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SHAKESPEARE calls his Venus and Adonis | Thammuz, worshipped with foul and disgusting “the first heir of his invention.” I have seen rites by the daughters of Israel during the no sufficient reason why we should not take degenerate days of the later prophets. this expression in its obvious import. If so, Numberless are the incidents framed by the the poem is to be regarded as the author's first poets out of this general idea. The most and earliest literary performance. There seems common is that celebrated by Shakespeare in indeed but little doubt that it was composed on the present poem. It is briefly this. Venus, the sweet banks of the Avon, and before the the Goddess of female beauty, becomes enaauthor had left Stratford for the great metro moured of the beautiful boy, but her admiration polis. The poem has about it all the freshness of is not returned; he forsakes her for the more country air, all the warmth of youthful passion. congenial sports of the chase, where he is
It is founded upon a well-known Grecian killed by a wild boar, leaving her to lament in legend. That imaginative people invented bitter wailings his untimely fate. Such is an for almost every abstract mental idea some outline of the story. In the main incidents material and concrete symbol, for every emo- and in the leading idea, there is nothing orition and passion of the soul some graceful ginal. All the creative power is in the filling tale of life and action. Grecian fable is only up. Here the poet distances all competitors Grecian logic, Grecian science, Grecian opinion ancient or modern. The various scenes are personified. Among the ideas thus embodied painted with a distinctness—a sort of visibility in action are two that seem to be in some -not surpassed even by Spenser, while there respects the counterparts of each other, is throughout a compactness and force of exalthough this correlation, so far as I am aware, pression of which Spenser was entirely incahas not been heretofore observed. As was pable. The actors stand out to the mind's Diana among women, so was Adonis among eye with all the distinctness of a group of men-each having every perfection except that statuary. which is most characteristic. The same One peculiarity, first observed I believe by inventive fancy, which formed the idea of a Coleridge, is worthy of note. The poem is not woman possessed of every gracious and marked by stirring action, but by a series of miwomanly quality except the desire to be nutely finished pictures. In other words, it is acceptable to the other sex, conceived also the descriptive, not dramatic. Yet the character of idea of a man, in all respects manly and noble, these descriptions is precisely that which would beautiful and brave, but utterly and absolutely indicate the possession of the dramatic power. indifferent to what is after all man's ruling Drama is action. That the action may be passion. The Adonis of early Græcia was consistent and suitable, the dramatist while simply a passionless boy. He was one who composing must have the actors and the scene could love a woman only as he loved his sister, of action most vividly and palpably before his his mother, or his brother. It was not guile, own mind. He must be present to every scene used to decoy more victims. It was not affec- and every soul, as really as though he were at tation, to hide the real state of his heart. It the moment actually on the stage, surrounded was not vanity, to show his own importance by by the characters whom he has summoned into apparently contemning that which others existence. He must therefore have the power prized so highly. It was simply sheer, abso- of conception in the highest degree. The fact late indifference. Love, in the special appli- to be noted is, that this power is equally shown eation of that term, was to him a thing unin- | in the Venus and Adonis. In other words, a telligible. He could form no more idea of it, poem essentially and characteristically undrathan can a blind man of colours, or a deaf matic evinces at the same time the possession man of sounds, or a cherub of the feelings of of high dramatic power. The pictures given to humanity. Yet was never cherub more beau- the reader in the poem are such as must be tiful or more enchanting. The flush of health ever present to the mind's eye of the poet while was on his cheek, the pride of intellect was on writing a drama. Shakespeare's descriptions his brow, the strength of manhood was in his in his Venus and Adonis raise in our minds arm. Such was the Adonis of the graceful just such scenes as I suppose always existed in and imaginative Greek ;-such, with disagree- his own mind while putting language into the able abatements and additions, was the Syrian / mouth of his dramatic characters. VOL. VI.
The scene in which the horse of Adonis ; and stratagem, she describes a curious labyrinth of short breaks loose from him may be cited in illustramay be cited in illustra. | turnings and windings, as if to perplex the dogs by the
intricacy of her track.” tion of this peculiarity:
Shakespeare says :“Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds, And now his woven girths he breaks asunder,
“ And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare, The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Mark the poor wretch, to overshoot his troubles, Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunder:
How he outruns the wind, and with what care The iron bit he crushes 'tween his teeth,
He cranks and crosses, with a thousand doubles: Controlling what he was controlled with.
The many musits through the which he goes
Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes."
Mr. Ayton :-
“The hounds, whom we left in full cry, continue their His eye, which glisters scornfully like fire,
music without remission as long as they are faithful to Shows his hot courage and his high desire.
the scent; as a summons, it should sem, like the seau Sometimes he trots, as if he told the steps,
man's cry, to pull together, or keep together, and it is : With gentle majesty, and modest pride;
certain proof to themselves and their followers that they Anon he rears upright, curvets, and leaps,
are in the right way: on the instant that they are at fault,' As who should say, lo! thus my strength is tried;
or lose the scent, they are silent... The weather, in its imAnd thus I do to captivate the eye
pression on the scent, is the great father of faults;' but of the fair breeder that is standing by.
they may arise from other accidents, even when the day
is in every respect favourable. The intervention of “What recketh he his rider's angry stir,
ploughed land, on which the scent soon cools or evapoHis flattering 'holla,' or his “stand, I say?'
rates, is at least perilous; but sheep-stains, recently left What cares he now for curb, or pricking spur?
by a flock, are fatal: they cut off the scent irrecoverably For rich caparisons, or trappings gay?
-making a gap, as it were, in the clue, in which the dogs He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
have not even a hint for their guidance." For nothing else with his proud sight agrees.
Shakespeare:* Look, when a painter would surpass the life, In limning out a well-proportioned steed,
“Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep, His art with nature's workmanship at strife,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell, As if the dead the living should exceed;
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,
To stop the loud pursuers in their yell;
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer; “Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear.
“For there his smell with others being mingled, Thin mane, thick til, broad buttock, tender hide:
The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt, Look, what a horse should have, he did not lack. Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have singled Save a proud rider on so proud a back.
With much ado the cold fault cleanly out;
Then do they spend their mouths: Echo replies, “Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares;
As if another chase were in the skies."
"Suppose then, after the usual rounds, that you see Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather'd wings."
the hare at last (a sorry mark for so many foes) sorely The accuracy of Shakespeare's descriptions
beleaguered-looking dark and draggled, and limping
heavily along; then stopping to listen, again tottering has lately received a very striking illustration.
on a little, and again stopping: and at every step, and A few years since there was published in Lon every pause, hearing the death-cry grow nearer and don a volume, entitled “ Essays and Sketches louder." of Character, by the late Richard Ayton, Esq.”
Shakespeare :These essays contain, among other things, a paper on hare-hunting. It is curious to ob “By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill, serve the similarity between the descriptions of
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear,
To hearken if his foes pursue him still; this professed hare-hunter, and those of the
Anon their loud alarums he doth bear; poet, even when the latter are most highly
And now his grief may be compared well idealized.
To one sore-sick, that hears the passing bell.
* Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch “She (the bare) generally returns to the seat from which she was put up, running, as all the world knows.
Turn and return, indenting with the way;
Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch, in a circle, or something sometimes like it. .. At starting, she tears away at her utmost speed for a mile or more,
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay: and distances the dogs halfway: she then returns, diverg
For misery is trodden on by many, ing a little to the right or left, that she may not run into
And being low never relieved by any." the mouths of her enemies--a necessity which accounts
Adonis, regardless of the entreaties of the for what is called the circularity of her course. Her flight from home is direct and precipitate; but on her way
| Goddess of Love, goes forth to pursue the wild back, when she has gained a little time for consideration boar. By accident, while in close pursuit, he
fell from his horse and was overrun by the i 6 " And therefore would be put his bonnet on, ferocious beast. The protruding tusk of the
Under whose brim the gaudy sun would peep;
The wind would blow it off, and, being gone, "grim, urchin-snouted boar," penetrated the
Play with his locks; then would Adonis weep: groin of the beauteous boy, and killed him out And straight, in pity of his tender years, right, goring him horribly. The anguish and They both would strive who first should dry his tears. distraction of Venus on seeing his mangled
«• To see his face the lion walked along body, is another of those striking pictures with Behind some hedge, because he would not fear him: which the poem abounds.
To recreate himself, when he hath sung,
The tiger would be tame, and gently hear him: “She looks upon his lips, and they are pale;
If he had spoke, the wolf would leave his prey, She takes him by the hand, and that is cold;
And never fright the silly lamb that day. She whispers in his ears a heavy tale,
6. When he beheld his shadow in the brook, As if they heard the woful words she told: She lifts the coffer-lids that close his eyes,
The fishes spread on it their golden gills;
When he was by, the birds such pleasure took, Where, lo! two lampy, burnt out, în darkness lies.” |
That some would sing, some other in their bills
Would bring him mulberries, and ripe-red cherries: Passion always exaggerates. The spectator
He fed them with his sight, they him with berries. of a tragedy may be accurate and precise ; the actor never. In wo, or rage, no man stops to “* But this foul, grim, and urchin-snouted boar, measure his words, or correct his images. The
Whose downward eye still looketh for a grave,
Ne'er saw the beauteous livery that he wore: boldest metaphors in his mouth seem tame,
Witness the entertainment that he gave; forced and even artificial comparisons become If he did see his face, why then I know, natural. They indicate an excited, an un He thought to kiss him, and hath kill'd him so.'” natural, an "artificial" state of mind. They are the efforts of a drowning man grasping at
The mind, highly excited on any subject, is straws. No one ever understood this principle
easily and rapidly carried from one passion to better than Shakespeare. When Venus sees
another. The disappointment and grief of the flowers and grass drenched in the blood of
Venus prepare the mind of the reader for the Adonis, they seem to her to be bleeding in
| intense bitterness and spite that follow. "sympathy," or to have “stolen” the precious
"Since thou art dead, lo! here I prophesy, drops. Indeed, the whole scene describing the
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend; lament of Venus over the dead body of Adonis It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning but unsavoury end; is exquisitely beautiful. Every line shows the
Ne'er settled equally, to high or low; hand of a master.
That all love's pleasures shall not match his wo. * No flower was nigh, no grass, herb, leaf, or weed, “ " It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud; But stole his blood, and seem'd with him to bleed.
And shall be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o'erstrawed "This solemn sympathy poor Venus noteth;
With sweets, that shall the sharpest sight beguile: Over one shoulder doth she hang her head; Dambly she passions, frantickly she doteth;
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
Strike the wise dumb, and teach the fool to speak. She thinks he could not die, he is not dead. Her voice is stopped, her joints forget to bow;
« * It shall be sparing, and too full of riot, Her eyes are mad that they have wept till now.
Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures; "Upon his hurt she looks so steadfastly,
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet, That her sight dazzling makes the wound seem three; Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with treasures; And then she reprehends her mangling eye,
It shall be raging-mad, and silly-mild,
Make the young old, the old become a child.
It shall not fear, where it should most mistrust; "My tongue cannot express my grief for one,
It shall be merciful and too severe, And yet,' quoth she, "behold two Adons dead!
And most deceiving, when it seems most just; My sighs are blown away, my salt tears gone,
Perverse it shall be, when it seems most toward, Mine eyes are turned to fire, my heart to lead :
Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.
“It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissension 'twixt the son and sire; ** Alas, poor world, what treasure hast thou lost!
Subject and servile to all discontents, What face remains alive that's worth the viewing?
As dry combustious matter is to fire; Whose tongue is music now? what canst thou boast
Sith, in his prime death doth my love destroy, Of things long since, or any thing ensuing?
They that love best, their loves shall not enjoy.'” The flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and trim; But trde-sweet beauty lived and died with him.
The Venus and Adonis is by all the critics *** Bonnet nor veil henceforth no creature wear!
regarded as betraying marks of youth, and it is Nor sun, nor wind, will ever strive to kiss you:
expressly called by the author “the first heir Having no fair to lose, you need not fear;
of his invention." Yet no one, I think, can read The sun doth scorn you, and the wind doth hiss you.
But when Adonis lived, sun and sharp air
* Fear him, frighten him.
it without being struck with the ease and | law Lucretius, his friend Brutus, and other sweetness of the versification, the splendour and followers, repair forth with to Collatium. Lupolish of the diction, the concentrated energy cretia meets them in the threshold, relates the of expression in some places and the extraordi horrid crime which had been committed, makes nary command of language throughout*-in them first swear vengeance on the criminal, short, with a high state of finish in the style and then, uttering his name, plunges into her and a thorough mastery of the art of composi- heart a fatal dagger in attestation of her innotion, which we rarely expect to find except in cence. The agony-struck husband and father the practised writer.
give way to a violent and benumbing grief, In the dedication of the Venus and Adonis, from which they are first roused by a sudden Shakespeare promises, if the work proves ac- suggestion of Brutus. He sees that the critical ceptable to the noble Earl, to take advantage moment has come, and drawing from the wound of all idle hours till he has honoured his patron | the yet bloody steel, made all present kneel, with some graver labour. This promise he and severally kissing the still reeking dagger, redeemed by the production in the following swear by it to expel the insulting Tarquins year of another narrative and descriptive poem from the throne and abolish the monarchy. entitled “The Rape of Lucrece." This poem This is the whole story. is in many respects the fellow and counterpart In respect to the general character of the of the other. It is in the seven-line stanza, or poem, I said it was in many respects the fellow “Rhythm-Royal” which was noticed in a former of its predecessor. And yet, if I mistake paper. It is considerably longer than the not, there is one perceptible difference. They Venus and Adonis, and is much graver in its are both paintings; but the one is more & cast. It is, like the other, remarkable for its painting of external, visible, material objects; fulness and accuracy in painting minute details. the other, of things internal, invisible, immaThe author takes an incident as free as possible terial. In the Venus and Adonis, there is from all complication of plot. There is no more of what strikes the senses. In the Luunravelling of difficulties, no solving of myste- crece, there is the minute, microscopic anatomy ries, no exciting of curiosity, (which in a tale of crime and passion. When Tarquin steals along of fiction is one great source of interest-some- at dead of night on his fiendish errand, we see times the only one,) no multiplication of actors indeed the torch that lights his guilty path, or changing of scene. It is a story which and the threatening falchion in his hand; but every school-boy knows by heart; a story con we are made to see still more clearly, with our taining but few actors and few incidents; nor mind's eye, the workings of his soul, as he is does the author seek to create an interest by / agitated successively by conscience, honour, multiplying these. On the contrary, he leaves pity, pride, and passion. And never probably it apparently as bare as possible of all the was there such a complete anatomy of grief, as ordinary sources of interest in a narrative in the description of Lucretia's feelings during poem. The effect which he seems to seek is those few hours intervening between her injury that of the painter of nature, who invites atten and her death. These actings of the mind tion not by novelty or the glare of his colours, turning inward upon itself, are made by the but by the fidelity with which he gives back to poet to supply the place of external incident. the eye a familiar scene.
It is this power of describing minutely the The story is this. Collatinus a noble Roman processes of thought, which is, in my opinion, boasts in camp of the matchless beauty and the chief characteristic of the poem. Thoughts, the incorruptible virtue of his wife Lucretia. passions, motives, and acts of the mind, are in Tarquin, the king's son, incited partly by pique the Lucrece made to occupy the place occupied and partly by lawless passion, steals away in most narrative poems by material and exprivately from camp and goes to Collatium, to ternal scenes and actions. The reader who the house of Collatinus. There by the hostess takes up the poem with the expectation of that he is courteously and hospitably entertained sort of interest which arises from novelty, or over night, as became the prince royal and the from lively and rapid narrative, will soon lay friend of her husband. His fiendish end ac- it down in disappointment. But he who comes complished, he returns next day to camp. The to the perusal prepared to feel an interest in wretched victim of his violence, frantic with tracing minutely the workings of passion, who despair, despatches a messenger to camp with knows already something of the psychology of a letter, urging her husband's instant return crime and grief, and who would receive still on account of some deep grief, but without farther revelations of its mysteries at the hand relating what it was. Collatinus, his father-in of one who has sounded the soul of man
through its whole diapason—such a reader will "A perfect dominion, sometimes domination, over the
find the Lucrece a poem of abounding and most whole world of language."--COLERIDGE.
I enchaining interest.
BY THE AUTHOR OF MARY BARTON.'
WITHIN the last few years I have been twice trees for many a mile. It was large and roomy, at the Lakes. There is a road leading to Gras- though too irregular and low; and if we had mere, on the least known side of Loughrigg, peeped over the stone wall, we should have which presents a singular number of striking seen a trim little garden, with pleasant flowerand dissimilar views. First of all, on depart- borders under the low windows. ing from the highway to Langdale, you climb This cottage always struck me as being in a a little hill; and there below you, in a sort of beautiful situation, sheltered, but not too much grassy basin on the side of Loughrigg, lies shut in for health ; with a bright look out into Wordsworth's favourite Loughrigg tarn; the a distant scene of much variety. But a few "Speculum Dianæ" as he loves to call it; / years ago, it gave me more a feeling of desolaoral, deep, and clear as her mirror should be. tion and hermit-like isolation from the world Then you pass between two Westmoreland than it does now. Now there are signs of childfarm-houses, which shut in the road as it were, hood about, and children's voices blend with the and make a little home-like scene, with their song of the wood-birds,-a child's garden may gables, and stacks of chimneys, and wooden be detected in this strange little mixture of white galleries, and numerous out-buildings, festooned | pebbles, and fading dandelions and daisies; and with ivy and climbing roses; which latter while quite enough of house-leek, and stonestraggle through the loose stone wall, and scent crop, and moss, and travellers' joy, are retained the air, already so fragrant with the odours of about the roof and walls to give it that rich the wayside herbs. Pass these homesteads, variety of colour you see, yet much has been and you seem to have left all human habitation cleared away that formerly gave it the appearbehind,--the very fences disappear, as if the ance of a dwelling, which was shrinking back moorland and bog were not worth enclosing, into the green bosom of mother earth. The until you come to a little glen; a ravine,-a currant bushes are pruned down into fruitful"ghyll,” where linger yet one or two of the ness; and the long rose-branches do not trail ancient trees of Loughrigg forest; and, as if on the ground any more. they had suggested the idea of planting, in the Now listen to me while I tell you what I lower and more open and genial part of this heard of the inhabitants of that cottage during "ghyll,” there are many of the more hardy the last thirty years. Sit down on this felled trees of a much later date, say fifty years old ; tree, and while the noonday hum of busy inbut they have spread out their branches, and sects in the wood mingles with the hum of the grown unchecked and unpruned, till they form bees in yonder hives, I will weave together quite a wood, of perhaps half a mile long, on what I have learnt of “Martha Preston." the bleak mountain side, through which the This house, and perhaps forty acres of land, soft grassy road passes on the way to Red some rocky and sterile, hardly fit even for Bank; where first you see Grasmere, lying calm feeding sheep, some mere bog, and as such, only and still, fathoms below you, and reflecting the good to furnish peat for fuel, and some rich blue heavens, and purple mountain tops in its meadow-land, formed the hereditary possesglassy surface. But come back with me to the sions of the Prestons, Westmoreland “stategshady wood on Loughrigg side. We passed a men.” For two hundred years, certainly, this stone cottage there in the more open part, nook of land had been theirs; and for nearly where your attention was called off from more as long a time had that house been their habiiramediate objects, by the sunny peep into the tation, to judge from the initials and date Falley between Loughrigg and Highclose. You carved up and down on the old oaken screen, were so absorbed by this glimpse into the bright the meal and clap-bread chest, the dresser and fertile little dale on the left, with its “meadow settle. They were probably made on the spot, green and mountain gray,” that you did not out of the remains of some of the old forestnotice the gray, old cottage, just up above the trees; and had been polished by many a houseroad, in the wood on the right, and yet it was wife, before Jane Preston set her daughter Fery picturesque; truly “a nest in a green | Martha to rub them as her morning's task. bold," with yet enough of sun to gild the dia- Thomas and Jane Preston had two children, mond-paned windows, all through the long Martha and John. The sister was the elder by afternoon of a summer's day; and high enough eight years, and felt like a mother to the little to command a view through that opening in the boy, whom she had nursed almost more than