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plays; he "created the English tragic drama ; and his verse, though full of bombast, sound, and fury, is full also of energy and power. It has been well said that “the strength of our old poets lay in their unconscious independence.” This is true of Marlowe; yet, if independence gave him robust strength, it was the source also of his weakness. The poet, like all artists, is bound by laws which he cannot slight with impunity ; but in his writings, as in his life, Marlowe was a despiser of restraint.

Christopher Marlowe, like so many of our poets, belonged to the common people. His father was a shoemaker at Canterbury, and there the future poet was born in 1564, the year that gave birth to Shakespeare. By good fortune, which means probably the kindness of some wealthy friend, the young man was sent in due time to Cambridge, and took the usual degrees. How he first became connected with the stage we do not know, but he began his dramatical career at a very early period, and was the predecessor, not the follower, of Shakespeare.† Marlowe's short life appears to have been spent in dissipation. We know little about him, but that little, unfortunately, is wholly bad, and he died at last in a tavern brawl, at the early age of thirty.

Stopford Brooke. † "King Richard II.” is the earliest play by Shakespeare entered on the Stationers' register (August 1597), but Marlowe's " Tamburlaine" was entered and published in 1590. Whatever virtues Marlowe possesses as a dramatist are due to himself alone.

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Of Marlowe's plays, “Tamburlaine," "Dr. Faustus," “ The Rich Jew of Malta," "Edward I.," and the “Massacre of Paris," I need say nothing, for the plan of this volume excludes the literature of the drama. Yet I may linger a moment to observe that in these plays many a gem of poetic beauty is hidden away. The couplet in “Dr. Faustus”.

“Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air,

Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars is, indeed, worthy of Shakespeare. Of Marlowe's poems one is familiar, having been for many years stereotyped in selections. I allude to “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love," which opens with the following lines :

“ Come, live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
“There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals." * To this poetical invitation, it may be remembered, Sir Walter Raleigh replied in verses similar in metre but inferior in beauty.

The only poem of any length written by Marlowe is a piece left

* Izaak Walton, whose lovely prose pastoral, “ The Complete Angler," is as refreshing as the breath of summer and as fragrant as her flowers, calls this poem “ that smooth song made by Kit Marlowe." • The milkmaid's mother,” he adds,“ sang an answer to it which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days. They were old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good.”


George Chapman, 1667 P-1634.

imperfect and continued by Chapman, the famous translator of Homer, entitled, “Hero and Leander." Beauty of language and wealth of colour are to be found in it, but the absence of purity leaves the poem at a low level, and justifies the severe criticism of Hallam. Of Chapman, who took up the thread of Mar

lowe's story, little need be said here ; but it is worth observing that he num

bered amongst his friends the choicest wits of the age ; that his picturesque, swiftly flowing but often crude version of Homer called forth the immortal sonnet of John Keats; and that his plays, sixteen in number, while coarse and ignoble in conception, contain many lines and pithy aphorisms which impress us with the imaginative fire and weighty sense of the writer. At the same time, there was much in him hollow and pretentious, and his lofty estimate of his own writings is not the estimate of posterity. Chapman, who was born in 1557, studied, it is said, for two years at Trinity College, Oxford, and left the university without a degree. In 1611 his translation of the “Iliad" appeared, written in fourteen-syllabled verse --"an unmeasurable length of verse," Pope calls it —and four years later this was followed by the "Odyssey." The young student should not fail to

. read at least some books of this translation, not for its accuracy as a rendering of Homer, but for the robust strength of the language, and for the poetic glow which gives it life and warmth. Chap

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man declared that he translated the last twelve books of the “Iliad” in fifteen weeks—a feat that seems well-nigh incredible ; but there is every sign that the work was done with great rapidity.

"The great obstacle," writes Charles Lamb, "to Chapman's translations being read is their unconquerable quaintness. He pours out in the same breath the most just and natural and the most violent and fierce expressions. He seems to grasp whatever words come first to hand during the impetus of inspiration, as if all other must be inadequate to the divine meaning. But passion, the all

. in all in poetry, is everywhere present, raising the low, dignifying the mean, and putting sense into the absurd."

The story of George Chapman's life is untold. We know scarcely anything about him beyond the dates of his publications and the fact that his patron was Sir Thomas Walsingham, through whom he is supposed to have gained some position at court.

He died in 1634.

[Two editions of Chapman's Homer have appeared within the last half-century; one of the “Iliad,” in two vols., with introduction and notes by Dr. Cooke Taylor, and another containing the whole works of Homer, in four vols., edited by Richard Hooper. “Conversations on Some of the Old Poets,” by James Russell Lowell, a little volume published in 1845, contains the author's youthful thoughts on several of our early poets. Considerable attention is paid to Chapman, and probably more praise awarded than the author of the “Biglow Papers” would give now ; but the book is delightful for its freshness and enthusiasm.)




THE Elizabethan poets mentioned in the last chapter still stand like landmarks in the literature of their country. The place they hold is not exalted, but it is secure, and to each of them a measure of respect is due. But we come now to a name that towers far above them all. William Shakespeare is the greatest of our poets

-the greatest of all poets—and his gifts are so infinitely varied that it is almost

impossible to criticize him justly. One reader will be enthralled by one phase of his genius, a second reader by another, and no one has enough of imagination and intellectual capacity to grasp the whole. Shakespeare was great all round; his best critics, including even men of consummate power, like Coleridge and Goethe, were great but in parts, and if they could not fully interpret this

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616.

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