Page images

Here be berries for a queen,

Some be red-some be green ;3

These are of that luscious meat

The great god Pan himself doth eat;

All these, and what the woods can yield,
The hanging mountain or the field,

I freely offer; and ere long

Will bring you more, more sweet and strong;

Till when, humbly leave I take,

Least the great Pan do awake

That sleeping lies in a deep glade,

Under a broad beech's shade :4

I must go, I must run,

Swifter than the fiery sun

3" Some be red, some be green.”—This verse calls to mind a beautiful one of Chaucer, in his description of a grove in spring :—

In which were oakès great, straight as a line,
Under the which the grass, so fresh of hue,
Was newly sprung, and an eight foot or nine,
Ev-e-ry tree well from his fellow grew,
With branches broad, laden with leavès new,
That sprangen out against the sunny sheen,
Some very red, and some a glad light green.

Coleridge was fond of repeating it.

The Flower and the Leaf.

4" That sleeping lies," &c.-Pan was not to be waked too soon with impunity.

Ου θεμις, ω ποιμαν, το μεσαμβρινον, ου θεμις αμμιν
Τυρίσδεν τον Πανα δεδοικαμες η γαρ απ' αγρα
Τανικα κεκμακως αμπαύεται εντι δε πικρος
Και οι αει δριμεια χολα ποτι ῥινι καθηται.

Theocritus, Idyll i., v. 15.

No, shepherd, no; we must not pipe at noon :
We must fear Pan, who sleeps after the chase,
Ready to start in snappish bitterness

With quivering nostril.

What a true picture of the half-goat divinity!


Here be all new delights, cool streams and wells;
Arbors o'ergrown with woodbines; caves and dells;
Choose where thou wilt, whilst I sit by and sing,
Or gather rushes, to make many a ring

For thy long fingers; tell thee tales of love;
How the pale Phoebe, hunting in a grove,
First saw the boy Endymion, from whose eyes
She took eternal fire that never dies;
How she conveyed him softly in a sleep,
His temples bound with poppy, to the steep
Head of old Latmus, where she stoops each night,
Gilding the mountain with her brother's light,
To kiss her sweetest.


See, the day begins to break,

And the light shoots like a streak

Of subtle fire. The wind blows cold
While the morning doth unfold.

I have departed from my plan for once, to introduce this very small extract, partly for the sake of its beauty, partly to show the student that great poets do not confine their pleasant descriptions to images or feelings pleasing in the commoner sense of the word, but include such as, while seeming to contradict, harmonize with them, upon principles of truth, and of a genial and strenuous sympathy. The "subtle streak of fire" is obviously beautiful, but the addition of the cold wind is a truth welcome to those only who have strength as well as delicacy of apprehension, or rather, that healthy delicacy which arises from the strength. Sweet and wholesome, and to be welcomed, is the chill breath of morning. There is a fine epithet for this kind of dawn in the elder Marston's Antonio and Melida :

Is not yon gleam the shuddering morn, that flakes
With silver tincture the east verge of heaven'


Hear, ye ladies that despise

What the mighty Love has done;
Fear examples and be wise :
Fair Calisto was a nun;

Leda, sailing on the stream

To deceive the hopes of man,
Love accounting but a dream

Doted on a silver swan;

Danaè, in a brazen tower,

Where no love was, loved a shower.5

Hear, ye ladies that are coy,

What the mighty Love can do,

Fear the fierceness of the boy:

The chaste moon he makes to woo;

Vesta, kindling holy fires,

Circled round about with spies,

Never dreaming loose desires,

Doting at the altar dies;

Ilion in a short hour, higher

He can build, and once more fire.

"Where no love was."-See how extremes meet, and passion writes as conceit does, in these repetitions of a word:

Where no love was, lov'd a shower.

So, still more emphatically, in the instance afterwards :

Fear the fierceness of the boy

[ocr errors]

than which nothing can be finer. Wonder and earnestness conspire to stamp the iteration of the sound.


Sung to Music: the EMPEROR VALENTINIAN sitting by, sick, in a


Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,-
Brother to Death, sweetly thyself dispose
On this afflicted prince: fall like a cloud
In gentle showers; give nothing that is loud
Or painful to his slumbers;-easy, sweet,
And as a purling stream, thou son of night,
Pass by his troubled senses :-sing his pain,
Like hollow murmuring wind, or silver rain:
Into this prince gently, oh, gently slide,
And kiss him into slumbers like a bride!

"Easy, sweet.”—In rhymes like night and sweet, the fine ears of our ancestors discerned a harmony to which we have been unaccustomed. They perceived the double e, which is in the vowel i,-night nah-eet. There is an instance in a passage in the Midsummer Night's Dream, extracted at page 126, where the word bees, as well as mulberries, and dewberries, is made to rhyme with eyes, arise, &c. Indeed, in such words as mulberries the practice is still retained, and e and i considered corresponding sounds in the fainter terminations of polysyllables :— free, company-fly, company.

Was ever the last line of this invocation surpassed? But it is all in the finest tone of mingled softness and earnestness. The verses are probably Fletcher's. He has repeated a passage of it in his poem entitled An Honest Man's Fortune.

Oh, man! thou image of thy Maker's good,
What canst thou fear, when breath'd into thy blood
His Spirit is that built thee? What dull sense
Makes thee suspect, in need, that Providence
Who made the morning, and who plac'd the light
Guide to thy labors; who call'd up the night,
And bid her fall upon thee like sweet showers
In hollow murmurs to lock up thy powers!

O si sic omnia!


WHEN about to speak of these and other extraordinary men of the days of Shakspeare, the Marstons, Rowleys, Massingers, Draytons, &c., including those noticed already, I wasted a good deal of time in trying to find out how it was that, possessing, as most of them did, such a pure vein of poetry, and sometimes saying as fine things as himself, they wrote so much that is not worth reading, sometimes not fit to be read. I might have considered that, either from self-love, or necessity, or both, too much writing is the fault of all ages and of every author. Even Homer, says Horace, sometimes nods. How many odes might not Horace himself have spared us! How many of his latter books, Virgil! What theology, Dante and Milton! What romances, Cervantes! What Comedies, Ariosto! What tragedies, Dryden! What heaps of words, Chaucer and Spenser! What Iliads, Pope!

Shakspeare's contemporaries, however, appear to have been a singularly careless race of men, compared with himself. Could they have been rendered so by that very superiority of birth and education which threw them upon the town, in the first instance, with greater confidence, his humbler prospects rendering hin more cautious? Or did their excess of wit and fancy require a counter-perfection of judgment, such as he only possessed? Chapman and Drayton, though their pens were among the profusest and most unequal, seem to have been prudent men in conduct; so in all probability were Ford and Webster; but none of these had the animal spirits of the others. Shakspeare had animal spirits, wit, fancy, judgment, prudence in money matters, understanding like Bacon, feeling like Chaucer, mirth like Rabelais, dignity like Milton! What a man! Has anybody discovered the reason why he never noticed a living

« EelmineJätka »