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Which can a bosom of itself uncase,
And teach the heart how to subdue the heart!
So softly, gently conquering us by us!"
To show his charge her actual condition, and to destroy the false ideas that Agenor had instilled into her mind, Phylax relates the history of the Creation. Here, of course, we cannot avoid instituting a comparison between our poet and Milton: and I think that he can be read with pleasure, even after "Paradise Lost." It would appear, too, that Milton is indebted to him for more than one idea. The description of Paradise is so beautiful, that I must make rather a long extract.
"Within, rose hills of spice and frankincense,
Which smiled upon the flowery vales below,
With endless chiding the pure gems beneath,
"The nymphs which played about this current's sides
"At full length on the beds of flowers did lie
Smiling Content, Ease, Sweetness, Softness, Pleasure;
"Fair roses here would only spend their blush
"The early gales knocked gently at the door
“High in the shady galleries sat a choir
The creation of man is then described. The spot in which it was determined is thus finely described :
“A place there is, retired far and high
Roofed, paved, and walled with immensity;
The whole proceeds in a manner which shows that Milton had his eye on our poem, till we come to Adam's desire to have an help meet for him. Then Beaumont enters the lists with Spenser: and the lines, though miserably out of place, are so graphic in themselves that, had I to decide between the Palace of Sleep, in the Fairy Queen, and the following, I should give the palm to Spenser, simply on the ground of priority. Pity is sent to Sleep's abode, in order that Adam may experience her strongest influence.
"Before the gate there stood a lazy lake,
Whose waters never yet were known to stir;
Upon the bank, Oblivion did make
His bed of sluggish moss and cankered fur:
"Up from the water crept a heavy cloud
Gross Drowsiness, who rubbed her eyes, and bowed
About the swarthy sides, which thick were spread,
"Beyond the lake poppy and mandrakes grew,
"By these passed Pity; and a gate of jet
Close to his mouth who, when he saw her full
Notice the happy phrase of stealing aside the bar.
"There found she, on a bed of ebony,
Sleep laid at length: the pillow for her head
A swarm of bees were humming at the top."
The state of Adam and Eve is thus described :
"In this condition did they live and love,
The mind of Satan, when bent on his mission of destruction, is compared to a heated caldron, of which the water, says our poet
"With boiling surges beats the brass, and leaves.
No way untried to vent its balmed waves.”
The most poetical description of boiling that I know. Adam's fall is made entirely voluntary. His love to Eve is so great, though he foresees all the consequences,—
“That rather he with heaven than her will part."
Having finished the history of the Fall, Phylax thus concludes:
"Think well on this, and, if thou canst, be proud,
Who, by the pride of thy first parents, art
With this destructive portion endowed,
And from thy birth betrothed to endless smart:
Think what vast distance lies 'twixt worthless thee,
Our poet, so he obtain materials for description, is not very scrupulous how he comes by them: of which he gives a proof in the seventh canto. Psyche is deeply affected by the account which the angel has given: and, to dissipate her melancholy, he proposes to convey her to Palestine, that she may with her own eyes behold the scene of her Prince's sufferings. She gladly embraces the proposal. A chariot, drawn by Chastity and Devotion (Beaumont must always have his allegorical personages) attends her; they mount together; England-which we now for the first time discover to be the heroine's country-is soon left behind :—
"And climbing higher on their yielding way,
Spite of the nearer sun, she leaves below."
They reach Nazareth; and Phylax describes the Annunciation. He thus speaks of Gabriel :
"The candour of his wings was no such kind
Or on the surface of soft milk doth flow:
But a celestial tincture, pure and bright,
Made, not by scorching, but by whitening light."
The blunder about the cygnets is rather amusing. The whole history is dwelt on at too great length. Instead of spinning out fifty-one stanzas, it would have been better had Beaumont contented himself with his first and fine verse
"Through mounts of miracles GOD broke a way."
The mind of S. Mary, taking its tone from the devotion of the Angel, though tinctured with her own feelings, is made the subject of a beautiful simile:
"Thus, when heaven's light doth through the windows press,
It bears the colours it found painted there."
I allow the bad taste of the following lines, as applied to the eyes of the Blessed Virgin: but in themselves they are exquisite :
"Those lovely Easts of gentle, living light;
Those diamond quivers of divinest love;
Those wells of ever-springing joys; those bright
Mirrors of purer beauties than do move
About the silver heavens when night is fine,
Or when the day at noontide height does shine."
At length the moment arrives for the Birth of our LORD.
"O mighty moment! at whose feet all days,