It has been the misfortune of this poet to realize his own aphorism, that "Shame is the chronical disease of popularity, and that from fame to infamy is a beaten road." The favourite of Lord Essex, and the "sometimes darling," of the "plebeian judgments," is now known to many only in the ridicule of Pope. But Quarles will live in spite of the Dunciad. His manly vigour, his uncompromising independence, his disinterested patriotism, and his exalted piety, cannot be entirely forgotten. These are flowers whose blossoms no neglect can wither.
Francis Quarles was born in the spring of 1592, at Stewards, in Romford Town Ward, in the county of Essex. He was descended from a family of great respectability, and possessing estates in the adjoining parishes of Hornchurch, Dagenham, &c. His father, James Quarles, was Clerk of the Green Cloth and Purveyor of the Navy to Queen Elizabeth. He died, November the 16th, 1642, and his death is registered in the church of Romford. Our poet received his early education at a school in the country, probably in the neighbourhood, and is said to have "surpassed all his equals." He was subsequently entered of Christ's College, Cambridge, but whether he took any degree, I have not been able to discover with certainty. He was a resident member of the University in 1608.
From Cambridge he went to Lincoln's Inn, where for some years, as we are informed by his widow, "he studied the laws of England, not so much out of desire to benefit himself thereby, as his friends and neighbours, but to compose suits and differences between them;" so early did the love of peace and virtue awake in his bosom. As he grew older, his attachment to the serene pleasures of a quiet life increased. "He was neither so unfit for Court preferment, nor so ill-beloved there," says his widow, "but that he might have raised his fortunes thereby, if he had had any inclination that way: but his mind was chiefly set upon devotion and study, yet not altogether so much but that he faithfully discharged the place of Cup-bearer to the Queen of Bohemia." Of his appointment to this office, I have not met with any contemporary account. Miss Benger, in her amusing Memoirs of Elizabeth, does not even mention his name. Quarles may have been an actor in the splendid pageant, prepared by the members of Lincoln's Inn, in honour of the nuptials of the Princess, and which is said by Winwood to have "given great content." The fancy of the youthful poet could hardly fail of being fascinated by one who was beautiful enough to will the heart, and. accomplished and amiable enough to retain it. Her name was dear to all the poets of the age. That lovely Canzo of Sir Henry Wotton, beginning, "You meaner beauties of the night," was composed to grace "this most illustrious Princess;" and Donne, when he visited her in Holland, derived "new life" from the contemplation of the happiness of "his most dear Mistress." How long Quarles continued with the Queen is uncertain. Mr. Chalmers conjectures that he left her service on the ruin of the Elector's affairs, and went over to Ireland. This seems probable, for we find him in Dublin in the spring of 1621, from which place he dates his Argalus and Parthenia, on the 4th of March in that year. His connexion with the learned Usher may have commenced at this period, although we possess no information on the subject.
In his youth, Usher had cultivated the Muse, and we may conclude, from the interesting anecdote communicated to Aubrey by Sir John Denham, that he had been acquainted with the author of the Faerie Queen. When Sir William Davenant's Gondibert appeared, Denham asked the Bishop if he had seen it. Out upon him with his vaunting preface," he replied; he speaks against my old friend, Edmund Spenser." But Quarles had qualities more calculated than a poetical fancy to attract the great Prelate's regard; unaffected piety, unwearied industry, and much rapidity and excellence in prose composition. When he published the History of Argalus and Parthenia, Usher was only recently returned to Ireland, on his elevation to the see of Meath; and in the preface, the poet speaks of the work as the "fruit of a few broken hours." It is clear, therefore, that he was employed in severer studies. The poem, he tells us, was "a scion" lately taken out of Sir Philip Sidney's orchard, and "grafted on a crab-stick of his own." The fruit in Sidney's Arcadia has been oftener praised than tasted, and Quarles's "scion" has shared a similar fate. Yet the Fair Parthenia must have been favourably received, for the poet's son, John, published a continuation of it in 1659.
But this was not his first production: he had before written the Feast of Worms, or the History of Jonah, which must have been the earliest effort of his pen, for he calls it his "Morning Muse." In this singular poem, his merits and defects are curiously mingled; there is the same strength, frequently degenerating into coarseness, and the same freedom of touch, and breadth of colouring. The sleepy man whose arms
A drowsy knot upon his careless breast;
and the herd of deer, which startled
—at the fowler's piece, or yelp of hound,
Stand fearfully at gaze—
are natural and pleasing images.
About the same time he wrote the Quintessence of Meditation, and the History of Queen Esther.
His next work was a paraphrase upon Job, interspersed with original meditations. Of this composition, Fuller, the church-historian, thought very highly. The author in his preface calls it a "work difficult and intricate;" and in the imitative parts he was less successful than in those more strictly original. Passages in the Meditations read like fragments from an uncorrected copy of Pope's Essay on Man; they have the strength and roughness which we may suppose to have existed in the draught of that poem, before it grew into perfect harmony beneath the lingering hand of the writer. In the midst of much that is valueless, the mind of the reader is continually startled by pictures of fearful magnificence, or refreshed by touches of pure and gentle description. The fine fable of the Gorgon's head has never been more grandly applied than in these verses, addressed to one deprived of a dear friend.
Advance the shield of Patience to thy head,
And when Grief strikes, 'twill strike the striker dead.
And the comparison, in the third Meditation, of the long-suffering of God to the affectionate care of a nurse, is tenderly worked out:—
Even as a nurse whose child's imperfect pace
Can hardly lead his foot from place to place,
Leaves her fond kissing, sets him down to go,
Nor does uphold him for a step or two:
But when she finds that he begins to fall,
She holds him up, and kisses him withal
So God from man sometimes withdraws his hand
Awhile, to teach his infant faith to stand,
But when he sees his feeble strength begin
To fail, he gently takes him up again.
The plague in 1625, bereaved our poet of one of his best and most esteemed friends, the son of Bishop Aylmer, and he honoured his memory with a collection of Elegies, which must ever be numbered among the most precious tributes of sincere affection, to be found in our language. He gave them the quaint title of "An Alphabet of Elegies upon the much and truly lamented death of that famous for learning, piety, and true friendship, Doctor Ailmer, a great favourer and fast friend to the Muses, and late Archdeacon of London." "Imprinted in his heart, that ever loves his memory."
They are introduced with this short and affecting address:—
"Readers, — Give me leave to perform a necessary duty, which my affection owes to the blessed memory of that reverend Prelate, my much honoured friend, Doctor Ailmer. He was one whose life and death made as full and perfect a story of worth and goodness, as earth would suffer, and whose pregnant virtues deserve as faithful a register as earth can keep. In whose happy remembrance I have here trusted these Elegies to time and your favour. Had he been a lamp to light me alone, my private griefs had been sufficient; but being a sun whose beams reflected on all, all have an interest in his memory."
We know that "true worth and grief were parents" to these tears. Strype has related some interesting anecdotes of Dr. Aylmer, in the Life of Bishop Aylmer. Quarles might well call him a "great favourer and fast friend to the Muses:" his charity was extended not only to the poor of his own neighbourhood, but to all who needed it; to indigent scholars and strangers, especially, his hand and heart were ever open. Fugitives from Spain, Holland, France, Italy, and Greece, were all received with kindness and hospitality; for he remembered that his father had once been an exile for his religion. Besides his numberless private acts of beneficence, he supported several deserving Students at the University. The last days of this good man were "beautiful exceedingly." When asked how he felt, he answered, "I thank God, heart-whole;" and laying one hand on his breast, and lifting up the other to heaven, he said, "The glory above giveth no room to sickness." And when death was rapidly approaching, — "Let my people know," he said, "that their pastor died undaunted, and not afraid of death. I bless my God I have no fear, no doubt, no reluctation, but an assured confidence in the sin-overcoming merits of Jesus Christ."
Quarles's verses are worthy of so noble a subject; the soul of solemn grief is poured into every line. The 6th and 13th Elegies will gain an increased interest from the truth of their allusions, Dr. Aylmer had declared on his death-bed, that his "own eyes" had ever been "his overseers," and it is recorded that he "shut his own eyes with his own hands." Thus the "self-closed eyes" of the poet have a peculiar beauty.
Farewell those eyes, whose gentle smiles forsook
No misery, taught Charity how to look.
Farewell those cheerful eyes, that did erewhile
Teach succour'd. Misery how to bless a smile:
Farewell those eyes, whose mixt aspect of late
Did reconcile humility and state.
Farewell those eyes, that to their joyful guest
Proclaim'd their ordinary fare, a feast.
Farewell those eyes, the loadstars late whereby
The graces sailed secure from eye to eye.
Farewell dear eyes, bright lamps — O, who can tell
Your glorious welcome, or our sad farewell!
I wondered not to hear so brave an end,
Because I knew, who made it, could contend
With death, and conquer, and in open chase
Would spit defiance in his conquer'd face—
And did. Dauntless he trod him underneath,
To show the weakness of unarmed death.
Nay, had report or niggard fame denied
His name, it had been known that Ailmer died,
It was no wonder hear rumour tell
That he, who died so oft, once died so well.
Great Lord of Life, how hath thy dying breath
Made man, whom Death had conquer'd, conquer Death.
Had virtue, learning, the diviner arts,
Wit, judgment, wisdom (or what other parts
That make perfection, and return the mind
As great as earth can suffer) been confin'd
To earth — had they the patent to abide
Secure from change, our Ailmer ne'er had died.
Fond earth forbear, and let thy childish eyes
Ne'er weep for him, thou ne'er knew'st how to prize;
Shed not a tear, blind earth, for it appears
Thou never lov'dst our Ailmer, by thy tears;
Or if thy floods must needs o'erflow their brim,
Lament, lament thy blindness, and not him.
No, no, he is not dead; the mouth of flame,
Honour's shrill herald, would preserve his name,
And make it live, in spite of death and dust,
Were there no other heaven, no other trust.
He is not dead; the sacred Nine deny
The soul that merits fame should ever die.
He lives; and when the latest breath of fame
Shall want her trump to glorify a name,
He shall survive, and these self-closed eyes,
That now lie slumb'ring in the dust, shall rise,
And, flll'd with endless glory, shall enjoy
The perfect vision of eternal joy.
The tautology of the concluding couplet appears to have escaped the poet's notice.
In the same year he printed Sion's Elegies, a paraphrase upon the songs of mourning "wept by Jeremie the prophet." In these Elegies are many noble lines: this sublime prayer for Divine inspiration may be offered as a specimen:—
Thou, Alpha and Omega, before whom
Things past, and present, and things yet to come,
Are all alike; O prosper my designs,
And let thy spirit enrich my feeble lines.
Revive my passion; let mine eye behold
Those sorrows present, which were wept of old;
Strike sad my soul, and give my pen the art
To move, and me an understanding heart.
O, let the accent of each word make known,
I mix the tears of Sion with my own!
Alas! that he who could write thus, should have sacrificed his genius to an impracticable theory!
In 1631, he lost his friend Drayton, whose virtues he commemorated in the epitaph inscribed on his monument in Westminster Abbey.
Do, pious marble, let thy readers know
What they, and what their children, owe
To Drayton's name, whose sacred dust
We recommend unto thy trust.
Protect his memory, and preserve his story,
Remain a lasting monument of his glory.
And when thy ruins shall disclaim
To be the treasurer of his name,
His name, that cannot fade, shall be
An everlasting monument to thee.
In the folio edition of Drayton's works, 1748, these verses are attributed to Ben Jonson, but they are here given to Quarles upon the authority of his intimate friend, Marshall, the "stonecutter of Fetter-Lane," who erected the monument, and told Aubrey that Quarles was the author.
Drayton lived "at the bay-window house, next the east end of St. Dunstan's church, in Fleet-Street," and was generally beloved for the gentleness and amiability of his manners. The puritan and the papist united in his praise; and it has been remarked by his biographer, that if his morals had been worse, his fortune would have been better. His sacred poems, like all his longer productions, are tedious and diffuse; but they are the offspring of an humble and religions mind, and many fine thoughts, bold images, and much commanding versification, are buried in Noah's Flood, Moses, his Birth and Miracles, and David and Goliah. He also composed, during the reign of Elizabeth, a volume of spiritual songs, not included in any edition of his works.
In the same year was published the History of Sampson, a work valuable only for the beautiful letter in which it is dedicated.
"To the uncorrupted lover of all goodness, and my honourable friend, Sir James Fullerton, Knight, One of the Gentlemen of his Majesties Bedchamber, &c.
Sir, — There be three sorts of friends: the first is like a torch, we meet in a dark street; the second is like a candle in a lanthorn, that we overtake; the third is like a link that offers itself to the stumbling passenger. The met torch is the sweet-lipt friend, which lends us a flash of compliment for the time, but quickly leaves us to our former darkness; the overtaken lanthorn is the true friend, which, though it promise but a faint light, yet it goes along with us as far as it can, to our journey's end. The offered link is the mercenary friend, which, though it be ready enough to do us service, yet that service hath a servile relation to our bounty. Sir, in the middle rank I find you, hating the first, and scorning the last to whom, in the height of my undissembled affection, and unfeigned thankfulness, I commend myself and this book, to receive an equal censure from your uncorrupted judgment. In the bud it was yours, it blossomed yours, and now your favourable acceptance confirms the fruit yours, All I crave is, that you would be pleased to interpret these my intentions to proceed from an ardent desire, that hath long been in labour, to express the true affections of him,
That holds it an honour to honour you.
This "honourable friend" had been one of the preceptors of the youthful Usher.
The first edition of the Emblems is supposed to have appeared in 1635. Jackson [William Jackson of Exeter], in his 29th Letter, has this remarkable P.S., "I should have informed you that these Emblems were imitated in Latin, by one Herman Huge, a Jesuit. The first edition of them was in 1623, soon after the appearance of Quarles..... He makes no acknowledgment to Quarles, and speaks of his own work as original." In English poetry, at least, the author of the Thirty Letters had more taste than learning. This "one Herman Hugo" was a person of considerable eminence in his day; he was a philosopher, a linguist, a theologian, a poet, and a soldier, and under the command of Spinola, is said to have performed prodigies of valour. The Pia Desideria, which suggested the Emblems of Quarles, obtained immense success.
Chalmers, while escaping the error of Jackson, has fallen into another, though of minor importance. After alluding to the plates, he says, "The accompanying verses are entirely Quarles's." This is not correct, for although Quarles possessed too original a mind to follow servilely in the track of any man, yet he frequently translated whole lines, and sometimes entire passages, from the Pia Desideria. In general, however, the resemblance is confined to a free paraphrase. Hugo has more Scriptural simplicity, and his occasional meanness of imagery and affectation of manner, are lost in the rapid and sonorous harmony of Latin verse.
"These Emblems," says the writer of an article in the Critical Review [Author's note: For September, 1801, p. 45, commonly attributed to Mr. Southy], "have had a singular fate: they are fine poems upon some of the most ridiculous prints that ever excited meriment; yet the poems are neglected while the prints have been repeatedly republished with new illustrations. In the early part of the last century, a clergyman restored them to Hugo, their original owner, and printed with them a dull translation of Hugo's dull verses. They next fell into the bards of some methodist, who berhymed them in the very spirit of Sternhold; and this is the book which is now generally known by the name of Quarles. In Spain, the same prints have appeared, with a paraphrase of Hugo's verses. In Portugal, they have been twice published; once by a nun who has fitted to them a mystical romance; once for meditations before and after Confession and Communion, and stanzas on the same subjects by Father Anthony of the Wounds, a celebrated Semi-Irishman."
Pope, in one of his letters to Bishop Atterbury, speaking, I suppose, contemptuously of "that great poet Quarles," refers to the strange character of these illustrations. Many of them are copied, in a miserable manner, from Huge, and convey, it must be confessed, no adequate idea of the subjects they are intended to represent. Thus the picture on these words, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" portrays a man sitting within a skeleton. And another, "O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears," &c., exhibits a human figure, with several spouts gushing from it like the spouts of a fountain. And in one of the Emblems of the fifth book, the captivity of the soul to sin is typified by a youth enclosed in an immense cage. These evidences of ill taste in the artist are not without correspondent absurdities in the verses; but the volume contains several poems of uncommon excellence and originality. The following are alone sufficient to elevate their author to a very distinguished seat among his contemporaries.
THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE.
And what's a life? A weary pilgrimage,
Whose glory in the day doth fill the stage
With childhood, manhood, and decrepit age.
And what's a life? The flourishing array
Of the proud summer-meadow, which to-day
Wears her green plush, and is to-morrow hay.
Read on this dial, how the shades devour
My short liv'd winter's day! hour eats up hour
Alas! the totals but from eight to four.
Behold these lilies, which thy hands have made
Fair copies of my life, and open laid
To view, how soon they droop, how soon they fade!
Shade not that dial, night will blind so soon;
My non-ag'd day already points to noon;
How simple is my suit, how small my boon!
Nor do I beg this slender inch to wile
The time away, or falsely to beguile
My thoughts with joy: here's nothing worth a smile.
Emb. iii., book 3.
"O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me in secret, until thy wrath be past."
Ah! whither shall I fly? What path untrod,
Shall I seek out to 'scope the taming rod
Of my offended, of my angry God?
Where shall I sojourn? what kind sea will hide
My head from thunder? Where shall I abide
Until his flames be quench'd, or laid aside?
What if my feet should take their hasty flight,
And seek protection in the shades of night?
Alas! no shades can blind the God of Light!
What if my soul should take the wings of day,
And find some desert? If she springs away,
The wings of vengeance clip as fast as they.
What if some solid rock should entertain
My frighted soul? can solid rocks sustain
The stroke of Justice, and not cleave in twain?
Nor sea, nor shade, nor shield, nor rock, nor cave,
Nor silent deserts, nor the sullen grave,
Where flame-eyed Fury means to smite, can save.
'Tis vain to flee; till gentle Mercy shew
Her better eye, the further off we go,
The swing of Justice deals the mightier blow.
Th' ingenuous child, corrected, doth not fly
His angry mothers hand, but clings more nigh,
And quenches, with his tears, her flaming eye,
Great God! there is no safety here below;
Thou art my fortress; Thou that seem'st my foe,
'Tis Thou that strik'st the stroke, must guard the blow.
It is needless to dwell on the sublimity of these verses; the "flame-eyed Fury," and the sword of Justice swinging from one end of the universe to the other with increasing power, are images worthy of Milton or Aeschylus. One or two detached passages may be added.
Look how the stricken hart that wounded flies
O'er hills and dales, and seeks the lower grounds
For running streams, the whilst his weeping eyes
Beg silent mercy from the following hounds;
At length embost he droops, drops down, and lies
Beneath the burden of his bleeding wounds.
Emb. ii., book 4.
Mark how the widow'd turtle, having lost
The faithful partner of her loyal heart,
Stretches her feeble wings from coast to coast,
Hunts ev'ry path, thinks every shade doth part
Her absent love and her; at length unsped,
She rebetakes her to her lonely bed.
Emb. xii., book 4.
Mr. Jackson has pointed out the exquisite tenderness and originality of the turtle's belief, that "every shade doth part" her from her mate.
Look how the sheep, whose rambling steps do stray
From the safe blessing of her shepherds eyes,
Eftsoon become the unprotected prey
To the wing'd squadron of beleag'ring flies;
Where sweltered with the scorching beams of day,
She frisks from brook to brake, and wildly flies away
From her own self, ev'n of herself afraid;
She shrouds her troubled brows in every glade,
And craves the mercy of the soft removing shade.
The fourth line in the next stanza has been considered to excel the sublime picture of Ruin in the Night Thoughts; the last line is equally grand and impressive.
See how the latter trumpet's dreadful blast
Affrights stout Mars his trembling son!
See how he startles, how he stands aghast,
And scrambles from his inciting throne!
Hark how the direful hand of vengeance tears
The swelt'ring clouds whilst heaven appears
A circle fill'd with flame, and cent'red with his fears
Emb. ix, book 2.
The Emblems were addressed to his "beloved friend, Edward Benlowes," to whom he says, "you have put the theorbo into my hand, and I have played; you gave the musician the first encouragement; the music returneth to you for patronage." It was to this individual that Phineas Fletcher inscribed his Purple Island, and desired to be "known to the world by no other name" than his "true friend." Benlowes was a member of St. John's College, Cambridge, and a picture of him used to hang in the Master's Lodge. Born to the possession of a respectable estate, he became at an early age the patron of poets, and Brent Hall, in Essex, where he resided, was the scene of frequent hospitality. He was the author of several works, and among others of a poem, Theophila, or Love's Sacrifice, now exceedingly rare. Butler, in the character of "a small poet," satirized his poetical attempts with more spleen than propriety. Benlowes was improvident as he was generous, and his latter days were clouded by grief and poverty.
The Hieroglyphics resemble the Emblems. They are dedicated to Mary, Countess of Dorset, whose patronage Drayton obtained for his Sacred Poems. From this lady Quarles received many favours. In the Epistle to the Reader, he styles the Hieroglyphics "an Egyptian dish drest in the English fashion." "They," he says, "at their feasts, used to present a Death's-head at the second course; this will serve for both." There is considerable moral dignity and ingenuity of expression in the third Hieroglyphic. Prefixed to it is a picture of the winds blowing the flame of a taper, with this motto, The wind passeth over it, and it is gone."
No sooner is this lighted taper set
Upon the transitory stage
Of eye-bedarkening night,
But it is straight subjected to the threat
Of envious winds, whose wasteful rage
Disturbs her peaceful light,
And makes her substance waste, and makes her flame less bright.
No sooner are we horn, no sooner come
To take possession of this vast,
This soul-afflicting earth,
But danger meets us at the very womb;
And sorrow with her full-mouth'd blast
Salutes our painful birth,
To put out all our joys, and puff out all our mirth.
Tost to and fro, our frighted thoughts are driven
With ev'ry puff, with every tide
Of life-consuming care;
Our peaceful flame that would point up to heaven
Is still disturb'd, and turn'd aside;
And every blast of air
Commits such waste in man, as man cannot repair.
How many "peaceful flames" have thus, in the knowledge of each of us, been tuned away from their heavenward course until they have become extinguished in the dull vapours of the earth we inhabit.
The eccentricities of Quarles were not confined to the style of his poetry the measures in which he wrote were equally singular. In the Hieroglyphics he gave some examples of his skill in the construction of the pyramidal stanza. Yet there is something peculiarly impressive in this harmony "long drawn out," and swelling by degrees into a fuller and grander tone:—
How short a span
Was long enough of old,
To measure out the life of man;
In those well-tempered days, his time was then
Survey'd, cast up, and found but three score years and ten....
Our new-born light
Attains to full-ag'd noon!
And this, how soon, to gray-hair'd night
We spring, we bud, we blossom, and we blast,
Ere we can count our days, our days they flee so fast!
In all the notices I have seen of Quarles, he is said to have remained in Ireland until the breaking out of the rebellion in 1641, and then to have fled for safety to England. The following extract from the Journals of the Court of Aldermen, kindly furnished to me by the City Remembrancer, will correct this mistake. "February 4, 1639. Item — This day, at the request of the Right Honourable the Earl of Dorset, signified unto this Court by his letter, This Court is pleased to retain and admit Francis Quarles to be the Cities Chronologer; to have, hold, and enjoy the same place with a fee of one hundred nobles per annum, during the pleasure of this Court, and this payment to begin from Xmas last."
The office of Chronologer has been long abolished, and its duties are now very imperfectly understood, but they chiefly consisted in providing pageants for the Lord Mayor at stated periods; and in the Records of the City of London is an entry which states that Quarles' predecessor was reprimanded for having omitted to prepare the necessary show. The salary amounted to £33 6s. 8d., a considerable sum nearly two hundred years ago. Quarles held this situation until his death, and "would have given that City," says his wife "(and the world), a testimony that he was their faithful servant therein; if it had pleased God to bless him with life to -perfect what he had begun." What this work was, is not known; no other mention of him occurs in the minute-books.
His new preferment did not make him idle. The Enchiridion, a collection of brief essays and aphorisms, came out in 1641. "If this little piece," observes Mr. Headley, "had been written at Athens, or Rome, its author would have been classed among the wise men of his country." It is divided into two books; the first, being political, is inscribed to the young Prince Charles, and the second to the "fair branch of growing honour and virtue, Mrs. Elizabeth Usher," only daughter of the Archbishop. Usher was at this time in England with his family, and the terms in which Quarles alludes to him, show that their intimacy still continued.
I present your fair hands with this my Enchiridion, to begin a new decade of a blest account. If it add nothing to your well-instructed knowledge, it may bring somewhat to your well-disposed remembrance; if either, I have my end and you my endeavour. The service which I owe, and the affections which I bear your most incomparable parents, challenge the utmost of my ability; wherein if I could light you but the least step towards the happiness you aim at, how happy should I be! Go forward in the way which you have chosen: wherein, if my hand cannot lead you, my heart shall follow you;,and where the weakness of my power shows defect, there the vigour of my will shall make supply,—
Who am covetous of your happiness,
In both kingdoms and worlds,
A very few extracts will explain the merits of this volume: its great defect arises from the frequent use of antithesis, a fault, however, almost compensated by the vigour, the eloquence, and the piety of the sentiments. He had not Seen a guest at the Archbishop's table, and his companion in the study, without gathering something from his stores of learning and wisdom. Dr. Dibdin traces a resemblance between the Enchiridion and the Essays of Sir William Cornwallis, the younger, the first edition of which appeared in 1601-2; but I think there is much more diffuseness about Cornwallis; he has the eccentricity of Quarles without his power. The following specimens will, it is hoped, lead the reader to the work itself:—
As thou art a moral man, esteem thyself not as thou art, but as thou art esteemed; as thou art a Christian, esteem thyself as thou art, not as thou art esteemed; thy price in both rises and falls as the market goes. The market of a moral man is wild opinion. The market of a Christian is a good conscience.
If thou expect Death as a friend, prepare to entertain it; if thou expect Death as an enemy, prepare to overcome it. Death has no advantage but when it comes a stranger.
THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE.
In the commission of evil, fear no man so much as thyself; another is but one witness against thee; thou art a thousand: another thou may'st avoid, but thyself thou canst not. Wickedness is its own punishment.
In thy apparel avoid singularity, profuseness, and gaudiness. Be not too early in the fashion, nor too late. Decency is the half way between affectation and neglect. The body is the shell of the soul; apparel is the husk of that shell. The husk often tells you what the kernel is.
The political horizon had long been lowering, and Quarles, who foresaw many of the calamities which soon after fell upon the country, put forth a few "Thoughts upon Peace and War," full of mild wisdom and christian patriotism.
The "bleeding nation" was constantly at his heart. "His love to his king and country," says his widow, "in these late unhappy times of distraction, was manifest, in that he used his pen, and poured out his continual prayers and tears, to quench this miserable fire of dissension, while too many others added daily fuel to it." Some of these earnest supplications are contained in the prayers and Meditations. "Bless this kingdom, O God," he exclaimed; "establish it in piety, honour, peace, and plenty; forgive all her crying sins, and remove thy judgments far from her..... Direct thy church in doctrine and discipline, and let all her enemies be converted or confounded." But the torch of discord burned with too fierce a flame to be extinguished by one weak hand. Those wild and lawless passions, which gave occasion to the afflicted Dr. Hammond [Author's note: "See Dr. Hammond's Sermon on Jeremiah, chapter xxxi., 18, edition 1649] to call his native land "a whole Afric of monsters, a desert of wilder men," were every day more fearfully developed. The "dove-like spirit" wandered in vain over the waste of waters, for it found not one olive-leaf to carry back "in token that men were content to hear of peace, and to be friends with God." The humble home of the poet did not escape the general ruin. The publication of the Royal Convert, and his visit to the King at Oxford, attracted the angry notice of the dominant party, who availed themselves of their power to injure him in his estates. Winstanley says, that he was plundered of his books and some rare manuscripts, which he intended for the press. A severer trial soon followed. A petition "full of unjust aspersions was preferred against him by eight men (whereof he knew not any two, nor they him, save only by sight), and the first news of it struck him so to the heart that he never recovered, but said plainly it would be his death." Of the precise nature of this fatal petition, we are ignorant; but it evidently had reference to his religious belief. The closing scenes of his life cannot be more interestingly described than in the words of his affectionate wife, who dwells with fervent love upon the "blessed end of her dear husband," which was "every way answerable to his godly life, or rather (indeed) surpassed it. For as gold is purified by the fire, so were all his Christian virtues more refined and remarkable during the time of his sickness. His patience was wonderful, insomuch that he would confess no pain, even then when all his friends perceived his disease to be mortal; but still rendered thanks to God for his especial love to him, in taking him into his own hands to chastise, while others were exposed to the fury of their enemies, the power of pistols, and the trampling of horses.
"He expressed great sorrow for his sins, and when it was told him that his friends conceived he did thereby much harm to himself, he answered, 'They were not his friends that would not give him leave to be penitent.'
"His exhortations to his friends that came to visit him were most divine; wishing them to have a care of the expense of their time, and every day to call themselves to an account, that so when they came to their bed of sickness, they might lie upon it with a rejoicing heart. And, doubtless, such an one was his; insomuch that he thanked God that whereas he might justly have expected that his conscience should look him in the face like a lion, it rather looked upon him like a lamb; and that God had forgiven him his sins, and that night sealed him his pardon, and many other heavenly expressions to the like effect. I might here add, what blessed advice he gave to me in particular, still to trust in God, whose promise is to provide for the widow and the fatherless, &c. But this is already imprinted on my heart, and, therefore, I shall not need here again to insert it."
His charity in freely forgiving his greatest enemies, was equally Christian-like; and when he heard that the individual, whose vindictive conduct towards him had been the chief cause of his illness, was "called to an account for it," his answer was, "God forbid; I seek not revenge; I freely forgive him and the rest." The only uneasiness he endured arose from the doubts which had been maliciously expressed with regard to his firm devotion to the Protestant church.
"The rest of his time was occupied in contemplation of God and meditations upon the Holy Scriptures; especially upon Christ's sufferings, and what a benefit those have, that by faith could lay hold on him, and what virtue there was in the least drop of his precious blood; intermingling here and there many devout prayers and ejaculations, which continued with him as long as his speech; and after, as we could perceive by some imperfect expressions. At which time, a friend of his exhorting him to apply himself to finish his course here, and prepare himself for the world to come, he spoke in Latin to this effect: — 'O sweet Saviour of the world, let thy last words upon the cross, be my last words in the world. Into thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit; and what I cannot utter with my mouth, accept from nay heart and soul:' which words being uttered distinctly, to the understanding of his friend, he fell again into his former contemplations and prayers; and so quietly gave up his soul to God, the 8th day of September, 1644, after he had lived two and fifty years, and lieth buried in the parish church of St. Leonard's, in Foster Lane."
Such was the delightful termination of an active and well-spent life. Though his death was an irreparable loss to his family, yet it was gain to him, who, in the words of his friend, Mr. Rogers, "could not live in a worse age, nor die in a better time." He was removed in mercy from the evil to come. If he had lived, he would only have beheld the rapid gathering of that tempest which he had so earnestly prayed might pass away; the decay of that religion of which he was a meek-hearted disciple; and the sufferings and persecutions of a Master whom he enthusiastically loved. The assertion of Pope that Quarles received a pension from Charles the First, requires confirmation; but the monarch had a heart to feel, and a disposition to cherish the qualities he observed in the author of the Emblems. Who can regret, then, that the poet fell asleep, before the night came upon him!
He was mourned by many friends, and his talents and virtues formed the theme of pens, "neither mean nor few." The verses to his memory, by James Duport, the accomplished Greek professor at Cambridge, ought to be particularly mentioned. They have all the graceful ease of his happiest manner:—
Quis serta coelo jam dabit? aut pium
Emblema texet fioribus ingeni?
Quis symbolorum voce picta
Una oculos animumque pascet? &c. &c.
In delineating his private life, we are happy to borrow again the pencil of his wife. "He was the husband of one wife, by whom he was the father of eighteen children, and how faithful and loving a husband and father he was, the joint tears of his widow and fatherless children will better express than my pen is able to do. In all his duties to God and man he was conscionable and orderly. He preferred God and religion to the first place in his thoughts, his King and country to the second, his family and studies he reserved to the last. As for God, he was frequent in his devotions and prayers to him, and almost constant in reading or meditating on his holy word.... And for his family, his care was very great over that, even when his occasions caused his absence from it. And when he was at home, his exhortations to us, to continue in virtue and godly life, were so pious and frequent; his admonitions so grave and piercing; his reprehensions so mild and gentle; and (above all) his own example in every religious and moral duty, so constant and manifest, that his equal may be desired, but can hardly be met withal."
From the same affectionate memorialist we learn that he was addicted to no "notorious vice whatsoever;" that was courteous and affable to all, and moderate and discreet in all his actions. His dislike to the tavern festivities of the day, probably tended to produce the antipathy which Mr. Gifford says subsisted between him and Ben Jonson. He was an unwearied student, being rarely absent from his study after three o'clock in the morning. The charm of his conversation was remembered by the bookseller Marriot, who said that it distilled pleasure, knowledge, and virtue, to all his acquaintance.
In his religions creed he was a zealous son of the established church; and it was his dying request to his friends, that they would make it universally known, that "as he was trained up and lived in the true protestant Religion, so in that religion he died." In the latter part of his life he underwent many persecutions, and he seems to allude to his own sufferings in the Persecuted Man. "No sooner had I made a covenant with my God, but the world made a covenant against me, scandalled my name, slandered my actions, derided my simplicity, and despised my integrity. For my profession's sake I have been reproached, and the reproaches of the world have fallen upon me; if I chastened my soul with fasting, it styled me with the name of hypocrite; if I reproved the vanity of the times, it derided me with the name of puritan." His Prayers and Meditations form a lasting monument of his fervid piety. The following beautiful supplications cannot fail of being acceptable to all who can sympathize with the expression of unfeigned devotion:—
"Lord, if thy mercy exceeded not my misery, I could look for no compassion; and if thy grace transcended not my sin, I could expect for nothing but confusion. Oh, thou that madest me of nothing, renew me, that have made myself far less than nothing; revive those sparkles in my soul which lust hath quenched; cleanse thine image in me which my sin hath blurred; enlighten my understanding with thy truth; rectify my judgment with thy word; direct my will with thy spirit; strengthen my memory to retain good things; order my affections; that I may love thee above all things; increase my faith; encourage my hope; quicken my charity; sweeten my thoughts with thy grace; season my words with thy spirit; sanctify my actions with thy wisdom; subdue the insolence of my rebellious flesh; restrain the fury of my unbridled passions; reform the frailty of my corrupted nature; incline my heart to desire what is good, and bless my endeavours that I may do what I desire. Give me a true knowledge of myself, and make me sensible of mine own infirmities; let not the sense of those mercies which I enjoy, blot out of my remembrance those miseries which I deserve, that I may be truly thankful for the one, and humbly penitent for the other. In all my afflictions keep me from despair; in all my deliverances preserve me from ingratitude; that being truly quickened with the sense of thy goodness, and truly humbled by the sight of mine own weakness, I may be here exalted by the virtue of thy grace, and hereafter advanced to the kingdom of thy glory."
"O God, without the sunshine of whose gracious eye, the creature sits in darkness and in the shadow of death; whose presence is the very life and true delight of those that love thee; cast down thine eyes of pity upon a lost sheep of Israel, which has wandered from thy fold into the desert of his own lusts. What dangers can I choose but meet, that have run myself out of thy protection? What sanctuary can secure me, that have left the covert of thy wings? What comfort can I expect, O God, that have forsaken thee, the God of comfort and consolation? Return thee, O great Shepherd of my soul, and with thy crook reduce me to thy fold; thou art my way, conduct me; thou art my light, direct me; thou art my life, quicken me. Disperse these clouds that stand betwixt thy angry face and my benighted soul; remove that cursed bar which my rebellion hath set betwixt thy deafened ear and my confused prayers, and let thy comfortable beams reflect upon me. Leave me not, O God, unto myself; O Lord, forsake me not too long, for in me dwells nothing but despair, and the terrors of Hell have taken hold of me. Remove this heart of stone, and give me, O good God, a heart of flesh, that it may be capable of thy mercies, and sensible of thy judgments; plant in my heart a fear of thy name, and deliver my soul from carnal security; order my affections according to thy will, that I may love what thou lovest, and hate what thou hatest; kindle my zeal with a coal from thine altar, and increase my faith by the assurance of thy love. O holy fire, that always burnest and never goest out, kindle me. O sacred light, that always shinest and art never dark, illuminate me. O sweet Jesus, let my soul always desire thee, and seek thee, and find thee, and sweetly rest in thee; be thou in all my thoughts, in all my words, in all my actions, that both my thoughts, my words, and my actions, being sanctified by thee here, I may be glorified by thee hereafter."
The portrait of Quarles is copied from an engraving by Marshall, and does not realize the flattering account left by the poet's friends, of his personal appearance.
Marriot says, that "his person and mind were both lovely;" but there is nothing in the warlike countenance before us to identify it with the author of the Emblems or the Meditations. Marshall also "wrought" his head, we learn from Aubrey, curiously in plaster, "and valued it for his sake. 'Tis pity it should be lost," adds the antiquary; "Mr. Quarles was a very good man."
In addition to the poems previously mentioned, he wrote Sion's Sonnets, an Elegy on his friend, Dr. Wilson, &c. &c. And after his death were published Solomon's Recantation, a paraphrase on Ecclesiastes, the Virgin Widow, a comedy, and the Shepherd's Oracles, which bear internal proof of having been composed about the year 1632. The Virgin Widow was acted at Chelsea by a "company of young gentlemen," but has little humour to recommend it. Langbaine calls it an innocent production. In Fuller's Abel Redivivus are several poems, the "most part of which," we are told by the quaint Editor, "were done by Master Quarles, father and son, sufficiently known for their abilities therein." The biographer of The Worthies entertained a very friendly feeling towards the poet, with whom he was probably acquainted, and he affirmed, that if Quarles had been contemporary with Plato, he would not only have allowed him to live, but advanced him to an office, in his Commonwealth.
Fuller's book is not of common recurrence, but the following lines on the gentle Melancthon and the martyr Ridley, deserve preservation:—
Would thy ingenious fancy soar and fly
Beyond the pitch of modern poesy?
Or wouldst thou learn to charm the conquer'd ear
With rhetoric's oily magic? Would'st thou hear,
The majesty of language? Wouldst thou pry
Into the bowels of philosophy,
Moral, or natural? Or would'st thou sound
The holy depth, and touch the unfathomed ground
Of deep theology?—
Go, search Melancthon's tomes.
READ in the progress of this blessed story
Rome's cursed cruelty and Ridley's glory:
Rome's sirens' song; but Ridley's careless ear
Was deaf: they charm'd, but Ridley would not hear.
Rome sung preferment, but brave Ridley's tongue
Condemn'd that false preferment which Rome sung.
Rome whisper'd wealth; but Ridley (whose great gain
Was godliness) he wav'd it with disdain.
Rome threatened durance; but great Ridley's mind
Was too, too strong for threats or chains to bind.
Rome thunder'd death; but Ridley's dauntless eye
Star'd in Death's face, and scorn'd Death standing by:
In spite of Rome, for England's faith he stood,
And in the flames he seal'd it with his blood.
In these few verses the poet has presented a rapid and effective picture of Ridley's life; his frequent temptations, his sublime courage, and his holy resignation, are all recollected. No man "star'd in Death's face" (an image of wonderful power) with a more dauntless eye, than he who suffered and died with Latimer.
It would seem, from an Epigram addressed to F. Quarles, by Thomas Bancroft, that he was at one time engaged on a poem descriptive of the life of our Saviour. If completed, it was never published.
Upon the poetical character of Quarles, it will be needless to dwell. We may say of him, in the emphatic words of Dr. Hammond, that he was of an athletic habit of mind, braced into more than common vigour by healthful and ennobling studies, and a pure and virtuous life. There was nothing effeminate in his manners or disposition; he was often ungraceful, but never weak. No man had a correcter notion of the beauty of style, or presented a more striking exception to his own rule: — "Clothe not thy language," he said, "either with obscurity or affectation; in the one thou discoverest too much darkness, in the other, too much lightness. He that speaks from the understanding to the understanding is the best interpreter." It would have been good for his fame if he had practised what he taught. His eccentricity was the ruin of his genius: he offered up the most beautiful offspring of his imagination, without remorse, to this misshapen idol.
The specimens given in the foregoing pages will, perhaps, diminish the prejudice so long entertained against their author. They show that he could write with dignity, simplicity, and pathos, and that if his poetry flowed in a muddy stream, particles of precious gold may be gathered from its channel.
His pencil rather "dashed" than "drew," and he wanted the taste and patience to finish his pictures. He was sublime and vulgar at the impulse of the moment. Sometimes, however, images of great delicacy fell unconsciously from his pen. Evangelus' description of the appearance of the Angel in the Shepherd's Oracles, may be quoted as an example:—
His skin did show,
More white than ivory, or the new fall'n snow,
Whose perfect whiteness made a circling light,
That where it stood, it silvered o'er the night.
As a writer of prose, he deserves very high applause. His style is remarkably flowing, and animated by a Christian benignity of spirit. Without the copious richness of Taylor, or the mystical eloquence of Brown, or the poignant terseness of South, he possesses sufficient force and sweetness to entitle him to a seat in the midst of these great masters of our language. Quarles was not only a fruitful author; he was also a learned and laborious student, and while Secretary to Archbishop Usher, contributed materially to promote the progress of his theological researches. This interesting fact has, I believe, never been noticed; but Usher alludes to his services in a letter to G. Vossius, and speaks of him as a poet held in considerable esteem, among his own countrymen, for his sacred compositions.
Of the widow of Quarles, no records exist. With what patience she endured the loss of one whom she so tenderly loved, or how long she survived him, we know not; but we maybe assured that the blow was tempered to her strength, and that her husband's dying words, that God would be a husband to the widow, received a full and merciful fulfilment.
Of the poet's numerous family, John is alone remembered. He was born in Essex, and afterwards became, Wood says, a member of Exeter College, Oxford, where he bore arms for the King in the garrison of the town; but it is not clear that he ever belonged to the University. We find, from his own relation, that he was indebted for his education to Archbishop Usher, in whose house he appears to have resided.
That little education I dare own I had,
I'm proud to say, from him alone.
His grave advice would oftentimes distill
Into my ears, and captivate my will.
The example of his life did every day
Afford me lectures.
Upon the decease of this prelate, to whom he was sincerely attached, he composed an elegy beginning with those beautiful lines:—
Then weep no more; see how his peaceful breast,
Rock'd by the hand of death, takes quiet rest.
Disturb him not; but let him sweetly take
A full repose; he hath been long awake.
The feet of Sion's watchman must have been weary, and his eyes heavy with sleep! While the royal cause offered any hopes of a prosperous issue, John Quarles continued an active and faithful servant of the king, in whose army he obtained the rank of captain; but when the strength of the loyalists was exhausted by the repeated victories of the Parliament, he "retired to London in a mean condition," and about 1649 bade farewell to England, and went abroad, but in what capacity Wood was ignorant. Upon his return he supported himself by his pen, until he was swept away in the plague of 1665. The place of his burial is unknown. His compositions were very numerous, and by some he was "esteemed a good poet," though deficient in the power and originality of his father.