« PreviousContinue »
While you and can my soul the tale believe,
He then turns his thoughts on every side, in quest of something that may solace or amuse him ; he proposes bappiness to himself, first in one scheme and then in another; and at last finds that nothing will satisfy :
Jam neque Hamadryades rursum, nec carmina nobis
But notwithstanding the excellence of the tenth Pastoral, I cannot forbear to give the preference to the first, which is equally natural and more diversified. The complaint of the shepherd, who saw his old companion at ease in the shade, while himself was driving his little flock he knew not whither, is such as, with variation of circumstances, misery always utters at the sight of prosperity :
Nos patriæ fines, & dulcia linquimus arva ;
We leave our country's bounds, our much lov'd plains;
His account of the difficulties of his journey, gives a very tender image of pastoral distress :
-En ipse capellas
And lo! sad partner of the general care,
The description of Virgil's happiness in his little farm, combines almost all the images of rural pleasure; and he, therefore, that can read it with indifference, has no sense of pastoral poetry:
Fortunate senex, ergo tua rura manebunt,
Hyblæis apibus florem depasta salicti,
Happy old man! then still thy farms restorid,
It may be observed, that these two poems were produced by events that really happened ; and may, therefore, be of use to prove that we can always feel more than we can imagine, and that the most artful fiction must give way to truth.
I am, Sir,
Your humble Servant,
N° 93. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1753.
Irritat, mulcet, falsis lerroribus implet,
'Tis he who gives my breast a thousand pains,
WRITERS of a mixed character, that abound in transcendent beauties and in gross imperfections, are the most proper and most pregnant subjects for criticism. The regularity and correctness of a Virgil or Horace, almost confine their commentators to perpetual panegyric, and afford them few opportunities of diversifying their remarks by the detection of latent blemishes. For this reason, I am inclined to think, that a few observations on the writings of Shakspeare, will not be deemed useless or unentertaining, because he exhibits more numerous examples of excellencies and faults, of every kind, than are, perhaps, to be discovered in any other author. I shall, therefore, from time to time, examine his merit as a poet, without blind admiration, or wanton invective.
As Shakspeare is sometimes blameable for the conduct of his fables, which have no unity; and sometimes for his diction, which is obscure and
but to pour
turgid; so his characteristical excellencies may possibly be reduced to these three general heads : * his lively creative imagination; his strokes of nature and passion; and his preservation of the consistency of his characters. These excellencies, particularly the last, are of so much importance in the drama, that they amply compensate for his transgressions against the rules of Time and Place, which being of a more mechanical nature, are often strictly observed by a genius of the lowest order; tray characters naturally, and to preserve them uniformly, requires such an intimate knowledge of the heart of man, and is so rare a portion of felicity, as to have been enjoyed, perhaps, only by two writers, Homer and Shakspeare.
Of all the plays of Shakspeare, the Tempest is the most striking instance of his creative power. He has there given the reins to his boundless imagination, and has carried the romantic, the wonderful, and the wild, to the most pleasing extravagance. The scene is a desolate island; and the characters the most new and singular that can well be conceived: a prince who practises magic, an attendant spirit, a monster the son of a witch, and a young lady who had been brought to this solitude in her infancy, and had never beheld a man except her father.
As I have affirmed that Shakspeare's chief excel
ce is the consistency of his characters, I will exemplify the truth of this remark, by pointing out some master-strokes of this nature in the drama
The poet artfully acquaints us that Prospero is a magician, by the very first words which his daughter Miranda speaks to him:
If by your art, my dearest father, you have