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The finest compliment was paid by Chapman, who declared that the poem
“ Renews the golden world, and holds through all
Milton's Comus owes not a little to Fletcher's pastoral; and Il Penseroso is under obligations to that fine song in Nice Valour, “Hence, all you vain delights !” Some of the best of Fletcher's songs are in Valentinian, where we have the rousing address to “God Lyæus, ever young ” (worthy to stand beside Shakespeare's “Come, thou monarch of the vine,") and that softest of invocations to “Care-charming Sleep.”
Massinger, an admirable dramatist, had little lyrical power-in fact, none at all—for his few attempts at a song are flat and insipid. Ford's songs are of small account, and Marston was no songbird. Webster has three lyrical passages of deep impressiveness-the dirge in The White Devil (“Call for the robin-redbreast and the wren "), the passing-song in The Duchess of Malfi ("Hark, now everything is still ”), and the memento mori in The Devil's Law-Case ("All the flowers of the spring").
Thomas Heywood' wrote some very pleasant 1 Some of the songs in Heywood's plays are by other hands. For instance, in The Rape of Lucrece he introduces two stanzas of Sir Walter Raleigh's little poem, "Now what
songs, notably the fresh matin-song, “Pack, clouds, away, and welcome, day !” (which Sir Henry Bishop set to music), and the tuneful lovegreeting to Phillis, “Ye little birds that sit and sing." The hymns to Dian and Ceres in The Golden Age and Silver Age, and the address to Phoebus in Love's Mistress, are graceful and melodious. I have not included Heywood's jocular songs ; some are amusing, but others are not strictly decorous.
William Rowley, whose blank verse is so awkward, could gambol nimbly in rhyme. From his odd play, The Thracian Wonder, I have quoted several songs, perhaps too many; but I am not sure that he wrote them all. The rollicking songs in The Spanish Gipsy I take to be by Rowley rather than by his collaborateur Middleton. In More Dissemblers besides Women we have some gipsy songs, evidently from the hand that contriis love? I pray thee tell.” In Edward IV. we have one stanza from an old ballad of Agincourt :
“Agincourt, Agincourt ! know ye not Agincourt,
All the French foemen ?
Morris-pikes and bowmen.”
buted the songs to the Spanish Gipsy. More Dissemblers is ascribed in the old edition (posthumously published in 1657) solely to Middleton, but I have no doubt that Rowley had a hand in it. Middleton's best lyrical work, highly fantastic and picturesque, is seen in The Witch.
Shirley's songs remind us sometimes of Fletcher, sometimes of Ben Jonson. He was of an imitative turn, and followed his models closely; but in his most famous song, “ The glories of our blood and state," and in those equally memorable stanzas, “ Victorious men of earth, no more," he struck an original note, deep-toned and solemn.
Suckling's gaiety is very enlivening. His “Why so pale and wan, fond lover?” is a triumph of playful raillery ; and hardly inferior is the toast,“ Here's a health to the nutbrown lass !" which Sheridan imitated in “ Here's to the maiden of bashful fifteen.” Occasionally, in his more serious moods, Suckling follows the lead of Donne, and elaborates subtle conceits. “No, no, fair heretic, it needs must be," might readily pass as the work of Donne, who exercised a potent influence on his younger contemporaries.
Randolph's plays yield only some bacchanalian snatches; Cartwright wrote a few good songs, but the best are too free for our anthology; Habington, whose poems to Castara are often so painfully modest as to become insipid, has one capital song
in The Queen of Arragon--a flouting address to a proud mistress; Peter Hausted's Rival Friends has several good songs; Aurelian Townshend, “the poor poet of the Barbican,” contributes some smooth verses from his masque, Albion's Triumph ; and Francis Quarles, famed for his Emblems, has a little song (wrongfully claimed for Richard Brome) in praise of solitude. That witty divine, Jasper Mayne, who suffered at the hands of Cromwell, but became Canon of Christ Church and Archdeacon of Chichester at the Restoration, wrote two very readable comedies. In one of them, The Amorous War, is found the song, « Time is the feathered thing,” of intricate metrical construction and somewhat harshly worded, but rich and weighty. Another canon of Christ Church, Dr. William Strode, was something of a poet; his academic play, The Floating Island, supplies one short song. At this time divines were much addicted to the writing of plays. In Dr. Jasper Fisher's Fuimus Troes, acted at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1633, there are several songs, but they are not of the best quality. Samuel Harding, of Exeter College, who became chaplain to a nobleman and died during the Civil Wars, published in 1640 a play, Sicily and Naples, or The Fatal Union, from which I have drawn those quaint grim verses, “Noblest bodies are but gilded clay." A certain John Jones (of whom nothing is known), in his play, Adrasta, 1635,
has a good dirge, beginning “Die, die, ah die!" Our old poets were fond of dirges and of bridal songs. Joseph Rutter, in The Shepherd's Holiday, has some graceful verses in praise of “Hymen, god of marriage-bed” (p. 206); and Nathaniel Field at an earlier date (p. 175) had celebrated the advantages of the marriage-state. In Cartwright's Ordinary there is a good epithalamium, and another may be seen in Robert Chamberlain's Swaggering Damsels ; but as these poets did not observe the reticence which modern taste demands, I have excluded their sportive effusions.
Milton is represented by extracts from Arcades and Comus. Master of all the learning of all the ages, Milton had not neglected to read and digest the writings of the Elizabethan poets. He borrowed freely from any and every source, turning whatever he touched to pure gold. Warton's discursive annotations to Milton's minor poems are a perennial feast.
Sir William Davenant began to write when many of the Elizabethan poets were still at work, and he caught something of their inspiration. In his songs there are sprightly runnings of the generous fancy that brimmed in the lyrics of Fletcher ; but he belongs rather to the Restoration than to the earlier age. He may have shaken hands with Dekker, but Dryden was his familiar friend. He stands as a sort of half-way house between the