« 上一頁繼續 »
sions, which can operate but upon small numbers; or by the acci dents of transient fashions or temporary opinions . they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. . His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual : in those of Shakspeare it is commonly a species.
It is from this wide extension of design that so much instruction is derived. It is this which fills the plays of Shakspeare with practical axioms and domestic wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse was a precept; and it may be said of Shakspeare, that from his works may be collected a system of civil and econgmical prudence. Yet his real power is not shown in the splendor of particular passages, but by the progress of his fable, and the tenor of his dialogue : and he that tries to recommend him by select quotations, will succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen.
It will not easily be imagined how much Shakspeare excels in accommodating his sentiments to real life, but by comparing him with other authors. It was observed of the ancient schools of declamation, that the more diligently they were frequented, the more was the student disqualified for the world, because he found nothing there which he should ever meet in any other place. The same remark may be applied to every stage but that of Shaks. peare. The theatre, when it is under any other direction, is peopled by such characters as were never seen, conversing in a language which was never heard, upon topics which will never arise in the commerce of mankind. But the dialogue of this author is often so evidently determined by the incident which produces it, and is pursued with so much ease and simplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of common conversa ion and common occur. rences.
Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by whose power all good and evil is distributed, and every action quickeneil or retarded. To bring a lover, a lady, and a rival into the falile; to entangle them in contradictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of interest, and harass them with violence of desires inconsistent with each other; to make them meet in rapture, and part in agony ; to fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy and outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing human ever was distressed ; to deliver them as nothing human ever was delivered : is the business of a modern dramatist. For this, probability is
1760–1820.] JOHNSON. Liarities of personal habits are only superficial dyes, brig! picasing for a little while, yet soon fading to a dim tinct, any remains of former lustre; but the discriminations of tr sión are the colors of nature; they pervade the whole ma can only perish with the body that exhibits them. The acc compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by the which combined them; but the uniform simplicity of pr caalities neither admits increase, nor suffers decay. Th beaped by one flood is scattered by another; but the rock conåinues in its place. The stream of time, which is conti washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes with jury by the adamant of Shakspeare.
Preface to Shal
violated, life is misrepresented, and language is depraved. But love is only one of many passions; and as it has no great inflv ence upon the sum of life, it has little operation in the dramas of a poet, who caught his ideas froin the living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He knew that any other passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity.
This, therefore, is the praise of Shakspeare, that his drama is the mirror of life; that he who has mazed his imagination, in fol. lowing the phantoms which other writers raise up before him, may here be cured of his delirious ecstasies, by reading human sentiments in human language, by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor predict the progress of the passions.
Shakspeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion, and innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another; in wbich, at the same time, the reveller is hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend ; in which the malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the frolic of another; and many mischiefs and many benefits are done and hindered without design.
Shakspeare has united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive evolutions of the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, and sometimes levity and laughter.
That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily allowed; but there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature. The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the instruction of tragedy or comedy cannot be denied, because it includes both in its alternations of exhibition, and approaches nearer than either to the appearance of life, by showing how great machinations and slender designs may promote or obviate one another, and the high and the low co-operate in the general system by unavoidable concatenation.
The force of his comic scenes has suffered little diminution from the changes made by a century and a half, in manners or in words. As his personages act upon principles arising from genuine passion, very little modified by particular forms, their plea. sures and vexations are communicable to all times and to all places ; they are natural, and therefore durable. The adventitious pecu
THE FATE OF POVERTY.
Of all the griefs that harass the distress de
Has Heaven reserved, in pity to the poor,
In full-blown dignity see Wolsey stand, Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand: To him the church, the realm, their powers consign, Through him the rays of regal bounty shine. Tum'd by his nod, the stream of honor flows, His smile alone security bestows; Still to new heights his restless wishes tower, Claim leads to claim, and power advances power; Till conquest, unresisted, ceased to please, And rights submitted left him none to seize.
1 The Spanlarda bed at this time tall claim to several of the Englisla provinces in
liarities of personal habits are only superficial dyes, bright and pleasing for a little while, yel soon fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former lustre ; but the discriminations of true passion are the colors of nature; they pervade the whole mass, and can only perish with the body that exhibits them. The accidental compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by the chance which combined them ; but the uniform simplicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase, nor suffers decay. The sand heaped by one flood is scattered by another; but the rock always continues in its place. The stream of time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakspeare.
Prefuce to Shakspeare.
THE FATE OF POVERTY.
By numbers here from shame or censure free,
Of all the griefs that harass the distress'd,
Has Heaven reserved, in pity to the poor,
In full-blown dignity see Wolsey stand,
1 The Spaniards hnd at this time Inil claim to scveral of the English provinces in America
OBJECTS OF PETITION.
At length his sovereign frowns—the train of state
Vanity of Human Wisdat
Where then shall Hope and Fear their objects i Must duli suspense corrupt the stagnant mind? Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate? Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise; No cries invoke the mercies of the skies? Inquirer, cease; petitions yet remain, Which Heaven may hear, nor deem religion vain. Still raise for good the supplicating voice, But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice Safe in his power, whose eyes discern afar The secret ambush of a specious prayer; Implore His aid, in His decisions rest, Secure, whate'er He gives, He gives the best, Yet, when the sense of sacred presence fires, And strong devotion to the skies aspires, Pour forth thy fervors for a healthful mind, Obedient passions, and a will resignd; For love, which scarce collective man can fill: For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill; For faith, thai, panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind Nature's signal of retreat: These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain, These goods He grants, who grants the power to With these celestial Wislom calms the mind, And makes the happiness she does not find,
Venety of lawan
On what foundation stands the warrior's pride, How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide A frame of adamant, a soul of fire, No dangers fright him, and no labors tire; O'er love, o'er fear, extends his wide domain, Unconquer'd lord of pleasure and of pain; No joys to him pacific sceptres yield, War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field: Behold surrounding kings their powers combine, And one capitulate, and one resign; Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain; " Think nothing gain 'd," he cries, “till nanght remain, On Moscow's walls till Gothic standards fly, And all be mine beneath the polar sky." The march begins in military state, And nations on his eye suspended wait; Stern Famine guards the solitary coast, And Winter barricades the realms of Frost; He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay ;Hide, blushing Glory, hide Pultowa's day! The vanquish'd hero leaves his broken bands, And shows his miseries in distant lands; Condemn'd, a needy suppliant, to wait, While ladies interpose, and slaves debate. But did not Chance at length her error mend ? Did no subverted empire mark his end? Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound ? Or hostile millions press him to the ground? His fall was destined to a barren strand, A petty fortress, and a dubious hand; He left a name, at which the world grew pale, To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
THE FOLLY OF PROCRASTINATION.
Jul interposinonging eyes Smorrow: * tangel whors death dear upon to-m.
Tomorrow's action! can that hoary wisdom, Borne down with years, still dote upon tomorrow That fatal mistress of the young, the lazy, The coward, and the fool, condemn'd to lose A useless life in waiting for tomorrow; To gaze with longing eyes upon to-morrow; Til interposing death destroys the prospeci: Sırangel that this general fraud from day to day Should fill the world with wretches undetected. The soldier, laboring through a winter's march, Süll sees t-morrow drest in robes of triumph; Sill to the lover's long-expecting aring To-morrow brings the visionary bride. But thou, 100 old to bear another cheat, Learn, that the present hour alone is man's.
Stil soldier, laboring math wretches way to day Still tool tomorrow dress a winter's TomorrowOver's long as it robes of march But thou oorings the specting ann riumpb;'
Vanity of Breman Wishet.
1 Charles XII., King of Sweden, having invaded Russia, was totally defeated at the battle of Pus towa, and forced to seek refuge in Turkey. He was afterwards killed at the stage of a little fort Norway
OBJECTS OF PETITION.
Where then shall Hope and Fear their objects find! Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind ? Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate? Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise; No cries invoke the mercies of the skies? Inquirer, eease; petitions yet remain, Which Heaven may hear, nor deem religion vain. Still raise for good the supplicating voice, But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice Safe in his power, whose eyes discern afar The secret ambush of a specious prayer; Implore His aid, in His decisions rest, Secure, whate'er He gives, He gives the best. Yet, when the sense of sacred presence fires, And strong devotion to the skies aspires, Pour forth thy fervors for a healthful mind, Obedient passions, and a will resignd; For love, which scarce collective man can fill; For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill; For faith, that, panting for a happier seat, Counts death kind Nature's signal of retreat: These goods for man the laws of Heaven or lain, These goods He grants, who grants the power to gain; With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind, And makes the happiness she does not find.
Vunity of Hanan Wuhas.
THE FOLLY OF PROCRASTINATION.
To-morrow's action! can that hoary wisdom,
Tragedy of Irene