Though the poems of this author were not published yet were they written, during the age of Shakspeare, and consequently demand our notice in this chapter. He was the elder brother of Francis the dramatic poet, and was born at Gracedieu, in Leicestershire, in 1582. He very early attached himself to poetical studies, and all his productions in this way were the amusements of his youthful days. Of these, the most elaborate is entitled Bosworth Field, a very animated and often a very poetical detail of the circumstances which are supposed immediately to precede and accompany this celebrated struggle. The versification merits peculiar praise; there is an ease, a vigour, and a harmony in it, not equalled, perhaps, by any other poet of his time; many of the couplets, indeed, are such as would be distinguished for the beauty of their construction, even in the writings of Pope. An encomium so strong as this may require some proofs for its support, and among the number which might be brought forward, three shall be adduced as specimens not only of finished versification, but of the energy and heroism of the sentiments which pervade this striking poem.
There he beholds a high and glorious throne,
Where sits a king by lawrell garlands knowne,
Like bright Apollo in the Muses' quires,
His radiant eyes are watchfull heavenly fires,
Beneath his feete pale Envie bites her chaine,
And snaky Discord whets her sting in vaine.
Ferrers, addressing Richard, exclaims,—
I will obtaine to-day, alive or dead,
The crownes that grace a faithful! souldiers head.
"Blest he thy tongue," replies the king, "in thee
The strength of all thine ancestors I see,
Extending warlike armes for England's good,
By thee their heire, in valour as in blood."
On the flight of Catesby, who advises Richard to embrace a similar mode of securing his personal safety, the King indignantly answers
Let cowards trust their horses' nimble feete,
And in their course with new destruction meete;
Gaine thou some houres to draw thy fearefull breath:
To me ignoble flight is worse than death.
Of the conclusion of Bosworth Field, Mr. Chalmers has justly observed, that "the lines describing the death of the tyrant may be submitted with confidence to the admirers of Shakspeare."
The translations and miscellaneous poems of Sir John include several pieces of considerable merit. We would particularly point out Claudian's Epigram on the Old Man of Verona, and the verses on his "dear sonne Gervase Beaumont."
Sir John died in the winter of 1628, aged forty-six.