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He has a magic power over words: they come winged at his bldding; and seem to know their places. They are struck out at a heat, on the spur of the occasion, and have all the truth and vividness which arise from an actual impression of the objects. His epithets and single phrases are like sparkles, thrown off from an imagination, fired by the whirling rapidity of its own motion. His language is hieroglyphical. It translates thoughts into visible images. It abounds in sudden transitions and elliptical expressions. This is the source of his mixed metaphors, which are only abbreviated forms of speech. These, however, give no pain from long custom. They have, in fact, become idioms in the language. They are the building, and not the scaffolding to thought. We take the meaning and effect of a well-known passage entire, and no more stop to scan and spell out the particular words and phrases, than the syllables of which they are composed. In trying to recollect any other author, one sometimes stumbles, in case of failure, on a word as good. In Shakspeare, any other word but the true one is sure to be wrong. If any body, for instance, could not recollect the words of the following description,
he would be greatly at a loss to substitute others for them equally expressive of the feeling.--His versification is no less powerful, sweet, and varied. It has every occasional excellence, of sullen intricacy, crabbed and perplexed, or of the smoothest and loftiest expansion from the ease and familiarity of measured conversation to the lyrical sounds
- Of ditties highly penned, Sung by a fair queen in a bower of beauty, With ravishing division, to her lute.'
It is the only blank verse in the language, except Milton's, that for itself is readable. It is not stately and uniformly swelling like his, but varied and broken by the inequalities of the ground it has to pass over in its uncertain course,
And so by many winding nooks it strays,
Of Shakspeare as a poet, if the poetical be separated from
the dramatic character, the reader is left to judge from
the following specimens. His poems were among his earliest productions, but the spirit of his mind is clearly discernible in them all. In the « Rape of Lucrece," and the “ Venus and Adonis," there is much beautiful description ; and many of the sonnets have the sweetness and strength of Shakspeare's dramatic muse. The slighter pieces interspersed with his plays have the airy grace and gay fancy of the best modern lyrics, with the Shaksperian luxuriance of the olden time.
DESCRIPTION OF LUCRECE ASLEEP AS
VIEWED BY TARQUIN. Her lily hand her rosy cheek lies under, Cozening the pillow of a lawful kiss ; Who, therefore angry, seems to part in sunder, Swelling on either side to want his bliss ; Between whose hills her head entombed is : Where, like a virtuous monument, she lies, To be admir'd of lewd unhallow'd eyes.
Without the bed her other fair hand was,
Her hair, like golden threads, play'd with her
breath; O modest wantons ! wanton modesty ! Showing life's triumph in the map of death,
And death's dim look in life's mortality.
DESCRIPTION OF THE STEED OF ADONIS. IMPERIOUSLY he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girts he breaks asunder, The bearing Earth with his hard hoof he wounds, Whose hollow womb resounds like Heaven's
thunder; The iron bit he crushes 'tween his teeth, Controlling what he was controlled with.
His ears up prick'd ; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass'd crest now stands on end ; His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send : His eye, which glisters scornfully like fire, Shows his hot courage and his high desire.
Sometimes he trots as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty, and modest pride ; Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps, As who would say, “ Lo ! thus my strength is
try'd ; And thus I do to captivate the eye Of the fair breeder that is standing by.”
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportioned steed,
His art with Nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and
long, Broad breast, full eyes, small head, and nostril
wide, High crest, short ears, straight legs, and passing
strong, Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender
hide : Look what a horse should have, he did not lack, Save a proud rider on so proud a back.
Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares ;
Anon he starts at strirring of a feather ; To bid the wind a base he now prepares,
And whêr he run, or fly, they know not whether ; For through his mane and tail the high wind sings, Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather’d wings.
SONNETS. When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd, Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy contented least ;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Let me confess that we two must be twain,
No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell Give warning to the world that I am fled From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell: Nay, if you read this line, remember not The hand that writ it ; for I love you so, That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, If thinking on me then should make you wo.