Imágenes de página

And nothing gallant or far-fetched in this,- only real and noble feeling, told in changeful melody:

Stella, think not that I by verse seek fame,
Who seek, who hope, who love, who live but thee;
Thine eyes my pride, thy lips my history:
if thou praise not, all other praise is shame.
Nor so ambitious am I, as to frame
A nest for my young praise in laurel tree:
In truth, I swear I wish not there should be
Graved in my cpitaph a Poet's name.
Nor, if I would, could I just title make,
That any laud thereof to me should grow,
Without my plumes from others' wings I take:
For nothing from my wit or will doth flow,
Since all my words thy beauty doth endite,

And love doth hold my hand, and makes me write.' What more genuine, free, and graceful than this invocation to exhausted nature's 'sweet restorer'?

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
Th' indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,

Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.' But there is a divine love which continues the earthly; a deathless beauty, a heavenly brightness, which fails not, and is the soul's sovereign beatitude:

• Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;
Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings.
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be;
Which breaks the clouds, and opens forth the light,
That doth both shine, and give us sight to see.
O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how ill becometh him to slide,
Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath.
Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see:

Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me!' Style.-- Always flexible and harmonious, usually decorated and luminous, but ever liable to youth's unripeness and inequal

ity; commonly easy and vigorous; occasionally running into trivial conceits and remote comparisons; now, stately or animated; now cramped or irksome; here direct, here overloaded, as of a nimble wit that must regard an object under all its forms, delighting in endless excursions, and perhaps somewhat too studious of display. The demand for what is fine in diction may easily degenerate into admiration of what is superfine. Sidney's style is not a little affected by the prevalent taste for Euphuism, in the use of which, however, he is almost always labored and unnatural. The following passage exhibits the artifice to uncommon advantage:

* The messenger made speed and found Argalus at a castle of his own, sitting in a parlor with his fair Parthenia, he reading in a book the stories of Hercules, she sitting by him as to hear bim read; but while his cyes looked on the book, she looked in his eyes, sometimes staying him with some pretty question, not so much to be resolved of her doubt, as to give him occasion to look upon her. A happy couple! he joying in her, she joying in herself, but in herself, because she joyed in him; both increased their riches by giving to each other, cach making one life double because they made a double life one. Where desire never wanted satisfaction, nor satisfaction ever bred satiety; he ruling because she would obey, or rather because she would obey, she therein ruling.'

Rank.- Less potent and comprehensive than other spirits of his

age, but more beautiful and engaging than any; a combination of the scholar, the poet, and the knight-errant; a courtier petted and praised; a patriot who failed in ambition, though educated a statesman, because too fine an ornament of the nation to be spared for its defence; a lover who failed in love, marrying the woman he respected, and losing the one he adored; a soldier, a gentleman, and a gifted writer, whose vigor, variety, and idiom in prose mark a decided advance. Largely conspicuous in life, his merits are apt to be lost on the modern reader in consequence of their bedizened dress; for, though his thoughts were noble and his feelings genuine, his fancy was artificial, and tended incessantly to lift his rhetoric on stilts. He will always maintain, however, a high place as an æsthetic critic, nor an inconsiderable one as a sonneteer. Into what final mould his powers would have run, to what heights they might have attained, had they not been cut off so prematurely, is matter for speculation.

Character.- So rare a union of attractions is difficult of definition. He hath had,' was the simple testimonial of a friend, 'as great love in this life, and as many tears for his death, as ever any had. His conception of chivalry --- high-erected

of some.

thoughts seated in a heart of courtesy '- is the fitting description of his own manliness, and the charm that made him the idol of court and camp. Scholarly, aspiring, brilliant, ingenuous, brave, and gentle. With a keen sense of pleasure and a thirst for adventure, he possessed a gravity beyond his years. Like most men of high sensibility, he inclined to melancholy and solitude. His chief fault - which was the impassioned energy of the age - was an impetuosity of temper, a trait which appears in the following letter addressed to his father's secretary, and containing what proved to be a groundless accusation: •Mr. Molyneux-Few words are best. My letters to my father have come to the eyes

Neither can I condemn any but you for it. If it be so, you have played the very knave with me; and so I will make you know, if I have good proof of it. But that for so much as is past. For that is to come, I assure you before God, that if ever I know you do so much as read any letter I write to my father, without his commandment, or my conscnt, I will thrust my dagger into you, And trust to it, for I speak it in earnest. In the meantime, farewell." The closing scenes of his life display the crowning qualities of his character,— magnanimity and seriousness. On the field of carnage, mortally wounded, and perishing of thirst, a cup of water is brought to him; but as it touches his fevered lips he sees by his side a soldier still more desperately hurt, who is looking at the water with anguish in his face; and he says, “Give it to this man; his necessity is yet greater than mine.' In his last moments, his chaplain

proved to him out of the Scriptures, that though his understanding and senses should fail, yet that faith which he had now could not fail; he did, with a cheerful and smiling countenance put forth his hand and slapped me softly on the cheeks. Not long after, he lifted up his eyes and hands, uttering these words, “I would not change my joy for the empire of the world.” ... Having made a comparison of God's grace now in him, his former virtues seemed to be nothing; for he wholly condemned his former life. "All things in it," he said, “have been vain, vain, vain.".

Influence. – A work so extensively perused as

was the Arcadia must have contributed not a little to liberalize and dignify English speech, and to create, among writers, a bold and imaginative use of words. From him, as from a fountain, the most vigorous shoots of the period drew something of their verdure and their strength. Shakespeare was his attentive reader, copied his diction, transferred his ideas - above all, his fine conceptions of female character. Thus, in poetie prose of Sidney:

More sweet than a gentle south-west wind, which comes creeping over flowery

fields and shadowed waters in the extreme heat of summer.'

Said Shakespeare, after him:

Oh! it came o'er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odor.'
And Coleridge:

• And sweeter than the gentle south-west wind,
O'er willowy meads and shadowed waters creeping,

And Ceres' golden fields.'
And Byron:

"Breathing all gently o'er his cheek and mouth,

As o'er a bed of violets the sweet south.' Nor is this all. The moral charm of his character wrought blessedly in life; and the noble feeling, the lofty aspiration, that lives in and exhales from the record of his heart and brain, is a part of the breath of human-kind, to nourish pastoral delight, pure friendship, and magnanimous thought.


There is no learning that this man hath not searched into. ... His books will get reverence from age.- Pope Clement.

Biography.--Born near Exeter, in 1553, of parents respectable, but neither noble nor rich, and abler to rejoice in his early piety than to appreciate his early intelligence. They designed him for a tailor, but to his humble schoolmaster he appeared “to be blessed with an inward divine light,' and therefore at the age of fourteen, through the kindness of Bishop Jewel, was sent to Oxford, where he rose to eminence and preferment. After fourteen years of exhaustive study, he entered holy orders, was made deacon and priest, and married a scolding wife, whom he had allowed to be chosen for him by an ignorant low-minded matchmaker. In 1585, he was appointed Master of the Temple; but the situation neither accorded with his temper nor with his literary pursuits, and he petitioned his superior to remove him to 'some quiet parsonage.' The following is the appeal:

"My Lord, When I lost the freedom of my cell, which was my college, yet I found some degree of it in my quiet country parsonage. But I am weary of the noise and oppositions of this place; and, indeed, God and nature did not intend me for contentions, but for study and quietness. And, my lord, my particular contest- here with Mr. Travers have

proved the more unpleasant to me, because I believe him to be a good man; and that belief hath occasioned me to examine mine own conscience concerning his opinions. And to satisfy that I have consulted the holy Scripture, and other laws, both human and divine, whether the conscience of him and others of his jndgment ought to be so far complied with by us as to alter our frame of church-government, our manner of God's worship, our praising and praying to Him, and our established ceremonies, as often as their tender consciences shall reqnire is. And in this examination I have not only satisfied myself, but have begun a treatise in which I intend the satisfaction of others, by a demonstration of the reasonableness of our laws of ecclesiastical polity. But, my lord, I shall never be able to finish what I have begun, unless I be removed into some quiet parsonage, where I may see God's blessings spring out of my mother-earth, and eat my own bread in peace and privacy; a place where I may, without disturbance, meditate my approuching mortality, and that great account which all flesh must give at the last day to the God of all spirits.'

First appointed to a parish in Wiltshire, he was in the following year presented to a rectory in Kent, where the remainder of his life was spent in meditation and the faithful discharge of his duties. Never strong, he died in November, 1600, of pulmonic disease induced by a heavy cold.

Writings.-Against the non-conforming Puritans, Hooker, in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, undertook to investigate and define the right of the Church to claim obedience from its members, and the duty of the members to render obedience to the Church. His opponents insisted that a definite scheme of church polity was revealed in the Bible, thus reducing the controversy to a mere anarchy of opinions about the meaning of certain texts. With that aching for order and that demand for fundamentai ideas which characterize a tranquil spirit and a great mind, he founded his argument on general conceptions, and urged that the laws of nature, reason, and society, equally with those of Scripture, are of divine institution. Both are equally worthy of respect. It is the province of the natural light' to distinguish between what is variable and what is invariable in these laws, between what is eternal and what is temporary in Revelation itself. Hence the divinely constituted reason of man does not exceed its rights in establishing certain uniformities and ceremonials on which Scripture may be doubtful or silent. The English Church system may be conformable to the will of God, though not enjoined by any clear text of his revealed Word.

What was transitory or what was partial in the book may be subtracted without injury to its immortal excellence; for its foundations are laid deep in the eternal verities which are the basis of all duties and all rights, political as well as religious.

« AnteriorContinuar »