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"O sweet Mr Shakespeare! I'll have his picture in my study at the court." "Let this duncified world esteem of Spenser and Chaucer, "I'll worship sweet Mr Shakespeare, and to honour him, will lay his Venus and Adonis under my pillow, as we read of one (I do not well remember his name, but I am sure he was a king), slept with Homer under his bed's head ". The amorous Gullio was, however, not a typical representative of the University; a year or two later, in the third part of the Parnassus Plays, a more judicial utterance is delivered by "Judicio " :—
"Who loves not Adon's love, or Lucrece rape?
The writer of the lines was not ignorant of "graver subjects which had already contented the author of "Adon's love"; but these belonged to the department of drama, and were not to be classed with poetry. Not long after, a more experienced scholar than the author of the plays, the much abused Gabriel Harvey, Spenser's "Hobbinol," wrote on the fly-leaf of a Chaucer folio : -"The younger sort take much delight in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, have it in them to please the wiser sort." One thing is quite certain, to wit, that Shakespeare's first published venture brought him no little contemporary fame.*
* In 1598, John Marston, the satirist, published, as "The first blooms of my poesie," an imitation of Venus and Adonis, under the title of "The Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image;" in his "Scourge of Villainy" (Sat. vi.), Marston pretended that the poem was a satire on that kind of poetry; in 1599 it was ordered to be burnt. In Cranley's Amanda (1635) it is mentioned together with Venus and Adonis, and Hero and Leander,
The Source of the Plot. Ovid's Metamorphoses, Bk. x., was certainly the direct source of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, though the story must have been familiar to the poet in various forms: whether he read Ovid in the original, or contented himself with Golding's translation (1567) cannot be definitely determined; Prospero's abjuration (Tempest iv. 1) shows his indebtedness to the translator, but this does not prove that his Latin was too little to enable him to follow the story as printed in Field's dainty edition of the Metamorphoses, or in any other edition. * Anyhow, his plot departs from Ovid's in many details. Shakespeare may have read Constable's " Shepherd's Song of Venus and Adonis," which, though first published in England's Helicon (1600), had perhaps previously circulated in manuscripts, but the question of date is of no importance: Shakespeare's debt to Constable must have been very slight.
Bion's tender elegy, and the idylls of Theocritus and other poets of the Greek Anthology were evidently quite unknown to Shakespeare. His Adonis' does not return from Hades. Folklorists can find in the poem only the Death, not the Resurrection of Vegetation,—only one part of that wide-spread nature-myth and nature-worship which passed, with much of its accompanying ritual, from the East to Western Europe, captivating the
as part of a courtezan's library. Shakespeare's allusion to Pygmalion's images," in Measure for Measure, III. ii. 48, should be noted. William Barksted's "Mirrha, the mother of Adonis, or Lust's Prodigies," ends with an enthusiastic tribute to "Venus and Adonis" and its author.
* Cp. Prof. Baynes' articles in Fraser's Magazine, vol. xxi. pp. 83-102; 619-641.
In the Bodleian there is an edition of Ovid which may possibly be Shakespeare's own copy (vide account of the book, with facsimile page, in the German Shakespeare Society's Transactions).
minds of the masses, and inspiring the minds of the poets. Venus mourning for Adonis, Isis for Osiris, Astarte for Thammuz, are but variants of the same theme. It is not unhelpful to be reminded of the genesis of Shakespeare's sensuous and voluptuous theme.*
The Passionate Pilgrim. "The Passionate Pilgrim" was first printed in 1599, with the following title :
"THE PASSIONATE | PILGRIME. | By W. Shakespeare. | AT LONDON | Printed for W. Jaggard, and are | to be sold by W. Leake, at the Grey- | hound in Paules Churchyard. | 1599." +
In the middle of sheet C‡ is a second title:-" SONNETS | To sundry notes of Musicke."
*Spenser's curious reference to the Gardens of Adonis should be noted (Faerie Queene, Book III. i. 34).
The Eastern origin of the myth is significantly preserved in the name of the hero: "Adonis"="Adon," i.e. Lord; again, anemone="; naaman, "the darling'; the Arabs call the anemone the "wounds of the Naaman." According to Bion, the rose sprung from the blood of Adonis, the anemone from his tears.
In the Greek myth, Aphrodite has taken the place of Astarte; probably the name of the Greek Venus is itself a modification of some Eastern
The old translators of the Bible identified 'Thammuz' with 'Adonis,' in Ezekiel viii. 14, where the English Bible translates the Hebrew correctly, "And behold there set women weeping for Thammuz," the Vulgate renders, "Et ecce ibi mulieres sedebant plangentes Adonidem."
† Cp. Fac-simile edition among Dr Furnivall's Quarto-Fac-similes; also Charles Edmond's reprint of the Isham copy, discovered in 1867; these and the Capell' copy are the only copies known.
i.e. before the song beginning with "It was a lordling's daughter,"
In 1612 an edition was issued augmented by the addition of some poems by Thomas Heywood, 'two love-epistles, the first from Paris to Hellen, and Hellen's answer back again to Paris,' and the whole were attributed to Shakespeare. The issue is described as the third edition' on the title-page, but no second edition has been traced.
In deference to a protest on Heywood's part,* the piratical publisher cancelled the first title-page, and substituted a second, omitting Shakespeare's name; the Bodleian copy (formerly the property of Malone) has the two title-pages, the original one being left by some inadvertence.
In 1640 a new edition, with much additional matter, altogether un-Shakespearian, was issued as "Poems: written by Wil. Shake-speare, Gent.”
The Contents of the Volume. "The Passionate Pilgrim" has aptly been described as a 'rag-picker's bag of stolen goods.' Like many another pirate-publisher, Jaggard must needs issue a book purporting to be by the author of the hour: by some underhand means he obtained transcripts more or less correct of 'the sugar'd sonnets,' referred to by Francis Meres;
* In the postscript to the Apology for Actors, 1612, Heywood wrote:"Here, likewise, I must necessarily insert a manifest injury done me in that work (viz. the Troia Britannica, published in 1609), by taking the two epistles of Paris to Helen, and Helen to Paris, and printing them in a less volume under the name of another, which may put the world in opinion I might steal them from him, and he to do himself right, hath since published them in his own name; but, as I must acknowledge my lines not worthy his patronage under whom he hath published them, so the author, I know was much offended with Mr Jaggard that (altogether unknown to him) presumed to make so bold with his name.
he conveyed three pieces from the printed text of Love's Labour's Lost *; to these genuine Shakespearian articles he added sundry songs and sonnets, some by well-known authors of the day, some by obscure poetasters, some perhaps manufactured to order, so as to give a Shakespearian colouring to the volume; possibly one or two fragments of true metal may have been preserved in the miscellaneous collection.
The Identification of the Poems. I. II. Shakespeare's Sonnets, 138 and 144 (with various readings).
III. Longaville's Sonnet to Maria in Love's Labour's Lost.
IV. (?) Shakespeare's (on "Venus and Adonis ").
V. From Love's Labour's Lost.
VI. (?) Shakespeare's (on " Venus and Adonis”).
VII. (?) Shakespeare's.
VIII. Probably by Richard Barnfield, in whose Poems in Divers Humors, 1598, it had first appeared.
IX. (?) Shakespeare's (on " Venus and Adonis”).
X. Probably not Shakespeare's.
XI. Probably by Bartholomew Griffin: it had already appeared, with variations, in 1596, in his "Fidessa more Chaste than Kind."
XII. Probably not Shakespeare's.
* The many variant readings in the Shakespearian portions of the collection were probably due in some cases to Jaggard's editor, in others to incorrect transcripts. An instance of the former is perhaps to be found in the last line of V., where the play reads, "That sings heaven's praise," etc. It will be remembered that Holofernes ohides Nathaniel for not finding the apostrophas, and so missing the accent: "let me supervise the canzonet.' Had Jaggard properly supervised it, he would, I think, have read "That singës" instead of " To sing" (cp. “Love's Labour's Lost," Notes). Some of the changes in the Sonnets may have been intentional for the purpose of obscuring references to the person alluded to.