« PreviousContinue »
Let it be the means that far-off friends at the Antipodes shall communicate, if not by voice, by that which is like it-by sound and by lettered words. Let it touch a bell at their mid-day, and it may tingle at that instant in your ears at midnight, and awake you to receive, evolved from the little machinery at your bed's head, a letter in a printed strip, conveying "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,' even as though you felt the breath that uttered them. Reader, be not skeptical. How many very practicable things have you denied, and yet found brought tangibly before your eyes, and into your hands! This simultaneous tingle of two bells-one at the Antipodes, and one within reach of your own touch, and at your own ear-may cause you to curl your lip in derision; but say, is it impossible? We have heard you say of much more improbable things, "Where there is a will there is a way." Well, here it is evident you have only a little to strengthen your will, and the length of the way will be no obstacle. You may amuse yourself with the idea, and make a comparison of it, and look at the figures on your China plate, and imagine them moved to each other under spell of their passion, (see the tale of the willow pattern,) to the defiance of all the ordinary rules of distance. Did not the foreseeing artist intimate thereby that love and friendship have no space-limits, and hold within themselves a power that laughs at perspective, as it does at "locksmiths"? The artist whom you contemned as ignorant was, you acknowledge, wise,-wise beyond his art, if not beyond his thought. He had a second-sight of a new mode of communication, and expressed it prudently in this his hieroglyphic.
Does any marvel exceed this in apparent absurdity-that you, in London or Edinburgh, shall be able to communicate instantaneously with your friend or relative at St. Petersburg or Vienna; for which purpose you have but to touch a few keys denoting letters of the alphabet, and under water and over land your whole thoughts pass as soon as your fingers have delivered them to the keys-nay, the letters are forestalling your thought, and those before it? Does it not seem very absurd to say that all the foreign news may be at your breakfast-table, fresh from every capital in Europe, before the Times can be published and circulated? How will the practice of the press be affected by this novelty? "The latest intelligence" becomes a bygone tale, "flat, stale, and un- I
profitable." Far greater things than the poet dreamed of become daily realities. Richest in fancy, Shakspeare apologetically covers the incredible ubiquity of his Ariel with a sense of fatigue-of difficulty in his various passages-Ariel, the spirit who
"thought it much to tread The ooze of the salt deep."
the instant, messengers far swifter than Ariel Our Government officers will have ready on wondrous performers on the "slack-wires." They will put you
"A girdle round about the earth
No; that was the lagging, loitering pace of the old spirit. It will not take forty seconds. What are thousands of miles to a second of time? Time is, as it were, annihilated: the sand in the glass must be accelerated, or the glass, held for ages, taken out of his hand, and some national exhibition ransacked for a new hour instrument. The Prospero's wand broken, and newer wonders to be had for a trifle. Fortunatus's "wishing-cap" to be bought at the corner-shop, and the famed
seven-league boots" next door-and to be had cheap, considering that you may tell all your thoughts, at ever so great a distance, by a little bell and a wire, while you are sitting in your arm-chair. It will be quite an easy matter to
"Waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole." Railroads and the Submarine Telegraph more than double man's life, if we count his years by action. History itself must now begin as from a new epoch. All the doings of the world, through this rapidity given to person and to thought, must be so altered as to bear no parallel with the past. The old locomotive and communicating powers are defunct-they are as the water that has passed the mill. It must grind with that which succeeds. They are new powers that must set the wheels of governments and of all the world's machinery in motion.
There is in the Spectator a paper of the true Addisonian wit, descriptive of an Antediluvian courtship, in which the young couple, having gone through the usual process in the early art of love, complete their happiness in the some hundredth year of their ages. Theorists have entertained the notion that this long life was bestowed upon man in the world's first era, that knowledge might be more readily transmitted, there be
ing few generations to the Flood. To the lovers of life it would be a sad thing to be led to the conclusion, that, transmission being quickened, life will be shortened; or that, as in the winding-up of a drama, events are crowding into the last act of our earth's duration. It may relieve their apprehensions to read of the advance the medical science is making simultaneously with all other sciences, so that they may look to a state in which a man may live as long as he likes, and at the same time do ten times the work: a man's day will perhaps be a year, counting by his doings. Morose poets and philoso. phers have lamented over us as ephemeral if so, we are at least like the Antediluvian butterflies, and our day long. And now, with all our sanitary inventions, it stands a fair chance of a tolerable lengthening.
We have observed that it has been said that the world is not fifteen years of age; and, indeed, it looks like enough. Hitherto Nature has treated us as a kind mother does her children-given us toys and playthings, to be broken and discarded as we get older. We are throwing them by, we are becoming of age, and Nature opens her secrets to us, and we are just setting up for ourselves as it were, commencing the business of life, like grown men in good earnest;
and every day we find out more secrets, and all worth knowing.
We will not lay down the pen without expressing our congratulations to the inventors of the Submarine Telegraph, the Messrs. Brett, and wishing them the fullest success. They themselves as yet know not the extent of the reach of their own invention, or they might well wonder at their own wonders, like
Katerfelto, with his hair on end!"
We wish them long life to see the results— and that they will not, through mistrust of so great a discovery, imitate Copernicus, who, says Fontenelle, "distrusting the success of his opinions, was for a long time loth to publish them, and, when they brought him the first sheet of his work, died, foreseeing that he never should be able to reconcile all its contradictions, and therefore wisely slipped out of the way." Messrs. Brett will think it wiser to live, and be in the way and at their post, (no post obit,) ready to answer all queries and contradictions, through the convincing, the very satisfactory means, of their Submarine Telegraph.'
From Chambers's Edinburgh Journal.
A COURT-POET OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
THE reign of Elizabeth may be considered of the age of the Tudors was not merely pre-eminently the age of chivalry. The dark distinguished by external splendor, or by days of feudalism were past; the burdens the absence of the intolerable evils inseparawhich had long lain heavy upon the liberties ble from feudalism. Henry VIII., detestaof the people, although not formally repealed, ble as his memory must ever be, was no had been gradually relaxed; the intellectual enemy to civil liberty, and he was a genuine ignorance which had formerly been the patron of letters. In both these respects he characteristic, if not the boast of all, except was followed and excelled by Elizabeth. the clergy, had passed away before the Literary merit was seldom overlooked in her hamanizing influence of letters. The spirit court; and among the accomplishments of chivalry, however, still existed, not less necessary for the courtier who aspired to the potential because separated from the stern favor of his royal mistress the talents of the realities with which it had formerly been trouvère were not the least indispensable. associated, not less fascinating because no Her court was consequently thronged with longer connected with the remembrance of gentlemen, who, while they rivalled the outrage and oppression. But the chivalry troubadours-whom they proposed to them |
selves as their models-in every other knightly accomplishment, far exceeded them in poetic feeling and refinement. In truth, Elizabeth seems to have looked for the union of the courtly graces with intellectual superiority in all whom she received into her favor or honored with her confidence. It is difficult otherwise to account for the neglect which Spenser experienced, and for which the disfavor of Burleigh is not a sufficient reason, unless we charge his disappointment to the want of those courtly graces which were at all times a sure passport to.royal favor, although more solid acquirements might be needed for its preservation.
The natural result of the favor shown to men of letters ensued: almost every courtier aspired to be a poet, and every poet strove to be a courtier. Perhaps the former class succeeded better than their more gifted brethren. Among oceans of rhyme, distinguished for nothing but its servile imitation of the poems of the troubadours, disfigured by the same extravagance of metaphor, puerility of conceit, and ingenuity of versification, we occasionally discover traces of real poetic feeling, for which we should in vain search in their prototypes. Sir Walter Raleigh was undeniably the first of these courtier-poets, and excelled all his brother minstrels in the gentle science as far as he outstripped his age in more solid acquirements and romantic enterprise. Especially he differs from them all by abandoning the eternal theme of the Provençal poetasters and their imitators: his poetic magazine contains other weapons besides darts and flames; Cupid is not his sole auxiliary, nor his mistress his only divinity. When he occasionally deviates from the more lofty and natural style which he usually employs, and condescends to this well-worn theme, he seems only to disguise his real meaning under an allegorical garb: his loves are political, and the mistress whose bright eyes he ships, or whose frown he deprecates, is one whose displeasure was a real calamity, and whose smile brought with it those gifts, of honor and fortune to which Raleigh, although a philosopher and a scholar, was by no means indifferent. The following stanzas indicate a quick perception of the beauties of nature. The invectives against the court may possibly have been dictated by some temporary disappointment, of which Raleigh experienced his full share; but the exquisite descriptive touches which it contains evidence the existence of a true poetic feeling which must be considered as a pledge of his sincerity :
Shakspeare has often been charged with plagiarism: assuredly, in one sense, not without reason he was superior to the petty vanity. which impels bookwrights to strive after originality, and to prefer a startling paradox, or a barren simile, which they can claim without dispute as their own, to the weightiest truth or most brilliant image. which may have been suggested by another. Shakspeare read the book of nature; but he read other books too, and never hesitated to adopt and interweave with his own whatever of beauty he found in either. It is no slight distinction to be allowed the privilege of furnishing even the smallest of the gems which adorn the diadem of Shakspeare, and few
authors would be willing to forfeit the honor | took fewer liberties with history: careless of
geographical detail, heedless of occasional anachronism, he never falsifies a fact or misrepresents a person. Even if we had not contemporary authority to attest his ac
or to object to the appropriation. Shakspeare would seem to have been familiar with the writings of Raleigh, as several instances occur in which remarkable expressions, and in one case the whole of one of his best-curacy, who would not realize the intense known passages, have been borrowed from the poems of the accomplished courtier. One example of the former will be sufficient:
"Man's lite's a tragedy: his mother's womb,
The former act consisteth of dumb shows;
The corresponding passage, it will be remembered, is put in the mouth of Jaques; and it is worth considering how far the poet, while adopting the thoughts of the courtier, may have made him further subservient to his purpose, by embodying in the person of the caustic moralist the character of that remarkable man, whose personal and mental qualities must have been as well known at the time when "As You Like It was writ
reality of his delineations of the hero of Agincourt, of Wolsey, of Queen Katherine, or of Beaufort? They are evidently not sketches emanating from a poet's brain, but sun-portraits, Daguerreotyped by the genius of Shakspeare; invested with all the graceful ornaments that poetic imagery and diction can confer; and not only engaging our admiration for these, but claiming our sympathy from the irresistible conviction that they are the genuine portraits of the very men whose names they bear. The same remark applies to his own historical characters. The intense sympathy which these excite differing, not in degree but in kind, from that which attaches to the character of every other poet, can only be referred to our recognition of them as intensely faithful, though still poetic delineations of real beings. Of course this remark applies to a comparatively small class of Shakspeare's characters, as the majority of them are adopted-together with the plot-from the old novels which he dramatized. However much, therefore, they may have been embellished and enriched in passing through his hands, they must not be confounded with his own creations.
Unhappily for us, literature in the time of Elizabeth was too stately a thing to be employed as the vehicle for gossip: Shakspeare was not blessed with a Boswell; no Horace Walpole had arisen to enliven his own and instruct after ages by his piquant anecdotes and lively sketches of society, bringing us face to face with our great-grandfathers and grandmothers, and giving us an assurance of their veritable existence, which history, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, fails to convey. Had Shakspeare been as fortunate in this respect as Dr. Johnson, how much labor might have been saved to commentators; how many an obscure pasPerhaps the most striking peculiarity of sage would have been cleared up; with what Shakspeare is the life-like reality, the statu- interest might we have recognized Mercutio esque individuality of his characters-forcing or Benedict in some of the gay flutterers of upon us the conviction that he was not so the court, under names possibly not unknown much indebted to the liveliness of his imagi- to fame; or enjoyed the castigation inflicted nation and fertility of his invention as to his on folly and presumption in the persons of intimate knowledge of nature derived from Slender and Malvolio. It is worthy of rethe living model. Such we know to be the mark that the only characters in this play fact in those historical characters whose which are not copied from Lodge's "Rosalineaments are well known. No writer everlynd" are those of Jaques and Touchstone.
ten as the extraordinary vicissitudes of fortune through which he passed.
Neither is of the slightest service in the conduct of the plot, and both bear the strong impress of originality which invariably belongs to all of Shakspeare's own creations. The correctness of the portraits would doubtless soon be recognized by those who were familiar with the originals, and must have lent much extrinsic interest to the play in the eyes of those with whom the real Jaques, by right of birth, and the original Touchstone, by virtue of his profession, were entitled to associate. The character of Jaques affords much internal evidence in support of this theory: the haughty, cynical temper of the disappointed courtier; the rebuke of the duke-for Raleigh's life had not been blameless; the turn for philosophical speculation; the state of Sir Walter's fortunes at the date when the play is supposed to have been produced-about the year 1600-all agree with what we know of his character and history. One striking passage must not be overlooked. In act iv., scene 1, we find the following dialogue between Jaques and Rosalind :
Jaques. I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these: but it is a melancholy of mine own. Compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me, is a most humorous sadness.
"Rosalind. A traveller! By my faith you have great reason to be sad! I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's; though to have seen much, and have notbing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands.
"Jaques. Yes, I have gained my experience!"
It is scarcely necessary to point out the applicability of this passage to Raleigh, who, eminent as he was in many respects, was doubtless best known as a traveller. The allusion to his broken fortunes in the reply of Rosalind is pointed and apropos. That such was the result of Raleigh's experience is confirmed by his own testimony. In his dedication of his discovery of Guiana, published in 1596, we find the following passage: "I do not then know whether I should bewail myself either for my too much travel and expense, or condemn myself for owing less than that which can deserve nothing. From myself I have deserved no thanks, for I have returned a beggar and withered." These coincidences may possibly be merely
accidental; but they at least form as broad a foundation as many upon which imposing structures of hypotheses have been erected. It is at all events interesting even to imagine that we can discover some traces of one of the best specimens of our national character fossillized, as it were, in the poetry of our great dramatist. Many of Raleigh's poems have doubtless perished. Spenser refers to a projected work of his which was to have been entitled "Cynthia." It was intended to celebrate the glories of the maiden queen, and was probably planned upon a large scale, since Spenser alludes to it as being in some sort a rival of the "Fairy Queen." But the adventurous spirit which possessed him was incompatible with the life of contemplative solitude indispensably necessary to a great work of art. For his larger prose works the world is indebted to the tedium of his frequent sea-voyages and the constrained seclusion of his latter years. The few poetic specimens which we possess are scarcely more than ejaculatory-the almost involuntary expressions of a mind keenly alive to a sense of the beautiful, and clothing its thoughts intuitively in a poetic dress, as their most appropriate garb, with little appearance of labor or premeditation.
Spenser has recorded the circumstances of Sir Walter's first introduction to him in "Colin Clout's Come Home Again," in which he pays a high tribute to the poetic genius of the Shephead of the Ocean:"
"Emuling my pipe, he took in hand My pipe, before that æmuled of many, And played thereon, for well that skill he Himself as skilful in that art as any." conned,
It seems that Raleigh was at that time under the cloud of regal displeasure :
"His song was all a lamentable lay, Of of great unkindness, and of usage hard; Of Cynthia, the lady of the sea, Which from her presence faultless him debarred ; And ever and anon, with singults rife, He cried out to make his under song:
Ah, my love's queen, and goddess of my life! Who shall me pity when thou dost me wrong?"
We are not informed of the reason of his disgrace; but it could have been only of short duration, as we soon afterwards find both him and Spenser at court and received with due distinction; probably it is to this temporary banishment from court that the following stanzas refer. They are not with