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On worthy Master Shakspeare, and his Poems.
A mind reflecting ages past, whose clear
And equal surface can make things appear,
Distant a thousand years, and represent
Them in their lively colours, just extent:
To outrun hasty time, retrieve the fates,
Roll back the heavens, blow ope the iron gates
Of death and Lethe, where confused lie
Great heaps of ruinous mortality:
In that deep dusky dungeon, to discern
A royal ghost from churls; by art to learn
The physiognomy of shades, and give
Them sudden birth, wond'ring how oft they live;
What story coldly tells, what poets feign
At second hand, and picture without brain,
Senseless and soul-less shews: To give a stage,-
Ample, and true with life,-voice, action, age,
As Plato's year, and new scene of the world,
Them unto us, or us to them had hurl'd:
To raise our ancient sovereigns from their herse,
Make kings his subjects; by exchanging verse
Enlive their pale trunks, that the present age
Joys in their joy, and trembles at their rage:
Yet so to temper passion, that our ears
Take pleasure in their pain, and eyes in tears
Both weep and smile; fearful at plots so sad,
Then laughing at our fear; abus'd, and glad
To be abus'd; affected with that truth
Which we perceive is false, pleas'd in that rutk
At which we start, and, by elaborate play,
Tortur'd and tickl'd; by a crab-like way
Time past made pastime, and in ugly sort
Disgorging up his ravin for our sport:-
-While the plebeian imp, from lofty throne,
Creates and rules a world, and works upon
Mankind by secret engines; now to move
A chilling pity, then a rigorous love;
To strike up and stroke down, both joy and ire;
To steer the affections; and by heavenly fire
Mold us anew, stoln from ourselves:-
This, and much more, which cannot be express'
But by himself, his tongue, and his own breast,—
Was Shakspeare's freehold; which his cunning brain
Improv'd by favour of the nine-fold train;-
The buskin'd muse, the comick queen, the grand
And louder tone of Clio, nimble hand
"And panting time toil'd after him in vain."
Dr. Johnson's Prologue. Steevens.
And nimbler foot of the melodious pair,
The silver-voiced lady, the most fair
Calliope, whose speaking silence* daunts,
And she whose praise the heavenly body chants,
These jointly woo'd him, envying one another;—
Obey'd by all as spouse, but lov'd as brother;-
And wrought a curious robe, of sable grave,
Fresh green, and pleasant yellow, red most brave,
And constant blue, rich purple, guiltless white,
The lowly russet, and the scarlet bright:
Branch'd and embroider'd like the painted spring;
Each leaf match'd with a flower, and each string
Of golden wire, each line of silk: there run
Italian works, whose thread the sisters spun;
And there did sing, or seem to sing, the choice
Birds of a foreign note and various voice:
Here hangs a mossy rock; there plays a fair
But chiding fountain, purled: not the air,
Not clouds, nor thunder, but were living drawn;
Nor out of common tiffany or lawn,
But fine materials, which the muses know,
And only know the countries where they grow.
Now, when they could no longer him enjoy,
In mortal garments pent,-death may destroy,
They say, his body; but his verse shall live,
And more than nature takes our hand shall give:
In a less volume, but more strongly bound,
Shakspeare shall breathe and speak; with laurel crown'd,
Which never fades; fed with ambrosian meat,
In a well-lined vesture, rich, and neat:
So with this robe they clothe him, bid him wear it;
For time shall never stain, nor envy tear it.
The friendly Admirer of his Endowments,
J. M. S.t
"Silence that spoke, and eloquence of eyes." Pope's Hom Steevens.
+ Probably, Jasper Mayne, Student. He was born in the year 1604, and became a member of Christ Church, in Oxford, in 1623, where he was soon afterwards elected a Student. In 1628 he took a bachelor's degree, and in June, 1631, that of a Master of Arts. These verses first appeared in the folio, 1632.
A Remembrance of some English Poets. By Richard Barnefield, 1598.
And Shakspeare thou, whose honey-flowing vein
(Pleasing the world) thy praises doth contain,
Whose Venus, and whose Lucrece, sweet and chaste,
Thy name in fame's immortal book hath plac'd,
Live ever you, at least in fame live ever!
Well may the body die, but fame die never.
England's Mourning Garment, &c. 1603.
Nor doth the silver-tongued Melicert
Drop from his honied muse one sable tear,
To mourn her death that graced his desert,
And to his laies open'd her royal ear,
Shepherd, remember our Elizabeth,
And sing her Rape, done by that Tarquin, death.
To Master W. Shakspeare.
Shakspeare, that nimble Mercury thy brain
Lulls many-hundred Argus' eyes asleep,
So fit for all thou fashionest thy vein,
At the horse-foot fountain thou hast drunk full deep.
Virtue's or vice's theme to thee all one is;
Who loves chaste life, there 's Lucrece for a teacher:
Who list read lust, there's Venus and Adonis,
True model of a most lascivious lecher.
Besides, in plays thy wit winds like Meander,
When needy new composers borrow more
Than Terence doth from Plautus or Menander:
But to praise thee aright, I want thy store.
Then let thine own works thine own worth upraise,
And help to adorn thee with deserved bays.
Epigram 92, in an ancient collection, entitled Run and a great Cast, 4to. by Tho. Freeman, 1614.
Extract from Michael Drayton's "Elegy to Henry Reynolds, Esq. of Poets and Poesy."
Shakspeare, thou hadst as smooth a comick vein,
Fitting the sock, and in thy natural brain
As strong conception, and as clear a rage,
As any one that traffick'd with the stage.
An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatick Poet, W. Shakspeare.*
What needs my Shakspeare for his honour'd bones,
The labour of an age in piled stones;
Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou, in our wonder and astonishment,
Hast built thyself a live-long monument:
For whilst, to the shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbers flow; and that each heart
1 Hath, from the leaves of thy unvalued book,
Those Delphick lines with deep impression took;
Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving,t
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving;
And, so sepulcher'd, in such pomp dost lie,
That kings, for such a tomb, would wish to die.
Upon Master William Shakspeare, the deceased Author.
Poets are born, not made. When I would prove
This truth, the glad remembrance I must love
Of never-dying Shakspeare, who alone
Is argument enough to make that one.
First, that he was a poet, none would doubt
That heard the applause of what he sees set out
Imprinted; where thou hast (I will not say,
Reader, his works, for, to contrive a play,
To him 'twas none,) the pattern of all wit,
Art without art, unparallel'd as yet.
Next Nature only help'd him, for look thorough
This whole book,§ thou shall find he doth not borrow
* This poem is one of those prefixed to the folio edition of our author's plays, 1632, and therefore is the first of Milton's pieces that was published. It appeared, however, without even the initials of his name. Steevens.
of itself bereaving,] So, the copy in Milton's Poems, printed by Mosely in 1645. That in the second folio, 1632, has of herself bereaving. Malone.
These verses were written by Milton in the year 1630. Notwithstanding this just eulogium, and though the writer of it appears to have been a very diligent reader of the works of our poet, from whose rich garden he has plucked many a flower, in the true spirit of sour puritanical sanctity he censured King Charles I, for having made this "great heir of fame" the closet compamon of his solitudes. See his Ewroλases. Malone.
S The Fortune company, I find from Sir Henry Herbert's
One phrase from Greeks, nor Latins imitate,
Nor once from vulgar languages translate;
Nor plagiary-like from others gleane,
Nor begs he from each witty friend a scene,
To piece his acts with: all that he doth write
Is pure his own; plot, language, exquisite.
But O what praise more powerful can we give
The dead, than that, by him, the king's-men live,
His players; which should they but have shar'd his fate,
(All else expir'd within the short term's date,)
How could The Globe have prosper'd, since through want
Of change, the plays and poems had grown scant.
But, happy verse, thou shalt be sung and heard,
When hungry quills shall be such honour barr'd.
Then vanish, upstart writers to each stage,
You needy poetasters of this age!
Where Shakspeare liv'd or spake, Vermin, forbear!
Lest with your froth ye spot them, come not near!
But if you needs must write, if poverty
So pinch, that otherwise you starve and die;
On God's name may the Bull or Cockpit have
Your lame blank verse, to keep you from the grave:
Or let new Fortune's* younger brethren see,
What they can pick from your lean industry.
I do not wonder when you offer at
Black-friars, that you suffer: 'tis the fate
Of richer veins; prime judgments, that have far'd
The worse, with this deceased man compar'd.
So have I seen, when Cæsar would appear,
And on the stage at half-sword parley were
Brutus and Cassius, O how the audience
Were ravish'd! with what wonder they went thence!
When, some new day, they would not brook a line
Of tedious, though well-labour'd, Catiline;
Sejanus too, was irksome; they priz❜d more
"Honest" Iago, or the jealous Moor.
And though the Fox and subtil Alchymist,
Long intermitted, could not quite be mist,
Though these have sham'd all th' ancients, and might
Their author's merit with a crown of bays,
Yet these sometimes, even at a friend's desire,
Acted, have scarce defray'd the sea-coal fire,
Manuscript, removed to the Red Bull, and the Prince's company to the Fortune, in the year 1640; these verses therefore could not have been written so early as 1623. Malone.
* This, I believe, alludes to some of the company of The Fortune playhouse, who removed to the Red Bull. See a Prologue on the removing of the late Fortune players to The Bull. Tatham's Fancies Theatre, 1640. Malone.