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How many gazers might'st thou lead away,
If thou would'st use the strength of all thy state !
In this place I ought to refute the story poet's being lame. It rests, I conjecture, on the authority of some matter-of-fact gentlemen, who could not comprehend a metaphor. In stanza 37th he says, he is “made lame by fortune's dearest (direst?) spite;" therefore he is lame in his foot. But if such gentlemen insist on discarding figurative language, it is strange they did not observe, a few lines after, that he also says, “ So then I am not lame," which ought to set him on his legs again without a halt. Then we have here in stanza 89th :
Say that thou dost forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence ;
Against thy reasons making no defence.” That is,-call me lame, and I, to make your words good, will pretend to be so. Had he really been lame this would have lost its point; and the promise of “making no defence” would have been ridiculous. Besides, these four lines are immediately preceded by
“Such is my love, to thee I so belong,
That for thy right myself will bear all wrong."
It is therefore, strongly as words can imply it, certain that to call him lame would be a wrong done to him. That he excelled in performing the parts of old men may well have been, without his halting. But how,
with halting, could he have played the Ghost in Hamlet, which we are told was his best performance ? As the story may be traced to these poems, so is it refuted by them. Sir Walter Scott introduced Shakespeare, a speechless figure, into his Kenilworth, apparently for no other purpose than the pleasure of calling him “a halting fellow.” “ He is a stout man at
“ quarter-staff, and single falchion, though, as I am told, a halting fellow.”
The Envoy, like that to the second poem, contains a promise of immortal fame, in an address to his
Stanza 78. You have so often embellished my verse, that many others follow my example. Ignorant writers learn something, and the learned double the majesty of their lines from you. Yet be most proud of my verse, inspired by you alone.
79. Whilst I was your only poet, you favoured me; but now I must yield to another. I grant, kind friend, you merit a worthier pen than mine; but what your present poet appears to invent in your praise, whether it be virtue or beauty, is nothing more than a reflection of yourself, Therefore thank him not.
80. I might despair, while you listen to a better poet, were it not that your worth is like the ocean, and can bear a saucy bark as well as a vessel of tall building and goodly pride. Should I be cast away, my friendship is to blame.
81. One of us must survive the other. In either case you cannot be forgotten, though I may ; because your monument shall be my gentle verse, to be o'erread (such virtue hath my pen) by eyes not yet created.
82. I grant you were not constrained to listen to me as your only poet, since I might prove inefficient. Listen therefore to others; yet beware of their gross painting, and call to mind your truth-telling friend.
83. I never perceived that embellishment was necessary for you;
therefore have I been some time silent, to prove how much you exceed written compliment. This should be considered in my favour. One of your fair eyes is worth more than the praise of both your poets.
84. None can say more than,—“You alone are you !" The poorest writer may become rich on such a theme. You add a curse to your beauteous blessings by being fond of praise.
85. My tongue-tied muse restrains herself; and while others write good words, I think good thoughts. Still agreeing with their praise, I consider you are my friend, and therefore I ought to hold the first rank.
86. Was it the grandeur of his verse in your praise, or his superior genius, that silenced me? No; neither he, nor his night companions, giving him aid, nor that affable
* who every night deceives him with intelligence, caused my silence; but I lacked matter, when I lacked your countenance.
87. Farewell ! you are too dear for my possessing, and like enough you know your value. You can be mine only by favour, not by my desert. You may, perceiving your error, withdraw your friendship, making it but a happy dream to me.
88. When you shall be disposed to hold me in disesteem, I will, for your sake, and therefore for my own, second every thing you may speak in my dispraise.
89. To all faults imputed by you I will plead guilty ;
familiar spy, *
* These allusions to the now forgotten rival poet are vague and unavailing. Nothing can be traced from them towards his discovery.
and I will avoid your presence, ceasing to remind the world of our former acquaintanceship.
90. If you must hate me, hate me now,* while fortune is my enemy. Let the loss of you make other petty griefs light, and not follow them.
91. Some glory in one thing, some in another ; I in you alone. Having you, my happiness would surpass that of all others, did it not depend on your constancy.
92. Your friendship will last through my term of life. This is a happiness; but you may be false, and I not know it.
93. Thus may I, like a deceived husband, live on supposing you are true. I shall never perceive the change in your face, since that is fated to express nothing but kind love.
94. They that have power to do evil by their conversation, yet are not inclined to it themselves, have, in their right of power, a command over appearances.
Yet be mindful of this,-lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.
95. How spotted is the beauty of your budding name by your licentious speech! How are your vices veiled by your fair qualities ! Dear friend, be heedful, or you are lost.
96. Some excuse your faults; and truly you can convert faults into graces. But do not so ; for, like yourself, your good report belongs to me.
97. In your absence the passed summer seemed to me like winter, and the autumn poor in its abundance.
* Like other men, he must have had his disappointments and vexations, even in what appears to us his splendid career towards fame. Though, in the original stanza, he uses the word “sorrow," he certainly could not hint at the death of his son ; because, only a few lines farther on, he calls that “ sorrow”-“ petty griefs.” Besides, his only son died in 1596.
98. I have been absent from you during the spring, when nothing could afford me delight.
99. Then I accused every flower of having stolen either its sweetness or its colour from
you. 100. Whither, my Muse, art thou gone, forgetful of thy duty ? Return, and redeem thy ill-spent hours. Gaze on my friend, and if in him appears Time's spoils, satirize his power, and give my friend fame faster than he can waste life.
For thy neglect of truth in beauty dyed ?
So dost thou too, and therein dignified.
Truth needs no colour, with his colour fixed,
But best is best if never intermixed.
Excuse not silence so: it lies in thee
And to be praised of ages yet to be.
STANZAS CII To CXXVI.
TO HIS FRIEND, EXCUSING HIMSELF FOR HAVING BEEN SOME TIME SILENT, AND DISCLAIMING THE CHARGE OF
In the three first poems we see tenderness and integrity expressed, for the most part, in monotonous lines;