. The times did not call him to the scaffold.
The Sonnets which we oftenest call to mind of Milton were the compositions of his maturest years. Those of Sydney, which I am about to produce, were written in the very hey-day of his blood. They are stuck full of amorous fancies—far-fetched conceits, befitting his occupation : for True Love thinks no labour to send out Thoughts upon the vast, and more than Indian voyages, to bring home rich pearls, outlandish wealth, gums, jewels, spicery, to sacrifice in self-depreciating similitudes, as shadows of true amiabilities in the Beloved. We must be Lovers—or at least the cooling touch of time, the circum precordia frigus, must not have so damped our faculties, as to take away our recollection that we were once 80—before we can duly appreciate the glorious vanities, and graceful hyperboles, of the passion. The images which lie before our feet (though by some
of the School the loves of T
accounted the only natural) are least natural for the high Sydnean love to express its fancies by. They may serve for the loves of Tibullus, or the dear Author of the Schoolmistress ; for passions that creep and whine in Elegies and Pastoral Ballads. I am sure Milton never loved at this rate. I am afraid some of his addresses (ad Leonoram I mean) have rather erred on the farther side ; and that the poet came not much short of a religious indecorum, when he could thus apostrophise a singing-girl :
Angelus unicuique suus (sic credite gentes)
Obtigit ætheriis ales ab ordinibus.
Nam tua præsentem vox sonat ipsa Deum ?
Per tua secretò guttura serpit agens;
Sensim immortali assuescere posse sono.
This is loving in a strange fashion: and it requires some candour of construction (besides the slight darkening of a dead language) to cast a veil over the ugly appearance of something very like blasphemy in the last two verses. I think the Lover would have been staggered, if he had gone about to express the same thought in English. I am sure, Sydney has no flights like this. His extravaganzas do not strike at the sky, though he takes leave to adopt the pale Dian into a fellowship with his mortal passions.
With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies;