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Sails of silk and ropes of sendal,
Such as gleam in ancient lore ; And the singing of the sailors,
And the answer from the shore !
Most of all, the Spanish ballad
Haunts me ost, and tarries long, Of the noble Count Arnaldos
And the sailor's mystic song.
Like the long waves on a sea-beach,
Where the sand as silver shines, With a soft monotonous cadence,
Flow its unrhymed lyric lines;
Telling how the Count Arnaldos,
With his hawk upon his hand, Saw a fair and stately galley,
Steering onward to the land ;
How he heard the ancient helmsman
Chant a song so wild and clear,
the mast to hear.
Till his soul was full of longing,
And he cried with impulse strong, “ Helmsman! for the love of Heaven.
Teach me, too, that wondrous song!”
“Wouldst thou,"-so the helmsman answer'u,
“ Learn the secret of the sea ? Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery !”
THE AGE OF ELIZABETH.
THE age of Queen Elizabeth is commonly called the golden age of
English poetry. It certainly may not improperly be styled the most poetical age of these annals.
Among the great features which strike us in the poetry of this period are the predominancy of fable, of fiction, and fancy, and a predilection for interesting adventures and pathetic events. I will endeavour to assign and explain the cause of this characteristic distinction, which may chiefly be referred to the following principles, sometimes blended, and sometimes operating singly; the revival and vernacular versions of the classics, the importation and translation of Italian novels, the visionary reveries or refinements of false philosophy, a degree of superstition sufficient for the purposes of poetry, the adoption of the machineries of romance, and the frequency and the improvements of allegoric exhibition in the popular spectacles..
All or most of these circumstances contributed to give a descriptive, a picturesque, and a figurative cast to the poetical language. This effect appears even in the prose compositions of the reign of Elizabeth. In the subsequent age prose became the language of poetry.
In the meantime general knowledge was increasing with a wide diffusion and a hasty rapidity. Books began to be multiplied, and a variety of the most useful and rational topics had been discussed in our own language. But science had not made too great advances. On the whole, we were now arrived at that period propitious to the operations of original and true poetry, when the coyness of fancy was not always proof against the approaches of reason ; when genius was rather directed than governed by judgment; and when taste and learning had so far only disciplined imagination as to suffer its excesses to pass without censure or control for the sake of the beauties to which they were allied.