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astounding coarseness. Beaumont and Fletcher's good company saved them from that, in words. In spirit they are full of it. But Decker never mixes up (at least not as far as I can remember) any such revolting and impossible contradictions in the same character as they do. Neither does he bring a doubt on his virtue by exaggerating them. He believes heartily in what he does believe, and you love him in consequence. It was he that wrote that character, the piety of which has been pronounced equal to its boldness :—
The best of men
That e'er wore earth about him was a sufferer;
His universal sympathy enabled him to strike out that audacious and happy simile, “untameable as flies,” which Homer would have admired, though it is fit to make poetasters shudder. The poetaster, had Decker offered to make him a present of it, would have been afraid of being taken for a fly himself. Images are either grand in themselves, or for the thought and feeling that accompany them. This has all the greatness of Nature's "equal eye." You may see how truly Decker felt it to be of this kind, by the company in which he has placed it; and there is a consummation of propriety in its wildness, for he is speaking of lunatics:
There are of madmen, as there are of tame,
All humor'd not alike. We have here some
So apish and fantastic, will play with a feather;
And though 'twould grieve a soul to see God's image
So blemish'd and defaced, yet do they act
Such antic and such pretty lunacies,
That, spite of sorrow, they will make you smile.
Others again we have like hungry lions,
Fierce as wild bulls, untameable as flies.
Middleton partakes of the poetry and sweetness of Decker, but not to the same height; and he talks more at random. You hardly know what to make of the dialogue or stories of some of his plays. But he has more fancy; and there is one characte
of his (De Flores in the "Changeling") which, for effect at once tragical, probable, and poetical, surpasses anything I know of in the drama of domestic life. Middleton has the honor of having furnished part of the witch poetry to Macbeth, and of being conjoined with it also in the powerful and beautiful music of Locke.
From Massinger, Ford, and the others (as far as I have met with them, and apart from the connexion of Massinger's name with Decker), I could find nothing to extract of a nature to suit this particular volume, and of equal height with its contents. It is proper to state, however, that I have only glanced through their works: for though no easily daunted reader, I never read an entire play either of Ford or Massinger. They repel me with the conventional tendencies of their style, and their unnatural plots and characters. Ford, however, is elegant and thoughtful; and Massinger has passion, though (as far as I know) not in a generous shape. With these two writers began that prosaical part of the corruption of dramatic style (merging passionate language into conventional) which came to its head En Shirley.
Donusa. What magic hath transform'd me from myself?
My boasted freedom! what new fire burns up
My scorch'd entrails!! what unknown desires
Invade, and take possession of my soul?
To this union
The good of both the Church and Commonwealth
Durham. To this unity, a mystery
Of providence points out a greater blessing
Ford's Perkin Warbeck.
Both these passages are the first I came to, on dipping into their works. One might fancy one's self reading Cato or the Grecian Daughter, instead of men who had breathed the air of the days of Shakspeare.
Massinger was joint author with Decker, of the play from which the scene of the lady and the angel is taken; but nobody who knows the style of the two men can doubt for a moment to which it belongs. I have, therefore, without hesitation assigned it according to the opinion expressed by Mr. Lamb.
Scene, a Field. Enter HECATE, STADLIN, HOPPO, and other Witches. FIRESTONE in the background.
Hec. The moon's a gallant; see how brisk she rides!
Stad. Here's a rich evening, Hecate.
Stad. There was a bat hung at my lips three times,
The very screech-owl lights upon your shoulder,
[Exeunt all the Witches except HECATE. Fire. They are all going a birding to-night: they talk of fowls i' th' air that fly by day; I am sure they'll be a company of foul sluts there to-night: if we have not mortality after 't, I'll be hanged, for they are able to putrefy it, to infect a whole region She spies me now.
Hee. What, Firestone, our sweet son?
Fire A little sweeter than some of you, or a dunghill were too good for
Hec How much hast here?
Nineteen, and all brave plump ones, besides
six lizards and three serpentine eggs.
Hec. Dear and sweet boy! what herbs hast thou?
Fire. I have some marmartin and mandragon.
Hec. Marmaritin and mandragora, thou wouldst say.
Fire. Here's panax too-I thank thee-my pan aches I'm sure, with kneeling down to cut 'em.
Hedge-hysop too; how near he goes my cuttings!
Were they all cropt by moonlight?
Every blade of 'em,
Hie thee home with 'em :
Or I'm a moon-calf, mother.
Look well to the house to-night; I'm for aloft.
Fire. Aloft, quoth you? I would you would break your neck once, that I might have all quickly! [Aside.]—Hark, hark, mother! they are above the steeple already, flying over your head with a noise of musicians. Hec. They're they indeed. Help, help me; I'm too late else.
And Hoppo too, and Hellwain too;
We lack but you, we lack but you;
Come away, make up the count.
Hec. I will but 'noint and then I mount.
[A spirit like a cat descends [Voice above.] There's one comes down to fetch his dues,
A kiss, a coll, a sip of blood;
And why thou stay'st so long, I muse,
Since the air 's so sweet and good?
Hec. O, art thou come? what news, what news?
Either come, or else refuse.
Hec Now I'm furnished for the flight.
Fire. Hark, hark, the cat rings a brave treble in her own language! [Hec. going up.] Now I go, now I fly,
Malkin my sweet spirit and I.
O what a dainty pleasure 't is
To ride in the air
When the moon shines fair,
And sing and dance, and toy and kiss!
Or cannon's throat our height can reach.
[Voice above.] No ring of bells, &c.
Fire. Well, mother, I thank your kindness: you must be gambolling i th' air, and leave me to walk here, like a fool and a mortal.
THE CHRISTIAN LADY AND THE ANGEL.
An ANGEL, in the guise of a Page, attends on DOROTHEA
Dor. My book and taper
Here, most holy mistress.
Dor. Thy voice sends forth such music, that I never
Was ravish'd with a more celestial sound.
Were every servant in the world like thee,
So full of goodness, angels would come down
To dwell with us: thy name is Angelo,
And like that name thou art. Get thee to rest;
Therefore, my most lov'd mistress, do not bid
Your boy, so serviceable, to get hence;
For then you break his heart
Be nigh me still then.