The Sonnet-Series (Cont.)

To the same year [1593] belongs the elder Giles Fletcher's Licia,1 avowedly a collection of literary exercises. In the preface he says, "This kinde of poetrie wherein I wrote, I did it onlie to trie my humour."2 Most of the sonnets are imitated, and the originals have been carefully noted by the editor, Dr. Grosart.3 But the fact that the poet's insincerity is frankly confessed does not lessen the very considerable charm of this sequence. Not only is the verse itself more melodious, if less vigorous, than Sidney's, but the subjects are all drawn from an imaginary world of great beauty. Most of the sonnets are little idyls, after the Alexandrian manner, full of cupids, and describing dainty dramas in which Venus and the poet's mistress play prominent parts. In tone the whole sequence accords with the nineteenth idyl of Theocritus--the story of Love stung by the bee, and laughed at by Aphrodite. An illustrative parallel in Fletcher is the ninth sonnet:--

"Love was layd downe, all wearie fast asleepe,

Whereas my love his armour tooke away," etc.4

1Grosart, Occasional Issues, ii.

2Ibid., p. 7.

3Ibid., p. 101.

4Ibid., p. 20.

The sequence gives the impression of an exquisitely delicate poetic spirit, but of little strength. None of the sonnets show fervor; all of them bespeak a keen delight in intellectual and literary beauty. The element of sensuous physical charm is very small, but the feeling for painting, such as was found in Lodge's Rosalind, reappears frequently, with most effect in the sonnet in which Licia is brought face to face with her own portrait.1 The only deep note is struck in the sonnet suggestive of Shakspere, in which the poet meditates how time will destroy all things save beauty, virtue, and friendship:--

"In tyme the strong and stately turrets fall,

In tyme the rose and silver Lillies die,

In tyme the monarchs captives are and thrall,

In tyme the sea and rivers are made drie;

The hardest flint in tyme doth melt asunder,

Still living fame, in tyme doth fade away,

The mountains proud we see in tyme come under,

And earth for age we see in tyme decay:

    *            *         *         *          *             *

Thus all (sweet faire) in tyme must have an end,

Except thy beautie, virtues, and thy friend."2

Like Barnes and the other followers of Sidney, Fletcher supposes his mistress to fall ill, and has a sonnet on her sickness.3 This situation seems to have been an admirable one for suggesting queer poetic ideas; here Licia is visited by Death, whom she confounds by her beauty. Another familiar theme is the musical image of love, in this case, like Daniel's sonnet, introducing the lute:--

"Whenas my lute is tuned to her voyce," etc.4

1Occasional Issues, p. 17.

2Ibid., p. 39.

3Ibid., p. 35.

4Ibid., p. 42.