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bearings, which, like those of the Knight, had white luces* in the quarterings.
Various attempts have been made by his biographers to soften and explain away this early transgression of the poet; but I look upon it as one of those thoughtless exploits natural to his situation and turn of mind. Shakspeare, when young, had doubtless all the wildness and irregularity of an ardent, undisciplined, and undirected genius. The poetic temperament has naturally something in it of the vagabond. When left to itself it runs loosely and wildly, and delights in every thing eccentric and licentious. It is often a turn up of a die, in the gambling freaks of fate, whether a natural genius shall turn out a great rogue or a great poet; and had not Shakspeare's mind fortunately taken a literary bias, he might have as daringly transcended all civil, as he has all dramatic laws.
I have little doubt that, in early life, when
* The luce is a pike or jack, and abounds in the Avon about Charlecot.
running, like an unbroken colt, about the neighbourhood of Stratford, he was to be found in the company of all kinds of odd anomalous characters; that he associated with all the madcaps of the place, and was one of those unlucky urchins, at mention of whom old men shake their heads, and predict that they will one day come to the gallows. To him the poaching in Sir Thomas Lucy's park was doubtless like a foray to a Scottish Knight, and struck his eager, and as yet untamed, imagination, as something delightfully adventurous.*
* A proof of Shakspeare's random habits and associates in his youthful days may be found in a traditionary anecdote, picked up at Stratford by the elder Ireland, and mentioned in his “ Picturesque Views on the Avon."
About seven miles from Stratford lies the thirsty little market town of Bedford, famous for its ale. Two societies of the village yeomanry used to meet, under the appellation of the Bedford topers, and to challenge the lovers of good ale of the neighbouring villages, to a contest of drinking. Among others, the people of Stratford were called out to prove the strength of their heads; and in the number of the champions was Shakspeare, who, in spite of the proverb, that “ they who drink beer will think beer," was as true to his ale as Falstaff to his sack. The chivalry of Stratford was staggered at the first onset, and sounded a retreat while they had yet legs to carry them off the field. They had scarcely marched a mile, when, their legs failing them, they were forced to lie down under a crab-tree,
The old mansion of Charlecot and its surrounding park still remain in the possession of the Lucy family, and are peculiarly interesting from being connected with this whimsical but eventful circumstance in the scảnty history of the bard. As the house stood at little more than three miles distance from Stratford, I resolved to pay it a pedestrian visit, that I might stroll leisurely through some of those scenes from which Shakspeare must have derived his earliest ideas of rural imagery,
The country was yet naked and leafless; but English scenery is always verdant, and the
where they passed the night. It is still standing, and goes by the name of Shakspeare's tree.
In the morning his companions awaked the bard, and proposed returning to Bedford, but he declined, saying he had had enough, having drank with
Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bedford. “ The villages here alluded to," says Ireland,“ still bear the epithets thus given them: the people of Pebworth are still famed for their skill on the pipe and tabor; Hillborough is now called Haunted Hillborough; and Grafton is famous for the poverty of its soil.”
sudden change in the temperature of the weather was surprising in its quickening effects upon the landscape. It was inspiring and animating to witness this first awakening of spring: to feel its warm breath stealing over the senses ; to see the moist mellow earth beginning to put forth the green sprout and the tender blade; and the trees and shrubs, in their reviving tints and bursting buds, giving the promise of returning foliage and flower. The cold snow-drop, that little borderer on the skirts of winter, was to be seen with its chaste white blossoms in the small gardens before the cottages. The bleating of the new dropt lambs was faintly heard from the fields. The sparrow twittered about the thatched eaves and budding hedges; the robin threw a livelier note into his late querulous wintry strain; and the lark, springing up from the reeking bosom of the meadow, towered away into the bright fleecy cloud, pouring forth torrents of melody. As I watched the little songster, mounting up higher and higher, until his body was a mere speck on the white bosom of the cloud, while the ear was still filled with his music, it called to mind Shakspeare's exquisite little song in Cymbeline:
Hark! hark! the lark at heav'n's gate sings,
And Phæbus 'gins arise,
On chaliced flowers that lies.
And winking mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes ;
My lady sweet arise !
Indeed the whole country about here is poetic ground: every thing is associated with the idea of Shakspeare. Every old cottage that I saw, I fancied into some resort of his boyhood, where he had acquired his intimate knowledge of rustic life and manners, and heard those legendary tales and wild superstitions which he has woven like witchcraft into his dramas. For in his time, we are told, it was a popular amusement in winter evenings “to sit round the fire, and tell merry tales of errant knights, queens, lovers, lords, ladies, giants, dwarfs,