« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The summons of departure short and certain.
Of human greatness are but pleasing dreams,
But tragical in issue. . . . That remedy
There is no revolt, no bitterness; she affectionately assists her brother who has caused her unhappiness; she tries to enable him to win the woman he loves; feminine kindness and sweetness overflow in her in the depths of her despair. Love here is not despotic, passionate, as in southern climes. is only deep and sad; the source of life is dried up, that is all; she lives no longer, because she cannot; all go by degrees-health, reason, soul; in the end she becomes mad, and behold her dishevelled, with wide staring eyes, with words that can hardly find utterance. For ten days she has not slept, and will not eat any more; and the same fatal thought continually afflicts her heart, amidst vague dreams of maternal tenderness and happiness brought to nought, which come and go in her mind like phantoms:
"Sure, if we were all sirens, we should sing
And 'twere a comely music, when in parts
He must be dead first: 'tis a fine deceit
Equals a broken faith; there's not a hair
It sinks me to the grave: I must creep
The journey is not long.
Since I was first a wife, I might have been
I should have cried when they cried :—truly,
My father would have pick'd me out a husband,
And then my little ones had been 10 bas-
But 'tis too late for me to marry now,
Believe me, I'll not hurt it.
* Ford's Broken Heart, iii. 5.
Like whom do I look, prithee?-nay, no whis pering.
Goodness! we had been happy; too muck happiness
Will make folk proud, they say. ... ·
There is no peace left for a ravish'd wife,
Forgive me; Oh! I faint." *
She dies, imploring that some gentle voice may sing her a plaintive air, a farewell ditty, a sweet funeral song. 1 know nothing in the drama more pure and touching.
so new, and capable of such great ef When we find a constitution of soul fects, it behoves us to look at the bodies. Man's extreme actions come not from his will, but his nature. order to understand the great tensions of the whole machine, we must look man's temperament, the manner in upon the whole machine,-I mean which his blood flows, his nerves quiver, his muscles act: the moral interprets the physical, and human qualities have their root in the animal species. X Consider then the species in this case-namely, the race; for the sisters of Shakspeare's Ophelia and Virgilia, Goethe's Clara and Margaret, Otway's Belvidera, Richardson's Pasoft and fair, with blue eyes, lily whitemela, constitute a race by themselves, ness, blushing, of timid delicacy, serious sweetness, framed to yield, bend, cling. Their poets feel it clearly when they bring them on the stage; they surround them with the poetry which becomes them, the murmur of streams, the pendent willow-tresses, the frail and humid flowers of the country, sc I like themselves :
"The flower, that's like thy face, pale prim
The azure harebell, like thy veins; no, ner
"Thro' yon same bending plain
They make them sweet, like the south which Rubens sets his nyn phs danc wind, which with its gentle breathing: causes the violets to bend their heads, abashed at the slightest reproach, already half bowed down by a tender and dreamy melancholy.* Philaster, speaking of Euphrasia, whom he takes to be a page, and who has disguised herself in order to be near him, says:
"Hunting the buck,
And paid the nymph again as much in tears.
That flings his arms down to the main,
"For to that holy wood is consecrate
"See the dew-drops, how they kiss
That guides the wand'ring seaman thro' the deep,"
modest like a virgin, and tender as a wife, says to Perigot:
"I do believe thee: 'Tis as hard for me
To think thee false, and harder, than for thee
The idyl is self-produced among these human flowers: the dramatic action is stopped before the angelic sweetness of their tenderness and modesty. Sometimes even the idyl is born complete and pure, and the whole theatre is occupied by a sentimental and poet- To hold me foul." § ical kind of opera. There are two or Strongly as she is tried, her heart, three such plays in Shakspeare; in once given, never draws back. Peri rude Jonson, The Sad Shepherd; in got, deceived, driven to despair, perFletcher The Faithful Shepherdess. suaded that she is unchaste, strikes Ridiculous titles nowadays, for they her with his sword, and casts her emind us of the interminable platí- bleeding to the ground. The "suren tudes of d'Urfé, or the affected con- shepherd" throws her into a well; ceits of Florian; charming titles, if we but the god lets fall "a drop from h.s note the sincere and overflowing poetry watery locks" into the wound; the which they contain. Amoret, the faith-chaste flesh closes at the touch of the ful shepherdess, lives in an imaginary country, full of old gods, yet English, like the dewy verdant landscapes in
The death of Ophelia, the obsequies of Imogen ↑ Philaster, i.
Beaumont and Fletcher,
↑ Ibid. ii. Nathan Drake,
See the description in
"Speak, if thou be here,
My Perigot! Thy Amoret, thy dear,
friend, Thy Amoret; come hither, to give end To these consumings. Look up, gentle boy, I have forgot those pains and dear annoy I suffer'd for thy sake, and am content To be thy love again. Why hast thou rent Those curled locks, where I have often hung Ribbons, and damask-roses, and have flung Waters distill'd to make thee fresh and gay, Sweeter than nosegays on a bridal day? Why dost thou cross thine arms, and hang thy face
Down to thy bosom, letting fall apace, From those two little Heav'ns, upon the ground,
Show'rs of more price, more orient, and more round,
Than those that hang upon the moon's pale
How soon could I my former griefs for get!" +
Such are the touching and poetical igures which these poets introduce in heir dramas, or in connection with heir dramas, amidst murders, assassiations, the clash of swords, the howl of slaughter, striving against the raging men who adore or torment them, like them carried to excess, transported by their tenderness as the others by their violence; it is a complete exposition, The Faithful Shepherdess, 1. Ibid.
Ibid. v. Compare, as an illustration of the contrast of races, the Italian pastorals, Tasso's Aminta, Guarini's Il Pastor fido, etc.
as well as a perfect opposition of the feminine instinct ending in excessive self-abandonment, and of masculine harshness ending in murderous inflexi bility. Thus built up and thus provided, the drama of the age was en abled to bring out the inner depths of man, and to set in motion the mos. powerful human emotions; to bring upon the stage Hamlet and Lear, Ophelia and Cordelia, the death of Desdemona and the butcheries of Mar beth.
WHEN a new civilization brings a new art to light, there are about a dozen men of talent who partly express the general idea, surrounding one or twc men of genius who express it thoroughly. Guillen de Castro, Perez de Montalvan, Timo de Molina, Ruiz de Alarcon, Agustin Moreto, surrounding Calderon and Lope de Vega; Crayer, Van Oost, Rombouts, Van Thulden, Van Dyck, Honthorst, surrounding Rubens; Ford, Marlowe, Massinger. Webster, Beaumont, Fletcher, surrounding Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. The first constitute the chorus, the others are the leading men. They sing the same piece together, and at times the chorist is equal to the solc dramas which I have just referred to, artist; but only at times. Thus, in the the poet occasionally reaches the summit of his art, hits upon a complete character, a burst of sublime passion; then he falls back, successes, rough sketches, feeble im gropes amid qualified tricks of his trade. It is not in him, itations, and at last takes refuge in the but in great men like Ben Jonson and Shakspeare, that we must look for the attainment of his idea and the fulness of his art. "Numerous were the witcombats," says Fuller, "betwixt him two I behold like a Spanish grea! (Shakspeare) and Ben Jonson, which galleon and an English man-of-war built far higher in learning; solid, but Master Jonson (like the former) was slow in his performances Shak
What we know of his life is in har
speare, with the English man-of-war, | resser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take advantage of all winds by the quick ness of his wit and invention."* Such was Ben Jonson physically and morally and his portraits do but confirm this just and animated outline: a vigorous, heavy, and uncouth person; a broad and long face, early disfigured by scurvy, a square jaw, large cheeks; his animal organs as much developed as those of his intellect: the sour aspect of a man in a passion or on the verge of a passion; to which add the body of an athlete, about forty years of age, "mountain belly, ungracious gait." Such was the outside, and the inside is like it. He was a genuine Englishman, big and coarsely framed, energetic, combative, proud, often morose, and prone to strange splenetic imaginations. He told Drummond that for a whole night he imagined" that he saw the Carthaginians and Romans fighting on his great toe."† Not that he is inelancholic by nature; on the contrary, he loves to escape from himself by free and noisy, unbridled merri-clined to follow the beaten track to the ment, by copious and varied converse, assisted by good Canary wine, which he imbibes, and which ends by becoming a necessity to him. These great phlegmatic butchers' frames require a generous liquor to give them a tone, and to supply the place of the sun which they lack. Expansive moreover, hospitable, even lavish, with a frank imprudent spirit, making him forget himself wholly before Drummond, his Scotch host, an over rigid ard malicious pedant, who has marred his ideas and vilified his character.§
end, being persuaded that a fine philosophy-a special nobleness and dignity
ought to be introduced into comedy, that it was necessary to follow the example of the ancients, to imitate their severity and their accuracy, to be above the theatrical racket and the common improbabilities in which the vulgar delighted. He openly proclaimed his intention in his prefaces, sharply railed at his rivals, proudly set forth on the stage † his doctrines, his morality, his character. He thus made bitter enemies, who defamed him outrageously and before their audiences, whom he exasperated by the violence of his satires, and against whom he struggled without intermission to the end. He
did more, he constituted himself a judge of the public corruption, sharply at. tacked the reigning vices," fearing no strumpet's drugs, nor iffian's stab."
his reputation, as Mr. Campbell has remarked, no one can seriously believe it."-Archeolog ica Scotica, vol. iv. page 243.-TR.
*At the age of forty-four he went to Scot land on foot.
↑ Parts of Crites and Asper.
Every Man out of his Humour, i.; Gil ford's Jonson, p. 30.
Fixed to the bed and boards, unlike to win Health, or scarce breath, as she had never been."
old woman. Thus almost always sadly and miserably, is dragged out and ends the last act of the human comedy After so many years, after so many sustained efforts, amid so much glory and genius, we find a poor shattered body, drivelling and suffering, between a servant and a priest.
He treated his hearers like schoolboys, and spoke to them always like a censor and a master If necessary, he ventured further. His companions, Marston and His wife and children were dead; he Chapman, had been committed to pris-lived alore, forsaken, waited on by an on for some reflections on the Scotch in one of their pieces called "EastwardHoe;" and the report spreading that they were in danger of losing their noses and ears, Jonson, who had written part of he piece, voluntarily surrendered himself a prisoner, and obtained their pardon. On his return, amid the feasting and rejoicing, his mother showed him a violent poison which she intended to put into his drink, to save him This is the life of a combatant from the execution of the sentence; and bravely endured, worthy of the seven "to show that she was not a coward," teenth century by its crosses and its adds Jonson, “she had resolved to energy; courage and force abounded drink first." We see that in vigorous throughout. Few writers have labored actions he found examples in his own more, and more conscientious y; his family. Toward the end of his life, knowledge was vast, and in this age of money was scarce with him; he was eminent scholars he was one of the liberal, improvident; his pockets always best classics of his time, as deep as he had holes in them, and his hand was alwas accurate and thorough, having ways ready to give; though he had studied the most minute details and written a vast quantity, he was still understood the true spirit of ancient obliged to write in order to live. Paral-life. It was not enough for him to ysis came on, his scurvy became worse, dropsy set in. He could not leave his room, nor walk without assistance. His last plays did not succeed. In the epilogue to the New Inn he says:
66 If you expect more than you had to-night, The maker is sick and sad.
All that his faint and falt'ring tongue doth
Is, that you not impute it to his brain,
It cannot long hold out."
His enemies brutally insulted him :
"Disease, the enemy, and his engineers,
have stored his mind from the best
*Ben Jonson's Poems, ed. Bell, An Epistl Mendicant, to Richard, Lord Weston, Lord High Treasurer (1631), p. 244.