Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

tions which it was the fashion for the admirers of Poetry to form for themselves, matters seem at first to grow worse in. stead of better; for transcribers would often make ingenuity supply the place of information, in their eagerness to adorn their scrap-books with distinguished names.* In authori. ties of that kind, therefore, even such as might be thought most trust-worthy, we are met at once by the contradictory accounts which naturally followed from the different notions men would form of style. Thus among the poems

which are printed from “ Authentic Remains” of the highest cha. racter in Nugæ Antiquæ, one is ascribed to Lord Rochford, which is contained in Sir Thomas Wyatt's own MS., and “is signed with his name in his own handwriting ;”+ and two are said to have been written by John Harington, the father of the Translator of Ariosto, when he was confined in the Tower in 1554, which were inserted with different signatures (and at greater length) in the Paradyse of Daynty Deuises, only twenty-two years after that date. I Again, the authority

* This volume contains many instances of these conjectural accounts. In one case (p. 76, note), several erroneous ascriptions are enumerated, all of which were superseded on better information. If the transcribers had remained in ignorance (as they often would do) these would have been so many different claimants; and if Rel. Wotton. had never reached a second edition, the fist signature, Ignoto, would no doubt have added Raleigh to the number.

+ It is the piece beginning "My lute awake" &c. Nug. Ant. ii. 400, ed. Park; Noti's Wyatt, p. 20. (This was one of the two poems moralized by John Hall, Nott's Appendix to Wyati, Nos, xxviii-ix; and there are two inodern versions of it.) In Park's notes on Walpole (R. and N. Anth. i. 275) and Warton (H. E. P. iii. 43, 53, ed. 1840) be seems to be thinking only of Nott's incidental remark in bis Life of Surrey (p. xx, note), not of the decisive passage in his Notes tu Wyatt (p.545). Wyatt's MS., like the other, came froin the Harington Collection.

$ The first begins“ The lyfe is longe that lothsomely dothe last"— Nng. Ant. ii. 332; Parad. of D. D. p. 43, repr. (Signature,“ D. S.” It has foor additional stanzas.) The second begins “When I looke back, and in my. self behold"-Nug. Ant. ii. 333; Parad. of D. D. p. 11. (Signature, “ L. Vaux.” It has two additional sianzas). But the copies in N. A. appear to be rather compressed than imperfect. Of course I do not pretend to decide between these conflicting statements.-Some far tiner verses in Nog. Ant., viz. those beginning “Whence comes my love? O hearte, disclose"-(ii,

of the same John Harington and his father is adduced by his son, to prove that two metrical fragments which he sent to Prince Henry were written respectively by Henry VI and Henry VIII; yet both are found in the Mirror for Magistrates, where they seem perfectly at home. * In another publication of great respectability, Bishop Corbet, on the authority of an Ashmolean MS., is made to address Prince Charles (afterwards Charles I) in the famous Epigram which Sir John Harington presented to Queen Elizabeth in the character of her "saucy godson.” +

As the conjectures of transcribers would naturally keep pace with the frequency of transcripts, the number of persons to whom a poem is ascribed is generally in proportion to the popularity of the poem itself. The most remarkable of those reprinted in this volume has been assigned to no fewer than six different writers, of the most diversified ranks and characters; and two others have been each attributed to four. It is true that some of these claimants are due to

324), have excited great suspicion. “If these are genuine,” says Mr. Hallam, “and I know not how to dispute it, they are as polished as any written at the close of the queen's reign.” (Introd. to Lit. &c. ii. 120, ed. 1843. See also Ellis, ii. 165, ed. 1811; Campbell, pp. 39, 40, second ed.; Nott's Surrey, p. cclxxix.) But it is confessed that there is already one mistake in the date (1564); and Park's proposal to substitute an earlier date, as the legend prefixed requires, would only make the marvel greater.

* Nug. Ant. i. 386-8; Mirror for Mag. ii. 220, 465, repr.

+ Gilchrist's Corbet, p. 82; Nug. Ant. i. 172.- Another of Mr. Gilchrist's additions to Corbet's poems (in which he followed Waldron) is almost as unfortunate. See p. 222, where he confesses that the piece “ bears no resemblance to” Corbet's “ acknowledged productions,” and adds, that it is ascribed to Herrick in one of the Ashmolean MSS. He should have told us, that Herrick's title rests on far better evidence; for the poem is in bis Hesperides, p. 35, with the heading, “ A Country life: To his Brother, M. Tho: Herrick.” The copy ascribed to Corbet is confessedly imperfect; that printed by Herrick is complete.-- For a third very doubtful case in the same volume, see p. 239; and MS. Malone 21, p. 1.-One of the poems inserted in the old eds. of Corbet belongs to Bp. H. King. See King's Poems, 1843, p. 61.

$ They are, The Lie,—The Farewell to the Vanities of the World,-and the piece known as The Silent Lover. Another guess has produced a fifth claimant to the second of these. See p. 136.

recent conjectures; but this only shews the tendency of such mistakes to multiply in course of time.

These old MS. Collections, however, should not be undervalued; for they must be used, although with caution, as preserving in many cases a truer tradition than has found its way into print. The rage for conjecture would have no influence where an author's name was known; and an obscurer writer would often be revealed to his friends, when a publisher was compelled to affix a name by guess.

Traditions setting forth when and why a poem was composed, of which many examples are cited in this volume, must of course be received with equal caution; as they would often spring from the same spirit of conjecture which has given rise to so many contradictory claims. Our willingness to believe them, when they are well authenticated, should make us all the more careful, when no evidence is given. We need not doubt, for instance, that Raleigh, like Tychbourne,* wrote a few brief lines the night before his execution (p. 75); but when four poems of much greater length are ascribed to the same period (p. 97), we reject the account at once, as arising from confusion and mistake. That a man may have recourse to verse, as the medium of expressing his feelings even in the immediate prospect of a violent death, is no more impossible, than that he should seek the same relief when he is suffering from a disorder which seems likely to prove fatal; and of this we have numerous examples. Thus Sir Henry Wotton, after an attack of fever, sent his friends “a few poor Lines which [his] pains did beget” (p. 50):-Dr. Donne, in addition to some other verses written during illness, composed one piece “in [his]

• The evidence in support of the tradition is in Tychbourne's case unusually ample (see pp. 68.70, and Ritson, Bibl. Poet. p. 361); yet besides the misappropriation of the lines to Raleigh, which is mentioned by Mr. D’Israeli, I think there is a MS. in existence (to which I cannot now refer) where they are assigned to Francis Throckmorton, who was executed in 1584.

[ocr errors]

sickness, March 23: 1630[-1],"* and died on the last day of that month :—Sir Philip Sidney, after he was wounded,

was able to amuse his sick-bed by composing an ode, unfortunately now lost, on the nature of his wound, which he caused to be sung to solemn music, as an entertainment that might soothe and divert his mind from his torments." +

In cases where a tradition of this kind must be rejected, it may often happen, that the author's name rests on far better testimony. This has been sometimes overlooked ; and the falsehood of an unauthorized legend has been held to involve the denial of a writer's claim. But it does not follow that a person never wrote a poem at all, because it can be proved that he did not write it at a particular time. A well-known passage in Gascoigne’s “ Epistle” prefixed to his collected Works (1575) will assist us in establishing this distinction. When he ridiculed those who thought that Lord Vaux's Verses, beginning “I lothe that I did love,” were written on his death-bed, and that Edwards's “ Soulknil” was written in extremity of sickness, he did not mean to deny that Vaux and Edwards really wrote the poems; and he has been followed by our various antiqua

* See Walton's Lives, p. 83, ed. 1796.

+ Gray's Life of Sidney, p. 56. -An imperfect copy of some commonplace verses, said to have been written by Sidney “ a little before his Death,” is found in Winstanley's Poets, 1687, p. 86. I subjoin a better version of them, not because they are genuine,- for as Sidney's parents died a short time before him, the fifth line contains a plain proof of forgery,- but because they form an apt illustration of these traditions in geperal, and because I cannot find that they are mentioned by Zouch or Gray:

“SH PHILIP SYDNEY LYING

ON HIS DEATH-BED.

“ It is not I that dy; I do but leaue an Inne
Where harboured was with me all filthy kinde of sinne:
It is not I that dy; I do but now begin
Into eternall joyes by faith to enter in.

Why mourne ye tben, my parents, friends, and kin?
Lament ye when I lose: why weepe ye when I win?

(MS. Cheth. 8012, p. 86; and MS. Ashm. 781, p. 150.)

ries in his recognition of their claims.* The appended stories, indeed, are asserted (and believed) to be false; but their falsehood has no malign influence on the rights of the two authors in question.

These two traditions seem precisely parallel to that annexed to the poem called “ The Lie;" or, if there is any difference at all, Raleigh's execution makes his case the stronger. For though they had no lack, in that day, of common Malefactors' Ballads, sung to the tune of “ Fortune my Foe,” or printed on broadsheets, with a hideous “ effigies” of the criminal, and a red-letter description of his crime,t something of a higher strain was looked for at the hands of remarkable state-victims; and if no parting-poem was forthcoming, a ready substitute was found in the first suitable copy of verses which came to hand.

Thus, to say

* Lord Vaux's Balian, which was first printed in Tottell's Miscellany, and which is quoted, with singular propriety, by the Grave-diggers in Hamlet, is still a tolerably familiar piece, and may be found in most Collections. It is curious that another of his pieces, which is inserted in the Paradyse of Daynty Deuises, is headed “ In his extreame sycknesse.”- Edwards's “Soulknil” is mentioned below (p. 90). I suppose that it is not known to exist; but there is not a shadow of reason for confounding it with “ The Soul's Errand.” The title would lead us to expect a burthen, something like those of the songs in the Tempest and the Merchant of Venice, or in “ Corydon’s Dolefull Knell” (Percy, ii. 263, ed. 1767). It has been accordingly conjectured, that it may have been the poem,“ O death, rocke me on sleepe," the beginning of which is parodied in 2 Hen. IV.(A. ii. Sc. iv.) and which has been ascribed both to Lord Rochford and his sister, bot to neither on good evidence. See Blackwood's Magazine for Oct. 1838,

p. 466.

+ Of course these were never meant to deceive any one. Such Ballads as those ascribed to Luke Hutton (Collier's Old Ballads, p. 117), Mannington (Ritson's Anc. Songs,ii. 47, ed. 1829),&c., were no doubt produced by scribes of the same kiud. It seems to be in reference to this custom that Row. lands makes his pirate speak of coming to the gallows,

“There, like a swan, to sing my dying hower,
That liv'd a raven, onely to devoure."

(Knaves of Spades and Diamonds, p. 86, Percy Soc. repr.) See also Chappell's Nat. Engl. Airs, ii. 141-2, 19!; Motherwell's Minstresy, p. xxvi.- As Molops reinarks, “ These setter'd Swans chant it most melodiously before their deaths.” (Cartwright's Royall Slave.)

« ÖncekiDevam »