Halleck's New English Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 629 pages of information about Halleck's New English Literature.

[Illustration:  ROBERT HERRICK.]

By far the greatest of this school is Robert Herrick, who stands in the front rank of the second class of lyrical poets.  He was a graduate of Cambridge University, who by an accident of the time became a clergyman.  The parish, or “living,” given him by the king, was in the southwestern part of Devonshire.  By affixing the title Hesperides to his volume of nearly thirteen hundred poems, Herrick doubtless meant to imply that they were chiefly composed in the western part of England.  In the very first poem of this collection, he announces the subject of his songs:—­

  “I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers;
  Of April, May, of June, and July flowers. 
  I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes;
  Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes
       * * * * *
  I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing
  The court of Mab, and of the Fairie-king. 
  I write of hell; I sing and ever shall,
  Of heaven, and hope to have it after all.”

His lyric range was as broad as these lines indicate.  The most of his poems show the lightness of touch and artistic form revealed in the following lines from To the Virgins:—­

  “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may: 
  Old Time is still a-flying;
  And this same flower that smiles to-day,
  To-morrow will be dying.”

His facility in melodious poetic expression is evident in this stanza from The Litany, one of the poems in Noble Numbers, as the collection of his religious verse is called:—­

  “When the passing-bell doth toll
  And the furies in a shoal
  Come to fright a parting soul,
  Sweet Spirit, comfort me.”

The lyric, Disdain Returned, of the courtier, Thomas Carew, shows both a customary type of subject and the serious application often given:—­

  “He that loves a rosy cheek,
  Or a coral lip admires,
  Or from starlike eyes doth seek
  Fuel to maintain his fires,
  As old time makes these decay,
  So his flames must waste away.”

Carew could write with facility on the subjects in vogue at court, but when he ventures afield in nature poetry, he makes the cuckoo hibernate!  In his poem The Spring, he says:—­

  “...wakes in hollow tree
  The drowsy Cuckoo and the Humble-bee.”

In these lines from his poem Constancy, Sir John Suckling shows that he is a typical Cavalier love poet:—­

  “Out upon it, I have loved
  Three whole days together;
  And am like to love three more,
  If it prove fair weather.”

From Richard Lovelace we have these exquisite lines written in prison:—­

  “Stone walls do not a prison make
  Nor iron bars a cage;
  Minds innocent and quiet take
  That for an hermitage.”

To characterize the Cavalier school by one phrase, we might call them lyrical poets in lighter vein.  They usually wrote on such subjects as the color in a maiden’s cheek and lips, blossoms, meadows, May days, bridal cakes, the paleness of a lover, and—­

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Halleck's New English Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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