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said to have been produced on the eve of his death; but, as Sir Egerton Brydges well remarks, it "is too full of far-fetched conceits to suffer us to believe that it was really written the night before his execution. It might have been composed in the contemplation of death in one of the many years between his sentence and execution, during that sad period of cruel and unexampled imprisonment. It contains a mixture of bold and sublime passages, such as the aspiring and indignant soul of Raleigh was likely to utter. The first stanza, in which the imagery drawn from a pilgrim is vividly depicted, fills the mind with a wild interest.” The use of the “quaint and degrading images,” to the presentation of which the same kindly appreciative critic goes on to object, may be considerably extenuated by the remembrance that, since this vigorous poem was written, the names of some of the objects introduced have suffered from thedeterioration consequent upon the wear and tear of more than two centuries, and in the time of the author could scarcely have been so contemptuously familiar as a modern ear decides them to be. The drawback is not so much that the ideas are vulgar, as that, in great part, the expressions are by this time something more than homely. With this comparatively superficial consideration may be taken the just and more searching criticism of the Reverend John Hannah, who, in 1845, edited poems by Sir Henry Wotton, Sir Walter Raleigh, and others. Some lines in it [“ His Pilgrimage”] can scarcely be read without pain; and I would have omitted them, but that I was unwilling to mutilate the poem. But before we condemn them as irreverent, we should recollect the circumstances under which they were probably composed. At such a period, when the perspective through which we view things must be altogether changed, the familiar distinctions between small and great might be easily neglected, as if they were not real, but only relative to us; and a man of bold and ardent spirit, which had not then been broken down by long imprisonment, might give vent, in strange and startling metaphors, to those strong feelings of mingled confidence and indignation which could find no outlet in more ordinary language.”
The other verses are said to have been found in Raleigh's Bible, in the Gate-house at Westminster.
Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
my body's balmer-
There will I kiss
The bowl of bliss,
I'll take them first
To quench my thirst,
At those clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Then the blessed parts we'll travel
Of death and judgment, heaven and hell,
VERSES FOUND IN HIS BIBLE.
ven such is Time, that takes on trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
Who, in the dark and silent Grave,
A BARE catalogue of the miscellaneous productions of this prolific writer would many times outmeasure all the particulars we have of his personal history. Almost the only clue we have to this is due to the research of a county historian. Bridges' “History of Northamptonshire” informs us that in the church of Norton, a small village in that county, on the south side of the chancel, the following epitaph is fixed to the wall:—“Here lieth the body of Nicholas Breton, Esq., sonne of Captaine John Breton, of Tamworth, Esq., in the Countie of Stafford. He also was Captaine of a foot company in the Low Countries under the command of the right honourable Robert Dudley, Earle of Leicester. He married Anne, daughter to Sir Edward Legh, of Rushall, in the countie of Stafford, a wife of rare vertue and pietie. had by her five sons and four daughters (viz.), Edward, Christopher, John, Gerard, William, Anne, Howard, Frances, Lettis. He purchased this Lordship of Norton, and departed from the troubles of this life to eternal happiness the 22nd day of June, Anno Domini 1624." There had existed considerable doubt whether the subject of this inscription could be identified with the poet. Mr. J. Payne Collier announced, in “Notes and Queries” for April 6th, 1850, that he was already in possession of undoubted proof that the poet was indeed the Nicholas Breton whose epitaph we have quoted; "a point,” he
says, "which Ritson seems to have questiored.” But the stages of the demonstration were not published.
Sir Egerton Brydges pronounces the poetical genius of Breton to be certainly delicate and copious, if not powerful. His piety shows itself ardent and elevated. The following selections are made from his “ Soul's Harmony,” “Longing of a Blessed Heart,” and “ A Divine Poem, divided into two parts, the Ravisht Soul and the Blessed Weeper.”
What is the gold of all this world but dross ?
Thus, since to heaven compared, the earth is such,
CHRIST THE LORD OF ALL THINGS.
If thou speak’st of power, all powers
If of wisdom, all is vanity;
But in his Divine humanity.
If of goodness, 'tis his story;