Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

again he alludes to the infamy of his marriage. If the fact, without the form, exists before —

*All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be ministered,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow; but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain and discord, shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both; therefore take heed

As Hymen's lamps shall light you.'
Joy alternates with sadness, transports with melancholies:

• That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
As after sun-set fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourishid by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.'
Here are the last notes struck within the hearing of this world:

'I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Savior, to be made partaker of life everlasting.''

Influence.-Upon universal sympathy, upon historical inquiry, upon linguistic development, he has left a potent and enduring impress. His works and the Bible, both models of Teutonic simplicity, are the great conservators of English speech.

He infused into the early drama a spirit of high art; gave it order, symmetry, elevation; informed it with true airy wit and rich but subtle humor; made it an opulent and unfailing fount of entertainment and instruction.

He has revealed, in fresh, familiar, significant, and precise details, the complete condition of civilization; and thus to attain nature truthfully in the balance of motives and the issues of action, is in the most vital of all ways to be moral; to be a propagator, though by indirection, of the morality that governs and illuminates the world; else is nature immoral and in fellowship

with impurity

1 Shakespeare's will.

Consider the mental activity of which he is the occasion; how far, and for how many, he has enlarged the circle of study and reflection; the fund of maxims, observations, and sentiments, that relate to whatever is interesting, important, or lofty in human life, and whose infinite variety age cannot wither nor custom stale. Art, science, history, politics, physics, philosophy, shall tax him for illustration while the tide of human feelings and passions shall continue its course.

Shakespeare is like a great primeval forest, whence timber shall be cut and used as long as winds blow and leaves are green.

PHILOSOPHIC PERIOD.

CHAPTER VII.

FEATURES.

Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history.- Emerson. Politics.-European civilization had merged in two essential facts,-free inquiry and centralization of power; the first prevailing in religious society, the second in civil. Before these two could be reconciled, a struggle between them was inevitable. On the one hand, royalty declared itself superior to the laws; on the other, the spirit of liberty was passing from the public mind to the state. When, in 1603, James, the Sixth of Scotland and the First of England, ascended the throne, the decisive hour was fast approaching when either the king must become absolute, or the parliament preponderant. He alternately enraged and alarmed them by his monstrous claims, and excited their scorn by his concessions; kept discontent alive by his fondness for worthless and tyrannical favorites; provoked derision by his cowardice, his pedantry, his ungainly person, and his uncouth manners. The dignity of government was weakened, loyalty was cooled, and revolution was fostered. Under his son and successor Charles I, the struggle went on. He inherited his father's theories, with a stronger disposition to carry them into effect. He imposed and collected illegal taxes, made forced loans; was artful, capricious, and winding; entered into compacts which he had no intention of observing; was perfilious from habit and on principle. The commons put on a sterner front. Parliament after parliament was dissolved, each more intractable than the former. Then he attempted to rule without one, and for eleven years ---an interval utterly without precedent--the Houses were not convoked. Yielding at length to the pressure of necessity, he summoned them in 1640, but quickly dismissed them when they would have considered the grievances of the nation. The

26

401

Socie

opposition grew fiercer. In November of the same year, without money, without credit, without authority even in his own camp, he yielded again; and then met the ever-memorable body known as the Long Parliament. Again he broke faith with his council, with his people; and in August, 1642, the sword was drawn. Charles, driven to Scotland and by the Scots surrendered to his English subjects, expiated his crimes with his blood. The soul of the revolutionary party was Cromwell, whose warrior saints, devotedly attached to their leader, were bent on the establishment of a free and pious commonwealth. Having destroyed the king, they vanquished in turn the Parliament, which, having outlived its usefulness, and forgetting it was the creature of the army, exasperated the latter by its dictation. The victorious chief became king in everything but name. The government, though in form a republic, was in truth a military despotism; but the despot was wise and magnanimous, and the glory of England, grown dim in the two preceding reigns, shone again, with a brighter lustre than ever. Cromwell's death, in 1658, brought the rule of Puritanism to an end. The master had been a temporary necessity. His system, acknowledged by all to be necessary, was acceptable to none. The soldiers, against whom, while united, plots and risings of maleontents were ineffectual, now released from the control of that mighty spirit, separated into factions. Weary of strife, and terrified at the prospect of renewed civil warfare, the country sought again the shelter of the monarchy, and invited the return of its exiled prince. Charles II was proclaimed, and the Restoration was accomplished.

From 1641 dates the corporate existence of the two great parties which have ever since contended for the direction of public affairs. The royalists, comprising the nobles, the gentry, and the prelacy, were called Cavaliers, from their gallant bearing and equestrian skill. The opposition, comprising a few of the peers, the bulk of citizens and yeomen, and the Nonconformists, were called Roundheads, from the Puritan fashion of wearing closely cropped hair. The names were afterwards changed to Tory and hig, and these, still later, to Conservative and Liberal ; but the principles have remained essentially the

The watchword of the first is Order; that of the second, Progress.

same.

Society.- In the midst of light, the thick darkness of the middle-age rested on Ireland. Only the heavy hand of a single despot could deliver her from the local despotism of a hundred masters. Cromwell's conquest was a series of awful massacres. 'I am persuaded,' he says, 'that this is a righteous judgement of God upon these barbarous wretches who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood, and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future. She was, as ever since, undisguisedly governed as a dependency won by the sword.

Scotland, joined to her neighbor on the most honorable terms, preserved her dignity in retaining her constitution and laws. Her people, however, had always been singularly turbulent. They had butchered their first James in his bed-chamber; had rebelled repeatedly against the second; had slain the third on the field of battle; had broken the heart of the fifth by their disobedience; had imprisoned Mary, and led her son captive. The border was a chaos of violence; and along the line between the Highlands and Lowlands raged an incessant predatory war.

England had long been steadily advancing. Men had become accustomed to peaceful pursuits, and irritation did not now so readily as in former ages take the form of rebellion. From the rising of the northern earls against Elizabeth, to the memorable reckoning against Charles I, seventy years had elapsed without intestine hostilities. The national wealth had greatly multiplied, and civilization had greatly increased.

Still, we shall not forget the difference between the rude and thoughtless boy and the refined and accomplished man. Masters habitually beat their servants, teachers their pupils, and husbands their wives. The offender in the pillory was happy to escape

with life from the shower of brickbats and paving stones. If tied to the cart's tail, the officer was implored to make him howl. Pleasure parties were arranged for the purpose of seeing wretched women whipped. Fights, in which gladiators hacked each other to pieces, were the delight of multitudes. At the Restoration, the glorious leaders of the Puritan faith were cut down alive from the gallows, and quartered amidst insults; while others-Cromwell among them — were dug up, and exposed on

the gibbet.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »