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That so few yeeres should make thee so much blest,
Is this to die? No: as a ship
Well built, with easie wind
And soonest harbour find:
Quicke was his passage given,
To make them fit for heaven.
Then not for thee these briny teares are spent,
But as the nightingale against the breere,
Here, where without thee all delights
Faile of their pleasing powre;
Methinkes no Aprill showre
But briny teares distill,
Be honour'd by thy quill.
This said, he sigh’d, and with o'er-drowned eyes
Gaz'd on the heavens for what he mist on earth;
Unto his cote with heavy pace
As ever sorrow trode,
Where mirthful swaines abode,” &c.
The Inner Temple Masque has also been thought to have suggested the Comus of Milton. Here, again, it is true that there are some touches which remind the reader of Milton, and the subjects are very similar—being the tempting of Ulysses by Circe, who uses similar inducements and incantations with her son Comus, followed by similar effects. But, as in the case of the Lycidas, the Masque of Comus is, perhaps, the finest poem, of its length, in this or any language; while that of Browne is a meagre sketch, containing but a few lines of poetic beauty. The Syren's song, which they sing to induce Ulysses and his companions to come on shore, has been much commended by Warton.
It has been observed by Mr. Chalmers, that this masque must have been represented when Milton was only twelve years of
age, and it was not printed till many years after his death; so that the chance of his having seen it, is even less than the chance of his having imitated it. Inquiries of this nature are, however, otherwise of no importance than as they indicate the steps which a great poet took to nourish and educate his own genius. For, let all be traced to its source which Milton owed to all the books he ever studied, (and there are frequent marks of Browne having been a considerable favourite,) his glory would not be diminished a scruple.
We can, however, afford no more space to the task which we have been attempting, of restoring William Browne to the possession of the bays which flourished brightly on his brow during his life-time, but quickly withered and have never since revived. We have extracted a sufficient portion from his works to enable all to form their own judgments of his merits. We have claimed no very lofty praise for him; but some share of the attention of the lovers of English poetry, and of those interested in the history of our noble language, we are sure he deserves. He is merely a descriptive poet, and has not attempted to reach the higher walks of poetry. There is no passion of any kind in his productions, nor is there either pathos or humour. His invention, which is esteemed the soul of poetry, gives birth to but a tame and languid progeny of characters and incidents. Yet, with all this, he is a pleasing and amiable poet in his way, and his faults and vices are chiefly attributable to the want of taste, judgment, and knowledge of mankind, incident to the very early age at which he wrote. He seems to have observed the face of nature with the quick eye of a lover, and the scenes and incidents which he could draw from actual experience he has developed with a natural and lively pen. Had he trusted to nature more confidently, and more implicitly followed the bent of his own genius, strengthened by time, he would have excelled in the ethical cast of poetry in which Cowper is so eminent a master, and would, like him, have made his rural observations the ornaments and not the staple of his poetry:-On the contrary, we have a bald and spiritless imitation of the descriptive and allegorical parts of Spenser—and what Spenser, with all the richness and vigour of his genius, failed to render an animated creation, Browne could only be expected to produce lifeless and naked. In the commencement of this article, we observed that he had not succeeded in preserving the character of a shepherd, and it is true so far that the real poet is constantly appearing, and that he is put to most awkward expedients to describe the persons and habits of those he introduces, frequently his contemporaries, as guardians of their flocks; but the
truth is, the whole poems very much bear the appearance of being written by one who had led a shepherd's life, and sang his song to “sounds of pastoral reed.” A young shepherd ignorant of the world, of simple manners, and with a deep love and knowledge of the country, would have written with the same want of taste, the same impotent conception of character, in the same artless and somewhat puerile style of the pastorals of William Browne. There 'is the same tastelessness, the same want of condensation, and of vigorous and manly dashes of genius, that we should expect to meet with in the amiable, simple, and innocent youth, who had been from his infancy leading his flock from plain to plain, and
“telling his tale Under the hawthorn in the dale," far from the haunts of men. Ben Jonson, in a eulogium prefixed to these pastorals, has dealt out to our poet a modicum of sturdy praise. Had he been asked in private, we think, he would have said something like what St. Aubert emphatically observed of Valancourt in the Mysteries of Udolpho, “That young man has never been at Paris.” On the whole his muse cannot be said to possess either the soaring ambition of the eagle, nor yet the equable dignity of the majestic swan; but she is not without the meek and placid beauty of the dove, and, like her, affects the woods, and sends from their recesses many a deep and tender note.
Art. IX. Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Provi
dence; London, 1761.
Mr. Wallace, the author of the work before us, was of the number of those speculators who have delighted to form schemes of ideal felicity for their species. Men of this class, often despised as dreaming theorists, have been found among the best and wisest of all ages. Those, indeed, who have seen the farthest into their nature, have found the surest grounds of hope even for its earthly destiny. Their gentle enthusiasm has been, at the least, innoxious. The belief, that humanity is on the decline—that the energy of man is decaying—that the heart is becoming harder—and that imagination and intellect are dwindling away-lays an icy finger on the soul, confirms the most debasing selfishness, and tends to retard the blessedness which it denies. We propose, therefore, in this article very cursorily to inquire how far the hopes of those who believe that man is, on the whole, advancing, are sanctioned by experience and by reason.
But we must not forget, that, in the very work before us, an obstacle to the happiness of the species is brought forward, which has subsequently been explained as of a dreadful nature, and has been represented as casting an impenetrable gloom over the brightest anticipations of human progress.
We shall first set it forth in the words of Wallace-then trace its expansion and various application by Malthus-and inquire how far it compels us to despair for man.
“Under a perfect government, the inconveniencies of having a family would be so entirely removed, children would be so well taken care of, and every thing become so favourable to populousness, that though some sickly seasons or dreadful plagues in particular climates might cut off multitudes, yet, in general, mankind would encrease so prodigiously, that the earth would at last be overstocked, and become unable to support its numerous inhabitants.
“ How long the earth, with the best culture of which it is capable from human genius and industry, might be able to nourish its perpetually increasing inhabitants, is as impossible as it is unnecessary to be determined. It is not probable that it could have supported them during so long a period as since the creation of Adam. But whatever may be supposed of the length of this period, of necessity it must be granted, that the earth could not nourish them for ever, unless either its fertility could be continually augmented, or, by some secret in nature, like what certain enthusiasts have expected from the philosopher's stone, some wise adept in the occult sciences should invent a method of supporting mankind quite different from any thing known at present. Nay, though some extraordinary method of supporting them might possibly be found out, yet, if there was no bound to the increase of mankind, which would be the case under a perfect government, there would not even be sufficient room for containing their bo
the surface of the earth, or upon any limited surface what
It would be necessary, therefore, in order to find room for such multitudes of men, that the earth should be continually enlarging in bulk, as an animal or vegetable body.
“ Now, since philosophers may as soon attempt to make mankind immortal, as to support the animal frame without food, it is equally certain, that limits are set to the fertility of the earth; and that its bulk, so far as is hitherto known, hath continued always the same, and
probably could not be much altered without making considerable changes in the solar system. It would be impossible, therefore, to support the great numbers of men who would be raised up under a perfect government; the earth would be overstocked at last, and the greatest admirers of such fanciful schemes must foresee the fatal period when they would come to an end, as they are altogether inconsistent with the limits of that earth in which they must exist.
“ What a miserable catastrophe of the most generous of all hu
man systems of government! How dreadfully would the magistrates of such commonwealths find themselves disconcerted at that fatal period, when there was no longer any room for new colonies, and when the earth could produce no farther supplies ! During all the preceding ages, while there was room for increase, mankind must have been happy; the earth must have been a paradise in the literal sense, as the greatest part of it must have been turned into delightful and fruitful gardens. But when the dreadful time should at last come, when our globe, by the most diligent culture, could not produce what was sufficient to nourish its numerous inhabitants, what happy expedient could then be found out to remedy so great an evil?
“ In such a cruel necessity, must there be a law to restrain marriage? Must multitudes of women be shut up in cloisters, like the ancient vestals or modern nuns? To keep a ballance between the two sexes, must a proportionable number of men be debarred from marriage? Shall the Utopians, following the wicked policy of superstition, forbid their priests to marry; or shall they rather sacrifice men of some other profession for the good of the state? Or, shall they appoint the sons of certain families to be maimed at their birth, and give a sanction to the unnatural institution of eunuchs? If none of these expedients can be thought proper, shall they appoint a certain number of infants to be exposed to death as soon as they are born, determining the proportion according to the exigencies of the state ; and pointing out the particular victims by lot, or according to some established rule? Or, must they shorten the period of human life by a law, and condemn all to die after they had compleated a certain age, which might be shorter or longer, as provisions were either more scanty or plentiful? Or what other method should they devise (for an expedient would be absolutely necessary) to restrain the number of citizens within reasonable bounds?
“ Alas ! how unnatural and inhuman must every such expedient be accounted! The natural passions and appetites of mankind are planted in our frame, to answer the best ends for the happiness both of the individuals and of the species. Shall we be obliged to contradict such a wise order? Shall we be laid under the necessity of acting barbarously and inhumanly? Sad and fatal necessity! And which, after all, could never answer the end, but would give rise to violence
For mankind would never agree about such regulations. Force and arms must, at last, decide their quarrels, and the deaths of such as fall in battle leave sufficient provisions for the survivors, and make room for others to be born.
“ Thus the tranquility and numerous blessings of the Utopian governments would come to an end; war, or cruel and unnatural customs, be introduced, and a stop put to the increase of mankind, to the advancement of knowledge, and to the culture of the earth, in spite of the most excellent laws and wisest precautions. The more excellent the laws had been, and the more strictly they had been observed, mankind must have sooner become miserable. The remembrance of former times, the greatness of their wisdom and virtue, would conspire to heighten their distress; and the world, instead of remaining the