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George Sandys, the seventh and youngest son of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, was born at Bishopsthorp, in 1577; and, in December, 1589, being eleven years old, he was matriculated in the University of Oxford, as a member of St. Mary Hall; but Wood supposes him to have studied at Corpus Christi College. He does not appear to have taken a degree. In the autumn of 1610, he set out on his travels, during which he visited the most interesting cities of Europe, and extended his researches into Egypt and the Holy Land. He seems, also, to have been one of the early residents in Virginia; for Drayton speaks of him as Treasurer to the English Company there.
After an absence of more than two years, he returned to England, and composed the history of his wanderings, which issued from the Press in 1615. No personal narrative ever impressed the reader with a livelier sensation of respect for the writer. The brief preface is singularly simple and eloquent, and the opening picture of the disordered condition of France, though consisting only of a few strokes, is very striking. "I began," he says, "my journey through France, hard upon the time when that execrable murder was committed upon the person of Henry the Fourth, by an obscure varlet, even in the streets of his principal city by day, and then when royalty attended; to show that there is none so contemptible, that contemneth his own life, but is the master of another man's. Triumphs were interrupted by funerals, and men's minds did labour with fearful expectations. The princes of the blood discontented, the nobles factious; those of the religion daily threatened, and nightly fearing a massacre. Meanwhile, a number of soldiers are drawn, by small numbers, into the city, to confront all outrages."
His journal commences at Venice. The veracity of his information, the diligence of his inquiries, and the accuracy of his descriptions, render him one of the most agreeable and instructive of English travellers; and it may be remarked, that Addison, in his Italian tour, took Sandvs for his model. Recent investigations have confirmed his statements. The account of Constantinople, where he resided four months, in the house of the English ambassador, Sir Thomas Glover, is minute and entertaining. But his visit to the Holy Land possesses the most absorbing interest. As a specimen of his style, I may quote the narrative of his- journey from Gaza to Jerusalem.
"Now the caravan did again divide; the Moors keeping in the way that leadeth to Damascus. Here we should have paid two dollars a-piece for our heads to a Sheik of the Arabs; but the Zanziack of Gaza had sent unto him that it should be remitted. He came into our tent, and greedily fed upon such viands as we had set before him. A man of tall stature, clothed in a Gambalock of scarlet, buttoned under the chin, with a top of gold. He had not the patience to expect a present, but demanded one. We gave him a piece of sugar, and a pair of shoes, which he earnestly inquired for, and cheerfully accepted.
"On the two-and-twentieth of March, with the rising sun, we departed from Gaza. A small remainder of that great caravan; the Nostrains (so name they the Christians of the East) that ride upon mules and asses being gone before; amongst whom were two Armenian bishops, who footed* it most of the way; but when (alighting themselves) they were mounted by some of their nation. Before we had gone far, we were stayed by the Arabs, until they had taken caphar of the rest. The Subassee of Rama, besides, had two Madeins upon every camel. The day thus wasted, did make us misdoubt that we should not get that night unto Jerusalem, but the missing of our way (for the Arabs had led us contrary to the custom), turned our fear to despair. Some six miles beyond Rama, the hills grew bigger and bigger, mixed with fruitful valleys. About two miles further, we ascended the higher mountains, paying by the way two Madeins a-head, but at several places a passage exceeding difficult, straightened with wood, and, as it were, paved with broken rocks; which, by reason of the rain then falling, became no less dangerous to our camels. At length we came to a small village, where we first discovered our erring. Some counselled to stay, others to proceed; both dangerous alike; the way unknown, unsafe, the inhabitants thieves, as are all the Arabians. While we thus debated, the night stole upon us, and bereft us of the election. The much rain enforced us to fly for shelter unto a ruinous chapel, where distrust set the watch, which we carefully kept till the morning. Betimes we forsook the village, descending the way we had ascended, guided by the chief of the town, who for a sum of money had undertaken our conduct to the top of the mountains; having hired asses for our more expedition. Yet others crossing us, as we returned along the valley, with shows of violence, would have extorted more money. Our passage for five hours together lay through a narrow strait of the mountains; much of our way no other than seemed to have been worn by the winter's torrent. We past by a ruinous fort, seated near a fountain, sufficient, when it stood, to have made good that passage. In the way we sprang a number of partridges; others on each* side running on the rocks, like in colour to those of Chios. Ascending by little and little, at length we attained to the top, which over-topped and surveyed all the mountains that we had left behind us. From hence to Jerusalem, the way is indifferent even: on each side are round hills with ruins on their top; and valleys, such as are figured in the most beautiful landscapes. The soil, though stony, is not altogether barren, producing both corn and olives about inhabited places. Approaching the North Gate of the city, called in times past, the Gate of Ephraim, and now of Damascus, we only, of all the rest, were not permitted to enter. When compassing the wall unto that of the west, commanded by the castle, we were met by two Franciscan friars, who saluted and conveyed us to their convent."
After his return, Sandys spent much of his time with his sister, Lady Wenman, at Caswell, near Witney, in Oxfordshire. The situation was rendered still more agreeable to him from its proximity to the retreat of his accomplished and amiable friend, Lord Falkland, whom to know was to esteem. In this delightful seclusion he meditated on the dangers he had escaped, and acknowledged the care of that Heavenly Shepherd by whom he had been conducted in all his journeyings. He has expressed his feelings in that admirable poem, Deo. Opt. Max., in which he anticipated the sonorous harmony of Dryden:—
O! who hath tasted of thy clemency
Thy wonders on the deep have I beheld,
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Then brought'st me home in safety, that this earth
In 1636, he published his Paraphrase of the Psalms, and two years after, renewed his contributions to sacred poetry by a Paraphrase upon Job and Ecclesiastes. The two last productions will not add to his reputation, although Waller composed some verses in their praise. Passages of vigour, and lines glowing with a tender beauty, might be selected, but the poems are cold and frequently inharmonious. Even the sublimer and more masculine genius of Young sank under the splendour of the Oriental Imagination. A metrical version of the Song of Solomon, and a translation of a Latin tragedy of Grotius,—the Passion of Christ,—appeared in the same year, 1642, It is written in rhyme, and the lyric portions display the easy sweetness of his versification. The hymn sung by the Chorus of Jewish Women is very graceful and tender:—
Chorus or Jewish Women.
The rapid motion of the spheres