Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Lesser Caroline Poets > John Hall
  Thomas Stanley Sidney Godolphin  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

IV. Lesser Caroline Poets.

§ 11. John Hall.

Perhaps, however, a still more typical example of these curious writers is to be found in one who dedicated his poems, enthusiastically, to Stanley himself, a year before Stanley published his own. John Hall, born at Durham in 1627, and educated at the grammar school there, entered St. John’s college, Cambridge, in February, 1645/6, and, in little more than a twelvemonth, had published a volume of prose essays, Horae Vacivae (1646) and one of poems in two books, profane and divine (1647). Both received extraordinary praise, among the praisers being Hobbes, Howell and, for the verse, Henry More and Stanley himself. These four names would indicate that, at the time, Hall, if not a definite royalist, was, at any rate, persona grata to the royalist party. In 1648, he issued a Satire against the Presbyterians. But this, in the changed circumstances of Cambridge and of the country, was not incompatible with his being an adherent of Cromwell, on whose side he wrote pamphlets, besides translating variously. His version of Longinus—The Height of Eloquence—has, at any rate, no bad title. But he did not follow up his promise of original work, he lived hard and he died before he was thirty, in 1656.   23
  Hall’s poems exhibit the minor verse of the period, if not in a complete, at any rate in a new and peculiar, microcosm. Unlike Kynaston, he has no long poem; and, though a professional translator, he does not, like Stanley, mix translations of short poems freely with his originals. But, unlike both of them, he is a “divine” poet; and, unlike Stanley, he has a large portion of light and trivial pieces tending towards the epigram—in fact, he approximates to Cleiveland in this respect, and there is a considerable tangle of attributions between the two as to some pieces. In such verse, however, he has no poetical interest: though a crowd of allusions to persons and things will reward the hunter after game of this nature. His gift in the poetical direction lies wholly in pure lyric, and especially in the employment for it of the abruptly broken metres, with constant very short lines alternated with long, that had come into favour, of strongly “metaphysical” diction and of no small portion of the undefinable atmosphere of poetic suggestion referred to above. The process results in not a very few poems of remarkable beauty: The Call, The Lure, The Morning Star, Julia Weeping, The Crystal, An Epicurean Ode, Of Beauty, The Epilogue and the curious Ode from an undergraduate “to his tutor” Pawson, among the profane poems; A Dithyramb, the Ode “Descend O Lord,” Self and the other Ode “Lord send Thine hand,” among the divine. It is, no doubt, easy to say that, but for Donne and Jonson, these things had never been; yet, after all, we cannot deny to the actual author the credit of the fact that these things are; Jonson and Donne eminently, with others beside them, provided, no doubt, the examples of form; the dying renascence gave its colours of mixed enjoyment and regret; the rich tradition of two full generations in England supplied word and phrase and conceit. Still, in the case of the particular things, “John Hall fecit.   24

  Thomas Stanley Sidney Godolphin  

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