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or of the spring, as your bounty is like harvest time; but your best quality is constancy of heart.
54. How much more beauteous is beauty when accompanied by truth! When your youth and beauty shall fade, your truth shall live in my verse.
55. L'ENVOY. “ Not marble, nor the gilded monuments Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
shall shine more bright in these contents
And broils root out the work of masonry,
The living record of your memory.
forth : : your praise shall still find room, Even in the eyes of all posterity,
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
This Envoy is in the extreme. There are several other passages, to the same effect, in these poems; they will merit consideration, when speaking of his love of fame. In this instance, it may be argued that the boast of the poet is subservient to the compliment he is paying. For the rest, the lines may last “ to the ending doom ;” but how strange it is that the immortalized personage himself should, in a few short years, have been utterly unknown as their subject, and have remained for about two centuries an object of unavailing research ! Many may contend he is still uncertain ; but, though I think my proofs are sufficiently strong, I do not insist upon them, because they are of minor importance.
My sole gratification in giving to Shakespeare a warm friendship for Master William Herbert, rests on the fact that when Earl of Pembroke, he is known to have been the worthiest, the most accomplished, and perhaps the most elegantly learned nobleman of his day. A tradition exists in the family, that, when supposed dead from apoplexy, his arm sprung up at the moment the knife was employed in the preparation for embalming his body, and then, an instant after, he died.
STANZAS LVI To LXXVII.
TO HIS FRIEND, COMPLAINING OF HIS COLDNESS, AND WARNING
HIM OF LIFE'S DECAY.
Such a friendship as this between the Earl's son and Shakespeare, was not, according to Bacon, uncommon in his time. “There is,” he tells us in his Essays, “ little friendship in the world, and least of all between equals, which was wont to be magnified. That that is, is between superior and inferior, whose fortunes may comprehend the one the other.” We now consider an approach to equality in rank and fortune as necessary to the union of minds; and this poem, together with the two succeeding ones, tends to confirm the modern doctrine, and, according to Bacon, that of more ancient times.
Soon after the reconciliation, the youth evinced a coldness towards his friend. It may be that he could not forgive himself so frankly as he had been forgiven; and that therefore the sight of a man, whom he had injured, was painful, perhaps humbling. But it seems more probable, without going to history for his character, he was of a good and generous nature, though, at his age, of a volatile disposition; and, highly situated as he was by birth, in danger of being spoiled by the flattery of the world.
In the three first stanzas Shakespeare complains of this coldness. Those marked 57 and 58 are what I before noticed as evidence of the person addressed being a man of rank. Reproach is conveyed more forcibly, and, at the same time, with more kindness, in their strained humility, than it would have been by direct expostulation. Being your slave, what should I do but tend Upon the hours and times of
Nor services to do, till you require.
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
Save, where you are how happy you make those :
I should in thought controul your times of pleasure,
Or at your hand the account of hours to crave,
Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure !
The imprison'd absence of your liberty,
Without accusing you of injury.
That you yourself may privilege your time;
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime;
After this complaint of his seeming indifference, it is only once more referred to, in stanza 61st.
“From me far off, with others all too near.” And the remainder of the poem is filled with compliments, and assurances of unaltered affection, mixed with warnings of the fleeting nature of youth,-exemplified in the poet himself, now passed his best days, and looking forward to age and death.
At the time of writing this poem, he must have been, according to my calculation, about five and thirty. His description of himself would, at first sight, represent him much older, particularly in stanza 73rd. " That time of year thou may'st in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest."
This is true as contrasted with the fresh youth of his friend; and thus it is explained in the two lines immediately following:
“In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie.”
But we shall better understand it when we recollect that most men, perhaps all, after having well mastered thirty years, are extremely sensitive to internal reflections on their mortality. At that period we are conscious of having lost the bloom of life and the blithe alacrity of youth; and we are startled at the thought of crows' feet at our eyes, with other hard and woful signs, which must shortly be our's. At forty, we are reconciled to all this ; at fifty, we look forward to sixty; and so on, till we look back on five and thirty as the prime of manhood. Old Pantaloon, in one of Goldoni's comedies, exclaims,—“, I feel like a young man of forty !”
In stanzas 69th and 70th, he mentions his having heard his young friend's conduct blamed. This he supposes a slander, yet counsels him to beware of giving a likelihood to such talk. This is as unlike flattery as a father's advice to his son.
L'Envoy to this poem is curious. It appears that the
poem was written in a book, leaving some blank leaves, which Shakespeare recommends his friend to occupy with his "mind's imprint.”
Stanza 56. Renew thy strength, sweet friendship; and let it not be said thou art wearied. Do not, my friend, kill, with cold looks, the soul of kindness; and may this