1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Quarles

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 36-37.



From a scarce Print by Marshall, prefixed to his "Enchiridion."

QUARLES is known chiefly by his "Emblems," which, however, we do not think the best of his poetical productions. There is much beauty in parts of his "Argalus and Parthenia," and some of his elegies have great merit: — not that he was a lofty poet, or a very free versifier; but he was an earnest writer in his way, and was occasionally very happy, and even touching in his diction. The face, here presented, of Quarles, has a pinched, but eager look; his whole figure is prim, and somewhat puritanical; his action is cramped; and his writings form, upon the whole, a good running commentary upon his portrait. The following is one of his elegies, and is admired by one of the very best judges of English literature, and our friend, to boot. We quote, once more, upon the strength of his authority, and in order to show our regard for him. The sixteenth Elegy goes to shew the impartiality of death — that he strikes the eagle, and spares the kite, — that

Queens drop away when blue-leg'd Maukin lives,
And courtly Mildred dies, when country Madge survives.

and the seventeenth Elegy thereupon opens thus:

Retract that word, false quill! O let mine eyes
Redeem that language with a thousand tears;
Our Mildred is not dead: How passion lies!
Now ill that sound does relish in these ears!
Can she be dead whose conquering soul defies
The bands of death, and worse than death, the fears?
No, no, she sits enthron'd, and smiles to see
Our childish passions she triumphs, while we
In sorrow, blaze her death, that's death and sorrow free.