The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 4

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

ENGLISH POETRY.[1]


introductory — george chapman — the younger spenserians — protestant and bourgeois — the fletchers — browne and wither — quarles, more, beaumont, etc. — drummond and sir john beaumont — donne and jonson — characteristics and influence — caroline courtly poetry, religious and secular — herbert, vaughan, crashaw, and traherne — carew, lovelace, suckling, herrick — andrew marvell — milton's life and early poems — poetry of the commonwealth — waller and denham — davenant and chamberlayne — cowley — milton's later poems — 'paradise lost' — 'paradise regained' — 'samson agonistes' — conclusion.

Spenser found no successor able to continue his work of naturalising the Italian romantic epic, that most Introduction. delightful product of the early Renaissance, into which he breathed the ethical temper of the Reformation—softened by Italian Platonism or neo-Platonism—as well as the spirit of intense patriotism which animated Englishmen in the year of the Spanish Armada. To harmonise such diverse elements was a difficult task, and, even before Spenser's death, had been rendered impossible by the course of English religious and political history — as impossible as it was after the American war to preserve the early Whig identification of the cause of Britain with the cause of political liberty. Religious persecution made it difficult for the Puritan to identify his zeal for England with his zeal for Protestantism. At the same time, the essentially pagan spirit of the Italian Renaissance was not easily exorcised even by Spenser, and the emancipated artistic-enthusiasm which created the Elizabethan drama, poems such as Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis, and the sonnets of Shakespeare, was to the stern spirit of Puritanism simply anathema. Before the sixteenth century ended poets were beginning to form different schools, or else the two strains, the secular and the religious, run side by side in a single poet's work without his endeavouring to reconcile them in any way.

This tendency is accentuated in the early seventeenth century. This chapter deals with distinct groups or schools of poets. The patriotic note of Spenser and Shakespeare is heard only from belated Elizabethans as Drayton and Chapman. The Protestant religious poets form a group by themselves; the Catholic Anglicans another. The courtly poets, whether religious or secular, are out of touch with the nation at large, their poetry a delicate exotic. One poet, indeed, emerges with the power that genius gives to harmonise diverse elements. Milton, like Spenser, unites the spirit of the Renaissance with that of the Reformation, and both with patriotism. But he does so only by narrowing though intensifying each, by sacrificing some of the finest elements in the noblest Elizabethan conceptions of beauty, goodness, and country. Milton's ideal of art becomes strictly, even pedantically, classical; his Protestantism is less ethical than Spenser's, and more theological; his patriotism tends to include only those Englishmen who form the chosen people of God.

Of the Elizabethan poets who continued to produce fresh and interesting poetry in the reign of James, Chapman. if we set aside Donne and Jonson as the fountain-heads of Jacobean and Caroline poetry, the two most important, Daniel and Drayton, have been included in the volume on The Later Renaissance. One veteran and rugged Elizabethan, however, deserves a word as poet as well as dramatist. Chapman's earliest volume of poems, The Shadow of Night, containing the pedantic and obscure Hymnus in Noctem and Hymnus in Cynthiam, appeared in 1594; his Ovid's Banquet of Sense—a characteristic contribution to the Venus and Adonis class of poem—with The Amorous Zodiac—a translation from the French—in 1595; and his completion of Marlowe's Hero and Leander in 1598. His great work, the translation of Homer, was begun some time before 1598, when Seaven Bookes of the Iliades of Homer, Prince of Poets, appeared with a dedication to the Earl of Essex. The complete Iliad appeared in 1611; the complete Odyssey in 1614; The Whole Works of Homer in 1616. The Battle of the Frogs was added later, as well as the Hymns.

Chapman comes at the head of a chapter on seventeenth-century poetry as a useful reminder that "fantastic" is not a very distinctive title to apply to the poetry of Donne and his followers,—that if conceit and far-fetched similitudes are a sign of decadence, then Elizabethan poetry was born decadent, for from first to last it is, in Arnold's phrase, "steeped in humours and fantasticality up to its very lips." Whether we consider Chapman's original poems or his translations, his obscure, pedantic, harsh, yet always ardent and fitfully splendid hymns and complimentary verses, or the Homer which Keats has immortalised, it would be difficult to conceive a poet who, despite his classics, his eulogies of learning, and his friendship for Jonson, is more essentially "Gothic" as Addison and Thomson used the word. It is a tribute to the genius of Homer that there was so much in the Iliad and Odyssey which Chapman could translate well, or even greatly. He is at his best, it seems to me, when describing the rush of fighting, and for this, as well as other reasons, his Iliad is better than his Odyssey; but when full justice has been done to the animation of his style, its entire freedom from otiose filling-out, its not infrequent felicity and splendour of phrase, the last word on the inadequacy of Chapman's colloquialisms and conceits to reproduce the dignity and simplicity of Homer has been spoken by Matthew Arnold.[2]

It is difficult, in the absence of such contemporary evidence as is afforded to-day by critical reviews, to date exactly the changes in poetical taste. It seems The Spenserians. clear, however, that in the closing years of the sixteenth century there was a reaction against the diffuse, flamboyant, Italianate poetry which Spenser, Sidney, and Lodge had made fashionable,—a reaction which showed itself in the satires of Hall and Marston, but found its fullest expression in the poetry—much of which is satirical—of Donne and of Jonson, who took the place in courtly circles which had been held earlier by Spenser and Sidney. The Spenserians of the early seventeenth century—between whom and Spenser in pastoral poetry Drayton forms an important link—were not courtly poets. Though they look towards the court on occasions, they stand outside its circle. They belong to the Protestant wing of the Anglican Church; and in the somewhat bourgeois and didactic tone of their poetry, their taste for emblems, and the natural, artless tone in which they speak of themselves, resemble the Dutch poets of the same class.

The most thorough-going disciples of Spenser among these serious young poets of the reign of James I. were the Cambridge divines and poets Phineas (1582-1648) and Giles (1583-1623) Fletcher, the sons of Giles Fletcher, author of Licia, and cousins of the dramatist. They were both Fellows—Phineas of King's, Giles of Trinity College—and both took orders. Giles, after being reader in Greek at Cambridge, became rector of Alderton in Suffolk, and Phineas, after some vicissitudes of fortune, was appointed rector of Hilgay in Norfolk.

In Phineas Fletcher's poetry there were apparently the two distinct strains of which we have spoken above. Phineas
Fletcher.
His Sicelides, a comedy performed before James in 1614, mingles pastoral love-story with comic scenes not devoid of coarseness; and Grosart conjectured that he was the author of Britain's Ida (1627), a frank and voluptuous Ovidian idyll. On the other hand, the Spenserian pastorals and allegories which he published in 1627 and 1633—describing them as "these raw essays of my very unripe years and almost childhood"—are without exception religious, and so was all his subsequent work in verse and prose. The Locustæ vel Pietas Jesuitica: The Locusts or Appolyonists is a strange poem—the first part in Latin, the second in English—describing allegorically the rise of the Jesuits and the Gunpowder Plot. Milton borrowed from it for his allegory of Sin and Death. The Piscatorie Eclogues is a fluent imitation of Spenser's pastorals with borrowings from Sannazaro, full of the poet's views and woes. His most ambitious poem, The Purple Island, elaborates the suggestion given by Spenser's description of the Castle of Alma (Faerie Queene, ii. 8), portraying in a minutely detailed allegory the constitution of man, physical and mental, and enlarging in characteristically theological manner the strife between Temperance and her foes into the Christian warfare between Voletta (the will) and Satan.

This is the way in which his seventeenth-century followers dealt with Spenser's great poem. They cared nothing for his romance—whose influence was not to be felt till much later—everything for the didactic allegory. Fletcher's pastoral openings to each canto are delightful; his style is lucid, nervous, and flowing; the personifications are clever and occasionally effective; but the soul of the reader faints under the strain of such sustained and relentless allegory. There is no escape, as in the Faerie Queene, to realms of pure romance, and it is with a sense of profound relief that one hears King James blow his trumpet and summon Christ to the rescue of the hard-pressed Will.

Giles Fletcher was happier in his choice of subject than his brother, and his temperament was more Giles Fletcher. lyrical and mystical. His Christ's Victorie and Triumph, in Heaven and Earth, over and after Death (1610), an allegoric, narrative, lyrical rhapsody on the Atonement, Temptation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, is an interesting link between Spenser's and Milton's religious poetry. The form and language are Spenserian—allegorical, diffuse, and flamboyant,—but the subject is, like Milton's, theological. The more ethical aspect of Protestantism, presented in Spenser's House of Holiness, yields to the seventeenth-century preoccupation with theology, the divine scheme of salvation wrought out in eternity. Man, with his puny efforts after righteousness, falls into the background.

Poetically, the resemblance of Fletcher's poem to Spenser's is deliberate, and superficial rather than temperamental. There is a vast difference between the flow and shimmer of the older poet's romantic stanzas and the strenuous, antithetic declamation of the younger. Fletcher is always ardent; his personifications are far more poetic and impressive than his brother's; the descriptive passages have some of the colour and music of his model's; and his lyrical rendering with variations of Tasso's song of the rose is as fine in its different way as Spenser's. But Fletcher's excessive use of antithesis, the bad taste and extravagance of many of the descriptions (for example, of Christ in the canto on the Temptation, where

          "His cheeks as snowie apples sop't in wine,
           Had their red roses quencht with lillies white,
           And like to garden strawberries did shine
           Wash't in a boul of milk")—

these and other features remind a student, more than anything in Donne or his school, of the faults of Italian "secentismo," of the Adone and the Strage degli Innocenti.

If the younger Spenserians showed no taste for romance, they were enthusiastic and unwearied Pastorals. cultivators of the pastoral. Whatever wider circles may have thought,—and Colonel Prideaux believes the pastoral was not generally popular in England, which is perhaps equally true of that other over-cultivated form, the sonnet,—the poets themselves were never weary of listening to each other while they sang of the joys of country life and the pains of love, or moralised their strain and descanted on virtue and pure religion. Their guides were Spenser and Sidney, and more immediately Michael Drayton. Not only is some of the best of Drayton's seventeenth-century work pastoral, but his Polyolbion (begun in 1598, and probably well known to his friends before its publication in 1612 and 1622) had excited enthusiasm for English scenery and rivers. If Jacobean pastoral poetry is often tedious and long-winded, if its cultivators produced no such delicate, courtly exotic as the Aminta—to which, after all, the later Comus is a very satisfactory counter-weight,—yet under Drayton's influence it became more truly natural in sentiment, a more faithful mirror of English scenery, and some of the sweetest versification of this period, when Donne's and Jonson's bold experiments were unsettling English prosody, is to be found in pastorals written north and south of the Tweed.

All these features are discoverable in the poems of William Browne (1590-1645?) of Tavistock in Devonshire—

                                                         "Blessed spot,
                Whose equal all the world affordeth not."

Educated at Oxford, he became a member of the Inner Temple, where he was the friend of Drayton, Browne. Chapman, Jonson, Selden, Wither, and Brooke. The first part of Britannia's Pastorals appeared in 1613. In the following year he published some more regular eclogues, The Shepherd's Pipe, to which Wither and others contributed. The second part of the longer poem appeared in 1616, the whole in 1625. Browne was also the author of a masque, and of sonnets, jocular verses, epigrams, and epitaphs, the last of which include the beautiful

                          "Underneath this sable hearse,"

which, however, was till recently attributed to Jonson.

Britannia's Pastorals blends all the diverse strains of Elizabethan pastoralism. Descriptions inspired by Sidney's Arcadia, Spenser's Faerie Queene, and Drayton's Polyolbion are combined with moral allegory and satire, in which the influence of Langland as well as contemporaries is traceable, and all these with Ovidian metamorphoses. A story of wooing and adventure, and the changing of nymphs into streams and flowers, runs through the poem; but there are endless digressions to satirise James's neglect of the fleet, to bewail the death of Prince Henry, or to sing the praise of virtue and of poets dead and living. The whole is borne along on a stream of flowing decasyllabics which suggest the music of the pipe, and whose echo is audible in the varied cadences of Keats's Endymion, which irritated the ear of Quarterly reviewers.

The same high enthusiasm for moral goodness, for nature, and for song, with a more ardent love-strain, Wither. uttered in a sweet but shriller music, are the characteristics of all that is best in the poetry of the much too voluble George Wither (1588-1667). A native of Bentworth in Hampshire, for a short time at Magdalen College, Oxford, and subsequently a member of Lincoln's Inn, Wither's first-published work was a contribution to the satire, popular at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. His Abuses Stript and Whipt are not so formidable as their title, but the 1611 edition was suppressed, and their reissue in 1613 brought him to the Marshalsea prison. Meantime he had published a lament for Prince Henry, and an epithalamium for Princess Elizabeth, full of the naïve conceits with which the minor complimentary poetry of the period abounds, and of the "plain moral speaking" which Lamb admired. In prison he composed The Shepherd's Hunting, a series of very personal eclogues published in 1615. These, with Fidelia (1617), an "heroical epistle" of over twelve hundred lines, and Fair Virtue, the Mistress of Philarete (1617), a sustained and detailed lyrical eulogy of an ideal woman, contain the bulk of his best poetry, though there are some flowers of poetry in his Emblems, and the best of his religious verse is contained in the Hallelujah, or Britain's Second Remembrancer of 1641.

Wither's pastoral poetry is lyrical in spirit and form, a vehicle for the communication of his personal experiences and enthusiasms. He has a complete mastery of the seven-syllabled trochaic couplet. His style is easy, homely, and diffuse, comparatively little tormented with conceits, and when touched with enthusiasm for love and friendship, nature and song and virtue, is capable of a soaring flight. Of the charms of nature and consolations of song he writes with the gusto of Burns in the verse-epistles. The lines in which he describes how poetry

                                "doth tell me where to borrow
                        Comfort in the midst of sorrow,
                        Makes the desolatest place
                        To her presence be a grace:
                         . . . .
                        By the murmur of a spring,
                        Or a least bough's rusteling,
                         . . . .
                        She could more infuse in me
                        Than all nature's beauties can
                        In some other wiser man,"

are quite in the spirit of Burns's

                   "The Muse! nae poet ever fand her
                    Till by himself he learned to wander
                    Adown some trotting burn's meander,
                           And no' think lang,"

and many another passage where the Scotch poet's joie de vivre is most pure and delightful. Wither's Fair Virtue is an extraordinary rhapsody, but the strangest thing about it is the skill with which the clear high note is sustained without wearying or growing wearied. The Fidelia belongs to an artificial kind, and is far too long, but even in it there are balanced, pointed lines, which were certainly known to Pope when he wrote Eloisa to Abelard

        "Banish those thoughts and turn thee to my heart!
         Come once again and be what once thou wert!
         Revive me by those wonted joys repairing
         That am nigh dead with sorrow and despairing!
         So shall the memory of this annoy
         But add more sweetness to my future joy!"

Of Wither's later didactic and satirical verse, "pious exercises and political diatribes," which gained him Basse and
Brathwaith.
from Milton's schoolmaster, Alexander Gill, the title of "our English Juvenal," it is unnecessary to speak here. Nor can we dwell in detail on the pastorals of other members of the group to which Browne and Wither belonged, or trace the stream of Spenserian allegory as it lost itself in the sand of didactic babble and mysticism. The pastorals of William Basse (1583-1653?), which show the influence of Browne, were published for the first time quite recently; and attention has just been called to the Shepherd's Tales (published first in Nature's Embassie, 1621, and completed in 1623 and 1626) of the voluminous Richard Brathwait (1588-1673). The hitherto unknown poem which Colonel Prideaux reprints[3] adds to many reminders how smoothly the decasyllabic couplet was written at the close of the sixteenth and opening seventeenth century, how much its increasing irregularity was due to the deliberate innovations of Donne and Jonson.

Of religious and moralising poets whose writing is in the Protestant and homely tone of the Quarles. Spenserians, though with more of conceit, the most popular was Francis Quarles (1592-1644), a native of Essex, educated at Cambridge and Lincoln's Inn, who visited Germany as cup-bearer to the unfortunate Princess Elizabeth. He began in 1620 the publication of an endless succession of paraphrases from Scripture—A Feast of Worms set forth in a Poeme of the History of Jonah, Sions Elegies wept by Jeremie the Prophet, Sions Sonnets sung by Solomon the King, &c.—and later wrote prose pious manuals, and defended King Charles. His best known work was the pious and "conceited" Emblems (1635), verses composed to woodcuts, all of which except those in the first book are taken from the Pia Desideria (Antwerp, 1624) of the Jesuit, Herman Hugo.

Both Dr Henry More (1614-1687)—the Cambridge Platonist—and Joseph Beaumont, the mystical friend More and
Beaumont.
of Crashaw, employed Spenserian allegory as late as 1648 to set forth their theosophy. Beaumont's Psyche, or Love's Mystery is an allegory of the soul's temptations and deliverances, with an interpolated sketch of Bible history. More even essayed the Spenserian stanza, but it is poetically a very far cry from the Faerie Queene to the Antipsychopannychia.

Although the Scottish poet, William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649), cannot be classed with the Jacobean Spenserians, nevertheless his Drummond. indebtedness to both Spenser and Sidney, as well as to the Italian masters of these poets, connects him more closely with them than with Donne and Jonson. Drummond's poetry is Italianate, florid, and fluent, not condensed, abrupt, or metaphysical.

After completing his studies at Edinburgh University, Drummond spent three years (1606-9) in France studying law and poetry, and it was doubtless in these years, and those which he spent subsequently in leisure at Hawthornden, that he acquired the wide knowledge of literature—classical, French, Italian, and Spanish—which colours all his work. His elegy on Prince Henry, Tears on the Death of Mœliades, the most poetical elegy in imagery and verse written between the death of Spenser and Lycidas, was published in 1613, and his Poems followed three years later. They were divided, after the model of Petrarch and his imitators, into those written before and those after the death of his Laura, Miss Cunningham of Barns, and arranged, in still closer accordance with Marino's Lira (1602-14), into Amorous, Funeral, Divine, Pastoral, in Sonnets, Songs, Sextains, Madrigals. Forth Feasting—the title of which is taken from Marino's Tebro Festante, but which in its elevated strain recalls the Pollio of Virgil—was composed for King James's visit to Edinburgh in 1617. The religious sonnets of his earlier volume were embellished and added to in Flowers of Sion (1625), to a second edition of which in 1630 he affixed his eloquent prose meditation, A Cypress Grove. Drummond's literary activity was, in his last years, absorbed by political controversy, in which he espoused the royalist cause.

Drummond's poetry is the product of a scholar of refined nature, opulent fancy, and musical ear. His indebtedness to Spenser, Sidney, and Shakespeare for imaginative phrases is palpable, and many of his most charming sonnets and madrigals are no more than translations from Petrarch, Sannazaro, Ronsard, and Marino. To the last he is especially indebted, not only for love-sonnets as "Sleep, silence child, sweet father of soft rest" and "Alexis here she stayed," but for many grave moral and religious sonnets as "Of this fair volume which we world do name," "Run, shepherds, run where Bethlem blest appears," and "Thrice happy he who by some shady grove." Even where he does not translate he imitates Marino in his choice of subject; and the evolution and movement of his sonnets recall the Italian, especially in the effective close, the powerful reflux of the closing triad. Thus the last lines of what is perhaps Drummond's finest sonnet, "The Baptist,"—

         "Who listened to his voice, obeyed his cry?
          Only the echoes which he made relent,
          Rung from their flinty caves, 'Repent! Repent!'"—

are very similar to the close of Marino's pastoral sonnet on Polyphemus' despair—

            "Piu non diss' egli: e'l monte arsiccio e scabro
             Rimbombò d'urli, e'l lido e la campagna
             Tremonne, e l'altro del Tartareo fabro."

But though Drummond, like other sonneteers, translated and imitated, he had, like the best of the Elizabethans, a personality and genius of his own. His sonnets, though deficient in the passion of Sidney's and Shakespeare's, have few rivals in sweetness and musical evolution, and not less harmonious are the songs or canzoni in irregular lines. That beginning "Phœbus arise!" in ardour, colour, and music will bear comparison with Spenser. Of the genuineness of the religious and moral feeling which animates the noblest of his sonnets and poems there can be no doubt. Their philosophic profundity has perhaps been exaggerated. It was not a very difficult task for a scholar like Drummond to fill Platonic or neo-Platonic conceptions with orthodox sentiment.

Scholarship, thoughtfulness, and careful workmanship form the link which, in Mr Courthope's view, Sir John
Beaumont.
connect Drummond and Sir John Beaumont (1582-1627), elder brother of the dramatist, and author of the Metamorphosis of Tobacco, a humorous didactic and eulogistic poem, Bosworth Field, a short narrative poem, and a number of complimentary and sacred verses. Beaumont seems to me much less of a poet than Drummond. His vein is reflective, and often both his sentiment and style would, as Drayton said of Daniel's, fit prose better than verse. His best verses are the sacred. If he writes couplets with some of the regularity and balance of Dryden, he gets as a rule much less into them, and this was the real crux, for it was the endeavour to give a denser intellectual texture to poetry which gave both harshness and obscurity to the verse of the two poets who began the movement that ended with Dryden.

These two poets, the chief shaping influences of Jacobean and Caroline poetry—John Donne (1573-1631) Donne and
Jonson.
and Ben Jonson (1573?-1637)—were not only almost exactly contemporary, but were knit together by many common sympathies. They were both impatient of the diffuse and flamboyant style of the Spenserian and Italianate poets, and willing for the sake of pregnancy and vigour to overlook harshness and obscurity. Both were certainly admirers and imitators of Latin poetry, especially satirical and elegiac, and both cultivated a vein of frank, even cynical and brutal, satire. They were courtly poets, and wrote abundance of high-flown eulogies and occasional verses, very often addressed to the same patrons. Donne's wit was not less courtly than Jonson's, if we remember that the court for which both wrote was James's.

Despite these resemblances, however, Donne and Jonson represent with startling distinctness the two discordant streams of tendency in the first half of the seventeenth century—the mediæval or scholastic reaction on the one hand, the movement towards the rationalism and classicism of the closing century on the other. Jonson is, as the study of his drama has shown, the first of our classical poets. In his poetry we see the elegancies and extravagances of Petrarchian—what Mr Courthope calls Euphuist—wit meeting with and yielding to the simpler and more appropriate sentiments of classical poetry, the dignified and vigorous common-sense which was to be Dryden's ideal of wit. In Donne's poetry revives all that was most subtle and metaphysical in the thought and fancy of the Middle Ages.

The son of rigidly Catholic parents, who on his mother's side connected him with John Heywood of the Merry Interludes and Sir Thomas More, Donne[4] was educated at Oxford, but without Donne's Life. graduating in order to escape the oaths. His early manhood blended the experiences of an Elizabethan gallant and sailor-soldier with those of a theological student and controversialist. His position as a Catholic, excluded thereby from public life, and at the same time a man of as ambitious a temperament as Swift's, combined with what he calls "an immoderate, hydroptic thirst of learning," involved him early in the thorny subtleties of Roman-Anglican controversy; while another side of his nature drew him to Donne. court adventure in love and war. His strange, virile, powerful, often repellent, Elegies may record details of actual intrigues, as Mr Gosse supposes. I am more inclined to believe that, while Donne's stormy career doubtless supplied experiences enough from which to draw generally, the Elegies are his very characteristic contribution to the frankly pagan and sensuous poetry of the Nineties, represented otherwise by Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis. A soldier as well as a lover, Donne was with Raleigh and Essex at their attack on the Spanish fleet in Cadiz, and it was during the abortive Islands' voyage of 1597 that he wrote his vividly etched studies. The Storm and The Calm. During some of these years he visited Italy and Spain, and in Spanish literature he was deeply read. His appointment as secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton seemed at last to have opened the door to Donne's ambition, but his elopement with Anne More in 1601 closed it again abruptly, and years of disappointment and suffering, dependence on patrons and free-lance work in controversy, led him inevitably, after some delays, to holy orders in 1615, and a life as severely ascetic and pious as his earlier had been adventurous. But the fame of the eloquent preacher never quite eclipsed that of the poet.

Donne's poems—with the exception of his elegies on Mistress Elizabeth Drury, The Anatomy of the Works. World—were not printed until after his death, and it is accordingly difficult to determine their order with accuracy. His Satires—the most interesting and, metrically, the most irregular of the late sixteenth-century work of this kind—may date from 1593, but the earliest unmistakable reference is to 1597. To his first years in town belong probably the more frankly sensuous and cynical of the Elegies and Songs and Sonnets. Those which strike a higher and more Platonic note may have been written after his engagement to Anne More. The satirical Progress of the Soul dates from 1601. The courtly and adulatory Epithalamia, Verse-Letters, Epicedes and Obsequies, as well as the Divine Poems, were the product of his later and more regular years.

Amorous and satirical, courtly, pious, these are the successive phases of Donne's life and poetry,—poetry in which the imaginative, emancipated spirit of the Renaissance came into abrupt contact, and blended in the strangest way with the scholastic pedantry and subtlety of the controversial court of James. The temper of Donne's poetry is that of Marlowe's and Shakespeare's. It has the same emancipated ardour and exaltation. Whatever his theme—love, eulogy, or devotion—his imagination, like theirs, takes wing, so soon as it is thrown off, to the highest pitch of hyperbole. What distinguishes him from the great Elizabethans is the prevailing character of his conceits, his "metaphysical wit." To the imaginative temper of Marlowe Donne superadded the subtlety and erudition of a school-man, and brought to the expression of his intense, audacious passions imagery drawn from an intimate knowledge of mediæval theology and of the science mediæval, but beginning to grow modern, of the seventeenth century.

Johnson's term "metaphysical"—which he derived from Dryden, and by which it is clear from what he Metaphysical
poetry.
says of Waller's "wit" as well as Cowley's he meant simply learned or technical conceits, drawn not from "the superficies of nature" but from the recondite stores of learning—is both more distinctive than any other name which has been suggested—"fantastic" is very far from distinctive—and is historically interesting and accurate. "Concetti metafisici ed ideali" are, according to Fulvio Testi, the distinctive feature of Italian as opposed to classical poetry. The ultimate source of the conceits and artificialities of Renaissance love-poetry is to be found, as Mr Courthope has indicated, in the poetry of the Middle Ages, from the Troubadours onwards. But it was in Italy, in the "dolce stil nuovo" of Guido Guinicelli and Dante, that the "metaphysical" element first appeared in love-poetry. "Learning," says Adolf Gaspary.[5] "is the distinctive feature of the new school." Writing first in the Troubadour fashion of the Sicilians, it was with the famous canzone "Al cor gentil ripara sempre amore" that Guinicelli began to write in the metaphysical manner. "The change in his poetry took place under the influence of science. Philosophy, which in that age when Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura were teaching had again come to be regarded with favour, penetrated even into poetry, which drew from it its subject-matter, and even the manner of its exposition." The high-priest of this ideal, metaphysical, abstract love-poetry was Dante. Petrarch brought love-poetry back to closer touch with ordinary human nature. His finer psychology made Petrarch "the first of the moderns"; on the other hand, his subtle and refined compliments contained the germ, and more than the germ, of what in subsequent sonneteers took the place of Dante's philosophy and Petrarch's psychology—a kind of pseudo-metaphysics which elaborated in abstract and hyperbolical fashion every metaphor, natural or traditional to the theme of love. But the sonnet never lost the cast which it acquired from its origin in this combination of high passion and scholastic philosophy—a strain of subtle thought, a readiness to admit erudite and technical imagery—even though it be only occasionally that one finds again passionate and profound reflection upon the nature and mystery of love. A sonnet like "Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediment," is not less intense or philosophic in its own way than a canzone of the Vita Nuova.[6]

It is this metaphysical, erudite, scholastic strain which Donne, under conditions similar to that in which it first appeared, renewed and heightened. He is hardly less concerned than Dante with the abstract nature of love. The "concetti metafisici ed ideali" of the Anatomy of the World are not more metaphysical and hyperbolical—blasphemous, as Jonson bluntly put it—than those of the canzone in the Vita Nuova, which tells how the saints in heaven beseech God for the presence of Beatrice—

                 "My lady is desired in the high heaven."

The central idea of the Anatomy of the World, the all-pervading influence of the loved one, is an expansion of one of the conventions of the school of Dante.

But after all there is a vast difference between Donne and Dante. Donne has no consistent metaphysic of love and its place in the upward movement of the soul to God. He elaborates in many of the Songs and Sonnets two radically inconsistent ideas, one the inherent fickleness of woman, the other the mystical identity of the souls of lovers. But often he simply ransacks his multifarious knowledge to discover new and startling conceits in which to express his bizarre and subtle moods. For it is a mistake—towards which I venture to think Mr Courthope tends—to let the intellectual and abstract element in Donne's poetry blind one to the passionate feeling it expresses. No love-poetry of the closing sixteenth century has more of the sting of real feeling in it except Shakespeare's. There is nothing quite like Donne's love-poems in the language, except, perhaps, some of Browning's. Passion seems to affect both poets in the same way, not evoking the usual images, voluptuous and tender, but quickening the intellect to intense and rapid trains of thought, and finding utterance in images, bizarre sometimes and even repellent, often of penetrating vividness and power. The opening of one of Donne's songs affects us like an electric shock, jarring and arresting—

        "For God's sake hold your tongue and let me love,"

or —

            "I long to talk with some old lover's ghost
             Who died before the God of love was born,"

or—

              "Twice or thrice had I loved thee
               Before I knew thy face or name,
               So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame,
               Angels affect us oft and worshipped be";

and many of the best, as "The Anniversary," the wonderful "Ecstasy," "The Funeral," "The Relic," "The Prohibition," preserve throughout this potent and unique impressiveness. Donne's Songs and Sonnets cannot take a place beside the great love-poetry of Dante, Petrarch, and Shakespeare. There is too large an element in them of mere intellectual subtlety, even freakishness. But his poetry is not to be dismissed as the result of conflicting conceptions of nature clashing in a subtle and bizarre intellect. It has a real imaginative as well as historical value, because it is the unique expression of a unique temperament.

The difference between Donne and Jonson comes out very distinctly if we compare their eulogistic Jonson. verses. The non-dramatic poetry of Jonson is contained in the Epigrams and Forest, which he published in 1616, and the posthumous Underwoods (1640). A large proportion of it, including the best of the epigrams, consists of eulogistic addresses to patrons and friends. Donne's Verse-Letters are of the same kind, and there is abundance of eulogy in his Epithalamia and Epicedes. It is when he is paying compliments that Donne's mind works most abstractly, and that his subtleties are most purely intellectual. In the verses To the Countess of Salisbury, August 1614, beginning "Fair, great and good," he elaborates with the utmost ingenuity the statement that the Countess is super-excellent in a world which has grown utterly corrupt, but he gives no indication of the qualities in which her excellence is shown. He tells the Lady Carey that while others are virtuous in this or that humour—phlegm, blood, melancholy, or choler—she has virtue so entire that it has made even her beauty virtuous, exciting not to passion but to goodness. Jonson's eulogies are in a different strain. He can be fancifully complimentary, but it is in a more Humanist and elegant, a less pedantic style,—witness the beautiful lines to the Countess of Bedford or those to Susan, Countess of Montgomery, or those to Mary Lady Wroth—

          "He that but saw you wear the wheaten hat
           Would call you more than Ceres if not that;
           And drest in shepherd's tire who would not say
           You were the bright Œnone, Flora, or May?"

Delicacy and pathos are blended in his epitaphs. If "Underneath this sable hearse" is not Jonson's, it is quite Jonsonian. But Jonson's most characteristic and classical eulogies are relevant and appropriate appreciations, compliments a man might be proud to receive, because they tell something about him to posterity, couched in a style and verse often obscure and harsh, but often vigorous and felicitous. The very ruggedness of the lines to Chief-Justice Egerton and those to Sir Henry Savile give them an air of burly veracity which is very taking. His eulogy of Shakespeare in the lines prefixed to the First Folio contains juster criticism of Shakespeare's genius and Shakespeare's art than anything he said or wrote in prose. The ease and urbanity of Horace Jonson never attained, but his best eulogies have classical relevancy and restraint.

Jonson's songs, which are scattered through the plays and masques as well as the above-named collections, have not the passion or subtlety of Donne's, nor the careless note of the very finest Elizabethan songs. They are more consciously elaborated even when most simple, but at their best they have a concentrated sweetness, a unique combination of strength and charm which make Jonson's lyrics unmistakable in any anthology. And their range is very remarkable, from the swing and abandon of "Drink to me only with thine eyes," and the elaborate, Comus-like "Slow, slow fresh fount," to the patter verses of the Gipsies Metamorphosed and delightful snatches like—

                              "Buz, quoth the blue fly,
                                   Hum, quoth the bee,
                               Buz and hum they cry,
                                   And so do we."

The "metaphysical" turn which Donne gave to "wit" is distinctive of English poetry at this period, Influence of
Donne and
Jonson.
and it did not tend to the general improvement of poetic style. The earlier Euphuists, Petrarchists, Arcadians, Lyly and Sidney, Marlowe and Shakespeare, had been mainly concerned with style in their quest of conceits and golden phrases. "The uncontented care to write better than one might" had been the chief source of their beauties and their aberrations. The same care, become a craze for novelty, for new and startling conceits, is the characteristic of Italian Marinism, "the craving to improve upon what is incapable of improvement." French "préciosité" has its source in the same concernment with style; but French preciosity is a malady of growth, not of decay, a phase in the movement towards a greater refinement of manners and speech.[7] The "précieux" were concerned with what might not be said as well as with what should be said. Still both Marinism and Preciosity were phases in the Renaissance cult of style. "Metaphysical wit" marked the passing of interest in English poetry to some extent from style to content. Donne in his Verse-Epistles and Epicedes is more intent upon the subtle thought or thoughts he wishes to develop than on their lucid and harmonious expression, though ever and again he flashes into a magnificent phrase; and Donne's followers convey ingenious fancies, often not worth the carriage, in an obscure uncouth style, and in verse grating as "a brazen canstick turned." Nor did Jonson's influence counteract this tendency. Though his thought is more natural than Donne's, he, too, is concerned with what he says quite as much as with how he says it, more intent on vigour and compression than beauty of phrase and musical numbers. The first half of the seventeenth century produced more than one poet of singular interest, poets whose work has a deeper personal note than that of most of the Elizabethans, and in Milton and Herrick two, in different ways, consummate artists, but the general level of poetical expression and verse, as judged, say, from the eulogistic poetry produced in such abundance, is lower than that which had been reached at the close of the sixteenth century.

What was best done was in lyrical poetry, in which the influence of Donne and Jonson appears both blended and distinct. Donne's closest followers are the devout Anglican poets. They strike the same deep personal note; and the wide range of metaphysical imagery gratified their taste for quaint analogies, for symbols, and for points rhetorically effective rather than purely poetic. The courtiers, too, could turn metaphysical images to their service in compliment and badinage—

                  "Ask me no more whither do stray
                   The golden atoms of the day,
                   For in pure love heaven did prepare
                   Those powders to enrich your hair."

But Jonson is their leader in courtly eulogy; a great deal of their imagery is, like his, a blend of Petrarchian and classical; their sentiment, though touched occasionally with the Platonism which the Queen brought over from the Hôtel de Rambouillet, is in general pagan and sensuous rather than Petrarchian or ideal.

This lyrical poetry, grave or gay, pagan or devout, was the product of the halcyon years which preceded Caroline Court
Poetry.
the storm that broke when the Long Parliament met, and it reflects the spirit, not of the nation at large, but of the court of Charles, its gaiety and love-making on the one hand, its concern for Catholic doctrine and decent services on the other, its self-centred indifference to what was happening on the Continent, or what was moving in the heart of the nation. The conflict abroad found no echo in English poetry. Vondel's imagination was agitated by every incident in the Thirty Years' War. Carew, when invited, declines to sing of the death of Gustavus—

                            "What though the German drum
                Bellow for freedom and revenge, the noise
                Concerns not us, nor should divert our joys."

Of the disaster that was to overwhelm those joys the poets express no foreboding. Only in Lycidas does the trumpet sound a warning note.[8]

Of the religious poets who followed Donne—the preacher as well as the poet—and voice the spirit of Herbert. Laud's reformation, the most influential and the most sustained artist was George Herbert (1593-1632), whose volume, The Temple, Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633), was published in the same year as the poems of his master and friend were issued posthumously by his son. Like Donne, Herbert, for reasons that were perhaps mingled, had turned from worldly ambition to religion, and found an outlet for his temperament in asceticism and exalted piety. The crisis through which he passed is traceable in his poetry, and lends it a personal note of struggle, disappointment, and consolation which prevent it from degenerating into frigid Anglican didactic. For the general tone is didactic. There is something of the accomplished university orator and the winning parish preacher in Herbert's quaint, carefully elaborated, effective treatment of the various phases of a single theme, the spiritual lessons and experiences of one who found both discipline and consolation in the theology, sacraments, and symbols of the Anglican church. Like Donne, Herbert rejects the pastoral and allegorical conventions of the Spenserians.

              "Who says that fictions only and false hair
               Become a verse? Is there no truth in beauty?
               Is all good structure in a winding stair?
               May no lines pass except they do their dutie
                      Not to a true but painted chair?

               Is it no verse except enchanted groves
               And sudden arbours shadow coarse-spun lines?
               Must purling streams refresh a lover's love?
               Must all be vail'd while he that reads divines,
                      Catching the sense at two removes?

               Shepherds are honest people: let them sing;
               Riddle who list for me and pull for prime:
               I envy no man's nightingale or spring:
               Nor let them punish me with loss of rhyme,
                      Who plainly say, My God! My King!"

Not so subtle and daring as Donne's imagery, Herbert's quaint figures are managed with great rhetorical effectiveness, worked out with an almost Tennysonian lucidity and relevancy, and are often not less beautiful poetically than rhetorically effective, as in, perhaps, the best known of his poems, the lines on Virtue, beginning—

                 "Sweet day so cool, so calm, so bright!"

or in the Church Floor, with its characteristically quaint and imaginative symbolism—

        "Mark you the floor? that square and speckled stone
                                         Is Patience :
         And the other black and grave wherewith each one
                             Is cheker'd all along
                                         Humilitie :
         The gentle rising which on either hand
                             Leads to the Quire above
                                         Is Confidence:
         But the sweet cement which in one sure band
                     Ties the whole frame is Love
                                         and Charitie.
         Hither sometimes sinne steals and stains
         The marble's neat and curious veins:
     But all is cleansed when the marble weeps.
         Sometimes Death puffing at the door
         Blows all the dust about the floor:
     But while he thinks to spoil the room he sweeps.
         Blest be the Architect whose art
         Could build so strong in a weak heart."

Herbert's love of symbolism extends to the form of his verses. He has poems in the shape of wings and crosses, and, more happily, writes of The Trinity in a verse of three lines, of Sunday in one of seven, and describes Aaron's dress in stanzas that swell out and die away like bells.

The influence of Herbert's fine spirit and prevailing though quaint rhetoric is witnessed for by Baxter, and is clear from the work of his two chief followers, greater poets at their best than himself, Vaughan. but less careful workmen—Henry Vaughan (1621-2-1695) and Richard Crashaw (1613-1649). Vaughan was a Welshman of whose life we know very little beyond the facts that he was at Jesus College, Oxford, and in his later life became a physician. He was not at first religious, but was apparently converted by reading Herbert's poems. The verses contained in his Secular Poems (1646) and Olor Iscanus (1651) do not rise much above the level of the amatory and complimentary verses which the young gentlemen of the universities and court produced in too great abundance. Several are merely translations. The lines to the Usk, which give their name to the second collection, have little descriptive or moralising force. His best poetry is his religious, contained in the Silex Scintillans (1650-56). He follows Herbert, often closely in choice of theme and imagery, but he is less concerned about Church seasons and services, and he lacks Herbert's sustained pointedness, his effective elaboration of his conceits. Vaughan's fame rests upon poems and passages in which he reveals qualities quite distinct from Herbert's—a delicate, intense feeling for the spiritual affinities of nature unique in the century, an occasional sublimity of imaginative vision to which Herbert never attained. In this last respect some of Vaughan's lines reach the level of the greatest poetry the century produced, as—

          "I saw Eternity the other night
           Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
              All calm as it was bright:
           And round beneath it Time in hours, days, years,
                 Driv'n by the spheres
           Like a vast shadow moved; in which the world
              And all its train were hurled";

But it is only on occasions that he approaches this level. Vaughan was a mystic, not as Donne from too intense and subtle reflection, but from visitings of

                                  "that blessed mood
                     In which the burthen of the mystery
                     Is lightened";

and under the influence of that mood he apprehended the divine in simpler and more enduring symbols than the correctly Anglican Herbert or the ecstatically Catholic Crashaw—

                            "On some gilded cloud or flower
                    My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
                    And in those weaker glories spy
                    Some shadows of eternity."

A more ardent temperament than either Herbert's or Vaughan's, a more soaring and glowing Crashaw. lyrical genius, belonged to Richard Crashaw (1613-1649). The son of a Puritan preacher who denounced the Pope as Antichrist, Crashaw at Cambridge came under the influence of that powerful wave of reaction of which the Laudian movement was only a symptom. His artistic temperament felt the charm of church music and architecture, and his ardent disposition responded, like the Dutch Vondel's, to the Catholic glorification of love as well as faith, the devotion to Christ and the Virgin of the martyr and the saint. He read Italian and Spanish, and was infected by the taste for what one might call the religious confectionery of which Marino's poems are full. His Epigrammata Sacra (1634) elaborate with great cleverness and point tender and pious conceits. Of his English poems, the secular Delights of the Muses (1648) include experiments in conceit and metrical effect such as Love's Duel and Wishes, and eulogies in the highly abstract style of Donne's, with less of thought and more of sentiment. But his most characteristic and individual work is the religious poetry contained in the Steps to the Temple (1646) written before, and the Carmen Deo Nostro (1652) published in Paris after his ardent nature and the failure of Laud's endeavour had driven him to seek shelter in the bosom of the Roman Church, poems on all the favourite subjects of Catholic devotion—the Name of Christ, the Virgin, Mary Magdalene weeping, martyrs, saints, and festivals.

Crashaw's style may have been influenced by Marino as well as Donne. His conceits are frequently of the physical and luscious character, to which the Italian tended always, the English poet never. He translated the first canto of the Strage degli Innocenti, frequently intensifying the imaginative effect, at other times making the conceit more pointed and witty, occasionally going further in the direction of confectionery even than Marino. The latter does not describe hell as a "shop of woes," nor say that the Wise Men went—

           "Westward to find the world's true Orient";

nor would Marino, I think, speak of the Magdalen's tears as flowing upward to become the cream upon the Milky Way. Marino's early and purer style in religious poetry is better represented by Drummond's sacred sonnets.

But if Crashaw's taste in conceits is at times worse than Marino's, his lyrical inspiration is stronger, his spiritual ecstasies more ardent. There is more of Vondel than Marino in the atmosphere of his religious poetry. The northern temperament vibrates with a fuller music. His hymn, On the Glorious Assumption, is written in the same exalted strain as Vondel's dedication of the Brieven der Heilige Maeghden, but Vondel's style is simpler and more masculine. Crashaw's fire is too often coloured—"happy fireworks" is the epithet he applies to his beloved Saint Theresa's writings—but its glow is unmistakable, and occasionally, as in the closing lines of The Flaming Heart, it is purified by its own ardour.

A devoted Anglican like Herbert and Vaughan, but a bolder quester after the divine as revealed not in Church creeds and symbols but in nature and in the heart of man, was Thomas Traherne (1636-1674), rector of Credinhill in Herefordshire, and chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgman. In his lifetime Traherne published nothing beyond a contribution, entitled Roman Forgeries, to Anglican controversy, and a Christian Ethics, which was in the press at the time of his death. It was left to Mr Bertram Dobell in the present century to make public the ardent and mystical poems, which had been preserved in manuscript for more than two centuries, and were on the eve of perishing.

Traherne's poetry glows with an ecstasy as ardent as Crashaw's, but more intellectual and mystical than the Catholic poet's sensuous and coloured strains. Like most mystics, he has but one theme—the history and message of his own enlightenment, and the same is the theme of his prose Centuries of Meditations. That enlightenment had its source in the experience which Vaughan recalls with a sigh in The Retreat, namely, the ecstatic joys of innocent childhood. But Traherne's joys were intenser than Vaughan's, more akin to the mood of Wordsworth when

                "The earth and every common sight
                    To me did seem
                 Apparelled in celestial light,
                    The glory and the freshness of a dream."

And from these experiences Traherne drew a bolder and profounder philosophy than either Vaughan or Wordsworth, which recalls rather the mystical audacity of Blake. "My knowledge," he says, "was divine. I knew by intuition those things which, since my apostacy, I collected again by the highest reason." For Vaughan there is no return to life's early ecstasy in this world; Wordsworth can but be thankful that it has been. But Traherne recovered it through the highest reason, and learned that, as in infancy, earth might be already heaven. What the highest reason taught him was, that the intense joy which the beauty of the created world had given him in youth, and which the world's false hierarchy of values for a time obscured, is the very end and purpose for which the world was created. It is only when God beholds the world reflected in the souls of men, evoking their gratitude and love, that His desire in creating is fulfilled—

            "Our blessedness to see
             Is even to the Deity
             A Beatific vision! He attains
             His ends while we enjoy. In us He reigns."

And again


            "In them [i.e., human souls] He sees,
             And feels, and smells, and lives;
             To them He all conveys;
             Nay even Himself: He is the End
             To whom in them Himself and all things tend."

The soul whose value is thus final is for Traherne the one great reality; and the mystery of its existence limited to a small body, yet in thought—and what is more real than thought?—embracing the universe, is one on which he dwells in rapt strains. All of Traherne's poetry is the record of these experiences and reasonings. He was an orthodox Anglican, but we hear comparatively little in his poetry of sin and of the death of Christ. Sorrow and the macerating sense of sin are swallowed up in the ecstasy of a soul made one with God by mutual need and love, and tasting already the joys of Paradise.

            "Did my Ambition ever dream
             Of such a Lord, of such a Love! Did I
                     Expect so sweet a stream
             As this at any time? Could any eye
                     Believe it? Why all Power
                               Is used here,
             Joys down from Heaven on my head do shower,
             And Jove beyond the fiction doth appear
             Once more in golden rain to come
             To Danaë's pleasing fruitful womb
             His Ganymede! His Life! His Joy!
             Or He comes down to me, or takes me up
                     That I might be his boy,
             And fill, and taste, and give and drink the cup;
                     But those tho' great are all
                     Too short and small,
             Too weak and feeble pictures to express
             The true mysterious depths of Blessedness.
             I am His Image and His friend.
             His Son, Bride, Glory, Temple, End."

Such audacious ecstasies transcend the limits of average humanity, which is more at home with the fearful joys of Herbert and Vaughan, or the more sensuous and remote ecstasies of Crashaw, but they are not in Traherne less profoundly religious. As an artist Traherne is not studious of phrase, or conceit, or cadence. He has absolutely none of the merely rhetorical metaphysics of Cowley, from whose Pindarics he may have derived the structure of his more elaborate strains. His poetry is metaphysical because the thought is so; but the expression is perfectly simple and natural, at times too expository and direct, and marred by a frequent use of the expletive "do," but often kindled into felicity by the ecstasy of the poet. Individual poems of striking interest are "Silence," "The Choice," "The Anticipation," "The Circulation," "On News"; but Traherne's excellencies are scattered through all his work.

Herbert and the religious lyrists of the school of Donne voiced the serious spirit of the court party, the Anglicanism of Andrewes and Laud. Herbert, indeed, was hardly less influential than her great preachers and divines in giving to the English Church of the seventeenth century that character which, when she had disappeared from sight, kept her alive in the hearts of many as an ideal of sweet reasonableness and decent order—

                   "Beauty in thee takes up her place,
                    And dates her letters from thy face."

The more worldly, not to say dissolute, temper of the cavaliers colours, as well as the drama of Fletcher and Shirley, the light lyrics and adulatory eulogies of quite a number of poets about the court or in the universities, imitators in various ways and degrees of Jonson's classical and Donne's scholastic wit.

Of them all, Thomas Carew (1578-1639?), sewer-in-ordinary to Charles, whose favour he seems to have gained more by wit than worth, was, with the exception of Herrick, the most finished artist. His masque, the Cœlum Britannicum, an elaborate compliment to the mutual fidelity of Charles and Henrietta Maria, based on Bruno's Spaccio della Bestia, was produced in 1633, and his verses were collected and issued posthumously in 1640. He wrote an elegy on Donne—

                       "A king that ruled as he thought fit
                 The universal monarchy of wit"—

in which he commends the emancipation from convention and imitation which Donne brought to English poetry. There is, however, a good deal that is conventional in Carew's own imagery. He does not altogether, like Donne, eschew the help of Cupid and the gods. Jonson is more directly his master than Donne. Superficial feeling, elegant, occasionally outrageous, conceit, correct expression—natural both in diction and order,—musical verse, these are the characteristics of Carew's work. In songs like "Ask me no more" and "He that loves a coral lip," classical finish and polish of style are given to the high-flown fantastic conceit of the Renaissance.

In the employment of wit for the purpose of gallant, high-flown flattery, no one went further without Lovelace. becoming, like Cleveland, absolutely nauseous than Richard Lovelace (1618-1658), a brilliant courtier, and in the years of trouble and disaster a loyal cavalier. No one makes more frequent or extravagant use of the consuming fire of love, tears that drown, beauty which outshines the sun and out-perfumes the east; nor is this extravagance of conceit redeemed by perfection of workmanship. Nevertheless two of Lovelace's lyrics, quite characteristic in conceit and style, are the brightest gems of cavalier poetry. In "Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind" and "When Love with unconfined wings," conceit is glorified by becoming the expression of noble and passionate sentiment.

There is more of spontaneity and of wit, in the modern sense of the term, in the poems of Sir John Suckling. Suckling (1608-1641) than in either Lovelace or Carew. If the last is the voluptuous and the second the gallant, Suckling is the gay and reckless courtier. His passion for gaming, his lavish equipment of one hundred horse for the abortive Scottish war, are quite in keeping with the tone of his sparkling love-songs. He reproduces some of Donne's more reckless defiances of the conventions in love with less intensity but greater ease and humour. In delightful gaiety no poem could surpass—

                       "Out upon it I have loved
                        Three whole days together";

and in the incomparable Ballad upon a Wedding there is not only gaiety but exquisite description. The poet with whom he suggests comparison is his contemporary Vincent Voiture, neater perhaps and more pointed at his best, but with far less of feeling and imagination.

But of all the poets who may be classed somewhat loosely as court lyrists, the greatest in virtue both of Herrick. vigour of fancy and perfection of technique is Robert Herrick (1591-1674), one of the "sons of Ben" at Cambridge and London for a few years, who wrote his best poems in what he considered banishment at Deanbourne in Devonshire, where he was rector from 1629 to his death, though ejected during the years of the Commonwealth. Herrick was not of the school of Herbert or Crashaw. His saints were "Saint Ben" and the classic poets to whom he dedicated an enthusiastic strain in the verse entitled "To Live Merrily and to Trust to Good Verses." These are the literary source of his inspiration. Guided by them he found another, when he went to Devonshire, in the superstitions, rites, and customs which still lingered in English country-life. He was the poet of all pretty things, and it is their prettiness which he accentuates and heightens,—flowers, fairies, young girls, rites pagan and Christian, good wine, and good verses. He enumerates them in the opening lines of Hesperides (1647), in which he gathered together most of his secular epigrams, songs, and other verses. The spirit of the "pious pieces" which compose Noble Numbers is not very different. Herrick does not approach God with the earnest pleading of Herbert, the rapt love of Crashaw, or the mystic awe of Vaughan, but with the artless frankness of a child confessing his naughtiness and asking to escape too severe a penalty.

The technical perfection of Herrick's work within its limited range places him as an artist second to Milton only. Of English poets none seem to inherit so closely, though in very different ways, from the French poets who composed the Pleiad, Milton fulfilling as none of them had been able to do the bolder programme of epic and tragedy and ode, Herrick catching all the pagan grace and fancy of their lighter Anacreontic strains to which he gave certainly no less of classical perfection of style. Had such ease and finish been attained by writers of eulogistic, satiric, and reflective verse in decasyllabic couplets, there would have been little for Dryden and Pope to do in the way of "correcting " English poetry.

A poet whose early and best work, written under the Commonwealth, has the motives and temper of courtly poetry—qualified by a graver Puritan spirit Marvell.—is Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), the son of the clerical headmaster of Hull Grammar School. Educated at Cambridge—where he passed through some religious vicissitudes—he travelled abroad, and on his return became tutor to Lord Fairfax's daughter (1650-52), at Nunappleton House in Yorkshire. It was here that he wrote, though they were not published till much later, lyrical verses which have links with the courtly poems of Waller, the religious poetry of Vaughan, and Jonson's Horatian eulogies of great men and praises of a country life. His political satires were written later, and are discussed in the next volume.

Marvell's poetry is unequal, but at its best it bears the mark of a singularly potent and poetic individuality. No verses are more familiar from anthologies than his noble Horatian ode on Cromwell, the imaginatively phrased To His Coy Mistress, especially the lines beginning

                "But at my back I always hear
                 Time's winged chariot hurrying near";

and the richly descriptive Upon Appleton House, The Fawn, and the Bermudas. Marvell's treatment of nature has been compared to Vaughan's. It seems to me much more entirely descriptive and decorative. He speaks once of "Nature's mystic book," but it is in introducing an elaborate compliment to his pupil as the source of Nature's beauty. That is not Vaughan's manner. It was in the year following the publication of Donne's Poems and Herbert's Temple, the year of Crashaw's Milton. Epigrammata and Carew's Cœlum Britannicum, that Comus was presented before the Earl of Bridgewater; and its publication with Lawe's music followed in 1637. It was the first indication that, among those who regarded with an ever-increasing hatred the ecclesiastical policy of Laud, and to whom the courtly lyrical and dramatic poetry was as the dissonant music of Comus and his rout, there had been growing up, in the person of the delicate, studious, and carefully educated son of a Puritan scrivener,[9] who had just after seven years' study quitted Cambridge, "church-outed by the prelate," unable to take orders in an Anglican Church reformed by Laud, and was living in bookish seclusion at Horton, a poet after the order of the few greatest the world has produced, a poet who, combining the high seriousness of the Spenserians with the classical culture and regard for form of Jonson, was destined to add to Elizabethan achievement in drama and song equally high achievement in epic, while imparting a new grandeur of diction and evolution to the ode or sustained and elaborate lyric, and making in the drama experiments of singular interest and beauty.

The strength of individuality which marks Milton's work from the very first makes the traces in it of Influences. contemporary influence appear superficial, interesting as they are to the literary student. His youthful versions of the Psalms contain reminiscences of his reading in Sylvester, Spenser, Drummond, and other poets who enjoyed Puritan approval, but the rich embroidery of "Let us with a gladsome mind" is already characteristic. The verses On the Death of a Fair Infant are a charmingly executed, elegant conceit of the kind Jonson elaborates in some of his eulogies, as the second epigram to Mary Lady Wroth or the immediately preceding one to Susan, Countess of Montgomery; while the verse, the "Troilus" stanza with a closing Alexandrine, is Spenserian. Milton's early work is not untouched with the frost of conceit, but it is never scholastic and metaphysical conceit—

                                           "That trimming slight
            Which takes our late fantastics with delight."

What is worst and what is best in Donne alike repelled Milton. His occasional conceits are rather of the Marinistic or Petrarchian type. The earth which

                                           "woos the gentle air
             To hide her guilty front with innocent snow,"

is akin to Théophile's dagger which blushed for its crime. The conceit in the lines On Shakespeare is suggested by a sonnet (cxxxi.) of Petrarch.

But conceit is a subordinate element even in Milton's earliest poetry. The sign-manual of his Early Poems. work are the "poetic diction" and the artistic evolution, and both are in evidence in the noble ode with which, in 1629, he enlarged the compass of English lyrical poetry. The hymn On the Morning of Christ's Nativity (which is indebted for suggestions to Tasso's Canzone Sopra la Cappella del Presepio), is the most finely evolved ode which English poetry had produced up to that date. It is not more poetic in feeling than the Epithalamium, but its thought-scheme is more complete, its crescendo and diminuendo elaborated with more conscious art. Beginning in a tone of hushed awe, the hymn rises steadily, one bell-like stanza pealing out above another, till the climax is reached in the angels' song, when it slowly subsides through the yet sonorous stanzas on the passing of the idols to the quiet close beloved of Milton. The two lyrical studies in "humours," composed at Horton, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, have the same skilful evolution, the same wholeness, and a maturer beauty of style. With Comus, composed at the same period, they are the most purely delightful of Milton's poems. Love of nature—none the less genuine because a student's love—reminiscences of Spenser and Shakespeare, Chaucer and Ariosto, pastoral and masque, Greek tragedy and Greek philosophy, mingle in these exquisite poems, written before classical pedantry had a little hardened his conception of style and form, and while he was still happy, unembittered by controversy, or by disappointment public and domestic.

Comus blends in a result that is altogether individual—a new dramatic kind, as distinct and delightful Comus. as the Aminta—suggestions derived from many sources, classical drama, Italian pastoral and Jonsonian masque, Fletcher and Shakespeare. But its largest debt is to A Midsummer Night's Dream. In that play and The Tempest Milton recognised work of Shakespeare's which was sui generis, provoking no comparison with "correct" classical tragedy and comedy; and if one work more than another floated in the back of his brain while he wrote Comus, it was Shakespeare's play "in the fairy manner." Comus also is a tale of a single night's adventure in a wood where there is magic in the air, though by Milton all is given a high and grave moral purpose. Even the style, though rich in classical imagery and literary association, is redolent of Shakespeare and the dramatists as Milton's style never was again.

For with Lycidas (1638) emerged the Milton of Paradise Lost, classical in his conception of poetic Lycidas. style and form, combatively Puritan in spirit. Johnson's criticism of Lycidas as an elegy does not altogether miss the mark. Lycidas is no more a moving lament than Paradise Lost is a profoundly satisfying religious poem. So far as King is concerned, the poem is a conventional compliment, touched with pathos perhaps only once, in the lines—

          "Ay me! while thee the shores and sounding seas
           Wash far away where'er thy bones are hurled,"

and with pure and high feeling in the heavenly vision of the close. Otherwise the sentiments which interest us are those which the poet utters regarding his own ambitions as a poet or the shortcomings of the Laudian clergy, in the passages where, breaking through the pastoral convention, he speaks in the trumpet-tones of the sonnets, and in the personal accents of a later lyric poetry. Apart from these passages, it is as a work of art that the poem commands admiration—by its marvellous evolution, the beauty of the ever-varying cadences (which were inaudible to Johnson), and the completeness with which the poet has assimilated and reproduced the artificial classical pastoral, as he was later to reproduce the artificial classical epic. There are none of Spenser's naïve, would-be realistic touches—his "cakes and cracknels," "curds and clowted cream"—and the poem gains thereby in harmony of impression.

Milton's visit to Italy, and the encouragement he received from Italian literati and from the aged patron Italy. of Tasso and Marino, encouraged him in the plan formed at Horton of writing some great poem that the world should not willingly let die. Italy was the home of the "Heroic Poem" in theory and achievement, and Milton's first dream was apparently to "out-go" Tasso and compose an heroic poem on the subject of King Arthur and his knights. He began, but found the task too difficult; and indeed it is difficult to conceive a satisfactory treatment even by Milton of the Arthurian legend with the machinery and in the style of the classical epic. The mythical character of the story may have repelled the Puritan; and it made the subject unsuitable for the epic according to Tasso's theory. His failure with Arthur, or some other reason, inclined him for a time to the drama, and in 1640-42 he was busy noting possible themes, mainly scriptural but not excluding history, and outlining plays on the subject of the Fall, which contain already all the principal moments of Paradise Lost, when he was diverted by what he deemed the more pressing duty of moulding England to a chosen people of God, and emptying the phials of his wrath on those who retarded this consummation. During these years his only poems were the occasional sonnets. Johnson's neo-classical prejudices saw in Sonnets. the sonnet merely an elegant trifle, but Milton was following the greatest of his Italian masters in using the sonnet to utter trumpet-notes on political themes; and the grand style to which he had finally attained in Lycidas is as evident as in Paradise Lost in these splendid, and in the history of English poetry so inspiring, poems.

The years of Milton's silence as a poet were years of rapid poetic decadence and transition. How Mid-century
Poets
.
remote Milton's poetry in style and conception was from the fashionable verse of the day it needs only a glance at the volume which contained Lycidas to realise. That great poem had to keep company with verses in which Joseph Beaumont inquired—


                  "Why did perfection seek for parts?
                   Why did his nature grace the arts?
                   Why strove he both the worlds to know,
                   Yet always scorned the world below?
                   Why would his brain the centre be
                   To learning's circularitie,
                   Which, though the vastest arts did fill,
                   Would like a point seem little still?"

and Cleveland, the Cavalier satirist, declared that

           "I am no poet here; my pen's the spout
                Where the rain-water of my eyes runs out
            In pity of that name whose fate we see
                Thus copied out in grief's hydrographie."

And this was the general style of eulogistic addresses, satires, and religious verse like that of Benlowes. From such contorted thought, and the uncouth ex- pression and versification which went with it, there were two modes of escape. That which Milton took, the way of genius, was not open to all; the other was to attain, even at the cost of imaginative loss, to a poetry of common-sense and clear, balanced, oratorical expression. In this movement towards a poetry of common-sense, satire of current affairs, and pointed, well-balanced eloquence, all good things, but none of them quite compensating for the finer spirit of poetry which they expelled, the writers whom Dryden singled out as his predecessors were Edmund Waller (1606-1687), Sir John Denham (1615-1669), Sir William Davenant (1605-1668), and Abraham Cowley (1618-1667).

The services of Waller and Denham were in the main metrical. In their poems the decasyllabic Waller. couplet regained some of the regularity and balance it had lost in the rugged lines and abrupt enjambments which Donne and Jonson encouraged. This is true at any rate of Waller. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, Waller was elected to Parliament at the age of sixteen; carried off a wealthy city wife in 1631; became after her death an intimate of the circle to which Falkland and Edward Hyde belonged, and the suitor of Lady Dorothy Sidney, the Sacharissa to whom his polished love-verses are addressed. He took an active part in the Long Parliament, following the moderate constitutional line of Hyde, but in the famous plot of 1643 lost his nerve, and behaved in a way which Clarendon has branded. Like others, he later made his peace with Cromwell, and wrote on him the noblest of his poems. Like others, he followed it up with eulogy of Charles restored.

"Smooth" is the epithet with which Waller's name is linked, and it is the most obvious feature of all his eulogistic verses and elegant songs, which were written at different times from about 1623 to the end of his long life. He was not the first poet to write smooth and balanced couplets, but he cultivated the art more consciously and conscientiously than any of his predecessors and contemporaries, stimulated, he says,—and there is no reason to doubt his word,—by admiration of the closing couplet in the ottava rima of Fairfax's Tasso. Waller's smoothness, like Balzac's polished periods, was due in great measure to the comparative emptiness of his poetry. He was eminently well qualified "to carve heads on cherry-stones," and with the exception of a few delightful songs—notably On a Girdle and "Go, lovely rose"—and some noble stanzas in the address to Cromwell, it would be difficult to find a thought in his poems fitted to startle or arrest. Dryden's achievement was to give balance and regularity to verse which had the pregnancy and vigour of Jonson's and Donne's.

Denham's "strength" is more dubious than Waller's "sweetness" or "smoothness," and is certainly not of a herculean character. The son of a Lord Chief-Justice of the King's Bench in Ireland, and educated at Oxford, Denham was in close attendance on the King and Queen during the years of trouble; but though made Surveyor of Works after the Restoration, he, like many others, reaped little happiness from his attachment to the House of Stuart. He wrote one worthless play, The Sophy. Of his poems the majority are occasional pieces, of which the most celebrated is the descriptive, moralising Cooper's Hill. The thoughts are prosaic and commonplace, but they are natural and relevant; and the style has some of the easy, pointed eloquence which was to be cultivated in the next age. Four lines added later have become classic—

           "O could I flow like thee and make thy stream
            My great example as it is my theme!
            Tho' deep yet clear, tho' gentle yet not dull,
            Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."

They are echoed in one of Wordsworth's earliest characteristic poems, Remembrance of Collins

                  "O glide, fair stream! for ever so
                       Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
                   Till all our minds for ever flow
                       As thy deep waters now are flowing."

There is far more vigour both of thought and expression, in the once popular poetry of Abraham Cowley. Cowley (1618-1667), whom Clarendon accounted Jonson's greatest successor. Drawn to poetry, like many another subsequently, by the Faerie Queen, Cowley wrote his Pyramus and Thisbe at ten years old, and his Poetical Blossoms were published when he was fourteen. At Cambridge he wrote a pastoral drama and a Latin comedy as well as his Elegy on William Harvey. Driven from Cambridge, he followed his friend Crashaw to Oxford, where he secured the friendship of Falkland, and was attached to the service of Lord St Albans. He attended on the Queen at Paris, and conducted her correspondence with the King. In 1647 his Mistress was published, and in 1656, after his return to England, his Poems, which included the Pindarique Odes and the fragmentary epic the Davideis. He studied medicine, and after the Restoration his chief interests were scientific; he was an original member of the Royal Society. He continued to write verses—including an Ode to Hobbes—but his most interesting product were the delightful Essays, in which he combined verse and easy, natural prose.

In Cowley's poetry, which enjoyed extraordinary popularity, one can note very clearly the meeting of stream and sea. His wit is as "metaphysical," as pedantic and fantastic, as Donne's; but he has neither the emancipated imaginative ardour of the Renaissance, nor the devotional and ecstatic tone of the Catholic reaction, but the alert, inquisitive, rational temper of Dryden and the epoch of the Royal Society. When not merely light badinage, his love-verses are frigid and execrable conceits. His Pindariques are often bright and vigorous, but are as like Pindar's odes as one of his essays is like the prophecies of Isaiah. His Davideis, in which he expands the incidents of David's adventures during Saul's reign by means of dreams and descriptions—just as Saint-Amant was doing in his Moyse Sauvé—is written in the pointed and tasteless style of Marino's Strage degli Innocenti, and in a less poetic tone. In the pursuit of a point the pious Cowley will deviate into blasphemy, as when he makes the Deity foretell Saul's suicide—

     "That hand which now on David's life would prey
      Shall then turn just and its own master slay."

What is best in Cowley are poems—like the lines on a retired life, the Elegy on Harvey, or the verses on Crashaw's death—in which he is a link between Jonson and Dryden, with less of fancy than the former but greater ease of expression, less sonorous and effective than the latter.

Cowley was not the only poet who essayed the heroic poem under French and Italian influence. Sir William Davenant (1606-1668), the son of a vintner at Oxford, made Poet-Laureate in 1638, and like Cowley Heroic Poems. and Denham in the service of the exiled Stuarts, was a prolific dramatist, and wrote one or two delightful songs; but his most ambitious work was a fragment of a romantic epic, Gondibert, published in 1650 with an elaborate letter to Hobbes and a reply from that not very romantic philosopher. William Chamberlayne (1619-1689), of whom we know very little beyond the fact that he was a physician at Shaftesbury, began about 1642 a long romantic epic, Pharonnida, an Heroick Poem, published in 1659. In both of these we see the influence not so much of the Italian romantic epic as of the French heroic romance in prose. The central feature is a love-story, and the supernatural machinery which had been such a feature of the epic has disappeared. Davenant reveals his model when he declares his intention of dividing his poem into books and cantos corresponding to the acts and scenes of a play, for this had been, Baro says, D'Urfé's design in the Astrée. Chamberlayne's poem has all the features of the kind—the unknown hero loved at first sight by the princess, whose passion is combated by her sense of what befits her rank, the endless whirl of incidents, and the final "recognition" and marriage. There is little or no dramatic interest in the Pharonnida; the style is tortured; and the verse overflows the line and couplet pause till it is hardly verse at all. But there was far more poetry in Chamberlayne than in most of his contemporaries; picturesqueness, pathos, and passion gild his obscure and affected style. But the greatest of heroic poets found his model, not in French epic or long-winded romance, not even in the more justly admired work of Tasso, but went back to the greater epics of Greece and Rome.


When Milton resumed the task which he had laid aside in 1641, the subject of the Fall was his final Paradise Lost. choice. The subject was to the serious thought of the seventeenth century of central importance in the history of the race, and round it had gathered the most agitating controversies in Protestant and Roman Christendom. In the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1642) Milton defined his attitude towards "the Jesuits and that sect among us which is named of Arminius": "Yet considering the perfection wherein man was created and might have stood, no decree necessitating his freewill, but subsequent, though not in time yet in order, to causes which were in his own power: they might perhaps be persuaded to absolve both God and us." Whether this be the strictest Calvinist doctrine or not, it is the justification of "the ways of God to man" which Milton elaborated in Paradise Lost.

That his final preference of epic to dramatic form was due to the study of Andreini and Vondel is not proved and not provable. Milton's indebtedness to Vondel (which has been asserted solely on the ground of the resemblance between incidents and expressions) has not been urged or supported by those Dutch critics who have given the matter closest attention.[10] They have recognised that, when allowance has been made for the common indebtedness of both to Scripture, to patristic tradition, to the classical and Italian poets, as well as to that early favourite of both, Du Bartas, to say nothing of Grotius, there is not sufficient ground to establish the thesis that one poet actually influenced the other. The fact is that by 1641 Milton had outlined very fully in his schemes for a drama the contents of Paradise Lost. All the principal moments are present in the sketches which he drew up—the fall of the angels, the creation of the world, the Temptation, and the consequences of the Fall in history. But none of them could be presented on the stage. All were necessarily relegated to choral ode, descriptive speech, or the symbolism of the Morality. Grotius had dramatised the scene of the Temptation, but Milton's sense of dramatic propriety evidently shrank from a scene in which one of the actors was to be a serpent. Consideration of these limitations, as well as of the necessary exclusion of God from all direct participation in the action, is sufficient to explain Milton's preference for the epic form. There is nothing, as Dr Nicholas Beets has pointed out, from which Vondel's Lucifer suffers more than from the fact that the action is left entirely to secondary agents. One of the finest "strokes" in Milton's description of the war in heaven is that the ultimate victory over Lucifer belongs to the Son of God alone.

For the artistic ideal which he thus set before him, the harmonious reproduction of the different elements The epic. of the Virgilian epic, Milton could have chosen no more appropriate theme, and none better suited to the sublime cast of his own mind. Only with a Scriptural theme, and with none so harmoniously as this central and transcendent one,—in which the human element is so small and of so unique a character,—was it possible, at any rate for a Protestant audience, to introduce the supernatural machinery without incongruity and absurdity. When in Tasso's poem God commissions Gabriel to incite Godfrey to renew the war, it is not the human which is elevated, but the divine which is depressed. Paradise Lost is the exception which proves Boileau's rule that the supernatural beings of the Christian religion are not available as epic machinery, for, in Paradise Lost, the requisite harmony is secured by raising everything to the level of the superhuman—a level from which it is only "in rare moments of rest and reprieve" that the poet descends.

Yet that even Milton suffered from the seventeenth century's entanglement in the tradition of a conventional epic is hardly to be denied. The greatest fault of Paradise Lost, regarded simply as a work of art, is that the interest steadily subsides as the poem proceeds. The first plunge in medias res is overwhelming in its grandeur. Than the first book no sublimer poem in its special kind was ever written. We feel that we have travelled a long way from its originality and splendour of invention, when we find ourselves in the middle of Michael's pedantic résumé of Old Testament history. The substance of these books was an afterthought. Milton's intention, when he sketched his drama, was to follow Du Bartas and Grotius and adumbrate the consequences of the Fall allegorically. He might have done well to abide by his original intention and make Adam's visions more general and suggestive, less detailed and didactic.

The most serious fault, however, that modern criticism has found with Paradise Lost, concerns it The religious
poem.
not so much as a poem but as a professedly religious poem. The interest in Milton's dramatis personæ is in the inverse ratio of their religious rank. Nothing in his poem is greater than his treatment of the fallen angels. One need only turn to Tasso's and Marino's grotesque infernal conferences to appreciate with gratitude the dignified presentation of Satan and his peers debating of war, or solacing themselves with song and converse high

                "Of fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute."

Elizabethan tragedy has no more dramatic figure than Satan in these opening scenes, or a situation of sublimer pathos than when he faces his fallen host, and

            "Thrice he essayed, and thrice, in spite of scorn,
             Tears such as angels weep burst forth."

Satan may be, as Mr Courthope has said, the last great representative of the Macchiavelian politician whom Marlowe and Kyd and Shakespeare brought upon the stage, but there is a pathos in his ruined virtue which none of his prototypes possess. Almost accidentally, moreover, he has acquired some of the heroic resolution of the Calvinistic Hollander who refused to bow before the tyranny of Spain, the pride of those who brought Charles to the scaffold and vindicated that deed to a startled Europe. Vondel saw a resemblance between Lucifer and Cromwell which Milton would not have allowed. But Vondel's sympathies were with kings and magistrates, and what he emphasises is Lucifer's hypocrisy rather than his pride. He is pushed to the front by the discontent of others; he fights for God against God; at the last moment he wavers and almost relents. Milton's Satan is the sole author of the rebellion in heaven and all that follows from it.

Of the other actors, Adam and Eve are certainly not wanting in humanity. They are intensely human; but they hardly attain to the dignity of humanity in its first innocence and independence sufficiently to make them the adequate heroes of this "treurspel aller treurspelen," tragedy of tragedies, as Vondel calls it. It is evident that Milton's whole treatment of Adam and Eve was too deeply coloured by his own sublime egotism, his memory of his own experiences. He was too anxious to inculcate a lesson, and the moral of the story, that it is a man's duty to keep his wife in due subjection, hardly rises to the tragic level, though Eve repentant is one of the gems of the poem.

But it is in the celestial portions of the poem that criticism has found Milton most wanting as a religious poet. This is not the place to discuss Milton's theology. The important thing is not the theology but the impression produced on the imagination. Milton's heaven is not wanting in majesty and splendour. The poet was too deeply read in the Hebrew prophets not to have at his command magnificent images and sublime eflects. Still, when we close the poem, we feel acutely that the poet has never caught a glimpse of the Beatific Vision, in which alone could be found the meaning of the great tragedy, and which lesser men than Milton—Giles Fletcher, Crashaw, Vaughan, Vondel—descried at moments. To that vision there is no access "nisi per charitatem," and some want of love was Milton's misfortune. Vondel is a less sublime poet, a far less wonderful artist, than Milton, but there is more of Christian feeling in his description of the cloud of sorrow which veiled the throne of the Godhead when Lucifer rebels than in the fierce derision with which Satan's first movements are noted in Milton's heaven.

But when Milton's limitations have been most fully enumerated. Paradise Lost remains one of the world's greatest poems, in invention, imagination, construction, language, and harmony. The sublimity and beauty of the style—a style as individual, as bold in its rejection of precedent, even of English idiom, as in a different way was Carlyle's later prose,—the sustained and majestic rhythm of the verse, never flag from the opening invocation to the quiet and solemn close. If a poet is to be judged, not alone by individual beauties, but by the greatness and completeness of his achievement, Milton's place as the second of English poets is unassailable.

Milton's last works showed no failure of the originality, the power of creating and perfecting new Paradise
Regained.
forms, which had signalised his work from the outset. Paradise Regained (1671) is not the only short epic on a New Testament subject which the seventeenth century produced, but it is by far the finest. It is not likely that Milton knew Vondel's Johannes de Boetgezant. The resemblances which Mr Edmundson pointed out have their common source in Tasso. It is more probable that he knew the Strage degli Innocenti of Marino, and the severity of Milton's style is due possibly both to his sense of what was appropriate to his sacred theme, and to his disgust at the extravagance and "wit" of Marino and Cowley. But already, in The Reasons of Church Government, he had contemplated an epic "on the brief model of the Book of Job," and that was undoubtedly the work chiefly in his mind, as he composed his story of the Temptation mainly in dialogue; and if not so elaborate a work as the greater poem, the art of Paradise Regained is not less subtle, while its ethical tone is nobler. If Satan in Paradise Lost has some of the strength of Puritanism in resistance, it is to Paradise Regained one must go to study the source of Puritan strength—the disregard of wealth and glory, the submission of the will to God, and God only.

In Samson Agonistes (1671) Milton realised another long-cherished ambition, and reproduced classical Samson
Agonistes.
tragedy as he had done classical elegy and epic; and, as in these, he assimilated and reproduced the form of Greek tragedy, including the chorus, with a completeness and harmony which no poet of the Renaissance attained, and that, while breathing into it a spirit which is Hebraic rather than Hellenic, and making it the vehicle for the expression of his intensest personal sentiments. In Samson Milton saw himself and the cause for which he fought. The wheel had come full circle, and the combat to which he sounded the first note of onset in Lycidas closed with this fierce cry of anger, and passionate prayer for vengeance. It was not the Stuarts alone who had failed to read aright the lesson of defeat. Puritanism needed, as Mr Trevelyan has said, to go to school with rationalism to reacquire some of the elements of Christianity.

Milton's poetry was the last great expression of two enthusiasms, which had passed away even while Conclusion. he wrote—the artistic enthusiasm of the Renaissance and the spiritual enthusiasm of the Reformation. No poet realised so completely the Renaissance ideal of poetry cast in classical moulds,—carried out so entirely and majestically the programme of the Pleiad. Tasso's poem had been a compromise between classical epic and mediæval romance. Jonson's attempts to reproduce classical forms in the drama appear pedantic and boyish beside Milton's. In general, Renaissance epic and tragedy are lifeless failures. French tragedy, as it finally took form, is a very different thing from Greek tragedy. Milton, and Milton only, succeeded in producing living and beautiful poems in correct classical forms. And into these classic forms he poured the intensest spirit of the Protestant movement. No one carried to bolder logical conclusions the first principle of Protestantism, the interpretation of Scripture by the unfettered individual reason and conscience. The completeness with which he accepted the right of individual interpretation separated him from the religious bodies around him, while the rigour with which he still clung to the Bible kept him out of touch with the larger rationalism of the age. There was no room in Milton's later poems for the Platonism of Spenser which lingers in Comus. Hellenic thought and Hebraic revelation come into harsh conflict in Paradise Regained, when Christ arraigns what Satan has so eloquently and sympathetically described.

Even while Milton wrote, the spiritual atmosphere, religious, political, and artistic, had changed around him. To realise the change, one has only to turn from—

            "Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit," &c.,

or —

            "Hail Holy Light, Offspring of Heaven," &c.,

to—

        "In thriving arts long since had Holland grown,
         Crouching at home and cruel when abroad;
         Scarce leaving us the means to claim our own;
         Our King they courted, and our merchants awed."

The spirit of the age that was past, with its passionate pursuit of high if somewhat narrow ideals, religious, political, and artistic, is not reflected more clearly in Milton's elevated diction, and the imaginative structure of his poems, small and great, than that of the age of reason, toleration, and constitutional discussion is in Dryden's vigorous conversational style, and his alert and acute ratiocination in verse.


  1. General Histories.—It is hardly necessary to enumerate standard works like Saintsbury's Short History, &c., and Elizabethan Literature; Gosse's Seventeenth Century Studies, London, 1874; Modern English Literature, London, 1896; and Jacobean Poets, London, 1894. More recent are Courthope's History of English Poetry, vol. iii., London, 1903, to which I am much indebted though not always in agreement, and though the first sketch of my chapter had been written before the volume appeared; Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature, ed. David Patrick, Edinburgh, 1901; Jusserand's Histoire Littéraire du Peuple Anglais, tom. ii., Paris, 1904; and Barrett Wendell's The Temper of Seventeenth-Century Literature, London, 1905. For lives and dates I have followed, generally, the Dictionary of National Biography.
    Modern Editions.—Chapman's Works, London, 1875, vols. ii. and iii., with preface by Mr Swinburne, reprinted separately the same year. Giles and Phineas Fletcher, Sir John Beaumont, Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw, and Marvell, were all edited by the late Dr Grosart for the privately published Fuller's Worthies Library, 1868, &c. Giles Fletcher, Herrick, and some others were issued in the same editor's Early English Poets, 1876, &c. Selections from Phineas Fletcher are contained in The Spenser of His Age, J. R. Tutin, Hull, 1905. Quarles, Dr Henry More, Dr Joseph Beaumont, were edited by Grosart in his Chertsey Worthies Library, also private. The Muses Library, London, 1893, reissued 1903, includes editions of Drummond, ed. Wm. C. Ward (who has traced many borrowings); Donne, ed. E. K. Chambers (the best text); Vaughan, ed. E. K. Chambers; Carew, ed. Arthur Vincent; Herrick, ed. Alfred Pollard; Marvell, ed. G. A. Aitkin; and Waller, ed. G. Thorn Drury. Herbert has been frequently republished. A good text of the Temple is that of Edgar C. S. Gibson in the Library of Devotion, London, 1899; Lovelace and Suckling were edited by W. C. Hazlitt in his Library of Old Authors, London, 1856, &c. Lovelace's Lucasta has been reproduced in the Unit Library, London, 1904, Habington's Castara was edited by C. A. Elton, Bristol, n.d. [1812], and by Edward Arber, English Reprints, 1869. Randolph was edited by W. C. Hazlitt, London, 1875. Cartwright and Davenant have not been republished complete since Chalmers' British Poets, London, 1810. Denham was republished with Waller, 1857. Chamberlayne's Pharonnida has just been reissued in Saintsbury's Caroline Poets, Oxford, 1905. Of Milton's poetical works, Masson's, London, 1890, is the last complete one with annotations. Mr Beeching's, Oxford, 1900, has reproduced the original spelling. Cowley and Crashaw have been edited by A. R. Waller in the Cambridge English Classics. Traherne's poems have been published from the MS. by Bertram Dobell, London, 1903.
  2. On Translating Homer. Lond., 1861.
  3. Athenæum, December 30, 1905.
  4. Life and Letters, by Edmund Gosse, London, 1899. The fullest account, but not without inaccuracies and hazardous conjectures. See Beeching's Izaak Walton's Life of Donne in Religio Laici, London, 1902. Compare Jessop's John Donne, sometime Dean of St Paul's, London, 1897, and article in D. N. B.
  5. History of Early Italian Literature, transl. H. Oelsner. Bell & Sons. Compare Snell, The Fourteenth Century, p. 120 f. For the love-poetry of Guiuiccelli and Dante, see Rossetti's Early Italian Poets.
  6. See Mazzoni, La Lirica del Cinquecento in La Vita Italiana nel Cinquecento, Milano, 1901: "Il Petrarca cantando Laura viva aveva accommodato al gusto commune quell' idealismo filosofico onde era assunta alla vita sempitema dell' arte la Beatrice dantesca, &c." See also Flamini, Gli Imitatori della Lirica di Dante in Studi di Storia Letteraria, Livorno, 1895.
  7. "Il preziosismo è forma di ritenutezza: il marinismo è forma di dissolutezza," says Professor Graf. Nuova Antologia, 1° Ottobre 1905. Il Fenomeno del Secentismo.
  8. Much of the poetry written during this period was not collected and published till after 1640.
  9. David Masson, Life of Milton in connection with the History of his Times, London, 1859-80; index, 1894. An invaluable work for the study of Milton and the whole period. Mark Pattison, Milton, 1880 {Men of Letters Series). Garnett, Milton, 1889 (Great Writers Series). The most brilliant recent appreciation is that by Professor Raleigh, 1900.
  10. Nicholas Beets, De Paradijsgeschiedenis en de Nederlandsche Dichters, Verscheidenheden, ii. 58, and J. J. Moolhuizen, Vondel's Lucifer en Milton's Verloren Paradijs, 'sGravenhage, 1895, decide against Mr Edmundson's thesis (Milton and Vondel, Lond., 1885). The German critic, Rudolf Buddensieg, Die Grenzboten, 1887, is more favourable. August Muller, Ueber Milton's Abhangigkeit von Vondel, Berlin, 1891, and Gustaaf Zeegers, Joost van den Vondel, Antwerpen, 1888, recognise resemblances, but will not go further. I quote these last from Moolhuizen. When Milton borrows from classical or Italian poetry, he makes no disguise of the fact; he was borrowing from what every one recognised to be the great models for imitation, and the resemblance is generally not more interesting than the difference. The alleged borrowings from Vondel seem to me of another kind. Many suggest at once either mere plagiarism or accidental resemblance. More closely examined, many of the resemblances disappear; others are explicable when one remembers "the fewness of the radical positions in Scripture"; the most striking can generally be traced to a common source. How difficult it was not to think of the same devices is proved by the fact that in his scheme of a drama, drawn up before 1642, Milton closed the first act with a "Chorus of Angels singing a hymn of Creation." Just so did Vondel close the first act of Adam in Ballingschap (1664).
    As for Andreini, Belloni (Il Seicento, cap. vi.) claims for him pretty much everything which Mr Edmundson attributes to Vondel. That, as Mr Garnet says, Milton got from Andreini the idea of his first sketch of a tragic Morality I am not prepared to deny, but would venture to suggest that Milton may have derived his idea of presenting to Adam mute personified abstractions from Du Bartas' Les Furies and from the speech of Adam in Grotius' Adamus Exul, Act V., beginning

                                  "Hinc pallidorum longa morborum cohors
                                   Turpisque egestas sequitur," &c.