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Sweet bird ! that sing'st away the early hours,
Of winter's past or coming, void of care,
Well pleased with delights which present are,
Fair seasons, budding sprays, sweet-smelling flowers :
To rocks, to springs, to rills, from leafy bowers
Thou thy Creator's goodness dost declare,
And what dear gifts on thee He did not spare,
A stain to human sense in sin that lowers.
What soul can be so sick, which by thy songs
(Attired in sweetness) sweetly is not driven
Quite to forget earth's turmoils, spites, and wrongs,
And lift a reverent eye and thought to heaven?
Sweet, artless songster, thou my mind dost raise
To airs of spheres, yes, and to angel's lays.
Habington's poem on The Firmament opens with these grand lines :
When I survey the bright celestial sphere,
So rich with jewels hung, that night
Doth like an Ethiop bride appear;
My soul her wings doth spread,
And heavenward fies,
The Almighty's mysteries to read
In the large volumes of the skies.
The grave and eccentric QUARLES has written some remarkable poems, equally quaint in conceit and curious in structure: for example:
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
Surveyed, cast-up, and found—but threescore years and ten!
Our new-born light
Attains to full-aged noon!
And this—how soon to gray-haired night!
We spring, we bud, we blossom, and we blast :-
Ere we can count our days—our days they Alee so fast !
And what's a life? A weary pilgrimage,
Whose glory in the day doth fill the stage-
With childhood, manhood, and decrepid age.
And what's a life? The Aourishing array
Of the proud summer-meadow, which to-day-
Wears her green plush—and is to-morrow—hay!
False world, thou ly’st: thou canst not lend
The least delight :
Thy favours cannot gain a friend,
They are so slight !
Thy morning's pleasures make an end
To please at night :
Poor are the wants that thou supply’st,
And yet thou vaunt’st, and yet thou vy’st
With heaven! Fond earth, thou boast'st—false world, thou ly’st !
Here are some of his lines, gilded with a little more sunshine :
As when a lady, walking Flora’s bower,
Picks here a pink, and there a gilly-flower,
Now plucks a violet from her purple bed,
And then a primrose,—the year's maidenhead;
There nips the brier, here the lover's pansy,
Shifting her dainty pleasures with her fancy ;
This on her arm, and that she lists to wear
Upon the borders of her curious hair ;
At length, a rose-bud (passing all the rest)
She plucks, and bosoms in her lily breast.
Waller, whose life has been thought to possess more romance than his poetry, is, however, the author of these striking stanzas, among the last he wrote :
The seas are quiet when the winds give o'er ;
So calm are we when passions are no more.
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of Aeeting things so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes Conceal that emptiness which age descries :
The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made.
Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become,
As they draw 'near to their eternal home :
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
For harmony and elegance of fancy, these verses, by Ayton, have rarely been surpassed :
Nothing could have my love o’erthrown
If thou hadst still continued mine ;
Yea, if thou hadst remained thy own,
I might, perchance, have yet been thine ;
But thou thy freedom didst recall,
That if thou might'st elsewhere inthral,
And then, how could I but disdain
A captive's captive to remain ? .
• The “melancholy Cowley,” as that poet styles himself, was yet
the writer of this paraphrastic version of one of Anacreon's sparkling lyrics :
The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
And drinks, and gapes for drink again :
The plants suck in the earth, and are,
With constant drinking, fresh and fair.
The sea itself, which one would think
Should have but little need of drink,
Drinks ten thousand rivers up,
So filled that they o’erflow the cup.
The busy sun—and one would guess,
By his drunken, fiery face, no less-
Drinks up the sea; and when he's done,
The moon and stars drink up the sun :
They drink and dance by their own light,-
They drink and revel all the night!
Nothing in nature's sober found,
But an eternal “ health” goes round:
Should every creature drink but I-
Why-men of morals, tell me why?
Cowley's deep love of rural retirement is exhibited in the subjoined lines :
Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
Hail, ye plebeian underwood !
Where the poetic birds rejoice,
And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
Pay with their grateful voice.
Here nature does a house for me erect-
Nature! the wisest architect,
Who those fond artists does despise,
That can the fair and living trees neglect,
Yet the dead timber prize
If, in the verse of Chaucer, the muse lisped her early numbers with the artless simplicity and grace of infancy, she may be said to have attained to her full-voiced maturity and glory in the august and