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Shakespeare was the profoundest thinker, the wittiest, the airiest, the most fantastic spirit (reconciling the extremes of ordinary natures) that ever condescended to teach and amuse mankind.

lle plunged into the depths of speculation; he penetrated to the inner places of knowledge, plucking out " the heart of the mystery;" he soared to the stars; he trod the earth, the air, the waters. Every element yielded him rich tribute. Be surveyed the substances and the spirits of each; he saw their stature, their power, their quality, and reduced them without an effort to his own divine command.

There is nothing more detestable in literature than the system of rating an author by his defects instead of by his merits,-of estimating him by what he does not, rather than by what he does accomplish. Because Hercules was shaken by the shirt of Nessus, shall we strip him of his courage and his strength, while the story of Antæus is ringing in our ears ?The French (and the critics who follow the French) writers say that Shakespeare is guilty of extravagance, of anachronisms, of undue jesting, and of fifty other inconsistencies ;-and so he is. But we do not build up his pyramid of fame upon such rotten and unholy ground. It is not because he has crowded tragedy and farce together, nor because he has laid prostrate the unities, that we worship him. But it is because he has outshone all writers of all nations, in dramatic skill, in fine knowledge of humanity, in sweetness, in pathos, in humour, in wit, and in poetry. It is because he has subdued every passion to his use, and explored and made visible the inequalities and uttermost bounds of the human mind,-because he has embodied the mere nothings of the air, and made personal and probable the wildest anomalies of superstition,---because he has tried every thing, and failed in nothing --because, in fine, he has displayed a more stupendous intellect, a more wonderful imagination, and has atttempted and effecled more than the whole range of French dramatists, from Corneille to M.

-, of yesterday, that we bow down in silent admiration before him, and give ourselves up to a completer homage than we would descend to pay to any other created man.

So great is our regard, however, that we would not lavish undue praise upon him, nor make him the theme of an insane idolatry. We respect him according to his power; we love him in proportion to his gifts,-no further. It is impossible to forget all that he has done for us, or the world that he has

He was the true magician, before whom the astrologers and Hermetic sages were nothing and the Arabian wizards grew pale. He did not, indeed, trace the Sybil's book, nor the Runic rhyme. Nor did he drive back the raging waters or the howling winds : but his power stretched all over

laid open.

the human mind, from wisdom to fatuity, from joy to despair, and embraced all the varieties of our uncertain nature. He it was, at whose touch the cave of Prosper opened and gave out its secrets. To his bidding, Ariel appeared. At his call, arose the witches and the earthy Caliban, the ghost who made “ night hideous,” the moonlight Fays, Titania, and Oberon, and the rest. He was the so potent” master, before whom bowed kings and heroes, and jewelled queens, men wise as the stars, and women fairer than the morning. All the vices of life were explained by him, and all the virtues; and the passions stood plain before him. From the cradle to the coffin he drew them all. He created, for the benefit of wide posterity and for the aggrandizement of human nature,-lifting earth to Heaven, and revealing the marvels of this lower world, and piercing even the shadowy secrets of the grave.

It is quite impossible to estimate the benefit which this country has received from the eternal productions of Shakespeare. Their influence has been gradual, but prodigious; operating at first on the loftier intellects, but becoming in time diffused over all, spreading wisdom and charity amongst us. There is, perhaps, no one person of any considerable rate of mind who does not owe something to this matchless poet. He is the teacher of all good,--pity, generosity, true courage, love. His works alone (leaving mere science out of the question) contain, probably, more actual wisdom than the whole body of English learning. He is the text for the moralist and the philosopher. His bright wit is cut out “ into little stars :" his solid masses of knowledge are meted out in morsels and proverbs; and, thus distributed, there is scarcely a corner which he does not illuminate, or a cottage which he does not enrich. His bounty is like the sea, which, though often unacknowledged, is everywhere felt; on mountains and plains and distant places, carrying its cloudy freshness through the air, making glorious the heavens, and spreading verdure on the earth beneath.

Hitherto, the reputation of Shakespeare has rested almost exclusively upon his dramatic writings. Between those and his other poetry there is confessedly no comparison ; or rather, it would be impertinent to institute one, seeing that both are so excellent in themselves.

It may be said that the Poems have been relinquished by several successive generations, to almost entire neglect. But the saying of Johnson, that nothing falls into oblivion which deserves to live, is not good here. Indeed, as a general theory, it is open to great objection. Fame is a thing of uncertain growth, and the great births of wisdom may sleep undisturbed for centuries. It is often accident which calls

them up, and fashion that preserves them: and they are destroyed again by sudden revolutions, or moulder away under the influence of luxury and refinement. It was probably so with Shakespeare. The importation of French fashions was, for a time, prejudicial even to him. The people were attracted by the glittering wit and gaudy fancies of their neighbours, and sunk into idolaters at once. They left the high spirit who was enthroned in the hearts of their ancestors, to kneel before the Baal which Nebuchadnezzar, the King, had set up In truth, the licentious habits of Charles's court were utterly inimical to Shakespeare's fame. He can live only in the imaginations of men, and then there was no imagination. Even Dryden, with all his great powers and stinging wit, can scarcely be brought forward as evidence that the imaginative faculty was then Aourishing; and there was no one else to claim the distinction when Milton died.

But, to return to Shakespeare. The Venus and Adonis was his first work; and it is, with all its defects, and quaintness, and conceits, undoubted proof of a rare and poetical mind. The description of the horse, which has been usually brought forward as the best specimen of his minor productions, has little beyond mere truth to recommend it. It is like a catalogue. There are hundreds of finer descriptions scattered over his plays, and very many passages which excel it in

The Venus and Adonis was first published in the year 1593 or 1594, and was dedicated to Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, who has made himself immortal by his princely munificence towards our great dramatist. It is written in the six-line stanza, and is in a quiet vein, seemingly without effort, sometimes quaint, and, as was the fashion of the times, studded with bright conceits, and often exceedingly sweet and poetical. To our minds, it fails most in the parts which are intended to be pathetic. This is a natural consequence, however, of the use (or abuse) of conceits. Nevertheless, it is still somewhat remarkable, when we consider Shakespeare's great mastery over all our sympathies.- The story opens with Adonis going to the chace

the poems.

“ Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn."

He is way-laid, however, by Venus, who seizes upon him and his courser, in a style almost unprecedented in love annals :

“ Over one arm the lusty courser's rein,
Under the other was the tender boy,
Who blushed and pouted in a dull disdain,"

which the amorous queen endeavours in vain to overcome. Her fascinations are useless, yet she perseveres in her advances, and twines her arms around him.

Look, how a bird lies tangled in a net,
So fastened in her arms Adonis lies,
Pure shame and awed resistance made him fret,
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes.”

The lady altogether is sufficiently reprehensible; but the youthful coyness and boyish scorn of Adonis are delightfully painted. He is insensible to every blandishment; and her boastings and intreaties are equally wasted. Nevertheless, she still pursues her object, and vaunts her power over the « God of War.”

“ Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His battered shield, his uncontrolled crest;
And for my sake hath learned to sport and dance."

Thus him, that over-ruld, I over-sway’d;
Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain.
Strong temper'd steel his stronger strength obey'd,
Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.
Oh be not proud, nor brag not of thy might,
For mast'ring her that foil'd the god of fight !
Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green;
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevel'd hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen.
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.”

During the colloquy the horse of Adonis escapes, and as the description of this steed has been much celebrated, we will not exclude it from our pages. It is the second stanza of the following which is commonly found in quotation:

“ Look when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion'd steed,
His art, with Nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed :
So did this horse excel a common one
In shape, in courage, colour, pace, and bone.

Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eyes, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, strait legs, and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide:
Look what a horse should have, he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.

Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares ;
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather.
To bid the wind abase he now prepares,
And where he run, or fly, they know not whither.
For through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
Fanning the hairs, which heave like feather'd wings."

Adonis pursues his courser in vain, and at last sits down fatigued, which Venus perceiving, approaches full of vexation.

“O! what a sight it was wistly to view
How she came stealing to the wayward boy;
To note the fighting conflict of her hue,
How white and red each other did destroy !
But now her cheek was pale, and by and bye,
It flash'd forth fire, as lightning from the sky.

Now was she just before him as he sat,
And like a lowly lover down she kneels” —

And proceeds to caress him; but her caresses have no more effect upon him than her words, though they are eloquent at times.

O learn to love, the lesson is but plain,

And, once made perfect, never lost again"--She

says, and listens for his reply : but his countenance augurs nothing but ill.

“ Once more the ruby-colour'd portal open'd,
Which to his speech did honey passage yield;
Like a red morn, that ever yet betoken'd
Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field.
Sorrow to shepherds, woe unto the birds,
Gust and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.
This ill presage advisedly she marketh,
E'en as the wind is hush'd before it raineth,

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