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poem with the Soul's
Knell or “ Soul dicate a considerably later date as Knil" of Richard Edwards, which well as a different style. Gascoigne mentions in one of his pre- Dismissing these unsatisfactory spefaces, and which he ridicules simple culations, let us return to an examinareaders for supposing to have been writ- tion of the poetical merits of the comten“ in extremity of sickness." This position which has given rise to them. theory would remove its date to a pe- The “ Soul's Errand" has received a riod prior to 1567, the year of Ed- very high commendation from a very wards's death, which seems scarcely high authority. “ The Soul's Eradmissible. If it were so, it is sin- rand,'” Mr Campbell has said, “by gular that so remarkable a poem whomsoever it was written, is a burst should not be found in print long of genuine poetry. I know not how before the publication of the Rhap- that short production has ever affected sody in 1601, while, on the other hand, other readers, but it carries to my imagiit is equally singular if the “ Soul nation an appeal which I cannot easily Knell,” which is mentioned by more account for from a few simple rhymes. than one early writer as well known It places the last and inexpressibly and as having been “commended for awful hour of existence before my a good piece," should not now be at view, and sounds like a sentence of all extant. Were we to indulge in a vanity on the things of this world, very diffident eonjecture as to this last pronounced by a dying man, whose question, we should suggest that Ed. eye glares upon eternity, and whose wards's “ Soul Knell” might be found voice is raised by strength from anoin the pleasing little piece beginning ther world."
This is noble criticism if it were “ O death, rock me on sleep,
justly bestowed. But we confess that Bring me on quiet rest,
we greatly question its soundness. The Let pass my very guiltless ghost
critic seems to have been duped by his Out of my careful brest.'
own poetical genius conspiring with an The burden of this song is certainly in this composition that sublime tone
indulgent taste, and to have discovered favourable to the supposition.
and those solemn features which are the
appropriate characters of the subject, “ Toll on the passing bell,
but which, we fear, are but feebly and Ring out the doleful knell, Let the sound my death tell,
defectively expressed in the attempted For I must die.
representation of them.
Here it is, There is no remedy,
perhaps, that a poet is found to be For now I die."
most fallible as a judge, if, at any
time, by accidental associations or reThe manuscript of this dirge is said laxed attention, the spirit of sound to bear the appearance of having been and searching criticism is biassed in written about the time of Henry VIII., its decisions, or its vigilance laid asleep. and it has been thought to have been The suggestion to a poet's mind of a composed either by, or in the person of, poetical situation or sentiment has in Anne Boleyn ; while Mr Ritson, with itself the effect of poetry, and gross little apparent reason, has ascribed it deficiencies in taste and execution may to George, Lord Rochford, the brother escape his observation, if his excited of that unhappy princess. It seems feelings and conceptions overpower possible that it may have been com.. his faculties of judgment and compariposed by Edwards, who, in 1561, was He sees, then, in the subject of appointed master of the singing-boys his criticism, not what the work truly in Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, and is, but what it might be. He clothes may, in compliment to his mistress, the dead and dull skeleton that is prehave written it in the person of her sented to him with the vigour and mother. Its composition has eminently warmth of life, and
mistakes the images the appearance of having proceeded of his own fancy for the creations of from a practical vocalist, while it the performance before him, which corresponds, more nearly than any has merely roused them from their other piece we remember, with the sleeping-places in his soul. This renow unattached title of Edwards's sult is most likely to occur in the case once celebrated “ Sonl Knell.” The of unpretending and sketch-like pro“ Soul's Errand” appears to us to in- ductions, which disarm the severities
of censure by not appearing to chal- “ Tell faith it's fled the city; lenge a high place in poetical reputa- Tell how the country erreth; tion. It will be further facilitated Tell manhood shakes off pity ; as to those compositions which have Tell virtue least preferreth ; the charm of antiquity on their side,
And if they do reply, and are likely to have been first pre
Spare not to give the lie." sented to the mind while its suscepti- It seems to need no ghost, nor any bilities of pleasure were greater than man about to become one, to tell us its experience or penetration. We
most of these things; and they are readily admit that the first stanza of the
often so tamely expressed, that we « Soul's Errand" is elevated and strik
might suspect they were not all the ing; whether we conceive it to be the
production of the same author who poet's idea that he was then infusing conceived the idea, and composed the his spirit into this dying address to the first stanza of the poem.
But, in world, or adopt the bolder view that truth, the writers of that time seem he was delivering a command to his to have been incapable of retrenching soul itself to visit men after its separa- the weak and unequal things which tion from the body, and denounce their most poets must sometimes write. deceptions. The last verse also, or at
They had not learned “ the last great least the last couplet, has some vigour art of all, the art to blot." They had no and dignity, but these are associated idea, that in the poetical litter, it was with mean expressions, and a feeble generally best to destroy a large proconceit. The intermediate verses, portion of the progeny ; but seem to might, some of them, make tolerable have looked with a parent's partiality prose, but can scarcely be said to con- on even the most rickety of the protain much poetry, while many of them ductions to which they had once given are not merely commonplace, but birth. The poem now before us, like stupid. No calm or unprejudiced many others, would be greatly imcritic, we think, would be startled
proved by abridgement; and, famieither by the glaring eye, or by the liar as it must be to our readers, we supernatural voice of a dying man, in take the liberty of inserting it in reading the following very middling the curtailed shape in which a mastanzas.
turer judgment might perhaps have
originally presented it to the public. “Tell potentates they live, Acting by others' actions,
“ Go, soul, the body's guest, Not loved unless they give,
Upon a thankless errand; Not strong but by their factions.
Fear not to touch the best, If potentates reply,
The truth shall be thy warrant. Give potentates the lie.
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie. “ Tell men of high condition That rule affairs of state,
« Go, tell the court, it glows Their purpose is ambition,
And shines like rotten wood; Their practice only hate :
Go tell the church it shows And if they once reply,
What's good, and doth no good. Then give them all the lie.
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie. « Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending, “ Tell zeal it lacks devotion, Who in their greatest cost
Tell love, it is but lust, Seek nothing but commending ;
Tell time, it is but motion, And if they make reply,
Tell flesh, it is but dust,
And wish them not reply,
“ Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming ;
And stand too much on seeming ;
“ Tell wit, how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness ;
And if they do reply,
“ Tell fortune of her blindness,
welcome. We can scarcely regard it Tell nature of decay ;
here as an indifferent consideration, Tell friendship of unkindness;
that for nearly half a century the Tell justice of delay.
popular poetry of England had And if they dare reply,
shown a character so earnest and Then give them all the lie.
serious, and so faithful to the laws
not ask whether, in any circum“ So when thou hast, as I
stances, Spencer could have descendCommanded thee, done blabbing, ed to the levities of Ariosto ; but we Altho' to give the lie
may be allowed to doubt whether he Deserves no less than stabbing,
would have been encouraged to string Yet stab at thee who will, No stab the soul can kill."
his pure and virtuous lyre at all, ex
cept in a country where the hearts We believe that we have now reach- of men were already attuned to ed the point at which, for the present, better strains than those of luxury we should pause. The extracts we have
The importance of popular given exhaust, according to the ob- poetry in connexion with political jects of our plan, the period previous to feeling has often been noticed : its in1590, the most important era in the his- fluence in fostering and diffusing poetory|of English poetry. In that year ap- tical compositions of a higher class peared the “ Fairy Queen," the bright- than itself is at least equally conspiest effulgence of moral poetry that ever
The floating songs and simroseon the world, and at whose light the ple stanzas that are in the mouths of meaner beauties of the sky must have children and uneducated persons, are paled their ineffectual fires. The as the elements of poetical thought « Fairy Queen" will be for ever felt and and feeling that lead them gradually on admired by all who can feel or ad- to higher attainments than they could mire poetical truth and beauty ; but otherwise reach. They are often the the genius of its author cannot be seeds from which the poetical faculty itfully appreciated except by comparing self springs up, in lonely and neglected his work with those of his predeces- minds, with as much luxuriance, and sors, and ascertaining its immeasur- nearly as much beauty, as in those which able superiority over every thing that have been visited by regular cultivation. his country had yet produced. The The remarks we have now made aponly type of Spencer's spirit is to be ply with the same force to the appear. found in “Sackville's Induction to the ance of Shakspeare's poetry as to that Mirror of Magistrates;" but highly as of Spencer's. He, too, perhaps, we must estimate that composition, needed the assurance of being extenit yet detracts little from the infinite sively loved and understood before he praise of Spencer's varied and sus- could be excited to pour forth with
Whether as a reposi- such boundless profusion those maxtory of the richest poetical language, ims and sentiments of moral wisdom or as a monument of the noblest facul- and beauty which exalt his dramas ties of intellect and imagination, the above even the sublime oracles of the Fairy Queen equally demands our Greek Chorus. The appearance of wonder and our love, in a degree which Spencer and Shakspeare within a can only be surpassed by our rever- year or two of each other bears the ence for the solemn and sublime pur- strongest testimony to the advance poses which were to its author as the that had been made in the materials of muse of his inspiration. Let us be literary taste, and to the solid characforgiven, however, if we intercede for ter, and lofty spirit of that country the poets who preceded Spencer to which produced them with such powers, obtain a milder judgment than if and inspired them to use those powers Spencer had already written ; and let with so true a reference to the duties us not be thought too bold in behalf and destinies of mankind. of the humbler class of whom we have We shall take another opportunity now been treating, if we claim for of following out the subject of this them the praise of being the har. essay, by collecting some of the most bingers of the great moral poet, to pleasing compositions of the minor announce his possible approach, and moralists who appeared subsequently to prepare for him in the breasts of to the era with which we have now his countrymen a wider and a warmer concluded.
“ Hic niger est-hunc tu Romane caveto."-Hor.
“ Upon my honour, sir, my father a fiendish existence of words that, like does not get more than 40 per cent !" vultures, come to the wreck. From This conscientious and genteel speech that day I know an undertaker by haunted me not very long since, du- instinct, and abhor him, as dogs in ring a painful and dangerous illness. China fly from a butcher. Long days It came certainly very mal a-propos ;
and nights did I lie upon my uneasy but having come, would not depart, bed ; and this son of an undertaker like an imp of evil, as it was-for some was at the foot or the head of it conone has observed, or, if not, some one tinually. At one time he brought me might have observed, that words once a list of friends and relatives to attend embodied in sense or sentence have a my funeral, most of whom I thoroughliving existence, the good or bad spi- ly disliked ; at another time he laid rits taking conception in the mind, out the scarfs, and hat-bands, and and birth from the mouth, never to gloves upon my bed, and changed my return again, but invisible agents in curtains into black cloaks. At another the world, that do a world of mischief time he presented me with a book of in it, and often standing in a court of patterns of nicely drawn coffins, and justice against their parents in the coffin-ornaments, tin-lacquered cheflesh-such an imp of evil, I assert, rubims, with wings, cloud, and trumwas that sentence to me, for, having pet. Then stepped out of the room, taken possession of the best room in and came in again with a stone-cutthe house of my brains, it kicked its ter, and his book of monuments and heels there, and called about it lustily, tablets—and then I racked my brain and innumerable were the train of for inscriptions, and he suggested thought-imps that came at its call. many, so abominable, that I was quite “ Upon my honour, sir, my father angry:
Then the discussions upon does not get more than 40 per cent.' the relative merits of stone and marble, Who gave it existence? It was the the cost of cutting per letter ; the son of an undertaker, my dear Euse. clergyman's fee, the clerk's, the sexbius. The occasion this :—I was pre- ton's—if all were to have silk hatsent when the said very genteel youth bands? the charges for pumping the presented the bill for a funeral, a few grave dry. But the worst was when I weeks after my acquaintance had felt that I was in my coffin, and yet buried his father. I am sure the old know all that was going on in the room gentleman never would have slept with about me, just the same as if I had his fathers, could he have read over been purposely gifted with the faculthe items of his last journey, and ties of mesmerism-only I was conwould have again died over the sum. scious of sense of suffocation. Under total. The bill was indeed startling. this new magnetism I saw them carry It was upon a slight remonstrance me out of the room, the ever polite that this nicely.dressed mincing son son of an undertaker pointing the
way. of his father, in about the nineteenth I felt the shock as they knocked against year of his age, and full promise of a; bureau (of which, by the by, I told his trade of bat-bands and scarfs, laid them to take care), in which I had his hand upon the left side of his waist many treasures-alas ! thought Icoat, and unhesitatingly swore like any farewell! never to see them again. I Peer of Parliament—« Upon my hó- very distinctly saw a near relative, to nour, sir, my father does not get above whom I had left, for me and for him, 40 per cent!!” Years have passed too, a handsome legacy, smile with away since I heard this sentence, nor more hilarity than was becoming the have I thought of it in the interim; peculiar situation, and I believed he but that it should just then, above all inwardly thought he should rummage times, when I lay in a feverish state, my bureau. I would call to them and when it appeared by no means to stop— I wished to alter my will improbable that an inquest of " 40 but no utterance came to my wishes. per cents" might be called to sit upon “ This then,” says I, “ is being dead my body, was a remarkable proof of in law."_" I am infant - oh! the rogues !--- they will ransack all — I sible of the first slow motion—then shall have nothing.". " You shall that I was quite dead-in fact, I fell have the bill,” looked the son of an fast asleep ; and when I awoke they undertaker, and “ upon my honour, told me I was better-and the good my father does not get more than 40 surgeon was feeling my pulse, and did per cent." Extortion! miscreant !- look jocund, and I forgave him. But * Lift the poor gentleman cautiously it was some time before I could reover the banisters, and don't hurt the concile myself to the sight of my rewall for the next comer," muttered latives, who had put on a hilarious an oily-faced fellow in damp black, look as they struck against my bureau. the smell of which was awfully suffo. Though I knew perfectly that I was cating. I saw and smelt through the then alive, I had at first a confused boards that covered me. Bang they notion as if I were two persons, one went against the staircase wall, and dead and one alive; then that I the they staggered under me. “ Well living and I the dead were at issue done, Old Scratch,” cried another. I and had a lawsuit, and that I the livwas horrified—was he one of my ing had a decision of the Court of bearers We passed the door of the Chancery in my favour—that my dead room where my mourning friends" self was outlawed for contempt of were assembled. It was open. Who Court, and that the Court below had would believe it? they were in jo- issued an “habeas corpus" against cund conversation. My surgeon, whom him. He was condemned in costs. I had considered the tenderest and The surgeon was plainly metamormost humane of beings, was facetious phosed before my face into Lawyer with the parson; how they, too, were Codicil. I insisted upon discharging “ true” sportsmen-always in at the his bill; he told his clerk to make it death! There was some confusion in out; and then behind him, with his the hall. The great door was open. pen in his hand, I saw the aforesaid I saw the two mutes, the horses of son of an undertaker, who asked him a part of the body of the hearse, if he should tack on more than “forty and heard the wheels of mourning per cent.” coaches behind.
“ Go on," says one. I will not attempt to run through " We can't,” says another. “ Lawyer an hundredth part of the detail of the Codicil isn't come yet," said another. wanderings of these two miserable
"I sent him hatband and gloves,” days and nights, scenes various in said the son of an undertaker, “and a character, but in all of which, in one coach at his door."_“ Coach is re- shape or another, this forty per centturned," said another; “ he can't age was my persecutor. But, while come, he says, but will be here after I am on the subject of this mental dethe funéral to read the will." —
_"Oh, lusion during illness, I will just menhe will, will he," thought I ; but I tion two dreams, the effects of landacouldn't jump out of the coffin, though num, which I do not recollect that I I tried. “ He will take the will for had ever taken before. the deed," said I; “I never will em- It is utterly inconceivable to one ploy Lawyer Codicil again."— There awake and (as he trusts) in his senses are no lawyers where you are going, how such an idea could even enter a something suggested to me; and do into a sick brain. I thought my head you forget you are dead? you are go- was a forest; that there was a battue ing to be buried._" Go on,” said the in it; there were plenty of birds and son of an undertaker. Out came the of sportsmen ; shots were fired, and a procession in cloaks, and he was ran- brace of partridges fell right through ging them in order, two and two. I my eyes to my feet. The shots were saw the paraphernalia, hatbands, &c. suggested only by the slamming of a blown by the wind as we got out of door. doors, but I couldn't feel a breath of The other dream was more painful. it. I have no breath in my body, To understand which it must be told thought I, and therefore the air will that I had suffered under acute inflamhave no sympathy with me; I shall mation, and it had been found necesnever feel it again. Then all the men sary to apply a mustard plaster. And about me looked the most solid sub- here I cannot but remember my own stances I ever beheld ; they had been simplicity, for when my medical friend, all the morning real beef-eaters. They good creature—and he was really my shoved me into the hearse. I was sen- friend, and I ought to be thankful to