« AnteriorContinuar »
Walk sober off, before a sprightlier age
DR. JOHN DONNE,
DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S,
Quid vetat et nosmet, Lucilî scripta legentes, Quærere, num illius, num rerum dura negarit Versiculos natura magis factos, et euntes Mollius?
HORACE. DONNE'S SATIRES VERSIFIED.
The object of this work was vindication. Pope, assailed for the severity of his satires, determined to show that men of acknowleged merit had written satires as severe : an argument, obviously going no farther than to involve others in the charge, of which he was unable to clear himself; or to justify error by names and numbers. For this purpose, he selected (it is said, at the suggestion of the duke of Shrewsbury and the earl of Oxford) some of Donne's writings, which it was his intention to reinforce by examples from the celebrated bishop Hall. But to make either of those authorities popular in his day of graceful versification, he felt the necessity of softening their barbarian ruggedness, and throwing the interest of modern topics over their remote allusions. The work was difficult, but Pope was successful; and if he did not establish his own character for gentleness, by exhibiting the fierce vigor of those who libelled before him; he at least increased the general stock of literature, by a production at once polished and forcible.
Donne was a memorable personage; his mind and his career were alike characterised by great nerve and great eccentricity. Educated as a Roman catholic, he abjured the tenets of Rome; intended for the bar, he threw it off for the church; high in favor with the chancellor, lord Ellesmere, he forfeited his patronage, by running away with his niece. He was now left to poverty, and he struggled with it manfully for years. But, at length, the tide of fortune began to flow for him : he took orders, and was made king's chaplain, and doctor in divinity by James's recommendation to Cambridge. His habits of life had at an early period brought him among the great; and his accomplishments made him so distinguished a favorite there, that his design of entering the church was no sooner known, than he had fourteen offers of benefices! but all his habits had connected him with London, and he was elected preacher of Lincoln's-inn. On his return from the German embassy with lord Doncaster, in 1619, higher preferment still awaited him: the king gave him the deanery of St. Pauls, with St. Dunstan's in the West, and other benefices : he was next chosen prolocutor to the convocation, and seemed to have the highest dignities of the church opened to his tread, when he was seized with illness, and died, in 1631, at the age of 58. As an English poet, he was powerful but rude: his taste was displayed in perpetual epigram, and his morality in the roughest scorn of public manners. As a scholar, he was known by the vividness of his Latin verses; and as a divine, by the eccentricity of his · Biathanatos,' an argument for the right of every man over his own life: but this volume has been supposed to originate in a mere trial of his skill in casuistry, the favorite science of the day; and it must be acknowleged, that he did not suffer it to appear in his life-time.
As an apology for the style of his poems, it is to be remembered that they were all written before he was twentyfive.
Sır, though (I thank God for it) I do hate
dead, Yet prompts him which stands next, and cannot
read, And saves his life) gives idiot actors means (Starving himself) to live by his labor’d' scenes. As in some organs, puppets dance above, And bellows pant below, which them do move. One would move love by rhymes ; but witchcraft's
charms Bring not now their old fears, nor their old harms: Rams and slings now are silly battery; Pistolets are the best artillery.