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Resound in jubilees
In triumph bring
Your gifts, and sing
• Man drew from man his birth,
But God his noble frame
Sheep by him led,
Preserv'd and fed
In your divine resorts :
His mercies last :
His promise past
Amongst the sacred poets of the seventeenth century, the brothers, Phineas and Giles Fletcher, occupy a high rank. Their father, Dr. Giles Fletcher, was himself an aspirant to poetical fame; and their cousin John, the dramatist, was the associate of Beaumont. The Purple Island, a poem in twelve cantos, by Phineas, well known to students of our early literature, is an allegorical poem, descriptive of the human body and soul. Though this production, as a whole, would not please the more correct and refined taste of the present times, it is the work of a genuine poet, and abounds in fine passages. The following stanzas on the marriage of Christ and his church are from the close of the poem.
• The fair Eclecta, who with widow'd brow,
Her absent Lord long mourn’d in sad array,
This shining robe her Lord himself had wrought,
While he her loss with hundred presents sought,
(Drawing their beams from his most glorious face)
Which with a crystal mix'd, much mends his grace:
Mercy concerning lost man; in the second, Christ's victory on not to have signally failed in such an attempt. This, Fletcher
The golden stars a garland fair did frame
To crown her locks; the sun lay hid for shame,
Where this fair bridegroom leads the blessed way:
Guides your blind steps ; while yet loud summons call
That every wood and hill resounds withal,
While heavenly spheres unto the voices play'd.
Stoop now thy wing, my muse, now stoop thee low :
Hence may'st thou freely play, and rest thee now,
And bathe those beauteous feet,
The news and Prince of Peace.
His mercies to entreat,
Drown all my faults and fears ;
See sin, but through my tears.'
This beautiful poem is divided into four parts : in the first of which, Christ's victory in heaven, we have the solemn consultation
of Justice and earth, his temptation by Satan ; in the third, Christ's triumph over death, a description of circumstances connected with his passion ; in the fourth, Christ's triumph after death, his resurrection, ascension, and glory in heaven. It will be seen that here is ample room for the genius of a Milton; and it is great praise has not done. "His poem is full of beauties; but it is disfigured
by many of the vices of his age, by forced antitheses, unnatural conceits, and by a most absurd mixture of pagan mythology with the solemn truths of revelation. But from the last mentioned blemish the Paradise Lost is not free. The Fletchers evidently took the Faery Queene as their model.
There is true poetic grandeur in the picture of Justice.
· She was a virgin of austere regard,
Into the solid heart, and with her ears
The silence of the thought loud speaking hears,
• No riot of affection revel kept
Sending her eyes to heaven swimming in tears :
And hideous clamors ever struck her ears,
• The winged lightning is her Mercury,
But if her cloudy brow but once grow foul,
The flints do melt, the rocks to water roll,
The interposition of mercy is also well conceived, and beautifully painted; but it is too long for extraction, and abridgment would spoil it..
A few stanzas from the fourth part of this poem will be sufficient, we hope, to inspire our readers with a desire to make themselves familiar with the whole. The author treats of the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
• But now the second morning, from her bower,
The early sun came lively dancing out,
And the brag lambs ran wantoning about,
Say, Earth, why hast thou got thee new attire,
So never let the spiteful canker waste you,
So never let the heavens with lightning blast you, Why go you now so trimly drest, or whither haste you?
Ye primroses and purple violets,
But ah! I need not ask, 'tis surely so,
You all would to your Saviour's triumph go : There would you all await, and humble homage do.
• There might the violet and primrose sweet,
To let the living form his bowels creep,
Unable longer his own dead to keep ; There heaven and earth should see their Lord awake from sleep.
• Toss up your heads, ye everlasting gates,
To climb his angel wings : then open hang
Your crystal doors !' so all the chorus sang
• Hark! how the floods clap their applauding hands,
The trees laugh with their blossoms, and the sound
Of the triumphant shout of praise, that crown'd The flaming Lamb, breaking through heaven hath passage found.
Out leap the antique patriarchs, all in haste, To see the powers of hell in triumph led, And with small stars a garland interchas'd Of olive-leaves they bore to crown his head,
That was before with thorns degloried :
After these flew the prophets, brightly stol'd
In shining lawn, and wimpled manifold,
To which the saints victorious carols sung,
Down from their thrones the dominations flow,
And at his feet their crowns and sceptres throw,
That both the Fletchers owed much to the study of Spenser is evident to an attentive reader of their works. The author of the Faery Queene has had a commanding influence on many of the poets of after times. Nor were these brothers unworthy of so great a master; and even excelled him in devoting their genius to nobler, because more useful, subjects.
Christ's Victory and Triumph will suffer but little by a comparison with the Paradise Regained. If it wants the majestic conception and the lofty diction of Milton, it is in many places equal in melody and beauty of illustration, while it is superior in variety of incident. To us the whole poem is more fall of interest: for the Paradise Regained disappoints the reader, by concluding with Christ's victory over Satan, instead of carrying us through the eventful and awful scenes of the Saviour's life and death. But Fletcher brings his poem to its natural close by accompanying the crucified and triumphant Redeemer to heaven.
The principal and characteristic merit of this poem, however, is not its grandeur as a whole, though in that it is not deficient; but the sweetness of detached passages, the music of its language, and the delicate beauty of its illustrations. Yet these are found, like
gems in the mine, in near connexion with much that is rough and unshapely. The glittering spar and the native gold occur amidst masses of dull and unattractive ore; but the sparkling passages of the poet, like the diamonds and the gold, amply repay the seeker's labor. Some of these beauties we have presented to our readers; and will close our notice of Giles Fletcher with the lovely stanzas which open the third book; and which, though sometimes obscure in meaning, yet delight the ear with their music.
So down the silver streams of Eridan,