Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Lesser Caroline Poets > Sidney Godolphin
  John Hall Sir Edward Sherborne  


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

IV. Lesser Caroline Poets.

§ 12. Sidney Godolphin.

On the other side of politics from that which Hall finally adopted, resembling him in precocity and early death and the praise of great men (here, once more, including Hobbes but, also, Clarendon, who is not likely to have thought much of Hall), was Sidney Godolphin. He was a son of Sir William Godolphin of Godolphin in Cornwall, and of Thomasine Sidney; he was born in January, 1610, went to Exeter college, Oxford, in 1624, became member for Helston when only eighteen, joined Hopton at once when the war broke out and was shot at Chagford on 10 February, 1643. But Godolphin, though always regarded with interest by the few who mentioned him, and, though holding the exceptional position of having perished in actual fight at the opening of the rebellion, was, in the stormy times of his death, neglected so far as publication of his poems was concerned. A few pieces—a commendatory poem to Sandys on the latter’s Paraphrases, one or two others in other books and the beginning of a translation of the fourth book of the Aeneid, continued by Waller, and published in the fourth volume of Dryden’s Miscellany—did, indeed, appear in or near his time. Ellis gave one of his most charming things, “Or love me less or love me more,” in his Specimens; and Scott another in the so-called Tixall Poetry. But the first attempt to collect his work from these sources and from the two MSS., no. 39 of Malone’s in the Bodleian and Harl. 1917 in the British Museum, was made by the present writer three or four years ago. The Vergilian piece is an early and interesting document of the heroic couplet on its regular side; but the lyrics are his real title to fame.   25
  These lyrics, few as they are, have the strongly miscellaneous and occasional character which belongs to almost the entire group—there are paraphrases of the Psalms, hymns, epistles (with some curious and, as yet, unexplained sporting references) and so forth. But, as usual, the charm lies in the love-lyrics: that given by Ellis and referred to above; the perhaps even better “No more unto my thoughts appear,” which is in common measure of the special Caroline stamp, while the other is in long; some fine pieces—a Chorus, a Meditation in octosyllabic couplets, some lighter attempts, as the song “’T is Affection but dissembled”; one very curious compound, perhaps intended to be detached, of common and long measure; and so forth. Once, in some triplets, he has a piece where almost the whole appeal lies in “metaphysical” thought and word-play on the difficulty of knowing his mistress from Virtue herself—
Conceits of one must into the other flow …
You are in it, as it is all in you—
and such like puerilities, unsublimated by the strangeness of touch which Donne would have given them, and emphasised by the stopped antithetic couplet. But this is almost Godolphin’s only slip into the pitfalls of the period. Of its graces and merits, he has much; and it is difficult not to think that, in a different station and circumstances, he would have had much more.

  John Hall Sir Edward Sherborne  

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