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SHAKESPEARE : HIS INFLUENCE ON THE LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE OF ENGLAND.
POETRY is said to be the “noblest portion of our noble literature.” The office of poetry is to nourish the better part of our nature, to represent by the aid of imagination things as they might have been if this world was as fair as God made it, to give satis. faction to that craving desire which exists in the soul of man for something higher and nobler than natural things afford, to elevate the mind; for the poet says truly,
That unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man! and to pat in an attractive light all that is beautiful and good. Truth, at the same time, is the soul of poetry; not the truthfulness which narrows itself to mere matters in fact, but which gives a due attention to the feelings and the imagination, which does not neglect the immortal and divine part of man, but spiritualizes the duties, sorrows, and joys of life, and makes harmony where the clashing of our desires with the ordinary course of events would otherwise be discord. It awakens the better nature chilled and dulled by the hurry of every-day life.
The imaginations and the feelings are worked upon in the same manner by poetry, painting, and sculpture. In looking at a painting, form is supplied by the imagination, and in sculpture the colourless marble breathes in the vigour of life. That which pleases is not alone what the eye beholds, but that which the imagination supplies ; so it is with poetry. Language is here the medium by which our feelings are moved, but the impression is the same. As the sculptor seeks the purest and best marble for his work, so the poet needs the purest and most elegant language to express loftier and better thoughts than pass commonly through the minds of men. Language is the dress in which the poet clothes his ideas, but the language of poetry differs from ordinary language, not only in its rarer and choicer forns of expression, but in the melody of its metre. The mere stringing together of words is not poetry, there must be the body and soul as well as the dress the power which thus creates is in a certain sense divine, and the purposes of such a poet will (divine-like) be certainly accomplished.
The influence of poetry on the minds and lives of men could be illustrated by many examples if it were needful, but there is proof enough that it is poetic language above other which touches the heart, when we find that that Book whose Author is divine is, of all books, the most poetical. What matchless poetry in the Book of Isaiah, the song of Moses, the Psalms of David and the Book of Job!
Those who look for mere amusement or recreation in reading the works of our best poets will never understand or value their true beauties. They should be studied and carefully, with all the powers of the mind, with a desire to perceive the beautiful and true; and there must also be a knowledge of human nature in the reader to appreciate that knowledge in the author.
It is remarkable, that scarcely had the English language acquired a form which is at least intelligible in the present day, than a poet of the highest class rose to make it the voice of song. This was in the fourteenth century; but it is with a later period we have at present to do.
The great William Shakespeare was born near the close of the sixteenth century, on the 23rd of April, in the year 1564, at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. Little
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of his life is known, and that little is too well known to make it necessary to notice here; neither does it throw any light upon or aid us in the study of his writings, In his writings he forgets self, and identifies bimself with the characters of his invention. His power is manifested in the wide-spreading imagination, for which nothing is too great or too distant, journeying to far-off lands, rising from earth to heaven, "not confined to any clime, nor narrowed by personal prejudice. His originality of mind and his knowledge of human nature are what distinguished him above all other poets.
His loyalty and patriotism can be seen in his dramas. He was the first poet who went, as it were, below the surface of things; looked into men's hearts and showed their secret workings, and dived into nature's depths and brought up her jewels. He was the leader of modern poetry of which the general character is, like his, reflectire. Shakespeare's command of language was one of his most remarkable gifts. It is because of their simplicity and naturalness in this respect, that his poems and dramas have obtained such favour in all ages; the language is suited to the subject, and has never become obsolete. Chaucer, though so great a poet, was not so universally admired. His knowledge of human nature, his power over language, and whatever of inspiration is required to make up a great poet, must have been in him in a less degree than in Shakespeare; otherwise his poems would not have been neglected, and his language become out of date. The beauty of Shakespeare's language rather made men desire to imitate it, and instead of being left behind, he gave the tone to all who came after him. His writings have had such influence that, like our translation of the Bible, they have helped to fix the English language; thus it would be impossible to decide from his language whether his writings were of the sixteenth or the present century.
It is not known if Shakespeare was a well educated man or not, though it may be supposed that he was, both from his position in life, and from the tone of his writings. But learning, observation, and study of mankind, would not make him what he was; it was a mysterious power bestowed upon him by his Creator.
The time that Shakespeare began his public career was an important period for his country; then it was that manly English hearts were swelling with patriotism and loyalty, for it was then that their beloved country had been saved from a foreign invasion; the Spanish Armada had been destroyed; and the general feeling of trueheartedness to their country and its government, of which Elizabeth was the head, naturally gave its colouring to the literature of the day, and especially to that mouthpiece of popular emotions, the dramatic literature. Shakespeare, always ready to share in lofty emotions, shows in his writings the influence of the general feeling.
To value the change which Shakespeare made in the dramatic literatare of England, we must look back to an early period. The theatrical representations at this early period were generally religious subjects, i.e., scripture history or saintly legends. They were treated in a manner which, to our minds, would appear irreverent, but in those days was considered very edyfying. These were called "the mysteries, or miracle plays." The next form "the moralities," which the drama assumed was allegorical, with titles such as “pride," "swift to sin," "all for money," &c.; and was intended to aid religion. But in all these compositions there was an absence of poetic life, a vant of famlliarity with the workings of the human heart; their emotions were taken from books, rather than real life. These forma gradually passed away, but the first English tragedy has so late a date as the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was not, however, until the last twenty years of this reign that the full flood of poetic light broke in. This accounts for the complaints of Sir Philip Sydney, at the beginning of this reign, of the degraded condition of poetry. He found little of
value on the English stage, and was cut off too soon to have his noble spirit stirred by reading the effusions of Spenser's and Shakespeare's genius
This age was calculated to develop a great intellect. Elizabeth, herself a woman of high attainments, encouraged learning, and re-established the universities which had suffered so much during the former reigns from the violence which reached even such tranquil abodes. The classic learning with which the minds of modern Europe had been imbued had influenced the language, making it affluent in expressions adapted from the literature of antiquity. And although classical literature could necessarily unfold its treasures only to the learned, yet there was current a literature suited to the popular mind, tales told, and songs sung in the winter evenings, "the metrical romance, the ballad, and the minstrelsy in all its forms."
Religous freedom and the secure state of the country aided the mental advancement of the nation. Language had gained more, far more, than classical lote could give. The Bible had been translated into English ; " and thus a sacred glory was reflected upon the language." The rudeness and imperfection which Chaucer had to struggle with had now passed away, and the peculiar fitness of the language for poetry was seen in the variety and beauty of expression of which it was capable.
Harlowe, Ben Jonson, Peel, Greene, Beaumont, Fletcher, and Webster, Shakespeare's contemporaries, added considerably to English literature; but none of them, although men of high intellectual attainments, and true poets, are to be compared with Shakespeare-his immeasurable superiority is universally acknowledged. How diversified his style! The light fancy in Ariel's sweet song,
Where the bee sucks, there lurk I;
Under the blossom that bangs on the bough.
Spit, fire! Spout, rain!
So old and white as this. Oh! Oh! 'tis foul ! Then again the awful description of a guilty conscience in Maebeth, while there is discernible a reverence for holy things in the following lines :
Like man new-made. Which of all his contemporaries ever wrote anything to equal this? What an effect must such productions have made on an audience little accustomed to such an appeal to their imaginations and hearts; and yet, many of them, men of noble and refined minds, fully qualified to appreciate all their beauties! And the very absence of that assistance now so common, of moveable scenery, and theatrical modes of representation, added to the poetry of the drama, as it became necessary to describe, in Shakespeare's own beautiful language, such scenes as Lear on the heights of Dover, or Shylock in palaces of Venice. No doubt, Shakespeare's language is somewhat disfigured by the grossness of the time in which he lived; but all his ideas are pure and right. He looks with hatred and scorn on sin, while he pities the erring one, and with Christian charity endeavours to restore him to the path of virtue. He shows good. ness in its truest and most attractive light, and leaves sin in its natural blackness. His influence on after writers was naturally great; involuntary they would endeavour to imitate his lofty leading, and his simple grandeur of style. One of our very modern, but excellent English poets, the poet-laureate, Robert Southey, acknowledges this influence, although his taste had been first awakened by reading the “Faerie Queene;" it was confirmed by the study of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Homer, and the Bible, and he adds, significantly, “It was not likely to be corrupted afterwards."
Shakespeare ended his days peacefully in his native village; and in the village church lie his bones, quietly to repose until the sound of the great trumpet summons him to appear before that mighty One whose servant he seems to have been. No one will dare stir his remains, even with the intention of honouring them, by removing them to a more stately sepulchre. For who, on reading his epitaph, would not desist from the attempt ?
Good friend, for Jesus' sake, forbear
the man that spares these stones
And curst be he that moves my bones. The greatest honour which can be paid him is to respect his wishes, and it is a proper tribute to one who has contributed more than any other to the intellectual enjoyment of all ages. More fitting, too, that, as his name stands out from all other English poets, distinct and more distinguished, his dust should also be alone. And so let us leave him. While his name is on our lips, and his words in our hearts, let him sleep in the spot he loved best:
Under this curléd marble of thine own,
For the first time in history, England commemorates the birth of a grand national poet—a graceful return, it will be allowed, on the part of the age of Victoria, for the rich legacy bequeathed to it by the age of Elizabeth-not that Englishmen are insensible to the claims of the great inspired, but that all former attempts to wreathe the brow of the Stratford woolstapler's son have partaken, more or less, of a local character, and been confined to the town in which he was born and buried.
The first Shakespeare jubilee took place in 1769, and was the direct inspiration-less of the enthusiasm than the vanity-of David Garrick, who, having received some per. sonal compliment from the cunning burghers, resolved to compound for it by a three days' festival, he himself officiating as the presiding genius. There was a procession of a most stately description; an oratorio in which many celebrated artistes of the day bore a part; a series of dramatic performances in an amphitheatre erected for the purpose; and a very brilliant display of fireworks.
The next festival was projected by the Stratford Shakespeare Club, and was held in 1827, partaking very much of the character of its predecessor; and, in the year 1830, the same club produced a third affair of the kind. No further public demonstrations in honour of the Bard of Avon occurred until April 23rd, 1863, when a party of enthusiastic Shakesperians from Birmingham commemorated the 289th anniversary.
GAME IX.-QUEEN'S GAMBIT.
BETWEEN LABOURDONNAIS AND
(LABOURDONNAIS.) (M'DONNELL.) BETWEEN MORPHY AND MOCONNELL.
I P to Q 4
1 P to Q4 2 P to 0 B 4
2 P takes P The former giving the odds of Q's Knight, which 3 P to K 3
3 P to K 4 must be removed from the board.
4 B takes P
4 P takes P
5 K Kt to B 3
6 KB to K 2 1 P to K4
7 Castles 1 P to K4
7 K Kt to B 3 2 Kt to B 3 2 Q Kt to B 3 8 P to KR 3
8 P to Q B3 3 K B to B 4 3 K B to B 4 9 Q B to K3
9 Q B to KB 4 4 P to 0 Kt 4 4 B takes Kt P 10 P to K Kt 4
10 B to K Kt 3 5 P to Q B3 5 B to B 4 11 Kt to K 5
11 Q Kt to Q 2 6 Castles 6 K Kt to B 3 12 Kt takes B
12 KRP takes Kt 7 P to Q 4 7 P takes P 13 P to KR 4
13 Kt to Q Kt 3 8 P takes P 8 B to Q Kt 3
14 K B to Q Kt 3 14 K Kt to Q 4 9 Q B to R 3 (a) 9 P to Q3
15 P to KR 5 (a) 15 Kt takes > 10 P to K5 10 Kt to K 5 16 P takes Kt
16 B to KR 5 ch (6) 11 R to K sq 11 P to Q 4 17 K to Q 2
17 P takes RP 12 KB to Q Kt 5 12 Q B to K Kt 5
18 Q to K B3
18 B to K Kt 4 13 Q R to Q Beq 13 to Q 2
19 à R to K B sq 19 Q takes P ch 14 0 to R4 14 B takes Kt 20 K to B 2
20 Q to K B3 15 R takes Q Kt 15 Castles (QR)
21 R takes P
21 0 to K K 3 ch 16 P to K6 16 P takes P 22 P to K4
22 Kt to Q + 17 R takes B
23 Q R to KR s
23 B to KR 3 24 P to K Kt 5
24 P to KB 4 and White wing.
25 Kt takes Kt
25 P takes Kt NOTE.
26 B takes Pch
26 K to R2
27 P takes R (@) When giving the odds of a rook or knight, 27 R takes B ch
28 Q takes R the first player will frequently find the move in 28 R takes P ch the text quite as effective as the more customary 29 P takes Q ones of QP to K 5, or 9 P to Q 5.
And Labourdonnais wins.
(a) White pursues the attack with vigour and BETWEEN MORPHY AND AN AMATEUR.
(6) This check serves only to advance White's Remove White's Queen's Knight. game. 16 P to K Kt 4 would have warded off the WHITE.
attack for some time. (MORPHY.)
(AMATEUR.) 1 P to K 4 1 P to K 4
PROBLEM VII. 2 P to KB 4 2 P takes P
BLACK. 3 Kt to B 3
3 P to K Kt 4 4 KB to B 4
4 P to Kt 5 5 P to Q 4
5 P takes Kt 6 Castles
6 B to KR3 7 Q takes P
7 Kt to Q B3 8 B takes B P ch
8 K takes B 9 Q to K R 5 ch
9 K to Kt 2 10 0 B takes P
10 B takes B Il R takes B
11 Kt to KR 3 12 Q R to K B sq
12 Q to Keq 13 Q to KR 4
13 P to Q 3 (a) 14 Q to KB 6 ch
14 K to Kt sq 15 takes Kt
15 B to Q2 16 KR to B 3
16 Kt to K2 17 P to KR4
17 Kt to Kt 3 18 P to KR 5
18 B to K Kt 5 19 Ptakes Kt
19 Ptakes P (6) And White mates in three moves.
NOTES. (a) As good a move as Black could make in a position of such difficulty. To save the piece was utterly impossible. (6) If B takes R, White replies with 19 P to K
WHITE. 7, with an easy game.
WHITE TO PLAY, & MATE IN THREE MOVES.