Lovely Laughter: An Anthology of Seventeenth Century Love Lyrics

edited by Earl E. Fisk
[Knopf, $7.50]
THIS book is just what a volume of love poems should be — delightful. In type, in printing, in form and in illustration, it leaves nothing to be desired.
The late Sir Walter Raleigh — not Queen Elizabeth’s friend, whose head was later cut off by King James I, but the Oxford scholar of the same name and title — once published a book, Laughter from a Cloud, and such a title might well have been chosen by Mr. Fisk for his selection of lovely lyrics, for originally they must have been sung through a cloud of incense burnt on the altar of passionate love.
The seventeenth century, which provided these poems, was very outspoken, almost as much so as the twentieth; yet it was dainty withal, as these verses show. The selections were made by a scholar who knows his way through the maze of love poems which delighted King Charles II and his courtly gentlemen and naughty, if beautiful, ladies. Only a few weeks ago I heard sung in London, at a meeting of the Pepysian Society, the verses attributed to the King in this anthology. And a very charming performance it was, too, sung by a fine tenor to the music of a harpsichord and flute, to a tune which the King himself chose for it.
If some of the lyrics are well known, we meet them as old friends, and if some are new, — and many are to me, — one has a feeling that out of acquaintance friendship quickly grows and will inevitably ripen into love. I suspect that Mr. Fisk had a fight with himself not to include a lot of notes which might have shown his scholarship but which would certainly have spoiled the beauty and purpose of the book, which is to give delight, and it cannot fail of its purpose.