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It is well known that Steevens pronounced Thomas Watson to be "a more elegant Sonnetteer than Shakespeare:" the following effusion (which is a fair specimen of Watson's talents) from the EKATOMIIAOIA, or Passionate Centurie of Love, printed without date, but entered on the Stationers' Books, 1581, will show how preposterous was the decision of the commentator; who, after all, perhaps, did not declare his real opinion on the subject, as sincerity was not among his virtues :

"When May is in his prime, and youthfu. Spring 98
Doth clothe the tree with leaves, and ground with flowers,
And time of year reviveth every thing,

And lovely nature smiles, and nothing lours;
Then Philomela most doth strain her breast,
With night complaints, and sits in little rest.
The bird's estate I may compare with mine,

To whom fond love doth work such wrongs by day,

That in the night my heart must needs repine,
And storm with sighs, to ease me as I may,
Whilst others are becalm'd, or lie them still,
Or sail secure, with tide and wind at will.
And as all those which hear this bird complain,
Conceive in all her tunes a sweet delight,
Without remorse, or pitying her pain;
So she, for whom I wail both day and night,
Doth sport herself in hearing my complaint:
A just reward for serving such a saint!"

A Vision upon this conceipt of the Faery Queen, attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh, is appended to

98 Watson's Sonnets all consist of eighteen, instead of fourteen, lines.

the three first books of Spenser's great poem which were printed in 1590:

"Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay,
Within that temple where the vestal flame
Was wont to burn; and passing by that way,
To see that buried dust of living fame,
Whose tomb fair Love and fairer Virtue kept;
All suddenly I saw the Faery Queen:

At whose approach the soul of Petrarch wept,
And from thenceforth those Graces were not seen;
For they this Queen attended; in whose stead
Oblivion laid him down on Laura's hearse:
Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And groans of buried ghosts the heavens did pierce,
Where Homer's sprite did tremble all for grief,
And curs'd th' access of that celestial thief."

Sir Philip Sidney, who died in 1586, was the wonder of his own age, and his laurels as a warrior and a poet are yet unwithered. One of the best portions of his Astrophel and Stella, which was not published till 1591, is this:

"With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies,
How silently, and with how wan a face!

What, may it be, that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long with love acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case;
I read it in thy looks, thy languish'd grace,
To me that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be lov'd, and yet

Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?`

The two next pieces are from the Delia of Samuel Daniel, 1592, a writer remarkable for propriety of thought, and purity of diction, though his peculiar beauties are, I think, less conspicuous in his Sonnets than in his other works:

"I once may see when years shall wreck my wrong,
When golden hairs shall change to silver wire,
And those bright rays that kindie all this fire
Shall fail in force, their working not so strong.
Then beauty (now the burden of my song)
Whose glorious blaze the world doth so admire,
Must yield up all to tyrant time's desire;

Then fade those flowers which deck'd her pride so long.
When if she grieve to gaze her in her glass,
Which then presents her winter-wither'd hue,
Go you, my verse, go tell her what she was;
For what she was, she best shall find in you:
Your fiery heat lets not her glory pass,
But Phoenix-like shall make her live anew."

"Look, Delia, how we 'steem the half-blown rose,
The image of thy blush and summer's honour;
Whilst in her tender green she doth inclose
That pure sweet beauty, time bestows upon her.
No sooner spreads her glory in the air,
But straight her full-blown pride is in declining;
She then is scorn'd, that late adorn'd the fair;
So clouds thy beauty after fairest shining.
No April can revive thy wither'd flowers,
Whose blooming grace adorns thy glory now;
Swift speedy time, feather'd with flying hours,
Dissolves the beauty of the fairest brow.
O, let not then such riches waste in vain,
But love, whilst that thou may'st be lov'd again."

From the Idea of Michael Drayton, 1593: 99

"Clear Anker, on whose silver-sanded shore,
My soul-shrin'd saint, my fair Idea, lies,

O blessed brook, whose milk-white swans adore
Thy crystal stream refined by her eyes,

Where sweet myrrh-breathing Zephyr in the spring
Gently distills his nectar-dropping showers,
Where nightingales in Arden sit and sing
Amongst the dainty dew-impearled flowers;

Say thus, fair brook, when thou shalt see thy queen;
Lo, bere thy shepherd spent his wandering years;
And in these shades, dear nymph, he oft had been,
And here to thee he sacrific'd his tears:

Fair Arden, thou my Tempe art alone,

And thou, sweet Anker, art my Helicon."

Henry Constable appears to have been strangely overrated by his contemporaries; in his miserably quaint and conceited Diana, 1594, I can find nothing better than what follows:

"To live in hell, and heaven to behold,
To welcome life, and die a living death,
To sweat with heat, and yet be freezing cold,
To grasp at stars, and lie the earth beneath,
To tread a maze that never shall have end,
To burn in sighs, and starve in daily tears,
To clime a hill, and never to descend,
Giants to kill, and quake at childish fears,
To pine for food, and watch th' Hesperian tree,
To thirst for drink, and nectar still to draw,
To live accurst, whom men hold blest to be,
weep those wrongs,
which never creature saw;
If this be love, if love in these be founded,

My heart is love, for these in it are grounded."

99 Not having had an opportunity of seeing this sonnet in

From Sonnets to the fairest Calia, by W. Percy,


"Receive these writs, my sweet and dearest friend,

The lively patterns of my lifeless body;

Where thou shalt find in ebon pictures penn'd,
How I was meek, but thou extremely bloody.
I'll walk forlorn along the willow shades,
Alone, complaining of a ruthless dame;
Where'er I pass, the rocks, the hills, the glades,
In piteous yells shall sound her cruel name.
There I will wail the lot which fortune sent me,
And make my moans unto the savage ears;
The remnant of the days which Nature lent me,
I'll spend them all, conceal'd, in ceaseless tears.
Since unkind fates permit me not t' enjoy her,
No more (burst eyes!) I mean for to annoy her."

From Barnaby Barnes's Divine Centurie of Spiritual Sonnets, 1595;

"Unto my spirit lend an angel's wing,

By which it might mount to that place of rest,
Where Paradise may me relieve, opprest.
Lend to my tongue an angel's voice to sing;
Thy praise, my comfort; and for ever bring
My notes thereof from the bright east to west.
Thy mercy lend unto my soul distrest,
Thy grace unto my wits: then shall the sling
Of righteousness that monster Sathan kill,
Who with despair my dear salvation dar'd;
And, like the Philistine, stood breathing still
Proud threats against my soul, for heaven prepar'd.
At length, I like an angel shall appear,

In spotless white, an angel's crown to wear."

Let us now turn to one of Spenser's Amoretti or

the original edition, I have some doubts about the correctness of the date, 1593: but vide Ritson's Bib. Poet. p. 191.

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