1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Giles Fletcher

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 1:190-91.



GILES FLETCHER was the younger brother of Phineas, and died twenty-three years before him. He was a cousin of Fletcher the dramatist, and the son of Dr. Giles Fletcher, who was employed in many important missions in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and, among others, negotiated a commercial treaty with Russia greatly in the favour of his own country. Giles is supposed to have been born in 1588. He studied at Cambridge; published his noble poem, Christ's Victory and Triumph, in 1610, when he was twenty-three years of age; was appointed to the living of Alderston, in Suffolk, where he died, in 1623, at the early age of thirty-five, "equally loved," says old Wood, "of the Muses and the Graces."

The poem, in four cantos, entitled Christ's Victory and Triumph, is one of almost Miltonic magnificence. With a wing as easy as it is strong, he soars to heaven, and fills the austere mouth of Justice and the golden lips of Mercy with language worthy of both. He then stoops down on the Wilderness of the Temptation, and paints the Saviour and Satan in colours admirably contrasted, and which in their brightness and blackness can never decay. Nor does he fear, in fine, to pierce the gloom of Calvary, and to mingle his note with the harps of angels, saluting the Redeemer, as He sprang from the grave, with the song, "He is risen, He is risen — and shall die no more." The style is steeped in Spenser — equally mellifluous, figurative, and majestic. In allegory the author of the Fairy Queen is hardly superior, and in the enthusiasm of devotion Fletcher surpasses him far. From the great light, thus early kindled and early quenched, Milton did not disdain to draw with his "golden urn." Paradise Regained owes much more than the suggestion of its subject to Christ's Victory; and is it too much to say that, had Fletcher lived, he might have shone in the same constellation with the bard of the Paradise Lost? The plan of our Specimens permits only a few extracts. Let those who wish more, along with a lengthened and glowing tribute to the author's genius, consult Blackwood for November 1835. The reading of a single sentence will convince them that the author of the paper was Christopher North.