« السابقةمتابعة »
hardness and strength of fibre which will not relax where once it has taken hold. The kinship of passion to insanity is strongly suggested by Ford's plays. We seem to have before us men and women with a fixed delusion on some one point, impressed upon them not by the force of overmastering circumstances, but by some vicious warp in their own nature. In Shakespeare's plays men are driven into tragic error by the conspiracy of forces outside themselves; in Ford's plays fatal false steps are made from mere waywardness of character. In the one case, we are struck with the nearness of the victims of misleading passion to our common humanity; in the other their remoteness from common motives is bewildering. The strangeness of the passions which Ford brings into conflict mars the effect of his two great tragedies as artistic wholes; we do not turn from them with awestruck hearts, full of subdued fear and wonder—they leave us dissatisfied, tortured, bewildered. these plays were all that were left to us by which to judge of the Elizabethan age they would justify all that M. Taine has said about its ferocity of spirit. In the play that bears the harsh and mocking title 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, we feel as if we were present at a hellish carnival of passion. There is no relief to its horrors, except the rapturous exultation of brother and sister in their guilty love. The revolting coarseness of the low-comedy scenes is not a relief but a sickening addition to the chaos.
Ford is not a poet who appears to advantage in quotations. Charles Lamb says truly of him that ‘he sought for sublimity, not by parcels, in metaphors or visible images, but directly where she has her full residence in the heart of man. The sublimity to which his own gloomy austere temper directed him was the sublimity of demoniac resolution, the heroism of unyielding will. Even his heroines are not of the soft and tender type which his contemporaries delighted to paint ; they are as firm and resolute in their purposes as the men whom they love. The sorrowful Penthea, though she bends to her brother's will so far as to marry a husband of his choice, resists all the prayers of her discarded lover to prove unfaithful, and with silent and secret determination starves herself to death. Calantha, his 'flower of beauty,' bears stroke after stroke of appalling misfortune without betraying to the vulgar world one sign of the grief which is breaking her heart ; she falls dead without a tear, when she has set the affairs of her kingdom in order. It is on the supreme force and patient completeness with which he has displayed such stern and passionate natures, that Ford's title to a high place among poets must rest. There is no great intrinsic charm in his verse : it is an admirable vehicle for the expression of intense restrained passion, word following word with severe clear-cutting emphasis ; but without a knowledge of the character and situation one cannot feel the force by which it is animated. Even in his songs, with all the softness of their music, we are conscious of the same severely regulating taste. All his few songs are of a sad strain, but they are not filled with the ecstasy of grief; their music is chastened and subdued.
PENTHEA'S DYING SONG.
[From the Broken Heart.]
Oh no more, no more, too late
Sighs are spent; the burning tapers
Pure as are unwritten papers,
Love is dead ; let lovers' eyes,
Ope no more, for now Love dies.
[From the Broken Heart. ] Glories, pleasures, pomps, delights and ease,
Can but please
Rest for care ;
[From the Lover's Melancholy.] Fly hence, shadows, that do keep Watchful sorrows, charmed in sleep! Though the eyes be overtaken, Yet the heart doth ever waken Thoughts chained up in busy snares Of continual woes and cares : Love and griefs are so exprest, As they rather sigh than rest. Fly hence, shadows, that do keep Watchful sorrows, charmed in sleep. WILLIAM BROWNE.
(WILLIAM Browne was born at Tavistock in 1588, and died, probably, in the year 1643. He went to Oxford as a member of Exeter College ; entered the Inner Temple in 1612; published his elegy on Prince Henry in a volume along with another by his friend Christopher Brooke in 1613; the first book of his Britannia's Pastorals in the same year; his Shepherd's Pipe in 1614; and the second book of his Pastorals in 1616, the year of the death of Shakspeare. The third book of his Britannia's Pastorals was unknown till 1851, when it was published for the Percy Society from a manuscript in the Cathedral Library at Salisbury. The most complete edition of Browne is that published in the Roxburghe Library by Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt in 1868.]
Browne was fortunate in his friends. His life at the Inner Temple brought him into contact not only with his intimate friend Wither and Charles Brooke, but also with such a man as Selden, who wrote commendatory verses to the first book of his Pastorals. He was too, apparently, one of that knot of brilliant young men who called themselves the 'sons' of Ben Jonson, and there are some interesting verses, of warm yet not extravagant praise, prefixed by Ben Jonson to the second book of the same poem. With Drayton he appears to have been on cordial and intimate terms. Some verses by Browne are prefixed to the second edition of the Polyolbion, and some of the most charming commendatory verses that were ever written were penned by Drayton in honour of Britannia's Pastorals. Chapman too 'the learned Shepherd of fair Hitching Hill,' was, as more than one indication sufficiently proves, intimate with our poet, and Browne was not only familiar with his friend's Iliad and Odyssey, but also, we may be very sure, knew well that golden book of poetry, the Hero and Leander.