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The necessity of singing is so urgent that a minute later songs break out of themselves. The prose and the conversation end in lyric poetry. We pass straight on into these odes. We do not find ourselves in a new country. We feel the emotion and foolish gaiety as if it were a holiday. We see the graceful couple whom the song of the two pages brings before us, passing in the misty light“o'er the green corn-field,” amid the hum of sportive insects, on the finest day of the flowering spring-time. Unlikelihood grows natural, and we are not astonished when we see Hymen leading the two brides by the hand to give them to their husbands.

Whilst the young folk sing, the old folk talk. Their life also is a novel, but a sad one. Shakespeare's delicate soul, bruised by the shocks of social life, took refuge in contemplations of solitary life. To forget the strife and annoyances of the world, he must bury himself in a wide silent forest, and

“Under the shade of melancholy boughs,

Loose and neglect the creeping hours of time.”i We look at the bright images which the sun carves on the white beech-boles, the shade of trembling leaves flickering on the thick moss, the long waves of the summit of the trees; then the sharp sting of care is blunted; we suffer no more, simply remembering that we suffered once; we feel nothing but a gentle misanthropy, and being renewed, we are the better for it. The old duke is happy in his exile. Solitude has given him rest, delivered him from flattery, reconciled him to nature. He pities the stags which he is obliged to hunt for food:

“Come, shall we go and kill us venison ?

And yet it irks me the poor dappled fools,
Being native burghers of this desert city,
Should in their own confines with forked heads

Have their round haunches gored.” %
Nothing sweeter than this mixture of tender compassion, dreamy
philosophy, delicate sadness, poetical complaints, and rustic songs.
One of the lords sings :

“ Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind

As man's ingratitude;

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1

Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,

Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:

Then, heigh-ho, the holly !

This life is most jolly.” Amongst these lords is found a soul that suffers more, Jacques the melancholy, one of Shakespeare's best-loved characters, a transparent mask behind which we perceive the face of the poet. He is sad because he is tender; he feels the contact of things too keenly, and what leaves others indifferent, makes him weep.? He does not scold, he is sad; he does not reason, he is moved; he has not the combative spirit of a reforming moralist; his soul is sick and weary of life. Impassioned imagination leads quickly to disgust. Like opium, it excites and shatters. It leads man to the loftiest philosophy, then lets him down to the whims of a child. Jacques leaves other men abruptly, and goes to the quiet nooks to be alone. He loves his sadness, and would not exchange it for joy. Meeting Orlando, he says:

“Rosalind is your love's name?

Orlando. Yes, just.

Jacques. I do not like her name. He has the fancies of a nervous woman. He is scandalized because Orlando writes sonnets on the forest trees. He is eccentric, and finds subjects of grief and gaiety where others would see nothing of the sort :

“A fool, a fool! I met a fool i' the forest,
A motley fool; A miserable world !
As I do live by food, I met a fool;
Who laid him down and bask'd him in the sun,
And rail'd on Lady Fortune in good terms,

In good set terms and yet a motley fool. Jacques hearing him moralize in such a manner begins to laugh sans intermission” that a fool could be so meditative:

O noble fool; A worthy fool! Motley's the only wear.
O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat." 4

" 3

1 As you Like it, ii. 7.

2 Compare Jacques with the Alceste of Molière. It is the contrast between a misanthrope through reasoning and one through imagination. 3 As you Like it, iii. 2.

4 As you Like it, ii. 7.

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The next minute he returns to his melancholy dissertations, bright
pictures whose vivacity explains his character, and betrays Shake-
speare, hiding under his name:

“* All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
Fox his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” 1

zons.

As you Like it is a half dream. Midsummer Night's Dream is a complete one.

The scene, buried in the far-off mist of fabulous antiquity, carries us back to Theseus, Duke of Athens, who is preparing his palace for his marriage with the beautiful queen of the Ama

The style, loaded with contorted images, fills the mind with strange and splendid visions, and the airy elf-world divert the comedy into the fairy-land from whence it sprung.

Love is still the theme: of all sentiments, is it not the greatest fancy-weaver? But love is not heard here in the charming prattle of Rosalind; it is glaring, like the season of the year. It does not brim over in slight conversations, in supple and

1 As you Like it, ii. 7.

In

34*

skipping prose; it breaks forth into big rhyming odes, dressed
in magnificent metaphors, sustained by impassioned accents,
such as a warm night, odorous and star-spangled, inspires in a
poet and a lover. Lysander and Hermia agree to meet.

Lysander. To-morrow night when Phæbe doth behold
Her silver visage in the watery glass,
Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass,
A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal,
Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal.

Hermia. And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie.

There my Lysander and myself shall meet.” 1
They get lost, and fall asleep, wearied, under the trees. Puck
squeezes in the youth's eyes the juice of a magic flower, and
changes his heart. Presently, when he awakes, he will become
enamored of the first woman he sees. Meanwhile Demetrius,
Hermia's rejected lover, wanders with Helena, whom he rejects,
in the solitary wood. The magic flower changes him in turn;
he now loves Helena. The lovers flee and pursue one another,
beneath the lofty trees, in the calm night. We smile at their
transports, their complaints, their ecstasies, and yet we join in
them. This passion is a dream, and yet it moves us. It is like
those airy webs which we find at morning on the crest of the
hedgerows where the dew has spread them, and whose weft
sparkles like a jewel-casket. Nothing can be more fragile, and
nothing more graceful. The poet sports with emotions; he
mingles, confuses, redoubles, interweaves them; he twines and
untwines these loves like the mazes of a dance, and we see the
noble and tender figures pass by the verdant bushes, beneath the
radiant

eyes of the stars, now wet with tears, now bright with rapture. They have the abandonment of true love, not the grossness of sensual love. Nothing causes us to fall from the ideal world in which Shakespeare conducts us. Dazzled by beauty, they adore it, and the spectacle of their happiness, their emotion, and their tenderness, is a kind of enchantment.

Above these two couples flutters and hums the swarm of elves and fairies. They also love. Titania, their queen, has a young boy for her favorite, son of an Indian king, of whom Oberon, her husband, wishes to deprive her. They quarrel, so that the

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1 Midsummer Night's Dream, i. I.

elves creep for fear into the acorn cups, in the golden primroses. Oberon, by way of vengeance, touches Titania's sleeping eyes with the magic flower, and thus on waking the nimblest and most charming of the fairies finds herself enamored of a stupid blockhead with an ass's head. She kneels before him ; she sets on his “hairy temples a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers :"

“And that same dew, which sometime on the buds
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
Stood now within the pretty floweret's eyes,

Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail.” 1
She calls round her all her fairy attendants;

“ Be kind and courteous to this gentleman;
Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,
To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.
Come, wait upon him ; lead him to

my

bower.
The moon, methinks, looks with a watery eye;
And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,
Lamenting some enforced chastity.

Tie up my love's tongue, bring him silently." 2 It was necessary, for her love brayed horribly, and to all the offers of Titania, replied with a petition for hay. What can be sadder and sweeter than this irony of Shakespeare? What raillery against love, and what tenderness for love! The sentiment is divine; its object unworthy. The heart is ravished, the

It is a golden butterfly, fluttering in the mud; and Shakespeare, whilst painting its misery, preserves all its beauty :

Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk-roses in thy sleek smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
Gently entwist; the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
O, how I love thee! how I dote on thee!”3

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eyes blind.

1 Midsummer Night's Dream, iv. I.

2 Ibid. iii. 1.

3 Ibid. iv. I.

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