1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Fanshawe

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 45-46.



From a scarce print by Faithorne, prefixed to his "Funeral Sermon."

FANSHAWE is almost unknown to ordinary readers; yet he is one of the most harmonious writers of verse in our language, and he was, moreover, an ambassador, and a man of repute in his time. He has never had justice done to him. We almost wonder that the writers of the "Retrospective Review" should for so long a time have neglected the translator of Camoens and Guarini. Fanshawe's version of the prologue to the Pastor Fido, shews that he possessed an exceedingly fine ear, and some of his minor poems contain beautiful lines, and sparkling images. His "Prologue" (supposed to be spoken by Alfeo, a river of Arcadia) begins thus:—

If from old fame, and peradventure not
Believed at all by you, or else forgot,
O' the amorous brook ye heard the wonder ever,
Which to pursue the coy and flying river
Of his beloved Arethusa, ran
(O, force of love!) piercing the ocean,
And the earth's hidden bowels to that isle,
Where underneath the huge Etnean pile
Upon his back the kicking giant lies,
Spitting despiteful flames at hostile skies,
And leaves it doubtful to the world that's under,
If heaven at him, or he at heaven doth thunder:
That brook am I.

The reader will forgive one ludicrous epithet (in the ninth line) for the sake of the rest of the extract. The countenance of Fanshawe is grave and observing. It is all "ambassador."