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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.
Nam tua præsentem vox sonat ipsa Deum ?
Per tua secretò guttura serpit agens ; Serpit agens, facilisque docet mortalia corda
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 climh’st the skies ;
The last line of this poem is a little obscured by transposition. He means, Do they call ungratefulness there a virtue ?
Come, Sleep, 0 Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The curious witš, seeing dull pensiveness
But harder judges judge, ambition's rage,
Because I oft in dark abstracted guise
Having this day, my horse, my hand, my lance, Guided so well that I obtained the prize,