1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Browne of Tavistock

Henry Headley, in Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry (1787; 1810) 2:165-66.



There is an unstudied flow of music in many lines of this writer, that perhaps exceeds almost every thing of his contemporaries. The harmony of these lines is remarkable:

Fair was the day, but fairer was the maid
Who that day's morn into the green woods stray'd,
Sweet was the air, but sweeter was her breathing,
Such rare perfumes the roses are bequeathing.
B. II. Song 3.

Every poetical ear will be struck with the resemblance to Collins's: "Sad was the hour, and luckless was the day," &c.

The "simplex munditiis" of Horace is well imitated in the following expression:

—underneath whose shade
Most neat in rudeness nature arbours made.
B. I. Song 4.

The thought in the concluding line of Pope's Epitaph on Gay, has (though I cannot say I see an reason for it,) been in general disapproved of by professed critics:

But that the worthy and the good shall say,
Striking their pensive bosoms — "here lies Gay."

Browne has a similar thought:

No grave befits him but the hearts of men.
Vol. I. p. 143.

But the thought is by no means uncommon; a variety of similar passages might be adduced. The last line but one of the epitaph is more justly liable to objection. I should be glad to be informed of the difference between "the worthy and the good;" it is strange that Johnson, in his criticism on this epitaph, should have omitted to observe, that the second line of it is borrowed from Dryden:

Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child.
To the Memory of Mrs. Killigrew.

In Browne's Pastorals, B. I. Song 5, there occurs a whimsical and ridiculous play upon words, in which echo repeats the two last syllables of the foregoing line which form an answer to it; the same thing occurs in Herbert's Temple, p. 182. Ed. 1709. See also Erasmus's Colloquies. Butler has treated this affectation with his usual humour.