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is in Lyly's songs a fairy lightness that presents a most refreshing contrast to the pedantic finery of Euphues. Where shall we find a conceit more neatly turned than in those delightful verses, frequently imitated but never equalled, “ Cupid and my Campaspe played”? It must be remembered that Lyly's songs were written at a time when our English lyrists were doubtfully feeling their way. Lodge and Breton frequently relapse into the tedious longwinded measures employed by the elder poets ; and Greene's touch is not always sure. But there is no fault to be found with Lyly's songs. Would that he had devoted himself to song-writing instead of toiling at his ponderous romance ! “Sing to Apollo, God of day," and "O Cupid, monarch over kings,” are jewels that “from each facet flash a laugh at time.”
Though Peele's plays have but a dusty antiquarian interest, his songs are as fresh as the flowers in May. He was a rogue and sharper, according to the traditional account; but the author of The Arraignment of Paris and of the noble song in Polyhymnia must surely have been a man of
Marston, and suspect that the players had to procure them from some other quarter. Where plays were represented by companies of boy-actors (as in the case of Lyly and Marston) son were usually introduced, for the boys had been carefully trained in singing, and opportunities had to be afforded to them of displaying their accomplishment.
gentle and chivalrous character. The reader will not fail to notice the beauty of the lyrical snatches from The Old Wives' Tale. It is a pity that we possess only fragments of Peele's pastoral play, The Hunting of Cupid, which was licensed for the press
Thomas Nashe, "ingenious, ingenuous, fluent, facetious T. Nashe," was very serious at times. Witness his Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, that woeful cry wrung from the depths of a passionate soul. The songs in Summer's last Will and Testament are of a sombre turn. We have, it is true, the delicious verses in praise of spring; and what a pleasure it is to croon them over !
“ The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
But when the play was produced it was sickly autumn, and the plague was stalking through the land:
“Short days, sharp days, long nights come on apace :
Very vividly does Nashe depict the feeling of forlorn hopelessness caused by the dolorous advent of the dreaded pestilence. His address to the fading
summer, “Go not yet hence, bright soul of the sad year," is no empty rhetorical appeal, but a solemn supplication; and those pathetic stanzas, “Adieu ; farewell, earth's bliss," must have had strange significance at a time when on every side the deathbells were tolling. Shakespeare's songs
course written “divinely well." Yet I must frankly confess that I cannot determine to my own satisfaction whether Shakespeare or Fletcher wrote the opening song, "Roses, their sharp spines being gone,” in The Two Noble Kinsmen. Such a line as :
“Oxlips in their cradles growing”
would seem to be Shakespeare's very own. The text of the song has been somewhat corrupted. “ Primrose . . . with her bells dim” cannot be what the poet wrote, for primroses have no bells; and I am inclined to accept the emendation of that venerable poet, Mr. W. J. Linton, "with harebell slim.”
With all my admiration for Ben Jonson, I venture to think that his lyrics-excellent as they frequently are—want the natural magic that we find in the songs of some of his less famous contemporaries. “Still to be neat, still to be drest," and others, are polished ad unguem, so that the severest critic cannot discover a flaw. And who can fail to appreciate
the fertility of invention that Jonson displays in his masques ? Few, indeed, are the poets who have so happily combined learning, smoothness, and sprightliness. He has mingled
“ all the sweets and salts That none may say the triumph halts.”
His lyrical work has frequently a pronounced epigrammatic flavour. We admire the compactness of thought and the aptness of expression; we exclaim “Euge, euge !" and are ready to affirm that Martial at his smartest cannot compare with rare Ben Jonson. Yet somehow the wayward inspiration of poets who have no claim to be Jonson's peers is more powerfully attractive.
Ben's antagonist, Dekker, had a genuine lyrical gift. His life was one constant strenuous struggle with poverty, and all his work was done in haste and hurry. He was not unfrequently lodged in the Counter (a prison in the Poultry for debtors), where it was difficult to write with any comfort or satisfaction. But in the dusk and gloom his cheeriness never forsook him; his songs—too few, alas !are blithe as the lark's tirra-lirra and wholesome as the breath of June.
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher were lyrists of the first rank. In his Inner Temple Masque Beaumont gave ample proof of his ability for song
writing. What a rapture is in this call to the masquers to begin the dance !
“Shake off your heavy trance !
Fit only for Apollo
And all the stars to follow !”
Of rare beauty are the glowing and tender bridal songs in this masque ; and I would certainly ascribe to Beaumont the bridal songs in The Maid's Tragedy. That admirable burlesque, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, is now regarded as mainly the work of Beaumont, and we may be fairly confident that it was he who wrote the whimsical song of Ralph the May-lord, "London, to thee I do present” (pp. 92-4). But the largest contributor to our anthology is Beaumont's coadjutor, John Fletcher. I have drawn copiously from The Faithful Shepherdess, the best of English pastoral plays. It is deeply to be regretted that Fletcher by the introduction of offensive matter smirched the fair features of a poem that would otherwise be at all points delightful. The rhymed trochaics glide as lightly as the satyr who bore the sleeping Alexis to Clorin's bower. At its original representation The Faithful Shepherdess failed to please ; but it came from the press crowned with the praises of Beaumont, Ben Jonson, Nat Field, and Chapman.