« PreviousContinue »
A THANKSGIVING FOR HIS HOUSE.
Lord, Thou hast given me a cell,
A little house, whose humble roof
Under the spars of which I lie
Where Thou, my chamber for to ward,
Of harmless thoughts, to watch and keep
Low is my porch, as is my fate,
And yet the threshold of my door
Who hither come, and freely get
Like as my parlour, so my hall,
A little buttery, and therein
Which keeps my little loaf of bread
Some brittle sticks of thorn or brier
Close by whose living coal I sit,
Lord, I confess, too, when I dine,
And all those other bits that be
There placed by Thee.
The worts, the purslain, and the mess
Of water cress,
Which of Thy kindness Thou hast sent: my content
Makes those, and my beloved beet,
'Tis thou that crown'st my glittering hearth
And giv'st me wassail bowls to drink,
Lord, 'tis thy plenty-dropping hand
All this, and better, dost Thou send
That I should render for my part
Which, fir'd with incense, I resign
But the acceptance-that must be,
Doubtless the pleasure is as great
The more they admire his sleight-of-hand.
The following epitaph, by Bernard de la Monnoye, is on De la Riviere, bishop of Langres, who had left a hundred crowns for that person who should write his epitaph :
Ce git un très grand personage,
Qui ni trompa jamais, qui fut toujours fort sage.
C'est trop mentir, pour cent écus.
CHARACTER OF HAMPDEN.
Mr. Hampden was a man of much greater cunning, and, it may be, of the most discerning spirit, and of the greatest address and insinuation to bring anything to pass which he desired, of any man of that time, and who laid the design deepest. He was a gentleman of a good extraction, and a fair fortune; who, from a life of great pleasure and license, had on a sudden retired to extraordinary sobriety and strictness, and yet retained his usual cheerfulness and affability; which, together with the opinion of his wisdom and justice, and the courage he had showed in opposing the ship money, raised his reputation to a very great height, not only in Buckinghamshire, where he lived, but generally throughout the kingdom. He was not a man of many words, and rarely begun the discourse, or made the first entrance upon any business that was assumed; but a very weighty speaker, and after he had heard a full debate, and observed how the house was like to be inclined, took up the argument, and shortly, and clearly, and craftily so stated it, that he commonly conducted it to the conclusion he desired; and if he found he could not do that, he was never without the dexterity to divert the debate to another time, and to prevent the determining anything in the negative, which might prove inconvenient in the future. He made so great a show of civility, and modesty, and humility, and always of mistrusting his own judgment, and esteeming his with whom he conferred for the present, that he seemed to have no opinions or resolutions but such as he contracted from the information and instruction he received upon the discourses of others, whom he had a wonderful art of governing, and leading into his principles and
inclinations, whilst they believed that he wholly depended upon their counsel and advice. No man had ever a greater power over himself, or was less the man that he seemed to be; which shortly after appeared to everybody, when he cared less to keep on the mask.-Clarendon.
To begin then, with Shakspeare. He was the man, who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily. When he describes anything, you more than see it-you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation. He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I connot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind.
He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of poets,
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.
The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better done in Shakspeare; and however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and
Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem. And in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far above him.- Dryden.
As for Jonson, to whose character I am now arrived, if we look upon him while he was himself (for his last plays were but his dotages), I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself, as well as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit, and language, and humour also in some measure, we had before him; but something of art was wanting to the drama, till he came. He managed his strength to more advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom find him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavourng to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such a height. Humour was his proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to represent mechanic people. He was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times whom he had not translated in "Sejanus and "Catiline." But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch; and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him. With the spoils of these writers