« PreviousContinue »
calls not up into his mind ideas more enlarged than the mere sounds of the words convey, but on attentive examination its dignity lessens and declines, he may conclude, that whatever pierces no deeper than the ears can never be the true sublime. That, on the contrary, is grand and lofty, which the more we consider, the greater ideas we conceive of it: whose force we cannot possibly withstand; which immediately sinks deep, and makes such impression on the mind as cannot easily be worn out or effaced : in a word, you may pronounce that sublime, beautiful, and genuine, which always pleases and takes equally with all sorts of men.
For when persons of different humours, ages, professions, and inclinations, agree in the same joint approbation of any performance, then this union of assent, this combination of so many different judgments, stamps a high and indisputable value on that preformance
which meets with such general applause." This į fine observation of Longinus is most remarkably
verified in Shakspeare; for all humours, ages, and inclinations, jointly proclaim their approbation and esteem of him; and will, I hope, be found true in most of the passages which are here collected from him: I say, most, because there are some which I am convinced will not stand this test: the old, the grave, and the severe, will disapprove, perhaps, the more soft (and as they may call them) trifling lovetales, so elegantly breathed forth, and so emphạtically extolled by the young, the gay, and the passionate; while these will esteem as dull and languid the sober saws of morality, and the home-felt observations of experience. However, as it was my business to collect for readers of all tastes, and all complexions, let me desire none to disapprove what hits not with their own humour, but to turn over
the page, and they will surely find something acceptable and engaging. But I have yet another apology to make, for some passages introduced merely on account of their peculiarity, which to some, possibly, will appear neither sublime nor beautiful, and yet deserve attention, as indicating the vast stretch, and sometimes particular turn of the poet's imagination.
There are many passages in Shakspeare so closely connected with the plot and characters, and on which their beauties so wholly depend, that it would have been absurd and idle to have produced them here: hence the reader will find little of the inimitable Falstaff in this work, and not one line extracted from the Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakspeare's best, and most justly admired comedies: whoever reads that play, will immediately see, there was nothing either proper or possible for this work: which, such as it is, I most sincerely and cordially recommend to the candour and benevolence of the world: and wish every one that peruses it may feel the satisfaction I have frequently felt in composing it, and receive such instructions and advantages from it as it is well calculated and well able to bestow. For my own part, better and more important things henceforth demand my attention, and I here, with no small pleasure, take leave of Shakspeare and the critics; as this work was begun and finished be I entered upon the acred function, in which I am now happily employed, let me trust, this juvenile performance will prove no objection, since graver, and some very eminent members of the church, have thought it no improper employ, to comment, explain, and publish the works of their own country poets.
Be thou blest, Bertram! and succeed thy father
wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
and keep thy friend Under thy own life's key: be check’d for silence, But never tax'd for speech.
TOO AMBITIOUS LOVE.
I am undone; there is no living, none, If Bertram be away. It were all one, That I should love a bright particular star, And think to wed it, he is so above me: In his bright radiance and collateral light Must I be comforted, not in his sphere. The ambition in my love thus plagues itself: The hind that would be mated by the lion, Must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague, To see him every hour; to sit and draw