ePub 版

friendship, truly write. Not purposing to sell, I will not overpraise.

22. As long as you remain young, I will believe myself so too; but when I behold time's furrows on you, I shall look for my death. Since we have exchanged hearts, your beauty must clothe mine in your breast; then how can I be older than you ? Therefore, friend, be wary of yourself, as I will be wary of myself, not for my own sake, but for your heart, which I bear as charily as a tender nurse her babe. Presume not to have your heart back again, when mine within your breast is dead;-it was your gift.

23. The strength of my friendship makes me forget the perfect ceremony of its duty. O, let my books be then my. eloquent pleaders! O learn to read what friendship, in silence has written ! To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.

24. I have painted your form within me as in a frame, and it hangs in my bosom's shop, which has its windows glazed with your eyes, and the sun delights to peep through them, in order to gaze on you. But eyes picture only what they see; they know not the heart.

25. Let the fortunate boast of public honours and proud titles, whilst I, debarred of such triumph, joy in that which I looked not for,* and which I most honoured. The glory of great princes' favourites dies at a frown; the painful conqueror, once foiled, is quite razed from the book of honour, and all his services are forgotten; then happy I, that can know no change in the friendship I feel, or in that which is felt for me.

26. L'ENVOY. “ Lord of my love! to whom in vassalage,

Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,

* This is evidence that the noble youth had sought an acquaintanceship with Shakespeare, and proffered his friendship.

[ocr errors][merged small]

To thee I send this written embassage,

To witness duty, not to show my wit.
Duty so great, which wit so poor as inine

May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it;
But that I hope some good conceit of thine

In thy soul's thought all naked will bestow it;
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving,

Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
And puts apparel on my tatter'd loving,

To show me worthy of thy sweet respect.
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then, not show my head where thou may'st prove


This long continuous compliment certainly affords us no hint of an anecdote in his life. It is, however, the prologue of events to come. Meres, full of artificial conceits, must have rejoiced in some of these stanzas, especially the twenty-fourth. Thus may a great mind, even that of Shakespeare, be utterly disguised by clothing itself in other men's approved fancies.





Here is a curious change of subject. While these high compliments were paid in verse to manly beauty, the poet's mistress added a still higher one. She allured the youth into an approval of her inconstancy; and, what was worse, into a forgetfulness of his own ties of friendship. The wiles and cheats of love, when we are not the sufferers, generally provoke our laughter; possibly because we are more apt to sympathize with the winners than the losers. With a spice of malice it would be easy to draw a picture of this intrigue, so as to throw a large portion of ridicule on Shakespeare ; but I am withheld, as I observe not only the acuteness of suffering in the loser, but also in one of the winners.

We can scarcely imagine Shakespeare in a fit of rage; such, however, was the fact. He was stung to the quick; and his resentment, though we are ignorant of the manner in which it was shown, appears to have been ungovernable.

He alludes to it in this poem with deep regret:

not evermore acknowledge thee, Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame.” These lines, no doubt, were intended to be vague. I could merely offer a guess at their meaning, were it not that the quarrel is referred to in the fifth poem, where the interpretation of "bewailed guilt," is complete.

I may

“O benefit of ill ! now I find true

That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew,

Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
So I return rebuked to my content,
And gain by ill, thrice more than I have spent.

“ That you were once unkind befriends me now,

And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,

Needs must I under my transgression bow,

Unless my nerves were brass or hammer'd steel;
For if you were by my unkindness shaken

As I by your's, you've passed a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken

To weigh how once I suffer'd in your crime.
O that our night of woe might have remember'd

My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits !
And soon to you, as you to me, then tender'd

The humble salve which wounded bosom fits !
But that your trespass now becomes a fee ;
Mine ransoms yours, and your's must ransom me.”

Stanzas 119 & 120.

“ And soon to you, as you to me,” &c. inform us also, that it was not long before a reconciliation took place. Taking the words exactly in their order, they imply that Shakespeare was the first to write; but this second poem seems to have been written in answer to his friend, who had expressed sorrow for the fault he had committed, even, as we read in stanza 34, to tears. This sorrow instantly disarmed Shakespeare of his anger.

Throughout his works, it may be observed, there is ever a ready pardon for those who, tempted by opportunity, or swayed by prejudice, become criminals from a want of strength of mind, provided they are sensible of their faults, and lament them. Such was his charity, to which Dr. Johnson could “not reconcile his heart," as he himself has confessed, in his remarks on the young Count of Rousillon, that sinner Bertram. There is a case in point in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of his earliest plays, if not his first : Proteus attempts, by treachery and mean artifices, to deprive Valentine of his mistress; yet when his "shame and guilt confound” him, when he entreats forgiveness, and expresses his hearty sorrow, the generous Valentine, without a moment's pause, exclaims,

" Then I am paid,
And once again I do receive thee honest.
Who by repentance is not satisfied,
Is nor of heaven, nor earth ; for these are pleased;

By penitence the Eternal's wrath appeased.” And in the Tempest, one of his latest works, as well as in some intervening ones, we meet with the same sentiment:


Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,

Yet with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury
Do I take part: the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown farther. Go, release them, Ariel.”

It is delightful, in this “rarer action,” so hard of attainment, to discover that an author has practised what he taught. There was, it is true, a reasonable inducement to his forgiveness, if rage can hearken to

He had discovered that his mistress was the more to blame of the two; that she had solicited the youth, (see stanza 41 to him, and the poem addressed to her) and therefore his guilt was less than it might have been. In one respect, the poet surpasses his own Valentine in generosity; for no sooner is his heart at peace with his friend, than he reproaches himself for the bitter resentment he had shown. Whatever it


« 上一頁繼續 »