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men from such unnatural contentions, describes a bloody battle and dreadful scene of death, occasioned by the mutual feuds which reigned in the families of an English and Scotch nobleman; that he designed this for the instruction of his poem, we may learn from his four last lines, in which, after the example of the modern tragedians, he draws from it a precept for the benefit of his readers.
God save the King, and bless the land
And grant henceforth that foul debate
The next point observed by the greatest heroic poets hath been to celebrate persons and actions which do honour to their country. Thus VIRGIL's hero was the founder of Rome, HOMER's a prince of Greece; and for this reason VALERIUS FLACCUS and STATIUS, who were both Romans, might be justly derided for having chosen the expedition of the Golden Fleece, and the wars of Thebes, for the subjects of their epic writings.
The poet before us has not only found out an hero in his own country, but raises the reputation of it by several beautiful incidents. The English are the first who take the field, and the last who quit it. The English bring only fifteen hundred to the battle, the Scotch two thousand. The English keep the field with fiftythree; the Scotch retire with fifty-five; all the rest on each side being slain in battle. But the most remarkable circumstance of this kind is the different manner in which the Scotch and English kings receive the news of this fight, and of the great mens deaths who commanded in it.
This news was brought to Edinburgh,
O heavy news, King JAMES did say;
I have not any captain more
Of such account as he..
Like tidings to King HENRY came
That PERCY of Northumberland
Now God be with him, said our King,
Sith 'twill no better be,
I trust I have within my realm
Yet shall not Scot nor Scotland say,
And be revenged on them all
For brave Lord PERCY's sake.
This vow full well the King perform'd
In one day fifty knights were slain,
And of the rest of small account
At the same time that our poet shews a laudable partiality to his countrymen, he represents the Scotch after a manner not unbecoming so bold and brave a people.
Earl DOUGLAS on a milk white stead,
Most like a baron bold,
Rode foremost of the company,
Whose armour shone like gold.
His sentiments and actions are every way suitable to an hero. One of us two, says he, must die: I am an earl as well as yourself, so that you can have no pretence for refusing the combat: however, says he, it is a pity, and indeed would be a sin, that so many innocent men should perish for our sakes; rather let you and 1 end our quarrel in single fight.
Ere thus I will outbraved be,
One of us two shall die;
I know thee well, an earl thou art,
But trust me, PERCY, pity it were,
And great offence to kill
Any of these our harmless men,
For they have done no ill.
Let thou and I the battle try,
And set our men aside;
Accurs'd be he, Lord PERCY said,
When these brave men had distinguished themselves in the battle and in single combat with each other, in the midst of a generous parley full of heroic sentiments, the Scotch earl falls; and with his dying words encourages his men to revenge his death; representing to them, as the most bitter circumstance of it, that his rivak saw him fall.
With that there came an arrow keen
Out of an English bow,
Which struck Earl DOUGLAS to the heart,
Who never spoke more words than these,
For why, my life is at end,
Lord PERCY sees my fall.
Merry men, in the language of those times, is no more than a cheerful word for companions and fellow-soldiers. A passage in the eleventh book of VIRGIL'S Eneid is very much to be admired, where CAMILLA in her last agonies, instead of weeping over the wound she had received, as one might have expected from a warrior of her sex, considers only (like the hero of whom we are now speaking) how the battle should be continued after her death.
Tum sic expirans ACCAM ex æqualibus unam
Hactenus, ACCA soror, potui: nunc vulnus acerbum
EN. xi. 820
A gath'ring mist o'erclouds her cheerful eyes,
Bear my last words to TURNUS, fly with speed,
TURNUS did not die in so heroic a manner; though our poet seems to have had his eye upon TURNUS'S speech in the last verse.
Earl PERCY's lamentation over his enemy is generous, beautiful, and passionate. I must only caution the reader not to let the simplicity of the style, which one may well pardon in so old a poet, prejudice him against the greatness of the thought.
Then leaving life, Earl PERCY took
O Christ! my very heart doth bleed
That beautiful line, Taking the dead man by the hand, will put the reader in mind of ENEAS's behaviour towards LAUSUS, whom he himself had slain as he came, to the rescue of his aged father.
At vero ut vultum vidit morientis, et ora
Ora modis Anchisiades pallentia miris ;
Ingemuit, miserans graviter, dextramque tetendit, &c.
EN. X. 822.
The pious prince beheld young LAUSUS dead:
I shall take another opportunity to consider the other
parts of this old song.
NO. 71. TUESDAY, MAY 22. 1711.
Scribere jussit amor.
Love bid me write.
OVID. EP. iv. 10.
THE entire conquest of our passions is so difficult a work, that they who despair of it should think of a lessdifficult task, and only attempt to regulate them. But there is a third thing which may contribute not only to the ease, but also to the pleasure of our lives: and that is, refining our passions to a greater elegance than we receive them from nature. When the passion is love, this work is performed in innocent, though rude and uncultivated minds, by the mere force and dignity of the object. There are forms which naturally create respect in the beholders, and at once inflame and chastise the imagination. Such an impression as this gives an immediate ambition to deserve, in order to please. This cause and effect are beautifully described by Mr DRYDEN in the fable of CIMON and IPHIGENIA. After he has represented CIMON so stupid, that
He whistled as he went, for want of thought,
he makes him fall ino the following scene; and shews its influence upon him so excellently, that it appears as natural as wonderful.
It happen'd on a summer's holiday,
That to the greenwood-shade he took his way;