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contains songs, ballads, and a dramatic poem on Edward III. Flaxman, the artist, admired the poems, and helped to bear the expense of publication.
In 1789 the Songs of Innocence, Blake's finest work, appeared. The work consists of twenty sweet little poems, the whole engraved on copper and illustrated with designs by Blake himself, who coloured the pictures. Every scene has its poetical accompaniment, curiously interwoven with the group on the landscape, and forming from the beauty of the colour and the prettiness of the pencilling a very fair picture of itself.' A somewhat similar work, Songs of Experience, appeared in 1794.
Blake executed in a similar way works entitled Gates of Paradise, Jerusalem, and Urizen, but both the sketches and the language are wild and incomprehensible. He declared that he saw visions, and that he wrote and sketched under inspiration, and even his friends believed him to be touched with madness. His madness, was, however, harmless, and brought him more joy than sorrow, to judge by the following instance which he records of himself: I was walking alone in my garden, there was great stillness among the branches and flowers, and more than common sweetness in the air; I heard a low and pleasant sound, and I knew not whence it came. At last I saw a broad leaf of a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and gray grasshoppers bearing a body laid out on a rose leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared. It was a fairy funeral.'
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1809-1861) was born in Durham, but passed her childhood at Hope End, a beautiful country house in Herefordshire. The memory of those early days is preserved in the fine poem, The Lost Bower. She was a precocious little scholar, could read Homer at eight years of age, she dreamed more of Agamemnon than of Moses her black pony,' and at twelve she wrote an epic poem on the battle of Marathon.
At the age of twenty, after her mother's death, she came with her father to live in London, and she wrote Prometheus in 1835, The Seraphim in 1836, and The Cry of the Children in 1843.
About this time she became acquainted with Robert Browning, to whom she was married in 1846. They went abroad immediately, travelled through France and Italy, and settled finally in Florence, where, except for one brief interval, all the rest of her life was passed.
Their home, the Casa Guidi, was well known to English travellers, and they have given pleasant pictures of the happi
ness that filled it. The American Hawthorne describes Mrs. Browning as a small pale person, scarcely embodied at all, and speaking with a shrill yet sweet tenuity of voice.' Her chief works in her Italian home were Casa Guidi Windows, 1851, and Aurora Leigh, her longest work, in 1857.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT (1797-1878) was born in Massachusetts, and began to write poems at the age of thirteen. The poem Thanatopsis, which some consider his best, was written when he was nineteen. He practised for some years as a country barrister, but in 1825 he came to New York, and was many years editor of a newspaper. The poem To a Waterfowl is perhaps his best, as it is certainly the best. known, but the address to his native land, O Mother of a Mighty Race, is also a fine spirited poem. Bryant was one of the first to appreciate and welcome the dawning genius of Longfellow.
JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688) was born at Elstow, near Bedford, and followed his father's trade of brazier or tinker. At the age of sixteen he enlisted as a soldier, and appears to have led a wild life, like many other young men. But after a few years a great change came over him, and before he was thirty he was appointed a preacher among the Nonconformists, and preached with great success in woods, in barns, on village greens, or in town chapels.'
After the Restoration he was brought before the justices for preaching, and, since he would not promise to forbear, he was kept in prison till 1672. But he was not treated harshly-was allowed to preach in prison and to visit his friends, and once he went as far as to London.
While in prison he wrote and published Grace Abounding, which is his spiritual autobiography. It is thought that he also planned there his great work, the Pilgrim's Progress, though the first part did not appear till 1678 and the second till 1684. There are scattered through both parts little snatches of verse which are as homely and vigorous as the prose. The Pilgrim's Song is in the second part, and is sung by Valiant.
After Bunyan's release he was licensed as a preacher, and was immensely popular both in Bedford and in London. He wrote many other works, of which the Holy War is the next best to the Pilgrim's Progress.
The Minstrel BURNE is a name and little more. one of the many Border minstrels, and the single poem of his which remains celebrates the beauties of the Yarrow and the
Leader, and the pleasant land adjacent. There is a tradition that in Thirlestane Castle in that region there formerly hung a portrait of Minstrel Burne, 'a douce auld man leading a cow by a straw rope.'
In Lockhart's Life of Scott we read: 'He showed us the crags and tower of Smailholme, and behind it the shattered fragment of Erceldoune, and repeated some pretty stanzas ascribed to the last of the real wandering minstrels of this district, by name Burne.'
ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796), the greatest of Scottish song writers, was born in a cottage of clay near Ayr. His father was a small farmer, a worthy man, but sorely pressed with poverty all his life through.
Robert had little education, and while only a boy laboured like a man on the farm, and after his father's death became a farmer himself with his brother Gilbert. But the farm did not prosper, and in 1786 he was on the point of seeking his fortune abroad, and in order to secure the passage money he collected and published a tiny volume of the poems and songs which he had from time to time written.
The poems were received with enthusiasm. welcomed to Edinburgh, and was feasted there for a time, and he gave up all idea of going abroad. He then married and settled down as a farmer in Dumfriesshire for a few years; then gave up the farm for an appointment in the excise, and he died in Dumfries at an early age.
Of Burns's longer poems some of the chief are The Cotter's Saturday Night, in which he has lovingly described his father; Tam o' Shanter, in which an Ayrshire legend is treated with rich humour; and The Jolly Beggars.
But his best works are his songs, which are unrivalled in their pathos, and humour and variety. From the loud flowing revel in Willie brew'd a Peck o' Maut, to the still, rapt enthusiasm of sadness for Mary in Heaven; from the glad, kind greeting of Auld Lang Syne, or the comic archness of Duncan Gray, to the fire-eyed fury of Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled, he has found a tone and words for every mood of man's heart.'
LORD BYRON (1788-1824) was born in Aberdeen, and succeeded to the title on the death of his grand-uncle in 1798. In 1805 he published a volume of poems entitled Hours of Idleness, which was mercilessly criticised in the Edinburgh Review, and the young poet vigorously responded in the satirical poem, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.
Byron then spent several years in foreign travel, and on
his return published the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and a number of brilliant metrical romances- The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, and others, which took the world by storm.
In 1815 he married, but a year later he was parted from his wife and left England never to return. He lived for a time at Geneva, and there wrote the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and the beautiful drama, Manfred. He then went into Italy and lived mostly in Venice, where he completed Childe Harold, and also wrote Don Juan, the greatest of his poems.
Among his minor poems, some of the most pleasing are the Hebrew Melodies, though the poet himself did not value them highly.
Byron died, after a short illness, at Missolonghi, in Greece, whither he had gone to help the Greeks in their struggle for independence.
THOMAS CAMPBELL (1777-1844) was born in Glasgow. After winning distinction in the University he becane a tutor in various families in the West Highlands, and there he wrote his early poems, Glenara and Lord Ullin's Daughter. He then gave up teaching and began to do miscellaneous literary work, and in 1799 his first considerable poem, The Pleasures of Hope, was published.
In 1800 he visited Germany, and became acquainted with warlike scenes, and wrote the stirring lyrics, Ye Mariners of England, Battle of the Baltic, and Hohenlinden.
On his return to England he married and settled in London, and in 1809 he published Gertrude of Wyoming. In 1820 he became editor of the New Monthly Magazine, in which his later poems, The Brave Roland, The Last Man, and others, were published.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834) was son of the Vicar of Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire. He was a scholar at Christ's Hospital, where Charles Lamb was his friend, and he entered Cambridge just as Wordsworth left it.
In 1796 Coleridge published his first volume of poems, a collection of about fifty, of which the finest is Religious Musings. The next year he became a neighbour of Wordsworth, in Somerset, and together they planned the famous Lyrical Ballads, which appeared in 1798. They agreed to write a series of poems of two sorts. In the one the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; in the other the subjects were to be chosen from common life.
The former kind were to be Coleridge's task, and his chief contribution was The Ancient Mariner, the finest of all his poems. To the same period belong the first part of the weird story of Christabel and the strange melodious fragment of Kubla Khan, though these poems were not published till 1817.
Coleridge visited Germany in 1798, and after his return in the next year began to write for the Press. His course of life was then for many years unsettled and miserable, but in 1816 he found a peaceful refuge at Highgate, and remained there till his death. In these later years he wrote Biographia Literaria, Aids to Reflection, and other prose works treating of poetry, philosophy, and religion.
WILLIAM COLLINS (1721-1759) was born at Chichester, where his father, a worthy tradesman, was thrice mayor. At Winchester School he became the friend of Joseph Warton, the poet, and a little later, at Oxford, Gilbert White of Selborne was one of his friends.
In 1742 he published a volume of Persian Eclogues, a series of poetical sketches of Oriental life, but in later years he became dissatisfied with them, and called them, in mockery, 'Irish Eclogues.' In 1746 he published a volume of Odes, and these are his best work. They attracted little notice at first, but two of them, the Ode to Evening and the Ode on the Passions, are as beautiful, or nearly so, as anything which Gray has written.
Collins was at this time in London trying to live by literature, and, like many others, failing. Johnson knew him, and visited him when he was immured in his lodgings by a bailiff that was prowling in the street.'
In 1749 an uncle left him 2,000l., and he retired to Chichester and collected a choice library, but his reason began to fail him, and he died insane in 1759.
WILLIAM COWPER (1731-1800) was born in the rectory of Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire. He lost his mother when he was six years old, and one of his sweetest poems in later years is that On the receipt of my Mother's
Till he was twenty-one he spent his life in a gay and frivolous, but innocent, fashion; then his reason gave way, and though he recovered he remained sedate and melancholy all his life after.
He was never married, and lived in the family of the Unwins at Huntingdon, and afterwards at Olney. Mrs. Unwin watched over him like a mother, and her death in 1796 was a terrible blow to him. She persuaded him to try his hand at poetry,