The Sonnet-Series (Cont.)

In the same year, 1592, appeared Henry Constable's Diana,1 on which, rather than on his sacred sonnets already mentioned, his fame rests. Of the twenty-eight sonnets in this collection, two are devoted to Lady Rich, and in one of them the name is used for a pun, though of course with no such ill intention as Sidney's. This reminder that we are among Astrophel's contemporaries is the only direct evidence of Sidney's influence on Constable. Diana has not the mark of a real woman, nor are even the conventional themes exhausted in her praise. The poet is unsuccessful and gives up his wooing, according to the twenty-sixth sonnet; yet the lady's cruelty is but slightly touched on, and the poet never seems really disturbed by his fate. The passion of Sidney's lyrics so far declines here, that the lover bids his mistress to command him to love in vain; his ill success will then be easy to bear, he says, for all her commands are joy.2 The fact is, Constable is simply exercising himself in the latest literary

1Sonnets and other Poems, Hazlitt, 1859.

2Ibid., p. 6.

form; he has only a lay-figure to sing to, and lacks the dramatic imagination to feign enthusiasm. As literary exercises, his sonnets are admirable, smoother than Daniel's though not so sweet, and more regular in form. He recalls us to the miscellanies by the use of titles, some of which show the old lack of humor, and revive the narrative element; e.g. To his Ladie's Hand: upon occasion of her Glove, which in her Absence he kissed.1 The concluding lines of this sonnet illustrate the general temper of Constable's lyric passion, as well as his very respectable literary skill:--
"The bow that shot these shafts a relique is,

I meane the hand--which is the reason why

So many for devotion thee would kisse:

And I thy glove kisse, as a thing divine--

Thy arrowes quiver, and thy reliques shrine."

One sonnet, in praise of Diana, suggests a theme which reappeared in other sequences, notably Shakspere's. It excuses the poet of the charge of flattery, which, he says, would indeed be his crime if he were describing any one but Diana. The idea is not far from--

"Who will believe my verse in time to come,

If it were filled with your most high deserts?"

1Ibid., p. 13.