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The farest erdly createure,
That evir weis formit be nateur
And moist till advance.
To luik on hir is grit delyte,
With lippis reid, and checkis quhyte.
To stand in hir grace.
Sche is wontone, and sche is wyiss;
O Lovaris walk, behald the fyrie speir!
Schir, sche is mekill till advance,
In Dodsley's collection of old plays, is a more recent morality, under the title of "A New Enterlude, no less witty than pleasant, entitled New Custom, devised of late and for divers causes now set forthe," originally printed in 1573. It was written for the express purpose of promoting the reformation, and displays considerable improvement in the structure of the language and versification, and is divided into acts and scenes. Perverse Doctrine and Ignorance, two popish priests, represent the catholick, and New-Čustom a minister, the reformed church, and the conclusion of the piece is, the conversion of Perverse Doctrine to the new faith. It appears from this and the older
morality of Lusty Juventus, that the new gospellers or adherents to the reformation were chiefly young men. The following is a specimen from this morality, and contains some curious particulars.
"Do you not see howe these newe fangled pratling elfes Prinke up so pertly of late in every place?
And go about us auncients flatly to deface?
As who shoulde say in shorte time, as well learned as wee,
For when hee hath all done I compte him but a very dawe.
Up start the preacher I thinke not past twenty yeeres old,
And beganne to revile at the holie sacrament, and transubstanciation.
But, but if I had had the boye in a convenient place,
I woulde so have scourged my marchant, that his breeche should ake,
So longe as it is since that he those woordes spake.
What, younge men to be medlers in Divinitie? it is a godly sight! Yet therein nowe almost is every boye's delight,
No booke nowe in their handes, but all scripture, scripture.
Geve them that whiche is meete for them, a racket and a ball,
Playinge at coytes or nine hooles, or shooting at buttes,
There let them be a goddes name, til their hartes ake and their guttes. Let us alone with divinitie, which are of ryper age.
Youth is rashe, they say, but olde men hath the knowledge.
They have brought in one, a younge upstart ladde as it appeares,
We have now passed the period when the first regular Tragedy and Comedy appeared; but, as we have before remarked, the antient mysteries and moralities did not cease to be written and represented, notwithstanding the introduction of this more artificial form of composition. But in order to render the present article complete in itself, we shall still continue the subject of the sacred plays, although in our succeeding numbers it will be necessary to retrace our steps as far back as the first appearance of the regular drama. To one piece only, however, which belongs to the class of mysteries, will the remainder of the space allowed for this article be devoted; and we must confess that we approach it with feelings of pleasure and delight. The production to which we refer, is The Love of King David and fair Bethsabe, with The tragedy of Absolon, written in 1579 by George Peele, the City Poet, and Master of the Pageants. It differs nothing in its plan from the antient mysteries, being founded on scripture story, and relating the events represented in chronological order, without any plot or pretensions to dramatic effect. The incidents which it contains are, the discovery by David of Bethsabe bathing, and the passion he conceives for her; the siege and capture of Rabath; the rape of Thamar; the death of Ammon; and the rebellion and death of Absolon. But it is in the plan alone that this composition corresponds with the old sacred dramas; in every other particular,--in all that is excellent in poetry, in beauty, in passion, in pathos, in numerous or polished language, it differs from them as much as Olympus from the atom that floats in the sun's beams, or as the sun itself from a midnight vapour. In the facts related, Peele is nearly as accurate as the mystery-writers themselves; but, instead of confining himself to a mere sketch or outline of the characters, he has filled them up with bold and masterly touches, and with beautiful and true colouring; he has preserved their dignity and added to their spirit; he has breathed a soul into them and imbued them with a living energy; he has done that which is the end of all dramatic composition, he has excited our interest, and awakened our kindliest sympathies. He wanted but a better model for the construction of his fable to have formed out of the materials of this play, a drama which would have ranked with our best tragedies. It may in some degree illustrate the difference between Peele and the old writers of mysteries, to mention the mode in which he has treated the capture of Rabath; Joab apprizes Hannon of what would be the fate of his people. One of the old mystery-writers would not have been content with any thing less than an actual exhibition of their being placed under saws, and under harrows of iron, and made to pass through the brick-kiln.
It is with great satisfaction that we now proceed to extract a
few passages from this production, in vindication of the eulogy we have pronounced upon its author. David sends for Bethsabe, and as she approaches, exclaims:
"David. Now comes my lover, tripping like the roe,
And with their murmur summon easeful sleep,
On the violation of Thamar, Jonadab, by whose advice it had been accomplished, soliloquizes as follows:
"Jonadab. Poor Thamar, little did thy lovely hands
Foretel an action of such violence,
As to contend with Ammon's lusty arms,
Thamar is thrust out of the house by Ammon.
"Thamar. Whither, alas! ah, whither shall I fly
To bare and barren vales with floods made waste,
There will I live with my windy sighs,
Absolon's denunciation against the ravisher.
"Absalon. Traitor to heav'n, traitor to David's throne, Traitor to Absalon and Israel.
This fact hath Jacob's ruler seen from heaven,
And through a cloud of smoke, and tower of fire,
At him the thunder shall discharge his bolt;
The following is his personification of sin
"David. Sin with his sev'nfold crown, and purple robe,
Begins his triumphs in my guilty throne;
And of sadness.
"And in the gates and entrance of thy feast,
The chorus alluding to David has this fine piece of imagery, written in the most harmonious numbers.
"O proud revolt of a presumptuous man,
Her pleasant gardens, and delightsome parks,