Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Sussex Poets.                                 227
and Porrex, or Gordubuc, as it has been generally called," was his production, and was in that blank verse which, as subsequently used by Marlowe and then by Shakspeare, became the most powerful vehicle for passion and pathos since the days of Eschylus and Sophocles. " Gordubuc" was first acted, and with applause, before Elizabeth in 1561, when its author was still a young man. Hazlitt, judging it by comparison with what came later, is severe upon it. "As a work of genius," he says, " it may be set down as nothing, for it contains hardly a memorable line or passage. As a work of art, and the first of its kind attempted in the language, it may be considered as a monument of the taste and skill of the author." He quotes some passages which go far to over­throw his unfavourable judgment. Certainly there is poetic genius in the following lines, in which the heroine laments over the untimely death of her lover, Ferrex:—
Ah! noble prince, how oft have I beheld Thee mounted on thy fierce and trampling steed, Shining in armour bright before the tilt, And with thy mistress' sleeve tied on thy helm, And charge thy staff to please thy lady's eye, That bowed the head-piece of thy friendly foe! How oft in arms on horse to bend the mace, How oft in arms on foot to break the sword, Which never now these eyes may see again!
Does not this passage recall as well as anticipate those of
a great poet of our own days :—
So like a shattered column lay the King— Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest, From spur to plume a star of tournament, Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged Before the eyes of ladies and of Kings.
The thought and feeling are the same in both, and even in the imagery there is resemblance enough to make the parallel a striking one. Both have the true touch of pathos, and the ring of chivalry, in them.
But we must leave Thomas Sackville in his glory as the first writer of English tragedy, to come to a greater than he: John Fletcher, the author of "The Faithful Shepherdess," one of the sweetest and richest Pastoral Poems ever written—
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