Although this work has been mentioned by nearly all bibliographers and biographers, not one of them has produced a specimen from it, nor offered any such criticism as would enable readers to form a judgment of its merits. It is by Thomas Lodge, and is in some respects an imitation of Daniel's Delia, which had come out in the year before, and was twice printed in 1592; (see Vol. I. p. 211.) Lodge's work had not the same degree of popularity, for it was never reprinted, although, in consequence of its excellence, quotations were made from it in poetical miscellanies of the time.
How little these authorities are to be trusted, as regards the ownership of the productions introduced, we have already illustrated from the volume before us, on p. 89 of Vol. I. In the edition of England's Helicon, 1600, 4to, sign. G 3, we meet with a playful poem headed "To Phillis, the faire Sheepheardesse," which is there assigned to S. E. D., i.e. Sir Edward Dyer, when in fact it belongs to Lodge, and is included in his Phillis, 1593. Ellis also gives it to Sir Edward Dyer in his Specimens (II. 186, 1811, as edited by Heber); and, in truth, it is the only piece there selected as a proof of Dyer's abilities. Two other poems were adopted in The Phoenix Nest, 1593, "Muses now help me," and "Now I finde," &c.; but they are properly ascribed to Lodge.
Lodge's name only appears at the end of the prose dedication to the Countess of Shrewsbury, and it is followed by a poem, headed "The Induction," which contains the subsequent elegant tribute to his two predecessors, Spenser and Daniel:—
Goe, weeping Truce-men, in your sighing weedes;
Under a great Mecaenas I have p[l]ast you:
If so you come where learned Colin feedes
His lovely flocke, packe thence, and quickly haste you:
You are but mistes before so bright a sunne,
Who hath the palme for deepe invention wunne.
Kisse Delia's hand for her sweet Prophets sake,
Whose, not affected but well couched, teares
Have power, have worth a marble minde to shake;
Whose fame no Iron-age or time out weares:
Then lay you downe in Phillis lappe and sleepe,
Untill she weeping read, and reading weepe.
Here Spenser is addressed by his pastoral name of Colin, and Daniel alluded to by the title of his earliest poetical production. Lodge's chief merit is as a lyric poet: his heroics are generally heavy and dull, but many of his sonnets, eclogues, and elegies are written with playfulness, grace, and vigor. The following is numbered "Sonnet 13," but it is anything but a sonnet as the term is now, and indeed was then, correctly understood. We ought to remark that we print the poem precisely as it stands in the original, but "guides," in the first line, is surely a misprint:—
Love guides the roses of thy lippes,
And flies about them like a bee:
If I approch, be forward skippes,
And if I kisse, he stingeth me.
Love in thine eyes doth build his bower,
And sleepes within their prettie shine;
And if I looke the boy will lower,
And from their orbes shoote shaftes divine.
Love workes thy heart within his fire,
And in my teares doth firme the same,
And if I tempt, it will retire,
And of my plaintes doth make a game.
Love, let me cull hir choysest flowers,
And pittie me and calme hir eye:
Make soft hir heart, dissolve hir lowers,
Then will I praise thy deitie:
But if thou do not, Love, Ile trulye serve hir
In spight of thee, and by firme faith deserve hir.
Here, in the first line, we should be inclined to read "gives" or "guilds" for "guides." It is purely a lyrical effusion, and of no little grace; but the following aims more at the regularity of the Italian sonnet, though without its rhyming complication, Lodge contenting himself with producing two quatrains and a sestiad:—
Faire art thou, Phillis, I, so faire (sweet mayd)
As nor the sunne nor I have scene more faire;
For in thy cheekes sweete roses are embayde,
And gold, more pure then gold, doth guilde thy haire.
Sweet Bees have hiv'd their hony on thy tongue,
And Hebe spic't hir Necter with thy breath:
About thy necke do all the graces throngs,
And lay such baites as might entangle death.
In such a breast what heart would not be thrall?
From such sweete armes who would not wish embraces?
At thy faire handes who wonders not at all,
Wounder it selfe through ignorance embases!
Yet, nartheleese, tho' wondrous giftes you call these,
My faith is farre more wonderfull then all these.
When the Rev. A. Dyce, in 1833, published his Specimens of English Sonnets, &c., he did not know of one that he could quote from Lodge; but if he had ever seen this poet's Phillis, he would have found many to answer his purpose. Ellis's ignorance of Lodge is remarkable indeed; for he imputes to him (II. 289, edit. 1811) the play of Promos and Cassandra, which was the well-known work of George Whetstone. The last couplet of the preceding "sonnet" affords an instance of constrained double rhyme, often then carried to an absurd extreme, and by no writer more than by Lodge. His fortieth sonnet not only proves his proneness to this defect, but gives a confirmation, if it were needed, of a change of text proposed in Shakspeare's Henry IV. Act V. sc. 3. We will first quote the sonnet, which is of a personal character, and then point out the misprint it contains:—
Resembling none, and none so poore as I,
Poore to the world, and poore in each esteeme,
Whose first borne loves at first obscurd did die,
And bred no fame but flame of bace misdeeme:
Under the ensigne of whose tyred pen
Loves legions forth have maskt, by others masked,
Thinke how I live, wronged by ill tonged men,
Not maister of my selfe, to all things tasked.
Oh! thou that canst, and she that may doe all things,
Support these languishing conceits that perish:
Looke on their growth. Perhaps these sillie small things
May winne this worldly palme, so you doe cherrish.
Homer hath vowd, and I with him doe vowe thys,
He will and shall revive, if you alowe thys.
Here such double rhymes as "all things" and "small things," "vow this" and "allow this," have rather a ludicrous than a pleasing effect. We may easily suppose that the above was written when Lodge was in the lowest stage of poverty, pursued, as we know he was, by a tailor for a small sum, and driven to the stage, both as a dramatist and actor, when he had (as he tells us) the greatest repugnance to it. The note upon Shakspeare is furnished by the sixth line, where "Love's legions forth have maskt," has been misprinted for "Love's legions forth have march'd." In the place referred to in our great dramatist's 1 Henry IV. the opposite misprint has always been preserved, where Hotspur is made to say, — "The king hath many marching in his coats," instead of "The king hath many masking," &c. Lodge was so perversely fond of double rhymes (common and beautiful in Italian poetry) that his fifth sonnet is almost entirely composed of them.
The Complaint of Elstred was evidently introduced by Lodge at the end of his Phillis, 1593, because Daniel had introduced The Complaint of Rosamond at the end of his Delia, 1592. Elstred narrates the story of Locrine, which came out in a dramatic form in 1594, was printed in 1595, and has been falsely imputed to Shakspeare, when, in fact, it belongs to Charles Tylney, the brother of the Master of the Revels. The catastrophe of Lodge's poem is the drowning of Elstred and her daughter Sabrina by the jealous Guendolin, but it is in every respect inferior to Daniel's Rosamond, and in a different form of stanza, six-lines instead of seven. We extract only one, where the immovable resolution of the Queen is likened to the fixed firmness of an oak:—
As climes the ancient shaddow of the field,
The father-oake, whose rootes so deepely enter,
As where the spreading boughes midst heavens doo build,
The rest lyes clos'd in the Tartarean center;
Whom fierce Vulturnus (wonder-working blast)
Nor Southerne healthles wind can overcast.
This style of writing was not Lodge's forte, whose best efforts are all lyrical. His Elstred we consider an undoubted failure.