1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Fitzgeffrey

Thomas Park, "The Blessed Birth-Day" Censura Literaria 6 (1806) 234-36.



The blessed Birth-Day, celebrated in some religious Meditations on the Angels' Anthems [...] By Charles Fitz-Geffry, 1634. 4to. 1636. 1654. 12mo.

Charles Fitz-Geffry, says Wood, was born of a genteel family in the country of Cornwall, became a commoner of Broadgate's hall, Oxford, in 1592, took the degrees in arts, entered upon the clerical function, and obtained the rectory of St. Dominic, in his own country, where he was esteemed a pure and learned divine, as before he was an excellent Latin poet. His productions are severally alluded to, in a copy of verses by Hen. Beesely, prefixed to an early edition of the Blessed Birth-Day.

Your younger wit, as taking a delight
In bold atchivements, ventred to recite
The deeds of valiant Drake; who, by your skill
And strong description, goes that voyage still
Which once he did; and, with full blasts of fame,
Yet sailes securely round the earth againe.

Thou, as experience taught you to survey
The world's conditions, your free Muse would play
In various Epigrams; where both for tongue,
Conceit, and choice of verse, you seem to runne
With foremost Martial, and so thrive therein,
That you come nearest to the goale, next him.

But having now retraited from the foame
Of surging youth, and safe at length come home
To quiet age, diviner thoughts inspire
Your pregnant fancy, and with holier fire
Must exercise your soaring braine, to tell
The Natals of our Saviour, which so well
You have displaid, &c.

Fitz-Geffrey obtained the applauses of many cotemporaries for his religious strains, and not without deserving them, since he seems to have performed better than most others, what human intellect can never adequately accomplish. His suitable conception of the high task he had undertaken may be gathered from the following paragraph.

Lascivious songs, vain carols, now avaunt!
And whatso'er prophane throats use to chaunt,
Which through the ear pours poison to the heart;—
A better subject doth this Day impart;
To sacred songs is Sion's Muse inclinde,
Some holy matter fits a holy minde.
Sing we high mysteries in a lowly vein;
The sacred subject which we sing affords
Strong lines, but strong in matter not in words:
For things so high they cannot be exprest
By any words — the plainest are the best.
He who was born so humble, doth refuse
To have his Birth sung by a swelling Muse.
Ill doth a flaunting phrase devotion fit;
We sing to shew our zeal, and not our wit.
Let Gentiles strive to be prophanely wittie,
This Holy Day calls for an holy dittie:
Then let our dittie answer to the Day,
And, with Heav'ns quiristers, let's sing and say—
Glory to GOD on high, in earth be peace,
And let good-will towards Christians never cease!

T. P.