« AnteriorContinuar »
I extract some of the charming lyrics interspersed through their plays, not starting from them as Ben Jonson's do, a shining gem in a dusky mine, but incorporate with the golden ore as rich and precious as themselves.
FROM THE "MAID'S TRAGEDY."
Lay a garland on my hearse,
Of the dismal yew;
Say I died true.
From my hour of birth;
Lightly, gentle earth.
FROM THE "LITTLE FRENCH LAWYER."
This way, this way, come and hear,
FROM THE "ELDER BROTHER."
Beauty clear and fair, Where the air
Where to live near
And planted there,
Dear, back again recall, To this light:A stranger to himself and all.
Both the wonder and the story, Shall be yours and eke the glory;I am your perpetual thrall.
The following songs are strikingly illustrative of a peculiarity that has often struck me in reading the dramas of Beaumont and Fletcher; the absence of any mark of antiquity, either in the diction or the construction. Hardly any thing in their verse smacks of the age. They were cotemporary with Ben Jonson, and yet how rugged is his English compared with their fluent and courtly tongue! They were almost cotemporary with a greater than he—a greater far than any or all, and yet Shakspeare's blank verse has an antique sound when read after theirs. Dryden, himself so perfect a model as regards style, says in one of those master-pieces of criticism, the prefaces to his plays, that in Beaumont and Fletcher, our language has attained to its perfection. I doubt if it have much improved since, nor has it for the uses of poetry very materially altered. This "Invocation to Sleep" might, for diction and rhythm, have been written today, always supposing that we had any body capable of writing it.
Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,
The same may be said of the next.
God Lyseus, ever young,
God of youth, let this day here Enter neither care nor fearl
Take, oh, take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn;
Lights that do mislead the morn.
Which thy frozen bosom bears,
Are yet of those that April wears.
We are irresistibly reminded of the Penseroso in reading the fine song that follows, as we are of Comus in the "Faithful Shepherdess." That Milton had Fletcher in his thoughts cannot be doubted; but the great epic poet added so much from his own rich store, that the imitation may well be pardoned by the admirers of both, the rather that the earlier bard stands the test of such a comparison well. Both are crowned poets; but they wear their bays with a difference.
FROM THE "NICE VALOR, OR THE PASSIONATE MADMAN"
Hence all you vain delights,
Wherein you speed your folly!
But only melancholy.
Oh sweetest melancholy!
Welcome, folded arms, and fixed eyes,
A midnight bell, a parting groan,
These are the sounds we feed upon.
THE SATYR'S SPEECH, FROM THE "FAITHFUL SHEPHERDESS."
Thorough yon same bending plain,
That flings his arms down to the main,
And thro' these thick woods have I run
Whose bottom never kissed the sun,
Since the lusty Spring began.
All to please my master Pan,
Have I trotted without rest
To get him fruit; for at a feast
He entertains this coming night
His paramour, the Syrinx bright.
But behold, a fairer sight1
By that heavenly form of thine,
Brightest fair, thou art divine;
Sprung from great immortal race
Of the gods; for in thy face
Shines more awful majesty,
Than dull weak mortality
Dare with misty eyes behold
And live! Therefore on this mold
Lowly do I bend my knee
Deign it, goddess, from my hand
To receive whate'er this land
From her fertile womb doth send
Of her choice fruits; and but lend
Belief to that the satyr tells:
Fairer by the famous wells
To this present day ne'er grew,
Never better nor more true.
Here be grapes, whose lusty blood
Is the learned poet's good;
Sweeter yet did never crown
The head of Bacchus; nuts more brown
Than the squirrel whose teeth crack 'era!
Deign, oh! fairest fair, to take 'em!
For these black-eyed Dryope
Hath oftentimes commanded me
With my clasped knee to climb:
See, how well the lusty time
Hath decked their rising checks in red,
Such as on your lips is spread.
Here be berries for a queen,
Some be red, some be green;
These are of that luscious meat
The great god Pan himself doth eat.
All these, and what the woods can yield,
The hanging mountain, or the field
'. I freely offer, and ere long
Will bring you more, more sweet and strong;
'Till when humbly leave I take,
Lest the great Pan do awake,
That sleeping lies in a deep glade,
Under a broad beech's shade.
I must go, I must run,
Swifter than the fiery sun.
The charming pastoral from whence this beautiful speech is taken, was irrevocably condemned in the theater on the first and only night of representation; which catastrophe, added to a similar one that befell Congreve's best comedy, "The Way of the World," both authors being at the time in the very flood-tide of popularity, has been an unspeakable comfort to unsuccessful dramatists ever since. I recall it chiefly to mention the hearty spirit with which two of the most eminent of Fletcher's friendly rivals came to the rescue with laudatory verses. The circumstance does so much honor to all parties, and some of the lines are so good, that I can not help quoting them; George Chapman says that the poem— Renews the golden world, and holds through all The holy laws of homely Pastoral;Where flowers and founts and nymphs and semi-gods And all the graces find their old abodes;Where forests flourish but in endless verse, And meadows, nothing fit for purchasers:This iron age
(Think of that in the days of James the First!)
This iron age that eats itself will never
Ben Jonson, first characterizing the audience after a fashion by no means complimentary, says that the play failed because it wanted the laxity of moral and of language which they expected and desired. He continues :—
I that am glad thy innocence was thy guilt,