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stronger terms: "That the writers of the succeeding age might have improved as much in other respects, by copying from him a propriety in the sentiments, an unaffected perspicuity of style, and an easy flow in the numbers. In a word, that chastity, correctness, and gravity of style, which are so essential to tragedy, and which all the tragic poets who followed, not excepting Shakspeare himself, either little understood, or perpetually neglected." It was well for us and them that they did so!
The Induction to the Mirrour for Magistrates does his muse more credit. It sometimes reminds one of Chaucer, and at others seems like an anticipation, in some degree, both of the measure and manner of Spenser. The following stanzas may give the reader an idea of the merit of this old poem, which was published in 1563:
Recounting which, how would he sob and shreek?
But and the cruell fates so fixed be,
Had brought on him, all were it woe and griefe,
And not so soone descend into the pit;
The gladsome light, but in the ground ylaine,
But who had seene him, sobbing how he stood
Ile would haue mused and maruail'd much whereon
Crookebackt he was, toothshaken, and blere eyed,
Fumbling and driueling as he draws his breath,
John Lyly (born in the Weald of Kent about the year 1553), was the author of Midas and Endymion, of Alexander and Campaspe, and of the comedy of Mother Bombie. Of the last t may be said, that it is very much what its name would import, ɔld, quaint, and vulgar.—I may here observe, once for all, that I would not be understood to say, that the age of Elizabeth was all of gold without any alloy. There was both gold and lead in it, and often in one and the same writer. In our impatience to form an opinion, we conclude, when we first meet with a good hing, that it is owing to the age; or, if we meet with a bad one,
it is characteristic of the age, when, in fact, it is neither; for
be no better than changelings and natural idiots. This is car. rying innocence and simplicity too far. So again, he character of Sir Tophas in Endymion, an affected, bluster, g, talkative, cowardly pretender, treads too near upon blank stupidity and downright want of common sense to be admissible as a butt for satire. Shakspeare has contrived to clothe the lamentable nakedness of the same sort of character with a motley garb from the wardrobe of his imagination, and has redeemed it from insipidity by a certain plausibility of speech and playful extravagance of humour. But the undertaking was nearly desperate. Ben Jonson tried to overcome the difficulty by the force of learning and study; and thought to gain his end by persisting in error; but he only made matters worse, for his clowns and coxcombs (if we except Bobadil) are the most incorrigible and insufferable of all others.-The story of Mother Bomdie is little else than a tissue of absurd mistakes, arising from the confusion of the different characters one with another, like another Comedy of Errors, and ends in their being (most of them) married in a game at cross-purposes to the persons they particularly dislike.
To leave this, and proceed to something pleasanter, Midas and Endymion, which are worthy of their names and of the subject. The story in both is classical, and the execution is for the most part elegant and simple. There is often something that reminds one of the graceful communicativeness of Lucian or of Apuleius, from whom one of the stories is borrowed. Lyly made a more attractive picture of Grecian manners at second-hand, than of English characters from his own observation. The poet (which is the great merit of a poet in such a subject) has transported himself to the scene of action, to ancient Greece or Asia Minor; the manners, the images, the traditions are preserved with truth and delicacy, and the dialogue (to my fancy) glides and sparkles like a clear stream from the Muses' spring. I know few things more perfect in characteristic painting, than the exclamation of the Phrygian shepherds, who, afraid of betraying the secret of Midas's ears, fancy that "the very reeds bow down, as though they listened to their talk;" nor more affecting in sentiment than the apostrophe addressed by his friend Eumenides to Endymion, on waking from his long sleep: "Behold, the twig to which thou
laidest down thy head is now become a tree." The narrative is sometimes a little wandering and desultory; but if it had been ten times as tedious, this thought would have redeemed it; for I cannot conceive of anything more beautiful, more simple, or touching, than this exquisitely chosen image and dumb proof of the manner in which he passed his life, from youth to old age, in a dream, a dream of love. Happy Endymion! Faithful Eumenides! Divine Cynthia! Who would not wish to pass his life in such a sleep, a long, long sleep, dreaming of some fair heavenly Goddess, with the moon shining upon his face and the trees growing silently over his head!—There is something in this story which has taken a strange hold of my fancy, perhaps "out of my weakness and my melancholy;" but for the satisfaction of the reader I will quote the whole passage :-" It is silly sooth, and dallies with the innocence of love like the old age.”
"Cynthia. Well, let us to Endymion. I will not be so stately (good Endymion) not to stoop to do thee good; and if thy liberty consist in a kiss from me, thou shalt have it. And although my mouth hath been heretofore as untouched as my thoughts, yet now to recover thy life (though to restore thy youth it be impossible) I will do that to Endymion which yet never mortal man could boast of heretofore, nor shall ever hope for hereafter. (She kisses him.)
Eumenides. Madam, he beginneth to stir.
Eumenides. Ah! I see his eyes almost open.
Cynthia. I command thee once again, stir not: I will stand behind him.
Eumenides. Endymion, Endymion, art thou deaf or dumb? Or hath this long sleep taken away thy memory? Ah! my sweet Endymion, seest thou not Eumenides, thy faithful friend; thy faithful Eumenides, who for thy sake hath been careless of his own content? Speak, Endymion! Endymion! Endymion !
Endymion. Endymion! I call to mind such a name.
Eumenides. Hast thou forgotten thyself, Endymion? Then do I not marvel thou rememberest not thy friend. I tell thee thou art Endymion, and I Eumenides. Behold also, Cynthia, by whose favour thou art awaked, and by whose virtue thou shalt continue thy natural course.
Cynthia. Endymion! Speak, sweet Endymion! knowest thou not Cyn
Endymion. Oh heavens! whom do I behold? Fair Cynthia, divine Cynthia ?
Cynthia. I am Cynthia, and thou Endymion.