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so; nevertheless I adhere to the assertion, which, if you have patience with me, I undertake to prove.
TALBOT A fair proposal, certainly ; STANLEY and I will listen with all attention to the exposition of your strange creed.
HARTLEY. Well, then, here is Knight's Library edition of the poet, in twelve volumes. I will take up the first six, comprising more than twenty plays; and these plays, which number among them “The Winter's Tale," " As You Like it," and " The Midsummer Night's Dream,” contain far more illustrations of nature and country life than the rest of the dramas. Now, if I omit “As You Like it," a pastoral comedy, which might have been composed, and should be read, sub tegmine fagi, I will promise to read, within half an hour, not only every rural paragraph in these volumes, but almost every line which contains an image drawn from external nature.
In the “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” after a simile about love and the canker in the rose-bud, a figure of which Shakspeare is strangely fond, I come to a metaphor of Julia's, in which, after blaming her hands for tearing the letter, she exclaims in her pretty anger
Injurious wasps ! to feed on such sweet honey,
Julia's passion for Proteus awakens within her a brood of sweet fancies. In another place she exclaims to Lucetta, who seeks to qualify and moderate the warmth of her love :
“ The more thou damm’st it up, the more it burns ;
The current that with gentle murmur glides,
Thou know'st, being stopp'd, impatiently doth rage, ;
I may follow up this exquisite passage by a monologue of Valentine's, in which, as Mr. Knight has observed, "we hear the first faint notes of the same delicious train of thought, though greatly modified by the different circumstances of the speaker, that we find in the banished Duke of the Forest of Ardennes :"
66 How use doth breed a habit in a man !
In the "
Comedy of Errors ” I find only one passage which will suit my purpose, and the image conveyed in it is as old as Horace. Adriana speaks thus to her husband's twin brother, mistaking him for her spouse :
Come, I will fasten on this sleeve of thine,
Whose weakness married to thy stronger state,
" Love's Labour Lost” furnishes us with this familiar couplet :
“ Love's feeling is more soft, and sensible,
Than are the tender horns of cockled snails;
and with a song which belongs without doubt to the region of rural poetry :
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
Do paint the meadows with delight,
“ When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks ;
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And milk comes frozen home in pail ;
Joan doth keel the pot.
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
66 All's Well that Ends Well " I can pass over altogether; but in the next play, “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” there are several lines or passages suggestive of country life, or imaginatively descriptive in character. For instance
“ To do observance to a morn of May," a phrase borrowed as you will remember from Chaucer, carries us back in fancy to those “old Mays," when, according to Stow—and I am indebted to Mr. Knight for the quotation—“people were wont to go out into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kind.” The song, “O happy fair," has a simile from nature in it.
“ More tunable than lark to shepherd's ear,
When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear.”
Then we have the fancy of the moon-beams
“ Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass,” the “faint primrose beds” in the wood, the "cowslips tall,” which have spots in their “gold coats,” and dewdrops in their ears, and the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, who
“ Never meet in grove or green,
In the second act the freaks of Robin Goodfellow are recounted after the following rural fashion :
FAIRY. “ Either I mistake your shape and making quite, Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite, Called Robin Goodfellow ; are you not he That frights the maidens of the villagery ; Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern, And bootless make the breathless housewife churn; And sometime make the drink to bear no barm, Mislead night wanderers, laughing at their harm? Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck, You do their work, and they shall have good luck: Are not you he? PUCK.
“ Thou speak’st aright ; I am that merry wanderer of the night.