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Tortive and errant from his course of growth.-
In the reproof of chance * Lies the true proof of men. The sea being smooth, How many shallow, bauble boats dare sail Upon her patient breast, making their way With those of nobler bulk ! But, let the ruffian Boreas once enrage The gentle Thetis, and anon, behold The strong-ribb’d bark through liquid mountains cut, Bounding between the two moist elements, Like Perseus' horse : where's then the saucy boat, Whose weak, untimber'd sides but even now
Co-rival'd greatness ?- Either to harbour fled,
Troilus and Cressida. Act i. Scene 3.
PHILOSOPAERS and poets, in all ages, have made " the ills of life and the way to bear them a favorite subject of their discourse ; but, amongst the many who have“ discoursed eloquent music” on this topic-a topic of deep interest to all that are “ born of woman"-it would be difficult to select a human author who has treated it more justly or more beautifully than Shakspere.
Classical readers, indeed, with the hosts of fine passages on adversity, contained the Lati and Greek writers of antiquity, crowding on their memories, may for a moment hesitate to allow him such a towering pre-eminence; but, it appears to me, their hesitation can be but for a moment.
It should never be forgotten that the ancients, notwithstanding all their wisdom, possessed in fact but a glimmering of the true character of human life in all its bearings; indeed their views of it were little more than sufficient to “ make darkness visible.” Amongst the heathen writers of old, it is confessed, one may here and there be met with, whose reason, discarding the monstrosities of the received Mythology, led him to a dim sort of notion of an Almighty Providence, and to some cold calculations as to the possibility or even probability of a future existence beyond the grave; but the notion was vague, the calculations and speculations as such, like every thing human, were liable to error, and they wanted besides that certainty and definitiveness necessary to weave them into the chords of the heart; they were moreover, after all, confined to the learned, and if indulged in, would have failed to meet with a warm response in the feelings of the multitude. Exquisite, therefore, as their reflections on fortitude under adversity may be, they must needs exhibit a deficiency inherent and inevitable-ignorance of the real end of adversity; without a knowledge of which, it were vain to preach to mortals the way to bear it. How vain, indeed, such preachings were, may be gathered from the simple circumstance that suicide, as a remedy for misfortune, was in those times accounted a virtue! But
of that anon.
But Shakspere enjoyed a light that was denied to your Platos and Aristotles; viz. the Christian Revelation ! Only once attain a certain knowledge of the existence of an all-wise, all-powerful, and all-beneficent Providence ; and of the fact, that the present state of existence is merely a state of probation and preparation for another of infinite duration, the happiness of which will depend upon the formation of character in the present one—then the grand enigma of the origin and permission of evil is at once and satisfactorily solved. And in that inestimable knowledge we have an inspiring energy and support under temporary ills, that could not otherwise by any possibility be supplied to us. Then and then alone, can we feel in our innermost heart, the full truth and beauty of our Poet's remark that
“There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out." And when disheartened by unavoidable hardships, we may console ourselves with the persuasion that
“ In the reproof of chance,
Lies the true proof of men :"
“But the protractive trials of great God,
To find persistive constancy in men!"
A M B I TI O N.
Macbeth Vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself.
Macbeth. Act i. Scene 7.
Rosse. Thriftless ambition, that wilt raven up Thine own life's means.
Ibid. Act ii. Scene 4.
K, Hen. VI. But what a point, my lord, your falcon madeAnd what a pitch she flew above the rest!To see how God in all his creatures works ! Yea, man and birds are fain of climbing high.
2nd part King Hen. VI. Act ii. Scene 1.
Wolsey. Mark but my fall, and that that ruin'd me.
King Henry VIII. Act iii. Scene 2,
But 'tis a common proof, That lowliness is
Julius Caesar. Act ii. Scene l.
ITS UNSUBSTANTIAL CHARACTER.
Guilderstern. The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
Hamlet. A dream itself is but a shadow.*
Rosencrantz. Truly, and I hold ambition of so light and airy a quality, that it is but a shadow's shadow,
Hamlet, Act ii. Scene 2.
It must be admitted that ambition has in all times been pretty copiously abused. Has it always been with discrimination ? For, are all its elements essentially evil ? Does it not, in truth, contain in it some yearning after the wonderful and sublime ? Is there not in its composition a spark of the infinite ? Though this spark do mostly blaze, and explode, and scorch like the lightning's flash; máy it
* Vide“ dreams" post.