Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

into his Life will, I hope, in some measure vindicate his
reputation from the aspersions which have been cast upon
it. His opinion of the style most fitted for religious verse
may be given in the words of one of his own poems.

Yet slight not these poor words;
If truly said, they may take part

Among the hest in art.
The fineness which a Hymn or Psalm affords,
Is when the soul unto the line accords.

Of his private virtues, that history will be the warmest
eulogy, which narrates his actions with the greatest truth.
The simplicity of his manners, and the unaffected sincerity
of his piety, cannot be too frequently brought before our
eyes. The world is apt to overlook excellence so unpre-
tending in her

busy search

Of objects more illustrious in her view.

And he will not have toiled in vain who shall succeed in impressing on the youthful reader how infinitely precious, beyond all price, are the noiseless hours of a good man's life; and how infinitely to be preferred before all honours, are the humble flowers which blossom upon the good man's grave.

Richard Crashaw was the most conspicuous ornament of the school of which Herbert was the unconscious founder. In the preparation of his memoir,—I ought, perhaps, to say the fragment of a memoir,—I have been assisted by the MS. collections of Cole, of whose labours other traces will be found in the succeeding pages.

It remains to be seen whether this appeal in behalf of the neglected beauty of our elder poetry will be received with favour. We live in times of transition, when old feelings are passing away; ancient institutions crumbling into dust. The age of romance has vanished, the age of utility has arisen in its place. Few amongst us have now the privilege of contemplating the face of Poetry in the J■ still air of uninterrupted studies*. On every side we are saluted with the lot of some new triHmph of science and expediency. Far he it from me to affirm that the change is not a beneficial one, or to object that the philosopher should occupy the poet's seat in our commonwealth. But it may be pardoned in one who has drunk, albeit though a little draught, of the "milk of a better time," if he surveys this revolution with sensations of sorrow; and would gladly recall the days, gone by for ever, when poets were the objects of admiration and reverence, and the presence of the Sacred Muse was revealed in the common paths of human life, by the tranquillity and joy which were diffused around her.

The present volume conducts the reader to the threshold of the period that witnessed the production of Paradise Lost. Although some of the poets of whom mention is made, were born subsequently to Milton, their works preceded the publication of his great poem; and the diligence of his numerous editors has shown how frequently he borrowed from their pages.

With what success the proposed outline has been filled up, the reader will determine. In the ardour of composition, some inadvertencies were unnoticed, which a less excited eye will immediately detect. These will be regarded with the greatest leniency by those who are the least likely to commit them. And if any more important mistakes should be observed, the author can only join hi the petition of the industrious Strype, in the preface to the Life of Bishop Aylmer, that they may be forgiven in one "who looks upon himself as a frail and fallible man, and is apt enough to have mean conceits of his own performances, and is very ready to be set right, and thankful to be instructed."

Thin. Col., Camb.

* The reader will remember the eloquent passage in Milton, from which this thought is taken.

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION.

In the present edition, the introductory view of the progress of English Sacred Poetry has been expanded and improved; memoirs of Sandys and Da vies have also been added; one, the most harmonious versifier of the Psalms,—the other, the author of the earliest philosophical poem in our language. The lives of Fletcher and Wither have undergone revision; and some additions have been made to the poetical specimens of Quarles. In dismissing the volume, it only remains for the Writer to express the lively gratification he has derived from the success of his appeal, in behalf of some of the sweetest minor poets of his country.

Kensington,
May 31, 1839.

LIVES OF SACRED POETS,

INTRODUCTION.

TnE first book that issued from a printing press was the Bible; and the earliest notes of reviving poetry were inspired by religion. For the origin of the Christian drama two causes have been usually assigned: a desire to oppose the classic theatre; and a hope of superseding the profane licence of the ancient fairs. Sismondi, on the other hand, supposes it to have been introduced into Europe by Pilgrims returning from the Holy Land. From France it is conjectured that the new system of scenical narrative spread into England, Italy, Spain, and Germany. A Miracle is, indeed, mentioned by Matthew Paris to have been performed at Dunstable at the beginning of the twelfth century; but a French Mystery, written in the middle of the eleventh century, is noticed by Le Bceuf *. It was not, however, until the close of the fourteenth century that Paris witnessed the establishment of a companyof actors, who derived their appellation from the performance of the Mystery of our Lord's Passion. In Italy, a society del Gonfalone had been founded in 1264, with a similar motive; and the martyrdom of two saints was dramatized by Lorenzo de' Medici. A German Mystery of the thirteenth century is mentioned by Bouterweck; and at a later period, a writer of very fertile and vigorous genius, Lope de Vega, delighted his countrymen with a series of

* Quoted by Hallam in the Introduction to the Literature of Europe. VOL. I. B

« AnteriorContinuar »