« PreviousContinue »
M. R. C.
FROM honeyed slopes of England's Helicon,
Where'er the visits of the Muse beget
Daisy or hyacinth or violet
Are passion-flushed and sultry-hearted yet ;
And many with immortal tears are wet ; And emptied of its odorous soul is none.
Take, then, this garland of melodious flowers.
Another wreath from his own garden bring,
teenth and early seventeenth century verse, everything that stood my doubtlessly fastidious as well as complex tests of admissibility, it is none the less true that I have drawn upon Elizabethan and Jacobean sources with a sparingness which to some critical scholars, whose enthusiasm I respect on general grounds no less than I value their erudition, will appear regrettable ; but I have decided upon this course after a careful exploration of the field, and conscientious effort to do neither more nor less than strict justice to its poetic products. Among the underwoods out of which rises the oak of Arden I have indeed gathered many of the choicest of these flowers of fancy, but I have not plucked them by handfuls, much less harvested them by the scythe. With respect to the Elizabethan lyrists, taken in the mass, a certain amount of fanaticism has latterly been in vogue ; and, what is worse than fanaticism—for that implies the saving grace of sincerity—a habit of conventional and factitious admiration appears to be indulged in cases where knowledge may be supposed to invest its possessor with some distinction and superiority. There are those who constantly speak as though they would have us believe high lyrical genius to have been of almost universal diffusion in the days of Elizabeth and James; but as a matter of fact most readers who have not the misfortune to be specialists, and upon whom the necessity of professional admiration is not incumbent, know quite well that with a few splendid and memorable exceptions the song-writing of that period was a more or less musical ringing of changes upon roses and violets, darts and flames, coral lips, ivory foreheads, snowy bosoms, and starry eyes. The love-making seems about as real as that of Arcadian shepherds and shepherdesses on porcelain. One may