1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Thomas Lodge

Nathan Drake, in Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 306-08.



This gentleman, though possessing celebrity, in his day, as a physician, is chiefly entitled to the attention of posterity as a poet He was a native of Lincolnshire, and born about 1556; educated at Oxford, of which he became a member about 1573, and died of the plague at London, in September, 1625. He has the double honour of being the first who published, in our language, a Collection of Satires, so named, and of having suggested to Shakspeare the plot of his As You Like It. Philips, in his Theatrum Poetarum, characterises him as "one of the writers of those pretty old pastoral songs, which were very much the strain of those times;" but as strangely overlooked his satirical powers; these, however, have been noticed by Meres, who remarks, that "as Horace, Lucilius, Juvenal, Persius and Lucullus are the best for Satyre among the Latins, so with us in the same faculty, these are chiefe: Piers Plowman, Lodge, Hall of Emmanuel Colledge in Cambridge, the author of Pigmalion's Image, etc." The work which gives him precedence, as a writer of professed satires, is entitled A Fig for Momus; containing pleasant Varietie, included in satyrs, Eclogues, and Epistles, by T. L. of Lincolnes Inne, Gent. 1595. It is dedicated to "William, Earle of Darbie," and though published two years before the appearance of Hall's Satires, possesses a spirit, ease and harmony, which that more celebrated poet has not surpassed. Than the following lines, selected from the first satire, we know few which, in the same department, can establish a better claim to vigour, truth, and melody:—

All men are willing with the world to haulte
But no man takes delight to knowe his faulte—
Tell bleer-eid Linus that his sight is cleere,
Heele pawne himself to buy thee bread and beere;—
Find me a niggard that doth want the shift
To call his cursed avarice good thrift
A rakehell sworne to prodigalitie,
That dares not terme it liberalitie;
A letcher that hath lost both flesh and fame,
That holds not letcherie a pleasant game—
Thus with the world, the world dissembles still,
And to their own confusions follow will,
Holding it true felicitie to flie,
Not from the sinne, but from the seeing eie.

The debt of Shakspeare to our author is to be found in a pamphlet entitled Rosalynde: Euphues Golden Legacie, found after his Death in his Cell at Silexdra, by T. L. Gent. The poetical pieces interspersed through this tract correspond with the character given of Lodge's composition by Phillips; for they are truly pastoral, and are finished in a style of great sweetness, delicacy, and feeling. Want of taste, or want of intimacy it with this production, has induced Mr. Steevens to give a very improper estimate of it; "Shakspeare," he remarks, "has followed Lodge's novel more exactly than is his general custom when he is indebted to such worthless originals; and has sketched some of his principal characters, and borrowed a few expressions from it."

The poetry of Lodge is to he gleaned from his pamphlets; particularly from the two which we have mentioned, and from the two now to be enumerated, namely, Phillis: honoured with pastorall sonnets, elegies and amorous delights. Whereunto is annexed, the tragicall complaynt of Elstred, 1593, 4to, and A most pleasant historie of Glaucus and Scilla: with many excellent poems, and delectable sonnets, 1610, 4to. He contributed, likewise, to the Collection termed The Phoenix Nest, 1593, and England's Helicon, 1600; and in the Preface, by Sir Egerton Brydges, to the third edition of the latter Miscellany, so just a tribute is paid to his genius as imperatively demands insertion; more particularly if we consider the obscurity into which this poet has fallen. "In ancient writings," observes the critic, "we frequently meet with beautiful passages; but whole compositions are seldom free from the most striking inequalities; from inharmonious verses; from lame, or laboured and quaint expressions; and creeping or obscure thoughts. In Lodge we find whole pastorals and odes, which have all the ease, polish, and elegance of a modern author. How natural is the sentiment, and how sweet the expression of the following in Old Damon's Pastoral:

Homely hearts do harbour quiet;
Little fear, and mickle solace;
States suspect their bed and diet;
Fear and craft do haunt the palace.
Little would I, little want I,
Where the mind and store agreeth;
Smallest comfort is not scanty;
Least he longs that little seeth.
Time hath been that I have longed
Foolish I to like of folly
To converse where honour thronged,
To my pleasures linked wholly:
Now I see, and seeing sorrow
That the day consum'd returns not:
Who dare trust upon to-morrow
When nor time nor life sojourns not!

"How charmingly he breaks out in The Solitary Shepherd's Song:—

O shady vale O fair enriched meads,
O sacred flowers, sweet fields, and rising mountains;
O painted flowers, green herbs where Flora treads,
Refresh'd by wanton winds and watry fountains!

"Is there one word or even accent obsolete in this picturesque and truly poetical stanza?

"But if such a tender and moral fancy be ever allowed to trifle, is there any thing of the same kind in the whole compass of English poetry more exquisite, more delicately imagined, or expressed with more finished and happy artifice of language, than Rosalind's Madrigal, beginning—

Love in my bosom, like a bee,
Doth such his sweet:
Now with his wings he plays with me,
Now with his feet.
Within mine eyes he makes his rest;
His bed amidst my tender breast
My kisses are his daily feast;
And yet he robs me of my rest.
Ah, wanton, will ye?—

"Compare Dr. Lodge not only with his contemporaries but his successors, and who, except Breton, has so happily anticipated the taste, simplicity, and purity of the most refined age."

Beside his miscellaneous poetry, Lodge published two dramatic pieces, and may be considered as a voluminous prose writer. Seven of his prose tracts are described by Mr. Beloe, and he translated the works of Josephus and Luc. An. Seneca.