England's Antiphon eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about England's Antiphon.
be at once known by the justice and force of the adjectives he uses, especially when he compounds them,—­that is, makes one out of two.  Here are some examples:  meek-eyed Peace; pale-eyed priest; speckled vanity; smouldering clouds; hideous hum; dismal dance; dusky eyne: there are many such, each almost a poem in itself.  The whole is a succession of pictures set in the loveliest music for the utterance of grandest thoughts.

No doubt there are in the poem instances of such faults in style as were common in the age in which his verse was rooted:  for my own part, I never liked the first two stanzas of the hymn.  But such instances are few; while for a right feeling of the marvel of this poem and of the two preceding it, we must remember that Milton was only twenty-one when he wrote them.

Apparently to make one of a set with the Nativity, he began to write an ode on the Passion, but, finding the subject “above the years he had when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.”  The fragment is full of unworthy, though skilful, and, for such, powerful conceits, but is especially interesting as showing how even Milton, trying to write about what he felt, but without yet having generated thoughts enow concerning the subject itself, could only fall back on conventionalities.  Happy the young poet the wisdom of whose earliest years was such that he recognized his mistake almost at the outset, and dropped the attempt!  Amongst the stanzas there is, however, one of exceeding loveliness: 

  He, sovereign priest, stooping his regal head,
  That dropped with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
  Poor fleshly tabernacle entered,
  His starry front low-roofed beneath the skies. 
  Oh what a masque was there! what a disguise! 
  Yet more! the stroke of death he must abide;
  Then lies him meekly down fast by his brethren’s side.

In this it will be seen that he has left the jubilant measure of the Hymn, and returned to the more stately and solemn rhyme-royal of its overture, as more suited to his subject.  Milton could not be wrong in his music, even when he found the quarry of his thought too hard to work.

CHAPTER XV.

EDMUND WALLER, THOMAS BROWN, AND JEREMY TAYLOR.

Edmund Waller, born in 1605, was three years older than Milton; but I had a fancy for not dividing Herbert and Milton.  As a poet he had a high reputation for many years, gained chiefly, I think, by a regard to literary proprieties, combined with wit.  He is graceful sometimes; but what in his writings would with many pass for grace, is only smoothness and the absence of faults.  His horses were not difficult to drive.  He dares little and succeeds in proportion—­occasionally, however, flashing out into true song.  In politics he had no character—­let us hope from weakness rather than from selfishness; yet, towards the close

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England's Antiphon from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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