Page images
PDF
EPUB

çast 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-farfetched 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 præcordia frigus, must not have so damped our faculties, as to take away our recollection that we were once so--before we can duly appreciate the glorious vanities, and graceful hyperboles, of the passion. The images which lie before our feet (though by some 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 ætheriiis ales ab ordinibus.
Quid mirum, Leonora, tibi si gloria major,

Nam tua præsentem vox sonat ipsa Deum ?
Aut Deus, aut vacui certè mens tertia coli

Per tua secretò guttura serpit agens ; Serpit agens, facilisque docet mortalia corda

Sensim immortali assuescere posse sono.
Quod sI CUNCTA QUIDEM DEUS EST, PER CUNCTA-

QUE FUSUS,
IN TE UNA LOQUITUR, CETERA MUTUS HABET.

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 climh’st the skies ;
How silently; and with how wan a face !
What! may it be, that even in heavenly place
That busy Archer his sharp arrows tries ?
Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case;
I read it in thy looks ; thy languisht grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit ?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn, whom that love doth possess ?
Do they call virtue there—ungratefulness ?

The last line of this poem is a little obscured by transposition. He means, Do they call ungratefulness there a virtue ?

II.

Come, Sleep, 0 Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
The indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the prease *
Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw;
O make in me those civil wars to cease :
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me sweet pillows, sweetest bed;
A chamber deaf to noise, and blind to light;
A rosy garland, and a weary head.
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.

III.

The curious witš, seeing dull pensiveness
Bewray itself in my long-settled eyes,
Whence those same fumes of melancholy rise,
With idle pains, and missing aim, do guess.
Some, that know how my spring I did address,
Deem that my Muse some fruit of knowledge plies ;
Others, because the Prince my service tries,
Think, that I think state errors to redress;

* Press.

But harder judges judge, ambition's rage,
Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery place,
Holds my young brain captiv'd in golden cage.
O fools, or over-wise ! alas, the race
Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor start,
But only STELLA's eyes, and Stella's heart.

IV.

Because I oft in dark abstracted guise
Seem most alone in greatest company,
With dearth of words, or answers quite awry,
To them that would make speech of speech arise ;
They deem, and of their doom the rumour Aies,
That poison foul of bubbling Pride doth lie
So in my swelling breast, that only I
Fawn on myself, and others do despise ;
Yet Pride, I think, doth not my Soul possess,
Which looks too oft in his unflattering glass :
But one worse fault-Ambition-I confess,
That makes me oft my best friends overpass,
Unseen, unheard while Thought to highest place
Bends all his powers, even unto Stella's grace.

V.

Having this day, my horse, my hand, my lance, Guided so well that I obtained the prize,

« PreviousContinue »