1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Denham

Giles Jacob, in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 254-57.



An incomparable Poet, whose Virtue and Memory will ever be as dear to all Lovers of Poetry, as his Person was to Majesty, viz. K. Charles the First and Second. His Elegy on Mr. Cowley rendered his Name famous to Posterity; and his Cooper's Hill has gain'd him immortal Fame. The following Lines in the Poem, on Hunting the Stag, are inimitable.

At length the great and unexpected Sound
Of Dogs and Men his wakeful Ears does wound;
Rous'd with the Noise, he scarce believes his Ear,
Willing to think th' Illusion of his Fear
Had giv'n the false Alarm: But strait his View
Confirms that more than all he fears is true.
Betray'd in all his Strength, the Wood beset,
All Instruments, all Arts of Ruin met;
He calls to mind his Strength, and then his Sped;
His winged Heels, and then his armed Head:
With those t' avoid, with this his Fate to meet,
But Fear prevails, and bids him trust his Feet [....]

In the same Poem, his Lines on the Thames vastly surpass all Descriptions of Rivers, either of the Antient or Modern Poets of our own, or any other Nation; they are,

Thames, the most lov'd of all the Ocean's sons
By his old Sire, to his Embraces runs;
Hasting to pay his Tribute to the Sea,
Like mortal Life to meet Eternity.
Tho' with those Streams he no Resemblance hold,
Whose Foam is Amber, and their Gravel Gold;
His genuine and less guilty Wealth t' explore:
Search not the Bottom, but survey his Shore:
O'er which he kindly spreads his spacious Wing,
And hatches Plenty for th' ensuing Spring;
Nor then destroys it with too fond a Stay,
Like Mothers who their Children overlay:
Nor with a sudden and impetuous Wave,
Like Kings profuse, resumes the Wealth he gave:
No unexpected Inundations spoil
The Mower's Hopes, nor mock the Ploughman's Toil;
But, God-like, he unweary'd Bounty flows,
First loves to do, then loves the Good he does.
Nor are his Blessings, to his Banks confin'd,
But free and common, as the Sea or Wind;
When he, to boast or to dispense his Stores,
Full of the Tribute of his grateful Shores,
Visits the World, and, in his flying Tow'rs,
Brings Home to us, and makes both Indies ours.
O could I flow like thee, and make thy Stream
My great Example, as it is my Theme!
Tho' deep, yet clear; tho' gentle, yet not dull;
Strong, without Rage, without O'erflowing, full;
Heav'n her Eridanus no more shall boast,
Whose Fame's in thine, like lesser Currents, lost:
Thy nobler Streams shall visit Jove's Abodes,
To shine among the Stars, and bathe the Gods.

The Simile of the Thames running to the Sea, to Man's Life meeting Eternity, is the finest that ever was, for its prodigious Strength and religious Application; and the many other Allusions and Similies have their Beauties and Excellencies difficult to be describ'd. The Life of this celebrated Poet is written in my first Volume of this Work.