« 上一頁繼續 »
All eyes were fixed upon him as the light birchen skiff was seen to dance over the long lines of surf that came swelling and foaming over the sand-bars. Some ran off in quest of a boat, with the purpose of following him out to sea, and bringing him back; but in a few moments a great pile of snow-white clouds rose up in the west, and swept quickly over the face of the sun: presently the great mass of the clouds grew leaden-coloured, lurid, and then inky black; while their upper edges shot out fold after fold of a deep brassy hue. This heavy thunder-cloud came stretching over the whole valley, and sweeping onward with a speed that denoted a fearful conflict of the elements. The sea-breeze fell into a dead calm; the whole atmosphere became for the moment utterly stagnant. White, ragged, spongy masses of vapour were seen floating low in the valley; a bright stream of forked lightning darted from the bosom of the black cloud; a low rumble of distant thunder was heard; and the next moment a breath of cool wind began to stir the air. One minute more, and a bolt of lightning, like a river of fire, shot over the face of heaven, succeeded by a crash of thunder that shook the solid earth the wind swept in a hurricane over the land; and the whole sky seemed to be falling in a deluge of rain.
A thunder-storm more violent or disastrous than this was not remembered by the oldest inhabitant of the town. The number of chimneys blown down, houses unroofed, barns struck with lightning, and trees torn up by the roots, surpassed all former enumerations of the like calamities. When the storm had passed, the whole valley was found to be strewed with ruins. Such was the tragical departure of old Samoset from the land of his forefathers. He had paddled off to some distance from the land, but was not entirely out of sight, when the hurricane overtook him. To lend him assistance was out of the question; for no boat could have lived among the waves which the fury of the wind lashed up when it burst from the land upon the deep. The spectators continued to gaze upon him with a most fearful and harrowing interest, as long as he could be discerned tossing over the foaming billows; but he quickly disappeared. After the storm, and for many days following, the most diligent researches were made to discover some tidings, trace, or relic of the unfortunate voyager; but nothing more was ever seen either of Samoset or the Flying Island.
MARTIAL IN LONDON.
LINES ADDRESSED TO DOCTOR PARIS ON HIS BIRTH-DAY.
Namesake of Helen's favourite boy
May all your days be days of joy,
My votive glass-not pledg'd by stealth,
And thus, convivial, drink your health,
THE CONFESSIONS OF WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
SHAKSPEARE'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF GENIUS, AND OF THE WORTH OF
THE man of genius who becomes an actor sacrifices the future to the present. His share of the after gains of immortality is willingly surrendered for a larger share of the fame that is mortal; his claims upon the interest and applause of posterity are forfeited to the intense delight of feeling that, during life, his being has more completely projected itself into the very being of those with whom, or among whom, he lives. The goal he aims at is within sight; the persons he desires to please or to instruct are ranged on either side; and the applause he seeks is their living shout, and not the echo "that doth applaud again." With him the glad success attends the high endeavour, and enjoyment supersedes hope. His payments are prompt-his claims instantly attended to. He is out of the reach of the satire of Voltaire, against the poet who had addressed an Epistle to Posterity. His letters are addressed to his contemporaries, and are delivered according to their direction.
And when I use the words "his payments are prompt," it will be understood that I confine them strictly to the sense metaphorical. The actor is in the position I have described, whether successful in a pecuniary way or not. The most substantial part of his enjoyment is independent of the amount of his salary. It is more than doubtful, indeed, whether Mr. Hazlitt's supposition is not the correct one, that if the most admired actor on the London stage could be brought to confession on this point," he would acknowledge that all the applause he had received from brilliant and overflowing audiences' was nothing to the light-headed intoxication of unlooked-for success in a barn. In town, actors are criticised; in country places, they are wondered at or hooted at." But, to the latter, it is truly to be added that 'tis of little consequence which, so that the interval is not too long between. Contrast is the secret of the intensest enjoyments. "Hurried from fierce extremes, by contrast made more fierce," it is rags and a flock-bed which give their splendour to a plume of feathers and a throne. It is obvious besides, on other grounds, that the playhouse must be equally a school of humanity to the spectator, and a scene of present glory to the actor, whether in a palace or a common outhouse. Still the mirror is held up to nature, and the actor has his reward. Nihil humani a me alienum puto-nothing can be indifferent to him that affects any portion of humanity. Still smiles or tears are spread from face to face, and hearts beat high in unison, and applauses rush forth—and the shout of living fame is in his ear!
But is this a reasonable substitute for what is called a love of fame? Fame, we shall be told, is
"no plant that grows in mortal soil,
Set off to th' world, nor in broad rumour lies,
-as that great poet has described it, whose works are a perpetual invocation before its altar. Shall we commit such injustice as to confound, by any analogy, the immediate and personal with the ideal and abstracted? Fame, so considered, can never be the recompense of the living, but reserves itself for the dead. It is the soul of a man of genius surviving himself in the minds and thoughts of other men-unperishing and imperishable. It is the sound, which the stream of high thoughts carried down to future ages makes as it flows, " deep, distant, murmuring ever more, like the waters of the mighty ocean."-This I may admit, in the highest sense of that word, yet attempt to show, by his confessions, that in the case of Shakspeare the two feelings became strangely mingled, and acted and reacted on each other.
Let us come to the question, then, whether Shakspeare, in the consciousness of his wonderful genius, built at all upon the hope of an immortal fame ?
The question has been asked before, and very variously answered, and none have thought of appealing to the poet himself, except to those parts of his writings where his identity is sought in vain. It has been said, indeed, that there is not the slightest trace of any such feeling in all his writings-that no appearance is betrayed of anxiety for their fate, or of a desire to perfect them, or make them worthy of that immortality to which they were destined. And this indifference is accounted for from the very circumstance that Shakspeare was almost entirely a man of genius, or that in him this faculty bore sway over every other; that he was either not intimately conversant with the productions of the great writers who had gone before him, or at least was not indebted to them; that he revelled exclusively in the world of observation and of fancy; and that perhaps his mind was of too prolific and active a kind to dwell with intense and continued interest on the images of beauty or of grandeur presented to it by the genius of others. For, according to the eminent writer who has argued thus, "the love of fame is a species of emulation; or, in other words, the love of admiration is in proportion to the admiration with which the works of the highest genius have inspired us, to the delight we have received from their habitual contemplation, and to our participation in the general enthusiasm with which they have been regarded by mankind." This may be, in part, very true, and yet lead to a false deduction. For we think that a writer may have all the intense consciousness of his own genius, and the love of fame as of its natural inheritance necessarily joined to it, without its being also necessary that the immortality previously won by others should be ever present to his mind, as it were the reward, the object, and the animating spring of his efforts. The " love of emulation" in a poet may be awakened, as I believe, not by the direct and gross admiration of, and desire of the homage won by, others; but it may in itself be the indirect and most pure homage which he pays to, and with which he would emulate, those external forms of truth and everlasting beauty, which he feels reflected in his own mind. The Greek poets illustrate this. In them this feeling of fame is intense. I may be contradicted here by the question, is there not the least possible expression of the desire of posthumous fame in their writings? True, but there is, on the other hand, the strongest feeling that they had within themselves the power of conferring
fame on others: and this includes the consciousness, and the love, of their own fame, existing before they had it in their power to measure the long trail of glory they were destined to leave behind them, by any straining through the gloom of the ignorance and barbarism that had gone before. I could instance, indeed, some passages from the very earliest writings of Greece, in which the love of fame is expressed with a more immediate and personal reference, but yet most touchingly apart from any vanity of desire. What can possibly be more simple and deeply affecting than the noble and beautiful lines which Thucydides quotes in the third book of his history, in illustration of the usages of Delos? They are immediately opposed to Mr. Hazlitt's inference, that the love of fame must necessarily be associated with the knowledge of its existence; nor yet do they contradict the more ideal and abstracted definition of the sources of the passion, which I have preferred to attribute, as a more general rule, to the great Greek authors. They appear to me to occupy precisely that middle ground between the personal and present, the ideal and future, which will assist us in determining the question with reference to Shakspeare. They moderate the sublimity of fame by conceiving it possible during life; they humanize it, by associating with it emotions of thankfulness and gratitude; they test it, in a word, by a principle of sympathy with the feelings of others, which, personal as it is, is yet capable of the sublimest exaltation. They occur in the Homeric hymn to Apollo :
The charm of these lines is extreme; and if the unwelcome researches of the commentators since the Greek historian are indeed to be received t, we should be glad that they could carry them further, and produce more productions of this Cynæthus of Chios, who writes with such truly Homeric simplicity. It was reserved for the Romans to common-place the love of fame, by indulging it purely in the vainest sense of their own existence, and with the commonest emulation of the glory of the Greeks. Here, indeed, as in every other thing, though they polished their own language and pitched their instruments with admirable skill, they could only poorly imitate the spirit of the more illustrious nation. It is with eloquent and characteristic truth that Mr. Walter Savage Landor accuses them of having always glared over their thin and
• We have supplied the last from the hymn itself; Thucydides does not quote it. † ̓͂Η, δὲ ὁ Κύναιθος Χῖος ὅς καὶ τῶν ἐπιγραφομένων Ομήρου ποιημάτων τὸν εἰς ̓Απόλλωνα γεγραμμένον ὕμνον λέγεται πεποιηκέναι.—Scholiast to Pindar.
I cannot resist the opportunity which is afforded me by the mention of this admired name in connexion with the subject of Greek and Roman letters, to quote a passage in illustration of this superiority of the Greeks, from one of his " Imaginary Conversations," hitherto, I believe, privately circulated. I have been favoured with a sight of it by my friend Mr. Leigh Hunt, who sympathizes with Mr. Landor, Sept.-VOL. XLV. NO, CI.XXVII.
flimsy gaberdines with "bright feathers from the wide-spread downs of Ionia and the richly-cultivated rocks of Attica." I may quit this part of the subject with a passage I have had called to my recollection from Hesiod, who, in lamenting its hard achievement and uncertain continuance,
Φημη γαρ τε κακη πέλεται· κουφη μεν αειραι
recognizes emphatically the existence of a desire for fame.
It is clear, then, that the reasons which have been advanced in explanation of Shakspeare's having entertained no such feeling in his writings, fail in this analogy. It would have been better to have found out exactly the sentiments he entertained on the point, than to have speculated with endless ingenuity. Shakspeare confesses them distinctly more than once in the course of his sonnets. His feelings are extremely curious and interesting, and can be only perhaps justly appreciated by keeping in view what I have said respecting the tendencies of the personal triumphs of actors, and the exalted and ideal character of a true poet's worship of fame. But I reserve any further remark until
because he enjoys, with that truly fine writer, the rare advantage of being, on matters of this sort, himself a Greek-that is, of entertaining them in a truly Greek spirit. Panteius and Polybius are speaking with Scipio; Panetius describes the condition of his country:
"Our ancient institutions in part exist: we lost the rest when we lost the simplicity of our forefathers. Let it be our glory that we have resisted the most populous and wealthy nations, and that, having been conquered, we have been conquered by the most virtuous; that every one of our cities hath produced a greater number of illustrious men than all the remainder of the earth around us; that no man can anywhere enter his hall or portico, and see the countenances of his ancestors from their marble columels, without a commemorative and grateful sense of obligation to us; that neither his solemn feasts nor his cultivated fields are silent on it; that not the lamp which shows him the glad faces of his children, and prolongs his studies, and watches by his rest; that not the ceremonies whereby he hopes to avert the vengeance of the gods, nor the tenderer ones whereon are founded the affinities of domestic life, nor finally those which lead toward another, would have existed in his country, if Greece had not conveyed them. Bethink thee, Scipio, how little hath been done by any other nation to promote the moral dignity, or enlarge the social pleasures, of the human race. What parties ever met, in their most populous cities, for the enjoyment of liberal and speculative conversation? What Alcibiades, elated with war and glory, turned his youthful mind from general admiration, and from the cheers and caresses of coëval friends, to strengthen and purify it under the cold reproofs of the aged? What Aspasia led Philosophy to smile on Love, or taught Love to reverence Philosophy? These, as thou knowest, are not the safest guides for either sex to follow; yet in these were united the gravity and the graces of wisdom, never seen, never imagined, out of Athens.
"I would not offend thee by comparing the genius of the Roman people with ours the offence is removable, and in part removed already, by thy hand. The little of sound learning, the little of pure wit, that hath appeared in Rome from her foundation, hath been concentrated under thy roof; one tile would cover it. Have we not walked together, O Scipio! by starlight, on the shores of Surrentum and Baiæ, of Ischia and Caprea, and hath it not occurred to thee that the heavens themselves, both what we see of them and what lieth above our vision, are peopled with our heroes and heroines? The ocean, that roars so heavily in the ears of other men, hath for us its tuneful shells, its placid nymphs, and its beneficent ruler. The trees of the forest, the flowers, the plants, are passed indiscriminately elsewhere; they waken and warm our affections; they mingle with the objects of our worship; they breathe the spirit of our ancestors; they lived in our form; they spoke in our language; they suffered as our daughters may suffer; the deities revisit them with pity; and some (we think) dwell among them."