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To Mr. William Shakspeare.
Shakspeare, we must be silent in thy praise,
'Cause our encomions will but blast thy bays,
Which envy could not; that thou didst do well,
Let thine own histories prove thy chronicle.*
In Remembrance of Master William Shakspeare.
Beware, delighted poets, when you sing,
To welcome nature in the early spring,
Your num'rous feet not tread
The banks of Avon; for each flow'r,
As it ne'er knew a sun or show'r,
Hangs there the pensive head.
Each tree, whose thick and spreading growth hath made
Rather a night beneath the boughs than shade,
Unwilling now to grow,
Looks like the plume a captain wears,
Whose rifled falls are steep'd i' the tears
Which from his last rage flow.
The piteous river wept itself away
Long since, alas! to such a swift decay,
That reach the map, and look
If you a river there can spy,
And, for a river, your mock'd eye
Will find a shallow brook.
And if you leave us too, we cannot thrive,
I'll promise neither play nor poet live
Till ye come back: think what you do; you see
What audience we have: what company
To Shakspeare comes! whose mirth did once beguile Dull hours, and buskin'd, made even sorrow smile: So lovely were the wounds, that men would say They could endure the bleeding a whole day.
See, my lov'd Britons, see your Shakspeare rise,
An awful ghost, confess'd to human eyes!
Unnam'd, methinks, distinguish'd I had been
From other shades, by this eternal green,
* From Wits Recreations, &c. 12mo. 1640. Steevents
About whose wreaths the vulgar poets strive,
And with a touch their wither'd bays revive.
Untaught, unpractis'd, in a barbarous age,
I found not, but created first the stage:
And if I drain'd no Greek or Latin store,
'Twas, that my own abundance gave me more :
On foreign trade I needed not rely,
Like fruitful Britain rich without supply.
Shakspeare, who (taught by none) did first impart To Fletcher wit, to labouring Jonson art: He, monarch-like, gave those his subjects law, And is that nature which they paint and draw. Fletcher reach'd that which on his height did grow, Whilst Jonson crept and gather'd all below. This did his love, and this his mirth digest: One imitates him most, the other best. If they have since out-writ all other men, "Tis with the drops that fell from Shakspeare's pen. Ibid.
Our Shakspeare wrote too in an age as blest, The happiest poet of his time, and best; A gracious prince's favour cheer'd his muse, A constant favour he ne'er fear'd to lose: Therefore he wrote with fancy unconfin'd, And thoughts that were immortal as his mind. Orway.
Shakspeare, whose genius to itself a law,
Could men in every height of nature draw.
In such an age immortal Shakspeare wrote,
By no quaint rules nor hamp'ring criticks taught;
With rough majestick force he mov'd the heart,
And strength and nature made amends for art.
To claim attention and the heart invade,
Shakspeare but wrote the play th' Almighty made.
Our neighbour's stage-art too bare-fac'd betrays,
'Tis great Corneille at every scene we praise;
On Nature's surer aid Britannia calls,
Shakspeare, the genius of our isle, whose mind
(The universal mirror of mankind)
Express'd all images, enrich'd the stage,
But sometimes stoop'd to please a baib'rous age.
Nor think of Shakspeare till the curtain falls;
Then with a sigh returns our audience home,
From Venice, Egypt, Persia, Greece, or Rome. YOUNG
When his immortal bays began to grow,
Rude was the language, and the humour low.
He, like the god of day, was always bright;
But rolling in its course, his orb of light
Was sullied and obscur'd, though soaring high,
With spots contracted from the nether sky.
But whither is the advent'rous muse betray'd?
Forgive her rashness, venerable shade!
May spring with purple flowers perfume thy urn,
And Avon with his greens thy grave adorn!
Be all thy faults, whatever faults there be,
Imputed to the times, and not to thee!
Some scions shot from this immortal root,
Their tops much lower, and less fair the fruit.
Jonson the tribute of my verse might claim,
Had he not strove to blemish Shakspeare's name.
But like the radiant twins that gild the sphere.
Fletcher and Beaumont next in pomp appear.
For lofty sense,
Creative fancy, and inspection keen
Through the deep windings of the human heart,
is not wild Shakspeare thine and nature's boast?
Pride of his own, and wonder of this age, Who first created, and yet rules the stage, Bold to design, all powerful to express, Shakspeare each passion drew in every Great above rule, and imitating none; Rich without borrowing, Nature was his own. MALLET.
Shakspeare (whom you and every playhouse bill
Style the divine, the matchless, what you will,)
For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,
And grew im mortal in his own despight.
An Inscription for a Monument of Shakspeare.
O youths and virgins: O declining eld:
O pale misfortune's slaves: O ye who dwell
Unknown with humble quiet; ye who wait
In courts, or fill the golden seat of kings:
O sons of sport and pleasure: 0 thou wretch
That weep'st for jealous love, or the sore wounds
Of conscious guilt, or death s rapacious hand,
Which left thee void of hope: O ye who roam
In exile; ye who through the embattled field
Seek bright renown; or who for nobler palms
Contend, the leaders of a public cause;
Approach: behold this marble. Know ye not
The features? Hath not oft his faithful tongue
Told you the fashion of your own estate,
The secrets of your bosom? Here then, round
His monument with reverence while ye stand,
Say to each other: "This was Shakspeare's form;
"Who walk'd in every path of human life,
"Felt every passion; and to all mankind
"Doth now, will ever, that experience yield
"Which his own genius only could acquire." AKENSIDE.
when lightning fires
The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground,
When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,
And ocean, groaning from his lowest bed,
Heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky;
Amid the mighty uproar, while below
The nations tremble, Shakspeare looks abroad
From some high cliff, superior, and enjoys
The elemental war.
From the Remonstrance of Shakspeare.
Supposed to have been spoken at the Theatre-Royal, when the French Comedians were acting by subscription.
What though the footsteps of my devious muse
The measur'd walks of Grecian art refuse?
Or though the frankness of my hardy style
Mock the nice touches of the critick's file?
Yet what my age and climate held to view
Impartial I survey'd, and fearless drew.
And say, ye skilful in the human heart,
Who know to prize a poet's noblest part,
What age, what clime, could e'er an ampler field
For lofty thought, for daring fancy yield?
I saw this England break the shameful bands
Forg'd for the souls of men by sacred hands;
I saw each groaning realm her aid implore;
Her sons the heroes of each warlike shore;
Her naval standard, (the dire Spaniard's bane,)
Obey'd through all the circuit of the main.
Then too great commerce, for a late-found world;
Around your coast her eager sails unfurl'd:
New hopes new passions thence the bosom fir'd;
New plans, new arts, the genius thence inspir'd;
Thence every scene which private fortune knows
In stronger life, with bolder spirit, rose.
Disgrac'd I this full prospect which I drew?
My colours languid, or my strokes untrue?
Have not your sages, warriors, swains, and kings,
Confess'd the living draught of men and things?
What other bard in any clime appears,
Alike the master of your smiles and tears?
Yet have I deign'd your audience to entice
With wretched bribes to luxury and vice?
Or have my various scenes a purpose known,
Which freedom, virtue, glory, might not own?
When learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes
First rear'd the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose;
Each change of many-colour'd life he drew,
Exhausted worlds, and then imagin'd new:
Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting Time toil'd after him in vain:
His pow'rfull strokes presiding truth impress'd,
And unresisted passion storm'd the breast.
Upon Shakspeare's Monument at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Great Homer's birth seven rival cities claim;
Too mighty such monopoly of fame.
Yet not to birth alone did Homer owe
His wond'rous worth; what Egypt could bestow,
With all the schools of Greece and Asia join'd,
Enlarg'd the immense expansion of his mind:
Nor yet unrival'd the Mæonian strain;
The British Eagle* and the Mantuan Swan
Tow'r equal heights. But, happier Stratford, thou
With incontested laurels deck thy brow;
Thy bard was thine unschool'd, and from thee brought
More than all Egypt, Greece, or Asia taught;
Not Homer's self such matchless laurels won;
The Greek has rivals, but thy Shakspeare none.
Hard was the lot those injur'd strains endur'd,
Unown'd by science, and by years obscur'd:
Fair fancy wept; and echoing sighs confess'd
A fixt despair in every tuneful breast.
From Epistle to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of Shakspeare's Works.