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the verse, " Return possessed of what they pray thee."
The third stanza might have been written after the
Spanish Philip's Armada, but both King David and
Sir Philip Sidney were dead before God brake that
archer's bow.^ The fourth line of the next stanza
is a noteworthy instance of the sense gathering to
itself the sound, and is in lovely contrast with the
closing line of the same stanza.

One of the most remarkable specimens I know of
the play with words of which I have already spoken
as common even in the serious writings of this cen-
tury, is to be found in the next line : " Where earth
doth end with endless ending." David, regarding the
world as a flat disc, speaks of the ends of the earth :
Sidney, knowing it to be a globe, uses the word of
the Psalmist, but re-moulds and changes the form
of it, with a power fantastic, almost capricious in its
wilfulness, yet causing it to express the fact with a
marvel of precision. We see that the earth ends ; we
cannot reach the end we see ; therefore the " earth
doth end with endless ending." It is a case of that
contradiction in the form of the words used, which
brings out a truth in another plane as it were ; — a para-
dox in words, not in meaning, for the words can bear
no meaning but the one which reveals its own reality.

1 There has been some blundering in the transcription of the last two
lines of this stanza. In the former of the two I have substituted doth
for dost^ evidently wrong. In the latter, the word cradle is doubtful. I
suggest cradled, but am not satisfied with it. The meaning is, however,
plain enough.


The following little psalm, The Lord reigneth, is
a thunderous organ-blast of praise. The repetition
of words in the beginning of the second stanza pro-
duces a remarkably fine effect.


Clothed with state, and girt with might.

Monarch-like Jehovah reigns ;
He who earth's foundation pight — pitched,

Pight at first, and yet sustains ;

He whose stable throne disdains
Motion's shock and age's flight ;

He who endless one remains
One, the same, in changeless plight
Rivers— yea, though rivers roar,

Roaring though sea-billows rise,
Vex the deep, and break the shore —

Stronger art thou, Lord of skies!

Firm and true thy promise lies
Now and still as heretofore ;

Holy worship never dies
In thy house where we adore.

I close my selections from Sidney with one which
I consider the best of all : it is the first half of Lord,
thou hast searched me.


O Lord, in me there lieth nought
But to thy search revealed lies ;
For when I sit
Thou markest it ;
No less thou notest when I rise :
Yea, closest closet of my thought

Hath open windows to thine eyes.

Thou walkest with me when I walk •

When to my bed for rest I go^

I find thee there,

And every where;



Not youngest thought in me doth grow,
No, not one word I cast to talk
But, yet unuttered, thou dost know.

If forth I march, thou goest before ;
If back I turn, thou com'st behind :

So forth nor back . '

Thy guard I lack ;
Nay, on me too thy hand I find.
Well I thy wisdom may adore,
But never reach with earthy mind.

To shun thy notice, leave thine eye,
O whither might I take my way ?
To starry sphere ?
Thy throne is there.
To dead men's undelightsome stay?
There is thy walk, and there to lie
Unknown, in vain I should assay.

O sun, whom light nor flight can match 1
Suppose thy lightful flightful wings
Thou lend to me.
And I could flee
As far as thee the evening brings :
Ev'n led to west he would me catch,
Nor should I lurk with western things.

Do thou thy best, O secret night,
In sable veil to cover me :
Thy sable veil
Shall vainly fail :
"With day immasked my night shall be ;
For night is day, and darkness light,
O father of all lights, to thee.

Note the most musical play with the words light
and flight in the fifth stanza. There is hardly a Hne
that is not delightful.

They were a wonderful family those Sidneys. Mary,
for whom Philip wrote his chief work, thence called
** The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia!' was a woman


of rare gifts. The chief poem known to be hers
is called Our Saviours Passion. It is full of the
faults of the age. Sir Philip's sport with words is so
graceful and ordered as to subserve the utterance
of the thought : his sister's fanciful convolutions
appear to be there for their own sake — certainly are
there to the obscuration of the sense. The difficulty
of the poem arises in part, I believe, from corruption,
but chiefly from a certain fantastic way of dealing
with thought as well as word of which I shall have
occasion to say more when we descend a little further.
It is, in the main, a lamentation over our Saviour's
sufferings, in which the countess is largely guilty
of the very feminine fault of seeking to convey the
intensity of her emotions by forcing words, accumu-
lating forms, and exaggerating descriptions. This
may indeed convince as to the presence of feeling,
but cannot communicate the feeling itself. The right
word will at once generate a sympathy of which all
agonies of utterance will only render the willing mind
more and more incapable.

The poem is likewise very diffuse — again a common
fault with women of power ; for indeed the faculty
of compressing thought into crystalline form is one
of the rarest gifts of artistic genius. It consists of a
hundred and ten stanzas, from which I shall gather
and arrange a few.

He placed all rest, and had no resting place ;

He healed each pain, yet lived in sore distress ;

Deserved all good, yet lived in great disgrace ;

Gave all hearts joy, himself in heaviness ;

Suffered them live, by whom himself was slain :
Lord, who can live to see such love again ?


Whose mansion heaven, yet lay within a manger ;

Who gave all food, yet sucked a virgin's breast ;

Who could have killed, yet fled a threatening danger ;

Who sought all quiet by his own unrest ;

Who died for them that highly did offend him.
And lives for them that cannot comprehend him.

Who came no further than his Father sent him,
And did fulfil but what he did command him ;
Who prayed for them that proudly did torment him
For telling truly of what they did demand him ;
Who did all good that humbly did intreat him.
And bare their blows, that did unkindly beat him.

Had I but seen him as his servants did,
At sea, at land, in city, or in field.
Though in himself he had his glory hid,
That in his grace the light of glory held,

Then might my sorrow somewhat be appeased.
That once my soul had in his sight been pleased.

No ! I have run the way of wickedness,
Forgetting what my faith should follow most ;
I did not think upon thy holiness,
Nor by my sins what sweetness I have lost.
Oh sin 1 for sin hath compassed me about.
That, Lord, I know not where to find thee out.

Where he that sits on the supernal throne,
In majesty most glorious to behold,
And holds the sceptre of the world alone,
Hath not his garments of imbroidered gold.
But he is clothed with truth and righteousness,
Where angels all do sing with joyfulness.

Where heavenly love is cause of holy life,
And holy life increaseth heavenly love ;
Where peace established without fear or strife,
Doth prove the blessing of the soul's behove;^

Where thirst nor hunger, grief nor sorrow dwelleth,
But peace in joy, and joy in peace excelleth.

* " The very blessing the soul needed."


Had all the poem been like these stanzas, I should
not have spoken so strongly concerning its faults.
There are a {^\n more such in it. It closes with a
very fantastic use of musical terms, following upon
a curious category of the works of nature as praising
God, to which I refer for the sake of one stanza, or
rather of one line in the stanza :

To see the greyhound course, the hound in chase,

Whilst little dormouse sleepeth out her eyne ;

The lambs and rabbits sweetly run at base,i

Whilst highest trees the little squirrels climb.

The crawling worms out creeping in the showers,
And how the snails do climb the lofty towers.

What a love of animated nature there is in the lovely
lady ! I am all but confident, however, that second
line came to her from watching her children asleep.
She had one child at least : that William Herbert,
who is generally, and with weight, believed the W. H.
of Shakspere's Sonnets, a grander honour than the
earldom of Pembroke, or even the having Philip Sidney
to his uncle : I will not say grander than having Mary
Sidney to his mother.

Let me now turn to Sidney's friend, Sir Fulk
Grevill, Lord Brooke, who afterwards wrote his life,
" as an intended preface " to all his " Monuments to
the memory of Sir Philip Sidney," the said monuments
being Lord Brooke's own poems.

My extract is from A Treatise of Religion^ in which,

^ An old English game, still in use in Scotland and America, but
vanishing before cricket.



if the reader do not find much of poetic form, he will
find at least some grand spiritual philosophy, the stuff
whereof all highest poetry is fashioned. It is one of
the first poems in which the philosophy of religion,
and not either its doctrine, feeling, or history, pre-
dominates. It is, as a whole, poor, chiefly from its
being so loosely written. There are men, and men
whose thoughts are of great worth, to whom it never
seems to occur that they may utter very largely and
convey very little ; that what is clear to themselves
is in their speech obscure as a late twilight. Their
utterance is rarely articulate : their spiritual mouth
talks with but half-movements of its lips ; it does not
model their thoughts into clear-cut shapes, such as
the spiritual ear can distinguish as they enter it. Of
such is Lord Brooke. These few stanzas, however,
my readers will be glad to have :

What is the chain which draws us back again,
And lifts man up unto his first creation ?
Nothing in him his own heart can restrain ;
His reason lives a captive to temptation ;

Example is corrupt ; precepts are mixed ;

All fleshly knowledge frail, and never fixed.

It is a light, a gift, a grace inspired ;

A spark of power, a goodness of the Good ;

Desire in him, that never is desired ;

An unity, where desolation stood ;

In us, not of us, a Spirit not of earth.
Fashioning the mortal to immortal birth.
♦ * * «

Sense of this God, by fear, the sensual have.

Distressed Nature crying unto Grace ;


For sovereign reason then becomes a slave,
And yields to servile sense her sovereign place.

When more or other she affects to be

Than seat or shrine of this Eternity.

Yea, Prince of Earth let Man assume to be,
Nay more — of Man let Man himself be God,
Yet without God, a slave of slaves is he ;
To others, wonder ; to himself, a rod ;

Restless despair, desire, and desolation ;

The more secure, the more abomination.

Then by affecting power, we cannot know him.
By knowing all things else, we know him less.
Nature contains him not. Art cannot show him.
Opinions idols, and not God, express.

Without, in power, we see him everywhere ;

Within, we rest not, till we find him there.

Then seek we must ; that course is natural —
For owned souls to find their owner out.
Our free remorses when our natures fall —
When we do well, our hearts made free from doubt-
Prove service due to one Omnipotence,
And Nature of religion to have sense.

. Questions again, which in our hearts arise —
Since loving knowledge, not humility —
Though they be curious, godless, and unwise,
Yet prove our nature feels a Deity ;

For if these strifes rose out of other grounds,
Man were to God as deafness is to sounds.
« * « »

Yet in this strife, this natural remorse.
If we could bend the force of power and wit
To work upon the heart, and make divorce
There from the evil which preventeth it.

In judgment of the truth we should not doubt
Good life would find a good religion out


If a fair proportion of it were equal to this, the
poem would be a fine one, not for its poetry, but for
its spiritual metaphysics. I think the fourth and
fifth of the stanzas I have given, profound in
truth, and excellent in utterance. They are worth

We now descend a decade of the century, to find
another group of names within the immediate thres-
hold of the sixties.



Except it be Milton's, there is not any prose fuller
of grand poetic embodiments than Lord Bacon's.
Yet he always writes contemptuously of poetry,
having in his eye no doubt the commonplace kinds
of it, which will always occupy more bulk, and hence
be more obtrusive, than that which is true in its
nature and rare in its workmanship. Towards the
latter end of his life, however, being in ill health at
the time, he translated seven of the Psalms of David
into verse, dedicating them to George Herbert. The
best of them is Psalm civ. — just the one upon which
we might suppose, from his love to the laws of
Nature, he would dwell with the greatest sympathy.
Partly from the wish to hear his voice amongst the
rest of our singers, partly for the merits of the version
itself, which has some remarkable lines, I have resolved
to include it here. It is the first specimen I have
given in the heroic couplet.

Father and King of Powers both high and low,
Whose sounding fame all creatures serve to blow;
My soul shall with the rest strike up thy praise,
And carol of thy works, and wondrous ways.


But who can blaze thy beauties. Lord, aright ?

They turn the brittle beams of mortal sight.

Upon thy head thou wear'st a glorious crown,

All set with virtues, polished with renown :

Thence round about a silver veil doth fall

Of crystal light, mother of colours all.

The compass, heaven, smooth without grain or fold.

All set with spangs of glittering stars untold,

And striped with golden beams of power unpent,

Is raised up for a removing tent.

Vaulted and arched are his chamber beams

Upon the seas, the waters, and the streams ;

The clouds as chariots swift do scour the sky ;

The stormy winds upon their wings do fly

His angels spirits are, that wait his willj

As flames of fire his anger they fulfil.

In the beginning, with a mighty hand,

He made the earth by counterpoise to stand,

Never to move, but to be fixed still ;

Yet hath no pillars but his sacred will.

This earth, as with a veil, once covered was ;

The waters overflowed all the mass ;

But upon his rebuke away they fled,

And then the hills began to show their head ;

The vales their hollow bosoms opened plain.

The streams ran trembling down the vales again ;

And that the earth no more might drowned be,

He set the sea his bounds of liberty ;

And though his waves resound and beat the shore,

Yet it is bridled by his holy lore.

Then did the rivers seek their proper places,

And found their heads, their issues, and their races ;

The springs do feed the rivers all the way,

And so the tribute to the sea repay :

Running along through many a pleasant field.

Much fruitfulness unto the earth they yield ;

That know the beasts and cattle feeding by,

"Which for to slake their thirst do thither hie.

Nay, desert grounds the streams do not forsake.

But through the unknown ways their journey take ;

The asses wild that hide in wilderness,


Do thither come, their thirst for to refresh.

The shady trees along their banks do spring,

In which the birds do build, and sit, and sing.

Stroking the gentle air with pleasant notes,

Plaining or chirping through their warbling throats.

The higher grounds, where waters cannot rise,

By rain and dews are watered from the skies.

Causing the earth put forth the grass for beasts,

And garden-herbs, served at the greatest feasts,

And bread that is all viands' firmament.

And gives a firm and solid nourishment ;

And wine man's spirits for to recreate.

And oil his face for to exhilarate.

The sappy cedars, tall like stately towers.

High flying birds do harbour in their bowers;

The holy storks that are the travellers,

Choose for to dwell and build within the firs ;

The climbing goats hang on steep mountains' side ;

The digging conies in the rocks do bide.

The moon, so constant in inconstancy.

Doth rule the monthly seasons orderly;

The sun, eye of the world, doth know his race.

And when to show, and when to hide his face.

Thou makest darkness, that it may be night,

Whenas the savage beasts that fly the light.

As conscious of man's hatred, leave their den.

And range abroad, secured from sight of men.

Then do the forests ring of lions roaring,

That ask their meat of God, their strength restoring ;

But when the day appears, they back do fly.

And in their dens again do lurking lie ;

Then man goes forth to labour in the field.

Whereby his grounds more rich increase may yield.

O Lord, thy providence sufficeth all ;

Thy goodness not restrained but general

Over thy creatures, the whole earth doth flow

With thy great largeness poured forth here below.

Nor is it earth alone exalts thy name,

But seas and streams likewise do spread the same.

The rolling seas unto the lot do fall

Of beasts innumerable, great and small ;


There do the stately ships plough up the floods ;

The greater navies look like walking woods ;

The fishes there far voyages do make,

To divers shores their journey they do take ;

There hast thou set the great leviathan,

That iiiiikes the seas to seethe like boiling pan :

All these do ask of thee their meat to live,

Which in due season thou to them dost give :

Ope thou thy hand, and then they have good fare ;

Shut thou thy hand, and then they troubled are.

All life and spirit from thy breath proceed,

Thy word doth all things generate and feed :

If thou withdraw'st it, then they cease to be,

And straight return to dust and vanity ;

But when thy breath thou dost send forth again,

Then all things do renew, and spring amain,

So that the earth but lately desolate

Doth now return unto the former state.

The glorious majesty of God above

Shall ever reign, in mercy and in love ;

God shall rejoice all his fair works to see,

For, as they come from him, all perfect be.

The earth shall quake, if aught his Avrath provoke ;

Let him but touch the mountains, they shall smoke. *

As long as life doth last, I hymns will sing,

With cheerful voice, to the Eternal King ;

As long as I have being, I will praise

The works of God, and all his wondrous ways.

I know that he my words will not despise :

Thanksgiving is to him a sacrifice.

But as for sinners, they shall be destroyed

From off the earth — their places shall be void.

Let all his works praise him with one accord !

Oh praise the Lord, my soul ! Praise ye the Lord !

His Hundred and Forty-ninth Psalm is likewise
good ; but I have given enough of Lord Bacon's
verse, and proceed to call up one who was a poet
indeed, although little known as such, being a Roman
Catholic, a Jesuit even, and therefore, in Elizabeth's


reign, a traitor, and subject to the penalties according.
Robert Southwell, " thirteen times most cruelly tor-
tured," could "not be induced to confess anything,
not even the colour of the horse whereon on a certain
day he rode, lest from such indication his adversaries
might conjecture in what house, or in company of
what Catholics, he that day was." I quote these
words of Lord Burleigh, lest any of my readers,
discovering weakness in his verse, should attribute
weakness to the man himself.

It was no doubt on political grounds that these
tortures, and the death that followed them, were
inflicted. But it was for the truth as he saw it, that
is, for the sake of duty, that Southwell thus endured.
We must not impute all the evils of a system to
every individual who holds by it. It may be found
that a man has, for the sole sake of self-abnegation,
yielded homage, where, if his object had been per-
sonal aggrandizement, he might have wielded autho-
rity. Southwell, if that which comes from within a
man may be taken as the test of his character, was
a devout and humble Christian. In the choir of our
singers we only ask: " Dost thou lift up thine heart ?"
Southwell's song answers for him : " I lift it up unto
the Lord."

His chief poem is called St. Peter's Complaint. It
is of considerable length — a hundred and thirty-two
stanzas. It reminds us of the Countess of Pem-
broke's poem, but is far more articulate and far
superior in versification. Perhaps its chief fault is
that the pauses are so measured with the lines as

s.L. IV 9


to make every line almost a sentence, the effect of
which is a considerable degree of monotony. Like
all writers of the time, he is, of course, fond of anti-
thesis, and abounds in conceits and fancies ; whence
he attributes a multitude of expressions to St. Peter
of which never possibly could the substantial ideas
have entered the Apostle's mind, or probably any
other than Southwell's own. There is also a good
deal of sentimentalism in the poem, a fault from
which I fear modern Catholic verse is rarely free.
Probably the Italian poetry with which he must
have been familiar in his youth, during his residence
in Rome, accustomed him to such irreverences of
expression as this sentimentalism gives occasion to,
and which are very far from indicating a corre-
spondent state of feeling. Sentiment is a poor
ape of love; but the love is true notwithstand-
ing. Here are a few stanzas from St. Peter's

Titles I make untruths : am I a rock,

That with so soft a gale was overthrovm ?
Am I fit pastor for the faithful flock

To guide their souls that murdered thus mine own ?
A rock of ruin, not a rest to stay ;
A pastor, — not to feed, but to betray.

Parting from Christ my fainting force declined j

With lingering foot I followed him aloof ;
Base fear out of my heart his love unshrined,

Huge in high words, but impotent in proof.
My vaunts did seem hatched under Samson's locks,
Yet woman's words did give me murdering knocks-


At Sorrow's door I knocked : they craved my name.

I answered, "One unworthy to be known."
" What one ? " say they. " One worthiest of blame."

"But who?" " A wretch not God's, nor yet his own."
"A man?" "Oh, no!" "A beast?" "Much worse." " What creature?"
" A rock." " How called ? " " The rock of scandal, Peter."

Christ ! health of fevered soul, heaven of the mind,

Force of the feeble, nurse of infant loves,
Guide to the wandering foot, light to the blind.

Whom weeping wins, repentant sorrow moves !
Father in care, mother in tender heart,
Revive and save me, slain with sinful dart !

If King Manasseh, sunk in depth of sin.

With plaints and tears recovered grace and crown,

A worthless worm some mild regard may win,
And lowly creep where flying threw it down.

A poor desire I have to mend my ill ;

1 should, I would, I dare not say I will.

I dare not say I will, but wish I may j

My pride is checked : high words the speaker spilt.

My good, O Lord, thy gift — thy strength, my stay —
Give what thou bidst, and then bid what thou wilt.

Work with me what of me thou dost request;

Then will I dare the worst and love the best.

Here, from another poem, are two little stanzas
worth preserving:

Yet God's must I remain,

By death, by wrong, by shame ;

I cannot blot out of my heart
That grace wrought in his name.

I cannot set at nought.

Whom I have held so dear ;
I cannot make Him seem afar

That is indeed so near.

The following poem, in style almost as simple as

H 2


a ballad, is at once of the quaintest and truest.
Common minds, which must always associate a
certain conventional respectability with the forms of
religion, will think it irreverent. I judge its reverence
profound, and such none the less that it is pervaded
by a sweet and delicate tone of holy humour. The
very title has a glimmer of the glowing heart of
Christianity :


Behold a silly, i tender babe,

In freezing winter night,
In homely manger trembling lies ;

Alas ! a piteous sight.

The inns are full ; no man will yield

This little pilgrim bed ;
But forced he is with silly beasts

In crib to shroud his head.

Despise him not for lying there ;

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldEngland's antiphon → online text (page 6 of 19)