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Goldsmith's minor poetry, the relationship will be apparent :—
My conscience is my crown,
Contented thoughts my rest;
My bliss is in my breast.
A mean, the surest lot;
Too low for envy's shot.
All easy to fulfil:
The bounds unto my will.
Which is of heavenly reign:
All lower hopes refrain.
I feel no care of coin;
Well-doing is my wealth:
While Grace affordeth health.
While fury's flame doth burn;
Until the tide doth turn.
And ebbing wrath doth end;
Into a quiet friend;
A tempered calm I find
Best cure for angry mind.
No change of fortune's calms
Can cast my comforts down:
How quickly she will frown;
And when in froward mood,
She moved an angry foe:
Less loss to let her go.
If the moral tone of Southwell remind us of Goldsmith, his serious and unornamented strains of devotion present an equal resemblance to the Canticles of Racine. In the dedication of St. Peter's Complaint, he objects to the "idle fancies" of poets, and limits his ambition to the weaving " a new web in his own loom," for which purpose he laid " a few coarse threads together." Some of these threads have wound themselves round the heart. Jonson expressed, to Drummond of Hawthornden, his admiration of Southwell, and preferred the Burning Babe to many of his own compositions.
The admirers of Southwell's poetry will not withhold their sympathy from the Divine Centurie of Spiritual Sonnets, by his contemporary Barnabe Barnes. This little collection of poems, originally published in 1595, has been reprinted by Mr. Park in his Heliconia, but, owing to the very expensive form of the work, without adding much to their popularity. Barnes, upon whom the flattery of friendship bestowed the appellation of Petrarch's scholar, while it elevated him to an equality with Spenser, was the subject of frequent satire during his life. Few particulars of his history have been preserved. He was a younger son of Dr. Richard Barnes, bishop of Durham, and was born about the year 1569. At the age of seventeen he became a student of Brazen-nose College, Oxford, but left the university without a degree. "What became of him afterwards," says Wood, " I know not." He appears, however, to have accompanied the expedition sent to France by Elizabeth, in 1591, under the command of Devereux, Earl of Essex. He was then in his twenty-second year, and he probably remained in that country until 1594.
Nash accuses him of running away from battle, and of subsequently disgracing himself still more, by robbing a nobleman's steward of a gold chain. But these charges rest upon no foundation, and were probably the result of
malignity on the part of Nash, who remembered that Barnes had sided with Gabriel Harvey in one of the numerous quarrels which, at that period, agitated, in no very decorous manner, the literary public*.
The sonnets, we are told by the author, were composed during his travels in France, and seem to have been viewed by him in the light of religious exercises. He speaks of them as "prescribed tasks." No person can read them, I think, without feeling his thoughts calmed, and his faith strengthened. The piety of the writer does not chill us with the austerity of its features; it is humble, joyful, and confident, though expressed with some of the affectation of the age.
O benigne Father, let my suits ascend
And please thy gracious ears, from my soul sent;
Even as those sweet perfumes of incense went,
Even as I now crave thine ears to be lent.
My soul, my soul is wholly wholly bent
To flee for refuge to thy wounded breast,
In sweet repose to take eternal rest,
* Thomas Nash was the contemporary of Greene, the dramatic poet, at Cambridge, and took his B. A. degree at St. John's, in 1585. His name is familiar to all students of our old poetry, as the bitter antagonist of Gabriel Harvey. This singular man, who united to ripe scholarship a very ridiculous propensity for writing verses, enjoyed considerable popularity in his day. He was the friend of Spenser, with whom he became acquainted at Cambridge, and to whose Faery Queen he prefixed the sweetest lines he ever wrote. But Harvey's vanity surpassed all his other qualifications, Upon his return from Italy he dressed himself in the Venetian costume, and was remarkable for the uncommon richness and costliness of his attire. The circumstance, however, of his father having been a rope-maker at Saffron Walden, seems to have imhittered his life. Hence arose his enmity to the unhappy Greene, who some weeks before his death published a tract containing reflections upon rope-makers in general.—See the works of RobertGreene, vol. i. p. 84,&c. t Worthy.
The next sonnet is more vigorous and poetical; while Barnes wrote with an almost constant reference to the Italian model, he frequently continues the sense beyond the termination of the line; a practice applauded by Warton. Ben Jonson compared a sonnet to that "tyrant's bed," where they who were too short were stretched by the rack, and they who were too long were compressed into the proper size.
Unto my spirit lend an angel's wing,
By which it might mount to that place of rest,
Where Paradise may me relieve opprest:
Lend to my tongue an angel's voice to sing
Thy praise my comfort; and for ever hring
My notes thereof from the bright East to West;
Thy mercy lend unto my soul distrest,
Thy grace unto my wits; then shall the sling
Of Righteousness that monster Sathan kill,
Who with dispair my dear salvation dared;
And, like the Philistine, stood breathing still
Proud threats against my soul for heaven prepared.
At length I like an angel shall appear
In spotless white, an angel's robe to wear.
When Dr. Bliss published his edition of Wood's, Athenae, the address to Content was the only poem by Barnes with which he was acquainted, but it certainly justified his desire to know more.
Ah! sweet Content, where is thy mild abode?
Leading their flocks and calling unto plains!
Ah! sweet Content, where dost thou safely rest?
The minds, and parts of every living thing!
Ah! sweet Content, where doth thine harbour hold?
And in their studies meditate it then?
Whether thou dost in heaven or earth appeare,
Be where thou wilt, thou wilt not harbour here.
A passing notice may be taken of Henry Constable, another rhymer belonging to this period. His Spiritual Sonnets to the Honour of God and his Saints have been printed in the Heliconia. Of the author little is known. Sir John Harrington calls him "a well-learned gentleman, and noted sonnet-writer." Malone thinks that he was a member of St. John's College, Cambridge, and took his Bachelor's degree in 1579*; and Dr. Birch supposes him to have been a zealous Roman Catholic, and compelled, on account of his religious tenets, to reside abroad during a considerable portion of the reign of Elizabeth. This opinion is countenanced by the general tone of his poems, and by several letters addressed, during his absence, to his friends in England. He was a favourite of Ben Jonson, who speaks of "Constable's ambrosiack musicand Boltont mentions him in the same sentence with Sackville. His style abounds in conceits, without being enriched by fancy :—
To Saint Mary Magdalen.
Such as retired from sight of men, like thee,
And even amongst wild beasts do angels see;
In such a place my soul doth seem to be,
Except they be sent down from heaven to me.
Yet if these praises God to me impart,
I may find heaven in my retired heart!
And if thou change the object of my love,
May get his sight, and like an angel prove.
* Malone's Shakspeare, vol. x. p. 74. t" Noble Henry Constable was a great master in English tongue, nor had any gentleman of our nation a more pure, quick, or higher delivery of conceit.''—Bolton's Hypercritica. Unfortunately, the sonnet instanced by the worthy critic in support of his good opinion, is almost the worst ever written by the author.