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study divided with a due attention to breakfast.They who read Reviews for a “ précis” of the last new book, that they may appear to have read it, without having seen it, will skim over
contents” with sovereign disdain. We can tell them of none, save those whom they might have known long since, and whom they will get no credit for knowing now.
We have been insensibly led into these observations by a feeling, something like what is called, in philosophy, the “attraction of repulsion.”-We had been copying the title of a book, which we knew to be the extreme opposite of that which is calculated to please a modern palate. Here is a book which none but
they of simple unsophisticated taste may relish--they, whose plain appetites would lead them to drink of the rill, and feast upon rustic fare, may expect a considerable portion of pleasure from the pastorals of the gentle shepherd, William Browne. We hope with " neat hand" to cull a few, not insipid herbs, for the lovers of nature; but away, ye profane ! pampered and highfed, who “dine with aldermen. William Browne wrote his
very young man: filled with pleasing recollections of his native county of Devon, and, apparently, captivated with the poems of Spenser, which had just then appeared, and with the works of the “divine Astrophel,” he deserted the law for “the muses." Young, and ignorant of life and manners, well skilled in classic lore, and ardently in love with nature, Spenser, and Sidney, we might easily have imagined the class of poetry, which he was likely to pursue-He took to writing pastorals, and has composed a series of poems, which, though abounding with pleasing passages, are devoid of all interest or passion, and frequently of all propriety of character or subject. He seems to have commenced writing, without any object and without any guide, except the assumed character of a shepherd, which he takes no other care to preserve, than by calling his pen a “pipe," and his readers “ sheep.” We have no subject, story, or plan, from one end to the other of the two long books, or ten songs, of the “ Britannia's Pastorals," though there are frequent beginnings, and a constant introduction of characters, if they may be so called, who are expected, but in vain, to commence or carry into effect some projected design. The persons too which are introduced, are the faintest and most indistinct visions of character that ever floated before the eye of a poetical dreamer ; and the story, if story may be discovered, is as faint and indistinct as the characters themselves.—The whole poem, indeed, gives you the idea of a faded landscape in water colours, found on some damp neglected wainscot, where the original painting has melted away to indistinctness, and in which, the persons of the piece have lost all traits of individuality, and almost all appearance of life and action; and where every thing is tame and dull, save here and there a bright green hillock, a flourishing tree, or perhaps in some corner a vivid glimpse of country which remains miraculously preserved in its pristine bues. Or perhaps we should convey a clearer idea of these singular volumes, if we were to compare them to the recollection of a dream—the scene of which has been laid in the country, and peopled with shepherds sitting on green banks, “piping as if they would never grow old,” and scornful shepherdesses crossing neatly-cropped meads, with stately step and disdainful air. Now, let this vision be dulled, as dreams usually are before the light of morning, and let it be mingled with the usual share of absurdities and improbabilities which are created and annihilated, one does not know how, in all dreams, and the reader will have a correct notion of the Britannia's Pastorals.-There are, however, bright and pleasant things even in dreams, which do not share the usual fate, of fading into frigid inanity on waking; and so it is also in the poems of William Browne. Though we have now a "seely shepherd, seelier than his sheep”—now an elegant young lady bemoaning herself, in the weeds of a shepherdess--now an allegorical and now an impossible person-now Limos, who is personified Hunger, running away with Marina, who is intended to be flesh and blood; and now Riot, who is an allegorical creation, changed by metanoia into Amyntas, a beautiful young man, for no earthly purpose~and a thousand other absurdities which have not even the merit of being laughable--yet there are many parts of true nature, and of a pleasing order of poetry.
It will not be expected, after what we have said, that we should attempt to give any account of the story or substructure of these pastorals.-- The book is one which we can hardly expect any one else to read, though it does appear to have been a favorite with many individuals of taste, so that we think it a favorable subject for our method of exhaustion. . We shall therefore think ourselves at liberty to take up the book, and introduce the only really good passages, or at least those which are alone worth quoting, in the order that may best suit us. He opens the first song in this simple strain :
“ I that whileare neere Tavie's stragling spring,
No: faire Arcadia cannot be compleater,
Marina, who is the first shepherdess introduced to us, is described in the following extract, which contains some animated lines, as about to drown herself through despair,
“ Here is a mount, whose toppe seemes to despise
As when to seeke her foode abroad doth rove
The deity of a spring thus resents the insult of some substance being thrown into his stream.
“ the God below,
Rots curing hyphear, and the misseltoe.” The God, finding that it is a beautiful female who has fallen into his domains, makes love to her in the following strain, which flows as smoothly as his spring.
o Would she be wonne with me to stay,
The trout, the dace, the pike, the breame,
In right she cannot me despise
The reader will observe, in the following passage, some proofs of Browne's having taken his observations upon nature