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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 flies,
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.
Having this day, my horse, my hand, my lance,
Guided so well that I obtained the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes,
And of some sent from that sweet enemy,-France ;
Horsemen my skill in horsemanship advance ;
Townsfolk my strength; a daintier judge applies
His praise to sleight, which from good use doth rise ;
Some lucky wits impute it but to chance ;
Others, because of both sides I do take
My blood from them, who did excel in this,
Think Nature me a man of arms did make.
How far they shot awry! the true cause is,
STELLA looked on, and from her heavenly face
Sent forth the beams which made so fair my race.
In martial sports I had my cunning tried,
And yet to break more staves did me address,
While with the people's shouts (I must confess)
Youth, luck, and praise, even fill'd my veins with pride
When Cupid having me (his slave) descried
In Mars's livery, prancing in the press,
Sir Fool!" said he: “I would no less : Look here, I say." I look'd, and STELLA spied, Who hard by made a window send forth light. My heart then quak'd, then dazzled were mine eyes ; One hand forgot to rule, th' other to fight ; Nor trumpet's sound I heard, nor friendly cries. My foe came on, and beat the air for me Till that her blush made me my shame to see.
No more, my dear, no more these counsels try;
O give my passions leave to run their race ;
Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace ;
Let folk o'ercharged with brain against me cry ;
Let clouds bedim my face, break in mine eye;
Let me no steps, but of lost labour, trace;
Let all the earth with scorn recount my case-
But do not will me from my love to fly.
I do not envy Aristotle's wit,
Nor do aspire to Cæsar's bleeding fame;
Nor aught do care, though some above me sit
Nor hope, nor wish, another course to frame,
But that which once may win thy cruel heart :
Thou art my wit, and thou my virtue art.
Love still a boy, and oft a wanton, is,
School'd only by his mother's tender eye ;
What wonder then, if he his lesson miss,
When for so soft a rod dear play he try?
And yet my STAR, because a sugar'd kiss
In sport I suek'd, while she asleep did lie,
Doth lour, nay chide, nay threat, for only this.
Sweet, it was saucy LOVE, not humble I.
But no 'scuse serves; she makes her wrath appear
In beauty's throne-see now who dares come near
Those scarlet judges, threat'ning bloody pain ?
O heav'nly Fool, thy most kiss-worthy face
Anger invests with such a lovely grace,
That anger's self I needs must kiss again.
I never drank of Aganippe well,
Nor ever did in shade of Tempe sit,
And Muses scorn with vulgar brains to dwell ;
Poor lay-man I, for sacred rites unfit.
Some do I hear of Poet's fury tell,
But (God wot) wot not what they mean by it ;
And this I swear by blackest brook of hell,
I am no pick-purse of another's wit.
How falls it then, that with so smooth an ease
My thoughts I speak, and what I speak doth flow
In verse, and that my verse best wits doth please ?
Guess me the cause-what is it thus l_fye, no.
Or so ?-much less. How then ? sure thus it is,
My lips are sweet, inspired with STELLA's kiss.
Of all the kings that ever here did reign,
Edward, named Fourth, as first in praise I name,
Not for his fair outside, nor well-lined brain-
Although less gifts imp feathers oft on Fame.
Nor that he could, young-wise, wise-valiant, frame
His sire's revenge, join'd with a kingdom's gain ;
And, gain’d by Mars could yet mad Mars so tame,
That Balance weigh'd what Sword did late obtain.
Nor that he made the Floure-de-luce so 'fraid,
Though strongly hedged of bloody Lions' paws,
That witty Lewis to him a tribute paid.
Nor this, nor that, nor any such small cause--
But only, for this worthy knight durst prove
To lose his crown rather than fail his love.
O happy Thames, that didst my STELLA bear,
I saw thyself, with many a smiling line
Upon thy cheerful face, Joy's livery wear,
While those fair planets on thy streams did shine
The boat for joy could not to dance forbear,
While wanton winds, with beauty so divine
Ravish'd, stay'd not, till in her golden hair
They did themselves (O sweetest prison) twine.
And fain those Æol's youth there would their stay
Have made ; but, forced by nature still to fly,
First did with puffing kiss those locks display.
She, so dishevellid, blush'd ; from window I
With sight thereof cried out, O fair disgrace,
Let honour's self to thee grant highest place!
Highway, since you my chief Parnassus be ;
And that my Muse, to some ears not unsweet,
Tempers her words to trampling horses' feet,
More soft than to a chamber melody;
Now blessed You bear onward blessed Me
To Her, where I my heart safe left shall meet,
My Muse and I must you of duty greet
With thanks and wishes, wishing thankfully,
Be you still fair, honour'd by public heed,
By no encroachment wrong'd nor time forgot;
Nor blam'd for blood, nor shamed for sinful deed.
And that you know, I envy you no lot
Of highest wish, I wish you so much bliss,
Hundreds of years you STELLA's feet
Of the foregoing, the first, the second, and the last sonnet, are my favourites. But the general beauty of them all is, that they are so perfectly characteristical. The spirit of “ learning and of chivalry,”—of which union, Spenser has entitled Sydney to have been the “president,”-shines through them. I confess I can see nothing of the “jejune ” or “frigid” in them; much less of the “ stiff” and “ cumbrous”-which I have sometimes heard objected to the Arcadia. The verse runs off swiftly and gallantly. It might have been tuned to the trumpet ; or tempered (as himself
expresses it) to “trampling horses' feet.” They abound in felicitous phrases O heav'nly Fool, thy most kiss-worthy face
Sweet pillows, sweetest bed ;
A chamber deaf to noise, and blind to light;
A rosy garland, and a weary head.
That sweet enemy,-France
But they are not rich in words only, in vague and unlocalised feelings—the failing too much of some poetry of the present day—they are full, material, and circumstantiated. Time and place appropriates every one of them. It is not a fever of passion wasting itself upon a thin diet of dainty words, but a transcendent passion pervading and illuminating action, pursuits, studies, feats of arms, the opinions of contemporaries and his judgment of them. An historical thread runs through them, which almost affixes a date to them; marks the when and where they were written.
I have dwelt the longer upon what I conceive the merit of these poems, because I have been hurt by the wantonness (I wish I could treat it by a gentler name) with which W. H.? takes every occasion of insulting the memory of Sir Philip Sydney. But the decisions of the Author of Table Talk, &c., (most profound and subtle where they are, as for the most part, just) are more safely, to be relied upon, on subjects and authors he has a
[1 William Hazlitt.)