« PreviousContinue »
Make a dull silence, till you feel a sudden sadness
Give us new souls. 94
Evadne implores forgiveness of Amintor for marrying him
• while she was the King's Mistress.
Evad. O my lord.
Amin. How now!
Evad. My much abused lord!
(Kneels.) Amin. This cannot be. Evad. I do not kneel to live, I dare not hope it;
94 One characteristic of the excellent old poets is their being able to bestow grace upon subjects which naturally do not seem susceptible of any. I will mention two instances: Zelmane in the Arcadia of Sidney, and Helena in the All's Well that Ends Well of Shakspeare. What can be more unpromising at first sight than the idea of a young man disguising himself in woman's attire, and passing himself off for a woman among women? and that too for a long space of time? yet Sir Philip has preserved such a matchless decorum, that neither does Pyrocles manhood suffer any stain for the effeminacy of Zelmane, nor is the respect due to the princesses at all diminished when the deception comes to be known. In the sweetly constituted mind of Sir Philip Sidney it seems as if no ugly thought nor unhandsome meditation could find a harbour. He turned all that he touched into images of honour and virtue. Helena in Shakspeare, is a young woman seeking a man in marriage. The ordinary laws of courtship are reversed; the habitual feelings are violated. Yet with such exquisite address this dangerous subject is bandled, that Helena's forwardness loses her no honour; delicacy dispenses with her laws in her favour, and Nature in her single case seems content to suffer a sweet violation.
Aspatia in this Tragedy, is a character equally difficult with Helena of being managed with grace. She too is a slighted woman, refused by the man who had once engaged to marry her. Yet it is artfully contrived that while we pity her, we respect her, and she descends without degradation. So much true poetry and passion can do to confer dignity upon subjects which do not seem capable of it. But Aspatia must not be compared at all points with Helena; she does not so absolutely predominate over her situation but she suffers some diminution, some abatement of the full lustre of the female character; which Helena never does : her character bas many degrees of sweetness, some of delicacy, but it has weakness which if we do not despise, we are sorry for. After all, Beaumont and Fletcher were but an inferior sort of Shakspeares and Sidneys.
The wrongs I did are greater ; look upon me,
Though I appear with all my faults.
Amin. Stand up.
This is no new way to beget more sorrow?
Heaven knows I have too many; do not mock me;
Though I am tame and bred up with my wrongs,
Which are my foster-brothers, I may leap
Like a hand-wolf into my natural wilderness,
And do an outrage : pray thee do not mock me.
Evad. My whole life is so leprous, it infects
All my repentance: I would buy your pardon
Though at the highest set, even with my life.
That slight contrition, that's no sacrifice
For what I have committed.
Amin. Sure I dazzle :
There cannot be a faith in that foul woman,
That knows no god more mighty than her mischiefs.
Thou dost still worst, still number on thy faults,
To press my poor heart thus. Can I believe
There's any seed of virtue in that woman
Left to shoot up, that dares go on in şin
Known, and so known as thine is? O Evadne!
Would there were any safety in thy sex,
That I might put a thousand sorrows off,
And credit thy repentance: but I must not;
Thou hast brought me to the dull calamity,
To that strange misbelief of all the world,
And all things that are in it, that I fear
I shall fall like a tree, and find my grave,
Only rememb’ring that I grieve.
Evad. My lord,
Give me your griefs: you are an innocent,
A soul as white as heaven: let not my sins
Perish your noble youth : I do not fall here
To shadow by dissembling with my tears,
As all say women can, or to make less
What my hot will hath done, which heaven and you
Knows to be tougher than the hand of time
Can cut from man's remembrance; no I do not ;
I do appear the same, the same Evadne,
Drest in the shames I liv'd in, the same monster.
But these are names of honour, to what I am ; .
I do present myself the foulest creature,
Most poisonous, dangerous, and despis’d of men,
Lerna e'er bred, or Nilus; I am hell,
Till you, my dear lord, shoot your light into me,
The beams of your forgiveness: I am soul-sick,
And wither with the fear of one condemn’d,
Till I have got your pardon.
Amin. Rise, Evadne.
Those heavenly powers that put this good into thee,
Grant a continuance of it: I forgive thee;
Make thyself worthy of it, and take heed,
Take heed, Evadne, this be serious; !
Mock not the powers above, that can and dare
Give thee a great example of their justice
To all ensuing eyes, if thou play'st
With thy repentance, the best sacrifice.
Evad. I have done nothing good to win belief,
My life hath been so faithless; all the creatures
Made for heaven's honours have their ends, and good
All but the cousening Crocodiles, false women;
They reign here like those plagues, those killing sores,
Men pray against; and when they die, like tales
Ill told, and unbeliev'd, they pass away
And go to dust forgotten: but, my lord,
Those short days I shall number to my rest,
(As many must not see me) shall, though too late,
Though in my evening, yet perceive a will,
Since I can do no good because a woman,
Reach constantly at something that is near it;
I will redeem one minute of my age,
Or like another Niobe I'll weep
Till I am water.
Amin. I am now dissolved :
My frozen soul melts : may each sin thou hast,
Find a new mercy : rise, I am at peace:
Had'st thou been thus, thus excellently good,
Before that devil king tempted thy frailty,
Sure thou had'st made a star: give me thy hand;
From this time I will know thee, and as far
As honour gives me leave, be thy Amintor :
When we meet next, I will salute thee fairly,
And pray the gods to give thee happy days :
My charity shall go along with thee,
Though my embraces must be far from thee.
Men's Natures more hard and subtil than Women's.
How stubbornly this fellow answer'd me!
There is a vile dishonest trick in man,
More than in women: all the men I meet
Appear thus to me, are harsh and rude,
And have a subtilty in every thing,
Which love could never know; but we fond women
Harbour the easiest and smoothest thoughts,
And think all shall go so; it is unjust
That men and women should be matcht together..
PHILASTER; OR, LOVE LIES A BLEEDING.
TRAGI-COMEDY. BY FRANCIS BEAUMONT
AND JOHN FLETCHER.
Philaster tells the Princess Arethusa how he first found the
I have a boy sent by the gods,
Not yet seen in the court; hunting the buck,
I found him sitting by a fountain side,
Of which he borrow'd some to quench his thirst,
And paid the nymph again as much in tears ;
A garland lay him by, made by himself,
Of many several flowers, bred in the bay,
Stuck in that mystic order, that the rareness
Delighted me : but ever when he turn'd
His tender eyes upon them, he would weep,
As if he meant to make them grow again.
Seeing such pretty helpless innocence
Dwell in his face, I ask'd him all his story;
He told me that his parents gentle died,
Leaving him to the mercy of the fields,
Which gave him roots; and of the crystal springs,
Which did not stop their courses ; and the sun,
Which still, he thank'd him, yielded him his light.
Then took he up his garland and did shew,
What every flower, as country people hold,
Did signify; and how all order'd thus,
Exprest his grief: and to'my thoughts did read
The prettiest lecture of his country art
That could be wish’d, so that, methought, I could
Have studied it. I gladly entertain'd him,
Who was as glad to follow; and have got
The trustiest, loving'st, and the gentlest boy,