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TO ALTHEA, FROM PRISON.

163

This soldier's services in the cause of the monarchy cost him not only his fortune, but his liberty. He was cast by the parliamentary party into prison; but his unbroken spirit found utterance in his most famous song :-" To Althea, from prison,”.

'-a strain perfectly characteristic of the cavalier-feeling,-a high-toned loyalty and gallantry and gayety :

“ When Love, with unconfinéd wings,

Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings

To whisper at the grates, –
When I lie tangled in her hair

And fetter'd to her eye,-
The birds that wanton in the air

Know no such liberty.
“When flowing cups run swiftly round,

With no allaying Thames,-
Our careless heads with roses bound,

Our hearts with loyal flames, —
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,

When health and draughts go free,
Fishes that tipple in the deep

Know no such liberty.
“When, like committed linnets, I,

With shriller throat, shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,

And glories of my king, -
When I shall voice aloud how good

He is,-how great should be,-
Enlargéd winds, that curl the flood,

Know no such liberty.
“Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take

That for a hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,

And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty." By the side of the memory of Lovelace let me briefly place that of a poet with as stout a heart, but pledged to the opposite side in the civil wars,—"honest George Wither," the author of so many pieces that literary antiquaries have scarce been able to gather them from their obscurity. The homeliness of his versification places his poetry often below the smooth flow of Lovelace's lyrics ; but the gallantry of the cavalier could not produce strains oi more fervid chivalry in praise of female loveli

ness.

The sentiment was never more feelingly and fancifully expressed than when, for instance, in part of a long-sustained strain, he exclaims,

“Stars, indeed, fair creatures be;
Yet, amongst us, where is he
Joys not more the while he lies
Sunning in his mistress' eyes,
Than in all the glimmering light

Of a starry winter night ?" His long life was spent in a perpetual mood of poetical exaltation. He was for ever writing his verses, always after a fashion of his own and under most unpropitious circumstances. His days were full alternately of action and suffering: one while commanding a troop of horse in the service of the Parliament; again, twice deliberately abiding in London to witness the terrors of the plague, or braving the penalties of the law; fined and imprisoned over and over again in the Tower, the Marshalsea, and Newgate; and yet keeping his heart whole to the last. It has been well said of him that he was for ever anticipating persecution and martyrdom, fingering the flames, as it were, to try how he could bear them. He was a man of strong and serviceable piety. In all the ecclesiastical feverishness of the times, he ever called himself a Catholic Christian, declaring his religion is not mumbling over thrice a day

“ A set of Ave-Marias, or of creeds,
Or many hours formally to pray,
When from a dull devotion it proceeds;
Nor is it up and down the land to seek
To find those well-breathed lecturers that can
Preach thrice a Sabbath and six times a week,

"Yet be as fresh as when they first began.” At the age of seventy-three he was cast into prison. I have shown how the encaged spirit of a cavalier could sing. It will now be seen that Wither's Muse could utter, if not as melodious, a more thoughtful, strain :

“ And is this Newgate, whereof so afraid

Offenders are ? Is this the dismal place
Wherein, before I came, I heard it said
There's nothing but grief, horror, and disgrace ?
I find it otherwise : and doubtless either
It is belyed, or they who are sent hither
Within themselves, when to this house they come,
Bring that which makes it seem so troublesome.
“I no worse here than where I was before
Accommodated am; for, though confined
From some things, which concern my body more
Than formerly, it hath enlarged my mind.”

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The same indomitable spirit—a magnanimous self-sufficiency-- is expressed in the lines,

“My mind 's my kingdom; and I will permit
No other's will to have the rule of it;
For I am free, and no man's power I know
Did make me thus, nor shall unmake me now;
But, through a spirit none can quench in me,

This mind I got, and this my mind shall be.” When beggared by his calamities, he consoles himself on the loss of property with a reflection which he expresses with a fine poetic simile:

“I with my losses [am] so well content
As is a Christian, when, by Turks pursued,
Who overpower him by their multitude,
He wrecks his vessel on a friendly shore,

Where he hath life and freedom, though no more.” The voyage of George Wither's life was indeed on a stormy sea. According to the sailor's superstition, the winds were for ever coming at his whistling. But in the worst of the storm it was always in his power to bring his tempest-tost bark to ride at anchor,—the anchorage of Christian hopefulness. His poetic studies, too, were an unceasing delight to him ;—not a sentimental luxury, weakening his energy or his fortitude, but giving renewed strength to his stout heart. Earnestly has he told how his spirit was ever thus invigorated, in lines containing a simple but as strong a statement of a student's intellectual and moral resources—the sunshine of an imaginative heart—as ever was penned :

• They cause me to be fearless of my foes ;
When I am vex'd, my spirits they compose;
When I am poor, they are in stead of wealth ;
When I am sick, they help repair my health ;
When I am well, they are my recreation,
When tempted to despair, hope's reparation:
Thereby, when sadness comes, to mirth I turn it;
When I am slighted, they do make me scorn it.
In prisons when my body is confined,
They do so many ways enlarge my mind,
That, doubting whether will for me prove best,
The freedom lost or that which is possest,
I use the means of both; but wholly leave
The choice to God; and what he gives, receive.
They are companions when I'm left alone ;
They find me work to do when I have none;
By day me from ill company they keep,
Make nights less tedious when I cannot sleep.

They ease me when I am opprest with wrongs ;

When I want music, they do make me songs.”
This literary gratefulness rises on a higher strain in his address to liis
Muse :

“She's my mind's companion still,
Spite of Envy's evil will;
She doth tell me where to borrow
Comfort in the midst of sorrow;
Makes the desolatest place
To her presence be a grace,
And the blackest discontents
To be pleasing ornaments.
In my former days of bliss,
Her divine skill taught me this :-
That from everything I saw
I could some invention draw,
AI raise pleasure to her height,
Through the meanest object's sight;
By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least bough rustleing, -
By a daisy whose leaves spread
Shut when Titan goes to bed,--
Or a shady bush or tree, -
She could more infuse in me
Than all nature's beauties can

In some other wiser man." It is passages like these, recognising the resources of a chastened imagination and the influence of true poetry upon individual happiness, that have won for George Wither, neglected as his memory has been, a fine tribute, which, in closing this lecture, I desire to leave in your thoughts :-“ The praises of poetry have been often sung in ancient and modern times ; strange powers have been ascribed to it of influence over animate and inanimate auditors ; its force over fascinated crowds has been acknowledged; but before Wither no one ever celebrated its power at home, the wealth and the strength which this divine gift confers upon its possessor. Fame—and that, too, after death which hitherto the poets had promised themselves from their art. It seems to have been left to (George) Wither to discover that poetry was a present possession as well as a rich reversion, and that the Muse had promise of both lives,-of this and of that which is to come.”

-was all

LECTURE VIII.

The Age of the Restoration : Dryden.

AMBIGUITIES IN THE GENERAL TITLES ADOPTED TO DESIGNATE PARTICULAR

LITERARY ERAS-THE LAST QUARTER OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY THE AGE OF DRYDEN-THE DEGRADED TASTES OF HIS TIMES-THE ALLIANCE OF HIGH POETRY WITH VIRTUE-THE TRUE STANDARD OF POETIC MERIT-DRY. DEN'S POETRY A REFLECTION OF THE TIMES OF CHARLES II.-PROFLIGACY OF THAT AGE-CHARACTER OF CHARLES STUART-THE SPIRIT OF POETRY IS A SPI. RIT OF ENTHUSIASM-THE DEBASING EFFECTS OF THE CIVIL WARS-SHAFTESBURY AS LORD-CHANCELLOR-RECEPTION OF THE PARADISE LOST-WINSTANLEY'S LIVES OF THE ENGLISH POETS-MILTON'S EXPOSITION OF KINGLY DUTYTHE DRAMA DURING THE AGE OF THE RESTORATION-DRYDEN'S PLAYS-DEFECTS OF RHYMING TRAGEDIES/" THE FALL OF INNOCENCE"-DRYDEN'S ALTERATION OF “THE TEMPEST”-“ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL"--BUCKINGHAM LITERARY LARCENY-SIR EGERTON BRYDGES'S LINES ON MILTON_“THE HIND AND THE PANTHER"_"ALEXANDER'S FEAST"_“ODE FOR ST. CECILIA'S DAY" -DRYDEN'S LATER POETRY.

IN studying the literature of a nation it is necessary to bear in mind

that general titles adopted to designate particular eras will almost inevitably be liable to ambiguities, which are calculated to suggest, imperceptibly, erroneous impressions. The employment of the title of the sovereign, as is usual, in marking the periods of English literature, is manifestly attended with this confusion :-that the reign may not be found to correspond, as to time, with the age in which the writers flourished. For instance, the literary age of Queen Elizabeth is not the political reign of Queen Elizabeth; for half of the reign was spent before the glory of its poetry was developed. Again: if we employ the name of the most illustrious author to indicate a period of literary history, the mind unconsciously adopts an opinion which may be greatly erroneous :--that his fame had gained in his own times the influence and authority it has received only from posterity. In this respect there would be an absurdity were we to speak of “the age of Milton," or even of Shakspeare; for many years rolled over the graves of each of those poets before the might of their genius was realized. Especially may this be said with regard to Milton, between whom and the spirit of the times in which his great poem was published there was so great an uncongeniality that, to refer the favourite poets of those days, with all their poetical heresies, their low morality, and their sins against the

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