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By conversation, and respect to those
Wither seems to have been equally impressed with the estimable character of Lord Southampton, and to have meditated a record of his life and virtues; for, in an epigram addressed to him, with a copy of his “ Abuses Stript and Whipt,” he exclaims,
“ I ought to be no stranger to thy worth,
Nor let thy virtues in oblivion sleep:
In short, to adopt the language of an enthusiastic admirer of our dramatic bard, “ Southampton died as he had lived, with a mind untainted : embalmed with the tears of every friend to virtue, and to splendid accomplishments : all who knew him, wished to him long life, still lengthened with all happiness.” I
That a nobleman so highly, gifted, most amiable by his virtues, and most respectable by his talents and his taste, should have been strongly attached to Shakspeare, and this attachment returned by the poet with equal fervour, cannot excite much surprise ; indeed, that more than pecuniary obligation was the tie that connected Shakspeare with his patron, must appear from the tone of his dedications, especially from that prefixed to the “ Rape of Lucrece," which
* Beaumont's Poems. Chalmers's English Poets, vol. vi. p. 42.
+ Several other tributes to the memory and virtues of Southampton are on record. Daniel has one, commemorating his fortitude, when under sentence of death, and the Rev. William Jones published, in 1625, a Sermon on his decease, preached before the Countess; to which he added, “ The Teares of the Isle of Wight, shed on the tombe of their most noble, valorous, and loving Captaine and Governour, the right Honourable Henrie, Earle of Southampton,” containing an Elegy on the father and son written by himself; “ an Episode upon the death” of Lord Southampton, by Fra. Beale Esqr. ; fifteen short pieces of poetry, called “ certain touches upon the life and death of the Right Honourable Henrie, Earle of Southampton," by W. Pettie, and another poem on the same subject by Ar. Price.
Imperfect Hints towards a New Edition of Shakspeare, Part II. p. 6. 4to. 1788.
breathes an air of affectionate friendship, and respectful familiarity. We should also recollect, that, according to tradition, the great pecuniary obligation of Shak-peare to his patron, was much posterior w the period of these delications, being given for the purpose of enabling the port to make a purchase at his native town of Stratford, a sliurt time previous to his retirement thither.
It may, therefore, with safety be concluded, that admiration and eslerin were the chief motives which actuated Shakspeare in all the stages of his intercourse with Lord Southampton, to whom, in 1593, we have found he dedicated the “ first heir of his invention.”
Our reasons for believing that this poem was written in the interval which occurred between the years 1587 and 1590, have been already given in a former part of the work t, and we shall here, therefore, only transcribe the title page of the original edition, which, though entered in the Stationers' books by Richard Field, on the 18th of April, 1595, was supposed not to have been published before 1594, until Mr. Malone had the good fortune to procure a copy from a provincial catalogue, perhaps the only one remaining in existences:
“ VENU'S AND ADONIS.
Pucula Castalia plena ministret aqua.
London By Richard Field, and are to be solde at the Signe of the White Greyhound, in Paules Church Yard. 1593.'
IMPERIAL sve us to have arisen in the mind of the ingenious author of the 1. K*** In mater sectisg the parting scene between Bassanio and Anthonio 16 ** Meridunt ut l'er, as the subject of a picture, remarks that “this noble spirit of tu muht Live Banu reszed, when my lord Southampton the dear and generous by KTU X Sokke' embarad bor ile seige of Rees in the Dutchy of Cleve." – lupera ikut KL, Put I. p. 35.
se Part II. cap. i. ho Mz. Voix," reales Mr. Bloe, “bad long been in search of this exition and Wil: be was about to give up al bope o possessing it, be obtained a copy from me viimei carxogue. But be stai did not procure it tiil after a long and texlioua de gordion 1:1d a vente kaloi mio price.- dutcodes of Literatures live in the Horse
This, the earliest offspring of our poet's prolific genius, consists of one hundred and ninety-nine stanzas, each stanza including six lines, of which the first four are in alternate rhime, and the fifth and sixth form a couplet. Its length, indeed, is one of its principal defects; for it has led, not only to a fatiguing circumlocution, in point of language, but it has occasioned the poet frequently to expand his imagery into a diffuseness which sometimes destroys its effect; and often to indulge in a strain of reflection more remarkable for its subtlety of conceit, than for its appropriation to the incidents before him. Two other material objections must be noticed, as arising from the conduct of the poem, which, in the first place, so far as it respects the character of Adonis, is forced and unnatural; and, in the second, has tempted the poet into the adoption of language so meretricious, as entirely to vitiate the result of
purpose which he might have had in view.
These deductions being premised, we do not hesitate to assert, that the Venus and Adonis contains many passages worthy of the genius of Shakspeare ; and that, as a whole, it is superior in poetic fervour to any production of a similar kind by his contemporaries, anterior to 1587. It will be necessary, however, where so much discrepancy of opinion has existed, to substantiate the first of these assertions, by the production of specimens which shall speak for themselves; and as the conduct and moral of the piece have been given up as indefensible, these must, consequently, be confined to a display of its poetic value; of its occasional merit with regard to versification and imagery.
In the management of his stanza, Shakspeare has exhibited a more general attention to accuracy of rhythm and harmony of cadence, than was customary in his age ; few metrical imperfections, indeed, are discoverable either in this piece, or in any of his minor poems; are not limited to this negative praise, being able to select from his first effort instances of positive excellence in the structure of his
Of the light and airy elegance which occasionally characterises the
Minim id labore et ud a couplet remarkable for its sweetaliwa hata was in handle lviinement almost peculiar to modern in the in des ouvimes sought for, and obtained this
What Venus lamenting the beauty of Nature after i metode is the fac domaines,
dis' text, their colours fresh and trim;
wuty liv'd and dy'd with him;"
Isplakaching the apathy of her companion,
I love the lesson is but plain,
Livin' lanting passages in which energy and force are very I Lomment with melody and rhythm ; of the subsequent
Hi ha da se truly excellent for their vigorous construction, the 1 liones persont us with the point and cadence of the
present Tillsendeavouring to excite the affection of Adonis, who is
more lovely than a man, More white and red than doves or roses are,”
# I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee
now, Even by the stern and direful god of war, Whose sinewy neck in battle ne'er did bow
and, on finding her efforts fruitless, she bursts forth into the following energetic reproach :
“ Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone,
Well-painted idol, image, dull and dead,
The death of Adonis, however, banishes all vestige of resentment, and, amid numerous exclamations of grief and anguish, gives birth to prophetic intimations of the hapless fate of all succeeding attachments:
These passages are not given with the view of impressing upon the mind of the reader, that such is the constant strain of the versification of the Venus and Adonis ; but merely to show, that, while in narrative poetry he equals his contemporaries in the general structure of his verse, he has produced, even in his earliest attempt, instances of beauty, melody, and force, in the mechanism of his stanzas, which have no parallel in their pages. In making this assertion, it must