图书图片
PDF

19

By conversation, and respect to those
Who had a name in artes, in verse or prose.””

Wither seems to have been equally impressed with the estimable character of Lord Southampton, and to have meditated a record of his life and virtues; for, in an epigram addressed to him, with a copy of his “ Abuses Stript and Whipt,” he exclaims,

“ I ought to be no stranger to thy worth,
Nor let thy virtues in oblivion sleep:
Nor will I, if my fortunes give me time.” +

In short, to adopt the language of an enthusiastic admirer of our dramatic bard, “Southampton died as he had lived, with a mind untainted: embalmed with the tears of every friend to virtue, and to splendid accomplishments: all who knew him, wished to him long life, still lengthened with all happiness.” f

That a nobleman so highly gifted, most amiable by his virtues, and most respectable by his talents and his taste, should have been strongly attached to Shakspeare, and this attachment returned by the poet with equal fervour, cannot excite much surprise; indeed, that more than pecuniary obligation was the tie that connected Shakspeare with his patron, must appear from the tone of his dedications, especially from that prefixed to the “Rape of Lucrece,” which Łreathes an air of affectionate friendship, and respectful familiarity. * We should also recollect, that, according to tradition, the great Pecuniary obligation of Shakspeare to his patron, was much posterior to the period of these dedications, being given for the purpose of enabling the poet to make a purchase at his native town of Stratford, a short time previous to his retirement thither. It inay, therefore, with safety be concluded, that admiration and esteen were the chief motives which actuated Shakspeare in all the stages of his intercourse with Lord Southampton, to whom, in 1593, we have found he dedicated the “first heir of his invention.” Our reasons for believing that this poem was written in the interval which occurred between the years 1587 and 1590, have been already given in a former part of the work T, and we shall here, therefore, only transcribe the title page of the original edition, which, though entered in the Stationers' books by Richard Field, on the 18th of April, 1593, was supposed not to have been published before 1594, until Mr. Malone had the good fortune to procure a copy from a provincial catalogue, perhaps the only one remaining in existencef:—

* Beaumont's Poems. Chalmers's English Poets, vol. vi. p. 42. + Several other tributes to the memory and virtues of Southampton are on record.

Daniel has one, commemorating his fortitude, when under sentence of death, and the

Rev. William Jones published, in 1625, a Sermon on his decease, preached before the Countess; to which he added, “The Teares of the Isle of Wight, shed on the tombe of their most noble, valorous, and loving Captaine and Governour, the right Honourable Henrie, Earle of Southampton,” containing an Elegy on the father and son written by himself; “an Episode upon the death” of Lord Southampton, by Fra. Beale Esqr.; fifteen short pieces of poetry, called “certain touches upon the life and death of the Right Honourable Henrie, Earle of Southampton,” by W. Pettie, and another poem on the same subject by Ar. Price. # Imperfect Hints towards a New Edition of Shakspeare, Part II. p. 6, 4to, 1788.

[graphic]

“VENU's AND ADoNIs.

Valia miretur Vulgus, mihi flavus Apollo,
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.

London. By Richard Field, and are to be solde at the Signe of the White Greyhound, in Paules Church Yard. 1593.”

* A so-o: ores on seezes to have arisen in the mind of the ingenious author of the * ! ...ovo H.-.” wo, a zer selectio; the parting scene between Bassanio and Anthonio * ** Morozoo of Monze, as the subject of a picture, remarks, that “this noble spirit of *::: 2 m.4% taxe ou realized, when my lord Southampton the dear and generous tood or So, o cooked for the seige of Rees in the Dutchy of Cleve.” – lumper

r See Part 11. chap. ii.

* “Mr. Malo,” relates Mr. B.o.e, “ had long been in search of this equiou, and *...t, he was about to give up all hope of possessing it, he obtained a svex from a prowin.ial catalogue. Bot he stoo did not procure it will atter a long as wellous ussvolvus and a most co, mous price."--Ag-sooks of literature, who is to 393

Y.

21

This, the earliest offspring of our poet's prolific genius, consists of one hundred and ninety-nine stanzas, each stanza including six lines, of which the first four are in alternate rhime, and the fifth and sixth form a couplet. Its length, indeed, is one of its principal defects; for it has led, not only to a fatiguing circumlocution, in point of language, but it has occasioned the poet frequently to expand his imagery into a diffuseness which sometimes destroys its effect; and often to indulge in a strain of reflection more remarkable for its subtlety of conceit, than for its appropriation to the incidents before him. Two other material objections must be noticed, as arising from the conduct of the poem, which, in the first place, so far as it respects the character of Adonis, is forced and unnatural; and, in the second, has tempted the poet into the adoption of language so meretricious, as entirely to vitiate the result of any moral purpose which he might have had in view.

These deductions being premised, we do not hesitate to assert, that the Venus and Adonis contains many passages worthy of the genius of Shakspeare; and that, as a whole, it is superior in poetic fervour to any production of a similar kind by his contemporaries, anterior to 1587. It will be necessary, however, where so

much discrepancy of opinion has existed, to substantiate the first of

these assertions, by the production of specimens which shall speak for themselves; and as the conduct and moral of the piece have been given up as indefensible, these must, consequently, be confined to a display of its poetic value; of its occasional merit with regard to versification and imagery. In the management of his stanza, Shakspeare has exhibited a more general attention to accuracy of rhythm and harmony of cadence, than was customary in his age; few metrical imperfections, indeed, are discoverable either in this piece, or in any of his minor poems; but we are not limited to this negative praise, being able to select from his first effort instances of positive excellence in the structure of his

VerSe. -
Of the light and airy elegance which occasionally characterises the

[merged small][ocr errors]
[graphic]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

, , , ovaching the apathy of her companion, —

\\ \, \ w, love, the lesson is but plain,
\ , we wale perfect, never lost again.”

\ , o, wauling passages in which energy and force are very \ \\\\\\\\\ with melody and rhythm ; of the subsequent \\\\\ \o truly excellent for their vigorous construction, the w \, \, \vavut us with the point and cadence of the present

\ \, \, \leavouring to excite the affection of Adonis, who is
* * * ww.l
- “more lovely than a man,

More white and red than doves or roses are,”

w "a lotu * I have been woo'd, as I entreat thee now, Even by the stern and direful god of war, Whose sinewy neck in battle ne'er did bow –

23

Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His batter'd shield, his uncontrolled crest,
And for my sake hath learn'd to sport and dance,
To coy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jesty”

and, on finding her efforts fruitless, she bursts forth into the following energetic reproach — “ Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well-painted idol, image, dull and dead,

Statue, contenting but the eye alone,
Thing like a man, but of no woman bred.”

The death of Adonis, however, banishes all vestige of resentment, and, amid numerous exclamations of grief and anguish, gives birth to prophetic intimations of the hapless fate of all succeeding attachments:— “Since thou art dead, lo! here I prophesy, Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend;

It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end ;

It shall suspect, where is no cause of fear;
It shall not fear, where it should most mistrust;
It shall be merciful, and too severe,
And most deceiving, when it seems most just 3–

It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud,
And shall be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o'er-straw'd
With sweets, that shall the sharpest sight beguile:
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
Strike the wise dumb, and teach the fool to speak.”

These passages are not given with the view of impressing upon the mind of the reader, that such is the constant strain of the versification of the Venus and Adonis; but merely to show, that, while in narrative poetry he equals his contemporaries in the general structure of his verse, he has produced, even in his earliest attempt, instances of beauty, melody, and force, in the mechanism of his stanzas, which have no parallel in their pages. In making this assertion, it must

[graphic]
« 上一页继续 »