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HE scattered lyrical poetry of the Elizabethan age is as voluminous as it is excellent. I attempted to collect a portion of it in an anthology entitled Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-books; and I now add another chapter to the story. It is only by a patient and minute examination that we gradually become aware of the extent and wealth of this fruitful tract of English literature; if we advance too rapidly our survey must needs be defective. In the present volume' I have gathered together the lyrics dispersed among the plays masques, and pageants of the Elizabethan age,— allowing myself the usual privilege of construing the word "Elizabethan" in an elastic sense, so as to include all who "trafficked with the stage" in the days of James I. and Charles I.
Adopting chronological order, I begin with our
1 The ground had been traversed before by the late Robert Bell in his Songs from the Dramatists. My predecessor's labour covered a wider area than mine, Sheridan being the last name in his anthology. My collection, within the limits that I have prescribed to myself, is somewhat fuller than Bell's.
earliest regular comedy, Ralph Roister Doister; the Interlude called Lusty Juventus; and Gammer Gurton's Needle. Then comes John Lyly, who plentifully garnished his comedies with songs, while he never struck a lyrical note in his romance, Euphues. We are indebted to Edward Blount, the enterprising publisher who in 1632 issued a collective edition of Lyly's plays, for the preservation of these songs. They were not included in the original editions of the plays. In those days publishers frequently omitted songs when they put plays to press. Marston's plays, for instance, have come down without any of the songs, though the stage-directions show that songs were provided in abundance.' There is in Lyly's songs a fairy lightness that presents a most refreshing contrast to the pedantic finery of Euphues. Where shall we find a conceit more neatly turned than in those delightful verses, frequently imitated but never equalled, "Cupid and my Campaspe played"? It must be remembered that Lyly's songs were written at a time when our English lyrists were doubtfully feeling their way. Lodge and Breton frequently relapse into the tedious long
1 Yet I can hardly believe that these lost songs were by Marston, and suspect that the players had to procure them from some other quarter. Where plays were represented by companies of boy-actors (as in the case of Lyly and Marston) songs were usually introduced, for the boys had been carefully trained in singing, and opportunities had to be afforded to them of displaying their accomplishment.
winded measures employed by the elder poets; and Greene's touch is not always sure. But there is no fault to be found with Lyly's songs. Would that he had devoted himself to song-writing instead of toiling at his ponderous romance! "Sing to Apollo, God of day," and "O Cupid, monarch over king," are jewels that "from each facet flash a laugh at time."
Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene (unlike Lyly) have no songs in their plays, but relieved the tedium of their romances by frequent lyrical interludes. Greene's romances and love-pamphlets are insipid reading; but the poetry interspersed is frequently excellent. There is no sweeter cradle-song than "Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee,” which was written about the time when he cruelly deserted his wife and young children. The story of his miserable life is too well known. He died at thirty, worn out by his excesses. In his last sickness none of his boon companions came near him; but he was visited by a former mistress, the mother of his son Fortunatus. He lay in the squalid house of a poor shoemaker, near Dowgate; and on the day before his death he wrote that most pathetic letter to the wife whom he had abandoned,--" Doll, I charge thee, by the love of our youth and by my soul's rest, that thou wilt see this man paid; for if he and his wife had not succoured me, I had died in the streets. Robert Greene." His pious hostess,
in obedience to his last injunction, crowned his dead
body with a garland of bays. Though his life was irregular, no charge of depravity can be brought against his writings. Throughout his novels, he was careful to inculcate rules of virtuous conduct. He lived in the baser parts of London, consorting with thieves and sharpers; but he sang of "Flora and the country green," of wise content and quiet simplicity.
Thomas Lodge candidly acknowledges at times. his indebtedness to foreign originals. In A Margarite of America, 1589, he gives us renderings of several Italian sonnets, and mentions the authors' names. But he is not always careful to express his obligations. In Scylla's Metamorphosis, 1589, he has a dainty poem, beginning
"The earth late choked with showers,
These verses have been justly admired, but it has not been noticed that they are closely imitated from the opening stanzas of a longer poem of Philippe Desportes:
"La terre, naguère glacée,
Est ores de vert tapissée," etc.
Desportes was widely read in England. Indeed Lodge, in A Margarite of America, speaks of his "poetical writings" as "being already for the most