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him live for ever young in verse. Stanza 26th, and last, is what Spenser would have designated L'Envoy.
This poem, it will be seen, is entire and indivisible; every stanza is connected with the foregoing, and every line is in the same feeling.
The chief argument made use of to induce his friend to marry, is like Viola's address to Olivia :
Lady, you are the cruel'st she alive,
would lead these graces to the grave, And leave the world no copy." In the same strain Venus argues with Adonis: “ Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth beauty;
Thou wert begot, to get it is thy duty.
And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,
Those who from experience know how important it is to attend to the breed of cattle, sheep, horses, or dogs; and who are aware in their own persons (others may be excused) that the human race is superior to the bestial, must highly appreciate this part of Shakespeare's philosophy.
The poem gives its theme in the two first lines,“ From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die," and it is followed up by a great variety of compliment and reasoning, particularly that of the honourable pride of being a father.
Some persons, reading thus far, will be apt to regret that the arguments were not urged to some
Olivia, instead of to his friend. An answer to this is, and ought to be conclusive, that the Earl of Pembroke's son happened not to be a woman. Women, in their extreme beauty, might lay claim to all our praise, did they not themselves acknowledge manly beauty. As men, in their imagination, formed a Venus, so women formed an Apollo; and when these deities were embodied by the sculptor's art, all equally acknowledged that both were beautiful. It comes to this: either sex has beauty; but neither has a charm except towards the other. The word charm settles the question. We all, men and women, acknowledge and admire the beauty of men, women, and children, together with every thing that nature has given excellent in form and feature; but when the charm the love charm—the charm of sympathy between the sexes-- is wanting, it is merely acknowledged and admired. These poems afford us a case in point. Throughout the first five the tenour is,—I delight in you, my friend, therefore I rejoice that you have beauty of person ; and I will immortalize that beauty in my verse. Compare this with the sixth poem, addressed to his mistress, and then we understand the charm. There the whole tenour is,- I delight in your beauty, not in you, for you have deceived me. Besides, we soon get entangled amidst lips, palms, and kisses. Love is no more the steady admiring gentleman that he was; no, he is called, “thou blind fool, love !" the poet talks of being “slain," and "killed outright with looks." He owns it to be sinful loving,” and proves it to be so. He struggles against her enchantments, laments that her beauty has entrapped his unwilling love, and calls her a “devil,” with many other amorous expressions.
But, it may be asked, did Shakespeare meanly stoop to flatter an earl's son for personal beauty ? Did he seek to make a profit out of the youth, at the expense of turning him into a coxcomb? Not so; public encomiums of this sort were not rare in his days. Nevertheless, it must be owned, he has eulogized the beauty of one of his own sex beyond any other poet ; and, doubtless, what he did may be justified. Not content with bestowing common praise, he insists upon it that all the descriptions of " lovely knights," in ancient chronicles, were but prophecies of Master William Herbert; that he has
“ A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted;"
and that Nature first intended him for a woman; but
Is poorly imitated after you ;
And you in Grecian tires are painted new.” Nothing is put on a par with his beauty, unless it be his truth; while, throughout the poems, he contends that he speaks nothing but what is freely acknowledged by all the world, without a thought of flattery.
We are bound to believe in Shakespeare's sincerity; for, in the course of my writing, proofs will be brought forward that he never, in any part of his other works, paid a compliment the truth of which could be denied. Just praise is farther removed from flattery than the payment of a debt is from making a gift; for the gift may be serviceable and innocent, while flattery can be neither. Besides, without reference to a line beyond these poems, I see no difficulty in warding him from the imputation of flattery.
It cannot be imagined that, in the year 1597 or 8, Shakespeare stood in need of a noble patron. At that time, when we are certain that about one half of his plays had been performed, he was high in fame and prosperity, and his true patron was clearly the public. Yet the being admitted to intimacy with a nobleman of Queen Elizabeth's court was, in itself, no slight matter. Without imagining that he felt any paltry pride on such an occasion, it is extremely likely, because it belongs to a good mind, that he felt much complimented. Nothing of a selfish or mercenary description can be conceived, unless in the possibility that the good will and protection of the house of Pembroke, though the youth of the party addressed almost contradicts it, might prove important to the interests of the Blackfriars' Theatre. What could he offer in return for such friendship ? He was powerless, except in verse, and therefore he employed that in celebrating the young nobleman. Had he followed the common, hollow, false style of others, he would have presented him with about fifty lines including every virtue under heaven, and thought he had done enough. He was not of that class. It will be perceived, that though at first, in addition to the youth's beauty, he extolled his worth and his truth, because
he had reason to rely on them, yet afterwards he takes care to draw limits to such praise. This is done tenderly; that is, like a friend, or a father—but still the limits are drawn, and with a boldness beyond what any other author has ventured to use towards the public patron of his fame, if such he may be considered. This conduct proves he was not prompted by the demon of flattery.
Then, again, was he to trumpet forth his accomplishments, his talents, his wealth, his birth? No; many others might be equal, many superior to him on all these points. Except in the lines already quoted, he never directly mentions his wealth and birth. In order, therefore, to place him with truth above his fellows, to make him deservedly eminent, he celebrated him for the beauty of his person, which he contended no one could gainsay. The lovers of Shakespeare may safely conclude that whatever he did on principle was, and ever will be, worthy of imitation. According to his existing portrait, that Earl of Pembroke must have been, in his youth, remarkably beautiful; and Shakespeare, swayed by grateful feelings, regarded him as more beautiful than any one who had been, or would hereafter be. In this spirit he wrote; and however much the ugly may shake their heads, the claim of personal beauty will be ever allowed : it is beyond all other gifts; it necessarily includes health and strength; nobility, riches, and sometimes talents, are trifles compared to its influence; it enforces respect; it commands attention; it is the natural and therefore the best recommendation to the love of women; and to be possessed of it