1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Niccols

John Payne Collier, "The Cuckow" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 3:48-49.



As far as till now (see p. 41) has been known, this was the author's first production; but he was in his twenty-fourth year, and his work affords proof that he was then a practised versifier. His lines often run with great facility, if not beauty, as may be seen by the following, where he is speaking of the goddess Flora:—

Upon the ground, mantled in verdent hew,
Out of her fruitful lap each day she threw
The choicest flowers that any curious eye
In natures garden ever did espie.
The loftie trees, whose leavie lockes did shake,
And with the wind did daliance seeme to make,
Shee with sweet breathing blossomes did adorne,
That seem'd to laugh the winter past to scorne;
Who, when mild Zephirus did gently blow,
Delightful odors round about did throw,
While joyous birds beneath the leavie shade
With pleasant singing sweet respondence made
Unto the murmuring streames, that seem'd to play
With silver shels that in their bosom lay.

The couplet, "While joyous birds," &c., was caught from Spenser: — "The joyous birds shrowded in cheerful shade," &c. F. Q. Book II. C. 12. St. 71.

In the course of the poem, Niccols has several allusions to Spenser, of whom he was a diligent reader. Malbecco and Helinore are two persons whose names he introduces, and near the end he speaks of "the Bower of Blisse."

As The Beggar's Ape was an imitation of Spenser's Mother Hubberds Tale, so The Cuckow was in some respects a more remote imitation of Drayton's Owl, which had been published in 1604. Niccols was certainly not a poet of original genius; but he had generally good taste, and he understood the use of his mother-tongue. His scholastic attainments were also considerable.