“Fame, and that too after death, was all which hitherto the poets had promised themselves from their art. It seems to have been left to Wither to discover that poetry was a present possession as well as a rich reversion, and that the muse had promise of both lives—of this, and of that which was to come.”
—must be extended by us, after reading his lines quoted above, to include William Browne. He, at least, had no doubt of the Muse as an earthly companion.
As for posthumous fame, Browne confides to us his aspirations in that matter also:—
“And Time may be so
kind to these weak lines
To keep my name enroll’d past his that shines
In gilded marble, or in brazen leaves:
Since verse preserves, when stone and brass deceives.
Or if (as worthless) Time not lets it live
To those full days which others’ Muses give,
Yet I am sure I shall be heard and sung
Of most severest eld and kinder young
Beyond my days; and maugre Envy’s strife,
Add to my name some hours beyond my life.”
This is the amiable hope of one who lived an entirely amiable life in
Sweetly environ’d with the daisied downs:”
and who is not the less to be beloved because at times his amiability prevents him from attacking even our somnolence too fiercely. If the casual reader but remember Browne as a poet who had the honor to supply Keats with inspiration,[A] there will always be others, and enough of them, to prize his ambling Muse for her own qualities.
[A] Cf. his lament for William Ferrar (brother of Nicholas Ferrar, of Little Gidding), drowned at sea—
“Glide soft, ye
And every spring:
Within the shady woods
Let no bird sing....”
July 28, 1894. A Note on his Name.
Even as there is an M alike in Macedon and Monmouth, so Thomas Carew and I have a common grievance—that our names are constantly mispronounced. It is their own fault, of course; on the face of it they ought to rhyme with “few” and “vouch.” And if it be urged (impolitely but with a fair amount of plausibility) that what my name may or may not rhyme with is of no concern to anybody, I have only to reply that, until a month or so back, I cheerfully shared this opinion and acquiesced in the general error. Had I dreamed then of becoming a subject for poetry, I had pointed out—as I do now—for the benefit of all intending bards, that I do not legitimately rhyme with “vouch” (so liable is human judgment to err, even in trifles), unless they pronounce it “vooch,” which is awkward. I believe, indeed (speaking as one who has never had occasion to own a Rhyming Dictionary), that the number of English words consonant with my name is exceedingly small; but leave the difficulty to the ingenious Dr. Alexander H. Japp, LL.D., F.R.S.E., who has lately been at the pains to compose and put into private circulation a sprightly lampoon upon me. As it is not my intention to reply with a set of verses upon Dr. Japp, it seems superfluous to inquire if his name should be pronounced as it is spelt.