1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Francis Kynaston

Octavius Graham Gilchrist, "Leoline and Sydanis" Censura Literaria 2 (1806) 333-37.



The two exquisite poems printed in Ellis's "Specimens" naturally attract one to the source from whence they were derived: the major part of the volume containing them is occupied in relating (in stanzas "of the staff of seven," as Puttenham calls them) the loves of Leoline and Sydanis:

On the Virgivian ocean's foaming shore,
Downe at the mountain Snowdon's rocky foot,
Whose cloud-bound head with mists is ever hoar,
So high the sight can scarcely reach unto 't,
(Against whose sides the forked lightrdngs shoot)
A stately castle stood; whilome the seat
Of the old Brittain's King, Arvon the Great.

Here the hero of the tale was born; and as soon as he is introduced to our notice he falls in love with the daughter of Duke Leon, at a sacrifice to Venus. But as "the course of true love," which "never did run smooth," was not to be reversed for this most amiable pair, a "farinee-fac'd" splay-foot gentleman from France,

("Monsieur Marquis Jean Foutre was his name,")

who was present at the wedding, for the nuptials were celebrated, interposes with foul intent to pollute the tide of Leolyne and Sydanis' happiness:

So by the canker-worme the fragrant rose
Is tainted.

To perfect his intent he has recourse (like most of his contemporaries) to magic, and ties a knot and utters a spell, which had such influence on the "Virillity" of the bridegroom, as "twere pity o' my life" to discompose the gravity of the editor by describing. The difficulties to which "the son of Arvon" was opposed, will be better fancied than felt; it may therefore suffice to inform the reader, that his friends in turn had recourse to a druid; who, to obviate the influence of Jean Foutre's magic, administers a potion, the operation of which is similar to that of Shakspeare's Juliet's. The lady now flies to the druid's cave, who, from hatred to King Arvon, that had confined him there, persuades her that it is poison they have communicated, and that it is fit she fly beyond sea, before her pursuers overtake her.

The druid's words, like, the death-boding notes
Of the night raven, or the ominous owl,
Send from their dismal hollow sounding throats—
Or like the noise of dogs, by night that howl
At the departing of a sick man's soul)
Struck terror into Sydanis.

She follows the recommendation of the magician and escapes in a boat to Ireland, disguised, and at length becomes page to the daughter of Dermot king of Eblana. Jean Foutre follows her, but is drowned in the passage. On the third night, the operation of the soporiferous draught being exhausted, the prince rises while the attendants appointed to watch his supposed corse were asleep, and taking with him an esquire, who relates every circumstance by the way, they too embark for Erinland. The body is supposed in the morning to have been stolen by Leoline's father, and King Arvon proceeds to revenge the insult by investing the walls of Caerleon.

Landing in Ireland, Leoline finds the body of the Marquis Jean Foutre cast on the beach, and untying the ribbon which he had given the traitor at his wedding, he dissipates the spell that had caused his debility.

Disguised as Frenchmen, his esquire and Leoline escape to the court of Dermot, where they soon obtain favour; and Sydanis, disguised as a page, negociates between her husband and Mellifant, till she discovers that Leoline is resolved to marry her mistress, supposing his spouse to be dead. This part of the romance contains "unutterable things:" the fears of Sydanis are removed, however, by the refusal of King Dermot to accept Leoline's offer of marriage, as his daughter was promised to Androgios, from Britain, and he returns in disgust to Wales.

Mellifant and Sydanis, unconscious of each other's purpose, resolve to follow him disguised, but the latter is seized and returned to the King, who, missing his daughter and Leoline at the same period, determines to transport his army and attack King Arvon. As he lands at Carleon he is met by Androgios embarking to fetch home his daughter: upon explanation Androgios challenges Leoline to single combat: but as they prepare for battle, a chariot, drawn by eight white swans, appears in the air, which descends bearing Mellifant to the feet of Androgios; at the same time that the spectators anticipated the transmission of one of the heroes from the danger of the combat, as on a well-known occasion,

Hoc Venus, obscuro faciem circumdata niinbo,
Detulit.

By an equally-powerful intervention Sydanis is at the same time restored to Leoline, and so "ends this strange eventful history."

The judgment of Mr. Ellis has anticipated my examination of the latter part of this volume. The following poem, however, may be read not without pleasure.

TO CYNTHIA, ON HER CHANGING.
Dear Cynthia, though thou bear'st the name
Of the pale Queen of night,
Who changing yet is still the same,
Renewing still her light;
Who monthly doth herself conceal
And her bright face doth hide,
That she may to Endymion steal
And kiss him unespied;

Do not thou so, not being sure
When this thy beauty's gone,
Thou such another canst procure
And wear it as thy own;
For the by-sliding silent hours,
Conspirators with grief,
May crop thy beauty's lovely flowers
Time being a sly thief,

Which with his wings will fly away,
And will return no more;
As, having got so rich a prey,
Nature cannot restore.
Reserve thou, then, and do not waste
That beauty which is thine
Cherish those glories that thou hast,
Let not grief make thee pine:

Think that the lily, we behold,
Or July flower may
Flourish, although the mother mould
That bred them be away;
There is no cause, nor yet no sense,
That dainty fruits should rot,
Though the tree die and wither, whence
The apricots were got.

O. G.