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to close the list, comes another great name, that of Sir David Lyndsay, whose productions are not indeed characterised by any high imaginative power, but yet display infinite wit, spirit, and variety in all the forms of the more familiar poetry. Lyndsay was the favourite, throughout his brief reign and life, of the accomplished and unfortunate James V., and survived to do perhaps as good service as any in the war against the ancient church by the tales, plays, and other products of his abounding satiric vein, with which he fed, and excited, and lashed up the popular contempt for the now crazy and tumbling fabric once so imposing and so venerated. Perhaps he also did no harm by thus taking off a little of the acrid edge of mere resentment and indignation with the infusion of a dash of merriment, and keeping alive a genial sense of the ludicrous in the midst of such serious work. If Dunbar is to be compared to Burns, Lyndsay may be said to have his best representative among the more recent Scotish poets in Allan Ramsay, who does not, however, come so near to Lyndsay by a long way as Burns does to Dunbar.*
Lyndsay is supposed to have survived till about the
but the only complete edition is that entitled 'The Poems of William Dunbar, now first collected, with notes, and a Memoir of his Life, by David Laing:' 2 vols. 8vo. Edin.
*The Poetical Works of Sir David Lindsay, with a Life, Glossary, and illustrative dissertations and notes, were published by the late George Chalmers, in 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1806.
year 1567.* Before that date a revival of the higher poetry had come upon England like the rising of a new day. Two names are commonly placed together at the head of our new poetical literature, Lord Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt; but the former has in every way the best title to precedence. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, memorable in our history as the last victim of the capricious and sanguinary tyranny of Henry VIII., had already, in his short life, which was terminated by the axe of the executioner in his twenty-seventh year, carried away from all his countrymen the laurels both of knighthood and of song. The superior polish alone of the best of Surrey's verses would place him at an immeasurable distance in advance of all his immediate predecessors. So remarkable, indeed, is the contrast in this respect which his poetry presents to theirs, that in modern times there has been claimed for Surrey, as we have seen, the honour of having been the first to introduce our existing system of rhythm into the language. But this position, we have endeavoured to show, cannot be maintained. The true merit of Surrey is, that, proceeding upon the same system of versification which had been introduced by Chaucer, and which indeed had in principle been followed by all the writers after Chaucer, however rudely or imperfectly some of them may have succeeded in the practice of it, he restored to our poetry a correctness, polish, and general spirit of refinement such as it had not known since Chaucer's time, and of which, therefore, in the language as now spoken, there was no previous example whatever. To this it may be *Irving's Lives of the Scottish Poets. 2nd edit. 1810, ii.
added that he appears to have been the first at least in this age, who sought to modulate his strains after that elder poetry of Italy, which thenceforward became one of the chief fountain-heads of inspiration to that of England throughout the whole space of time over which is shed the golden light of the names of Spenser, of Shakspeare, and of Milton. Surrey's own imagination was neither rich nor soaring; and the highest qualities of his poetry, in addition to the facility and general mechanical perfection of the versification, are delicacy and tenderness. It is altogether a very light and bland Favonian breeze. The poetry of his friend Wyatt is of a different character, neither so flowing in form, nor so uniformly gentle in spirit, but perhaps making up for its greater ruggedness by a force and a depth of sentiment occasionally which Surrey does not reach. The poems of Lord Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt were first published together in1557.
We give one of Surrey's Sonnets in praise of his mistress, the Fair Geraldine, from Dr. Nott's edition of his Poems.* The spelling is modernised :—
Give place, ye lovers, here before
That spent your boasts and brags in vain!
The best of yours, I dare well sayn,
And thereto had a troth as just
As had Penelope the fair;
* Works of Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, and Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder, 4to. Lon. 1815; vol. i. p. 4.
I could rehearse, if that I would,
The whole effect of Nature's plaint,
The like to whom she could not paint:
I know she swore with raging mind,
That could have gone so near her heart;
Sith Nature thus gave her the praise,
To be the chiefest work she wrought;
On your behalf might well be sought,
To Surrey we owe the introduction into our language of blank verse, the suggestion of which he probably took from the earliest Italian example of that form of poetry, a translation of the First and Fourth Books of the Eneid by the Cardinal Hippolito di Medici (or, as some say, by Molza), which was published at Venice in 1541. A translation of the same two Books into English blank verse appeared in the collection of Surrey's Poems published by Tottel in 1557. Dr. Nott has shown that this translation was founded upon the metrical Scotish version of Gawin Douglas, which, although not published till 1553, had been finished, as the author himself informs us, in 1513.
END OF VOLUME II.
London: Printed by WILLIAM CLOWES & SONS, Stamford Street.
THE works already published will furnish some notion of the variety sought to be attained in this Series. As it further advances this feature will be more clearly developed. The subjects proposed to be treated may be divided, upon a broad principle of Classification, into seven leading divisions. And here we may properly explain the circumstance that the Weekly Volumes' appear in cloth, or paper, of varying colours. The mere variety would, we think, be an advantage in itself; for a long series of books in one uniform binding, especially when the subjects are of a different character, is monotonous and distasteful. Every one who possesses an extensive library knows the advantage which a diversity of binding affords him in readily finding the book he wants. But we have endeavoured to systematize this variety, by varying the colours according to the nature of the subjects treated. The following arrangement applies to the volumes published; and will continue to prevail throughout the series :
Biography, Topography, Antiquities. BLUE-General Literature. PINK-Old England Novelets (a series to be commenced next quarter). SALMON-Geography, Voyages, and Travels. GREEN-Natural History. BROWN-Manufactures, Commerce, Public Economy. SLATE -Science and Philosophy.