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intent: and, in order to that, he was so much able where his spirit was odious; and he was as reserved and retired, that he was scarcely ever least pitied where he was most detested.” heard of till by his address and dexterity he had Such is the account of Clarendon ; on which gotten a very rich wife in the city, against all it may not be improper to make some remarks. the recommendation, and countenance, and au “ He was very little known till he had obthority of the court, which was thoroughly tained a rich wife in the city." engaged on the behalf of Mr. Crofts, and which He obtained a rich wife about the age of threeused to be successful in that age, against any and-twenty; an age, before which few men are opposition. He had the good fortune to have conspicuous much to their advantage. He was an alliance and friendship with Dr. Morley, known, however, in parliament and at court: who had assisted and instructed him in the and, if he spent part of his time in privacy, it is reading many good books, to which his natural not unreasonable to suppose that he endeavoured parts and promptitude inclined him, especially the improvement of his mind as well as of his forthe poets; and at the age when other men used tune. That Clarendon might misjudge the moto give over writing verses (for he was near tive of his retirement is the more probable, bethirty years when he first engaged himself in cause he has evidently mistaken the commencethat exercise, at least that he was known to do ment of his poetry, which he supposes him not so), he surprised the town with two or three to have attempted before thirty. As his first pieces of that kind as if a tenth Muse had been pieces were perhaps not printed, the succession newly born to cherish drooping poetry. The of his compositions was not known; and ClaDoctor at that time brought him into that com- rendon, who cannot be imagined to have been pany which was most celebrated for good con- very studious of poetry, did not rectify his first versation; where he was received and esteemed opinion by consulting Waller's book. with great applause and respect. He was a Clarendon observes, that he was introduced to very pleasant discourser in earnest and in jest, the wits of the age by Dr. Morley; but the and therefore very grateful to all kind of com- writer of his Life relates that he was already pany, where he was not the less esteemed for among them, when, hearing a noise in the street, being very rich.
and inquiring the cause, they found a son of Ben “ He had been even nursed in parliaments, Jonson under an arrest. This was Morley, where he sat when he was very young; and so, whom Waller set free at the expense of one hunwhen they were resumed again (after a long in- dred pounds, took him into the country as ditermission) he appeared in those assemblies with rector of his studies, and then procured him adgreat advantage ; having a graceful way of mission into the company of the friends of lispeaking, and by thinking much on several ar terature. Of this fact, Clarendon had a nearer guments (which his temper and complexion, that knowledge than the biographer, and is therefore had much of melancholic, inclined him to) he more to be credited. seemed often to speak upon the sudden, when The account of Waller's parliamentary elothe occasion had only administered the opportu- quence is seconded by Burnet, who, though he nity of saying what he had thoroughly consi- calls him “ the delight of the House,” adds, dered, which gave a great lustre to all he said ; that “ he was only concerned to say that which which yet was rather of delight than weight. should make him be applauded, he never laid There needs no more be said to extol the excel- the business of the House to heart, being a vain lence and power of his wit, and pleasantness of and empty, though a witty man." his conversation, than that it was of magnitude Of his insinuation and flattery it is not unenough to cover a world of very great faults; reasonable to believe that the truth is told. that is, so to cover them, that they were not Ascham, in his elegant description of those taken notice of to his reproach, viz. a narrow whom in modern language we term wits, says, ness in his nature to the lowest degree; an ab- that they are open flatterers, and privy mockers. jectness and want of courage to support him in Waller showed a little of both, when, upon sight any virtuous undertaking; an insinuation and of the Dutchess of Newcastle's verses on the servile flattery to the height the vainest an:l most death of a Stag, he declared that he would give imperious nature could be contented with ; all his own compositions to have written them, that it preserved and won his life from those and being charged with the exorbitance of his who were most resolved to take it, and in an oc- adulation, answered, that “ nothing was too casion in which he ought to have been ambitious much to be given, that a lady might be saved to have lost it; and then preserved him again from the disgrace of such a vile performance.” from the reproach and the contempt that was This, however, was no very mischievous or due to him for so preserving it, and for vindi- very unusual deviation from truth : had his hycating it at such a price that it had power to re- pocrisy been confined to such transactions, he concile him to those whom he had most offend might have been forgiven, though not praised ; ed and provoked ; and continued to his age with for wbo forbears to flatter an author or a lady? that rare felicity, that his company was accept Of the laxity of his political principles, and
the weakness of his resolution, he experienced cerning the duty of a poet is contained in his the natural effect, by losing the esteem of every declaration, “ that he would blot from his party. From Cromwell he had only his recal; works any line that did not contain some moand from Charles the Second, who delighted in tive to virtue.” nis company, he obtained only the pardon of his The characters, by which Waller intended to relation Hampden, and the safety of Hampden's distinguish his writing, are sprightliness and
dignity; in his smallest pieces, he endeavours As far as conjecture can be made from the to be gay; in the larger to be great. Of his whole of his writing, and his conduct, he was airy and light productions, the chief source is habitually and deliberately a friend to monarchy. gallantry, that attentive reverence of female exHis deviation towards democracy proceeded cellence which has descended to us from the from his connexion with Hampden, for whose Gothic ages. As his poems are commonly ocsake he prosecuted Crawley with great bitter- casional, and his addresses personal, he was not ness; and the invective which he pronounced on 80 liberally supplied with grand as with soft that occasion was so popular, that twenty thou- images; for beauty is more easily found than sand copies are said by his biographer to have magnanimity. been sold in one day.
The delicacy which he cultivated, restrains It is confessed that his faults still left him him to a certain nicety and caution, even when many friends, at least many companions. His he writes upon the slightest matter.
He has, convivial power of pleasing is universally ac- therefore, in his whole volume, nothing bur. knowledged ; but those who conversed with lesque, and seldom any thing ludicrous or fahim intimately, found him not only passionate, miliar. He seems always to do his best ; though especially in his old age, but resentful; so that his subjects are often unworthy of his care. the interposition of friends was sometimes ne It is not easy to think without some contempt cessary.
on an author, who is growing illustrious in his His wit and his poetry naturally connected own opinion by verses, at one time, “ To a him with the polite writers of his time : he was Lady who can do any thing but sleep when she joined with Lord Buckhurst in the translation pleases ;” at another, “ To a Lady who can of Corneille’s “ Pompey ;” and is said to have sleep when she pleases ;” now, “ To a Lady, on added his help to that of Cowley, in the original her passing through a crowd of people ;" then, draft of the “ Rehearsal.”
“ On a braid of divers colours woven by four The care of his fortune, which Clarendon im- Ladies ;" « On a tree cut in paper;" or, putes to him in a degree little less than criminal, “ To a Lady from whom he received the copy was either not constant or not successful; for, of verses on the paper-tree, which for many having inherited a patrimony of three thousand years had been missing.” five hundred pounds a year, in the time of Genius now and then produces a lucky trifle. James the First, and augmented it at least by We still read the Dove of Anacreon, and Sparone wealthy marriage, he left, about the time of row of Catullus; and a writer naturally pleases the Revolution, an income of not more than himself with a performance which owes notwelve or thirteen hundred; which, when the thing to the subject. But compositions merely different value of money is reckoned, will be pretty have the fate of other pretty things, and found perhaps not more than a fourth part of are quitted in time for something useful; they what he once possessed.
are flowers fragrant and fair, but of short dura. Of this diminution, part was the consequence' tion; or they are blossoms to be valued only as of the gifts which he was forced to scatter, and they foretel fruits. the fine which he was condemned to pay at the Among Waller's little poems are some, which detection of his plot; and if his estate, as is re- ' their excellency ought to secure from oblivion ; lated in his Life, was sequestered, he had pro- as, “ To Amoret,” comparing the different bably contracted debts when he lived in exile; modes of regard with which he looks on her for we are told, that at Paris he lived in splen- and Sacharissa; and the verses “ On Love,” dour, and was the only Englishman, except the that begin, Anger in hasty words or blows. Lord St. Albans, that kept a table.
1 In others he is not equally successful ; someHis unlucky plot compelled him to sell a times his thoughts are deficient, and sometimes thousand a year; of the waste of the rest there his expression. is no account, except that he is confessed by his
The numbers are not always musical ; as, biographer to have been a bad economist. He seems to have deviated from the common prac- Fair Vevus, in thy soft arms tice; to have been a hoarder in his first years,
'Ile god of rage confine; and a squanderer in his last.
For thy whispers are the charms Of his course of studies, or choice of books, What though he frown, and to tumult do incline;
Which only can divert his fierce design. Dothing is known more than that he professed Thou the flame bimself unable to read Chapman's translation Kindled in his breast canst tame of Homer without rapture. His opinion con With that snow which unmelted lies on thine.
He seldom, indeed, fetches an amorous senti The sun to figures such as these ment from the depths of science; his thoughts
Joys with the moon to play :
To the sweet strains they advance, are for the most part easily understood, and his
Which do result from their own spheres ; images such as the superficies of nature readily
As this nymph's dance supplies; he has a just claim to popularity, be
Moves with the numbers which she hears. cause he writes to common degrees of knowledge; and is free at least from philosophical pe Sometimes a thought, which might perhaps dantry, unless perhaps the end of a Song to the fill a distich, is expanded and attenuated till it Sun may be excepted, in which he is too mucb grows weak and almost evanescent : a Copernican. To which may be added the simile of the palm in the verses “ On her passing
Chloris! since first our calm of peace
Was friglıted hence, this goud we find, through a crowd;" and a line in a more serious
Your favours with your fears increase, poem on the Restoration, about vipers and trea
And growing mischiefs make you kind. cle, which can only be understood by those who
So the fair tree, which still preserves happen to know the composition of the The Her fruit, and state, while no wind blows, riaca.
In storms from that uprightness swerves; His thoughts are sometimes hyperbolical, and
And the glad earth about her strows his images unnatural :
With treasure from her yieldiog boughs. -The plants admire,
His images are not always distinct; as, in the No less than those of old did Orpheus' lyre:
following passage, he confounds Love as a perIf she sit down, with tops all tow'rds her bow'd ;
son with Love as a passion : They round about her into arbours crowd: Or if she walks, in even ranks they stand,
Some other nymphs, with colours faint, Like some well-marshall'd and obsequious band.
And pencil slow, may Cupid paint,
And a weak heart in time destroy ;
She has a stamp, and prints the boy:
The coldest breast, the rudest tame.
His sallies of casual flattery are sometimes They bow their heads, as if they felt the same.
elegant and happy, as that in return for the Silver To gods appealing, when I reach their bowers, Pen; and sometimes empty and trifling, as that With loud complaints they answer me iu showers. upon the Card torn by the Queen. There are a few To thee a wild and cruel soul is given,
lines written in the Dutchess's Tasso, which he More deaf than trees, and prouder than the heaven! is said by Fenton to have kept a summer under
correction. It happened to Waller, as to others, " On the Head of a Stag:”
that his success was not always in proportion to
his labour. O fertile head! which every year
Of these petty compositions, neither the beauCould such a crop of wonder bear! The teeming earth did never bring
ties nor the faults deserve much attention. The So soon so hard, so huge a thing :
amorous verses have this to recommend them, Which might it never have been cast
that they are less hyperbolical than those of Each year's growth added to the last,
some other poets. Waller is not always at the These lofty branches had supplied
last gasp ; he does not die of a frown, nor live The earth's bold son's prodigious pride ;
upon a smile. There is however, too much Heaven with these engines had been scal'd
love, and too many trifles. Little things are When mountains heap'd op mountains fail'd.
made too important; and the empire of Beauty Sometimes, having succeeded in the first part, is represented as exerting its influence farther ne makes a feeble conclusion. In the Song of than can be allowed by the multiplicity of huSacharissa's and Amoret's friendship, the two
man passions, and the variety of human wants. last stanzas ought to have been omitted.
Such books therefore, may be considered as
showing the world under a false appearance, His images of gallantry are not always in the and, so far as they obtain credit from the young highest degree delicate :
and unexperienced, as misleading expectation,
and misguiding practice. They shall my love this doubt displace,
Of his nobler and more weighty performances And gain such trust that I may come the greater part is panegyrical : for of praise he And banquet sometimes on thy face,
was very lavish, as is observed by his imitator But make my constant meals at home.
Lord Lansdowne: Some applications may be thought too remote
No satyr stalks within the hallow'd ground, and unconsequential; as in the verses on the But queens and heroines, kings and gods abound; Lady dancing:
Glory and arms and love are all the sound.
In the first poem, on the danger of the Prince | with lines more vigorous and striking than on the coast of Spain, there is a puerile and ri- Waller is accustomed to produce. The succeeddiculous mention of Arion at the beginning; and ing parts are variegated with better passages and the last paragraph, on the Cable, is in part ridi- worse. There is something too far-fetched in culously mean, and in part ridiculously tumid. the comparison of the Spaniards drawing the The poem, however, is such as may be justly English on, by saluting St. Lucar with cannon, praised, without much allowance for the state of to lambs awakening the lion by bleating. The fate of our poetry and language at that time.
the Marquis and his lady, who were burnt in The two next poems are upon the King's be- their ship, would have moved more, had the haviour at the death of Buckingham, and upon his Poet not made him die like the phenix, because Navy.
he had spices about him, nor expressed their afHe has, in the first, used the pagan deities fection and their end by a conceit at once false with great propriety :
and vulgar: 'Twas want of such a precedent as this
Alive, in equal flames of love they burn'd, Made the old heathens frame their gods amiss.
Aud now together are to ashes turn'd. In the poem on the Navy, those lines are very The verses to Charles, on his return, were noble which suppose the king's power secure doubtless intended to counterbalance the “ Paagainst a second deluge; so noble, that it were al- negyric" on Cromwell. If it has been thought most criminal to remark the mistake of centre for inferior to that with which it is naturally comsurface, or to say that the empire of the sea would pared, the cause of its deficience has been already be worth little if it were not that the waters ter
remarked. minate in land.
The remaining pieces it is not necessary to exThe poem upon Sallee has forcible sentiments ; amine singly. They must be supposed to have but the conclusion is feeble. That on the Repairs faults and beauties of the same kind with the of St. Paul's has something vulgar and obvious;
rest. The sacred poems, however, deserve parsuch as the mention of Amphion: and some- ticular regard ; they were the work of Waller's thing violent and harsh : as,
declining life, of those hours in which he looked Su all our minds with his conspire to grace
upon the fame and the folly of the time past
with the sentiments which his great predecessor The gentiles' great apostle, and deface Those state-obscuring sheds, that like a chain
Petrarch bequeathed to posterity, upon his reSeem'd to confine and fetter him again :
view of that love and poetry which have given Which the glad saint shakes off at his comman), him immortality. As once the viper from his sacred hand.
That natural jealousy which makes every man So joys the aged oak, when we divide
unwilling to allow much excellence in another, The creeping ivy from his injur'd side.
always produces a disposition to believe that Of the two last couplets, the first is extrava the mind grows old with the body; and that gant, and the second mean.
he, whom we are now forced to confess supeHis praise of the Queen is too much exagge- rior, is hastening daily to a level with ourselves. rated ; and the thought, that she “ saves lovers By delighting to think this of the living, we by cutting off hope, as gang renes are cured by learn to think it of the dead; and Fenton, with loping the limb,” presents nothing to the mind all his kindness for Waller, has the luck to but disgust and horror.
mark the exact time when his genius passed Of “ The Battle of the Summer Islands," it the zenith, which he places at his fifty-fifth seems not easy to say whether it is intended to year. This is to allot the mind but a small porraise terror or merriment. The beginning is tion. Intellectual decay is doubtless not untoo splendid for jest, and the conclusion too light common; but it seems not to be universal. for seriousness. The versification is studied, Newton was in his eighty-fifth year improving the scenes are diligently displayed, and the his chronology, a few days before his death ; images artfully amplified ; but, as it ends neither and Waller appears not, in my opinion, to have in joy nor sorrow, it will scarcely be read a lost at eighty-two any part of his poetical second time.
power. The “ Panegyric" upon Cromwell has obtain His sacred poems do not please like some of ed from the public avery liberal dividend of praise, his other works ; but before the fatal fifty-five, which however cannot be said to have been un- had he written on the same subjects, his success 'ustly lavished; for such a series of verses had would hardly have been better. rarely appeared before in the English language. It has been the frequent lamentation of good Of the lines, some are grand, some are graceful, men, that verse has been too little applied to and all are musical. There is now and then a the purposes of worship, and many attempts feeble verse, or a triling thought ; but its great have been made to animate devotion by pious fault is the choice of its hero.
poetry. That they have very seldom attained The poem of “ The War with Spain" begins their end is sufficiently known, and it may not
be improper to inquire why they have mis- found that the most simple expression is the carried.
most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and its Let no pious ear be offended if I advance, in power, because it is applied to the decoration of opposition to many authorities, that poetical' something more excellent than itself. All that devotion cannot often please. The doctrines of pious verse can do is to help the memory, and religion may, indeed, be defended in a didactic dolight the ear, and for these purposes it may poem; and he, who has the happy power of be very useful; but it supplies nothing to the arguing in verse, will not lose it because his mind. The ideas of Christian theology are too subject sacred. A poet may describe the simple for eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and beauty and the grandeur of Nature, the flowers too majestic for ornament: to recommend them of the Spring, and the harvests of Autumn, by tropes and figures, is to magnify by a concave the vicissitudes of the tide, and the revolutions mirror the sidereal hemisphere. of the sky, and praise the Maker for his works,
As much of Waller's reputation was owing in lines which no reader shall lay aside. The to the softness and smoothness of his numbers, subject of the disputation is not piety, but the it is proper to consider those minute particulars motives to piety; that of the description is not to which a versifier must attend. God, but the works of God.
He certainly very much excelled in smoothContemplative piety, or the intercourse be- ness most of the writers who were living wben tween God and the human soul, cannot be his poetry commenced. The poets of Elizabeth poetical. Man, admitted to implore the mercy had attained an art of modulation, which was of his Creator, and plead the merits of his Re-afterwards neglected or forgotten. Fairfax was deemer, is already in a higher state than poetry acknowledged by him as his model; and he can confer.
might have studied with advantage the poem of The essence of poetry is invention; such in- Davies,* which, though merely philosophical, vention as, by producing something unexpected, yet seldom leaves the ear ungratified. surprises and delights. The topics of devotion But he was rather smooth than strong : of the are few, and being few are universally known; full resounding line, which Pope attributes to but few as they are, they can be made no more ; Dryden, he has given very few examples. The they can receive no grace from novelty of senti- critical decision has given the praise of strength ment, and very little from novelty of expres
to Denham, and of sweetness to Waller. sion.
His excellence of versification has some abatePoetry pleases by exhibiting an idea more ments. He uses the expletive do very frequentgrateful to the mind than things themselves ly; and, though he lived to see it almost uniafford. This effect proceeds from the display of versally ejected, was not more careful to avoid those parts of nature which attract, and the it in his last compositions than in his first. concealment of those which repel, the imagina. Praise had given him confidence; and finding tion : but religion must be shown as it is; sup- the world satisfied, he satisfied himself. pression and addition equally corrupt it; and His rhymes are sometimes weak words: so is such as it is, it is known already.
found to make the rhyme twice in ten lines, From poetry the reader justly expects, and and occurs often as a rhyme through his book. from good poetry always obtains, the enlarge His double rhymes, in heroic verse, have ment of his comprehension and elevation of his been censured by Mrs. Phillips, who was his fancy; but this is rarely to be hoped by Chris- rival in the translation of Corneille’s “ Pomtians from metrical devotion. Whatever is great, pey;” and more faults might be found, were desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the not the inquiry below attention. name of the Supreme Being. Omnipotence He sometimes uses the obsolete termination cannot be exalted; Infinity cannot be amplified; of verbs, as waxeth, affecteth ; and sometimes rePerfection cannot be improved.
tains the final syllable of the preterite, as The employments of pious meditation are amazed, supposed, of which I know not whether faith, thanksgiving, repentance, and supplica- it is not to the detriment of our language that tion. Faith, invariably uniform, cannot be in we have totally rejected them. vested by fancy with decorations. Thanksgiv Of triplets he is sparing; but he did not ing, the most joyful of all holy effusions, yet wholly forbear them; of an Alexandrine he addressed to a Being without passions, is con- has given no example. fined to a few modes, and is to be felt rather The general character of his poetry is elethan expressed. Repentance, trembling in the gance and gayety. He is never pathetic, and presence of the Judge, is not at leisure for ca- very rarely sublime. He seems neither to have dences and epithets. Supplication of man to man may diffuse itself through many topics of
* Sir John Davies, entitled, “Nosce teipsum. persuasiou ; but supplication to God can only This oracle expounded in two Elegies : 1. Of Hucry for mercy.
mane Knowledge; II. Of the Soule of Man aud the Of sentiments purely religious, it will be Immortalitie thereof, 1599.”-R.