صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

We

cious sentence of banishment passed by Richard
upon Bolingbroke, the suppliant offers and modest pre-
tensions of the latter on his return, to the high and
haughty tone with which he accepts Richard's resig.
nation of the crown after the loss of all his power,
the use which he makes of the deposed king to grace
his triumphal progress through the streets of Lon-
don, and the final intimation of his wish for his
death, which immediately finds a servile execution-
er, is marked throughout with complete effect, and
without the slightest appearance of effort. The
steps by which Bolingbroke mounts the throne are
those by which Richard sinks into the grave.
feel neither respect nor love for the deposed mon-
arch; for he is as wanting in energy as in principle :
but we pity him, for he pities himself. His heart is
by no means hardened against himself, but bleeds
afresh at every new stroke of mischance, and his
sensibility, absorbed in his own person, and unused
to misfortune, is not only tenderly alive to its own
sufferings, but without the fortitude to bear them.
He is, however, human in his distresses; for to feel
pain and sorrow, weakness, disappointment, remorse
and anguish, is the lot of humanity, and we sympa-
thize with him accordingly, The sufferings of the
man make us forget that he ever was a king.

The right assumed by sovereign power to trifle at its will with the happiness of others as a matter of course, or to remit its exercise as a matter of favour, is strikingly shewn in the sentence of banishment 80 unjustly pronounced on Bolingbroke and Mowbray, and in what Bolingisroke says when four years of his banishment are taken off, with as little reason.

[ocr errors]

“ How long a time lies in one little word ! Four lagging winters and four wapton springs End in a word : such is the breath of kings."

A more affecting image of the loneliness of a state of exile can hardly be given, than by what Bolingbroke afterwards observes of his having "sighed his English breath in foreign clouds;" or than that conveyed in Mowbray's complaint at being banished for life.

[ocr errors]

“ The language I have learned these forty years,
My native English, now I must forego;
And now my tongue's use is to me no more
Than an unstringed viol or a harp,
Or like a cunning instrument cas'd up,
Or being open, put into his hands
That knows no touch to tune the harmony.
I am too old to fawn upon a ourse,
Too far in years to be a pupil now."-

How very beautiful is all this, and at the same time how very English too !

Richard II. may be considered as the first of that series of English historical plays, in which is hung armour of the invincible knights of old,” in which their hearts seem to strike against their coats of mail, where their blood tingles for the fight, and words are but the harbingers of blows. Of this state of accomplished barbarism the appeal of Bolingbroke and Mowbray is an admirable specimen. Another of these “keen encounters of their wits,” which serve to wbet the talkers' swords, is where Aumerle answers in the presence of Bolingbroke to the charge, which Bagot brings against him, of being an accessary in Gloster's death.

Fitzwater. If that thy valour stand on sympathies,
There is my gage, Aumerle, in gage to thine;
By that fair sun that shows me where thou stand'st
I heard thee say, and vauntingly thou spak'st it,
That thou wert cause of noble Gloster's death.
If thou deny'st it twenty times, thou liest,
And I will turn thy falsehood to thy heart
Where it was forged, with my rapier's point.

Aumerle. Thou dar'st not, coward, live to see the day.
Fitswater. Now, by my soul, I would it were this hour.
Aumerle. Fitzwater, thou art damn’d to bell for this.

Percy, Aumerle, thou liest ; his honour is as true,
In this appeal, as thou art all unjust;
And that thou art so, there I throw my gage
To prove it on thee, to th' extremest point
Of mortal breathing. Seize it, if thou dar'st.

Aumerle. And if I do not, may my hands rot off,
And never brandish more revengeful steel
Over the glittering helmet of my foe.
Who sets me else? By heav'n, I'll throw at all.
I have a thousand spirits in my breast,
To answer twenty thousand such as you.

Surry. My lord Fitzwater, I remember well
The very time Aumerle and you did talk.

Fitzwater. My lord, 'tis true: you were in presence then : And you can witness with me, this is true.

Surry. As false, by heav'n, as heav'o itself is true.
Fitzwater. Surry, thou liest.

Surry. Dishonourable boy,
That lie shall lye so heavy on my sword,
That it shall render vengeance and revenge,
Till thou the lie-giver and that lie rest
In earth as quiet as thy father's skull.
In proof whereof, there is mine honour's pawn :
Engage it to the trial, if thou dar’st.

Fitzwater, How fondly dost thou spur a forward horse :
If I dare eat, or drink, or breathe, or live,
I dare meet Surry in a wilderness,
And spit upon hiin, whilst I say he lies,
And lies, and lies: there is my bond of faith,

[merged small][ocr errors]

The truth is, that there is neither truth nor honour in all these noble persons : they answer words with words, as they do blows with blows, in mere selfdefence: nor have they any principle whatever but that of courage in maintaining any wrong they dare commit, or any falsehood which they find it useful to assert. How different were these noble knights and “barons bold” from their more refined descend. ants in the present day, who, instead of deciding questions of right by brute force, refer every thing to convenience, fashion, and good breeding! In point of any abstract love of truth or justice, they are just the same now that they were then.

The characters of old John of Gauut and of his brother York, uncles to the King, the one stern and foreboding, the other honest, good-natured, doing all for the best, and therefore doing nothing, are well kept up. The speech of the former, in praise of England, is one of the most eloquent that ever was penned. We should perhaps hardly be disposed to feed the pampered egotism of our countrymen by quoting this description, were it not that the conclusion of it (which looks prophetick) may qualify any improper degree of exultation.

“ This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-Paradise,
This fortress built hy nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
(Or as a moat defensive to a house)
Against the envy of legs happy lands :
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd for their breed and famous for their birth,
Renowned for their deeds, as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's son ;
This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leas'd out (I die pronouncing it)
Like to a tenement or pelting farm.
England bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious surge
Of wat'ry Neptune, is bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds.
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself."

The character of Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV., is drawn with a masterly hand :-patient for occasion, and then steadily availing himself of it, seeing his advantage afar off, but only seizing on it when he has it within his reach, humble, crafty, bold and aspiring, encroaching by regular but slow degrees, building power on opinion, and cementing opinion by power. His disposition is first unfolded by Richard himself, who however is too self-willed and secure to make a proper use of his knowledge.

“Ourself and Bushy, Bagot here and Green,
Observed his courtship of the common people :
How he did seem to dive into their hearts,
With humble and familiar courtesy,
What reverence he did throw away on slaves;
Wooing poor craftsmen with the craft of smiles,
And patient under-bearing of his fortune,

« السابقةمتابعة »