Page images

Her left leant on a staff, in her right hand
She always carried her enchanting wand.
Splay-footed, beyond nature, every part
So patternless deform'd, 'twould puzzle Art
To make her counterfeit; only her tongue,
Nature had that most exquisitely strung,
Her oily language came so smoothly from her,
And her quaint action did so well become her,
Her winning rhetoric met with no trips,
But chain'd the dull'st attention to her lips.
With greediness he heard, and though he strove
To shake her off, the more her words did move.
She woo'd him to her cell, call'd him her son,
And with fair promises she quickly won
Him to her beck; or rather he, to try
What she could do, did willingly comply
With her request ;-

Her cell was hewn out of the marble rock,
By more than human art, she need not knock,
The door stood always open, large and wide,
Grown o'er with woolly moss on either side,
And interwove with ivy's flattering twines,
Through which the carbuncle and diamond shines.
Not set by Art, but there by Nature sown

At the world's birth, so star-like bright they shone.
They serv'd instead of tapers to give light
To the dark entry, where perpetual night,
Friend to black deeds, and sire of ignorance,
Shuts out all knowledge; lest her eye by chance
Might bring to light her follies: in they went,
The ground was strew'd with flowers, whose sweet scent,
Mix'd with the choice perfumes from India brought,
Intoxicates his brain, and quickly caught

His credulous sense; the walls were gilt, and set
With precious stones, and all the roof was fret
With a gold vine, whose straggling branches spread
All o'er the arch; the swelling grapes were red;
This, Art had made of rubies, cluster'd so,
To the quick'st eye they more than seem'd to grow;
About the walls lascivious pictures hung,
Such as were of loose Ovid sometimes sung.
On either side a crew of dwarfish elves
Held waxen tapers, taller than themselves:
Yet so well shap'd unto their little stature,
So angel-like in face, so sweet in feature ;

Their rich attire so diff'ring; yet so well
Becoming her that wore it, none could tell
Which was the fairest, which the handsomest deck't,
Or which of them desire would soon'st affect.
After a low salute they all 'gan sing,

And circle in the stranger in a ring.
Orandra to her charms was stepp'd aside,
Leaving her guest half won and wanton-ey'd.
He had forgot his herb: cunning delight
Had so bewitch'd his ears, and blear'd his sight,
And captivated all his senses so,

That he was not himself: nor did he know
What place he was in, or how he came there,
But greedily he feeds his eye and ear
With what would ruin him ;—


Next unto his view

She represents a banquet, usher'd in
By such a shape, as she was sure would win
His appetite to taste; so like she was
To his Clarinda, both in shape and face.
So voic'd, so habited, of the same gait
And comely gesture; on her brow in state
Sate such a princely majesty, as he
Had noted in Clarinda; save that she
Had a more wanton eye, that here and there
Roll'd up and down, not settling any where.
Down on the ground she falls his hands to kiss,
And with her tears bedews it; cold as ice
He felt her lips, that yet inflam'd him so,
That he was all on fire the truth to know,
Whether she was the same she did appear,
Or whether some fantastic form it were,
Fashion'd in his imagination

By his still working thoughts; so fix'd upon
His lov'd Clarinda, that his fancy strove,

Even with her shadow, to express his love."

The virtues of the herb, however, resist all the enchantments of Orandra, and he leaves the cave in safety, taking Pandevius with him.

[blocks in formation]

They came into the plain, where a small brook
Did snake-like creep with many a winding nook,

And by it, here and there, a shepherd's cot
Was lowly built."

They are received with hospitable welcome in this retreat by Eubolus, a man

- courtly educated, wise, and sage,

Able to teach, yet willing to enrich

His knowledge with discourses, smooth in speech
Yet not of many words."

Alexis, having secured possession of the throne, sinks into a lethargy of grief, from which he is at length roused by the increasing danger which threatened Arcadia, from the piratical incursions of some of the desperate adherents of the late king, who had established themselves in a small island near the Arcadian coast. Alexis collects his forces, and, by his conduct and valour, speedily overcomes and exterminates the rebels. Returning in triumph to his capital, he is struck by the beauty of Florimel, who, among others, attends to strew his way with flowers in honour of his victory; but his advances are coldly repulsed by "Diana's votaress."

"That night perforce

They all were glad within the open plain

To pitch their tents, where many a shepherd swain
Upon their pipes troll'd out their evening lays

In various accents, emulous of praise.

It was a dainty pleasure for to hear

How the sweet nightingales their throats did tear,
Envying their skill, or taken with delight,

As I think rather, that the still-born night

Afforded such co-partners of their woes.

And at a close from the pure stream that flows
Out of the rocky caverns, not far off,

Echo replied aloud, and seem'd to scoff
At their sweet-sounding airs."

The king rises next morning with heavy cheer to renew his march. In his way he meets Memnon, and recognizing him as the father of Florimel, receives him graciously, and orders him to attend him at court. Memnon, haunted with the idea that Alexis was his long-lost son, determines to accept his invitation, and orders his daughter, much against her inclination, to prepare to accompany him. Anaxus, meanwhile, obtaining from Eubolus an account of Florimel and Memnon, suspects that they are his mistress and her father, "the banished Codrus,"

whom he had been long seeking. He sets out to visit a sort of convent, where Florimel resided along with Diana's nymphs, and, after some difficulty, obtains access to her.

Clarinda came at last

With all her train, who, as along she pass'd
Through the inward court, did make a lane,
Opening their ranks, and closing them again
As she went forward, with obsequious gesture,
Doing their reverence.- Her upward vesture
Was of blue silk, glistering with stars of gold,
Girt to her waist by serpents, that enfold
And wrap themselves together, so well wrought
And fashion'd to the life, one would have thought
They had been real. Underneath she wore
A coat of silver tinsel, short before,

And fring'd about with gold: white buskins hide
The naked of her leg, they were loose tied
With azure ribands, on whose knots were seen
Most costly gems, fit only for a queen.
Her hair bound up like to a coronet,
With diamonds, rubies, and rich sapphires set;
And on the top a silver crescent plac'd,
And all the lustre by such beauty grac'd,
As her reflection made them seem more fair;
One would have thought Diana's self were there,
For in her hand a silver bow she held,

And at her back there hung a quiver fill'd
With turtle-feather'd arrows."

After an interview of hesitation and doubt, they are satisfied of each other's identity, and give a loose to joy. They are soon obliged, by the rules of the convent, to separate, and Anaxus returns to the house of his friend Eubolus, to deliberate on the means of escaping with Clarinda. Cleon and Rhotus arriving at court, find the king conferring with Sylvanus, whom he had sent for to expound a strange dream which troubled his fancy.

"One might perceive such changes in the king,
As hath th' inconstant welkin in the spring;
Now a fair day, anon a dropsie cloud

Puts out the sun, and in a sable shroud

The day seems buried; when the clouds are o'er,
The glorious sun shines brighter than before:

[blocks in formation]

Alexis receives Rhotus with grateful warmth, and recognizes Cleon as a Lemnian friend. Rhotus, perceiving the king greatly oppressed by the painful recollections which their presence conjured up, after sounding him for a time, to ascertain the truth of his conjectures, informs Clearchus, that she whom he wept as drowned was preserved, and that

"Thealma lives."

"And here the Author died, and I hope the reader will be sorry,”

adds old Izaak, and sorry we are to take our leave of thee, Chalkhill or Walton, or "whatever title please thine ear."

It is no very easy task, nor is it altogether fair, to criticise the merits of an unfinished tale; but no conclusion could have rendered the story of Thealma and Clearchus either very clear or very interesting, though revision might probably have removed many incongruities and unnecessary entanglements. In its present state, it is so interrupted and involved as to defy the patience and attention of the mere reader. The chronological succession of events is continually lost sight of, and an episode is not unfrequently introduced by one character, continued by another, and concluded by a third, at different times, and under different circumstances. The unfinished state of the poem assuredly adds to its perplexity, from our ignorance of the object to which these several details tend, but we cannot conceive that any winding-up could have extricated the reader satisfactorily from its labyrinth of stories. The characters in Thealma and Clearchus are drawn without much force or distinctness of outline. Alexis and Anaxus, Thealma and Clarinda, Memnon and Rhotus, differ from each other only in name. Chalkhill's heroes are brave and amorous; his ladies chaste and beautiful; his old men wise and virtuous; his tyrants haughty and licentious but the finer traits of individuality are wanting, and his characters are rather unsubstantial abstractions of good or evil, than living and breathing forms, with their own peculiar feelings and impulses. Nor are the incidents of the poem conceived with much felicity, or brought about with much attention to probability. The nearest relatives and the fondest lovers jostle against one another at every turn, without the slightest suspicion of each other's identity.

The versification of Thealma and Clearchus, as our readers must have remarked, is extremely sweet and equable. Occasionally harsh lines and unlicensed rhymes occur, but they are only exceptions to the general style of the poem, the errors of haste or negligence. The author had evidently a fine ear for metrical harmony, and his "pastoral historie" will bear an advantageous comparison with the works of any of his contempo

« PreviousContinue »