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ity of such an apology from the such occasions, are prophets of hope Vicar of Dallyng, a vowed celibate only. And as to the struggles and priest. disasters that followed, the glowing vision of Dunbar was luckily as im passive to the shadows of coming events (Flodden Field, and Fotheringay, and the scaffold at Whitehall, and the rout on the Boyne water) as were the quondam visions and religious meditations of Lamartine in the days of Charles Dix to the shadows of the barricades, and the prestige of the Hotel de Ville.
We must return for a moment to Bernard. This poet laureate had a notable subject to begin with in the union of the Two Roses. How he treated it we have no means of judging, as the performance is not in existence; and though it has perished, it would be unfair perhaps, to assume that his freshest effort on an event that might have quickened the slowest fancy, was not superior to his later exercises on occasions of weaker interest, such as are preserved in the Cottonian Library, and that of New Col. lege, Oxford. Of all the events in the history of the British monarchy, there is one subject, and probably one only, of those that could come within the range of a court-poet's province, of equal national importance, and equally poetical quality with the marriage of Henry the Seventh-that is, the marriage of his daughter, Margaret, to James the Fourth of Scotland; and even those of our "constant readers" who, to their loss, may know nothing of William Dunbar but what they have read in former pages of this magazine, must know that the court of Scotland, at the time of the celebration of these nuptials, possessed a poet worthy of the subject, for they cannot have forgotten his inspired vision on the Thistle and the Rose. In the one case the wounds of England were closed after long wars of disputed succession, as desolating as any intestine wars on record; in the other, two nations, jealous neighbors, and till then implacable enemies, formed an alliance that promised to be lasting, and which finally effected more than it had promised, by the consolidation of the two thrones into one. On the head of the Scottish great-grandson of the English Margaret, the double crown was secure from the casuistry of jurists. Neither Elizabeth of York, nor her daughter, was a happy wife. Henry the Seventh proved cold and ungrateful as a husband; James the Fourth faithless; but we have nothing to do here with the domestic infelicity of those ili-used princesses, except as it shows that the court-poets, who predicted so much happiness for them, were not infallible Vates. Poets, on
We do not find that the young successor of England's royal Blue-beard had a poet-laureate. Queen Mary, though a learned and accomplished lady, had no such an appendage to her state. Heywood was her favourite poet; he had consoled her with honest praise in the days when it was the fashion of courtiers to neglect her. On his presenting himself at her levee, after her accession, Mary asked him," says the chronicler of queens, "what wind has blown you hither?" He answered, "Two special ones-one of them to see your Majesty." "Our thanks for that," said Mary; "but the other?" "That your Majesty might see me." He used to stand by her side at supper, and amuse her with his jests-not a very dignified employment for a poet
but he was a player, and being accustomed to play many parts, did not decline that of Double to Mary's female Fool, Jane. He appears, however, to have been her life-long solace. He had ministered to her diversion in her childhood, with a company of child-players, whom Shakspeare calls
little eye-asses"-(callow hawks)— and in her long illness he was frequently sent for, and, when she was able to listen to recitation, he repeated his verses, or superintended performances for her amusement.
Malone insists that Queen Eliza. beth, too, had no poet-laureate; yet Spenser is by other writers as confidently preferred to that post, and Daniel is said to have officially succeeded him. Spenser's "Gloriana" and "Dearest Dread," though abundantly shrewd and sagacious, and though somewhat of a scholar and a wit, and sufficiently vain of her own poor rhymes, had no true perception or appreciation of the art divine of poesy. The most eminent dramatic
genius the world ever saw was as Henrietta Maria, though her husband moderately encouraged as any inferior had intended the reversion for Thomas playhouse droll might have been. She May. This man was so disgusted could laugh at Falstaff and Dame that, forgetting many former obligaQuickly, and stimulate that humour tions to Charles, who had a high and in the author: and, to use her sister's just opinion of his talents, he soon words to Heywood, "our thanks for after turned traitor, and attached himthat." Edmund Spenser, also, was less self to the Roundheads. Davenant indebted to her own taste, or even to proved himself worthy of the preferher enormous appetite for flattery, ence, not only by his poetry, but by than to Sir Philip Sidney's enlightened his stedfast gallant loyalty. He was friendship, and to his introduction to son of an innkeeper at Oxford, but is her by Sir Walter Raleigh, for such said to have rather sanctioned a vague favors as he received. These, how- rumour that attributed his paternity ever, were not small; and neither the to Shakspeare. Ai ten years of age Fairy Queen herself, (gigantic fairy!) he produced his first poem, a little nor her sage councillor Cecil, is justly ode in three sextains, "In rememresponsible for the unhappiness of brance of Master William ShakSpenser. His pension of £50 a-year speare." The first stanza has some was but a portion of the emoluments feeling in it, the other two are puerile he derived from court interest. That conceits, clever enough for so young pension, which he received till his a boy. When his sovereign was in death in 1598, was no doubt an annu- trouble, he volunteered into the army, ity assigned him as Queen's poet, and was soon found eligible to no though the title of laureate is not given mean promotion. He was raised to in his patent, nor in that of his two the rank of lieutenant-general of immediate successors, Daniel and Ben ordnance, under the Duke of NewJonson. So far Malone is accurate. castle, and was knighted for his services at the siege of Gloucester. His Gondibert," begun in exile at Paris, was continued in prison at Cowes Castle, though he daily expected his death-warrant. But he was removed to the Tower of London to be tried by a high commission; and it is believed that his life was saved by the generous intervention of Milton, whom he subsequently repaid in kind, by softening the resentment of the restored government against him. Davenant, though perhaps a man of irregular life, and though, as a dramatist and playhouse manager, he proved any thing but allegiant to Shakspeare, and was active in communicating a depraved taste, was yet a man of brave, honest, and independent mind. It is curious that he should not only have disappointed May of the laurel when living, but that it should have been his chance to take his place in Poet's Corner when dead. The Puritans had erected a pompous tomb to May, which was savagely enough removed by the returned royalists. Near the same spot, in Westminster Abbey, is the monument to Davenant.
Daniel's laudatory verse, whether he volunteered it or not, was acceptable to King James, and rewarded by a palace appointment. He was Gentle man Extraordinary, and one of the grooms to Queen Anne of Denmark. He was on terms of social intimacy with Shakspeare, Marlow, and Chapman, as well as with persons of higher social rank; and he had the honor to be tutor to the famous Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, who caused a cenotaph to be erected to his memory at Beckington, near Frome, in his native county. He died in 1619.
The masques and pageants of his successor, Ben Jonson prove that he held no sinecure from either of his royal masters; but in Charles the First he at least served a prince who could respect genius, and remember that the laborer is worthy of his hire. Jonson received, in consideration of services of wit and pen already done to us and our father, and which we expect from him," £100 a-year and a tierce of Spanish canary, his best-beloved Hippocrene, out of the royal cellars at Whitehall.
On his decease, in 1637, William Davenant was appointed poet-laureate, by patent, through the influence of
The Usurpation was not without its poets of far loftier reach than May,
though he, too, was no dwarf. It chastisement to that miserable Og, in would have been ridiculous in Cromwell the bitter satire with which he supto appoint a poet-laureate. The thing plied Tate for the second part of was impossible, though the flatteries Absolom and Achitophel. One might of his kinsman, Wailer, show that it pity Shadwell under the lash of such was not the want of a subservient an enemy as Dryden, if his writings royalist gentleman of station, as well either in verse or prose entitled him to of talent, that made it so. Andrew a grain of respect. Charles, sixth Marvel, though he wrote such vigor- Earl of Dorset-himself an elegant ous verse on Cromwell's victories in wit and indifferent versifier, but the Ireland, would hardly have accepted descendant and representative of a the office, and what other Puritan very illustrious poet, Sackville, the would? But without the form, the first Earl, author of the noble "InProtector of the commonwealth had duction to a Mirror for Magistrates"the reality in his Latin secretary, to vindicated his recommendation of whom Marvel was assistant. The Shadwell to the poet-laureateship, "not lineal heir of the most ancient race of because he was a poet, but an honest kings might have been proud of such man." We suppose he meant that he a poet. The greatness of Milton had not oscillated between Popery might be a pledge to all ages of the and Reformation like Dryden, and greatness of Cromwell, unchallenged that he was more honest, also, in a even by those who most detest grim political sense, and less liable to susOliver of Huntingdon for "Darwent picion as an adherent of the expelled stream with blood of Scots imbrued," monarch's heartless daughter, and her and "Worcester's laureate wreath." Dutch husband, the hero of the Boyne Here it is the poet who confers on and Glencoe. But, in another and not the conqueror a laurel crown, of which unimportant sense, Shadwell was far the imperishable leaves, green as ever from honest; for he was notorious for bard or victor wore, mitigate, though the ribaldry of his conversation. It they do not hide, the evil expression has been asserted, while that fact was on the casque-worn brow of the senex admitted, that, as an author, before armis impiger, and give it a dignity the public, he was a promoter of mothat might abate the stoutest loyalist's rality and virtue. Nothing can be abhorrence, but for one fatal remem- more untrue. Of his many comedies, brance, which forbids him to exclaim, there is none which is not as rife in pollution as any of the grossest plays of the time. But their boasted humour is physic for the bane; for it is distilled" from the dull weeds that grow by Lethe's side." His comedies are five-act farces of wearisome vulgarity, and, though suffered in their day, were destined, as Pope leniently expresses in it the Dunciad,
"Nec sunt hi vultus regibus usque truces."
Sir William Davenant, who recovered the laureateship at the Restoration, and retained it till his death in 1668, was succeeded by Dryden. Glorious John, although he had hastily flattered Richard Cromwell's brief authority by an epicede on Oliver, was not rejected by the merry monarch, who could laugh at poet's perjuries as lightly as at those of lovers. During that disgraceful reign, the poet made it no part of his vocation and privilege to check the profligate humours brought into fashion by the court.
"Unhappy Dryden ! in all Charles' days, Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays. At the revolution of 1688, the laureate was discrowned, as well as King James; and he condescended to revenge himself by Macflecnoe on his substitute Shadwell, as if had not beforehand administered sufficient
"Soon to that mass of nonsense to return, Where things destroyed are swept to things unborn."
In "The Royal Shepherdess," however, a play in blank verse, altered by Shadwell from Fountain of Devonshire, there are some fine lines, so far above anything known to be Shadwell's that we readily take him at his word in his preface, where, modest for once, he invites the reader, if he finds anything good in the play, to set it down to Mr. Fountain. The following lines are a favourable specimen, not. withstanding the breeding barrenness :
Still better, where a king, in a vicious attempt upon an innocent girl has compelled her consent to a meeting at night. The queen, apprised of the design, personates the intended victim, and appeals to his conscience with an effect that he thus describes :
"She only whisper'd to me, as she promised,
Yet never heard I any voice so loud: And though the words were gentler far
That holy priests do speak to dying saints,
Yet never thunder signified so much."
The songs in this piece are all by Shadwell, except, as he declares, the last but one, which is Fountain's, and the only one not below mediocrity. Shadwell had also the impudence to alter and corrupt "Timon of Athens," and to produce the farrago on the stage as an improvement on the original. In the dedication he says, "It has the inimitable hand of Shakspeare in it; yet I can truly say, I have made it into a play." This "tun of man and kilderkin of wit" was admitted to a tomb in Westminster Abbey, an honour (?) said to have been denied to the remains of a noble poet, the author of "Don Juan." Yet Shadwell had also produced a "Don Juan." His tragedy of The Libertine," the same hero, is ten times more indecent than the most objectionable parts of Byron's poem. But it is, indeed, also less noxious, for it has not a single attractive grace of fancy or feeling. A print of Shadwell, prefixed to Tonson's edition of his works, ludicrously bears out Dryden's description of the outer man. He looks like an alehouse Bacchus, or rather like one of those carnal cherubs whom the French call anges bouffishis cheeks bulging out as if they were stuffed with apples from the forbidden tree. He died in December 1692, and was succeeded by
Nahum Tate, the psalmodist. Every one knows what sort of poet he was, and how the harp of Israel is but a Jew's harp in the hands of Tate and
Brady. Yet some passages in his second part of "Absolom and Achitophel" are not such feeble mimicries of have been expected from so poor a perthe tone of his friend Dryden, as might former. The praise of Asaph, glorious John himself, is pleasing. It concludes with these lines:
"While bees in flowers rejoice, and flowers in dew,
While stars and fountains to their course
While Judah's throne and Sion's rock stand fast,
The song of Asaph, and the fame shall last."
At his death in 1715, a year after the accession of George the First, the withering laurel recovered a little lustre on the brow of Nicholas Rowe, the translator of Lucan, and the pathetic dramatist of "6 The Fair Penitent," and "Jane Shore." His occasional verses were, of course, very respectable; and his only signal failure was when he attempted comedy. After the banter he incurred for his play of "The Biter," he was so sensible that he was the biter bit, that he excluded it from his works, and made no second venture of the kind. Yet the man who could move an audience to tears, and who had so little command of their sympathies when he tried his powers of wit on them, was anything but a lachrymist by temperament. When Spence observed that he should have thought "the tragic Rowe too grave to write such things." Pope answered, "He! why, he would laugh all the day long! He would do nothing but laugh!" He survived the acquisition of the laurel only three years, dying at the age of forty-five.
Laurence Eusden, "a parson much bemused in beer," stumbled into his place, just in time to elaborate, singulto laborare, the Coronation Ode for George the Second. A specimen or two of his loyal suspirations may be as welcome as a hundred.
"Tis a George only can a George succeed." If Charles Elward had known that, he might have saved himself much trouble.
Eusden died at his rectory in Lincolnshire in 1730. Colley Cibber wore the laurel with unblushing front for twentyseven years from that date. His annual birth-day and new-year odes for all that time are treasured in the Gentleman's Magazine. They are all so bad, that his friends pretended that he made them so on purpose. Dr. Johnson, however, often asserted, from his personal knowledge of the man, that he took great pains with his lyrics, and thought them far superior to Pindar's. The Dr. was especially merry with one ultra Pindaric flight which occurs in the Cibberian "Ode for the New Year 1750." "Through ages past the muse preferr'd Her high-sung hero to the skies; Yet now reversed the rapture flies, And Cæsar's fame sublimes the bard So on the towering eagle's wing The lowly linnet soars to sing.
Had her Pindar of old
So proud was Cibber of that marvellous image of the linnet and eagle, that he repeated it in the "Natal Ode for 1753." In his last " New-year Ode, o, 1757, he again scolds Pindar for uggishness
"Had the lyrist of old Had our Cæsar to sing, More rapid his numbers had roll'd; But never had Greece such a king, No never had Greece such a king!" Those effusions are truly incomparable. Not only are they all bad, but not one of them in twenty-seven years contains a good line. Yet he was, happily for himself, more impenetrable to the gibes of the wits than a buffalo to the stings of musquitoes. Of the numerous epigrams twanged at him, here is one from the London Magazine for 1737.
ON SEEING TOBACCO-PIPES LIT WITH ONE OF THE LAUREATE'S ODES. "While the soft song that warbles George's praise
From pipe to pipe the living flame con
Critics who long have scorn'd must now admire,
For who can say his ode now wants its fire ?"
Dr. Johnson honoured him with another, equally complimentary to Cibber and his Cæsar. "Augustus'still survives in Maro's strain And Spenser's verse prolongs Eliza's reign:
Great George's acts let tuneful Colley sing,
For nature form'd the poet for the king." Yet Cibber, the hero of the Dunciad, was not a dunce, except in his attempts at verse; even Pope, who calls him "a pert and lively dunce," epithets rather incongruous, admits the merit of his "Careless Husband." His Apology for his own Life, too, is no mean perfor mance; some passages in it are both judicious and eloquent, particularly his criticisms on Nokes and Betterton, and on acting in general. Though the most wretched of poetasters, he was an abler prose writer than half of his critics.
At his death, the laureateship was offered to Gray, with an exemption from the duty of furnishing annual odes, but he refused the office, as having been degraded by Cibber. It was then given, on the usual terms, to William Whitehead, who won even the approbation of Gray for the felicity with which he occasionally performed his task. What now appears most noticeable in Whitehead's odes is his prolonged and ludicrous perplexity about the American war. At the first outbreak he is the indignant and scornful patriot, confident in the power of the mother country, and threaten