Page images
[blocks in formation]

Mr. Edmund Gosse, in his article on Lovelace in Ward's English Poets, says: "It may be safely said that of all the Royalist lyrists Lovelace has been overestimated the most as Carew has been the most neglected. The reason of this is not hard to find. Carew was a poet of great art and study, whose pieces reach a high but comparatively uniform standard, while Lovelace was an improvisatore who wrote two of the best songs in the language by accident, and whose other work is of much inferior quality." In another places Mr. Gosse, in speaking of Carew, says further: "Among the Royalists of the seventeenth century Carew takes a foremost place. In genius he is surpassed by Herrick only, and in age he is the first of that gallant band of cavalier song-writers of whom Rochester is the last. It would seem that his admirable instinct for form led Carew to compose with great care, and to polish his verses assiduously."

In the above-cited quotations from Mr. Gosse, three points of considerable interest are suggested: (1) A poet is frequently judged by the best that he has written rather than by the general

'Thomas Carew was one of the so-called metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century. The dates of his life are uncertain. His birth has been placed as early as 1587 (Saintsbury's Elizabethan Literature, 1887) and as late as 1598 (Saintsbury's Short History of English Literature, 1900, and Gosse's History of Modern English Literature, 1900). The Dictionary of National Biography gives, as the date of his birth, the year 1598. Critics are more nearly agreed as to the date of Carew's death. All say that he died in or about the year 1639.

"Vol. II., page 181.

'Ward's English Poets, Vol. II., pages 111, and 113:


body of his work, and hence a writer like Carew is often outranked by a much inferior poet; (2) Carew is one of the most neglected1 of English poets of the seventeenth century largely because he is a great artist; and (3) Carew's place among the seventeenth century Royalists is foremost for the very reason that he is a supreme artist. The nature and limits of this article do not permit a full discussion of each of these points. It may be said here, however, that a poet is frequently judged solely by the best that he has written, either because the critics or reading public know nothing of the general body of his work, or because they have allowed their judgments to become unduly influenced by the music or melody of two or three of his best poems. As to the second point, a writer who is simply an artist is neglected, because poetry is read by many people, not for its artistic qualities, but for the thought and emotion expressed. Indeed, the only test of a great poem, according to many, is its power to appeal to the heart and mind of the reader. The third point suggested by Mr. Gosse's quotations can not, I think, be wholly accepted. Art of itself can no more make a great poem than can thought without artistic beauty. Thought and

"That Carew has never been very popular may be seen form the small number of editions of his works that have appeared. Between 1640 and 1651 only four editions of the poet's works were brought out; and no other editions appeared in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century the poems were reprinted only once. But this is not a bad showing for the eighteenth century; for some of the most popular poets of the metaphysical school were not reprinted oftener than once, and some not so often as that, during this time. In the nineteenth century five editions of Carew's works appeared.

Compare with this the popularity of a man like Vaughan, who is a much inferior artist, but who appeals much more to the public taste. Vaughan's works appeared in nine editions in the seventeenth century, once in the eighteenth century, and again in nine editions in the nineteenth century. The works of Vaughan, then, have appeared, as we see, in nineteen editions; while the works of Carew have appeared in only ten editions-a little more than half as often. Donne and Herrick, greater poets than Carew but inferior artists, have likewise proved much more popular. We have no less than a dozen editions of Herrick's works during the past century alone, and perhaps almost as many of Donne's.

"The question arises whether there is any such thing as separation of form and thought. In the strictest sense there is not. We may have, however, poetry of a very high order expressed in form that is not the most

form must be united, as they always are in the greatest poetry. Indeed, it is only where deep thought and true feeling are artistically expressed-and that, too, in a large body of work-that we have a supreme poet.

Now, Carew does not deserve a place among the greatest English poets, because his poetry contains, as has been intimated, little depth of thought or feeling. As an artist in verse, however, he deserves a place of considerable prominence. The purpose of this article is to point out his artistic qualities and to determine his place, as an artist, among other poets. In doing this we shall notice first-in order that we may know something of the nature of his subject-matter-the groups into which his poetry may be divided, together with the number of poems that make up each group. Secondly, we shall examine some of the peculiar qualities of his art. In the third place, we shall consider some of the defects of his verse. And finally, from the results obtained we shall attempt to show that Carew, as an artist, deserves a place of considerable prominence, not only among the poets of his own age, but among all the poets of the language.



For critical, and, indeed, for general purposes, the poetical works of Carew may be divided into nine groups. These, together with the number of poems that make up each group, are as follows: (1) Poems of Courtly Compliment and Love Songs, 102; (2) Elegies, 14; (3) Commendatory Poems, 6; (4) Epithalamiums or Marriage Songs, 3; (5) Pastoral Dialogues, 2; (6) Epigrams, 4; (7) Paraphrases of the Psalms, 9; (8) Poems on Various Subjects, 18; and (9) The Masque, Coelum Britannicum. Carew's love songs and poems of courtly compliment constitute, as we see, almost two-thirds of his poetry. Next in point of number come his elegies. In writing a large number of love songs and elegies Carew, of course, indicated not only his own preference, but that of his age.

artistic. This happens, for instance, in some of the work of Robert Browning. On the contrary, we may have poetry expressing little thought or emotion, and yet of considerable rank, because of high artistic qualities. This is the case, it seems to me, in the work of Carew.

[blocks in formation]

In discussing Carew's artistic qualities we should perhaps say that the most important of these qualities is the power of sustaining his flight through an entire poem. On this point Mr. Arthur Vincent says: "Many a courtly poet, addressing his mistress, was content, when he had lighted on what seemed a happy idea, to pad more or less apposite rhyme around it until a proper length was reached. Carew preferred to work out his idea, and to turn out a poem every part of which seemed naturally joined to what went before or what followed." Mr. Saintsbury remarks,2 "Best of all, perhaps, he [Carew] had the intelligence and self-restraint to make his poems wholes, .and not mere congeries of verses." Mr. Gosse also, in speaking of this same quality in Carew's poetry, says:3 "His songs are extremely mellifluous and well-balanced; he has an unusual art of sustaining his flight through an entire lyric, so that his poems are not strings of more or less pretty stanzas, but organic structures." One is struck again and again with this quality in reading Carew. It is characteristic of all his best poetry, and is, therefore, present in a large proportion of his work. I shall give only a few of his poems in which the quality is illustrated. An excellent example of Carew's power of sustaining his flight throughout a poem is the lyric, Ask me no more:

"Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
When June is past, the fading rose,

For in your beauty's orient deep

These flowers, as in their causes, sleep.

"Ask me no more whither do stray
The golden atoms of the day,
For, in pure love, heaven did prepare
Those powders to enrich your hair.

"Ask me no more whither doth haste
The nightingale when May is past,
For in your sweet dividing throat

She winters and keeps warm her note.

'Arthur Vincent's edition of Carew's Poems; Introduction, page xxxiv. 'Saintsbury's History of Elizabethan Literature, page 360.

"Ward's English Poets, Vol. II., page 113.

« PreviousContinue »