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His wit and his poetry naturally connected him with the polite writers of his time: he was joined with Lord Buckhurst in the translation of Corneille's ! 'ompey; and is said to have added his help to that of Cowley in the original draught of the Rehearsal.
The care of his fortune, which Clarendon imputes to him in a degree little less than criminal, was either not constant or not successful; for, having in, herited a patrimony of three thousand five hundred pounds a year in the time oi Janies the First, and augmented it at least by one wealthy marriage, he left, about the time of the Revolution, an income of not more than twelve or thirteen liundred; which, when the different value of muney is reckoned, will be found perhaps not more than a fourth part of what he once possessed.
Of this diminution, part was the consequence of the gifts, which he was forced to scatter, and the fine which he was condemned to pay at the detection of his plot; and if his estate, as is related in his Life, was sequestered, he had probably contracted debts when he lived in exile ; for we are told, that at Paris he lived in splendor, and was the only Englishman, except the Lord St. Albans, that kept a table.
His unlucky plot compelled him to sell a thousand a year; of the waste of the rest there is no account, except that he is confessed by his biographer to have been a bad oeconomist. He seems to have deviated from the common practice; to have been a hoarder in his first years, and a squanderer in his last.
Of his course of studies, or choice of books, nothing is more known than that he professed himself unable to read Chapman's translation of Homer without rapture. His opinion concerning the duty of a poet is contained in his declaration, that “ he would blot from his works any line that did not o contain some motive to virtue.”
THE characters, by which Waller intended to distinguish his writings, are spriteliness and dignity; in his smaller pieces, he endeavours to be gay; in the larger to be great. Of his airy and light productions, the chief source is gallantry, that attentive reverence of female excellence, which has descended to us from the Gothic ages. As his poems are commonly occasional, and his addresses personal, he was not so liberally supplied with grand as with soft images; for beauty is more casily found than magnanimity.
The delicacy, which he cultivated, restrains hiin to a certain nicety and caution, even when he writes upon the slightest matter. He has, therefore, in his whole volume, nothing burlesque, and seldom any thing ludicrous or familiar. He seems always to do his best : though his subjects are often unworthy of his care. It is not easy to think without some contempt on an author, who is growing illustrious in his own opinion by verses, at one time, “ To a Lady, who can do any thing, but sleep, when she pleases.” At another, “ To a Lady, who can sleep, when she pleasės.” Now, “ To a “ Lady, on her passing through a crowd of people.” Then,“ On a braid “of divers colours woven by four Ladies ;” “On a tree cut in paper:” or,
« To “ To a Lady, from whom he received the
of verses on the paper-tree, « which, for many years, had been missing."
Genius now and then produces a lucky trifle. We still read the Dove of Anacreon, and Sparrow of Catullus; and a writer naturally pleases himself with a performance, which owes nothing to the subject. But compositions merely pretty have the fate of other pretty things, and are quitted in time for something useful; they are flowers fragrant and fair, but of short duration; or they are blossoms to be valued only as they foretel fruits.
Among Waller's little poems are some, which their excellency ought to secure from oblivion; as, To Amoret, comparing the different modes of regard with which he looks on her and Sacharissa; and the verses. On Love, that begin, Anger in hasty words or blows.
. In others he is not equally successful; sometimes his thoughts are deficient, and sometimes his expression, The numbers are not always musical ; as,
"Fair Venus, in thy soft arms
The god of rage confine ;
Which only can divert his fierce design.
Thou the fame
Kindled in his breast canst tame
With that snow which unmelted ljes on thine. He seldom indeed fetches an amorous sentiment from the depths of science; his thoughts are for the most part easily understood, and his images such as the superficies of nature readily supplies; he has a just claim to popularity, because he writes to common degrees of knowledge, and is free at least from philosophical pedantry, unless perhaps the end of a song to the Sun may be excepted, in which he is too much a Copernican. To which may be added the simile of the Palm in the verses on ker passing through a crowd; and a lịne in a more serious poem on the Restauration, about vipers and treacle, which can only be understood by those who happen to know the composition of the Theriaca. His thoughts are sometimes hyperbolical, and his images unnatural:
-The plants admire,
Like some wall marshald and obsequious band.
While in the park I sing, the listening deer
On the head of a Stag:
O fertile head! which every year
When mountains heap'd on mountains faiļd. Sometimes having succeeded in the first part, he makes a feeble conclusion. In the song of “ Sacharissa's and Amoret's Friendship,” the two last stanzas ought to have been omitted. His images of gallantry are not always in the highest degree delicate.
Then shall my love this doubt displace,
And gain such trust that I may come
But make my constant meals at home. Some applications may be thought too remote and unconsequential: as in the verses on the Lady dancing.
The sun in figures such as these',
To the sweet strains they advance,
As this hymph's dance
Moves with the numbers which she hears. Sometimes a thought, which might perhaps fill a distich, is expanded and attenuated till it grows weak and almost evanescent.
Chloris ! since first our calm of peace
Was frighted hence, this good we find,
And growing mischiefs make you kind.
Her fruit, and state, while no wind blows,
And the glad earth about her strows
With treasure from her yielding boughs. His images are not always distinct; as, in the following passage, he con. founds Love as a person with love as a passion :
Some other nymphs, with colours faint,
The coldest breast, the rudest tame. His sallies of casual flattery are sometimes elegant and happy, as that in return for the Silver Pen; and sometimes empty and trifling, as that upor
the Card torn by the Queen. There are a few lines written in the Dutchess's Tasso, which he is said by Fenton to have kept a summer under correction. It happened to Waller, as to others, that his success was not always in proportion to his labour.
Of these petty compositions, neither the beauties nor the faults deserve much attention. The amorous verses have this to recommend them, that they are less hyperbolical than those of some other poets. Waller is not always at the last gasp; he does not die of a frown, nor live upon a smile. There is, however, too much love, and too many trifles. Little things are made too important; and the Empire of Beauty is represented as exerting its influence further than can be allowed by the multiplicity of human passions, and the variety of human wants. Such books, therefore, may be considered as shewing the world under a false appearance, and, so far as they obtain credit from the young and unexperienced, as misleading expectation, and misguiding practice.
Of his nobler and more weighty performances, the greater part is panegyrical; for of praise he was very lavish, as is observed by his imitator, Lord Lansdowne.
No satyr stalks within the hallow'd ground,
Glory and arms and love are all the sound. In the first poem, on the danger of the Prince on the coast of Spain, there is a puerile and ridiculous mention of Arion at the beginning; and the last paragraph, on the Cable, is in part ridiculously mean, and in part ridiculously tumid. The poem, however, is such as may be justly praised, without much allowance for the state of our poetry and language at that time.
The two next poems are upon the King's behaviour at the death of Buckingham, and upon his Navy. He has, in the first, used the pagan deities with great propriety:
'Twas want of such a precedent as this
Made the old heathens frame their gods amiss. In the poem on the Navy, those lines are very noble, which suppose the King's power secure against a second Deluge; so noble, that it were almost criminal to remark the mistake of centre for surface, or to say that the empire of the sea would be worth little if it were not that the waters terminate in land.
The poem upon Sallee has forcible sentiments; but the conclusion is feeble. That on the Repairs of St. Paul's has something vulgar and obvious; such as the mention of Amphion; and something violent and harsh, as
So all our minds with his conspire to grace
Which the glad saint shakes off at his command,
The creeping ivy from his injur'd side.
His praise of the Queen is too much exaggerated; and the thought, that she “ saves lovers, by cutting off hope, as gangrenes are cured by lopping “the limb," presents nothing to the mind but disgust and horror.
Of the Battle of the Summer Islands, it seems not easy to say whether it is intended to raise terror or merriment. The beginning is too splendid for jest, and the conclusion too light for seriousness. The versification is stu- « died, the scenes are diligently displayed, and the images artfully amplified ; but as it ends neither in joy nor sorrow, it will scarcely be read a second time.
The Panegyrick upon Cromwell has obtained from the publick a very liberal dividend of praise, which however cannot be said to have been unjustly lavished; for such a series of verses had rarely appeared before in the English language. Of the lines some are grand, some are graceful, and all are musical. There is now and then a feeble verse, or a trilling thought; but its great fault is the choice of its hero.
The poem of The War with Spain begins with lines more vigorous and striking than Waller is accustomed to produce. The succeeding parts are variegated with better passages and worse. There is something too farfetched in the comparison of the Spaniards drawing the English on, by saluting St. Lucar with cannon, to lambs awakening the lion by bleating. The fate of the Marquis and his Lady, who were burnt in their ship, would have moved more, had the Poet not made him die like the Phoenix, because he had spices about him, nor expressed their affection and their end by a conceit at once false and vulgar:
Alive, in equal flames of love they burn'd,
And now together are to ashes turn’d. The verses to Charles, on his Return, were doubtless intended to counterbalance the panegyrick on Cromwell. If it has been thought inferior to that with which it is naturally compared, the cause of its deficience has been already remarked.
The remaining pieces it is not necessary to examine singly. They must be supposed to have faults and beauties of the same kind with the rest. The Sacred Poems, however, deserve particular regard; they were the work of Waller's declining life, of those hours in which he looked upon the fame and the folly of the time past with the sentiments which his great predecessor Petrarch bequeathed to posterity, upon his review of that love and poetry which have given him immortality. Vol. I.