Page images


row walls vanish so that we feel as if we

-conquest hung in the infinite abyss of space, and the

Over base foes is a captivity little world were but a tiny point of spark

And not a triumph. I ne'er fcared to die

More than I wished to live. When I had reached ling light which we can shut out with our

My ends in being a duke, I wore these robes, hand.

This crown upon my head, and to my side Massinger had nothing of the coward in This sword was girt, and witness truih that, now him, and never lets his respect for rank put

'Tis in another's power when I shall part

With them and life together, I 'm the same : its timeserving hand over the mouth of his

My veins then did not swell with pride, nor now sealty to truth and virtue. He felt himself

Shrink they for fear. to be a peer of the realm of nature, a lord spiritual in an establishment as eternal as Truth itself, one of those nobles whose The sight of whips, racks, gibbets, axes, fires, patent we can read in their faces, in the Are scaffolding by which the soul climbs up

To an eternal habitation. tone of their voice, in the grasp of their hand; who rule over their fellow-men by a VOX POPULI NOT ALWAYS VOX DEI. divine right which not even time and death Extraordinary virtues, when they soar dare dispute, and who leave the outward Too high a pitch for common sights to judge of, distinctions of a conventional liueness to

Losing their proper splendor, are condemned

For most remarkable vices. such as can best fashion realities out of such pretty fictions.

Often he swoops down The following fine passage is a good spe. upon some knighted vice, some meanness cimen of Massinger's most fiery style. It skulking behind a star-breasted coat, or has none of that volcanic aspect which some beduked infamy, and sometimes, like startles us into admiring wonder in Chapan eagle in a dovecot, flutters even the man, whose rustling vines and calm snowdwellers within the sacred precincts of the capt head, which seems made to slumber court itself. Yet, while he does not bend in the peaceful blue, are on the sudden cap in hand before an outward and cus- deluged with surging lava from the burning tomary superiority, he has none of that heari below, - none of that lightning brillarrogant assumption of equality which is iance which blurs the eyes of our better indeed the basest and most degrading kind critical judgement. It savors rather of the of aristocracy. Freedom is all that men dignified indignation of Tully which never can lay claim to in common, and that is no forgets that it has saved Rome, and would true manhood which needs comparison with not jar the studied * taste of the porticoes others to set it off. Massinger, as we have or the Academy said, is eminent for his gentlemanlike feeling, and the true gentleman is he who Whom it does most concern, my lord, I will knows, and knows how to gain for himself Address my speech, and, with a soldier's freedom, without an exaction wbat is his due, rather

In my reproof, return the bitter scoff

You ihrew upon my poverty: you contemned than he who gives their dues to others.

My coarser outside, and from that concluded The latter needs but an exercise of justice, (As by your groom you made me understand) and is, indeed, included in the former, which I was unworthy to sit at your table must needs be endowed with patience,

Among these tissues and embroideries, gentleness, humble dignity, and all the

Unless I changed my habit: I have done it, honorable and virtuous adornments of a

And shew myself in that which I have worn

In the heat and fervor of a bloody fight; wise and courageous humanity.

And then it was in fashion, not (as now) We shall copy here a few random passa

Ridiculous and despised. This hath pasi through ges from all his plays, both to illustrate

A wood of pikes, and every one aimed at it, what we have said and what we have yet

Yet scorned to take iinpression of their fury:

With this, as still you see it, fresh and new to say of our poet.

I've charged through fire that would have singed

your sables, CHARITY.

Black fox and ermines, and changed the proud look on the poor

color With gentle eyes ! for in such habits often

of scarlet though of the right Tyrian die.Angels desire an alms.

But now, as if the trappings made the man,

Such only are admired as come adorned

With what's no part of them. This is mine own,
He that bath stood

My richest suit, a suit I must not part from, The roughest battery that captivity

But not regarded now: and yet, remember Could ever bring to shake a constant temper, Tis we that bring you in the means of feasts, Despised the fawnings of a future greatness

Banquets and revels, which when you possess, By beauty in her full perfection tendered, That hears of death as of a quiet slumber,

* We do not mean to imply any artifiality like And from the surplusage of his own firmness the foresighted pathos of Sheridan's "My gods!” Can spare enough of fortitude to assure

To you,

or the coughs of the famous Oliver Maillard, in the A feeble woman, will not, Mustapha

manuscripi of whose serinon preached at Bruges Be aitered in his soul by any tormers

in 1500, the words “ Hem, hem, hem,” are inserted We can afflict his body with.

at certain intervals. See note in Du Chal's Ra. belais.


With barbarous ingratitude you deny us
To be made sharers in the harvest which
Our sweat and industry reaped and suwed for

you. The silks you wear, we with our blood spin for

you; This massy plate, that with the ponderous weight Doth make your cupboards crack,we (unatfrighted With tempests, or the long and tedious way, Or dreadful monsters of the deep that wait With open jaws still ready to devour us) Fetch from the other world. Let it not then In after ages to your shamne be spoken That you with no relenting eyes look on Our wants that feed your plenty; or consume, In prodigal and wanton gifts on drones, The kingdom's treasure, yet detain from us The debt that with the hazard of our lives We have made you stand engaged for; or force us, Against all civíl government, in armor To require that which with all willingness Should be tendered ere demanded.


How the innocent
As in a gentle slumber pass away!
But to cut off the knotty thread of life
In guilty men, must force stern Atropos
To use her sharp knife often.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

But, after all, such few gleanings as we can make in the way of extracts, can give us but a limited idea of the quality of the field. The general impression gathered from the inan's whole works will be nearer the truth. It is the more likely to be so because in Massinger's plays the whole power

of the man is plainly put forth. We do not feel in reading him, that he was

“A budding star, that might have grown

Into a sun when it had blown.''* There is nothing rugged or precipitous in his genius, no peaks that lose themselves in the clouds, -- all is smooth, table land, with scarce an unevenness of surface. We never could say which of his plays was our favorite. This sustained vigor shows strength and unweariedness of mind rather than high poetic genius. Genius seems to want stedfastness, not by sinking below its proper pitch, but from the instinct which forever goads it to soar higher and higher.

In the best of Massinger's characters we seem to have a true, unconscious picture of himself, a photographic likeness, as it were, of his soul when the sunshine was upon it. We mean in their speeches, for their actions are held in utter serfdomn by the plot, which Massinger seems to have considered sovereign by divine right. To change their entire nature seems but a light exercise of their loyalty, and they would drink up Eysell or eat a crocodile for the gratification of their liege lord with pleased alacrity. There is but little variety in his leading characters, and they are all plainly Philip Massinger. It has ofien been said ihat the greatest genius never thus reproduces itself. Byron felt this to be true, as is clear from the uneasiness he showed when the masks of his various characters were torn away and disclosed beneath the narrow features of the peer. The true test seems to us the sameness rather than the portraiture of self, for genius must draw from within, and it differs from other natures pot in being of a higher kind but in that it contains all others.t Which of Shakspeare's characters shall we say is Shakspeare ? — and yet, which shall we say is not ? Round the brow of all Byron's heroes we can trace a scarlet token of the pressure of a coronet. That litile imaginary golden circle had ample room and verge enough for the poet's soul ; - what, save the emblem of eternity, could have been a proper fillet for that of Shakspeare?

To return to Massinger. There is a great deal of nobleness about him, and often we

REVERENCE IN LOVE. Leosthenes. Honest simplicity and truth were The agents I employed, and when I came [all To see you, it was with that reverence As I beheld the altars of the gods; And love that came along with me, was taught To leave bis arrows and his torch behind Quenched in my fear to give offence. Cleora.

And 'twas That modesty that took me and preserves me Like a fresh rose in mine oun natural succtness, Which, sullied by the touch of impure hands, Loses both scent and beauty.


What a bridge
of glass I walk upon, over a river
Of certain ruin, mine own weigbty fears
Cracking what should support me !


That kills himself to avoid misery fears it,
And, at the best, shows but a bastard valour.
This life's a fori committed to my trust,
Which I must not yield up till it be forced,
Nor will I : he's not valiant that dares die,
But he that boldly bears calamity.

The resolution that grows cold to-day,
Will freeze to-morrow.

* Carew. Epitaph on Lady Mary Villers. †"

only spirit In whom the tempers and the minds of all Should be shut up."

Shakspeare. Troilus and Cresida, A. 1, S. 3.

catch the lingering savor of a rich and outward likewise, and so the soul be free fearless benignity which had been driven from unsatisfied longings, from the gnaw. from its still home in his heart by the hard ings of reproachful seeming, and all other and bitter uses of the world. His nobleness craven terrors.. is clearly his own, and not an outside virtue One chief cause of the higher grandeur put on with his player's cloak and left in of the poesy of those days was that poets the wardrobe of the theatre folded up for reverenced their calling, and did not lightly fear of soiling. We say his nobleness is assume the holy name of seer - a name his own, - for there is a nobleness which is which, for some generations since, seems to not noble, a fair-weather greatness, spring. || have been mainly claimed and most readily ing from without, whereby a man is wafted conceded to those who could not see, so that to honorable deeds by the prosperous breath what was once the type of all most awful of friends' applause, or is spurred on thereto and majestic things became a mock and a by a pitiful emulation of the laurels rather byeword, and those golden arrows which than of the nature of a true, inborn worthi- had slain the Pythian serpent and whose ness. Nobleness emulates itself only, and dreadful clang had sent fear through the shows as majestic in its own sight as in bravest hearts of Greece, were either defiled that of the world. It is humble enough to and bedimmed by the foul venom of a think God as good society as man. We do | crawling satire, or, reeking with wine, and not mean that the glorified lives and deaths feathered with courtly ribaldry, were launchof the great souls who have gone before it ed feebly from the stews and bagnios at the are not to be a staff and a help to the noble hearts of Celias and Cloes whose Arcadia spirit, but we deem that but a bastard was the court of Charles II, and their Asgreatness which must take root in the past, traea redur, the duchess of Portsmouth. fearing to trust iis seeds to the dim future, Our elder poets did so much talk of living and preferring the beggarly Outward to the for eternity as think of living in it, well infinite Within. It is out of this meagre knowing that time is not a point without soil that the desire of fame springs, which it, but that now and in the soul of man is has never yet achieved auglit for the ad- indeed the very centre on which that infivancement of the race, and which seems nite circle can alone be described. In those rather to be a quality of the body than of days even the quacks had loftier ideas of the soul. The soul is put here to purify their art and of the nobleness of life requiand elevate itself, and thereby the universal site to its practisers than many a poet now soul of man; and it needs no outward token has of his.* of reverence, since it carries with it an Massinger had a true and lofty feeling inward record and badge of its having ful- of the sacred calling of the poet. He filled its mission, more authentic than the thought rather of what he was born for than palm branch of the pilgrim to Jerusalem, of himself. For, inasmuch as the poetic or the green turban of the Hadgi. But the nature is more truly and fully expressed in body, having more sympathies with earth a man, by so much is there less of individthan with heaven, is forever haunted by a uality and personality about him. This longing to leave behind it here some pon- nature exists in its highest and clearest derous marble satire upon the short comings beauty where the spirit of the man is wholly of its former tenant. The true poet feels given up to the universal spirit, and the seer nothing of this. Like his mother Nature, feels himself to be only the voice of somehe casts down his seeds with a free and thing beyond thought and more sure than bounteous hand, and leaves them to the reason, --- something more awful and mystenursing of the sun and the rain, the wind rious than can be arrived at by the utter. and the dew. Massinger is clearly of a most gropings of the most unbounded and natively honorable and fair composition. strongest-winged imagining. Somewhat He is one of those who could not help being lower than this, but in the same kind, is noble, even if litileness were the whole Art, which seems, after all definitions, to world's ideal of beauty. His greatness was be merely the unconscious instinct of genius, domestic wholly, and did not lean upon others. For what true Man asks the ver

* Lilly, the astrologer, who sat for the portrait of dict of any soul but his own ? Simple, self- Sidrophel in Hudibras, speaking of astrology, says forgetting majesty is one great charm of “the study required in that kind of learning must these old poets. li was natural and homely,

be sedentary, of great reading, sound judgment, and thought not of the reviews or the

which no man can accomplish except he wholly

retire, use prayer, and accompany himself with market-place. Its root is inward, but it angelical risitations. (See his Autobiagrophy.) blossoms and bears fruit outwardly in deeds So also Michael Sandivogius, in his “New Lighi of and words of a lofty and godlike justice Alchymy," says “The searcher of Nature ought and simplicity. But for that other bastard

to be such as Nature herself is, true, plain, patient,

constant; and that which is chiefest of all, reliusurping viriue, as its root is outward,

gious, fearing God, not injurious to their neighwould that its blossom and fruit might be bour.'


that is - of the healthiest and most natural by taking her into and interpenetrating her nature. Thus, in the hand of the true with their own spirits, thus showing the artist, the pen, the brush, or the chisel, true law of sympathy, which is to raise its seems rather to be in the all-powerful grasp objects to its own fullest height, and not to of destiny herself, with so much swiftness descend to theirs. Therefore in the best and easy certainty does it body forth such landscapes, even of the most desert and baser and more outward portions of the barren solitudes, the crowning charm seems overruling beauty as may be materially to be a certain humanness which sympaexpressed, creating for the philosopher thizes with the highest wants of the soul, proofs † of those universal laws which he is and has like feelings, it may be, of the sunlaboriously splicing out of separate facts. — light and moonlight and all the vast harmoOnly in the rapid flush of inspiration,- in nies of Nature. We did not look to find the highest moments of the highest souls,- this faculty in Massinger. It has only been is this perfect artistic unconsciousness shown by our greatest poets. We find it attained to by man, for the spirit of God in Chaucer, Spenser and Shakspeare emicannot flow through these channels of clay, nently, and in our own day perhaps more without losing somewhat of its crystal in Keats than any other. Sometimes we clearness.

see it reversed, and find the spirit sensuWe have said that Massinger's attempts alized, as in some of the poems of Craat humor generally sunk into grossness. shawe, a man of impure youth and MagThere was no luxuriance in his character. dalen age, by whom the marriage of the He has none of that spiritual sensuousness soul with the Savior is celebrated in strains which we so often find connected with the better befitting an earthly Epithalamium. highest poetic faculty - a kind of rosy Massinger's style is manly, strong and nakedness of Greek freedom which yet has straightforward. He writes blank-verse no touch of immodesty in it. It is a faculty remarkably well for a man whose lyrics which belongs in perfection only to that and other attempts at rhyme prove him 10 evenly-balanced nature which gives its just have been entirely destitute of any musical right to both body and soul. It is as far

Sometimes, when he imitates the removed from sensuality as from over deli. favorite trick of Fletcher, and ends his lines cacy, which may be called conventionalized with what may be termed a spondee, his grossness, since it keeps indeed its eyes and verse has a show of more grace than is lips chaste as the icicle that hangs in usual with him. As in the two following Dian's temple, but has its heart and fancy passages, which have moreover a great tenthronging with prophetic pictures of all derness of sentiment. manner of uncleanness which may by any

Good madam, for your health's sake, clear these remote chance assail it. There is less immodesty in the stark nakedness of virtue That feed upon your beauty like diseases. than in the closest veil of vice.

Time's band will turn again, and what he ruins Massinger has grossness enough, but

Gevily restore, and wipe off all your sorrows. none of this fine sensuality - this bodily You tempt his loving care whose eye bas numbered

believe, you are to blaine, much to blame, lady; feeling of the beautiful. Indeed, it is All our aillictions and the time to cure them : inconsistent with grossness, being but an You rather with this torrent choke his mercies, entire fusion of body and spirit, so that we

Than gently slide into his providence. hear, see, smell, touch and taste, with the

Sorrows are well allowed, and sweeten nature soul. It is a litting of the body up to the

When they express no inore than drops on lilies;

But, when they fall in storms, they bruise our hopes, soul's level, whereas grossness brings down Make us unable, though our comforts ineet us, the soul to that of the body. Poets who To bold our heads up: come, you shall take comfort; possess this instinct most fully are the best

This is a sullen grief becomes condemned men, describers of outward and maierial nature,

That feel a weight of sorrow through their souls :

Do but look up. Why, so! is not this better with which, through their bodily senses Than hanging down your head still like a violet thus sublimated, they have a finer and And dropping out those sweet eyes for a wager ? wider sympathy. And it is not by going out of themselves into nature that they can,

In this passage, sixteen out of the nine

teen lines end in the manner indicated as it were, paint the very feelings of seemingl y dead and senseless things, but rather

above. Again,

Not far from where my father lives, a lady, * Sir Thomas Browne calls “art the perfection

A neighbor by, blest with as great a beauty of nature," and "nature the art of God." -- Reli

As nature durst bestow without undoing, gio Medici.

Dwelt, and most happily, as I thought then,

And blest the house a thousand times she dwelt in. + Coleridge, hearing one speak of an argument This beauty, in the blossom of my youth, between Mackintosh and somebody else which had When my first fire knew no adulterate incense, been very long and intricate, exclaimed " If there Nor I no way to flatter but my fondness, had been a man of genius in the room he would In all the bravery my friends could show me, have seuled it in five minutes." - Il zlill's Re- In all the faith mine innocence could give me, mains.

In the best language iny true tongue could tell me,

clouds up

And all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me, I sued and served. Long did I love this lady, Long was my travail, long my trade to win her; With all the duty of my soul I served her.

We now and then meet in his plays some of those forced conceits which became so fashionable a short time after in the writ. ings of what has been (rather inaptly) called “the metaphysical school," who would borrow the shears of Atropos to snip off a flower of speech, and seem to have taken more pains to “cast a figure” than ever astrologers did. We copy one speci


My much loved lord, were Margaret only fair,
The cannon of her more than earthly form,
Though mounted high, commanding all beneath it,
And rammed with bullets of her sparkling eyes,
Of all the bulwarks that defend your senses
Could batter none but that which guards your sight.

This is as bad as some of the gallant Wyatt's sonnets, or as that prison which King Thibaud the troubadour tells us he was locked in “of which Love keeps the key, aided by his three bailiffs Hope Deferred, Beauty and Anxiety." Chapman sometimes indulges his fancy in the same way; but in him it seems like the play of a giant heaping Ossa on Pelion. Butler, a man of genius and sturdy English feeling, was wont to say, Aubrey tells us, that “that way (e. g. Edm. Waller's) of quibling with sence will hereafter growe as much out of fashion and be as ridicule as quibling with wordes." If all English poets had maintained their loyalty to our glorious tongue as fearlessly as Butler did * and had not so sheepishly allowed halfpenny critics to be the best judges of an art as far above them as the glorious lyre which nightly burns in Heaven, our “col. lections of Poets” would not have been so much like catacombs of withered anatomies, which fall to dust under our touch.

We finish our extracts with the following from the “Roman Actor,” which shews that Massinger had a true feeling of the independence of the poet and of the stage, and that he esteemed the latter (what it doubtless is when rightly conducted) a good helper in the cause of virtue and refinement.

-But, 'tis urged That we corrupt youth, and traduce superiors :

When do we bring a vice upon the stage
That does go off unpunished ? Do we teach,
By the success of wicked undertakings,
Oihers to tread in their forbidden steps ?
We show no arts of Lydian panderism,
Corinthian poisons, Persian flatteries,
But mulcted so in the conclusion, that
Even those spectators that were so inclined
Go home changed men. And, for traducing such
That are above us, publishing to the world
Their secret crimes, we are as innocent
As such as are born dumb. When we present
An heir that does conspire against the life
Of his dear parent, nuinbering every hour
He lives as tedious to him; if there be
Among the auditors one whose conscience tells him
He is of the same mould, – WE CANNOT HELP it.
Or, bringing on the stage a loose adulteress,
That does maintain the riotous expense
Of him that seeds her greedy lust, yet suffers
The lawful pledges of a former bed
To starve the while for hunger; it a matron,
However great in fortune, birih, or titles
Guilty of such a foul, unnatural sin,
Cry out 'tis writ for me, -- WE CANNOT HELP IT.
Or, when a covetous man's exprest, whose wealth
Arithmetic cannot number, and whose lordships
A falcon in one day cannot fly over,
Yet he so sordid in his mind, so griping,
As not to afford himself the necessaries
To maintain life ;- if a patrician
(Though honored with a consulship) find himself
Touched to the quick in this -- WE CANNOT HELP IT.
Or, when we show a judge that is corrupt,
And will give up the sentence, as he favors
The person not the cause, saving tbe guilty,
If of his faction, and as oft condemning
The innocent out of particular spleen,
If any in this reverend assembly,
Nay, even yourself, my lord, that are the image
or absent Cæsar, feel something in your bosoin
That puts you in remembrance of things past
Or things intended, —- 'tis sor in US TO HELP IT.

And so, farewell, Philip Massinger! Thou wast one of the deathless brotherhood who reared so fair a statue to the God of song, for the love and reverence ye bore him only, and not like Domitian, that your own images might show prominently on his bosom. Happy art thou now in thy nameless grave, free from the cark and care whose bitter rust prey most upon the poet's heart. Happy in that thou canst be praised without envy, and that thou art far removed from the carping of men who would measure all genius by their own standard, — who respect the dead body more than the living soul, and who esteem contemporaneousness an excuse for malignity, grossness, and all other basenesses which disgracefully distinguish the man from the brute. Happy art thou there in the infinite peace and silence.

See his poems

« On Critics,” and “On our ridiculous imitation of the French" in especial.

« PreviousContinue »