Imágenes de páginas
PDF

his wares. Corbet stripped offhis gown, assumed the ballad-singer's leathern jacket, went into the street, and soon drew around him a circle of liberal admirers. When he wished " to make a night of It," he used to shut himself up in his well-filled cellars with his jolly chaplain, first throw off his gown, exclaiming, "There goes the doctor!" and next his episcopal hood, " and there the bishop!" It is not to be expected that the Bishop of Norwich was very eminent as a divine.

FAREWELL TO THE FAERIES.

Farewell rewards and Faeries,

Good houswives now may say,
For now foule slutts in daries

Doe fare as well as they.
And though they sweepe theyre hearths no less

Then maydes were wont to doe,
Yet who of late for cleanliness,

Finds sixe-pence in her shoe?

Lament, lament, old abhies,

The Faeries lost command;
They did but change priests1 babies,

But some have chang'd your land:
And all your children sprung from thence

Are now growne Puritanes; Who live as changelings ever since

For love of your demaines.

At morning and at evening both

You merry were and glad, So little care of sleepe or sloth

These prettie ladies had;

When Tom came home from labour,

Or Ciss to milking rose,
Then merrily went theyre tabor,

And nimbly went theyre toes.

'Wittness those rings and roundelayes

Of theirs, which yet remaine, Were footed in queene Marie's dayes

On many a grassy playne; But since of late, Elizabeth,

And later, James came in, They never daunc'd on any heath

As when the time hath bin.

By which we note the Faries

Were of the old profession; Theyre songs were Ave Maryes;

Theyre daunces were procession: But now, alas! they all are dead,

Or gone beyond the seas; Or farther for religion fled,

Or elce they take theyre ease.

A tell-tale in theyre company

They never could endure, And whoe so kept not secretly

Theyre mirth was punisht sure; It was a just and Christian deed

To pinch such blacke and blew: O how the common-wealth doth need

Such justices as you 1

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.

BOBN APRIL 23, 1564-DIED APRIL 23, 1616.

By a singular and happy coincidence the Bard Of England was born on the festival of St George, the patron saint of England. He died on his birth-day, at the age of fiftytwo Very little is known of the family or personal history of the " myriad.minded" Shakspeare. In life, as in the drama, he stood nearly alone. It is only known. that the greatest dramatic poet the world ever saw was the son of a wool-comber at Stratford-upon-Avon. He was the eldest of ten children; and his education, such as it was he received at the free-school of his native town. It is conjectured (for of the history of Shakspeare all is nearly mere conjecture,) that his education did not go beyond reading and writing, and that he spent a few months in the office of some country attorney, or with the seneschal of some manor-court-an office akin to the ancient baron-bailie of Scotland-and that in this situation he picked up those few bald legal phrases which he put* into the mouth, of such worthies as Shallow and Dogberry. It is thought by Warton, that when a boy he might have seen the courtly masques and stately pageants represented before Queen Elizabeth at Keniiworth and there have received the germ of dramatic genius afterwards so wonderfully developed. But none of Shakspeare's numerous and zealous commentators advert to th.s probability, —nor is it of much importance. At theagcofeighteenhemarried Anne Hathaway, a maiden considerably older than himself, the daughter of a neighbouring yeoman. It is believed that from this time he maintained his family by carrying on the business of woolcombing jointly with his father. But whatever were his regular occupations, he found leisure to engage in what were probably in his time considered rather as youthful frolics than serious crimes; and having broken the deerpark of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, and libelled the proprietor in a ballad for his severity in punishing this merely juvenile prank, Shakspeare found it necessary to leave the country, and in 1586 he went to London. Why should a living man despair? This youth, so friendless, and in circumstances so desperate that his only resource was the meanest offices about the theatre, or the lowest and most precarious employments of the stage, was destined, not merely to extend and refine, but almost to create and consummate the drama of his country—to become the wonder, the boast, and the envy of nations ; such an one, that they who feast their minds with his enchantments " till the sense aches," begin to wonder in their dazzled or bewildered thoughts if he were indeed created of kindred mould with their own. From the office of prompter, scene-shifter, or, as is even said, link-boy, Shakspeare rose to fill some humble stageparts, though his highest character never went beyond the Ghost in his own Hamlet. Yet, if another proof of his mental supremacy were wanted, it might be found in his directions to the players. His natural taste is there shewn to have been as exquisite, and as far beyond his ranting contemporaries in the histrionic art as in the dramatic. Shakspeare's first-written play is supposed to have been Romeo and Juliet, which was printed about ten years after he came to London. Imagination loves this order of chronology; yet it is very doubtful, and some of his biographers not only place the historical plays first in order, but assign his earliest dramatic effort to a period so early as 1589, when he had been only three years in London. Whatever may have been the real order of succession in his dramas, it is certain that they were all composed before 1614, at which time he retired to his native town, to

the undisturbed enjoyments of an easy and social life, thinking, apparently, very little about literary struggles, or poetical reputation. He had realized a fortune equal to his wishes,—about £200 a-year. At Stratford he lived for two years in excellent fellowship with the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. His family consisted of two daughters, and a son, who died a boy. Both of the daughters were married, but no descendant of Shakspeare is known to have survived himself for a halfcentury. The scandalous chronicle, the only chronicle in which there is no interruption, makes him the father of Sir William Davenant, the poet and dramatist, but without any apparent foundation, save that Shakspeare, in his visits to Stratford, used to stop at the inn kept by the elder Davenant in Oxford, and that the boy, who was his godson, was very fond of him- Of his person and manners Aubrey says, " He was a handsome, well-shaped man, verie good companie, and of a very ready, pleasant, and smooth wit." Shakspeare was buried in the chancel of the great church of Stratford. His monument, the site of his dwelling, and the spot where he planted his mulberry tree, are still visited as shrines by men of all civilized nations:

"Thither repair the pilgrims of his genius."

Shakspeare attained considerable popularity in his own day, though his dramas, seen only in London, did not, for a century after his death, make their way to the heart of the nation. The neglect so long shewn to Shakspeare's writings is one of the most monstrous and flagrant proofs, which the history of literature affords, of the slow growth, or rather of the constant deficiency, of public taste for the highest order of excellence. The lofty grandeur, severity, and classic dignity of Milton,—the involution, remoteness, and " lone romance" of Spenser,—and the poetic mysticism of the more moder n Collins,—may account for the neglect long shewn to them, and which is

« AnteriorContinuar »