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PHINEAS was the elder brother of Giles Fletcher, and, like him, was a clergyman. He possessed high poetic gifts, which were rendered nugatory by his preposterous choice of a subject. His Purple Island is a poetic treatise on anatomy, written in the form of allegory, and perversely adorned with much of poetic imagery out of place.
HAPPINESS OF THE SHEPHERD'S LIFE. Thrice, oh, thrice happy, shepherd's life and state ! When courts are happiness, unhappy pawns ! His cottage low and safely-humble gate Shuts out proud Fortune, with her scorns and fawns : No feared treason breaks his quiet sleep : Singing all day, his flocks he learns to keep; Himself as innocent as are his simple sheep. No Serian worms he knows, that with their thread Draw out their silken lives : nor silken pride : His lambs' warm fleece well fits his little need, Not in that proud Sidonian tincture dyed : No empty hopes, no courtly fears him fright; Nor begging wants his middle fortune bite : But sweet content exiles both misery and spite. Instead of music, and base flattering tongues, Which wait to first salute my lord's uprise ; The cheerful lark wakes him with early songs, And birds' sweet whistling notes unlock his eyes : In country-plays is all the strife he uses ; Or sing, or dance unto the rural Muses; And but in music's sports all difference refuses. His certain life, that never can deceive him, Is full of thousand sweets, and rich content: The smooth-leaved beeches in the field receive him With coolest shades, till noon-tide rage is spent : His life is neither toss'd in boist'rous seas Of troublous world, nor lost in slothful ease; Pleased and full blest he lives, when he his God can please. His bed of wool yields safe and quiet sleeps, While by his side his faithful spouse hath place; His little son into his bosom creeps, The lively picture of his father's face :
Never his humble house nor state torment him ;
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER. BEAUMONT and FLETCHER are names inseparably united by the dramatic works which they wrote in common. Francis Beaumont belonged to the ancient family of Beaumont; he was born, and, in his early life, lived at their seat, Grace Dieu, in Charnwood Forest; and was, so far as is known, a Catholic, his family having survived as such to a period long subsequent to that of the poet's death, which took place A.D. 1616.
John Fletcher was the son of Dr. Fletcher, Bishop of London, and was born A.D. 1576. He died of the plague in 1625. Their mutual friendship constitutes the greater part of what is recorded of these two poets, who, as we are told, had “a single bench in the same house between them, and wore the same cloak.” The Maid's Tragedy, and Philaster, two of their best plays, are attributed to Beaumont exclusively; and Fletcher composed many, likewise, unaided. Beaumont is supposed to have possessed most of scholarship, robustness, and taste; Fletcher the more luxuriant fancy. With Ben Jonson they take rank immediately after Shakespeare. Their genius could not but have made them, long since, far more generally known, had it not been for the immense mass of their works, in which what is first-rate is obscured by what is of inferior worth. A sadder defect is the indecency which defaces many of their plays. That these have not been expurgated long since is the more inexcusable, as it is well known that immoral passages were frequently introduced into plays by the actors for the amusement of a ribald audience, and without the knowledge of the authors.
FROM THE MAID'S TRAGEDY. Aspatia, forsaken by her lover, finds her maid Antiphila working a picture of Ariadne. The expression of her sorrow to Antiphila and the other attendant thus concludes:
* * * * *
When the strong cordage cracks; rather the sun
Antiph. Of Ariadne, madam ?
Fie, you have miss'd it here, Antiphila.
FROM THE TRAGEDY OF PHILASTER.
How shall we devise
I have a boy,
GEORGE HERBERT. . GEORGE HERBERT, a descendant of the ancient family of that name, was born A.D. 1593. His manifold accomplishments rendered him a universal favourite, and qualified him for success in any walk of life. After much consideration he resolved to shun court favour and the public gaze; and he became a clergyman. His life was passed in the exact discharge of his professional duties, and in the composition of poetry. For conscientiousness, simplicity of life, piety, scholarship, and intellectual refinement, he was alike admirable. His poetic genius was of a high order; and, in spite of quaintness and occasional conceits, his poems must ever be valued for their depth and vigour of thought, as well as for their condensation of diction. He died A.D. 1632.
For thou must die.
And thou must die.
And all must die.
Then chiefly lives.