Изображения страниц

essentially opposed, that a leaning to one involves a repulsion from the other.

It is in the casual coruscations of genius that we see more of its latent tendencies and real character, than in any more formal or elaborate efforts. And there is a spirit in the workings of genius too subtle to be seized or analysed ; like those finer properties of the air which escape all detection of chemistry, and yet communicate to it either an exquisite sweetness or an oppressive deadness. It is in this subtle spirit of Shakspeare's poesy, which we cannot catch (so to speak) and set down in citations, that we find the main force of our argument. It is pregnant with latent Catholicity. It breathes forth, in a hundred delicate touches and indescribable beauties of feeling, the influence of Catholicity upon his soul. is only by way of general description, rather than by selection of passages marked and quoted, that we can convey our idea of this property of his poetry, which speaks so eloquently of a Catholic education. To Catholics we can convey our meaning by saying, that we find dispersed through the marvellous creations of his genius all the sweet results of that realisation of the doctrine of the Incarnation which is the exclusive attribute of the Catholic religion.

So, again, Shakspeare's poesy is bathed in love ; so that we may exclaim, in his own exquisite language:

" Oh, spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou !"

[ocr errors]

Listen to these beautiful lines :

" Oh! she that hath a heart of that fine frame,

To pay this debt of love but to a brother,
How will she love, when the rich golden shaft
Hath kill'd the flock of all affections else
That live in her! When mind, and brain, and heart,
These sovereign thrones, are all supplied and fill’d
(Her sweet perfections) with one sole king!”

[ocr errors]

It is no profanation to say, that this would be not unworthily applied to the all-absorbing influence on a human soul of the love of the Sacred Heart! We say not, of course, that Shakspeare had a religious meaning present to his mind, but that he had the capacity and predisposition for religious devotion which Catholic education implants; and that he who could sing in such noble strains of human love, must have had a heart touched by love divine.

Then, again, his tenderness for woman. There is nothing more marked in the great poet. Who remembers not the melting pathos of the words of Viola :

[ocr errors]

“ For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,

Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,

Than women's are.
Viola. I think it well, my lord.
Duke. There is no woman's sides

Can abide the beating of so strong a passion
As love doth give my heart.
Viola. Ay, but I know,-
Duke. What dost thou know?
Viola. Too well what love women to men may owe.

My father had a daughter lov'd a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,

I should your lordship.” We need scarcely quote the exquisite passage that follows, which every reader of Shakspeare knows by heart; yet the temptation to quote is irresistible:

Duke. And what's her history?
Viola. A blank my lord.

She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,

Feed on her damask cheek." We must stop, however, or we could go on for ever. We know not what our readers may think of our argument; but we are sure that they will pardon us any failure in reasoning for the sake of the object we have had in view, viz. to award to Catholicism, what we believe to be its due, the credit of having nursed the genius and filled the mighty soul of Shakspeare.



The following narratives need no introduction to recommend them to the interest of all our readers. The general substance of them has been already made public in the Notices of the English Colleges and Convents established on the Continent, by the Hon. E. Petre, and edited by the Very Rev. F. C. Husenbeth. But as the more immediate object of that publication seems to have been to give some account of the foundation of these religious houses, it does not contain all the particulars which have been preserved respecting their dissolution, or rather, their return from the continent to their own native land. The following pages, therefore, furnishing a supplement to the work referred to, will be an acceptable boon to all who are interested (and what English Catholic is not ?) in every detail, however trifling, of the history of those religious ladies to whom the Catholic faith in this country and in our own times is so deeply indebted,



The first entry of the French into Brussels was in the beginning of November 1792. During the time of their stay there, the community of English Dominicanesses was kept in a state of continual alarm. One day a body of soldiers came to the convent at a late hour of the evening, and demanded lodgings, which the religious were obliged to provide, as well as food. These unwelcome visitors quartered themselves upon them for three or four days, during which time an English gentleman in the town of the name of Martin, a great friend to the community, came regularly every night to see that all the soldiers' lights were put out, and that all was safe.

On the 6th of March, 1793, at about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, a number of the French soldiers, with their officers, again demanded admission into the convent. They first applied to the Rev. Mr. Brittain for this purpose ; and on his refusal, pointed their bayonets at him with so threatening an aspect, that he was obliged to fly for his life. They then rang the house-bell, and commanded the enclosuredoor to be opened. The nun who answered the summons did not know the French language, and being in ignorance of the nature of their demand, she answered, Oui, oui ; but at the same time ran off to the Superioress. During her absence, the soldiers, impatient of delay, broke down the staves of the turn with the butt-end of their muskets, and so entered the house, to the dismay of its peaceful inhabitants. One of the officers asked for the Superioress; but as she did not make her appearance, the troop dispersed themselves over the building, visiting all the nuns' cells; and when they found nothing there which suited their purpose, they proceeded into the church. Here two or three of the officers went into the sanctuary; and one of them impiously took the Blessed Sacrament out of the tabernacle. The gardener, who was also the sacristan, went to take the ciborium out of his hand, in order to carry it to the nuns, two of whom were ready at the grate, holding a corporal to receive it. The officer, however, bade the poor fellow take himself off, for that he had no more right to touch it than himself. He then called for a mundatory, and taking off his hat, he emptied the ciborium, pouring the consecrated


To undergo such maiden pilgrimage:
But earthlier happy is the rose distillid,
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,

Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness.” The exquisite beauty of this passage is not more remarkable than its harmony with Catholic feeling; and it is to be observed that Shakspeare went rather out of his way to write it, as it was hardly necessary to descant so fully on the subject; which was evidently one he loved to dwell upon.

Again, Shakspeare always represents friars in an amiable light. In "Much Ado about Nothing," when Hero is sinking under her load of obloquy, and her father is quite bowed down by it, the friar's voice, meek, calm, and kind, seems to come like divine music on her ear:

“ Have comfort, lady!” We cannot wonder that the poor victim of calumny ventures to raise her head. This the poet indicates by one of the finest touches of his dramatic art:

" Leon. Dost thou look up?

Friar. Yea, wherefore should she not?” The friar's reply depicts a saintly charity so sweetly, that the readers and lovers of Digby (and all his readers are lovers) will remember how beautifully he introduces it as an example of the virtue. The contrast between the human and the divine is still more strongly drawn out by what follows: the father answers the friar in evident amazement at his calmness:

" Wherefore? Why, doth not every earthly thing

Cry shame upon her ?Yes; but the great poet designed to exhibit the face of something heavenly, of that charity which“ hopeth all things;" and how beautifully it seems to speak in the friar's words:

“ Hear me a little ;
For I have only been silènt so long
By noting of the lady: I have mark'd
A thousand blushing apparitions start
Into her face; a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness bear away those blushes;
And in her eye there hath appear'd a fire,
To burn the errors that these princes hold
Against her maiden truth :-Call me a fool;
Trust not my reailing, nor my observations,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenour of my book ; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.”


[ocr errors]

In “Romeo and Juliet,” every one is sensible of the sweetness with which Shakspeare has drawn the character of the friar, who comes on the scene with that beautiful soliloquy beginning : “ The grey-eyed moon smiles on the frowning night," with which all lovers of the poet are familiar; and no one can fail to observe how appropriately his reflections take a religious turn, ending with the fine lines which express so sound a doctrine of theology:

“ Two such oprosèd foes encamp them still

In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will;
And where the worser is predominant,

Full soon the canker death eats up that plant." Upon the heated and distempered brow of Romeo calmly and sweetly falls the benedicite of the friar, like the fresh cool air of morning. Quite in character is the holy man's horror at the idea of guilt first crossing his mind,-a feeling which, in his usual masterly manner, the poet conveys by the hurried exclamation:

6 God pardon sin! Wast thou with Rosaline? Romeo. With Rosaline, my ghostly father? No.

Friar. That's my good son!” Equally characteristic is the friar's observation on the equivocal explanation of Romeo :

“ Be plain, good son, and homely in thy drift ;

Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift.” And with great truthfulness and skill the poet makes him eager to assist Romeo;

" For this alliance may so happy prove,

To turn your households' rancour to pure love.” The marriage-scene opens with his pious exclamation:

6. So smile the heavens upon this holy act,

That after-hours with sorrow chide us not !” And the gentleness of his soul breathes out a chastened spirit over the transports of the young lovers, preparing the mind for the woe that is to follow. It would be impossible in fewer or more exquisite words to express the spirit of Christian elegy, than those in which he speaks the epitaph of Juliet:

“ Heaven and yourself
Had part in this fair maid ; now heaven hath all,
And all the better is it for the maid :
Your part in her you could not keep from death;
But Heaven keeps his part in eternal life.”

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »