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tered by the officious interference of friends, who continually urged his relations to apprentice him to " some mechanick trade." To escape from these new-found crocodiles, as he calls them, he came to London, and resolved to try his fortune at Court. Wither was now only eighteen years old, a fact I have ascertained from the 22nd emblem of the first book, in which he says—
My hopeful friends, at thrice five years and three,
The emblem, of which these verses form a partial illustration, represents the choice of Hercules, and tells the story with considerable spirit. In the middle of the picture stands the ardent youth; on the right hand is seated Wisdom, with flowing beard and open book; and on the left is Vice, with one hand lifting the "painted vizard" from her face, so as to give a glimpse of the deformity of her features, and by her side lie a skull and cross-bones, the insignia of Death.
Soon after his arrival in the metropolis, he entered himself of Lincoln's Inn, and appears to have formed an early intimacy with William Browne, the pastoral poet, who belonged to the Inner Temple. "But his geny," says Anthony Wood, "hanging after things more smooth and delightful, he did at length make himself known to the world (after he had taken several rambles therein) by certain specimens of poetry, which being dispersed in several hands, he became shortly after a public author.' Of these rambles we have no account, but it is probable that he visited Ireland and Scotland; for in the list of his works we find, Iter Hibernicum, or an Irish Voyage*, and
* In Wither's Catalogue of his books is A Discourse concerning the Plantations of Ulster, in Ireland. Prose. Wood says this was printed, but it has not reached us.
Iter Boreale, or a Northern Journey. These MSS. -were lost, we are told by Wither, when his house was plundered, or by some other accident, and Wood was in error, therefore, in saying that they had been recovered, and "printed more than once*."
The untimely death of Prince Henry, in 1612, was the theme of universal grief and lamentation. "The world here," wrote Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton, "is much dismayed at the loss of so hopeful and likely a prince all of a sudden." Poetic garlands, without number, were showered upon his hearse. Bishop Hall lamented the "unseasonable death of his sweet master, Prince Henrie;" and Drayton, W. Browne, Chapman, Donne, Sylvester, Heywood, Webster, Drummond of Hawthomden, Wither, and others, added their tribute of rhyme to the general elegy. The offering of Wither was one of the most interesting, both in tone and expression, and breathes an affectionate sincerity, rarely found in poems of this description. When Prince Henry, during the King's visit to Oxford, in 1605, "sat in the midst of the upper table," in the Hall of Magdalen College, Wither, then an undergraduate, formed one of the throng ranged along the sides.
The 32nd elegy offers a favourable specimen. The body of the Prince, it should be remembered, was embalmed, and carried in the funeral procession:—
Then as he past along you might espy
How the grieved vulgar, that shed many a tear,
Cast after an unwilling parting eye,
As loth to lose the sight they held so dear.
When they had lost the figure of his face,
Then they beheld his robes, his chariot then,
Which being hid, their look aimed at the place,
Still longing to behold him once again;
* Among Wither's lost works is a prose tract, entitled, " Pursuit of Happiness, being a character of the author's extravagances and passions in his youth."
But when he was quite past, and they could find
The grandeur of the last line has been often imitated. All the elegies, however, are not equally excellent. The 34th begins, Black was Whitehall,—a noble specimen of the bathos*.
In the following year, his Muse awoke a livelier measure, to celebrate the union of the Princess Elizabeth with the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Mr. Dalrymple says, that no edition of the Epithalamia is mentioned earlier than 1622; but he might have found them in The Works of Master George Wither, published by Thomas Walkley, in 1620. According to Dr. Bliss, they were first printed in 4to., in 1613. At the commencement of the poems, Wither describes himself to have been "lately grieved more than can be expressed," and determining to "shut up his Muse in dark obscurity," he
In content, the better to repose,
A lonely grove upon a mountain chose,
East from Caer-winn, midway 'twixt Arle and Dis,
True springs where Britain's true Arcadia is.
But before he departed, the winter which, in a marginal note we are informed, was exceedingly tempestuous, had set in. His Muse ingeniously accounts to him for the recent floods, by the gathering together of the tributary streams of the Thames to honour the approaching " match betwixt great Thame and Rhine." For this hyperbole he might have pleaded the example of Bishop Hall, who had traced the unseasonable winter to the death of Prince
* When the women in Scotland, says an anonymous writer, quoted in Nichol's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, v. iiu, p. 353, do lament the death of their dearest children, to comfort them it is ordinarily said, and is passed into a proverb, Did not good Prince Henry die?
Henry*. Our poet returned to London in the beginning of spring:—
My lonely life I suddenly forsook,
And to the Court again my journey took.
• * • * •
The winter 'gan to change in everything,
Wither composed the Epithalamia with a twofold object: to honour the Princess, and to convince the public that he "had as well an affable look to encourage honesty, as a stern frown to cast on villainy. If the times would suffer me," he adds, "I could be as* pleasing as others, and, perhaps, ere long I will make you amends for my former rigour." The song of congratulation was worthy of himself and of the occasion; and the manner in which he recommends his rustic melody, is very graceful and tender:—
But if amongst Apollo's lays you can
The sound of Pan's shepherd-reed was in some danger of being drowned in the general rejoicing and pomp of these sumptuous nuptials; upon the celebration of which, according to Rapin, the enormous sum of 93,278/. was expended. Neither should the Water-poet's song be forgotten. In the description of the "sea-fights" and fireworks upon the Thames, Taylor was quite at home.
* The winter weeps and mourns indeed.—Lacrymte Lacrymarum. t Wither was in no favour at Court:—
I myself, though meanest stated,
And in Court now almost hated,
Will knit up my scourge, and venture
In the midst of them to enter.—Epithalamia.
It has been supposed, upon the authority of a passage in the Warning Piece to London, that the first edition of Abuses Whipt and Stript appeared in 1611; but I am inclined to think that the expression of Wither—
'In sixteen hundred ten and one,
refers to an earlier publication, from the evil consequences of which he was extricated by the kind intervention of the young Princess Elizabeth. And this opinion seems to be strengthened by the dedication of his version of the Psalms, in 1632, to that unfortunate lady. "Among those who are in affection of your Majesty's loyal servants I am one; and in my own country great multitudes have took notice of a special obligation which I had, above many others, to honour and serve you. For I do hereby most humbly and thankfully acknowledge, that when my overforward Muse first fluttered out of her nest, she obtained the preservation of her endangered liberty by your gracious favour; and, perhaps, escaped also thereby that 'pinioninge' which would have marred her flying forth for ever after."
The Princess had early evinced her poetical skill in a poem addressed to her guardian, Lord Harington, and may, therefore, be supposed to have interested herself with peculiar pleasure in the cause of an endangered poet. When Wither boasted, in the Shepherd's Hunting, that
The noblest Nymph of Thame
had graced his verse unto his "greater fame," he alluded to the same accomplished lady.
Satire, specifically so called, observes Warton in his History of English Poetry, did not commence in England till the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth. Eclogues and Allejories had hitherto been made the vehicles of