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antiquated song; for there are several parts in it where not only the thought but the language is majestic, and the numbers sonorous; at least, the apparel is much more gorgeous than many of the poets made use of in Queen Elizabeth's time, as the reader will see in several of the following quotations.
What can be greater than either the thought or the expression in that stanza,
To drive the deer with hound and horn
Earl Percy took his way!
The child may rue that is unborn
The hunting of that day!
This way of considering the misfortunes which this battle would bring upon posterity, not only on those who were born immediately after the battle, and lost their fathers in it, but on those also who perished in future battles which took their rise from this quarrel of the two earls, is wonderfully beautiful, and conformable to the way of thinking among the ancient poets.
Audiet pugnas vitio parentum
HOR. 1 Od. ii. 23.
Posterity, thinn'd by their fathers' crimes,
What can be more sounding and poetical, or resemble more the majestic simplicity of the ancients, than the following stanzas?
The stout Earl of Northumberland
A vow to God did make,
His pleasure in the Scottish woods
With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,
Who knew full well, in time of need,
The hounds ran swiftly through the woods
The nimble deer to take,
And with their cries the hills and dales
Vocat ingenti clamore Citharon
Taygetique canes, domitrixque Epidaurus equorum:
GEORG. iii. 43.
Citharon loudly calls me to my way;
Thy hounds, Taygetus, open and pursue the prey:
Fam'd for his hills, and for his horses breed:
Lo, yonder doth Earl Douglas come,
Full twenty hundred Scottish spears,
All men of pleasant Tividale,
The country of the Scotch warriors, described in these two last verses, has a fine romantic situation, and affords a couple of smooth words for verse. If the reader compares the foregoing six lines of the song with the following Latin verses, he will see how much they are written in the spirit of Virgil:
Adversi campo apparent, hastasque reductis
EN. xi. 605. vii. 682, 712.
Advancing in a line, they couch their spears
With those who plow Saturnia's Gabine land:
The rocks of Hernicus-besides a band,
But to proceed:
Earl Douglas on a milk-white steed,
Rode foremost of the company,
Whose armour shone like gold.
Turnus ut antevolans tardum præcesserat agmen, &c.
Our English archers bent their bows,
With that there came an arrow keen
Out of an English bow,
Which struck Earl Douglas to the heart,
A deep and deadly blow.
Æneas was wounded after the same manner by an unknown hand in the midst of a parley.
Has inter voces, media inter talia verba,
ÆN. xii. 318.
Thus, while he spake, unmindful of defence,
But of all the descriptive parts of this song, there are none more beautiful than the four following stanzas, which have a great force and spirit in them, and are filled with very natural circumstances. The thought in the third stanza was never touched by any other poet, and is such an one as would have shined in Homer or in Virgil:
So thus did both these nobles die,
He had a bow bent in his hand,
Against Sir Hugh Montgomery
The grey-goose wing that was thereon
This fight did last from break of day
For when they rang the ev'ning bell
One may observe, likewise, that in the catalogue of the slain, the author has followed the example of the great ancient poets, not only in giving a long list of the dead, but by diversifying it with little characters of particular persons.
And with Earl Douglas there was slain
Sir Charles Carrel, that from the field
Sir Charles Murrel of Ratcliff too,
His sister's son was he;
Sir David Lamb so well esteem'd,
Yet saved could not be.
The familiar sound in these names destroys the ma
jesty of the description; for this reason I do not mention this part of the poem but to shew the natu̟ral cast of thought which appears in it, as the two last verses look almost like a translation of Virgil.
Cadit et Ripheus justissimus unus
Qui fuit in Teucris et servantissimus æqui.
N. ii. 426.
Then Ripheus fell in the unequal fight,
In the catalogue of the English who fell, Witherington's behaviour is in the same manner particularized very artfully, as the reader is prepared for it by that account which is given of him in the beginning of the battle; though I am satisfied your little buffoon readers (who have seen that passage ridiculed in Hudibras) will not be able to take the beauty of it: for which reason I dare not so much as quote it.
Then stept a gallant 'squire forth,
That e'er my captain fought on foot,
We meet with the same heroic sentiment in Virgil.
Non pudet, O Rutuli, cunctis pro talibus unam
EN. xii. 229.
For shame, Rutilians, can you bear the sight