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rected by Mr. Malone, who pronounces it to be His command of imagery is wide, easy, and exactly that of his contemporaries. His au luxuriant. He threw the soul of harmony into thority is weighty; still, however, without our verse, and made it more warmly, tenderly, reviving the exploded error respecting Jon- and magnificently descriptive than it ever was son's censure, one might imagine the difference before, or, with a few exceptions, than it has of Spenser's style from that of Shakspeare's, ever been since. It must certainly be owned whom he so shortly preceded, to indicate that that in description he exhibits nothing of the his gothic subject and story made him lean brief strokes and robust power which charactowards words of the elder time. At all events, terise the very greatest poets ; but we shall much of his expression is now become anti- nowhere find more airy and expansive images quated; though it is beautiful in its antiquity, of visionary things, a sweeter tone of sentiand like the moss and ivy on some majestic ment, or a finer flush in the colours of lanbuilding, covers the fabric of his language with guage, than in this Rubens of English poetry. romantic and venerable associations.
His fancy teems exuberantly in minuteness of words were bis choice not his necessity. Has Drayton, or
circumstance, like a fertile soil sending bloom Daniel, or Peele, Marlowe, or Shakspeare the obscure words and verdure through the utmost extremities found constantly recurring in Spenser? "Let others,” of the foliage which it nourishes. On a comsays Daniel (the well-languaged Daniel as Coleridge calls
prehensive view of the whole work, we cerhim) “Let others sing of knights and paladines,
tainly miss the charm of strength, symmetry, In aged accents and untimely words,
and rapid or interesting progress ; for, though I sing of Delia in the language of those who are about her the plan which the poet designed is not comand of her day.” Davenant is express on the point, and pleted, it is easy to see that no additional speaks of Spenser's new grafts of old withered words and exploded expressions. Surely the writers of his own age cantos could have rendered it less perplexed *. are better authorities than Malone, who read verbally not But still there is a richness in his materials, spiritually, and, emptying a commonplace-book of obso
even where their coherence is loose, and their lete words, called upon us to see in separate examples what collectively did not then exist. It is easy to find many of disposition confused. The clouds of his alleSpenser's Chaucerisms in his contemporaries, but they do gory may seem to spread into shapeless forms, not crowd and characterize their writings; they tincture,
but they are still the clouds of a glowing atbut they do not colour; they are there, but not for ever there.
mosphere. Though his story grows desultory, Bolton, who wrote in 1622 of language and style, spenks the sweetness and grace of his manner still to this point in his Hypercritica. He is recommending
abide by him. He is like a speaker whose authors for imitation and study-" Those authors among us, whose English hath in my conceit most propriety, and
tones continue to be pleasing, though he may is nearest to the phrase of court, and to the speech used speak too long; or like a painter who makes among the noble, and among the better sort in London ;
us forget the defect of his design, by the magic the two sovereign seats, and as it were Parliament tribunals, to try the question in." “In verse there are," he says,
of his colouring. We always rise from perus"to furnish an English Historian with copy and tongue, ing him with melody in the mind's ear, and Ed. Spenser's Hymns. I cannot advise the allowance of other
with pictures of romantic beauty impressed on of bis Poems, as for practick English, no more than I can do Jeff. Chaucer, Lydgate, Peirce Ploughman, or Laureat the imaginationt. For these attractions “ The Skelton. It was laid as a fault to the charge of Sallust, Fairy Queen” will ever continue to be resorted that he used some old outworn words, stolen out of Cato to by the poetical student. It is not, howhis Books de Originibus. And for an Historian in our tongue to AFFECT the like out of those our Poets would be ever, very popularly read, and seldom perhaps accounted a foul oversight. That therefore must not be." from beginning to end, even by those who can Gray has a letter to prove that the language of the age
fully appreciate its beauties. This cannot be is never the language of poetry. Was Spenser behind or Shakspeare in advance? Stage language must necessarily (* Mr. Campbell has given a character of Spenser, not be the language of the time; and Shakspeare gives us so enthusiastic as that to which I have alluded, but so words pure and neat, yet plain and customary-the style discriminating, and in general sonnd, that I shall take the that Ben Jonson loved, the eldest of the present and the
liberty of extracting it from his Specimens of the British newest of the past--while Spenser fell back on Chaucer
Poets.-IIALLAM, Lit. Hist. vol. ii. p. 334.]
[t Spenser's allegorical story resembles, methinks, a as he was pleased to express it. (See Wartor's Essay on continuance of extraordinary dreams.-SIR W. DAVENANT. Spenser, voL i., and Hallam, Lit. Hist. vol. ii. p. 328.) - The After my reading a canto of Spenser two or three days language of Spenser," says Hallam, “like that of Shak ago to an old lady between 70 and 80, she said that I had speare, is an instrument manufactured for the sake of the been showing her a collection of pictures. She said very work it was to perform."]
right.-Pope to Spence.]
ascribed merely to its presenting a few words told, to attach importance to the mere story which are now obsolete; nor can it be owing, which it relates. Certainly the poet is not a as has been sometimes alleged, to the tedium great one whose only charm is the manageinseparable from protracted allegory. Alle ment of his fable ; but where there is a fable, gorical fable may be made entertaining. With it should be perspicuous. every disadvantage of dress and language, the There is one peculiarity in “ The Fairy humble John Bunyan has made this species of Queen” which, though not a deeply pervading writing very amusing:
defect, I cannot help considering as an inciThe reader may possibly smile at the names dental blemish ; namely, that the allegory is of Spenser and Bunyan being brought forward doubled and crossed with complimentary allufor a moment in comparison ; but it is chiefly sions to living or recent personages, and that because the humbler allegorist is so poor in the agents are partly historical and partly language, that his power of interesting the allegorical. In some instances the characters curiosity is entitled to admiration. We are have a threefold allusion. Gloriana is at once told by critics that the passions may be alle an emblem of true glory, an empress of fairygorised, but that Holiness, Justice, and other land, and her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Envy such thin abstractions of the mind, are too is a personified passion, and also a witch, and, unsubstantial machinery for a poet ;-yet we with no very charitable insinuation, a type of all know how well the author of the Pilgrim's the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. The Progress (and he was a poet though he wrote knight in dangerous distress is Henry IV. of in prose) has managed such abstractions as France; and the knight of magnificence, Prince Mercy and Fortitude. In his artless hands, Arthur, the son of Uther Pendragon, an ancient those attributes cease to be abstractions, and British hero, is the bulwark of the Protestant become our most intimate friends. Had cause in the Netherlands. Such distraction of Spenser, with all the wealth and graces of his allegory cannot well be said to make a fair fancy, given his story a more implicit and ani- ' experiment of its power. The poet may cover mated form, I cannot believe that there was his moral meaning under a single and transpaanything in the nature of his machinery to rent veil of fiction; but he has no right to set bounds to his power of enchantment. Yet, muffle it up in foldings which hide the form delicious as his poetry is, his story, considered and symmetry of truth. as a romance, is obscure, intricate, and mono Upon the whole, if I may presume to mea, tonous. He translated entire cantos from sure the imperfections of so great and veneTasso, but adopted the wild and irregular ' rable a genius, I think we may say that, if his manner of Ariosto. The difference is, that popularity be less than universal and comSpenser appears, like a civilised being, slo plete, it is not so much owing to his obsolete and sometimes half forlorn, in exploring an language, nor to degeneracy of modern taste, uninhabited country, while Ariosto traverses nor to his choice of allegory as a subject, as to the regions of romance like a hardy native of the want of that consolidating and crowning its pathless wilds. Hurd and others, who for- strength, which alone can establish works of bid us to judge of “The Fairy Queen” by the fiction in the favour of all readers and of all test of classical unity, and who compare it to ages. This want of strength, it is but justice a gothic church, or a gothic garden, tell us to say, is either solely or chiefly apparent when what is little to the purpose. They cannot we examine the entire structure of his poem, persuade us that the story is not too intricate or so large a portion of it as to feel that it does and too diffuse. The thread of the narrative not impel or sustain our curiosity in proportion is so entangled, that the poet saw the necessity to its length. To the beauty of insulated pasfor explaining the design of his poem in prose, sages who can be blind ? The sublime dein a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh ; and the scription of “ Him who with the Night durst ride," perspicuity of a poetical design which requires “ The House of Riches,” “ The Canto of Jeasuch an explanation may, with no great se lousy,” “ The Masque of Cupid,” and other verity, be pronounced a contradiction in terms. ' parts, too many to enumerate, are so splendid, It is degrading to poetry, we shall perhaps be that after reading them, we feel it for the
moment invidious to ask if they are symme- the interludes became prevalent during the trically united into a whole. Succeeding gene- reign of Henry VIII. I rations have acknowledged the pathos and Lord Sackville's Gorboduc, first represented richness of his strains, and the new contour in 1561-2, and Still's Gammer Gurton's Needle, and enlarged dimensions of grace which he about 1566, were the earliest, though faint, gave to English poetry. He is the poetical draughts of our regular tragedy and comedyś. father of a Milton and a Thomson. Gray They did not, however, immediately supersede habitually read him when he wished to frame the taste for the allegorical moralities. Sackhis thoughts for composition ; and there are few ville even introduced dumb show in his tragedy eminent poets in the language who have not to explain the piece, and he was not the last been essentially indebted to him.
of the old dramatists who did so. One might
conceive the explanation of allegory by real * Hither, as to their fountain, other stars Repair, and in their urns draw golden light."
personages to be a natural complaisance to an
audience ; but there is something peculiarly 1
The publication of “ The Fairy Queen,” and ingenious in making allegory explain reality, the commencement of Shakspeare's dramatic and the dumb interpret for those who could career, may be noticed as contemporary events; speak. In reviewing the rise of the drama, for by no supposition can Shakspeare's ap- Gammar Gurton's Needle, and Sackville's Gorpearance as a dramatist be traced higher than boduc, form convenient resting-places for the 1589 *, and that of Spenser's great poem was memory; but it may be doubted if their supe
in the year 1590. I turn back from that date riority over the mysteries and moralities be i to an earlier period, when the first lineaments i half so great as their real distance from an
of our regular drama began to show them- affecting tragedy, or an exhilarating comedy. selves.
The main incident in Gammer Gurton's Needle Before Elizabeth's reign we had no dramatic is the loss of a needle in a man's small-clothesll. authors more important than Bale and Hey † Warton also mentions Rastell, the brother-in-law of wood the Epigrammatist. Bale, before the Sir Thomas More, who was a printer; but who is believed
by the historian of our poetry to have been also an author, titles of tragedy and comedy were well dis
and to have made the moralities in some degree the vehicle 1 tinguished, had written comedies on such of science and philosophy. He published (about 1519) a
subjects as the Resurrection of Lazarus, and new interlude on The Nature of the Four Elements, in the Passion and Sepulture of our Lord. He
which The Tracts of America lately discovered and the
manners of the natives are described.—[See Collier's was, in fact, the last of the race of mystery Annals, vol. ii. p. 319.] writers. Both Bale and Heywood died about ($ Sackville became a statesman, and forsook the pleasant the middle of the sixteenth century, but flou- / paths of poetry; nor does he appear to have encouraged it
in others; for in an age rife with poetical commendations rished (if such a word can be applied to them)
he seems to have drawn but one solitary sonnet, and that as early as the reign of Henry VIII. Until attached to a book where praises were made cheap—“The the time of Elizabeth, the public was contented
Faerie Qutene." He died, and received a funeral sermon
from Abbot, but no tears of regret from the Muses ;-he with mysteries, moralities, or interludes, too
who should have been a second Pembroke or Southampton. bumble to deserve the name of comedy. The Still took to the church and became a bishop-but not first of these, the mysteries, originated almost
before the creator of our comedy had written a supplicatory
letter that, for acting at Cambridge, a Latin play should as early as the Conquest, in shows given by
be preferred to an English one.) the church to the people. The moralities t, [ Speaking of Gammer Gurton, Scott writes, “ It is a which were chiefly allegorical, probably arose
piece of low humour; the whole jest turning upon the loss
and the recovery of the needle with which Gammer Gurabout the middle of the fifteenth century, and
ton was to repair the breeches of her man Hodge; but in
! point of manners, it is a great curiosity, as the carta [* It is clear that before 1591, or even 1592, Shakspeare
supellex of our ancestors is scarcely anywhere so well had no celebrity as a writer of plays; he must, therefore,
described." “ The unity,” he continues, " of time, place, have been valuable to the theatre chiefly as an actor; and if this was the case, namely, that he speedily trode the
1 and action, are observed through the play, with an acstage with some respectability, Mr. Rowe's tradition that
curacy of which France might be jealous." And adds, be was at first admitted in a mean capacity must be taken
alluding to Gorboduc, “It is remarkable, that the earliest with a busbel of doubt--CAMPBELL, Life of Shakspeare,
English tragedy and comedy are both works of considerable 8vo. 1838, p. xxii ]
merit; that each partakes of the distinct character of its
class; that the tragedy is without intermixture of comedy; [+ The Mysteries Mr. Collier would have called Miracle.
the comedy without any intermixture of tragedy."--Misc. Plays, and the Moralities, Morals or Moral-Plays.]
| Prose Works, vol. vi. p. 333.]
Gorboduc has no interesting plot or impas- stone, the author of " Promos and Cassandra," sioned dialogue ; but it dignified the stage with , in which piece there is a partial antimoral reflection and stately measure. It first cipation of the plot of Shakspeare's Measure introduced black verse instead of ballad rhymes for Measure. Another is that of Preston, in the drama. Gascoigne gave a farther popu- whose tragedy of Cambyses + is alluded to by larity to blank verse by his paraphrase of Shakspeare, when Falstaff calls for a cup of Jocasta, from Euripides, which appeared in sack, that he may weep“ in King Cambyses' 1566. The same author's “ Supposes,” trans- veinI.” There is, indeed, matter for weeping lated from Ariosto, was our earliest prose in this tragedy; for, in the course of it, an comedy. Its dialogue is easy and spirited. elderly gentleman is flayed alive. To make Edward's Pala mon and Arcite was acted in the skinning more pathetic, his own son is the same year, to the great admiration of Queen witness to it, and exclaims, Elizabeth, who called the author into her pre- “ What child is he of Nature's mould could bide the same sence, and complimented him on having justly
His father fleaed in this wise? O how it grioveth me!" drawn the character of a genuine lover.
Ten tragedies of Seneca were translated It may comfort the reader to know that this into English verse at different times, and by
theatric decortication was meant to be allegodifferent authors, before the year 1581. One rical ; and we may believe that it was perof these translators was Alexander Neyvile, formed with no degree of stage illusion that afterwards secretary to Archbishop Parker, could deeply affect the spectatorg. whose Oedipus came out as early as 1563 ; and
In the last twenty years of the sixteenth though he was but a youth of nineteen, his century, we come to a period when the instyle has considerable beauty. The following creasing demand for theatrical entertainments lines, which open the first act, may serve as a
produced play-writers by profession. The specimen.
earliest of these appears to have been George
Peele, who was the city poet and conductor of “ The night is gone, and dreadful day begins at length t'
the civil pageants. appear,
Arraignment of And Phæbus, all bedimm'd with clouds, himself aloft doth
Paris" came out in 1584. Nash calls him an
Atlas in poetry. Unless we make allowance And, gliding forth, with deadly hue and doleful blaze in skies,
for his antiquity, the expression will appear Doth bear great terror and dismay to the beholder's eyes. hyperbolical; but, with that allowance, we Now shall the houses void be seen, with plague devoured
may justly cherish the memory of Peele as quite, And slaughter which the night hath made shall day bring
the oldest genuine dramatic poet of our lanforth to light.
guage. His “ David and Bethsabe" is the Doth any man in princely thrones rejoice? O brittle joy!
earliest fountain of pathos and harmony that How many ills, how fair a face, and yet how much annoy In thee doth lurk, and hidden lies what heaps of endless
can be traced in our dramatic poetry. His strife!
fancy is rich and his feeling tender, and his They judge amiss, that deem the Prince to have the happy conceptions of dramatic character have no inlife."
considerable mixture of solid veracity and In 1568 was produced the tragedy of “ Tan
ideal beauty. There is no such sweetness of cred and Sigismunda,” by Robert Wilmot, and
† In the title-page it is denominated " A lamentable four other students of the Inner Temple. It
Tragedy, mixed full of pleasant Mirth.” is reprinted in Reed's plays; but that reprint [1 'The Tamerlanes and Tamer-chams of the late age is taken not from the first edition, but from
had nothing in them but the scenical strutting, and furious
vociferation, to warrant them to the ignorant gapers.one greatly polished and amended in 1592*.
BEN JONSON. (Gifford, vol. ix. p. 180.) Considered as a piece coming within the verge I suspect that Shakspeare confounded King Cambyses of Shakspeare's age, it ceases to be wonderful. with King Darius. Falstaff's solemn fustian bears not
the slightest resemblance, either in metre or in matter, Immediately subsequent to these writers we
to the vein of King Cambyses. Kyng Daryus, whose meet with several obscure and uninteresting veful strain is here burlesqued, was a pilhie and plesannt dramatic names, among which is that of Whet- Enterlude, printed about the middle of the sixteenth
century.-GIFFORD. Note on Jonson's Poetaster, Works, [* Newly revived, and polished according to the decorum vol. ii. p. 435.] of these days. That is, as Mr. Collier surposes, by the (S The stage direction excites a smile. Flea him with a removal of the rhymes to a blank.verse fashion.]
1. versification and imagery to be found in our with great dignity and energy by the speech 1 blank verse anterior to Shakspeare*. David's of Joab. When informed by Joab of the
character—the traits both of his guilt and sen death of his son, David exclaims : sibility-his passion for Bethsabe-his art in
Darid. Thou man of blood ! thou sepulchre of death! | inflaming the military ambition of Urias, and Whose marble breast entombs my bowels quick, his grief for Absalom, are delineated with no
Did I not charge thee, nay, entreat thy hand,
Even for my sake, to spare my Absalom? vulgar skill. The luxuriant image of Beth
And hast thou now, in spite of David's health, sabe is introduced by these lines :
And scorn to do my heart some happiness, Come, gentle Zephyr, trick'd with those perfumes
Given him the sword, and spilt his purple soul? That erst in Eden sweeten'd Adam's love,
Joab. What! irks it David, that he victor breathes, į And stroke my bosomi with thy gentle fan:
That Juda, and the fields of Israel This sbade, sun-proof, is yet no proof for thee.
Should cleanse their faces from their children's blood ? Thy body, smoother than this waveless spring,
What! art thou weary of thy royal rule? And purer than the substance of the same,
Is Israel's throne a serpent in thine eyes, Can creep through that his lances cannot pierce.
And he that set thee there, so far from thanks, Thou and thy sister, soft and sacred Air,
That thou must curse his servant for his sake? Goddess of life, and governess of health,
Hlast thou not said, that, as the morning light, Keeps every fountain fresh, and arbour sweet.
The cloudless morning, so should be thine house, No brazen gate her passage can resuse,
And not as flowers, by the brightest rain, Nor bushy thicket bar thy subtle breath:
Which grow up quickly, and as quickly fade? Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,
Hast thou not said, the wicked are as thorns, And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes,
That cannot be preserved with the hand; To play the wanton with us through the leaves.
And that the man shall touch them must be arm'd Darid. What tunes, what words, what looks, what With coats of iron, and garments made of steel, wonders pierce
Or with the shaft of a defenced spear? My soul, incensed with a sudden fire ?
And art thou angry he is now cut off, What tree, what shade, what spring, what paradise,
That led the guiltless swarming to their deaths, | Enjoys the beauty of so fair a dame?
And was more wicked than an host of men ? Fair Eva, placed in perfect happiness,
Advance thee from thy melancholy den, Lending her praise-notes to the liberal heavens,
And deck thy body with thy blissful robes, Strook with the accents of archangels' tunes,
Or, by the Lord that sways the Heaven, I swear, | Wrought not more pleasure to her husband's thoughts, I'll lead thine armies to another king, Than this fair woman's words and notes to mine.
Shall cheer them for their princely chivalry; May that sweet plain, that bears her pleasant weight,
And not sit daunted, frowning in the dark, Be still enamelld with discolour'd flowers!
When his fair looks, with oil and wine refreshid, That precious fount bear sand of purest gold;
Should dart into their bosoms gladsome beams, And, for the pebble, let the silver streams
And fill their stomachs with triumphant feasts ; Play upon rubies, sapphires, chrysolites ;
That, when elsewhere stern War shall sound his trump, The brims let be embraced with golden curls
And call another battle to the field, ' Of moss, that sleeps with sound the waters make; Fame still may bring thy valiant soldiers home, For joy to feed the fount with their recourse
And for their service happily confess Let all the grass that beautifies her bower
She wanted worthy trumps to sound their prowess; Bear manna every morn instead of dew.
Take thou this course, and live ;-Refuse, and die.
Lyly, Peele, Greene, Kyd, Nash, Lodge, and Joab thus describes the glory of David :
Marlowe, were the other writers for our early Beauteous and bright is he among the tribes; As when the sun, attired in glistering robe,
stage, a part of whose career preceded that of Comes dancing from his oriental gate,
Shakspeare *. Lyly, whose dramatic language | And, bridegroom-like, hurls through the gloomy air
[t An interesting subject of inquiry in Shakspeare's His radiant beams : such doth King David show,
literary history, is the state of our dramatic poetry when Crown'd with the honour of his enemies' town,
he began to alter and originate English plays. Before Shining in riches like the firmament,
his time mere mysteries and miracle plays, in which The starry vault that overhangs the earth;
Adam and Eve appeared naked, in which the devil disSo lonketh David, King of Israel.
played his horns and tail, and in which Noah's wife bosed At the conclusion of the tragedy, when David
the patriarch's ears before entering the ark, had fallen
comparatively into disuse, after a popularity of four gives way to his grief for Absalom, he is roused
centuries; and, in the course of the sixteenth century, (* Mr. Dyce, in his edition of Peele, has quoted this pas
the clergy were forbidden by orders from Rome to persage from Mr. Campbell, “ a critic,” he styles bim," who
form in them. Meanwhile “ Moralities," which had is by no means subject to the pardonable weakness of made their appearance about the middle of the fifteenth discovering beauties in every writer of the olden time." century, were also hastening their retreat, as well as P. xxxviii,
those pageants and masques in honour of royalty, which It is quoted too by Mr. Hallam (Lit. Hist. vol. ii. p. 378), nevertheless aided the introduction of the drama. But we who concurs with Mr. Collier in thinking these compli owe our first regular dramas to the universities, the inns ments excessive.]
of court, and public seminaries. The scholars of these