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TRIALS OF GENIUS.
dens sold by the government. They say, too, that there is still to be seen in the archives of Florence, a record which doomed Dante, wheresoever taken, to be burned alive!
Did not blind old Homer beg his bread, and sing for a crust at the gates of half a score of cities, which afterward fought for the honour of having given him birth? No home for Homer or Dante in this world. But this is easy to be understood. They were not fallen far enough from the empyrean of God's first creation, to converse with the herd of mortals. They were too great to be understood made poor companions for the rest of the world. Once Dante (so say Florentine books) spent an evening in the brilliant halls of Della Scala, where buffoons were playing their monkey tricks for the amusement of courtiers. Said the brainless Della Scala, addressing himself to Dante, “How is it that these fools can do so much to amuse the court, while you, a wise man, can do nothing of the sort: this is
very strange.” “No,” said the indignant Dante, “it is not strange, if you think of the old proverb, like to like.”
It is one of the mysterious but wise arrangements of Heaven, that such great minds must battle, like the mountain oak, with storms: naturalists tell us that while the branches are striving with the winds, the roots are striking deeper into the earth.
The world is sure to do justice at last to every man: if the mass of mankind are forgotten, it is because
they have no claim to be remembered ; and if the ambitious, the selfish, the cruel are feared and courted by the men of their own times, posterity will reverse the decision.
It might not have been safe to have called Nero a bloody monster while he was Emperor of Rome; but it has been safe for 1700 years. Men spake charily of the Virgin Queen while she wore the crown; but since her death the world has not been afraid to say that “she was a vain, selfish, jealous, proud tyrant.” Nor does it follow that a man has forfeited all claim to our regard because he has been gibbeted. How gloriously have the names of Sidney, Vane, Raleigh, Mary Stuart, and a thousand others, come forth from the eclipse which the dishonour of execution for a long time cast over their memories. Of Mary and her oppressor, Irving says, “ The walls of Elizabeth's sepulchre continually echo with the sighs of sympathy heaved at the grave of her rival."
Shakspeare was honoured by his own age, but not as he has been since. It seems to be the opinion of mankind in this generation, that Shakspeare was the greatest intellect that ever appeared in the world ; and the man who questions this fifty years hence, will probably excite the pity of his race. There was one who knew the Bard of Avon well; often heard him rehearse his own plays upon the stage ; listened to his full musical laugh ; saw him buried in Stratford, and wept at his grave—“Rare Ben Jonson.”
BEN JONSON AND HIS FRIEND.
He knew what Shakspeare was; appreciated his power ; revered his name; and spoke of him as Johnson, Goethe, Carlyle, and others have since. Ben Jonson never wrote words for which his genius and his heart deserve more praise than for those
“TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOVED MR. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE,
AND WHAT HE HATH LEFT US.
" To draw no envy, Shakspeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
Triumph, my Britain ; thou hast one to show,
It has been said that Jonson was envious of the fame of Shakspeare while living; but after death had thrown its sacredness over his
he wrote these touching lines; which he could scarcely have written had he not loved the man. Ben Jonson's mother married a brick-layer, who took Ben from Westminster school to lay brick; and the
story is told, that at the building of Lincoln's Inn, he worked with his trowel in one hand and Horace in the other. The generous Sir Walter Raleigh, thinking Ben would be of quite as much service to the world in some other occupation, took him from his brick and mortar, and sent him to the Continent with his son. Many thanks to Sir Walter for that, as well as for other things.
And there is the monument of the great Milton, who died poor, leaving three daughters unprovided for, to the charities of Englishmen, to whom he bequeathed a legacy worth more to them than all their foreign possessions. But rest thee peacefully, Milton! Thou art above the need of mortal pity now; for although the Paternoster publishers have grown rich from thy “ Paradise Lost,” they cannot rob thee of thy “Paradise Regained ;” nor can they buy it of thee for £5, paid in three instalments.
Under Milton is an elegant monument, lately erected to the memory of Gray, who has made every scholar weep as much for what he did not write, as over what he did. The Lyric Muse, in alt-relief, is holding a medallion of the poet, and, at the same time, pointing the finger to the bust of Milton, which is directly over it, with this inscription :
“No more the Grecian Muse unrivall'd reigns,
To Britain let the nations homage pay ;
A Pindar's rapture in the lyre of Gray,"
CHAUCER, COWLEY, BUTLER, ETC. field showed much taste in the inscription : "J. Dryden, born 1632, died May 1st, 1700. John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, erected this monument, 1720.” Nothing more was necessary. And here, too, are Cowley's monument and grave. Says an English writer, “The chaplet of laurel which begirts his urn, and the fire issuing from its mouth, are expressive emblems of the glory he has acquired by the spirit of his writings."
There sleeps Chaucer, the “Father of English poetry," who died 440 years ago. His was once a beautiful Gothic monument, but time has hardly spared the inscription. Near it is the tomb of Butler, the learned author of Hudibras, another of the great writers of England so neglected by his age that he often suffered severely from hunger. “The English are a wonderful people,” says a certain English author. Yes, they are a very wonderful people. They have erected palaces of gold for their oppressors, and left their illustrious authors to starve! This is, indeed, wonderful! John Barber, once Lordmayor of London, a man distinguished for humanity, erected Butler's tombstone, " That he who was destitute of all things when alive, might not want a monument when dead.” Here we have the glory and the shame of England, side by side.
Beneath Butler's monument is the dust of Spenser. The inscription is striking and appropriate.
6 Here lies (expecting the second coming of our Saviour Christ Jesus) the body of Edmund Spenser, the