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Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody-
In Byron's well-known description of a thunder-storm amongst the Alps, we have not only the most magnificent outline of the scene but an example of a total inversion of the older style of painting from nature;-in this case a simile is drawn from humankind to illustrate the power and grandeur of material forces :
Not vainly did the early Persian make
And this is in the night !-most glorious night,
As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth! Scott has his own way of looking at nature; and in the most poetical of all his productions, he indulges in the bold fancy of imagining the objects of inanimate nature deploring over the loss of their fervent admirer :
Call it not vain, They do not err
To murmur dirges round his grave. With mystical and transcendental notions of this kind Shakspere would have nothing to do. He was a realist in his art, confining himself strictly to the business in hand. Even his greatest of philosophers, Hamlet, in all the turns of his ingenious and vagrant fancy, could be made to conceive of nothing so wild or so abstract as what frequently occurs in modern poetry.
But while Shakspere's references to natural scenery are in general literally " short and far between,” and while he avoids the task of making up any complete picture, the attentive reader will observe that there are two objects in Nature which he is never tired of alluding to. The objects we refer to are the Sea and the Sun, and here again we find Shakspere closely following in the footsteps of Homer. As with the older bard, the Sea is noticed in all its varying aspects, and in delineating a storm the poet puts forth all the strength of his genius, and that so graphically and so minutely as to induce the belief that he was not writing from hearsay or from the narratives of observers so much as from his own actual experience. As to the sun, the rising sun more particularly-it seems to have been with him an object of special adoration as intense as if he had been a genuine Fire Worshipper. This phase of the great luminary he appears to be never weary of describing. He introduces
it into nearly all his plays, and in the seventh sonnet is a most perfect description of the phenomenon. We have thought it worth the trouble, in order to show the profound art of Shakspere in dealing with a single object, to bring together a number of his allusions to the rising sun and the break of clay :
The silent hours steal on,
Richard III.-Act 5, scene 3.
Richard III.--Act 5, scene 3.
Rirhard 111.--Act 5, scene 3.
King Henry VI.-Part III.
Troilus and Cressida-Act 1, sc. 3.
Tempest-Act 1, sc. 1.
Julius Cæsar-Act 1, sc. 1.
lomeo anıl Juliet-Act 2, sc. 3.
Hamlet-Act 1, sc. 1.
King Henry VI. Part 3. Act 5.
Acnry IV. Part 1. Act 3, sc. 1.
Much Ado about Nothing-Act 5, scene 3.
* Titus Andronicus-Act 2, scene 1.
The glorious sun
King John-Act 3, sc. 2.
Midsummer Night-Act 3, scenc 2.
Hamlet-Ací 1, scene 5.
Romeo and Juliet-Act 1, scene 1.
Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
Venus and Adonis.
Romeo and Juliet-Act 3, sccnc 5. We have placed the above quotations, not in the order of their beauty, which it would be an impertinence to attempt, but as they seem to be more or less perfect and elaborate, until in the closing illustration a series of images are crowded together in a profusion rendering it entirely and perfectly Shaksperian.
In these remarks the aim has been rather to suggest than to determine-to offer reasons for a judyment than to make out a case—and we shall be glad if we have been the means of directing the attention of scholars to a subject which has been too much overlooked-one closely connected with the development of the human mind in its love and appreciation of the grand and beautiful.
It has been the fashion amongst a certain class of writers to speak of Shakspere as the creation of nature rather than of art, and an opinion has never ceased to prevail that his great success as a writer was due almost entirely to his natural and not to his acquired gifts. Judging from the tone of modern criticism, this and similar notions are less prevalent than they have been, and it would appear that we are arriving at more sound and correct judgments, but one can scarcely open the books of the earlier critics of Shakspere without being met by some such idea as that alluded to. What was generally believed in the age of Shakspere, and for a century afterwards, was, that if a person had not gone through a university curriculum-had not made himself master of Greek and Latin at least-he was of no use in the world of letters, and had no pretensions to write books such as scholars would read. It hence followed, that when Shakspere arose to instruct and delight the world, naturę got the credit of all his achievements. He had been at no college; he was unlearned, and could have no merit in his productions-nature had done everything for him and education nothing. The editors of the first Folio did their best to encourage this absurdity by informing their readers that Shakspere's " mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers”—leading to the inference that their author was under a kind of aflatus or direct inspiration. Milton, strange to say, fell into a similar error-in his case far less excusable. In the " L'Allegro," written twenty-one years after the death of Shakspere, he speaks of his greatest rival in fame as
Sweetest Shakspere, Fancy's child,
Warbling his native wood-notes wilda sentiment which, we need scarcely say, conveys quite a false impression of the genius of Shakspere. Fuller, in his “ English Worthies,” makes the same mistake in writing thus :