Page images

was an accomplished scholar, and of tried integrity. It is true, that the sentence above quoted betrays a great dissatisfaction at the issue of the struggle for liberty in Cromwell's usurpation; and it is more than probable, that Marvell, with Fairfax, and many other of the great characters of the times, in the choice of evils, longed for the restoration.

From the death of Cromwell, till the Parliament of the 25th of April, 1660, we have no account of Marvell, although he was elected, in 1658, member for the town of Hull. His parliamentary career was remarkable for patriotism and genius; he was the bold advocate of the people, with assassination staring him in the face; "when truth and chastity were crimes in the lewd circle of Charles's siren court;" and when a general prostitution of public integrity made patriotism singular and vulgar. He corresponded, every post, with his constituents, which is said to be the last instance of that valuable relation

between representatives and their suffragans. This correspondence still exists in the corporation's records of Hull; and Captain Thompson published a considerable portion, in his edition of Marvell's works. The letters are highly curious for their historical and parliamentary information. In one of them we find him thanking the corporation conjunctively with his colleague, for a barrel of ale: "we must give you thanks for the kind present you were pleased to send us, which will occasion us to remember you often; but the quantity is so great that it might make sober men forgetful." He is reported to have spoken but seldom in the House, but to have possessed very great personal influence over the members of the Commons, and also with the Peers. His exertions in favour of religious liberty, and against the excise, were particularly noted. In 1663, he retired from his parliamentary duties, and accompanied Lord Carlisle, as secretary, to Russia; but appears to have accepted the appointment rather from private friendship, than on public grounds. He continued there, and in Sweden and Denmark, nearly two years. On the 15th October, 1665, we find him attending the Parliament at Oxford. From this period to October, 1674, Marvell's correspondence gives a regular account of the proceedings of the two Houses; and the prorogation of Parliament, in November, 1675, terminated his parliamentary labours.

We have no room here to particularise, or quote the various prose works in which he boldly advocated the public cause. He was proof against every assault on his invincible public integrity. The personal compliment of the king himself, who delighted in the wit of his society; the golden offers of Charles's treasurer, Danby, who with difficulty found him in his "elevated retreat, in the second floor of a court in the Strand," the

very day he borrowed a guinea; nothing could daunt his courage, or stay his opposition to the government, much less tempt him to prostitute his pen in its behalf. His personal satire against the king himself, his tracts against popery and the ministry, his desperate literary battles with Parker and others, repeatedly endangered his life: it was all to no purpose on the part of his enemies; he was a rock amidst the foaming ocean; his Roman virtue was incorruptible. He, at last, died suddenly, on the 29th of July, 1678, while attending a public meeting in the town-hall of Hull, it is supposed by poison, as his health had been remarkable good, previous to his seizure. Thus probably was the threat actually fulfilled,-" if thou darest to print or publish any lie or libel against Dr. Parker, by the eternal God I will cut thy throat!"

"But whether fate or art untwin'd thy thread
Remains in doubt; Fame's lasting register
Shall leave his name enroll'd as great as those
Who at Philippi for their country fell."

We shall now give a brief account of his works, with as much extract from his poetry as our limits will allow. The first edition of his poems in folio, 1681, was surreptitious, and contains the following impudent preface:

"To the Reader:

"These are to certify every ingenious reader, that all these Poems, as also the other things in this book contained, are printed according to the exact copies of my late dear husband, under his own hand writing, being found, since his death, among his other papers. Witness my hand, this 15th day of October, 1680.


Marvell was never married; but the bookseller bought the manuscripts from a woman in whose house he lodged. As few other poems, besides those contained in this edition, exist, it is to be feared that what this person thought unsaleable she destroyed.

The most interesting poetical piece in the whole miscellaneous collection, is his address to

"The Nymph complaining for the Death of her Fawn.

"The wanton troopers riding by,
Have shot my fawn, and it will die.
Ungentle-men! They cannot thrive
Who kill'd thee. Thou ne'er didst alive

Them any harm; alas! nor could
Thy death yet do them any good.
I'm sure I never wish'd them ill;
Nor do I for all this; nor will :
But, if my simple prayers may yet
Prevail with heaven to forget
Thy murder, I will join my tears,
Rather than fail.

It cannot die so.

But, O my fears!
Heaven's king

Keeps registers of every thing;

And nothing may we use in vain,

Ev'n beasts must be with justice slain ;
Else men are made their deodands.
Though they should wash their guilty hands
In this warm life-blood, which doth part
From thine, and wound me to the heart,
Yet could they not be clean: their stain
Is dy'd in such a purple grain.

There is not such another in
The world, to offer for their sin.
Inconstant Sylvio, when yet
I had not found him counterfeit,
One morning, (I remember well,)
Ty'd in this silver chain and bell,
Gave it to me: nay, and I know
What he said then; I'm sure I do.
Said he,' Look how your huntsman here
Hath taught a fawn to hunt his dear.'
But Sylvio soon had me beguil'd:
This waxed tame, while he grew wild,
And quite regardless of my smart,
Left me his fawn, but took his heart.
Thenceforth I set myself to play
My solitary time away,


With this and, very well content,
Could so mine idle life have spent.
For it was full of sport; and light
Of foot, and heart; and did invite
Me to its game: it seem'd to bless
Itself in me. How could I less
Than love it? O, I cannot be
Unkind t'a beast that loveth me.

Had it liv'd long, I do not know
Whether it too might have done so

As Sylvio did his gifts might be
Perhaps as false, or more, than he.
But I am sure, for ought that I
Could in so short a time espy,
Thy love was far more better than
The love of false and cruel man.
With sweetest milk and sugar, first
I it at mine own fingers nurs'd;
And as it grew, so every day

It wax'd more white and sweet than they.
It had so sweet a breath! and oft

I blush'd to see its foot more soft,
And white, shall I say than my hand!
Nay, any lady's of the land.

It is a wond'rous thing, how fleet
"Twas on those little silver feet.
With what a pretty skipping grace
It oft would challenge me the race;
And when't had left me far away,
"Twould stay, and run again, and stay.
For it was nimbler much than hinds;
And trod, as if on the Four Winds.
I have a garden of my own,
But so with roses overgrown,
And lilies, that you would it guess

To be a little wilderness,

And all the spring-time of the year
It only loved to be there.
Among the beds of lilies I

Have sought it oft, where it should lie ;
Yet could not, till itself would rise,
Find it, although before mine eyes.
For in the flaxen lily's shade,

It like a bank of lilies laid.
Upon the roses it would feed,

Until its lips ev'n seem'd to bleed;
And then to me 'twould boldly trip,
And print those roses on my lip.
But all its chief delight was still
On roses thus itself to fill;
And its pure virgin limbs to fold
In whitest sheets of lilies cold.
Had it liv'd long, it would have been
Lilies without, roses within.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Now my

sweet fawn is vanish'd to

Whither the swans and turtles go;

In fair Elysium to endure,

With milk-white lambs, and ermins pure.

O do not run too fast; for I
Will but bespeak thy grave, and die.

First, my unhappy statue shall

Be cut in marble; and withal,
Let it be weeping too; but there
Th' engraver sure his art may spare;
For I so truly thee bemoan,

That I shall weep though I be stone;
Until my tears, still dropping, wear
My breast, themselves engraving there.
There at my feet shalt thou be laid,
Of purest alabaster made;

For I would have thine image be

White as I can, though not as thee."

The following address of the "Lover to the Gow-worms" is pretty and fanciful, and more in the taste of the times than Marvell's verses in general.

"Ye living lamps, by whose dear light

The nightingale does sit so late,

And studying all the summer-night,
Her matchless songs does meditate:

Ye country comets, that portend
No war, nor prince's funeral,
Shining unto no other end
Than to presage the grass's fall:
Ye glow-worms, whose officious flame
To wand'ring mowers shows, the way,

« PreviousContinue »