Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

See how the latter trumpet's dreadful blast

Affrights stout Mara his trembling eon!
See how he startles, how he stands aghast,
And scrambles from his melting throne!

Hark how the direful hand of vengeance tears
The swelt'ring clouds whilst heaven appears
A circle fill'd with flame, and cent'red with his fears.

Emb. ix., book 2.

The Emblems were addressed to his "beloved friend, Edward Benlowes," to whom he says, "you have put the theorbo * into my hand, and I have played; you gave the musician the first encouragement; the music retumeth to you for patronage." It was to this individual that Phineas Fletcher inscribed his Purple Island, and desired to be " known to the world by no other name" than his "true friend." Benlowes was a member of St. John's College, Cambridge, and a picture of him used to hang in the Master's Lodge. Born to the possession of a respectable estate, he became at an early age the patron of poets, and Brent Hall, in Essex, where he resided, was the scene of frequent hospitality. He was the author of several works, and among others of a poem, Theophila, or Love's Sacrifice. Butler, in the character of a "small poet," satirized his poetical attempts with more spleen than propriety. Benlowes was improvident as he was generous, and his latter days were clouded by grief and poverty.

The Hieroglyphics resemble the Emblems. They are dedicated to Mary, Countess of Dorset, whose patronage Drayton obtained for his Sacred Poems. From this lady Quarles received many favours. In the Epistle to the Reader, he styles the Hieroglyphics "an Egyptian dish drest in the English fashion." "They," he says, "at their feasts, used to present a Death's-head at the second course; this will serve for both." There is considerable moral dignity with ingenuity of expression in the third Hiero

VOL. I.

* A kind of lute.

glyphic. Prefixed to it is a picture of the winds blowing the flame of a taper, with this motto, "The wind passeth over it, and it is gone.''

No sooner is this lighted taper set
Upon the transitory stage
Of eye-bedarkening night,
But it is straight subjected to the threat
Of envious winds, whose wasteful rage
Disturbs her peaceful light,
And makes her substance waste, and makes her flame
less bright.

No sooner are we born, no sooner come
To take possession of this vast,
This soul-afflicting earth,
But danger meets us at the very womb;
And sorrow with her full-mouth'd blast
Salutes our painful birth,
To put out all our joys, and puff out all our mirth.

Tost to and fro, our frighted thoughts are driven
With e^ry puff, with every tide
Of life-consuming care;
Our peaceful flame that would point up to heaven
Is still disturb'd, and turn'd aside;
And every blast of air
Commits such waste in man, as man cannot repair.

The eccentricities of Quarles were not confined to the style of his poetry; the measures in which he wrote were equally singular. In the Hieroglyphics he gave some examples of his skill in the construction of the pyramidal stanza. Yet there is something peculiarly impressive in this harmony "long drawn out," and swelling by degrees into a fuller and grander tone:—

Behold How short a span "Was long enough of old, To measure out the life of man; In those well-tempered days, his time was then Survey'd, cast up, and found but three score years and ten.

How soojf
Our new-born light
Attains to full-ag'd noon!
And this, how soon, to gray-hair'd night!
We spring, we bud, we blossom, and we blast,
Ere we can count our days, our days they flee so fast.

Hieroglyphic ix.

In all the notices I have seen of Quarles, he is said to have remained in Ireland until the breaking out of the rebellion in 1641, and then to have fled for safety to England. The following extract from the Journals of the Court of Aldermen, kindly furnished to me by the City Remembrancer, will correct this mistake. "February 4, 1639. Item—This day, at the request of the Right Honourable the Earl of Dorset, signified unto this Court by his letter, This Court is pleased to retain and admit Francis Quarles to be the Cities Chronologer; to have, hold, and enjoy the same place with a fee of one hundred nobles* per annum, during the pleasure of this Court, and this payment to begin from Xmas last."

The office of Chronologer has been long abolished, and its duties are now very imperfectly understood, but they ehiefly consisted in providing pageants for the Lord Mayor at stated periods; and in the Records of the City of London is an entry which states that Quarles' predecessor was reprimanded for having omitted to prepare the necessary show. The salary amounted to 331. 6s. 8d., a considerable sum nearly two hundred years ago. Quarles held this situation until his death, and " would have given that City," says his wife, "(and the world,) a testimony that he was their faithful servant therein; if it had pleased God to bless him with life to perfect what he had begun." "What this work was, is not known; no other mention of him occurs in the minute-books.

* A noble was six shillings and eight-pence.

His new preferment did not make him idle. The Enchiridion, a collection of brief essays and aphorisms, came out in 1641. "If this little piece," observes Mr. Headley, "had been written at Athens or Rome, its author would have been classed among the wise men of his country." It is divided into two books; the first, being political, is inscribed to the young Prince Charles, and the second to the "fair branch of growing honour and virtue, Mrs. Elizabeth Usher," only daughter of the Archbishop. Usher was at this time in England with his family, and the terms in which Quarles alludes to him, show that their intimacy still continued.

"sweet Ladt,

"I present your fair hands with this my Enchiridion, to begin a new decade of a blest account. If it add nothing to your well-instructed knowledge, it may bring somewhat to your welldisposed remembrance; if either I have my end and you my endeavour. The service which I owe, and the affections which I bear your most incomparable parents, challenge the utmost of my ability; wherein if I could light you but the least step towards the happiness you aim at, how happy should I be! Go forward in the way which you have chosen: wherein, if my hand cannot lead you, my heart shall follow you; and where the Weakness of my power shows defect, there the vigour of my will shall make supply,—

"Who am covetous of your happiness,
"In both kingdoms and worlds,

"fra. Quarles."

A very few extracts will explain the merits of this volume: its great defect arises from the frequent use of antithesis, a fault, however, almost compensated by the vigour, the eloquence, and the piety of the sentiments. He had not been a guest at the Archbishop's table, and his companion in the study, without gathering something from his stores of learning and wisdom. Dr. Dibdin traces a resemblance between the Enchiridion and the Essays of Sir William Cornwallis, the younger, the first edition of which appeared in 1601-2; but I think there is much more diffuseness about Cornwallis; he has the eccentricity of Quarles without his power. The following specimens will, it is hoped, lead the reader to the work itself:—

SELF-KNOWLEDGE. As thou art a moral man, esteem thyself not as thou art, but as thou art esteemed; as thou art a Christian, esteem thyself as thou art, not as thou art esteemed; thy price in both rises and mils as the market goes. The market of a moral man is wild opinion. The market of a Christian is a good conscience.

ON DEATH.

If thou expect Death as a friend, prepare to entertain it; if thou expect Death as an enemy, prepare to overcome it. Death has no advantage but when it comes a stranger.

THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE. In the commission of evil, fear no man so much as thyself; another is but one witness against thee; thou art a thousand: another thou may'st avoid, but thyself thou canst not. Wickedness is its own punishment.

ON DRESS.

In thy apparel avoid singularity, profuseness, and gaudiness. Be not too early in the fashion, nor too late. Decency is the half way between affectation and neglect. The body is the shell of the soul; apparel is the husk of that shell. The husk often tells you what the kernel is.

The political horizon had long been lowering, and Quarles, who foresaw many of the calamities which soon after fell upon the country, put forth a few "Thoughts upon Peace and War," full of mild wisdom and Christian patriotism.

The "bleeding nation" was constantly at his heart. "His love to his king and country," says his widow, "in these late unhappy times of distraction, was manifest, in that he used his pen, and poured out his continual prayers

« AnteriorContinuar »