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the human mind, from wisdom to fatuity, from joy to despair, and embraced all the varieties of our uncertain nature. He it was, at whose touch the cave of Prosper opened and gave out its secrets.
To his bidding, Ariel appeared. At his call, arose the witches and the earthy Caliban, the ghost who made
night hideous," the moonlight Fays, Titania, and Oberon, and the rest. He was the “
He was the “ so potent” master, before whom bowed kings and heroes, and jewelled queens, men wise as the stars, and women fairer than the morning. All the vices of life were explained by him, and all the virtues; and the passions stood plain before him. From the cradle to the coffin he drew them all. He created, for the benefit of wide posterity and for the aggrandizement of human nature,-- lifting earth to Heaven, and revealing the marvels of this lower world, and piercing even the shadowy secrets of the grave.
It is quite impossible to estimate the benefit which this country has received from the eternal productions of Shakespeare. Their influence has been gradual, but prodigious ; operating at first on the loftier intellects, but becoming in tíme diffused over all, spreading wisdom and charity amongst
There is, perhaps, no one person of any considerable rate of mind who does not owe something to this matchless poet. He is the teacher of all good, -pity, generosity, true courage, love. His works alone (leaving mere science out of the question) contain, probably, more actual wisdom than the whole body of English learning. He is the text for the moralist and the philosopher. His bright wit is cut out “into little stars :" his solid masses of knowledge are meted out in morsels and proverbs; and, thus distributed, there is scarcely a corner which he does not illuminate, or a cottage which he does not enrich. His bounty is like the sea, which, though often unacknowledged, is everywhere felt; on mountains and plains and distant places, carrying its cloudy freshness through the air, making glorious the heavens, and spreading verdure on the earth beneath.
Hitherto, the reputation of Shakespeare has rested almost exclusively upon his dramatic writings. Between those and his other poetry there is confessedly no comparison; or rather, it would be impertinent to institute one, seeing that both are so excellent in themselves.
It may be said that the Poems have been relinquished by several successive generations, to almost entire neglect. But the saying of Johnson, that nothing falls into oblivion which deserves to live, is not good here. Indeed, as a general theory, it is open to great objection. Fame is a thing of uncertain growth, and the great births of wisdom may sleep undisturbed for centuries. It is often accident which calls
them up, and fashion that preserves them : and they are destroyed again by sudden revolutions, or moulder away under the influence of luxury and refinement. It was probably so with Shakespeare. The importation of French fashions was, for a time, prejudicial even to him. The people were attracted by the glittering wit and gaudy fancies of their neighbours, and sunk into idolaters at once. They left the high spirit who was enthroned in the hearts of their ancestors, to kneel before the Baal which Nebuchadnezzar, the King, had set up In truth, the licentious habits of Charles's court were utterly inimical to Shakespeare's fame. He can live only in the imaginations of men, and then there was no imagination. Even Dryden, with all his great powers and stinging wit, can scarcely be brought forward as evidence that the imaginative faculty was then flourishing; and there was no one else to claim the distinction when Milton died.
But, to return to Shakespeare. The Venus and Adonis was his first work; and it is, with all its defects, and quaintness, and conceits, undoubted proof of a rare and poetical mind. The description of the horse, which has been usually brought forward as the best specimen of his minor productions, has little beyond mere truth to recommend it. It is like a catalogue. There are hundreds of finer descriptions scattered over his plays, and very many passages which excel it in the poems. The Venus and Adunis was first published in the year 1593 or 1594, and was dedicated to Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, who has made himself immortal by his princely munificence towards our great dramatist. It is written in the six-line stanza, and is in a quiet vein, seemingly without effort, sometimes quaint, and, as was the fashion of the times, studded with bright conceits, and often exceedingly sweet and poetical. To our minds, it fails most in the parts which are intended to be pathetic. This is a natural consequence, however, of the use (or abuse) of conceits. Nevertheless, it is still somewhat remarkable, when we consider Shakespeare's great mastery over all our sympathies.- The story opens with Adonis going to the chace
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn.”
He is way-laid, however, by Venus, who seizes upon him and his courser, in a style almost unprecedented in love annals :
“ Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,
which the amorous queen endeavours in vain to overcome. Her fascinations are useless, yet she perseveres in her advances, and twines her arms around him.
“ Look, how a bird lies tangled in a net,
The lady altogether is sufficiently reprehensible; but the youthful coyness and boyish scorn of Adonis are delightfully painted. He is insensible to every blandishment; and her boastings and intreaties are equally wasted. Nevertheless, she still pursues her object, and vaunts her power over the • God of War.”
“Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
Thus him, that over-ruld, I over-sway'd;
During the colloquy the horse of Adonis escapes, and as the description of this steed has been much celebrated, we will not exclude it from our pages.
It is the second stanza of the following which is commonly found in quotation:
“ Look when a painter would surpass the life,
Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares ;
Adonis pursues his courser in vain, and at last sits down fatigued, which Venus perceiving, approaches full of vexation.
“O! what a sight it was wistly to view
Now was she just before him as he sat,
And proceeds to caress him; but her caresses have no more effect upon him than her words, though they are eloquent at times.
“ O learn to love, the lesson is but plain,
And, once made perfect, never lost again” She says, and listens for his reply: but his countenance augurs nothing but ill.
“ Once more the ruby-colour'd portal open'd,
Or as the wolf doth grin before he barketh,
His meaning struck her, e'er his words begun.” He is determined, he says, to hunt the boar on the morrow. She is apprehensive, and argues at considerable length in order to persuade him to other amusement. For our own parts, we confess that her description of the hunted hare (which, by the bye, has more of pathos than any thing else in the poem) would tend rather to keep us at home, were we addicted to the low vice of harrier hunting. The following is the lady's advice :-it shows more love than taste.
“ But if thou needs will hunt, be rul'd by me,
Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
And being low, never reliev'd by any." The lady's eloquence is exerted in vain, and her love is avoided and despised. How beautiful the boy's scorn is:
“ If Love hath lent you twenty thousand tongues,
leaving the “ distressed” queen of Love behind him-who thus