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Cambridge, of which he was successively a scholar and fellow. In 1621, on the presentation of Sir Henry Willoughby, he became rector of Hilgay in Norfolk, which living he probably held till his death in 1650.

The works of Phineas Fletcher consist of “The Purple sland; or, the Isle of Man,” “ Piscatory Eclogues,” and “Miscellaneous Poems," including translations of some of the Psalms of David. “The Purple Island” is a subtle and ingenious allegory of the body and soul of man. Francis Quarles, who meditated a work on the same subject, speaks in raptures of " The Purple Island” by his “ dear friend the Spenser of this age.” It is in anatomy and physiology that Fletcher finds a vehicle for his morality; as Spenser had before, for a kindred purpose, employed the traditions and usages of chivalry. A pastoral form and complexion is given to the poem, as · may be seen from the extract which follows; the Thirsil of the first stanza being nominally the same as he who plays a prominent part in the "Piscatory Eclogues.” The passage we have selected forms the opening of the seventh of the twelve cantos; and is that which, from its being best adapted to stand independently and without its context, has been most often quoted.

“The Purple Island” was published in 1633; although from its dedication, with the “Piscatory Eclogues," and “Miscellaneous Poems,”to the author's friend, Mr. Edward Benlowes, it appears that they were written long before, as Fletcher calls them "raw essays of my very unripe years, and almost childhood.” The following highly appreciative, but not undiscriminating account of Fletcher's great work is from the pen of Mr. Headley, and forms part of the introduction to an octavo volume published in 1816, with this title:-“The Purple Island, a Poem; with the critical remarks of the late Henry Headley, A.B., and a biographical sketch by William Jaques”:

“Were the celebrated Mr. Pott compelled to read & lecture upon the anatomy of the human frame at large, in a regular set of stanzas, it is much to be questioned whether he could make himself understood by the most apprehensive auditor, without the advantage of professional knowledge. Fletcher seems to have undertaken a nearly similar task, as the first five cantos of " The Purple Island” are almost entirely taken up with an explanation of the title; in the course of which the reader forgets the poet, and is sickened with the anatomist. Such minute attention to this part of the subject was a material error in judgment; for which, however, ample amends is made in what follows. Nor is Fletcher wholly undeserving of praise for the intelligibility with which he has struggled through his difficulties, for his uncommon command of words, and facility of metre. After describing the body, he proceeds to personify the passions and intellectual faculties. Here fatigued attention is not merely relieved, but fascinated and enraptured : and notwithstanding his figures, in many instances, are too arbitrary and fantastic in their habiliments, often disproportioned and overdone, sometimes lost in a superfluity of glaring colours, and the several characters in general, by no means sufficiently kept apart; yet, amid such a profusion of images, many are distinguished by a boldness of outline, a majesty of manner, a brilliancy of colouring, a distinctness and

propriety of attribute, and an air of life, that we look for in vain in modern productions, and that rival, if not surpass what we meet with of the kind even in Spenser, from whom our author caught his inspiration. After exerting his creative powers on this department of his subject, the virtues and better qualities of the heart, under their leader Eclecta, or Intellect, are attacked by the vices; a battle ensues, and the latter are vanquished, after a vigorous opposition, through the interference of an angel who appears at the prayers of Eclecta. The poet here abruptly takes an opportunity of paying a fulsome and unpardonable compliment to James I. (stanza 55 of canto xii.), on that account perhaps the most unpalatable passage in the book.

. It is to his honour that Milton read and imitated him, as every attentive reader of both poets must soon discover. He is eminently entitled to a very high rank among our old English classics.”

99

DECAY OF EARTHLY GREATNESS.

The rising Morn lifts up his orient head,

And spangled heavens in golden robes invests; Thirsil upstarting from his fearless bed,

Where useless nights he safe and quiet rests, Unhoused his bleating flock, and quickly thence Hasting to his expecting audience,

Thus with sad verse began their grieved minds incense : “Fond man, that looks on earth for happiness,

And here long seeks what here is never found !
For all our good we hold from heaven by lease,

With many forfeits and conditions bound;
Nor can we pay the fine and rentage due;
Though now but writ and sealed, and giv'n anew,
Yet daily we it break; then daily must renew.
"Why shouldst thou here look for perpetual good,

At every loss 'gainst heaven's face repining?
Do but behold where glorious cities stood,

With gilded tops and silver turrets shining; There now the hart fearless of greyhound feeds, And loving pelican in fancy breeds;

There screeching satyrs fill the people's empty stedes. “Where is the Assyrian lion's golden hide,

That all the East once grasped in lordly paw? Where the great Persian bear, whose swelling prido

The lion's self tore out with rav'nous jaw ? Or he which 'twixt a lion and a pard, Through all the world with nimble pinions fared, And to his greedy whelps his conquered kingdoms

shared ?

1

"Hardly the place of such antiquity,

Or note of these great monarchies we find :
Only a fading, verbal memory,

And empty name in writ is left behind;
But when this second life and glory fades,
And sinks at length in time's obscurer shades,
A second fall succeeds, and double death invades.

“That monstrous beast, which, nursed in Tiber's fen,

Did all the world with hideous shape affray; That filled with costly spoil his gaping den,

And trod down all the rest to dust and clay : His battering horns, pulled out by civil hands, And iron teeth, lie scattered on the sands; Backed, bridled by a monk, with seven heads yoked

stands.

And that black vulture,* which with dreadful wing

O’ershadows half the earth, whose dismal sight Frightened the muses from their native spring,

Already stoops, and flags with weary flight: Who then shall look for happiness beneath? Where each new day proclaims chance, change, and

death, And life itself's as flit as is the air we breathe."

[graphic]

(ABOUT 1588–ABOUT 1623.) GILES FLETCIIER was the son of Dr. Giles Fletcher, sometime "ambassador into Russia," and younger brother of Phineas, the subject of the foregoing notice. Mr.

* The Turk.

66

Ramsey, who married Giles Fletcher's widow, informed Fuller that the poet was born in London. The date of this event was 1588, or a year or two earlier. Giles Fletcher was educated at Westminster and at Trinity College, Cambridge, of which he was chosen fellow. The following scanty record of his short life is transcribed from Fuller, who says that he was one equally beloved of the Muses and the Graces, having a sanctified wit, witness his worthy Poem intituled 'Christ's Victory,' made by him being but bachelour of arts, discovering the piety of a saint, and divinity of a doctor. He afterwards applied himself to school-divinity (cross to the grain of his genius as some conceive), and attained to good skill therein. When he preached at Saint Maries, his prayer before his sermon usually consisted of one entire allegory, not driven but led on, most proper in all particulars. He was at last (by exchange of his living*) settled in Suffolk, which hath the best and worst aire in England, best about Bury, and worst on the sea-side, where (at Alderton) Master Fletcher was beneficed. His clownish and low-parted parishioners (having nothing but their shoos high about them) valued not their pastour according to his worth, which disposed him to melancholy, and hastened his dissolution. I behold the life of this learned poet, like those half-verses in Virgil's Eneids, broken off in the middle, seeing he might have doubled his days according to the ordinary course of nature; whose death happened about the year 1623.” No record of Giles Fletcher is preserved, either in the church or the parish of Alderton.

* The accuracy of this parenthetical assertion of Fuller has been called in question by Mr. Willmott, in his “ Lives of Sacred Poets," on the ground of the improbability that Fletcher should exchange into a neighbourhood whose ungenial air and inhabitants hastened his end. To which objection it my be objected that Fletcher could not know before experience the unkindness to himself either of the air or the people. Perhaps the case is simply an illustration of the very common practice of too sanguine and precipitate adoption of some step which cannot be approved by calculation or subsequent events.

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