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Her eye with heaven's, so, and more brightly shined
No riot of affection reVel kept
Within her breast, but a still apathy
Possessed all her soul, which softly slept,
Securely, without tempest; no sad cry
Awakes her pity, but wronged Poverty
Sending her eyes to heaven swimming in tears
Wetting the blazing sword that in her hand she bears.
The winged lightning is her Mercury,
Famine, and bloodless Care, and bloody War,
Grief's company, a dull and raw-boned spright,
Before this cursed throng goes Ignorance,
Justice is portrayed leaning her bosom upon "two stone tables spread before her;" and the poet, in order to impress more deeply the fearful horror of that " scroll" on the mind, makes the terror and darkness of the Appearance upon Mount Sinai to rush upon our memory, when the affrighted children of Israel, like
A wood of shaking leaves became.
The grandeur and dignity of Justice are expressed by the solemn silence of the universe, waiting in awe for the opening of her lips*. In the stillness of heaven and earth, Justice proceeds to accuse and convict man of wickedness and ingratitude. But in this part of the poem Fletcher forgot the sublimity of the occasion; he amuses himself with a display of metaphysical ingenuity, as when speaking of Adam's covering of leaves, he asks,
for who ever saw
A man of leaves a reasonable tree?
And in some of the verses he seems to have studied that epigrammatic brevity and rapidity of interrogation, which so delighted his brother's eccentric friend, Quarles; but though the author of the Enchiridion might hang a garland at "the door of those fantastic chambers," every true lover of Fletcher's poetry will regret to see him lingering within their threshold. Some of the lines, however, are beautiful and musical:—
What, should I tell how barren Earth is grown
Long might he look, and look, and long in vain
The effect of the address of Justice is given with great sublimity:—
* Milton saw the force of this conception; at the conclusion of the speech of the " Eternal Father" to the Angel Gabriel,
. ..... all heaven
Admiring stood a space, then into hymns
Burst forth. Par. Reg., b. 1, v. 170.
She ended, and the heavenly Hierarchies
Burning in zeal, thickly imbranded were:
Like to an army that alarum cries,
And every one shakes his ydreaded spear,
And the Almighty's self, as he would tear
The earth, and her firm basis quite in sunder,
Heaven stole itself from earth by clouds that moisten'd under.
The awful grandeur of celestial indignation seems to lift itself up in the majesty of these lines. The sudden preparation of the heavenly warriors, the clangor of arms, and the uprising of the Deity himself, are splendid images, which are known to the reader of Paradise Lost not to have escaped the notice of Milton. The pause at the beginning of the stanza is a note of solemn preparation.
The re-appearance of Mercy in the midst of darkness and tumult is very picturesque; her face soon glimmers through, and paints the clouds with beauty—
As when the cheerful sun, elamping wide,
Wrapt in a sable cloud from mortal eyes
The hasty stars at noon begin to rise,
But soon as he again dishadow'd is,
The poet then describes the charms of Mercy in verses sparkling as the "discoloured plumes" of the graces that attend upon her:—
If any wander, thou dost call him back;
If any be not forward, thou incit'st him;
Thou dost expect, if any should grow slack;
If any seem but willing, thou invit'st him;
Or if he do offend thee, thou acquitt'st him;
Thou find'st the lost, and follow'st him that flies,
Thou art the lame man's friendly staff, the blind man's eyes.
So fair thou art, that all would thee behold;
Her upper garment was a silken lawn,
With needlework richly embroidered,
Which she herself with her own hand had drawn,
And all the world therein had portrayed,
With threads so fresh and lively coloured
That seem'd the world she new created there,
The silken trees did grow, and the beasts living were.
And here and there few men she scattered,
About some molehill, so they wandered;
And round about the waving sea was shed;
So curiously the under work did creep,
And curling circlets so well shadow'd lay,
That afar off the waters seem'd to sleep;
But those that near the margin pearl did play,
Hoarsely enwaved were with hasty sway.
As though they meant to rock the gentle ear,
And here a dang'rous rock the flying ships did fear.
High in the airy element there hung
That ebb'd and flow'd, as wind and season would;
And oft the sun would cleave the limber mould
Beneath those sunny banks a darker cloud,
Dropping with thicker dew, did melt apace,
And bend itself into a hollow shrowd,
On which, if Mercy did but cast her face,
A thousand colours did the bow enchase,
That wonder was to see the silk distained
And Iris paint her locks with beams, so lively feigned.
Over her hung a canopy of state,
Not of rich tissue, nor of spangled gold,
But of a substance, though not animate,
Yet of a heav'nly and spiritual mould,
That only eyes of Spirits might behold;
Such light as from main rocks of diamound.
And little Angels, holding hands, danced all around.
The gentleness of Mercy is contrasted with the haggard wretchedness of Repentance :—
Deeply, alas, impassioned she stood,
To see a flaming brand tossed up from hell,
Boiling her heart in her own lustful blood,
That oft for torment she would loudly yell;
Now she would sighing sit, and now she fell
Crouching upon the ground, in sackloth trust,
And all her hair hung full of ashes and of dust.
The reader may remember the picture of Remorse in the introduction to the Mirrour for Magistrates :—
And first within the porch and jaws of hell,
Fletcher wanted the energy of Sackville's iron pen. The impersonations of Dread, Revenge, Misery, and