1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Quarles

Henry Headley, in Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry (1787; 1810) 2:145-48.



In selecting from this author, I have been obliged to omit many of his beauties, from their unfortunate intermixture witty the most unpardonable vulgarisms; in gathering flowers from such soils, weeds will unavoidably obtrude themselves; in order however that the elegance and exactness of some of his similies, which were too short to be admitted into the body of the book, may not be overlooked, I take the opportunity of introducing them to the reader here, and should think that critic more fastidious than I clear-sighted, who should be displeased with them.

Even as the soil (which April's gentle showers
Have fill'd with sweetness, and enrich'd with flowers)
Rears up her suckling plants, still shooting forth
The tender blossoms of her timely birth,
But if deny'd the beams of cheerly May.
They hang their wither'd heads, and fade away;
So, man, assisted by th' Almighty's hand,
His faith doth flourish and securely stand.
But left awhile, forsook (as in a shade)
It languishes, and nipt with sin doth fade.
Job Militant, Med. vi.

As when a lady (walking Flora's bower)
Picks here a pink, and there a gilliflower,
Now plucks a vi'let from her purple bed,
And then a primrose (the year's maidenhead),
There nips, the briar, here the lover's pansy,
Shifting here dainty pleasures with her fancy,
This on her arm, and that she lifts to wear
Upon the borders of her curious hair:
At length, a rose-bud (passing all the rest)
She plucks, and bosoms in her lily breast.
Hist. of Queen Esther, Sect. vi.

E'en as a hen (whose tender brood forsakes
The downy closet of her wings, and takes
Each its affected way) marks how they feed,
This on that crumb, and that on t' other seed,
Moves as they move, and stays when as they stay,
And seems delighted in their infant play;
Yet (fearing danger) with a busy eye
Looks here and there if aught she can espy
Which (unawares) might snatch a booty from her,
Eyes all that pass, and watches every comer;
Even so the affection, &c.
Job Militant, Sect. i.

Like as the haggard, cloister'd in her mew,
To scour her downy robes, and to renew
Her broken flags, preparing t' overlook
The tim'rous mallard at the sliding brook,
Jets oft from perch to per^ from stock to ground.
From ground to window, thus surveying round
Her dove-befeather'd prison, till at length
(Calling her noble birth to mind, and strength
Whereto her wing was born) her ragged beak
Nips off her jangling jesses, strives to break
Her jingling fetters, and begins to bate
At ev'ry glimpse, and darts at ev'ry grate.
B. III. Emb. i.

Even as the needle. that directs the hour,
(Touch'd with the loadstone) by the secret power
Of hidden nature, points upon the pole;
Even so the wavering powers of my soul,
Touch'd by the virtue of thy spirit, flee
From what is earth. and point alone to Thee.
Job Mil. Med. iv.

In the beautiful song of "Sweet William's Farewell," the sailor with great propriety adapts a nautical term from his own art:

Change as ye list, ye winds; my heart shall be
The faithful compass that still points to thee.

In perusing Quarles, I have occasionally observed that he has sometimes taken thoughts from the works of Lord Sterling, but the passages were hardly worth noticing. Quarles was indebted to Herman Hugo for the hint of writing Emblems; the earliest edition I have been able to meet with is that published in 1623 at Antwerp, in tolerable good Latin Elegies. A translation of it appeared Lond. 1686, by Edm. Arwaker, M.A. who very injudiciously observes, that "Mr. Quarles only borrowed his Emblems, to prefix them to much inferior sense." The earliest edition of Quarles's book, that I have seen, is in 1635; all the prints, from the beginning of the third book, are exactly copied from Hugo, but Hugo himself was not original, as Andrew Alciat, a Milanese lawyer, so early as 1535, published at Paris a volume of Emblems. Thuanus gives a great character of this writer. Hist. Lib. 8. A small Edit. of Alciat's work, with the observations of C. Minos, partially extracted, was published at Geneva. There is a pretty thought in one of the emblems, which consists of a helmet turned into a beehive, and surrounded on all sides with its inhabitants; the motto is, "Ex bello pax." I mention it solely to observe, that in the Sonnet sung before Queen Elizabeth at a tilt in the year 1590 at Westminster, and supposed to have been composed by the Earl of Essex, a thought of the same kind occurs:

My helmet now shall make a hive for bees,
And lovers' songs shall turn to holy psalms, &c.
See Vol. III. Evans's Ballads.

The writer of the same song, whoever he was, might have been indebted for the thought to some print of the kind.