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BY REV. H. F. LYTE.
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The principal collections of the British Poets were made at a time when the taste for French correctness was in the ascendant among us. some measure account for the fact that so many smooth rhymsters, such as Pomfret, Yalden, Lansdown, &c. have been placed on that august list, while Lord Brooke, the Fletchers, Withers, Herrick, Habington, and Quarles, have been excluded from it; and it is only when some happy accident brings these writers and their productions under our notice, that we discover how many of the true poets of England have been pushed from their places, to make room for mere pretenders to the title. In some instances it would almost seem as these writers had been studiously run down by those who stole from them first, and then sought to consign them to obscurity, in order to cover their own plagiarisms. From the days of Milton, however, down to those of Burns and Cowper, a very low
standard of poetic excellence prevailed in this country; and a trifling offence against good taste, a slight ruggedness in style and composition, were sufficient to condemn a poet of no mean order to oblivion; as if any correctness of taste or smoothness of versification could atone for the actual dearths of originality. Among those who have experienced in a remarkable degree this unfair treatment is the poet, a part of whose works we propose now to republish. He is entirely unnoticed in the great collections of Bell, Anderson, and Chalmers; and even Campbell, in his “ Specimens of the British Poets," speaks in the most slighting manner of his talents and productions. All this, however, is trifling in comparison with the treatment he receives at the hands of his own county historian, Jones. This writer actually doubts whether Henry Vaughan ever produced any poetry whatever. He tells us that two little pieces of his, the “Olor Iscanus" and the “ Charnel House,” were published by Thomas Vaughan, in the name of his brother Henry; but that they were generally believed to be Thomas Vaughan's own compositions. So ignorantly and flippantly could the historian of Brecknockshire write respecting one of its greatest literary ornaments, whose works, now before us, amount to seven printed volumes. How far this depreciation was deserved, the poems preserved in the following pages will best testify; but we are much deceived if many of them do not commend
hemselves to all readers of true poctic taste, as among the most striking compositions of their age. In this case a desire will naturally arise to know something respecting the author, and this curiosity the editor here endeavours to gratify; and after carefully looking through the aforesaid volumes, and making what inquiries he could both at Oxford and in the neighbourhood where Vaughan lived and died, he offers in the following biographical sketch the results of his researches. It may be as well here further to observe, that Henry Vaughan the poet must not be confounded with another of the same name, college, and neighbourhood, who wrote two little theological pieces of some merit. Though possessing so many features in common, they were, as the records of Jesus College show, totally dif
Henry Vaughan, styled by his contemporaries “ the Silurist,” from his having been born among the Silures, or people of South Wales, was descended from one of the most ancient and respectable families of the principality, deducing its pedigree from the ancient kings of that country. Two of his ancestors, Sir Roger Vaughan and Sir David Gam, lost their lives at the battle of Agincourt. His great grandmother was Lady Frances Somerset, daughter of Thomas Somerset, third son of Henry Earl of Worcester; and the possessions of the Vaughan family were very extensive both in Brecknockshire and in other parts of Wales. The chief family residence was the castle of Tretower, in the parish of Cwmdû, and, when it was dismantled, Skethrock, or Scethrog, in the same neighbourhood. At this latter place, Shakespeare is said to have paid a visit to one of the family; and his commentator Malone thinks that it was perhaps there that he picked up the word “ Puck,” respecting the origin of which some of his critics have been much puzzled. Pooky, in Welsh, signifies a goblin; and near Scethrog exists a valley, Cwm-Pooky, the goblin's vale, which belonged to the Vaughans, and which a tradition, still extant, states to have been a favorite resort of some distinguished“ Bard,” who had once visited that neighbourhood. The grandfather of the poet appears to have migrated from Tretower to Newton, in the parish of Llansaintfread, about five miles distant from the family residence; and there his son Henry, in the year 1621, had issue Henry and Thomas Vaughan, twin brothers, the former of them the subject of the present memoir. Newton, once a comfortable mansion, is now a farm-house near the Usk, on the road leading from Crickhowel to Brecon, and distant about five miles from the latter place. Henry Vaughan styles it himself, in the date affixed to one of his dedications, “ Newton by Uske, near Sketh-rock.” The situation is a very beautiful
well calculated to nurse poetic thought and feeling; and there is abundant evidence in Vaughan's works to show that it was not unap
preciated by its poetic occupant. There are some very sweet Latin verses in one of his early volumes addressed to the Usk, and the following lines occur in one of his English apostrophies to the same river:
“ Garlands and songs and roundelayes,
Mild dewie nights and sunshine dayes,
At the age of eleven years, Henry Vaughan and his brother were sent for education to the Rev. Matthew Herbert, rector of Llangattock, under whose tuition they continued during the ensuing
Here they seem to have made considerable progress in classical literature, and to have imbibed a strong affection for their tutor, as well as a lively sense of their obligations toward him. They have both left behind them elegant and affectionate tributes in Latin Elegiacs to their old preceptor, and the graceful classicality of these compositions proves how well their praises were deserved.
From Llangattock the brothers in due time moved on to Oxford, and entered at Jesus College in the
year 1638. They were then between seventeen and eighteen years of age, and well qualified