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licious season. He wonders what this love may be, of which he has so often read, and which thus seems breathed forth in the quickening breath of May, and melting all nature into ecstasy and song. If it really be so great a felicity, and if it be a boon thus generally dispensed to the most insignificant beings, why is he alone cut off from its enjoyments ?
Oft would I think, O Lord, what may this be,
That love is of such noble myght and kynde !
Is it of him, as we in books do find:
May he oure hertes setten* and unbynd :
For giff he be of so grete excellence,
That he of every wight hath care and charge,
That I am thral'd, and birdis go at large ?
In the midst of his musing, as he casts his eye downward, he beholds “the fairest and the freshest young floure " that ever he had seen. It is tho lovely Lady Jane, walking in the garden to enjoy the beauty of that “fresh May morrowe.” Breaking thus suddenly upon his sight, in the moment of loneliness and excited susceptibility, she at once captivates the fancy of the romantic prince, and becomes the object of his wandering wishes, the sovereign of his ideal world.
There is, in this charming scene, an evident resemblance to the early part of Chaucer's Knight's Tale ; where Palamon and Arcite fall in love with Emilia, whom they see walking in
• Setten, incline.
+ Gilt, what injury have I done, etc.
the garden of their prison. Perhaps the similarity of the actual fact to the incident which he had read in Chaucer may have induced James to dwell on it in his poem. His description of the Lady Jane is given in the picturesque and minute manner of his master; and being doubtless taken from the life, is a perfect portrait of a beauty of that day. He dwells, with the fondness of a lover, on every article of her apparel, from the net of pearl, splendent with emeralds and sapphires, that confined her golden hair, even to the "goodly chaine of small orfeverye" * about her neck, whereby there hung a ruby in shape of a heart, that seemed, he says, like a spark of fire burning upon her white bosom. Her dress of white tissue was looped up to enable her to walk with more freedom. She was aocompanied by two female attendants, and about her sported a little hound decorated with bells; probably the small Italian hound of exquisite symmetry, which was a parlor favorite and pet among the fashionable. dames of ancient times. James closes his de scription by a burst of general eulogium :
Io her was youth, beauty, with humble port,
Bounty, richesse, and womanly feature;
Wisdom, largesse, estate, f and cunning $ sure,
In word, in deed, in shape, in countenance,
The departure of the Lady Jane from the garden puts an end to this transient riot of the heart. With her departs the amorous illusion that had shed a temporary charm over the scene of his captivity, and he relapses into loneliness, now rendered tenfold more intolerable by this passing beam of unattainable beauty. Through the long and weary day he s pines at his unhappy lot, and when evening approaches, and Phæbus, as he beautifully expresses it, had “bade farewell to every leaf and flower," he still lingers at the window, and, laying his head upon the cold stone, gives vent to a mingled flow of love and sorrow, until, gradually lulled by the mute melancholy of the twilight hour, he lapses, “half sleeping, half swoon," into a vision, which occupies the remainder of the poem, and in which is allegorically shadowed out the his tory of his passion.
• Wrought gold.
| Largesse, bounty.
When he wakes from his trance, he rises from his stony pillow, and, pacing his apartment, full of dreary reflections, questiɔns his spirit, whither it has been wandering ; whether, indeed, all that has passed before his dreaming fancy has been conjured up by preceding circumstances; or whether it is a vision, intended to comfort and assure him in his despond ency. If the latter, he prays that some token may be sent to confirm the promise of happier days, given him in his slum. bers. Suddenly, a turtle dove, of the purest whiteness, comes flying in at the window, and alights upon his hand, bearing in her bill a branch of red gilliflower, on the leaves of which is written, in letters of gold, the following sentence:
Awake! awake! I bring, lover, I bring
The newis glad that blissful is, and sure
For in the heaven decretit is thy cure.
He receives the branch with mingled hope and dread; reads it with rapture : and this, he says, was the first token of his succeeding happiness. Whether this is a mere poetic fiction, or whether the Lady Jane did actually send him a token of her favor in this romantic way, remains to be determined according to the faith or fancy of the reader. He concludes his poem, by intimating that the promise conveyed in the vision and by the flower is fulfilled, by his being restored to liberty, and made happy in the possession of the sovereign of his heart.
Such is the poetical account given by James of his love adventures in Windsor Castle. How much of it is absolute fact, and how much the embellishment of fancy, it is fruitless to conjecture: let us not, however, reject every romantic incident as incompatible with real life; but let us sometimes take a poet at his word. I have noticed merely those parts of the poem immediately connected with the tower, and have passed over a large part, written in the allegorical vein, so much cultivated at that day. The language, of course, is quaint and antiquated, so that the beauty of many of its golden phrases will scarcely be perceived at the present day ; but it is impossible not to be charmed with the genuine sentiment, the delightful artlessness and urbanity, which prevail throughout it. The descriptions of nature too, with which it is embellished, are given with a truth, a discrimination, and a freshness, worthy of the most cultivated periods of the art.
As an amatory poem, it is edifying in these days of coarser thinking, to notice the nature, refinement, and exquisite delicacy which pervade it; banishing every gross thought or immodest expression, and presenting female loveliness, clothed in all its chivalrous attributes of almost supernatural purity and grace.
James flourished nearly about the time of Chaucer and Gower, and was evidently an admirer and studier of their writings. Indeed, in one of his stanzas he acknowledges them as his masters; and, in some parts of his poem, we find traces of similarity to their productions, more especially to those of Chaucer. There are always, however, general features of resemblance in the works of contemporary authors, which are not so much borrowed from each other as from the times. Writers, like bees, toll their sweets in the wide world; they incorporate with their own conceptions the anecdotes and thoughts current in society; and thus each generation has some features in common, characteristic of the age in which it lived.
James belongs to one of the most brilliant eras of our literary history, and establishes the claims of his country to a participation in its primitive honors. Whilst a small cluster of English writers are constantly cited as the fathers of our verse, the name of their great Scottish compeer is apt to be passed over in silence; but he is evidently worthy of being enrolled in that little constellation of remote but neverfailing luminaries, who shine in the highest firmament of literature, and who, like morning stars, sang together at the bright dawning of British poesy.
Such of my readers as may not be familiar with Scottish history (though the manner in which it has of late been woven with captivating fiction has made it a universal study), may be rurious to learn something of the subsequent history of