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The curious hand of knowledge doth but pick
Bare simples ; Wisdom pounds them for the sick.
In my afflictions, "Wisdom apprehends
"Who is the author, what the cause and ends;
It finds that Patience is my sad relief.
And that the hand that caused, can cure my grief.
The fine fable of the Gorgon's head has never been more grandly applied than in these verses.
Advance the shield of Patience to thy head,
And when Grief strikes, 'twill strike the striker dead.
And the comparison, in the third Meditation, of the longsuffering of God to the affectionate care of a nurse, is tenderly worked out:—
Even as a nurse, whose child's imperfect pace
The plague in bereaved our poet of one of his
best and most esteemed friends, the son of Bishop Aylmer, and he honoured his memory with a collection of Elegies, which must ever be numbered among the most precious tributes of sincere affection, to be found in our language. He gave them the quaint title of "An Alphabet of Elegies upon the much and truly lamented death of that famous for learning, piety, and true friendship, Doctor Ailmer, a great favourer and fast friend to the Muses, and late Archdeacon of London."
Imprinted in his heart, that ever loves his memory.
They are introduced with this short and affecting address :—
"Eeaders,—Give me leave to perform a necessary duty, which my affection owes to the blessed memory of that reverend Prelate, my much honoured friend, Doctor Ailmer. He was one whose life and death made as full and perfect a story of worth and goodness, as earth would suffer, and whose pregnant virtues deserve as faithful a register as earth can keep. In whose happy remembrance I have here trusted these Elegies to time and your favour. Had he been a lamp to light me alone, my private griefs had been sufficient; but being a sun whose beams reflected on all, all have an interest in his memory."
We know that "true worth and grief were parents" to these tears. Strype has related some interesting anecdotes of Dr. Aylmer, in the Life of Bishop Aylmer*. Quarles might well call him a "great favourer and fast friend to the Muses:" his charity was extended not only to the poor of his own neighbourhood, but to all who needed it; to indigent scholars and strangers, especially, his hand and heart were ever open. Fugitives from Spain, Holland, France, Italy, and Greece, were all received with kindness and hospitality; for he remembered that his father had once been an exile for his religion. Besides his numberless private acts of beneficence, he supported several deserving Students at the University. The last days of this good man were "beautiful exceedingly." When asked how he felt, he answered, " I thank God, heart-whole;" and laying one hand on his breast, and lifting up the other to heaven, he said, "The glory above giveth no room to sickness." And when death was rapidly approaching,—" Let my people know," he said, "that their pastor died undaunted, and not afraid of death. I bless my God I have no fear, no doubt, no reluctation, but an assured confidence in the sin-overcoming merits of Jesus Christ."
Quarles' verses are worthy of so noble a subject; the * Oxford edition, 118—121.
soul of solemn grief is poured into every line. The 6th and 13th Elegies will gain an increased interest from the truth of their allusions. Dr. Aylmer had declared on his death-bed, that his "own eyes" had ever been "his overseers," and it is recorded that he "shut his own eyes with his own hands." Thus the " self-closed eyes" of the poet have a peculiar beauty.
Farewell those eyes, whose gentle smiles forsook
Had virtue, learning, the diviner arts,
Wit, judgment, wisdom (or what other parts
That make perfection, and return the mind
As great as earth can suifer) been confin'd
To earth—had they the patent to abide
Secure from change, our Ailmer ne'er had died.
Fond earth forbear, and let thy childish eyes
Ne'er weep for him, thou ne'er knew'st how to prize;
Shed not a tear, blind earth, for it appears
Thou never lov'dst our Ailmer, by thy tears;
Or if thy floods must needs o'erflow their brim,
Lament, lament thy blindness, and not him.
I wondered not to hear so brave an end,
Nay, had report or niggard fame denied
His name, it had been known that Ailmer died.
It was no wonder to hear rumour tell
That he, who died so oft, once died so well.
Great Lord of Life, how hath thy dying breath
Made man, whom Death had conquer'd, conquer Death.
No, no, he is not dead; the mouth of fame,
The tautology of the concluding couplet appears to have escaped the poet's notice.
In the same year he printed Sion's Elegies, a paraphrase upon the songs of mourning "wept by Jereimie the prophet." In these Elegies are many noble lines: this sublime prayer for Divine inspiration may be offered as a specimen:—
Thou Alpha and Omega, before whom .
Things past, and present, and things yet to come,
Are all alike; O prosper my designs,
And let thy spirit enrich my feeble lines.
Revive my passion; let mine eye behold
Those sorrows present, which were wept of old;
Strike sad my soul, and give my pen the art
To move, and me an understanding heart.
O, let the accent of each word make known,
I mix the tears of Sion with my own!
In 1631, he lost his friend Drayton, whose virtues he commemorated in the epitaph inscribed on his monument in Westminster Abbey.
Do, pious marble, let thy readers know
In the folio edition of Drayton's works, 1748, these verses are attributed to Ben Jonson, but they are here given to Quarles upon the authority of his intimate friend, Marshall, the " stone-cutter of Fetter-Lane," who erected the monument, and told Aubrey that Quarles was the author.
Drayton lived "at the bay-window house, next the • east end of St. Dunstan's church, in Fleet Street," and was generally beloved for the gentleness and amiability of his manners. The puritan and the papist united in his praise; and it has been remarked by his biographer, that if his morals had been worse, his fortune would have been better. His sacred poems, like all his longer productions, are tedious and diffuse; but they are the offspring of an humble and religious mind, and many fine thoughts, bold images, and much commanding versification, are buried in Noah's Flood, Moses, his Birth and Miracles, and David and Goliah. He also composed, during the reign of Elizabeth, a volume of spiritual songs, not included in any edition of his works*.
In the same year Quarles transmitted to the press the' History of Sampson, a work valuable only for the beautiful letter to Sir James Fnllerton, to whom it is dedicated.
"Sir,—There be three sorts of friends: the first is like a torche, we meet in a dark street; the second is like a candle in a lanthorn, that we overtake; the third is like a link that offers
* The Harmonie of the Church 1591.