1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Waller

Giles Jacob, in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 220-23.



The Life and Character of this excellent Poet I have writ in the former part of this Work; so that I shall here make it my Business to take notice of his admirable Poems only, which are all of them highly worthy Imitation.

I. To King Charles the First on his Navy: Written in the Year 1626. This Poem begins:

Where-e'er thy Navy spreads her Canvas Wings,
Homage to thee, and Peace to all she brings.

II. Instructions to a Painter for drawing the Posture and Progress of his Majesty's Forces at Sea, and the Battel and Victory obtain'd over the Dutch, 1665. III. On the War with Spain, and Fight at Sea by General Montague, in the Year 1656. In this Poem there are these excellent Lines:

The Squadrons soon begin the Tragick Play,
And with their smoaky Cannon banish Day:
Night, Horror, Slaughter, with Confusion meet,
And in their sable Arms embrace the Fleet:
Thro' yielding Planks the angry Bullets fly,
And of one Wound hundred's together die:
Born under diff'rent Stars, one Fate they have,
The Ship their Coffin, and the Sea their Grave.

IV. The Battel of the Summer Islands: In three Canto's. In the first Canto are these Verses to Sacharissa.

O! how I long my careless Limbs to lay
Under the Plantane's Shade, and all the Day
With am'rous Airs my Fancy entertain,
Invoke the Muses, and improve my Vein!
There while I sing, if gentle Love be by,
That tunes my Lute, and winds the Strings so high,
With the sweet Sound of Sacharissa's Name,
I'll make the list'ning Savages grow tame.

V. To the Queen, a Poem; which very much shews the Author's Art of Praising. VI. To the Queen-Mother of France, upon her landing in the Year 1638. VII. Upon the Death of Oliver Cromwell. VIII. To King Charles the Second, on his happy Restoration: Both these last are admirable Poems. IX. On the Lady Mary, Princess of Orange. X. On my Lady Dorothy Sidney's Picture. This Lady was his famous Sacharissa. XI. To Vandike. XII. The Story of Phaebus and Daphne apply'd. This is one of the most gallant and best-turn'd Copies of Verses in the English Tongue: And the Application is to himself and Sacharissa, especially where the Success of his Love is painted in these Lines:

Thyrsis, a Youth of the inspired Train,
Fair Sacharissa lov'd, but lov'd in vain.
All but the Nymph, that should redress his Wrong,
Attend his Passion, and approve his Song:
Like Phaebus thus, acquiring unsought Praise,
He catch'd at Love, and fill'd his Amrs with Bays.

XIII. To the Countess of Carlisle in Mourning. XIV. To my Lord Falkland. XV. To my Lord Leicester. XVI. To the Lord Northumberland, on the Death of his Lady. XVII. Upon Ben. Johnson. XVIII. To Sir William D'Avenant, upon his two first Books of his Gondibert. XIX. Upon the Earl of Roscommon's Translation of Horace, De Arte Poetica. XX. To Mr. Evelyn, upon the Translation of Lucretius. XXI. A la Malade. XXII. On my Lady Isabella playing on the Lute. XXIII. To my Lady Morton on New-Year's Day, 1650. XXIV. To Amoret and Phillis. Mr. Waller has imitated Anacreon very happily in these Pieces, where he begins:

Phillis, why should we delay
Pleasure's shorter than the Day?
Cou'd we (wich we never can)
Stretch our Lives beyond their Span,
Beauty like a Shadow flies,
And our Youth before us dies:
Or wou'd Youth and Beauty stay,
Love has Wings, and will away.

In another Place, speaking of Love, he has these Lines:

All that the Angels do above,
Is that they sing, and that they love.

XXV. On a Girdle. XXVI. The Triple-Combat. This Piece describes the meeting of the Dutchess of Mazarine with the Dutchesses of Portsmouth and Cleaveland. XXVII. To a Friend, on the different Success of their Loves. This Piece ends with these Verses:

So like the Chances of Love and War,
That they alone in this distinguish'd are:
In Love the Victors from the Vanquish'd fly,
They fly that wound, and they Pursue that Die.

XXVIII. Of Divine Love, in six Canto's.

Mr. Waller likewise wrote some other Divine Poems, and a great many other small Pieces; and he is very where happy in fine Metaphors and beautiful Similes.

I shall finish my Account of him, with his excellent Lines on Westminster-Abbey, in his Poem call'd St. James's Park.

From hence we may that antique Pile behold,
Where Royal Heads receive the sacred Gold;
It gives them Crowns, and does their Ashes keep,
There made like Gods, like Mortals there they sleep:
Making the Circle of their Reign compleat,
Those Sons of Empire, where they Rise they Set.