1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Beaumont

William Hazlitt, in Lectures chiefly on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (1820; 1845) 138-39.



I have already made mention of the lyrical poems of Beaumont and Fletcher. It appears from his poems, that many of these were composed by Francis Beaumont, particularly the very beautiful ones in the tragedy of The False One, the Praise of Love in that of Valentinian, and another in The Nice Valour, or Passionate Madman, an Address to Melancholy, which is the perfection of this kind of writing.

Hence, all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights
Wherein you spend your folly
There's nought in life sweet,
If man were wise to see't,
But only melancholy,
Oh, sweetest melancholy,
Welcome folded arms and fixed eyes,
A sight that piercing mortifies;
A look that's fasten'd to the ground,
A tongue chain'd up without a sound;
Fountain heads, and pathless groves,
Places which pale passion loves:
Moon-light walks, where all the fowls
Are warmly hous'd, save bats and owls;
A midnight bell, a passing groan,
These are the sounds we feed upon:
Then stretch our bones in a still, gloomy valley;
Nothing so dainty sweet as melancholy.

It has been supposed (and not without every appearance of good reason) that this pensive strain, "most musical, most melancholy," gave the first suggestion of the spirited introduction to Milton's Il Penseroso.