Metaphysical to Augustan: Studies in Tone and Sensibility in the Seventeenth Century

By Geoffrey Walton | Go to book overview

THE POETRY OF JOHN NORRIS OF BEMERTON: A PLEA FOR RECOGNITION

THE POEMS of the incumbent of Bemerton in the age of Queen Anne have been undeservedly neglected. He was a not unworthy successor of George Herbert. John Norris, besides occupying an important place on an interesting poetic backwater, is a minor talent of real distinction. He has something to say for which he has discovered an adequate medium, and furthermore he is to be read for whole poems, not merely, as so often with a minor poet, for isolated lines. Norris has not been entirely forgotten; he gets a line or two in histories of literature. But I feel that he needs giving genuine currency, and though I do not claim major status for him, I hope to indicate the sense of 'discovery' one feels after reading through about three-quarters of his volume of pleasing and thoughtful verse on coming upon the poem in which the wheels have indeed taken fire.

At first one is struck by the resemblance to Cowley. The Retiremere obviously descends from The Wish1 and The Choice is a weaker version than Cowley's of Chorus II from Seneca Thyesres; his handful of love poems might have appeared in The Mistress -- with one exception on which I will comment later. One thinks that here is another belated Metaphysical, using some of the old themes

I cf. Well, I have thought on't, and I fund,
This busie World is Nonsense all:
I here despair to please my mind,
Her sweetest Honey is so mixt with Gall,

and

Well then; I now do plainly see,
This busie world and I shall ne're agree;
The very Honey of all earthly joy
Does of all meats the soonest cloy. . . .

-141-

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