By William Minto


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II.--SAMUEL DANIEL (1562-1619).

Daniel, born near Taunton in Somersetshire, was the son of a music-master, but somehow obtained a university education at Oxford. He published a translation of Paulus Jovius's "Discourse of Rare Inventions" in 1585 at the age of twenty-three, and soon afterwards became tutor to Lady Anne Clifford. A man of taste and refined feeling, very unlike some of the sturdy contemporary plants who lived by acting and play-writing, Daniel grew up under the shelter of noble patronage, conciliating favour by the amiability of his disposition as well as by the gracefulness of his literary compliments. He enjoyed the patronage of the Earl of Southampton and of the Pembroke family. Through the influence of his noble friends, he had obtained in 1593, the Mastership of the Revels, for which poor John Lyly had waited so long and begged so earnestly; and after the accession of James, he was made Gentleman-Extraordinary, and subsequently one of the Grooms of the Privy Chamber to the Queen Consort. His chief poetical works were--Sonnets to "Delia," 1592; "Delia" augmented, along with the "Complaint of Rosamond" and the "Tragedy of Cleopatra," 1594; metrical history of the "Civil Wars," 1604; "Tragedy of Philotas," 1611; "Hymen's Triumph, a pastoral tragi-comedy," not published till 1623. He wrote several other pieces of less importance. His plays were produced for the entertainment of the Court; and it may have been this connection that dictated his choice of the Wars of the Roses as a subject. He also wrote in prose a History of England.

Had Daniel lived in the present day, his destiny probably would have been to write scholarly and elegant articles in the magazines, ripe fruits of leisurely study, cultivated taste, and easy command of polite English. His was not one of the stormy irregular natures that laid the foundation and raised the structure of the English drama: the elements of his being were softly blended, and wrought together mildly and harmoniously. In the prologue to "Hymen's Triumph," he declares that he has no rude antique sport to offer--

But tender passions, motions soft and grave
The still spectators must expect to have.

He wrote for Cynthia, and therefore his play--

Must be gentle like to her
Whose sweet affections mildly move and stir.

He might have said the same about all his poetry. He was no master of strong passions: he never felt them, and he could not paint them. Between his Cleopatra and Shakespeare's there is a wide gulf. But he is most exquisite and delicate in pencilling "tender passions, motions soft and grave."

Without being strikingly original, Daniel has a way and a vein of his own. He fills his mind with ideas and forms from extraneous sources, and with quietly operating plasticity reshapes them in accordance with the bent of his own modes of thought and feeling. He had not the Shakespearian lightning quickness in adaptation and extension; the process in him was more peaceable and easy. The diction of his poems is choice; the versification easy and flowing. He often puts things with felicitous terseness and vigour, and his words almost invariably come together happily and harmoniously.

The publication of Daniel's sonnets in 1592 is an epoch in the history of the English Sonnet. This was the first body of sonnets written in what is sometimes called by pre-eminence the English form--three independent quatrains closed in by a couplet. Daniel also set an example to Shakespeare in treating the sonnet as a stanza, connecting several of them together as consecutive parts of a larger expression. Apart from their form, there is not very much interest in the sonnets to Delia. They have all Daniel's smoothness and felicity of phrase, and are pervaded by exceedingly sweet and soft sentiment. Though they rouse no strong feelings, they may be dwelt upon by a sympathetic reader with lively enjoyment. One of them, with somewhat greater depth of feeling than most of the others, the sonnet beginning--"Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night," is ranked among the best sonnets in the language. But their most general interest is found in their relation to Shakespeare's sonnets, several of which seem to have been built up from ideas suggested by the study of those to Delia.1] In the following sonnets, for example, readers familiar with Shakespeare's will not fail to remark a certain similarity of idea, although the two series of sonnets differ as widely as the genius of the two poets.


But love whilst that thou mayst be loved again,
Now whilst thy May hath filled thy lap with flowers;
Now whilst thy beauty bears without a stain:
Now use the summer smiles, ere winter lowers:
And whilst thou spreadst unto the rising Sun
The fairest flower that ever saw the light,
Now joy thy time before thy sweet be done;
And, Delia, think thy morning must have night,
And that thy brightness sets at length to west,
When thou wilt close up that which now thou show'st,
And think the same becomes thy fading best,
Which then shall most inveil and shadow most.
Men do not weigh the stalk for that it was,
When once they find her flower, her glory pass.


When winter snows upon thy sable hairs,
And frost of age hath nipt thy beauties near;
When dark shall seem thy day that never clears,
And all lies withered that was held so dear:
Then take this picture which I here present thee,
Limned with a pencil that's not all unworthy:
Here see the gifts that God and Nature lent thee;
Here read thyself, and what I suffer'd for thee.
This may remain thy lasting monument,
Which happily posterity may cherish;
These colours with thy fading are not spent,
These may remain, when thou and I shall perish.
If they remain, then thou shalt live thereby:
They will remain, and so thou canst not die.


Be not displeased that these my papers should
Bewray unto the world how fair thou art;
Or that my wits have showed the best they could
The chastest flame that ever warmed heart!
Think not, sweet Delia, this shall be thy shame,
My Muse should sound thy praise with mournful warble;
How many live, the glory of whose name
Shall rest in ice, when thine is graved in marble!
Thou mayst in after-ages live esteemed
Unburied in these lines, reserved in pureness;
These shall entomb those eyes, that have redeemed
Me from the vulgar, thee from all obscureness.
Although my careful accents never moved thee,
Yet count it no disgrace that I have loved thee."


Let others sing of knights and paladins,
In aged accents and untimely words;
Paint shadows in imaginary lines
Which well the reach of their high wits records
But I must sing of thee, and those fair eyes
Authentic shall my verse in time to come
When yet th' unborn shall say, "Lo where she lies
Whose beauty made him speak, that else was dumb."
These are the arks, the trophies I erect,
That fortify thy name against old age;
And these thy sacred virtues must protect,
Against the dark and Time's consuming rage.
Though th' error of my youth in them appear
Suffice they show I lived and loved thee dear."

Daniel's genius is best shown in the expression of bereaved love in the "Complaint of Rosamond," and in "Hymen's Triumph"--as Spenser said, "in tragic plaints and passionate mischance." In the expression of courtship love, his imagination is cold and acts artificially and mechanically: but when the beloved object is taken away, he is moved to the depths, and pours forth his strains with genuine warmth. The passion has still a certain softness in it: his lovers have not the inconsolable fierce distraction of Shakespeare's forsaken lover, "tearing of papers, breaking rings atwain:" they do not shriek undistinguished woe: but they sigh deeply, and their voices are richly laden with impassioned remembrane The plaintive sorrow of Thyrsis is sweet and profound. But nothing that Daniel has written flows with surer instinct and more natural impulse than the agonised endearments of Harry over the body of Rosamond. Wholly different in character from the frantic doting of Venus over her lost Adon, these verses are hardly less perfect as the utterance of a milder and less fiercely fond passion. The deep heart's sorrow of the bereaved lover makes itself felt in every line--

Then as these passions do him overwhelm
He draws him near my body to behold it;
And as the vine married unto the elm
With strict embraces, so doth he enfold it:
And as he in his careful arms doth hold it
Viewing the face that even death commends
On senseless lips millions of kisses spends.

"Pitiful mouth," said he, "that living gavest
The sweetest comfort that my soul could wish
O be it lawful now, that dead thou havest,
This sorrowiug farewell of a dying kiss.
And you, fair eyes, containers of my bliss,
Motives of love, born to be matched never,
Entomb'd in your sweet circles, sleep for ever.

"Ah, how methinks I see Death dallying seeks
To entertain itself in Love's sweet place!
Decayed roses of discoloured cheeks,
Do yet retain dear notes of former grace,
And ugly Death sits fair within her face;
Sweet remnants resting of vermilion red,
That Death itself doubts whether she be dead.

"Wonder of beauty, O receive these plaints,
These obsequies, the last that I shall make thee:
For lo, my soul that now already faints,
(That loved the living, dead will not forsake thee)
Hastens her speedy course to overtake thee.
I'll meet my death, and free myself thereby,
For ah, what can he do that cannot die?

"Yet, ere I die, thus much my soul doth vow,
Revenge shall sweeten death with ease of mind:
And I will cause posterity shall know,
How fair thou wert above all womankind.
And after-ages monuments shall find
Showing thy beauty's title, not thy name,
Rose of the world that sweetened so the same."


[1]The Sonnets to Delia on their first issue were preceded by a prose dedication to the Countess of Pembroke, "Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother": the poet desiring "to be graced by the countenance of your protection; whom the fortune of our time bath made the happy and judicial patroness of the Muses (a glory hereditary to your house)." To the second issue was prefixed a dedicatory sonnet to the same lady, entitling her as the "wonder of these, glory of other times"; affirming that his sonnets were "her own, begotten by her hand"; and that though the travail was his, the glory must be hers. These facts, and some of the expressions, are interesting to those who believe that the friend of Shakespeare's sonnets was this lady's son.

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