Page images

speare's fools, along with somewhat of an overstraining for wit, which cannot altogether be avoided when wit becomes a separate profession, have, for the most part, an incomparable humour, and an infinite abundance of intellect, enough to supply a whole host of ordinary wise men.


of all ages. After his defeat at Granson, his fool accompanied him in his hurried flight, and exclaimed, “ Ah, your Grace, they have for once Hanniballed us!" If the Duke had given an ear to this warning raillery, he would not so soon afterwards have come to a disgraceful end.

Lectures on Dramatic Literature, vol. q. p. 128–132. and 138-145. Black's Translation.

[ocr errors]



SHAKSPEARE was familiar with all beautiful forms and images, with all that is sweet or majestic in the simple aspects of nature-with that indestructible love of flowers and odors, and dews and clear waters—and soft airs and sounds, and bright skies, and woodland solitudes, and moonlight bowers, which are the material elements of poetry-and with that fine sense of their undefinable relation to mental emotion, which is its essence and vivifying soul—and which, in the midst of his most busy and atrocious scenes, falls, like gleams of sunshine on rocks and ruins-contrasting with all that is rugged and repulsive, and reminding us of the existence of

purer and brighter elements—which HE ALONE has poured out from the richness of his own mind without effort or restraint, and contrived to intermingle with the play of all the passions, and the vulgar course of this world's affairs, without deserting for an instant the proper business of the scene, or appearing to pause or digress from love of ornament or need of repose ;-He alone, who, when the object requires it, is always keen, and worldly, and practical—and who yet, without changing his hand, or stopping his course, scatters around him,

as he goes, all sounds and shapes of sweetness,and conjures up landscapes of immortal fragrance and freshness, and peoples them with spirits of glorious aspect and attractive grace--and is a thousand times more full of fancy, and imagery, and splendor, than those who, for the sake of such qualities, have shrunk back from the delineation of character or passion, and declined the discussion of human duties and cares. More full of wisdom, and ridicule, and sagacity, than all the moralists and satirists in existence, he is more wild, airy, and inventive, and more pathetic and fantastic than all the poets of all regions and ages of the world, and has all those elements so happily mixed up in him, and bears his high faculties so temperately, that the most severe reader cannot complain of him for want of strength or of reason, nor the most sensitive for defect of ornament or ingenuity. Every thing in him is in unmeasured abundance and unequalled perfection; but every thing so balanced and kept in subordination, as not to jostle or disturb, or take the place of another. The most exquisite poetical conceptions, images, and descriptions, are given with such brevity, and introduced with such skill, as merely to adorn, without loading the sense they accompany. Although his sails are purple and perfumed, and his prow of beaten gold, they waft him on his voyage, not less, but more rapidly and directly than if they had been composed of baser materials. All his excellences, like those of Nature herself, are thrown out together; and, instead of interfering with, support and recommend each other. His flowers are not tied up in garlands, nor his fruits crushed into baskets—but spring living from the soil, in all the dew and freshness of youth; while the graceful foliage in which they lurk, and the ample branches, the rough and vigorous stem, and the wide-spreading roots on which they depend, are present along with them, and share, in their places, the equal care of their creator.

What other poet has put all the charm of a moonlight landscape into a single line?—and that by an image so true to nature, and so simple, as to seem obvious to the most common observation ?-

See how the Moonlight SLEEPS on yonder bank!

Who else has expressed, in three lines, all that is picturesque and lovely in a summer's dawn?-first setting before our eyes, with magical precision, the visible appearances of the infant light, and then, by one graceful and glorious image, pouring on our souls all the freshness, cheerfulness, and sublimity, of returning morning ?

See, love! what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder East:
Night's candles* are burnt out,--and jocund Day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

If the advocates for the grand style object to this expression, we shall not stop to defend it; but, to us, it seems equally beautiful, as it is obvious and natural, to a person coming out of a lighted chamber into the pale dawn. The Where shall we find sweet sounds and odours so luxuriously blended and illustrated as in these few words of sweetness and melody, where the author says of soft music

O it came o'er my ear, like the sweet South
That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour. This is still finer, we think, than the noble speech on music in the Merchant of Venice, and only to be compared with the enchantments of Prospero's island; where all the effects of sweet sounds are expressed in miraculous numbers, and traced in their operation on all the gradations of being, from the delicate Ariel to the brutish Caliban, who, savage as he is, is still touched with those supernatural harmonies, and thus exhorts his less tical associates


Be not afraid, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep,
Would make me sleep again.-

word candle, we admit, is rather homely in modern language, while lamp is sufficiently dignified for poetry. The moon hangs her silver lamp on high, in every schoolboy's copy of verses; but she could not be called the candle of heaven without manifest absurdity. Such are the caprices of usage. Yet we like the passage before us much better as it is, than if the candles were changed into lamps. If we should read • The lamps of heaven are quenched,' or wax dim,' it appears to us that the whole charm of the expression would be lost.

« PreviousContinue »