Lodge, the next in order of our sonneteers, led rather a varied life. His father was a grocer in London, who in 1563 attained to the dignity of Lord Mayor. He entered Trinity College, Oxford, in 1573, and Lincoln's Inn in 1578; but literature seems to have had more attraction for him than the bar. In 1586, and again in 1591-3, we find him engaged in privateering expeditions to the West Indies, in search of excitement and adventure. He belonged to the wild society of Greene, Marlowe, and Nash; but if he took much part in their dissipations, he had strength enough to survive it, and when the leaders of the set died off, he became sober and respectable, studied medicine, gave up poetry, and spent the leisure of his professional life in translating Josephus, and the "works, both natural and moral," of Seneca. His chief productions were--A "Defence of Poetry, Music, and Stage-plays," in reply to Stephen Gosson's "School of Abuse," 1580; "Alarm against Usurers," along with the novelette of "Forbonius and Prisceria," 1584; "Scylla's Metamorphosis," with "sundry most absolute Poems and Sonnets," 1589; "Euphues Golden Legacy," (reprinted in Mr Collier's "Shakespeare's Library," as being the basis of "As You Like It," 1590; "Phyllis honoured with Pastoral Sonnets," 1593; "The Wounds of Civil War," a tragedy on the history of Marius and Sylla, 1594; "A Fig for Momus," a body of satires, 1595; "Wit's Misery and the World's Madness," a prose satire, 1596; "A Marguerite of America," a very tragical novel, 1596.
Lodge's love-poems have an exquisite delicacy and grace: they breathe a tenderer and truer passion than we find in any of his contemporaries. His sonnets are more loose and straggling, slighter and less compactly built, than Constable's or Daniel's; but they have a wonderful charm of sweet fancy and unaffected tenderness. His themes are the usual praises of beauty and complaints of unkindness; but he contrives to impart to them a most unusual air of sincere devotion and graceful fervour. None of his rivals can equal the direct and earnest simplicity and grace of his adoration of Phyllis, and avowal of faith in her constancy.
Fair art thou, Phyllis; ay, so fair, sweet maid,
As nor the sun nor I have seen more fair;
For in thy cheeks sweet roses are embayed
And gold more pure than gold doth gild thy hair.
Sweet bees have hived their honey on thy tongue,
And Hebe spiced her nectar with thy breath:
About thy neck do all the graces throng
And lay such baits as might entangle Death.
In such a breast what heart would not be thrall?
From such sweet arms who would not wish embraces?
At thy fair hands who wonders not at all,
Wonder itself through ignorance embases.
Yet nathëless tho' wondrous gifts you call these,
My faith is far more wonderful than all these.
There is a seeming artlessness in Lodge's sonnets, a winning directness, that constitutes a great part of their charm. They seem to be uttered through a clear and pure medium straight from the heart: their tender fragrance and music come from the heart itself. If the poet's design was to assume a pastoral innocence and simplicity, he has eminently succeeded. There are many conceits in his sonnets, but they are expressed so simply and naturally that they take on the semblance of half-earnest beliefs. A simple silly Arcadian may be allowed the sweet fancy of supposing a storm to be the result of Aurora's envy and despair at seeing his lovely mistress.
The dewy roseate Morn had with her hairs
In sundry sorts the Indian clime adorned
And now her eyes apparelled in tears
The loss of lovely Memnon long had mourned:
Whenas she spied the nymph whom I admire,
Kembing her locks, of which the yellow gold
Made blush the beauties of her curled wire,
Which heaven itself with wonder might behold:
Then red with shame, her reverend locks she rent,
And weeping hid the beauty of her face--
The flower of fancy wrought such discontent:
The Sighs which 'midst the air she breathed a space
A three days' stormy tempest did maintain,
Her shame a fire, her eyes a swelling rain.
And when despair seizes him, with what earnestness he makes his appeal to the last relief!--
Burst, burst, poor heart, thou hast no longer hope:
Captive mine eyes unto eternal sleep:
Let all my senses have no further scope;
Let death be lord of me and all my sheep.
For Phyllis bath betrothed fierce disdain,
That makes his mortal mansion in her heart
And tho' my tongue have long time taken pain,
To sue divorce and wed her to desart,
She will not yield; my words can have no power;
She scorns my faith; she laughs at my sad lays;
She fills my soul with never-ceasing sour,
Who filled the world with volumes of her praise.
In such extremes what wretch can cease to crave
His peace from Death who can no mercy have?
It may, however, be acknowledged that Lodge's nature was not specially fitted for the sonnet form of composition; he was not sufficiently patient and meditative to elaborate intricate stanzas. His lines have on them the dewy freshness of an impulsive gush,--a freshness off which the dew has not been brushed by the travail of thought; and the opening of his sonnets in many cases leads us to expect better things than we find as we proceed when the leading idea has been hammered out into a quatorzain. In the sonnet that opens with the lines--
Ah, pale and dying infant of the spring,
How rightly now do I resemble thee
That self-same hand that thee from stalk did wring,
Hath rent my breast and robbed my heart from rue.
the conclusion is laboured and disappointing. And still more disappointing is the sonnet to his lady on her sickness, which opens with the exquisitely tender verses--
How languisheth the primrose of love's garden?
How trill her tears the elixir of my senses?
although it contains two other beautiful lines of adjuration--
Ah, roses, love's fair roses, do not languish
Blush through the milk-white veil that holds you covered.
Mixed with his sonnets to Phyllis, and scattered through his prose tales, are many lyrics of less intricate measure, which show Lodge's charm at the height of its power. Take, for example, the two following in honour of Phyllis:--
Love guards the roses of thy lips,
And flies about them like a bee;
If I approach, he forward skips,
And if I kiss, he stingeth me.
Love in thine eyes doth build his bower,
And sleeps within their pretty shine;
And if I look the boy will lower,
And from their orbs shoot shafts divine,
Love works thy heart within his fire
And in my tears doth firm the same;
And if I tempt, it will retire,
And of my plaints doth make a game.
Love, let me cull her choicest flowers,
And pity me, and calm her eye;
Make soft her heart, dissolve her lowers,
Then will I praise thy deity.
But if thou do not, Love, I'll truly serve her,
In spite of thee, and by firm faith deserve her.
My Phyllis hath the morning sun,
At first to look upon her,
And Phyllis hath morn-waking birds
Her risings for to honour.
My Phyllis hath prime feathered flowers
That smile when she treads on them,
And Phyllis hath a gallant flock
That leaps since she doth own them.
But Phyllis hath so hard a heart,
Alas that she should have it!
As yie]ds no mercy to desart
Nor grace to those that crave it.
Sweet sun, when thou lookest on,
Pray her regard my moan.
Sweet birds, when you sing to her,
To yield some pity woo her.
Sweet flowers, whenas she treads on,
Tell her her beauty deads one.
And if in life her love she nill agree me,
Pray her before I die she'll come and see me.
Not less exquisite is Rosalind's Madrigal:--
Love in my bosom like a bee
Doth suck his sweet:
Now with his wings he plays with me,
Now with his feet.
Within mine eyes he makes his nest,
His bed amid my tender breast,
My kisses are his daily feast,
And yet he robs me of my rest.
Ah, wanton, will ye?
And if I sleep then percheth he
With pretty flight,
And makes his pillow of my knee
The livelong night.
Strike I my lute, he tunes the string,
He music plays if so I sing,
He lends me every lovely thing:
Yet cruel he my heart doth sting.
Whist, wanton, still ye,
Else I with roses every day
Will whip you hence;
And bind you when you long to play
For your offence.
I'll shut mine eyes to keep you in,
I'll make you fast it for your sin,
I'll count your power not worth a pin,
Alas what hereby shall I win,
If he gainsay me?
What if I beat the wanton boy
With many a rod?
He will repay me with annoy,
Because a god.
Then sit thou safely on my knee
And let thy bower my bosom be:
Lurk in mine eyes, I like of thee:
O Cupid, so thou pity me,
Spare not but play thee.
"Scylla's Metamorphosis," the tale of Glaucus and Scylla, is interesting on its own account, and further, as the probable model of Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis," whose unhappy loves it introduces as an episode. It is at least the first published of the apocryphal classical tales which at that time became a transient fashion--the English anticipator, if not the model, of Marlowe's "Hero and Leander," Drayton's "Endymion and Phoebe," and Chapman's "Ovid's Banquet of Sense." I need not follow the windings of the tale. The gist is that Scylla was metamorphosed as a punishment for her cruelty to Glaucus, a sea-god: and the interest of the poem lies in its voluptuous descriptions. I may quote his picture of the anguish of Venus for comparison with Daniel's Henry and Shakespeare's Venus: it is more a pretty grief than a deep passion: its sweetness reminds us of a child's endearments to a dead pet bird.
He that hath seen the sweet Arcadian boy
Wiping the purple from his forced wound,
His pretty tears betokening his annoy;
His sighs, his cries, his falling on the ground;
The echoes ringing from the rocks his fall,
The trees with tears reporting of his thrall.
And Venus starting at her love-mate's cry
Forcing her birds to haste her chariot on;
And, full of grief, at last, with piteous eye,
Seen where all pale with death he lay alone
Whose beauty quail'd as wont the lilies droop
When wasteful winter winds do make them stoop.
Her dainty hand addressed to claw her dear,
Her roseal lip allied to his pale cheek,
Her sighs, and then her looks and heavy cheer,
Her bitter threats, and then her passions meek;
How on his senseless corpse she lay a-crying,
As if the boy were then but new a-dying.
Lodge's "Fig for Momus" is often amusing, but the satire is not very pungent. He was much too good-natured a man to be a satirist: he was not capable even of smiling spite, much less of bitter derision. His "Epistles" are entitled to the claim that he makes for them, of being the first productions of the kind in English, and their date disposes at once of Joseph Hall's conceited boast--
I first adventure, follow me who list
And be the second English satirist.
But priority is their chief merit: they are colourless imitations of Horace. Marston is the first real English satirist.
Nor can Lodge be said to have been successful as a dramatist. The "Wounds of Civil War" is a heavy drama. Sylla is drawn with considerable power as a bold rough man with a certain sense of humour in him: ambitious, boastful, treating his enemies with scoffing contempt, making a jest of death and cruelty, rudely repelling compliments, provoking public censure for the pleasure of defying it. He may have supplied some raw material for Shakespeare's "Coriolanus." Sylla talks very much in the vein of Tamburlaine; and it is probable from this that Lodge may fairly get the credit or discredit of the extravagant ramps of Basni in the "Looking-glass for London," which he wrote in conjunction with Greene. It is a curious thing that men like Lodge and Peele should quite equal, if not surpass, even Marlowe in outrageous heroics. One wonders that the Herod of the Mysteries should be out-Heroded by one who dwells with such fresh enthusiasm on tender beauties. How different are Sylla's rants from this strain!--
O shady vale, O fair enriched meads,
O sacred woods, sweet fields, and rising mountains;
O painted flowers, green herbs where Flora treads,
Refreshed by wanton winds and watery fountains.
Perhaps, however, it is not more surprising than that the author of "Tamburlaine" should be the author of "Hero and Leander."