Imágenes de páginas
PDF

We mean to make this trial of our child.
Your care, and our dear blessing, in m
time, -
We pray may prosper this intended work.
Prioress. May your happy soul be blithe,
That so truly pay your tithe:
He that many children gave,
'T is fit that he one child should have.
Then, fair virgin, hear my spell,
For I must your duty tell.
Millisent. Good men and true, stand to-
gether,
And hear your charge.
Prioress. First, a mornings take your book,
The glass wherein yourself must look;
Your young thoughts, so proud and jolly,
Must be turned to motions holy;
For your busk attires, and toys,
Have your thoughts on heavenly joys:
And for all your follies past
You must do penance, pray, and fast.
You must read the morning mass,
You must creep unto the cross,
Put cold ashes on your head,
Have a hair-cloth for your bed;
Bind your beads, and tell your needs,
Your holy aves, and your creeds:
Holy maid, this must be done,
If you mean to live a nun.”

The sweetness of some of these lines argues the practised poet. Indeed the whole play is remarkable for its elegance rather than its force; and it appears to us exactly such a performance as was within the range of Drayton's powers. The device of Fabel proceeds, in the appearance of Raymond Mounchensey disguised as a friar. Sir Arthur Clare has disclosed to him all his projects. The “holy young novice” proceeds to the priory as a visitor sent from Waltham House to ascertain whether Millisent is about to take the veil “from conscience and devotion.” The device succeeds, and the lovers are left together:

“Moun. Life of my soul! bright angel ! Millisent. What means the friar? Moum. O Millisent | *t is I. Millisent. My heart misgives me; I should know that voice. You? who are you? the holy Virgin bless me! Tell me your name; you shall ere you confess Ine.

Moun. Mounchensey, thy true friend. Millisent. My Raymond'! my dear heart! Sweet life, give leave to my distracted soul To wake a little from this swoon of joy. By what means camest thou to assume this shape? Moun. By means of Peter Fabel, my kind tutor, Who, in the habit of friar Hildersham, Frank Jerningham's old friend and confessor, Plotted by Frank, by Fabel, and myself, And so deliver'd to Sir Arthur Clare, Who brought me here unto the abbey-gate, To be his nun-made daughter's visitor. Millisent. You are all sweet traitors to my poor old father. O my dear life, I was a dream'd to-night, That, as I was praying in my psalter, There came a spirit unto me, as I kneel'd, And by his strong persuasions tempted me To leave this nunnery: and methought He came in the most glorious angel shape That mortal eye did ever look upon. Ha! thou art sure that spirit, for there's no form Is in mine eye so glorious as thine own. Moun. O thou idolatress, that dost this worship To him whose likeness is but praise of thee! Thou bright unsetting star, which, through this veil, For very envy mak'st the sun look pale. Millisent. Well, visitor, lest that perhaps my mother Should think the friar too strict in his decrees, I this confess to my sweet ghostly father; If chaste pure love be sin, I must confess I have offended three years now with thee. Moun. But do you yet repent you of the

same? Millisent. I' faith I cannot. Moun. Nor will I absolve thee

Of that sweet sin, though it be venial:
Yet have the penance of a thousand kisses;
And I enjoin you to this pilgrimage:–
That in the evening you bestow yourself
Here in the walk near to the willow-ground,
Where I'll be ready both with men and
horse
To wait your coming, and convey you hence
Unto a lodge I have in Enfield Chase:
No more reply if that you yield consent:
I see more eyes upon our stay are bent.

[merged small][ocr errors]

The votaress is carried off by her brother and Jerningham ; but in the darkness of the night they lose their way, and encounter the deer-stealers and the keepers. A friendly forester, however, assists them, and they reach Enfield in safety. Not so fortunate are Sir Arthur and Sir Ralph, who are in pursuit of the unwilling nun. They are roughly treated by the keepers, and, after a night of toil, find a resting-place at Waltham. The priest and his companions are terrified by their encounters in the Chase: the lady in white, who has been hiding from them, is taken for a spirit ; and the sexton has seen a vision in the church-porch. The morning however arrives, and we see “Sir Arthur Clare and Sir Ralph Jerningham trussing their points, as newly up.” They had made good their retreat, as they fancied, to the inn of mine host of the George, but the merry devil of Edmonton had set the host and the smith to change the sign of the house with that of another inn; and at the real George the lovers were being happily married by the venison-stealing priest, in the company of their faithful friends. Sir Arthur and Sir Ralph are of course very angry when the truth is made known; but reconcilement and peace are soon accomplished :—

“Fabel. To end this difference, know, at first I knew What you intended, ere your love took flight From old Mounchensey: you, Sir Arthur

Clare, Were minded to have married this sweet beauty To young Frank Jerningham. To cross this match

I used some pretty sleights, but, I protest,

Such as but sat upon the skirts of art; No conjurations, nor such weighty spells As tie the soul to their performancy; These, for his love who once was my dear pupil, Have I effected. Now, methinks, ’t is strange That you, being old in wisdom, should thus knit Your forehead on this match; since reason fails, No law can curb the lover's rash attempt; Years, in resisting this, are sadly spent: Smile then upon your daughter and kind son, And let our toil to future ages prove, The Devil of Edmonton did good in love. Sir Arthur. Well, "t is in vain to cross the providence: Dear son, I take thee up into my heart; Rise, daughter, this is a kind father's part. Host. Why, Sir George, send for Spindle's noise presently: Ha! ere’t be night I'll serve the good Duke of Norfolk. Sir John. Grass and hay, mine host; let's live till we die, and be merry, and there's an end.”

We lament with Tieck that the continuation of the career of ‘The Merry Devil’ is possibly lost. We imagine that we should have seen him expiating his fault by doing as much good to his fellow-mortals as he could accomplish without the aid of necromancy. Old Weever, in his ‘Funeral Monuments,’ has no great faith in his art magic: “Here (at Edmonton) lieth interred under a seemelie Tome, without Inscription, the Body of Peter Fabell (as the report goes) upon whom this Fable was fathered, that he by his wittie devises beguiled the devill: belike he was some ingenious conceited gentleman, who did use some sleighty trickes for his owne disports. He lived and died in the raigme of Henry the Seventh, saith the booke of his merry pranks.”

‘As You LIKE IT' was first printed in the folio collection of 1623.

The exact date of this comedy cannot be fixed, but there is no doubt that it belongs to the first or second year of the seventeenth century. It is not mentioned in the list published by Meres in 1598; and there is an allusion in the comedy which fixes the limits of its date in the other direction : “I will weep for nothing,” says Rosalind, “like Diana in the fountain.” The cross in Westcheap, originally erected by Edward I., was reconstructed in the reign of Henry VI, and converted to the useful purpose of a conduit. The images about the cross were often broken and defaced, probably by the misdirected zeal of the early reformers; and so the heathen deities were called in, and in 1596, according to Stow, was set up “an alabaster image of Diana, and water conveyed from the Thames prilling from her breast.” Stow gives us this information in 1599; but in 1603, when the second edition of his ‘Survey of London’ was published, the glories of Diana were passed away; her fountain was no longer “prilling.” “The same is ofttimes dried up, and now decayed,” says Stow. There can be no doubt that Diana was included in the popular hatred of this unfortunate cross; for although Elizabeth, on the 24th September, 1600, sent a special command to the city respecting “the continuance of that monument,” in accordance with which it was again repaired, gilded, and cleansed from dust, “about twelve nights following the image of our Lady was again defaced by plucking off her crown, and almost her head.” When Rosalind made the allusion to Diana in the fountain, we may be to sure that the fountain was not “dried up.”

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

If we were to accept the oracular decisions of Farmer and Steevens, as to the sources from which Shakspere derived the story of ‘As You Like It, we might dismiss the subject very briefly. The one says, with his usual pedantic insolence, “‘As You Like It” was certainly borrowed, if we believe Dr. Grey and Mr. Upton, from the ‘Coke's Tale of Gamelyn,’ which, by the way, was not printed till a century afterward, when, in truth, the old bard, who was no hunter of MSS, contented himself solely with Lodge's ‘Rosalynd, or Euphues' Golden Legacye,’ quarto, 1590.”* Thus “the old bard,” meaning Shakspere, did not take the trouble of doing, or was incapable of doing, what another old bard, Lodge (first a player, and afterwards a naval surgeon), did with great care—consult the manuscript copy of an old English tale attributed, but supposed incorrectly so, to Chaucer. In spite, however, of Dr. Farmer, we shall take the liberty of looking at the ‘Tale of Gamelyn,’ in the endeavour to find some traces of Shakspere. Steevens disposes of Lodge’s ‘Rosalynd’ in as summary a way as Farmer does of ‘Gamelyn.’ “Shakespeare has followed Lodge's novel more exactly than is his general custom when he is indebted to such worthless originals, and has sketched some of his principal characters and borrowed a few expressions from it. The imitations, &c., however, are in general too insignificant to merit transcription.” All this is very unscrupulous, ignorant, and tasteless. Lodge's ‘Rosalynd’ is not a worthless original ; Shakspere's imitations of it are not insignificant. Lodge's novel is, in many respects, however quaint and pedantic, informed with

* “Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare, Boswell's Edition, p. 214.

a bright poetical spirit, and possesses a pastoral charm which may occasionally be compared with the best parts of Sydney’s Arcadia.’ Lodge most scrupulously follows the ‘Tale of Gamelyn, as far as that poem would harmonise with other parts of his story which we may consider to be his own invention. But he has added so much that is new, in the creation of the incident of the banished king, the adventures of Rosalynd and Alinda (Celia) in the forest, the passion of Rosader (Orlando), and the pretty mistake of Phebe arising out of the disguise of Rosalynd, that it is nothing less than absurd to consider Shakspere's obligations to him as insignificant. It is remarkable that in the two instances where Shakspere founded dramas upon the novels of two contemporary English writers, the ‘Rosalynd’ of Lodge, and the ‘Pandosto' of Greene, he offered a decided homage to their genius, by adopting their incidents with great fidelity. But in the process of converting a narrative into a drama he manifests the wonderful superiority of his powers over those of the most gifted of his fellow-poets, even in a more remarkable way than if, using the common language of criticism, we might call the “As You Like It’ and the “Winter's Tale' his own invention; especially in the exquisite taste with which he combines old materials with new, narrates what is unfit to be dramatically represented, represents what he finds narrated, informs the actors with the most lively and discriminating touches of character, and throws over the whole the rich light of his poetry and his philosophy. We believe that our readers will not, in this point of view consider the space ill bestowed which we shall devote to an analysis of Lodge's ‘Rosalynd,’ as compared with the ‘As You Like It.' * “The Coke's Tale of Gamelyn,” says Tyrwhitt, “is not to be found in any of the MSS. of the first authority; and the manner,

* A reprint of this uncommonly rare tract forms part of a series entitled ‘Shakespeare's Library, a Collection of the Romances, Novels, and Histories used by Shakespeare as the Foundation of his Dramas. Now first collected and accurately reprinted from the Original Editions, with Introductory Notices by J. Payne Collier, Esq., F.S.A.' Such a work, so edited, is of the greatest value to the students and lovers of Shakspere.

style, and versification, all prove it to have been the work of an author much inferior to Chaucer.” He adds—“As a relique of our ancient poetry, and the foundation, perhaps, of Shakespeare's ‘As You Like It, I could have wished to see it more accurately printed than it is in the only edition which we have of it.”t Of the antiquity of the poem there can be no doubt. It not only employs the old language in the old spirit, but its conception of the heroic character is altogether that of a rude age, when deeds of violence did not present themselves to the imagination as any other than the natural accompaniments of bodily strength and undaunted courage. There is nothing more remarkable than the different modes in which Lodge and Shakspere—who, be it remembered, were contemporaries, and therefore, with the exception of the differences of their individual habits of thought, to be supposed equally capable of modifying their impressions by the associations of a different state of society—have dealt with their common original. In the ‘Tale of Gamelyn, an old doughty knight, Sir Johan of Boundis, is at the point of death, and directs certain “wise knights” to settle how he shall divide his goods amongst his three sons. The division which they make is, as we shall presently see, not agreeable to the wishes of the father, and he thus decrees that his land shall be divided otherwise than the friends had willed:—

“For Godd is love, my neighbouris,
Standeith ye allè still,
And I will delin my londe
After my owne will.
Johan myn eldest some shall
Yhave plowis five,
That was my fadir's heritage
While that he was on live;
And middillist sonè shall
Five plowis have of lond
That I holpe for to gettin
With myn own righte hond;
And all myn othir purchasis
Of landis and of ledes
That I bequethè Gamelyn
And all my gode Stedes.”

# Introductory Discourse to the ‘Canterbury Tales.”

According to Lodge's ‘Rosalynd, Sir John of Bourdeaux, in the presence of his fellow knights of Malta, calls his sons before him, and thus directs:—

“As I leave you some fading pelf to countercheck poverty, so I will bequeath you infallible precepts that shall lead you unto virtue. First, therefore, unto thee, Saladyne, the eldest, and therefore the chiefest pillar of my house, wherein should be engraved as well the excellency of thy father's qualities, as the essential fortune of his proportion, to thee I give fourteen ploughlands, with all my manor-houses and richest plate. Next, unto Fernandine I bequeath twelve ploughlands. But, unto Rosader, the youngest, I give my horse, my armour, and my lance, with sixteen ploughlands; for, if the inward thoughts be discovered by outward shadows, Rosader will exceed you all in bounty and honour.”

The Orlando of Shakspere thus describes his legacy:—

“As I remember, Adam, it was upon this fashion bequeathed me by will, but poor a thousand crowns; and, as thou say'st, charged my brother, on his blessing, to breed me well.”

The entire difference of the conception of character between the Orlando of Shakspere and the Rosader of Lodge follows this difference in the statement of the father's bequest. Shakspere, we have no doubt, was led to this difference by his knowledge of the original tale. We do not believe that he “was no hunter of MSS.” The mode in which the friends of the old doughty knight disposed of his wealth was this:—

“For to delin them al too on
That was ther only thought,
And for that Gamelyn yongist was
He shulde havin nought.”

We see at once that the course which Shakspere has taken was necessary to his conception of the character of the younger brother. Because his brother neglected to breed him well, there begins his sadness:–

“My father charged you in his will to give me good education: you have trained me like a peasant, obscuring and hiding me from all gentlemanlike qualities: the spirit of my father grows strong in me, and I will no longer endure it:

therefore allow me such exercises as may become a gentleman, or give me the poor allottery my father left me by testament; with that I will go buy my fortunes.”

With the exception of the slight burst of violence at the insolence of his elder brother, the youngest son of Shakspere is perfectly submissive, unrepining at his fortunes, without revenge. In the ‘Tale of Gamelyn, and in Lodge's version of it, the youngest son being endowed more largely than his elder brother, there is a perpetual contest for power going forward. The elder brother is envious at the younger being preferred; the younger is indignant that the cunning of the elder deprives him of the advantages of his father's testament. It is singular how closely Lodge has here copied the old tale. In his preface he says, “Having, with Captain Clarke, made a voyage to the islands of Terceras and the Canaries, to beguile the time with labour I write this book; rough, as hatched in the storms of the ocean, and feathered in the surge of many perilous seas.” It is quite clear that he had in his cabin a copy in manuscript of the old ‘Tale of Gamelyn.’ For example:– “Gamelyn stode upon a day

In his brotheris yerde,

And he began with his honde

To handilin his berde.”

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »