The Latest Songs of Chivalry

THE English adjective chivalrous has retained a somewhat finer shade of meaning than the corresponding epithet in either of the other chief modern languages. Both chevaleresque and ritterlich are more restricted, and chevaleresque, at least, is decidedly historical rather than ethical in its associations. But chivalrous describes a type of character, and there are not many isolated words in any tongue suggestive of so many admirable and agreeable human qualities. Hidden, it may be, from the eyes of the “ churl in spirit, up or down the scale of ranks,” they are entirely familiar to all souls of gentler quality, and subject to little dispute as the last results of selected temper and moral refinement. Valor, veracity, loyalty, selfAcrifice and mildness of manners, the protection of weakness and innocence, and the punishment of wrong were always theoretically enjoined by the laws of the romantic institution — if institution it were —which gave our word its birth; but as planted in different soils, and adopted by different races, the code or system in question assimilated different elements, and took on slightly varying shapes; and it is perhaps only natural that we, who are English born, should regard the English type of chivalry as finer than the Latin on the one hand, or the Teutonic on the other. But if it were indeed, as we fondly fancy, less fantastic and more manly than the one, less rude and vengeful than the other, there is no mystery whatever about the superior dignity of the English derivative term. And that we may see for ourselves what the fruits of the spirit of English knighthood really were, the reader is invited to revisit for an hour the pleasant field of literature where that spirit first found full and untrammeled expression, the smiling gardenground of old English lyrical poetry. The early chivalric romances, however enthusiastically adopted and nobly edited and amplified by insular writers, were almost all of Continental origin. Sidney, alas, did not live to execute the Congenial purpose which Tennyson inherited, and transform his Arcadia into a purely English romance, with Arthur for its hero. But in the songs of the predecessors and compeers of Sidney, as in all song, we have simple and spontaneous emotions, — the loves, hates, hopes, fears, and faiths of him who sings. It is not so much as literary models that we would recur just now to these delightsome lays, — although in the matter of pure and apt expression they have never been surpassed, and they are particularly well worth the study of our own hazy and wordy generation, — but as illustrations of character. We desire to learn from their own lips what manner of men these singers were, in their private rather than their civic relations, as lovers, friends, and mourners; and how they regarded what must ever remain the supreme subjects of human interest,— life and its conduct, love and its delight, and death.

The earliest English songs which have been preserved are obviously echoes or imitations of the Troubadour minstrelsy. In the Harleian manuscripts, which contain the largest number of them, — Nos. 978 and 2253, — some of the poems are written wholly in Romance. Others are macaronics, — Romance with Latin refrains, or English with Romance refrains. Only a few are composed entirely in the then crude and infantine English or semi-Saxon tongue. Of these, the frequently quoted

“ Summer is a-coming in,
Loudé sing cuckoo,” etc.1

has been erroneously referred to a considerably earlier period than the rest, but it is probably not older than the twelfth century, —the one great century, brief but full, of Provencal song. This side the limits of the same prolific period come other fragments, less familiar than the first, in which the lilt of the Romance measures seems to have been fully apprehended, and almost acquired. The themes are still the everlasting two of all the Troubadours and Minnesingers,— love and spring. They seem to have had no confidence in any other chord. But for all the prevailing formality of subject and treatment, there is already a perceptible difference between these rather shrill warblings and the last languid sighs of Languedocian melody, even then, in the earliest years of the thirteenth century, dying away in the distracted South. Our English staves are louder, more buoyant, and at the same time more natural and heartfelt. The first fair day of modern song was done, and shadow and silence were gaining for the time the world over; but we feel as if a fresher breeze had begun to blow after night-fall, scattering foul exhalations, and replacing the sultriness of sensuous passion. Even from the few and fragmentary notes of these “ smalle foulés ” who

“ maken melody,
And sleepen all night long with open eye,”

we seem to divine a healthfulness of spirit which no mere heart-sickness can ever undermine, — an impulsive and inexhaustible spring of hope which no accumulation of disappointment can permanently obstruct. Assisted, in short, by the kindred blood in which we rejoice, we already foreknow the sound, gallant, tender type of manhood which is to be in England’s greatest age, and which is to be more distinctly indicated by Chaucer: —

“ Dan Chaucer, that first warbler, whose sweet
Preluded those melodious bursts which fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth
With songs that echo still.”

But it was yet a hundred years to the date of Chaucer’s birth, and long before that interval had elapsed the movement of the Romance measures had seemingly escaped the British memory, and likewise, of course, the trick, never perfectly learned, of their imitation. It is thus that Robert de Brunne, in the year 1300, or thereabouts, describes his ideal of womanhood: —

“ Nothing is to man so dear
As woman’s love in good mannér.
A good woman is man’s bliss
Where her love right and steadfast is.
There is no solace under heaven,
Of all that a man may neven,
That should a man so much glew
As a good woman that loveth true ;
Ne dearer is none in God’s herd
Than a chaste woman with lovely word.”

This is excruciating to the ear, but suggestive and edifying to the mind. No troubadour, from William of Poitiers down, ever praised a lady in such homely, hobbling lines, but also no troubadour ever praised, for none ever imagined, just such a lady. For this is the typical English wife, — loving, loyal, modest, and soft-spoken, above all pure. Personal beauty is neither allowed nor denied her: she may have it, or she may have it not; it is not an indispensable addition to her charms. The fact that the author of these lines was a monk, and described an ideal helpmeet, does not render his conception less remarkable. Chaucer, with his strong dramatic instincts, and his wide experience of life, saw and appreciated and portrayed many different types of womanhood, but none so fondly as one almost identical with this: —

“ Lo, here, what gentleness these women have,
If we could know it for our rudeness !
How busy they be us to help and save,
Both in our health and also in sickness,
Andalway right sorry for our distress!
In evéry mannér thus show they ruth
That in them is all goodness and all truth,”

It is in Chaucer, too, in lines which are usually marked as his latest, and which therefore were probably written about the year 1400, that we first find embodied, in a singularly noble hymn, a theory of life, and of the temper in which it is to be both received and resigned, which plainly foreshadows the sane and joyous piety of the Elizabethan time, — a theory which is, in fact, one with the best religion and the best philosophy of every age, as these are identical with one another. We give the last verse only.

' That thee is sent, receive in buxomness ;
The wrestling of this world, asketh a fall;
Here is no home, here is hut wilderness.
Forth, pilgrim, forth ! O beast, out of thy stall!
Look up on high and thank thy God of all.
Waiveth thy lust and let thy ghost thee lead,
And truth shall thee deliver, 't is no drede.”

It is worth while to dwell for a little on the separate features of the fine mood here enjoined; we shall encounter them so many times more, with but slight alterations, before the sturdy spirit of English chivalry comes to its perfect flower in Philip Sidney. First, cheerfulness, hilarity even, not to be blighted by the probability of much disappointment and disaster, but rather firmly based upon an unflinching foreknowledge of the same. Then, a cordial and even grateful recognition of the provisional and temporary character of this earthly state, — this beastly state, ns the poet warmly calls it; and an emphatic one of the dual nature of man, and the happy ascendency of the divine essence over the carnal accidents. Lastly, a simple profession of unreserved allegiance to the suzerain of our destinies, and a vague but thrilling promise; no specific recompense or flattering delights, but a large deliverance. Serve truth, as thou knowest it, and truth shall make thee free; I know not, neither does it matter, when or how.

No Such depths as these are sounded by the gentle James I. of Scotland, whose modest little book, The Kings Quair (Cahier), is however full of the fragrance of a most sweet, romantie, innocent, and at last, as we are glad for once to know, a happy and rewarded love. He was taken prisoner in his early youth when on his way to France, and detained in durance for nearly eighteen years. It was not a very harsh durance; his windows looked into the gardens of Windsor Castle, and what quaint, stiff, and yet winsome gardens they were in the beginning of the fifteenth century he has graphically told us in his gently flowing verse:—

“ So thick the boughés and the leavés green
Boshaded all the alleys that there were ;
And mids of every arbor might be seen
The sharpé, greené, sweeté juniper,
Growing so fair, with branches here and there,
That as it seeméd to a life without
The boughés spread the arbor all about.”

Down these prim alleys he saw his love come walking, the Lady Joanna Beaufort, daughter of the Earl of Somerset.

“ In her was youth, beauty with humble aport,
Bounty richéss and womanly feature.
God better wot than mv pen can report
Wisdom, largéss, estate, and cunning sure
In word, in deed, in shape, in countenance,
That nature might no more her child advance.
“ And when she walkéd had a little throw
Under the sweeté, greené boughés bent
Her fair sweet face as white as any snow
She turnéd has and forth her wayés went.”

The remainder of this artless royal copy-book is full of the Lady Joanna’s praise. They gave him her hand after his release, and he had a few years of unclouded happiness with her before his assassination, in 1437. We are too much in the spirit of the time to think of his end as premature. He had lived and loved.

In King James, as in Chaucer and Lydgate, — if it were indeed Lydgate, and not Chaucer, who wrote The Flower and the Leaf, — we find that keen observation of external nature, and that simple and objective joy in its beauty, which differ so widely both from the prescribed flatteries of smiling lands and skies that abound in the troubadour poetry, and from the exaggerated reflections of the poet’s own tyrannous mood, — the “pathetic fallacies ” of our contemporary singers. The happy mean of this mood, which neither propitiates nature as a monster, nor abuses her as a subject, but allows all her varying tempers, and still warms to her as a friend, is a very noteworthy part of the superb healthfulness of spirit, the disengaged and selfreliant habit, of the men whose better acquaintance we seek. Another and equally infallible mark of health is playfulness; and it is a note never missing out of the chorus of English song, from the days of Skelton to those of the illstarred and unrivaled Lovelace. Listen to the leaping, laughing strain, so like the dashing of a narrow spring rivulet, in which, in 1520, John Skelton pays his homage to Margaret Hussey: —

“ Merry Margaret
As midsummerf flower,
Gentle as falcon Or hawk of the tower ; With solace and gladness, Much mirth and no madness, All good and no badness ; So joyously, so womanly, so maidenly,
Her demeaning ;
In everything
Far, far passing
That I can indite,
Or suffice to write,
Of merry Margaret
As midsummer flower,”etc.

It is a scholium or round, and the same twittering refrain recurs again and again. Observe, too, the distinct and perfectly natural type of girlhood here portrayed, — artless and arch, sweet because sound, maidenly and yet womanly, often mirthful, never wild; is it not a perfectly familiar as well as very lovable creature? Skelton’s ear is by no means as good as Chaucer’s, but Chaucer had been in Italy, where the Romance measures were at home; and Wyatt and Surrey, of whom the latter and junior was eleven years old when Skelton died, enjoyed the same advantage of residence among the Latin races and personal familiarity with their speech. The reverential editor of Tottel’s Miscellany speaks in his preface of the “ honorable style of the noble Earl of Surrey, and the weightiness of the deep-witted Sir Thomas Wyatt.” He could hardly better have expressed the difference in temperament which we always feel between these two whose names are so constantly paired. Surrey’s was precisely the gallant, sunshiny spirit which we find specially characteristic of English knighthood; while there was a most rare vein of pensiveness in Wyatt, who never weakly plained, indeed, but who appears to have loved Anne Bullen, and who saw, before his own brief life was ended at thirty-eight, the swift tragedy of her dizzy elevation and ignominious death. Let us first hear Surrey as a lover. Perhaps he fancied original with himself, and perhaps he consciously appropriated out of Ariosto, the conceit which has tickled so many warbling swains since his day, that Nature lost the mold after she had made his mistress : —

“ Give place, ye lovers, herebefore
Who spent your boasts and brags in vain !
My lady’s beauty passeth more
The best of yours, I dare well sayen,
Than doth the sun the candle-light,
Or brightest day the darkest night.
“ And thereto hath a troth as just
As had Penelope the fair;
For what she saith ye may it trust
As it by writing sealéd were ;
And virtues hath she many moe
Than I with pen have skill to show.
“ I could rehearse, if that I would,
The whole effect of Nature’s plaint,
When she had lost the perfect mold,
The like to whom she could not paint;
With wringing hands, how she did cry,
And what she said, I know it, I! ”

And now listen to Surrey, the philosopher, and observe how like are his sober aspirations to Chaucer’s latest: —

“ Martial, the things that do attain
The happy life be these, I find :
The riches left, not got with pain,
The fruitful ground, the quiet mind;
; The equal friend, no grudge, no strife,
No charge of rule or governance ;
Without discord, the healthful life,
The household of continuance ;
“ The mean diet, no delicate fare,
True wisdom joined with simpleness;
The night discharged of all care,
Where wine the wit may not oppress;
The faithful wife without debate,
Such sleeps as may beguile the night ;
Contented with thine own estate,
Ne wish for death, no fear his might.”

He abundantly exemplified the fine equanimity invoked in the last line when he came himself to suffer in the Tower, in 1547. It was the very year in which Henry VIII. died, and he was thus one of the latest victims of the tyrant’s jealous caprice. His memory was celebrated by some of the best pens of the succeeding generation. “ He was no less valiant than learned,” says Sir Walter Raleigh, “ and of excellent hopes.”

Nor is Wyatt despondent, or ever for a moment demoralized or rendered craven by the sharpness of his wound. He resists the poignant suspicion of his lady’s unfaith which will visit him. He probes the secret of his pain steadily. He will, if possible, discover something fanciful or fallacious in it. Could anything be more refined and, at the same time, less morbid than this? —

“ Lo, now my thought might make me free
Of that perchance it needs not!
Perchance none doubt the dread I see,
I shrink at that I bear not:
But in my heart this word shall sink,
Until the proof shall better be.
I would it were not as I think !
I would I thought it were not! ”

Afterwards, when hope is yet fainter, he appeals, but manfully still, never brokenly: —

“ And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath loved thee so long
In wealth and woe among ?
And is thy heart so strong
As for to leave me thus ?
Say nay! say nay i
“ And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath given thee my heart
Never for to depart,
Neither for pain nor smart ?
And wilt thou leave me thus ?
Say nay ! say nay !”
“ Forget not yet the tried intent
Of such a truth as I have meant,
My great travail so gladly spent,
Forgot not yet!
“ Forget not, oh forget not this,
How long ago hath been and is,
The mind that never meant amiss,
Forget not yet!
“ Forget not then thine own approved,
The which so long hath thee so loved,
Whose steadfast faith yet never moved ;
Forget not this ! ”

He even muses on the chance that he may love again in lines of more than his wonted grace, — lines which Spenser himself will hardly surpass for beauty of rhythm: —

“ A face which should content me wondrous well
Should not be fair, but lovely to behold;
With gladsome cheer all grief for to expel,
With sober looks so that I would it should
Speak without words such words as none can
(The tress also should be of crispéd gold);
With wit and these might chance I might be

And knit again with knot that should not slide.”It was really Wyatt rather than Spenser who finally fixed the scale of English verbal melody, and defined its principal modes. From this time forward the advance in euphony is marvelously rapid. But before quitting for good the preShakespearean days, we must make room for a few anonymous strains of unusual naïveté and sweetness. They belong, at latest, to the very first years of the sixteenth century: —

“ As I lay sleeping,
In dreams fleeting,
Ever my sweeting
Is in my mind;
She is so goodly,
With looks so lovely,
That no man truly
Such one can find.
“ Her beauty so pure,
It doth underlure
My poor heart full sure
In governance;
Therefore now will I
Unto her apply,
And will ever cry
For remembrance.
“ Though she me bind,
Yet shall sho not find
My poor heart unkind,
Do what she can;
For I will her pray,
While I live a day,
Me to take for aye
For her own man.”
“ My joy it is from her to hear,
Whom that my mind is ever to see ;
And to my heart she is most near,
For I love her and she loveth me.
“ Christ wolt the figure of her sweet face
Were picturéd wherever I be,
In every hall, from place to place,
For I love her, and she loveth me.”

It is natural to date the singers of the succeeding and culminating period by the correspondence of their careers with Shakespeare’s. Of that preëminent group, Spenser, Sidney, Raleigh, Marlowe, Southwell, Daniel, Drayton, Wotton, Lodge, and Donne were within fifteen years of Shakespeare’s own age, and therefore in the prime of their manhood with him; Carew, Herrick, Wither, Waller, Suckling, Habington, Browne, Drummond of Hawthornden, Beaumont, and Fletcher, Bishops Corbet and King, were past the years of infancy when the great bard died; while Crashaw was born one year before his death, and Abraham Cowley and Richard Lovelace two years later. Keeping these coincidences in mind, we shall not be careful to preserve a strict chronological order in the rest of our quotations, but take them at random from the authors enumerated, just as they chance to illustrate the phase of character under discussion.

If we look first for the ideal of womanhood seriously cherished by the best minds of this great time we shall find it still, as formerly, a lofty and a spotless one. We may go to Shakespeare for our key-note: —

“ Oh, how much more doth beauty beauteous
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give !
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odor which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfuméd tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their maskéd buds dis-
closes :
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so ;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made ;
And so, of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distils your

The grave laureate Samuel Daniel is almost self - reproachful for his own exquisite susceptibility to purely personal charms: —

“ Ah, Beauty, siren fair, enchanting good !
Sweet, silent rhetoric of persuading eyes ;
Dumb eloquence, whose power doth move the
More than all words or wisdom of the wise ;
Still harmony, whose diapason lies
Within a brow ” —

But he farther distinguishes the lady of his choice by one of the loveliest quatrains in all the language: —

“ A modest maid decked with the blush of honor,
Whose feet do tread green paths of youth and
The wonder of all eyes that look upon her,
Sacred on earth, designed a saint above.”

Even the lawless and voluptuous Francis Beaumont has an exacting standard: —

“ May I find a woman fair,
And her mind as clean as air !
If her beauty go alone,
’T is to me as if 't were none.
“ May I find a woman wise,
And her wisdom not disguise !
Hath she wit as well as will,
Double-armed is she to kill.
“ May I find a woman true !
There is beauty ’s fairest hue ;
There is beauty, love, and wit;
• Happy he can compass it! ”

Listen also to Thomas Carew: —

“ He that loves a rosy cheek,
Or a coral lip admires,
Or from star-like eyes doth seek
Fuel to maintain his fires ;
As old Time makes these decay,
So his flames must wa away.
“ But a smooth and steadfast mind,
Gentle thoughts and calm desires,
Hearts with equal love combined,
Kindle never-dying fires ;
Where these are not, I despise
Lovely cheeks, or lips, or eyes.”

And to William Browne: —

“ Nature did her so much right
As she scorns the help of art;
In as many virtues dight
As e'er yet embraced a heart.
So much good, so truly tried,
Some for less were deified!
“ Wit she hath without desire
To make known how much she hath ,
And her anger flames no higher
Than may fitly sweeten wrath ;
Full of pity as may be,
Though, perhaps, not so to me.”

And glance at Thomas Lodge’s radiant vision of Samela: —

“ Like to Diana in her summer weed,
Girt with a crimson robe of brightest dye,
Goes fair Samela.
“ Whiter than be the flocks that straggling feed,
When, washed by Arethusa, faint they lie,
Is fair Samela.
“ Passeth fair Venus in her bravest hue,
And Juno in her show of majesty,
For she ’s Samela.
“ Pallas in wit, all three, if you well view,
For beauty, wit, and matchless dignity,
Yield to Samela.”

Very interesting also are the crowning graces of Crashaw’s “ not impossible she.” After he has paid his tribute to the darling of the age in “ Sidnæan showers of soft discourse,” he enumerates these higher gifts of the spirit: —

“ Days that in spite
Of darkness, by the light
Of a clear mind are day all night.
“ Life that dares send
A challenge to his end,
And when it comes, say, ‘ Welcome friend !'
“ Soft, silken showers,
Open suns, shady bowers,
'Bove all, —nothing within that lowers.”

But it was “rare Ben Jonson,” whose fancy so teemed with sensuous imagery — when, as in the exuberant “ See, the chariot at hand here of Love! ” he gave it loose rein, — who could also, when he collected himself for a more earnest effort, portray a loftier ideal than they all:—

“ I meant to make her fair and free and wise,
Of greatest blood, and yet more good than great ;
I meant the day-star should not brighter rise,
Nor shed like influence from his lucent seat;
I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet,
Hating that solemn vice of greatness, pride ;
I meant each softest virtue there should meet,
Fit in that softer bosom to reside.
Only a learned and a manly soul
I purposed her, that should, with even powers,
The rock, the spindle, and the shears control
Of destiny, and spin her own free hours.”

The reader no doubt remembers the surpassingly graceful turn by which the poet feigns suddenly to discover the personification of his fancy and the reality of his dream in Lucy, Countess of Bedford: —

” These when I thought to feign, and wished to see,
My muse bade Bedford write ; and it was she !”

But whether the likeness were exact or no, the picture is of marvelous beauty. Spenser, the courtier, was naturally more lenient to the solemn vice of greatness than Jonson, and he defends it warmly: —

“ Rudely thou wrongest my dear heart’s desire,
In finding fault with her too portly pride.
The thing which I do most in her admire
Is of the world unworthy, most enviéd ;
For in those lofty looks is close implied
Scorn of base things, disdain of foul dishonor,
Threatening rash eyes that gaze on her so wide,
That loosely they ne dare to look upon her :
Such pride is praise, such portliness is honor.”

And here, too, room must surely be made for Sir Henry Wotton’s eloquent address to the Queen of Bohemia, whose claim to the throne of Germany he made it in some sort his adventure to establish:—

“ You meaner beauties of the night,
That poorly satisfy our eyes
More by your number than your light,
You common people of the skies,
What are you when the sun shall rise ?
“ You curious chanters of the wood,
That warble forth Dame Nature’s lays,
Thinking your voices understood
By your weak accents, what’s your praise
“ When Philomel her voice doth raise ?
You violets that first appear,
By your pure, purple mantles known,
Like the proud virgins of the year,
As if the spring were all your own,
What are you when the rose is blown ?
“ So when my mistress shall be seen,
In form and beauty of her mind,
By virtue first, then choice a queen,
There is a vein of quiet self-respect
running through this piece of profound

and yet stately homage, — this distant and restrained adulation of a royal lady. It is in no way unworthy of the man who, in his last years of peaceful retirement at his beautiful manor of Bocton,2 wrote that admirable hymn, happily never yet suffered to drop out of our memories and hymnals: — “ How happy is he born or taught, Who serveth not another’s will,” etc.

Nevertheless, in the address to the
Queen of Bohemia, and to some extent

in most of the fragments of personal tribute and appeal thus far cited, there is a certain formality, a touch of the conventionally lowly attitude of the minstrel before the lady, against which, because it savored too much of what was beginning to be felt as the cant of chivalry, there was already a very general revolt among the proud-spirited, and straightforward men of the day. They have begun to take on a new and more independent tone, — the tone of those who make a careful distinction between service and servitude; who, while ready for any test of voluntary devotion, will resist to the uttermost the surrender of their personal prerogatives, and scorn the thought of actual subjugation, whether to a sovereign or a sentiment, to the caprices of an individual woman or of that unaccountable Dame Fortune for whose favor they were all ready to dare so much. It is the inherent buoyancy of indomitable pluck. Pure animal spirits go up to a higher point than they have ever attained before or since in this vexatious world. But let us consider our later knights a little longer in the character of lovers. They challenge affection rather than sue for it, — these lordly creatures. They do not scruple to name conditions. They even utter threats, half laughing and half earnest. They promise briefly, but abundantly; as in the matchless lines often attributed — one wishes it were on more certain authority — to Graham of Montrose: — Tell me if she were not designed To eclipse the glory of her kind

“ My dear and only love, I pray
That little world of thee
Be governed in no other way
Than by pure monarchy ;
For if confusion have a part,
Which virtuous souls abhor,
I ’ll call a synod in my heart
And never love thee more !
“ Like Alexander, I will reign,
And I will reign alone;
My soul did evermore disdain
A rival to my throne.
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desert is small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all!
“ But if no faithless action stain
Thy true and constant word,
I ’ll make thee famous by my pen
And glorious by my sword.
I 'll serve thee in such noble ways
As ne’er were known before ;
I ’ll deck and crown my head with bays,
And love thee more and more ! ”

Even more striking, if not more captivating, is George Wither’s Manly Resolve, whereof we resolutely restrict ourselves to three stanzas: —

“ Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman’s fair ?
Or make pale my cheeks with care
’Cause another’s rosy are ?
Be she fairer than the day,
Or the flow'ry meads in May,
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be ?
“ ’Cause her fortune seems too high,
Shall I play the fool and die ?
Those that bear a noble mind,
Where they want of riches find,
Think what with them they would do
That without them dare to woo ;
And unless that mind I see,
What care I how great she be?
“ Great or good, or kind or fair,
I will ne'er the more despair.
If she love me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve ;
If she slight me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go ;
If she be not fit for me,
What care I for whom she be ? ”

Haughty words, these; but is there not conveyed in the emphatic couplet,

“ If she love me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve,”

an assurance which is worth volumes of commonplace protestation? This is not merely the wooing of a man of the highest spirit, but it is the only temper in which a woman of the highest spirit is ever truly won. How well Charlotte Brontë understood this, when she told the story of Shirley! Sometimes this disengaged and defiant mood, this resolute resistance to the slavery of passion, goes so far as to affect a tone of mockery; but it is a mockery wholly without bitterness, so thoroughly merry and debonair that we cannot for a moment question the soundness of the heart it seeks to disguise. The “ Sigh no more, lady, sigh no more,” of Shakespeare, and the “ Why so wan and pale, fond lover?” of Suckling, will at once recur to many memories, but there are scores of lyrics conceived in the same saucy and frolicsome spirit, of which here are some taken almost at random, and not all quoted entire: —

“ Once I did breathe another’s breath,
And in my mistress move;
Once I was not mine own at all,
And then I was in love !
“ Once by my carving true-love knots
The weeping trees did prove
That wounds and tears were both our lots,
And then I was in love !
“ Once I wore bracelets made of hair,
And colors did approve ;
Once were my clothes made out of wax,
And then I was in love !
“ Once did I sonnet to my saint,
My soul in numbers move ;
Once did I tell a thousand lies,
And then I was in love !
“ Once in my ear did dangling hang
A little turtle-dove ;
Once — in a word —I was a fool,
And then I was in love ! ”
“ So long as I was in your sight
I was your heart, your soul, your treasure;
And evermore you sobbed and sighed,
Burning in flames beyond all measure.
Three days endured your love for me,
And it was lost in other three!
Adieu Love, adieu Love, untrue Love,
Untrue Love, untrue Love, adieu Love,
Your mind is light, soon lost for new love.
“ Sure you have made me passing glad
That you your love so soon removéd,
Before that I the leisure had
To choose yon for my best belovéd ;
Bor all your love was past and done
Two days before it was begun !
Adieu Love, adieu Love, untrue Love,
Untrue Love, adieu Love, adieu Love,
Your mind is light, soon lost for new love.”

These are anonymous, and so is “ Love me little, love me long,” which is rather more famous than familiar; full of brilliant good sense, yet by no means lacking in tenderness. A woman speaks, and she speaks the thought of many a woman’s heart, yet it is hardly to be supposed that a woman wrote it: —

“ Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song ;
Love that is too hot and strong
Burneth soon to waste.
Still I would not have thee cold,
Not too backward or too bold ;
Love that lasteth till 't is old
Fadeth not in haste.
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song !
“ If thou lovest me too much,
It will not prove as true as touch ;
Love me little more than such,
For I fear the end.
I am with little well content,
And a little from thee sent
Is enough, with true intent,
To be steadfast, friend.
“ Say thou lovest me while thou live !
I to thee my love will give,
Never dreaming to deceive,
While that life endures.
Nay, and after death, in sooth,
I to thee will keep my truth
As now, when in my May of youth
This my love assures.
“ Constant love is moderate ever,
And it will through life persever ;
Give me that, with true endeavor
I will it restore.
A suit of durance let it be
For all weathers, that for me:—
For the land or for the sea
Lasting evermore.
“ Winter’s cold or summer’s heat,
Autumn’s tempests on it beat,
It can never know defeat,
Never can rebel.
Such the love that I would gain,
Such the love, I tell thee plain,
Thou must give, or woo in vain,
So to thee farewell!
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song !”

Room must be made for one more specimen in the defiant vein, — Sir John Suckling’s rollicking story of the siege of a heart:—

“ 'T is now since I sat down before
That foolish fort a heart —
Time strangely spent! — a year and more,
And still I did my part,—
“ Made my approaches : from her hand
Unto her lips did rise ;
And did already understand
The language of her eyes.
“ Proceeded On with no less art,—
My tongue was eugineer, —
I thought to undermine the heart
By whispering in the ear.
“ When this did nothing, I brought down
Great cannon oaths, and shot
A thousand, thousand to the town,
And still it yielded not!
“ I then resolved to starve the place
By cutting off all kisses;
Praising and gazing on her face,
And all such little blisses !
“ To draw her out and from her strength
I drew all batteries in,
And brought myself to lie, at length,
As if no siege had been,
“ When I had done what I could do,
And thought the place my own,
The enemy lay quiet too,
And smiled at all was done.
“ I sent to know from whence and where
These hopes and this relief ;
A spy informed Honor was there,
And did command in chief.
“ March, march! quoth I, the word straight give
Let ’s lose no time but leave her !
That giant upon air will live,
And hold it out forever ! ”

This is manifestly improper, and Sir John Suckling is never to be trusted for good behavior through many stanzas but how enchantingly gay he is! The utter frankness of his hilarity does something toward atoning for its coarseness. We are quite sure that he is never worse than his words, and even suspect that he is not altogether so desperate a rake as he sometimes pretends. If his court esy seem scant, there is, at all events, no craft lurking beneath it; and so far from hating or discrediting the object of his bold advances because she had repelled them, he treats her with a mixture of petulant astonishment and whimsical respect altogether naïf and amusing. Even here, where taste and delicacy are so near being mortally offended, we divine, both in woer and wooed, that which constitutes the peculiar and inalienable virtue of their epoch, —indomitable spirit, the abandon of perfect health, the absolute negation and impossibility of the lackadaisical.

From this, its extreme of reckless levity, we may follow the song of the latest chivalric age in its modulation through all manner of graver and softer keys, and find it always clear and confident in its accent, brave and buoyant up to the end of life, though oftener than otherwise that end is both bitter and untimely. Here is a handful of lays which are purely playful and pretty: —

“ Love in my bosom like a bee
Doth suck his sweet;
Now with his wings he plays with me,
Now with his feet.
Within mine eyes he makes his nest,
His bed amid my tender breast;
My kisses are his daily feast,
And yet he robs me of my rest;
Ah, wanton, will you ?
“ And if I sleep, then peereth he
With pretty slight,
And makes his pillow of my knee
The livelong night;
Strike I the lute, he tunes the string,
He music plays if I but sing ;
He lends me every lovely thing,
Yet cruel he my heart doth sting;
Ah, wanton, will you ?
“ Else I, with roses, every day
Will whip you hence,
And bind you when you long to play
For your offense;
I 'll shut my eyes to keep you in,
I '11 make you fast it, for your sin ;
I ’ll count your power not worth a pin ;
Alas, what hereby shall I win,
So he gainsay me ?
“ What if I beat the wanton boy
Math many a rod ?
He will gainsay me with annoy,
Because a god.
Then sit thou softly on my knee,
And let thy bower my bosom be ;
Lurk in my eyes, I like of thee!
O Cupid, so thou pity me,
Spare not, but play thee ! ”

(Thomas Lodge.)

‘ Ah, what is love? It is a pretty thing,
As sweet unto a shepherd as a king,
And sweeter, too !
For kings have cares that wait upon a crown,
And cares can make the sweetest cares to frown.
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain ?
“ His flocks are folded ; he comes home at night
As merry as a king in his delight,
And merrier, too!
For kings bethink them what the state require,
While shepherds careless carol by the fire.
Ah then, ah then,
If country loves such sweet desires gain,
What lady would not love a shepherd swain? ”

(Richard Greene.)

“ Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee ;
The shooting stars defend thee ;
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire befriend thee !
“ No will-o-the-wisp mislight thee ;
Nor snake nor slow-worm bite thee ;
But on, on thy way,
Not making a stay,
Since ghost there is none to affright thee.
“ Let not the dark thee cumber ;
What though the moon doth slumber ?
The stars of the night
Do lend their light
Like tapers clear, without number.
“ Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
Thus, thus to come unto me ;
And when I shall meet
Thy silvery feet,
My soul I 'll pour into thee.”

(Robert Herrick.)

“ Bid me to live, and I will live
Thy protestant to be;
Or bid me love, and I will give
A loving heart to thee.
“ Bid me despair, and I ’ll despair
Under that cypress-tree;
Or bid me die, and I will dare
E’en death to die for thee.
“ Thou art my life, my love, my heart
The very eyes of me ;
And hast command of every part
To live and die for thee.”

(The same.)

There is a touch of earnestness in these last lines of Herrick’s which allies them, it may be, a little more closely with the joyous tenderness of Lovelace than with the mere wanton fancies to which they are joined above. It is hard not to embrace any pretext for transcribing in full “Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,” and “ When love with unconfinéd wings,” and space shall at all events be made for these other lines to Lucasta, less frequently quoted than the first, but, rather in form than in spirit, less beautiful: —

“ If to be absent were to be
Away from thee,
Or that when I am gone
You or I were alone,
Then, my Lucasta, might I crave
Pity from blustering wind, or swallowing wave.
“ Though seas and lands between us both,
Our faith and troth,
Like separated souls,
All time and space controls;
Above the highest sphere we meet,
Unseen, unknown, and greet as angels greet.”

Lucy Sacheverell married another, on a false report that Richard Lovelace had fallen in foreign war, and he was twice for years in prison, and died miserably at forty; but somehow we cannot think that the bright essence of the most ideal of English knights, after Sir Philip Sidney, was permanently subdued by adverse fate. Who shall say that the mystical reunion foreshadowed in that last stanza may not actually have taken place far outside of these mundane conditions, which the poet invariably treated with a kind of angelic scorn?

One of the most appreciative critics of Lovelace speaks of the “plaintive sweetness" of the lines To Althea from Prison. To us this adjective seems to be wholly misapplied. Plaintive, in the strict sense of the word, the gallant singers of this period never are, and when they are pensive we almost always feel that it is their humor so to be; that they are sad for an hour only, by way of curious luxury and restful relaxation from their wonted high-strung mood, as in the well-known lines of Beaumont: —

“ Hence, all ye vain delights,
As short as are the nights
Wherein you spend your folly !
There ’s nought in this life sweet,
If man were wise to see ’t,
But only melancholy.”

In this dulcet and exquisite minor, Waller has left us one masterpiece: —

“ Go, lovely rose!
Tell her that wastes her time on me
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
“ Tell her that’s young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That, hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
“ Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired ;
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
“ Then die, that she
The common fate of all things rare,
May read in thee,
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair ! ”

Sighs light as these come usually from a surfeit of content. Before actual pain, even of the sort that cuts deepest, — repulse, injury, or unfaith from the

one best loved, — the poets of that time are wont to stand erect and unflinching. Hear Waller again: —

“ It is not that I love you less 3
Than when before your feet I lay,
But to prevent the sad increase
Of hopeless love I keep away.
In vain, alas ! for everything
Which I have known belongs to you ;
Your form does to my fancy cling,
And make my old wounds bleed anew.
But vowed I have, and never must
Your banished servant trouble you ;
For if I break you may mistrust
The vow I made to love you, too.”

The somewhat stern lines which follow are from a nameless writer, in a manuscript of Elizabethan verse: —

“ Change thy mind sith she doth change ;
Let not fancy still abuse thee ;
Thy untruth cannot seem strange,
Since her falsehood doth excuse thee.
Love is dead, hut thou art free ;
She doth live, but dead to thee.
“ Love no more sith she is gone ;
She is gone, and loves another ;
Being thus deceived by one,
Crave her love, but love no other.
She was false, bid love adieu ;
She was best, but yet untrue.”

Finest of all, perhaps, is that celebrated sonnet of Michael Drayton’s, where the fiery and magnanimous nature of both lovers is so plainly to be read in the dramatic memorial of their strife:—

“Since there ’s no hope, come, let us kiss and part!
Nay, I have done. You get no more of me;
And I am glad — yea, glad with all my heart —
That thus so clearly I myself can free.
Shake hands forever! Cancel all our vows !
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen, on either of our brows,
That we one jot of former love retain!
Now, at the last gasp of love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou mightst him yet re-

Men who hold their lives light, and rule their loves proudly, are less liable than others to be deeply dismayed or sorrowful above measure in the prospect of death. They will scorn to be surprised by the last enemy, or even hastily to conclude that power to be inimical whose onward march their wariest valor cannot possibly avert. It is emphatically the case with the virile singers of the last great lyrical age,—the immediate descendants of Surrey and Chaucer. When their lives are fullest of hope and adventure, death is in all their thoughts. They seem resolved upon this intimacy. They will regard the inevitable not with equanimity merely, but with cordiality. They will not even await its advent, but go forth to meet it with the challenge and welcome of a friend, as Crashaw says. In their brightest hours, amidst their most ardent strains, the memento mori note may be heard incessantly, like the regular striking of a silver bell. How often it occurs in Shakespeare’s sonnets, as at the close of the incomparable seventy-third, “ That time of year thou mayst in me behold,” etc.

“ In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”

In a different phase of the same mood, and in smoother, sweeter measures than are usual with him, sings Donne: —

“ Sweetest love, I do not go
For weariness of thee;
Nor in the hope the world can show
A fitter love for me
But since that I
Must die at last, ’t is best
To use myself in jest
Thus by feignéd death to die.

“ Let not thy divining heart
Forethink me any ill;
Destiny may take thy part,
And may thy fears fulfill.
But think that we
Are but turned aside to sleep
They who one another keep
Alive ne’er parted be.”

And Henry Lawes: —

“Grieve not, dear love, although we often part,
But know that nature gently doth us sever,
Thereby to train us up with tender art
To brook the day when we must part forever.”

And Sir Philip Sidney:—

“ Oft have I mused, but now at length I find
Why those that die men say they do depart.
Depart, a word so gentle to my mind,
Weakly did seem to paint Death’s ugly dart.
But now the stars with their strange course do bind
Me one to leave with whom I leave my heart;
I hear a cry of spirits, faint and blind,
That parting thus my chiefest part I part.”

Very seldom, as in the verse of Lawes above, is separation spoken of, even casually, as eternal. Those were days of unaffected faith and open vision, and none who thought at all thought of our conscious life as ending here below. Nevertheless this friendliness with death, which we find so impressive, seems due quite as much to sanity as to sanctity of spirit; to perfect accord with the past rather than to definite anticipations for the future. We shall find that the dirges, elegies, and epitaphs of the time strengthen and console rather than sadden us.

The note of triumph is audible in almost all the elegies and epitaphs on Sir Philip Sidney: —

“ What hath he lost that so great grace hath won?
Young years, for endless years ; and hope un-
Of fortune’s gifts, for wealth that well shall
Oh, happy race, with so great praises run! ”

This is Spenser’s, and the following, where, however, the measure seems almost too rugged and the conceit too labored for so gracious a theme, is usually attributed to Raleigh: —

“ England, the Netherlands, the heavens, the arts,
The soldier, and the world have ta’en six parts
Of the noble Sidney, for none may suppose
That a small heap of dust can Sidney inclose!

His body hath England, for she it bred ;
Netherlands his blood, in her defense shed ;
The heavens his soul, the arts his fame,
All soldiers’ tears, and the world his name! ”

Even the Countess of Pembroke, in her Lament of Clorinda, can dwell only on the glory of her brother’s departure and the brightness of his reward. “ Ah, me,” she cries, “can so divine a thing be dead?” And then,—

“ Ah, no, it is not dead, and cannot be,
But lives for aye in blissful Paradise,
Where, like a new-born babe, it soft doth lie
In bed of lilies wrapped in tender wise,
And compassed all about with roses sweet,
And dainty violets, from head to feet.”

It would be very interesting to compare, with reference rather to their spirit than their structure, Spenser’s Astrophel, Matthew Royden’s Elegy, and any others still in being of the two hundred said to have been written on Sidney’s death, with the Adonais of Shelley, the Thyrsis of Matthew Arnold, and the infinite and impassioned but too often morbid analysis of In Memoriam. There is no room here, however, for so extensive a parallel. We can only stoop to gather, before turning reluctantly away, from the broad and glowing bed of funeral poesy, lying so fair to the sunshine, one more deep-tinted pansy; a modest flower, but unsurpassed for the sweetness of its breath. In the Lament of Henry King, Bishop of Chichester, over the peerless bride of his youth, we find distilled all the rarer and more ethereal qualities which characterize the poetry of his time, — the piety and affectionateness, the quaint and playful fancy, the patience of hope, the quiet, unforced smile at the utmost possibilities of human ill:—

“ Sleep on, my love, in thy cold bed,
Never to be disquieted.
My last good-night! Thou wilt not wake
Till I thy fate shall overtake;
Till age, or grief, or sickness must
Marry my body to the dust
It so much loves, and fill the room
My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
“ Stay for me there ! I shall not fail
To meet thee in that hollow vale.
And think not much of my delay ;
I am already on the way,
And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make or sorrow breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And every hour a step toward thee.
At night, when I betake to rest,
Next morn I rise, nearer my west
Of life almost by eight hours’ sail
Than when sleep breathed her drowsy gale;
Nor labor I to stem the tide
Through which, to thee, I swiftly glide.
“ 'T is true, with shame and grief I yield,
Thou, like the van, first took’st the field,
And gotten hast the victory
In thus adventuring to die
Before me, whose more years might crave
A just precedence in the grave.
But hark ! My pulse, like a soft drum,
Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
And slow howe’er my marches be
I shall, at last, sit down by thee.
“The thought of this bids me go on
And wait my dissolution
With hope and comfort. Dear, forgive
The crime! I am content to live
Divided, with but half a heart
, Till we shall meet and never part.”

Whoever, for any purpose, begins gleaning amid the treasures of old English verse, will certainly be early smitten by a despairing sense of the inadequacy of any small collection to represent the richness of the whole. The little recueil here offered was made with the special and perhaps rather fanciful purpose of illustrating a single phase of human development; the last and most striking which the world saw before mediæval influences finally gave place to the purely modern; and it will seem to some readers extremely arbitrary, and to some, perhaps, extremely trite. But those who know the old English lyrics best will be least likely to object to the reiteration of any of them for any cause; while there are scores, now piping and harping laboriously in the midst of us, who would surely be the better for a greater familiarity with them. Whether the temper of these lays be chivalrous, upon the whole, or their morality tonic, may possibly be thought open to question; but they have qualities of simplicity, lucidity, strength, and gladness which may be unhesitatingly urged on the consideration of the vaguer and more lachrymose minstrels of the period. Every single convert out of the ranks of these, to the mind and methods of the earlier and lustier school, must occasion ample joy in Parnassus, no less than appreciable relief upon earth.

Harriet W. Preston.

  1. The spelling of these extractsh has been modern ized wherever there is no doubt about the modern equivalent of the word.
  2. Izaak Walton, in his quaint memoir of Wotton, gives a fascinating picture of this ancestral home : “ An ancient and goodly structure, beautifying and being beautified by the parish church of Bocton-Malherbe adjoining unto it, both being seated within a fair park of the Wottons, on the brow of such a hill as gives the advautage of a large prospect and of equal pleasure to all beholders.”
  3. Observe the echoes out of these and the previous lines in the interludes between the cantoes of the Princess.