Now, as for the title, if the value of a title lie in its application, Mr. Swinburne is right. It has little relevance to the verses in the volume. On the other hand, as a portly and attractive mouthful of syllables The Passionate Pilgrim can hardly be surpassed. If not “a perfect title,” it is surely “a charming name.” But Mr. Humphreys’ contention that Jaggard “set up a good precedent” and produced a “forerunner” of English anthologies becomes absurd when we remember that Tottel’s Miscellany was published in June, 1557 (just forty-two years before The Passionate Pilgrim), and had reached an eighth edition by 1587; that The Paradise of Dainty Devices appeared in 1576; A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions in 1578; A Handfull of Pleasant Delights in 1584; and The Phoenix’ Nest in 1593.
Almost as wide of the mark is Mr. Swinburne’s description of the volume as “worthless.” It contains twenty-one numbers, besides that lofty dirge, so unapproachably solemn, The Phoenix and the Turtle. Of these, five are undoubtedly by Shakespeare. A sixth (Crabbed age and youth), if not by Shakespeare, is one of the loveliest lyrics in the language, and I for my part could give it to no other man. Note also that but for Jaggard’s enterprise this jewel had been irrevocably lost to us, since it is known only through The Passionate Pilgrim. Marlowe’s Live with me and be my love, and Barnefield’s As it fell upon a day, make numbers seven and eight. And I imagine that even Mr. Swinburne cannot afford to scorn Sweet rose, fair flower, untimely pluck’d, soon vaded—which again only occurs in The Passionate Pilgrim. These nine numbers, with The Phoenix and the Turtle, make up more than half the book. Among the rest we have the pretty and respectable lyrics, If music and sweet poetry agree; Good night, good rest; Lord, how mine eyes throw gazes to the east. When as thine eye hath chose the dame, and the gay little song, It was a Lording’s daughter. There remain the Venus and Adonis sonnets and My flocks feed not. Mr. Swinburne may call these “dirty and dreary doggrel,” an he list, with no more risk than of being held a somewhat over-anxious moralist. But to call the whole book worthless is mere abuse of words.
It is true, nevertheless, that one of the only two copies existing of the first edition was bought for three halfpence.
August 25, 1894. Shakespeare’s Lyrics.
In their re-issue of The Aldine Poets, Messrs. George Bell & Sons have made a number of concessions to public taste. The new binding is far more pleasing than the old; and in some cases, where the notes and introductory memoirs had fallen out of date, new editors have been set to work, with satisfactory results. It is therefore no small disappointment to find that the latest volume, “The Poems of Shakespeare,” is but a reprint from stereotyped plates of the Rev. Alexander Dyce’s text, notes and memoir.