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That cur'st our woes and strife;
Which most untrue,
Each place we view,
The flowers that we behold each year,
New rising from the tomb;
Even those do cry,
That though men die,
towering cedars tall and strong, On Taurus and Mount Lebanon,
In time they all decay; Yet from their old and wasted roots, At length again grow up young shoots, That are as fresh and gay;
Then why should we
Thus fear to die,
Corrupting in its urn;
Doth Time's sun this?
Then sure it is
(1588--1667.) GEORGE WITIIER, the eldest son of a father of both his names, was born at Bentworth, near Alton, Hampshire, June 11th, 1588. After receiving his elementary classical education under John Greaves, of Colemore, a schoolmaster of much worth and of considerable local celebrity, Wither entered at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1603 or 1604. Here he was placed under the tuition of John Warner, afterwards Bishop of Rochester; and, after three years' residence, during which he seems to have given scant attention to his graver academical studies, he was taken home, and thence presently “sent to one of the inns of Chancery in London, and afterwards to Lincoln's Inn, to obtain knowledge in the municipal law. But still his
geny ---we are quoting Wood“ hanging after things more smooth and delightful, he did at length make himself known to the world, after he had taken several rambles therein, by certain specimens of poetry, which, being dispersed in several hands, he became shortly after a public author, and much admired by some in that age
for his quick advancement in that faculty. But so it was, that he showing himself too busy and satirical in his ‘Abuses Stript and Whipt' was committed prisoner to the Marshalsea, where, continuing several months, was the more cried up, especially by the Puritanical party, for his profuse pouring forth of English rhyme."
The “Abuses Stript and Whipt" was published in 1613, and amongst the literary results of his incarceration in the Marshalsea is his celebrated pastoral poem, called “ The Shepherds' Hunting." * Before this, however, Wither had published “Prince Henry's Obsequies; or, Mournful Elegies upon his Death.” The demise of this amiable young prince seems to have called forth all the rhythmical sorrow of which the nation was capable. The next manifestation of Wither's loyalty was of a more cheerful kind : “Epithalamia; or, Nuptial Poems upon the most blessed and happy Marriage between the High and Mightie- Prince Frederic the Fifth, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavier, etc., and the most virtuous, gracious, and thrice-excellent Princess Elizabeth, sole daughter to our dread Sovereign James, etc.”
In 1614, during his imprisonment, Wither addressed a powerful and outspoken “Satire to the King's most excellent Majesty,” and either this, or the good offices of friends, or both, soon procured his enlargement. The royal favour did not stop here. The king conferred upon the poet a patent, which bears date the 17th day of February, 1622-3, for his “Hymns and Songs of the Church,” which were “esteemed worthie and proffitable to be inserted in convenient manner and due place into everie English Psalme-book in meeter.” The patent was to be in force “for the term of fifty and one years.” Other works of Wither are “Britain's Remembrancer,” “Emblems, Ancient and Modern,” “Epigrams,” etc. These works were all collected and printed “for John Budge, dwelling in St. Paul's Churchyard, at the sign of the Green Dra
In 1639, Wither was a captain of horse in the expedition against the Scots, and quartermaster-general of the regiment—the Earl of Arundel's—in which he held his
* The “ Meditation in Prison,” which " is a very beautiful and ingenious adaptation of Scripture to his own peculiar case,” is put into the mouth of Pbilarete, an interlocutor, in "The Shepherds' Hunting," with Willy and Roget. An apology for setting his sufferings to harmony is found by Wither in the "Example of the Psalmist, Shepherd, and King, in Kindred circum. stances."
commission. “But this our author"-it is once more Wood who speaks—“who was always from his youth Puritanically affected (sufficiently evidenced in his satyrs), sided with the Presbyterians in the beginning of the civil wars, raised by them anno 1642, became an enemy to the king and regality, sold the estate he had, and with the moneys received for it raised a troop of horse for the Parliament, was made a captain, and soon after a major, having this motto on his colours, Pro Rege, Lege, Grege ; but being taken prisoner by the Cavaliers, Sir John Denham, the poet (some of whose land åt Egham, in Surrey, Wither had got into his clutches), desired his majesty not to hang him, “because that so long as Wither lived, Denham would not be accounted the worst poet in England.''
He was afterwards made, by the Long Parliament, justice of peace for the counties of Hampshire, Surrey, and Essex; and by Cromwell appointed major-general of all the horse and foot in the county of Surrey.
At the restoration he was stripped of all his possessions; and for libels which this confiscation provoked, he was thrown into prison, where he was treated with considerable rigour, although by the connivance of his keepers he was furnished with materials with which to produce several satires. In 1663 he was released, and died in London, May 2nd, 1667.
“The things that he hath written,” says Wood, who had a prejudice, it must be owned, both against poets and Puritans, “are very many, accounted by the generality of scholars mere scribbles, and the fancies of a conceited and confident, if not enthusiastical mind." But the memory of his earlier poems at least has long been cherished by those who can appreciate with Ellis their “playful fancy, pure taste, and artless delicacy of sentiment and who can recognize the pure Christianity of his muse, when untainted by the bitterness of that pole. mical strife in which he played so chequered a part.
THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL, A blest conversion and a strange
Was that, when Saul a Paul became; And, Lord, for making such a change
We praise and glorify thy name; For whilst he went om place to place
To persecute thy truth and Thee, And running to perdition was,
By powerful grace called back was he. When from thy truth we go astray,
Or, wrong it through our pointed zcal, Oh, come and stop us in the way,
And then thy will to us reveal. That brightness shew us from above,
Which proves the sensual eyesight blind; And from our eyes those scales remove
That hinder us thy ways to find. And as thy blessed servant Paul,
When he a convert once became, Exceeded thy apostles all
In painful preaching of thy name; So grant that those who have in sin
Exceeded others heretofore, The start of them in faith
winLove, serve, and honour Thee the more.
MEDITATION IN PRISON. Now that my body, dead alive,
Bereaved of comfort, lies in thrall, Do thou, my soul, begin to thrive, And unto honey turn this gall;
So shall we both, through outward woe,
The way to inward comfort know.
Doth keep in me this mortal breath;
Nor art thou ever nearer rest