« VorigeDoorgaan »
and institution that tend to crush, debase, and brutalize him, it has done more to refine the taste, to kindle the imagination, to enlarge the understanding, to give strength to the reasoning powers, and to supply the mind with images of beauty, tenderness, and sublimity, than all other books which have been borne down to us on the stream of time: while our present permanent version has secured for our language what Tithonus begged of Auroraimmortality; and secured, besides, what he forgot to ask-perpetual youth. But above all and beyond all this, it is THE GREAT LEVER FOR ELEVATING THE MORAL WORLD.?
THOMAS SACKVILLE. 1536-1608. THOMAS SACKVILLE, Lord Buckhurst, and ultimately Earl of Dorset and lord high treasurer of England, deserves consideration, if for no other reason, as the author of the first regular English tragedy, entitled “Ferrex and Porrex.” It is also called “The Tragedie of Gorboduc," and was acted before Queen Elizabeth in 1561. The story is this. Gorboduc, an ancient king of Britain, divided, in his lifetime, his kingdom between his sons Ferrex and Porrex. They quarrel for sovereignty, and Porrex kills his brother. Their mother Viden, who loved Ferrex best, revenged his death by entering Porrex's chamber in the night and murdering him in his sleep. The people, exasperated at this, rose in rebellion, and killed both Viden and Gorboduc. The nobility then assembled, collected an army, and destroyed the insurgents.
Every act of this play is closed by something like the chorus of the Greek tragedy, namely, an ode in long-lined stanzas, drawing back the attention of the audience to the substance of what has just passed, and illustrating it by moral reflections. The following ode closes the third act, the moral beauties as well as the spirit of which must strike every reader. Sir Philip Sidney, in his « Defence of Poesy," says that this whole tragedy is “full of notable morality."
1 I cannot but give room to the following just and beautiful remarks of Mrs. Ellis, in her work entitled the “Poetry of Life:"
“ With our established ideas of beauty, grace, pathos, and sublimity, either concentrated in the minutest point, or extended to the widest range, we can derive from the Scriptures a fund of gratification not to be found in any other memorial of the past or present time. From the worm that grovels in the dust beneath our feet, to the track of the leviathan in the foaming deep-from the moth that corrupts the secret treasure, to the eagle that soars above his eyrie in the clouds—from the wild Ass in the desert, to the lamb within the shepherd's fold--from the consuming locust, to the cattle on a thousand hills from the rose of Sharon, to the cedar of Lebanon-from the clear crystal stream, gushing forth out of the ninty rock, to the wide waters of the deluge-from the barren waste, to the fruitful vineyard, and the land flowing with milk and honey–from the lonely path of the wanderer, to the gatherer of a mighty multitude from the tear that falls in secret, to the din of battle and the shout of a triumphant host-from the solitary in the wilderness, to the satrap on the throne-from the mourner clad in his sackcloth, to the prince in purple robes-from the gnawings of the worm that dieth not, to the seraphic vision of the blessed-from the still small voice, to the thunders of Omnipotence-from the depths of hell, to the regions of eternal glory, there is no degree of beauty or deformity, no tendency to good or evil, no shade of darkness or gleam of light, which does not come within the cognizance of the Holy Scriptures; and, therefore, there is no expression or conception of the mind that may not here find a corresponding picture; no thirst for excellence that here may not meet with its full supply; and no condition of humanity excluded from the unlimited scope of adaptation and sympathy comprehended in the language and spirit of the Bible."
The lust of kingdom knows no sacred faith,
Through bloody slaughter doth prepare the ways
O wretched prince! nor dost thou yet record
Thus fatal plagues pursue the guilty race,
The wicked child thus brings to woful sire
The dead black streams of mourning, plaint, and woe. But the poem by which Sackville is best known, entitled “The Mirror for Magistrates.” In it, most of the illustrious but unfortunate characters of English history, from the Conquest to the end of the fourteenth century, are made to pass in review before the poet, who, conducted by Sorrow, descends, like Dante, into the infernal regions. Each character recites his own misfor. tunes in a separate soliloquy. But Sackville finished only the preface called the « Induction," and one legend, the Life of the Duke of Buckingham. He left the completion of the whole to Richard Baldwyne and George Ferrers. These called in others to aid them, and the whole collection or set of poems was published in 1559, with this title, “A Mirror for Magistrates, wherein may be seen, by example of others, with how grievous plagues vices are punished, and how frail and how unstable worldly prosperity is found, even of those whom fortune seemeth most highly to favor."
The whole poem is one of a very remarkable kind for the age, and the part executed by Sackville exhibits a strength of description and a power of drawing allegorical characters scarcely inferior to Spenser, and had he completed the whole, and with the same power as that exhibited in the commencement, he would have ranked among the first poets of England.
ALLEGORICAL CHARACTERS IN HELL.
So was her mind continually in fear,
But let the night's black misty mantles rise,
When, all for nought, she fain would so sustain
SIR THOMAS OVERBURY. 1581_1613.
SIR TAOMAS OVERBURY, a miscellaneous writer, and one of the most finished gentlemen about the court” of James I., is well known by the tragic circumstances of his death. Born of an ancient family in Gloucestershire, after taking his degree at the University of Oxford, he entered the Middle Temple as a law student. But his inclinations turning more to polite literature, he made an effort to advance his fortune at the court, and was successful. But opposing the infamous Countess of Essex in one of her criminal schemes, he was, by her influence, thrown into the Tower, and was soon after taken off by poison administered to him by her means, with the knowledge of her husband. The murder, though committed on the 13th of September, 1613, was not discovered till two years after, when all was brought to light, and four of the parties concerned were executed. But James, to his lasting disgrace, pardoned the two principals, the Countess of Essex and her husband, that base favorite of James, the Earl of Somerset.
The murder of this accomplished man is one of the most disgraceful passages in the history of England, and the sympathy which his fate excited is demonstrated by the many elegies and tributes of grief which were poured forth from all quarters “on the untimely death of Sir Thomas Over. bury, poysoned in the Tower.” Sir Thomas is known in letters, both as a poet and prose writer. In the former character, his chief productions are his once famous poem called “The Wife," and a smaller one callec « The Choice