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dreary and comfortless records of perplexing History, in remote ages of war and bloodshed.
"There are times when we dare not stir our feelings or our fancies; when the only mode of reconciling ourselves to the excruciating pressure of our sorrows is the encouragement of a dull apathy, which will allow none but the coarser powers of the intellect to operate.
"The production of an Heroic Poem would have nobly employed this illustrious Hero's mighty faculties, during the lamentable years of his unjust incarceration.* But how could he delight to dwell on the tale of Heroes, to whom the result of Heroism had been oppression, imprisonment, ruin, and condemnation to death?
"We have no proof that Raleigh possessed the copious, vivid, and creative powers of Spenser; nor is it probable that any cultivation would have brought forth from him fruit equally rich. But even in the careless fragments now presented to the reader, I think we can perceive some traits of attraction and excellence, which perhaps even Spenser wanted. If less diversified than that gifted bard, he would, I think, have sometimes been more forcible and sublime. His images would have been more gigantic, and his reflections more daring. With all his mental attention keenly bent on the busy state of existing things in political society, the range of his thought had been lowered down to practical wisdom : but other habits of intellectual exercise, excursions into the ethereal fields of fiction, and converse with the Spirits which
* Written doubtless in reference to the poem by A. W. printed above, p. lii. In his note on that poem, Brydges says:-" It well agrees with that which is understood to have been the progress of Raleigh's poetical habits. He began with amorous pieces; he had now, I doubt not, turned his mind to a longer and more important kind of poem; from which probably the continual scenes of activity that he was engaged in soon withdrew him. If his leisure had permitted such an application of his rich and various faculties, I see no reason why he should not have succeeded in so arduous an attempt." It is very unlucky, certainly, that the piece in question was not written by Raleigh.
inhabit those upper regions, would have given a grasp and a colour to his conceptions as magnificent as the fortitude of his soul.
"I lament, therefore, that these idlenesses of a passing hour, thrown forth without care, and scattered without an åttempt at preservation, are all the specimens that we have of Raleigh's poetical genius. To me they appear to justify the praise which I have thus ventured to confer on that genius: but I am well aware that they will be viewed in a very different manner by many others, who will discover nothing in them but the crude abortions of a jejune wit, never worth collecting, and now grown tiresomely obsolete by the changes of Time.
"To him," he concludes, "whose enlarged taste is alive to excellence in every varying fashion of our literature; to him, whose mind is not so narrowed by the severity of a cold discipline, as to refuse to throw on the composition some of the interest derived from the character of the man; to him whose fancy is not too sterile or too cynical to delight in pastoral poetry; to him whose sensibility or ardour can cherish with fondness the very fragments of genius; to him whose love of History is enlightened by imagination and enriched by moral reflection; I consign this imperfect collection of the Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh, with a glow of satisfaction and triumph: yet not unabated by regret at the imperfect manner in which I have performed my task." +
* We have no proof that the "pastoral poetry” in the Collection belongs to Raleigh.
+ This Introduction is dated Jan. 16: 1814: The title-page and Dedica tion bear the date of 1813.
HE various causes of uncertainty, which make it so difficult to draw out a correct list of Raleigh's Poems, had so wide an influence on all the Minor Literature of his time, that it is quite impossible to form a proper estimate of them in one case, without subjoining a few illustrations of their more general effect. There is nothing remarkable in the simple fact that such uncertainty existed; for small pieces which are written chiefly for amusement, and passed about in MS. from hand to hand, would in all ages be assigned to different persons at different times, as the information or fancies of transcribers varied; but there were some peculiar circumstances which made these contradictory accounts more perplexing than usual in the reigns of Elizabeth and James.
This was fully acknowledged at the time. Thus Puttenham complained, that "such among the Nobilitie or gentrie as be very well seene in many laudable sciences, and especially in making or Poesie" were often so "loath to be a knowen of their skill," that if they wrote at all, they either suppressed it agayne, or els suffred it to be publisht without their owne names to it; as if it were a discredit for a Gentleman to seeme learned, and to shew him selfe amorous of any good Art." In another passage, where Raleigh (among several others) is expressly mentioned, he confessed, that how "excellently well" they had written could only be discovered, "if their doings could be found out and made publicke with the rest.”* Even when such poets did not care to conceal their names, they took no measures to secure their rights of authorship; but were quite content for their poems to be dispersed, as Meres says of Shakespeare's
99 66 sugred sonnets," among (their) private friends." Hence
Arte of English Poesie, pp. 16, 49, reprint. Cf. Sidney's Defence of J'oesy, p. 52, ed. Gray.
the praises of their contemporaries, which are sometimes quite unintelligible if we look only to their printed remains, must be constantly understood as referring to poems which have either perished altogether, or are still lying hid among the MS. stores of our public and private Libraries.
Many others were, however, printed; and these claim our first attention. But unfortunately the confusion was increased, instead of lessened, by the manner in which they were committed to the press. In the time of Surrey, they were often set forth on broad-sheets, and then "moralized" by some rhymer of greater zeal than knowledge,—a kind of popularity which would not tend to the advantage of either the true text or the permanent reputation of their authors. With that very perishable class of publications we need not now concern ourselves. The books from which our evidence is more frequently obtained,-such as the three entitled the Phoenix Nest, England's Helicon, and the Poeticall Rhapsodie, with which the reader is sufficiently familiar,—were of a somewhat higher character. But though the publishers of those old Miscellanies, of which several others have been recently reprinted, were generally careful, so far as we can judge, not to affix names on mere conjecture,* they do not yield us much assistance when they give us poems by "Uncertain Authors," or by "a most worthy Gentleman," or by their "dear friends Anonymoi ;" and it rather shakes our confidence in even the very best of them to find Francis Davison complaining, that his printer had put in the signa
* Thus in the Preface to England's Helicon, we are told that no actual names or initials were appended, except on the authority of" some especiall coppy," an assertion which is considerably modified by the accompanying remark, that any one who had been "defrauded of any thing by him composed by another man's title put to the same" would have the opportunity of freely challenging his own in public, by the appearance of that Collection. The occasional substitution of different signatures in that volume proves both the carefulness of the editor and the difficulty he found in getting accurate information. And he made several positive mistakes. that were not corrected, to say nothing of the poems marked Ignoto.
tures without his privity. We should have been spared the necessity of much laborious arguing, if the true nature of those signatures had been borne more constantly in mind, by some who have seen recondite meanings in the vaguest words, and have found deep mysteries in the merest printer's blunders. The frequent use of doubtful initials, also, has often led to error. We are nevertheless compelled, in general, to take these volumes as the basis of our enquiries, except in the few cases where we have the still better evidence of contemporary citations.
The Compilers of a lower grade, who put names upon their title-pages without due authority, occasion still more difficulty. Even during the life-time of an author, an unscrupulous printer would sometimes hurry through the press a volume (like "The Passionate Pilgrim") which he had collected as he could; and which he tried to sell by "gracing the forefront" with an attractive name.* In such cases, reclamations and denials often (though not always) followed; but it was more difficult to rectify the error if the reputed author were no longer living; and the complaints of a despoiled survivor sometimes failed to gain a hearing. Many of the materials for such publications were obtained from Musical Composers, who would often be unable to give a correct account of the various poems which had been entrusted to them years before; and many, which the nominal author of the volume had happened to transcribe, were mixed up with his own productions, if his reputation made it worth while to present the very sweepings of his study to the world.
* As these remarks are confined to Minor, or (as it is called) Fugitive Poetry, I need not do more than refer generally to the artifices often practised by the book-sellers with regard to more important works.— One curious instance of a fraudulent alteration, in a book which comes nearer to our purpose, is mentioned in Mr. Collier's Life of Shakespeare, p. cxvi, note.-There are not many instances of bolder fraud on record than one which occurs much later,-when a new title-page was prefixed to the old ed. of King's Poems, in 1700, ascribing the whole volume to Ben Jonson.