« السابقةمتابعة »
Much, however, as Alabaster was latterly renowned for his theological and philosophical acquirements, he had enjoyed early in life, and continued to maintain to the day of his death, a reputation equally great and extensive for the critical acumen of his classical taste and the beauty of his Latin poetry. In 1592, and in, the twenty-fifth year of his age, he wrote his “ Roxana,” a Latin tragedy, which was acted, as soon as finished, at Trinity College, Cambridge, and procured the author the most unbounded applause.* So highly, indeed, was this drama esteemed, that forty years after its first representation at Cambridge, namely in 1632, it issued from the press surreptitiously, and in a very imperfect form, an occurrence which stimulated the author to publish a genuine edition during the course of the same year.
The Roxana of Alabaster, though certainly a work of considerable merit, is written as Warton
* “ Dr. Fuller informs. us,” (see his Worthies in Suffolk, p. 70.) says Granger, “ that when his Latin tragedy of Roxana was acted at Trinity College in Cambridge, the last words
sequar, sequar,' were so hideously pronounced, that a gentlewoman present fell distracted, and never afterwards recovered her senses.
· Biographical History, vol. ii. p. 169. note.
justly observes, too much“ in the style and manner of the turgid and unnatural Seneca;” but when that elegant and interesting commentator proceeds to say that this drama “ has been mentioned by Dr. Johnson as a Latin composition, equal to the Latin poetry of Milton,” * he has assuredly charged that upon his illustrious contemporary which he never dreamt of asserting. The passage in Johnson, with the preceding context, is as follows. " I once heard Mr. Hampton, the translator of Polybius, remark, what I think is true, that Milton was the first Englishman who, after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classic elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very few : Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they have succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt verse than they provoke derision. If we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster's Roxana.”+ Now it will, I
* Milton's Smaller Poems, apud Warton, 2nd edit. 1791.
+ Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, vol. i. p. 76. Sharpe's Edition.
think, be readily admitted, that no equality with the poetry of Milton could be intended by these words; they were meant merely to imply, what is, in fact, really the case, that this drama is, as a classical production, a spirited and extraordinary effort for the period in which it was written And more especially will this be allowed, when we recollect the youth of the writer, and that, as he has himself told us, it was the work of only a fortnight.
The drama, however, was not the only province of poetry in which Alabaster endeavoured to excel; he had projected, and in part executed, a species of Epic poem in honour of Elizabeth and her reign, which was to have extended to twelve books, and which he termed ELISEIS.
Of this elaborate undertaking which, notwithstanding the popularity of its subject, was never committed to the press, Mr. Todd, in his edition of Spenser, has given us the following account.
“ The Eliseis," he says, " is preserved among the manuscripts in Emmanuel College, Cambridge; and is numbered 1. 4. 16. I have been favoured by the master of that society with the
perusal of it. It is entitled Elisæis, Apotheosis poetica, sive, De florentissimo imperio et rebus gestis augustissimæ et invictissimæ principis Elizam bethæ D. G. Anglie, Francia, et Hiberniæ, Reginæ. POEMATIS in duodecem libros tribuendi, LIBER PRIMUS, Authore GULIELMO ALABASTRO, Cantabrigiensi Colleg. Trin. - It is dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.
The poem opens
Virgineum mundi decus, angustamque Britannæ
This manuscript, according to Antony Wood, had been formerly in the possession of Theodore
Unfinished as the poem was, it appears to have been widely circulated amongst the author's friends, and to have received from them the most unqualified approbation. It must have been commenced very shortly after the comple
* Todd's Spenser, vol. viii. p. 24.
tion of the Roxana; for in 1595, when Spenser published his “ Colin Clout's Come Home Again,” he thus speaks of the production of his friend who was then in the twenty-seventh year
of his age :
And there is Alabaster thoroughly taught
Praise like this, and from such a quarter, must necessarily have impressed the public mind with a high idea of the merits of the Elisëis, and it is, therefore, somewhat extraordinary, that,