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Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
At the last the supernatural has passed wholly away; the witches, the ghosts, the incantations, and the dreams, -all are gone; and Macbeth, forsaken by the suicide of his fiend-like queen, is left alone,—the sea of blood sweeping him onward, helpless, hopeless; for its red tide has washed out, one by one, the promises that witchcraft had written upon sand, and, with wild misgivings of all realities, he stands, “aweary of the sun,” upon a desert spot of this bank and shoal of time;
- behind him the furies of a murderous memory, before him the blackness of an accursed darkness, and, in its centre, Death.
Taking the thought from this tragedy, the remark may be generalized on the whole Shakpearian drama, that all the sympathies it gives are with goodness, all its hatred of vice. Disfigured though it be in spots by the grossness of his times, or, still more, of theatrical interpolations, it is ministrant in the cause of virtue; and the commentator on Shakspeare has no more important office than to illustrate the sanity of his genius,--his intellectual and moral healthfulness. The large sympathy he communicates is comprehensive not only of afflicted virtue, but also when human frailty has brought down calamities on its own head. The tragedies abound with this forgiving temper, this Christian spirit of pity, this teaching of brotherly kindness and fervent charity, not trampling on a fellow-being, rejoicing in his sorrows because he deserved them, but restoring him in the spirit of meekness. What, for instance, at the outset, is Lear, but a weak, petulant, doting, headstrong, selfish, foolish old man ? But how are we not taught to forget and forgive all this when his woes throng round him! His intellectual power rising with his misery, and his sublime madness giving him unwonted dignity, we have at last but one feeling for the child-changed father.
Observe, too, this trait in the historical drama of “Richard the Second.” You look on him at first as at once arbitrary and imbecile,heartless, vain, and violent; but, when affliction comes, his sense of royalty rises in as majestic a strain as ever proclaimed the divine right of kings :
“When the searching eye of heaven hid
Behind the globe, and lights the lower world,
THE SPIRIT OF SHAKSPEARE'S TRAGEDIES.
The cloak of night being pluck'd from off their backs,
And how exquisitely is our sympathy conciliated by the description of Richard's majesty waning in the presence of the rising popularity of Bolingbroke !
"* Men's eyes
Did scowl on Richard ; no man cried, God save him!
I trust that no one has been so uncharitable as to impute to me the absurdity of fancying that one lecture could embrace more than a very inadequate proportion of what is due to the vast theme. I dare not trust myself even to name the various unnoticed considerations respecting the genius of Shakspeare, for they rise up to my mind in throngs. When I was obliged to close my incomplete examination of Spenser's “Fairy Queen,” I presumed distantly to intimate the hope that some future occasion.might give me ampler space for our converse with that wondrous allegory. May I venture now to add the expression of a feeling of course, merely my own—that, so far as I am concerned, I can promise myself no better pleasure than, at some future time, with the light of the same kind and intelligent faces upon me, to enter upon
the studious and reverential consideration of the whole series of the dramas of Shakspeare ?
In conclusion : a few words of Shakspeare himself. It is said that the last of his poems was the “ Tempest ;” and certainly the close is finely typical of the close of his career of authorship. The most touching of the series of his sonnets are the confessional ones, in which he mourns over the contamination of his pure and gentle spirit by the uncongenial courses of a player's trade :
“Alas ! 't is true I have gone here and there,
Oh, for my sake do you with fortune chide,
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.”
from London and sought the sweet places of his innocent childhood, we can almost hear him, in the words of Prospero, abjuring his magic, dismissing the spiritual creations of his imagination, and looking to the tranquil village he was born in, where
Every third thought shall be my grave." The highest glory of Shakspeare's poetry is its spirituality. With all its quick sympathies with things of sight, it is full of the life by faith. Kindred at once to earth and heaven, it realizes what Wordsworth, with a noble image, grandly tells :
“ Truth shows a glorious face While, on that isthmus which commands
The councils of both worlds, she stands." There is many a trace to show how deep was Shakspeare's sense of the perishable nature of the things of time. How deeper still was his sense of eternity and its glories ! Reflect on that fine passage in “Antony and Cleopatra,” when the Roman feels that his own fortunes and ancient Egypt's power are lost for ever :
“Sometime we see a cloud that's dragonish;
HIS TREATMENT OF HOLY SUBJECTS.
With trees upon 't, that nod unto the world
“ Eros, now thy captain is Even such a body: here I am Antony ;
Yet cannot hold this visible shape.” Now, with this compare the hopeful, faithful spirit in a passage which has been considered, perhaps, the most sublime in Shakspeare :
“Look how the floor of heaven
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.” It is worthy of reflection, that wherever a holy subject is touched by Shakspeare it is with a deep sentiment of unaffected reverence. The parting thought I have of his genius is, that not vainly were spent in the comparative loneliness of the Avon village those last silent years of him who could place on the tongue of his saintly Isabella such fit and feeling words on the most sacred of all sacred themes :
" Alas !-alas!
ABUNDANCE OF BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS-DR. JOHNSON'S LIFE-MILTON AMONG
THE GREAT PROSE WRITERS-MILTON'S CONCEPTION OF HIS CALLING AS A POET --POETRY THE HIGHEST AIM OF HUMAN INTELLECT-MILTON'S YOUTHFUL GENIUS-STUDY OF HEBREW POETRY-LATIN POEM TO HIS FATHER-THE RURAL HOME-POETIC GENIUS IMPROVED BY STUDY-VISITS TO THE LONDON THEATRES -THOUGHTFUL CULTURE OF HIS POWERS-ALLEGRO AND PENSEROSO-LYCIDAS -DR. JOHNSON'S JUDGMENTS ON THIS POEM-MASQUE OF COMUS-FAITH AND HOPE AND CHASTITY-THE HYMN ON THE NATIVITY-POWER AND MELODY OF THE MILTONIC VERSIFICATION-VISIT TO GALILEO-MILTON IN ROME-STORY OF TASSO'S LIFE-INFLUENCE OVER MILTON-THE REBELLION-THE CONDITION OF THE ENGLISH MONARCHY-THE POET'S DOMESTIC TROUBLES-SONNETS-JOHNSON'S CRITICISMS ON THEM-MILTON'S LATIN DESPATCHES-SONNET ON THE PIEDMONT PERSECUTION-COLERIDGE AND WORDSWORTH ON THE MORAL SUBLIMITY OF THE POET'S LIFE-THE PARADISE LOST-THE CHARACTER OF SATAN -COLERIDGE'S CRITICISM-THE GRANDEUR OF THE EPIC-THE PARADISE REGAINED-THE SAMSON AGONISTES-POETRY A RELIEF TO THE POET'S OVERCHARGED HEART.
THE birth of Milton, in the year 1608, dates about eight years be
fore the death of Shakspeare, thus preserving the tie of time between the three most glorious of England's poets,- Edmund Spenser, William Shakspeare, and John Milton. In the last lecture I had occasion to remark on the well-known dearth of personal information respecting our great dramatic poet. As to our great epic poet, the contrast in this particular is as striking as possible. Of Shakspeare we know almost nothing; of Milton we know almost everything. The entire collection of his poems, the equally complete collection of his prose works, his official writings, his private correspondence, the incidental mention by his contemporaries, his autobiographical notices,-all are preserved. Stimulated by this abundance of biographical materials, and also by the consideration that Milton's character was illustrative of great principles in various departments of human thought, an unparalleled number of biographers-from his own nephew down to not a few authors within the last few years--have made his memoir their chosen theme. More biographies have been written of him than, perhaps, of any man who ever lived. I have had the curiosity to enumerate them, and could mention no fewer than twenty-five. Of all these, unhappily, the one most read is the one most uncongenial and, in many points, in