Ease of his verse.
I said just now that Daniel had done much, though quietly, to train the growth of English verse. He not only stood up successfully for its natural development at a time when the clever but less largely informed Campion and others threatened it with fantastic changes. He probably did as much as Waller to introduce polish of line into our poetry. Turn to the famous “Ulysses and the Siren,” and read. Can anyone tell me of English verses that run more smoothly off the tongue, or with a more temperate grace?
“Well, well, Ulysses,
then I see
I shall not have thee here:
And, therefore, I will come to thee,
And take my fortune there.
I must be won that cannot win,
Yet lost were I not won;
For beauty hath created been
T’undo or be undone.”
To speak familiarly, this is as easy as an old shoe. To speak yet more familiarly, it looks as if any fool could turn off lines like these. Let the fool try.
And yet to how many anthologies do we not turn in vain for “Ulysses and the Siren”; or for the exquisite spring song, beginning—
“Now each creature joys
Passing happy days and hours;
One bird reports unto another
In the fall of silver showers ...”
—or for that lofty thing, the “Epistle to the Countess of Cumberland"?—which Wordsworth, who quoted it in his “Excursion,” declares to be “an admirable picture of the state of a wise man’s mind in a time of public commotion.” Certainly if ever a critic shall arise to deny poetry the virtue we so commonly claim for her, of fortifying men’s souls against calamity, this noble Epistle will be all but the last post from which he will extrude her defenders.
[A] Sc. Elizabeth’s.
April 21, 1894. William Browne of Tavistock.
It has been objected to the author of Britannia’s Pastorals that their perusal sends you to sleep. It had been subtler criticism, as well as more amiable, to observe that you can wake up again and, starting anew at the precise point where you dropped off, continue the perusal with as much pleasure as ever, neither ashamed of your somnolence nor imputing it as a fault to the poet. For William Browne is perhaps the easiest figure in our literature. He lived easily, he wrote easily, and no doubt he died easily. He no more expected to be read through at a sitting than he tried to write all the story of Marina at a sitting. He took up his pen and composed: when he felt tired he went off to bed, like a sensible man: and when you are tired of reading he expects you to be sensible and do the same.
A placid life.