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Ay, but to die, and go we know not where ;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
Or to be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts
Imagine howling! 'tis too horrible!
The weariest, and most loathèd worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a paradise

To what we fear of death.” As regards that portion of the plot of “Measure for Measure” which turns upon the Duke's retiring from his government, and leaving the stringent execution of his neglected laws to a deputy, while he, in his monkish disguise, watched from under his cowl the progress of events, no useful purpose can result from such masquerading, seeing that when the law is about to be enforced, he comes forth in the nick of time and pardons all the delinquents. However, it makes an agreeable stage-mystery ; and not the less so, from the audience being all the while admitted to the secret. The story itself is a deeply-interesting one, and has been more than once paralleled in history. The last and most signal

. instance (with an awful tragedy for its consummation) occurred after Monmouth's rebellion, in the person of that fiend in human shape, the atrocious Colonel Kirk; an act so enormously wicked as to exalt common diabolism into virtue by the contrast.

In a brief summary of the right tendency of this play, let it be observed, that the only man who is deservedly punished is the grossly loose character, Lucio ; and he is compelled to marry one fully worthy of him. Angelo having a sense of goodness, and being moreover a repentant sinner, is united to the virtuous woman whom he had treated with unkindness. Moreover, the Clown is converted into an under-gaoler, and the suburbs of infamy are all broken up.

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A glorious being, indeed, was this same son of the Stratford woolstapler! Well might Thomas Carlyle exclaim, “The noblest thing we men of England have produced has been this Shakespeare."

I believe that he would have been equal to any age of any period in the world ; and this, because he was endowed with real magnanimity of character-magnanimity in its extended, not conventional sense of the term. He was, indeed, a true genius, a true poet, a great-souled man; and, therefore, he would have advanced upon any age in which he might have been thrown. That should seem to be the definition of a true genius ; not merely to compass the world of Mind and Matter, but also to throw a halo around it, like the golden ring encircling the orb of Saturn ;-to re-fashion, to dilate, to urge on his acquired knowledge for the glorification and wellbeing of his brother-pilgrims in the walk of humanity. A true poet, as before said, is a “creator.” He does not merely record that which he encounters in the external world, he combines, he modifies, he refines ; he even suggests to nature. A true poet despises nothing that is contrived and fashioned, and because it is essentially part and parcel of his own faculty; therefore, I would say, that if Shakespeare could come among us again in the flesh,-his spirit I trust to be ever present with us, happy in the happy thoughts that he has left as a legacy to his brethren,-he would be among the first to appreciate the great qualities of our age of practical and mechanical science. He would never have thought disdainfully, even

slightingly, of our machinery ; because he would have known that the sublimation, the omniscience, the omnipotence of the science pervades the whole universe, from the starry worlds in their convolutions to the mechanical structure of a gnat's wing. He would, therefore, have come among our boilers and our shafts, our wheels and our pinions, our duplex and our eccentric movements, and, ten to one, but he would have put us upon some track to multiply our produce one hundred fold. We should never have heard from him the nonsense about over-production, while there were thousands of even his own countrymen who were without clothes against inclemency, or sufficient food for their bellies. He gave proof enough that he was elevated above the “low ambition" of party-spirit, because he was too great to descend to the sneaking cunning of manquvre. The most assiduous reader of his works could not decide what were his opinions, religious or political. He contented himself with the simple mission of teaching mankind a cheerful reliance upon the mercy and benevolence of our good God; to be just and kind to all men; to seek out the good in things evil, and not, after the new philosophy, of ferreting out whatever of evil may lurk in things good. He strove to make men wiser and better, and, therefore, happier.

Such was the expansion of his mental faculty, that it should seem nothing would have come amiss to him ; for to whatever study he might have directed his mind, that he would have rendered precious. And what superb things would he not have uttered upon our steam-enginery! How he would have glorified our locomotive power, surrounding all with the gorgeous hues of his imagination, adding beauty to utility ; for whatever is useful assumes a beauty when touched with the magician-poet's pencil ; as our poet-painter, Turner, converted a common-place steam-boat in the Hebrides-the most mechanical of ocean constructions—the triumph of art and

utility amid the grandeur and romance of nature-into a feature of grace and enchantment in his picture. There it was, stemming away against wind and tide, like the war-horse, shouting “Ha, ha !" to the roar of the antagonist wind and waters; asserting its own prerogative of power ; disgorging its smoky volumes, touched by the golden beams of the setting sun.

The poet who underrates the inventive mechanical faculty, is no poet, but a fool ; and the mechanic who sneers at the imagination of the poet, is nothing but a mechanic—a mechanic “of all work." No one would have helped on the real nobility—the middle class in the community—the key-stones of the social arch, in their struggles and strides towards social perfectibility, like our divine-hearted, our beloved Stratford yeoman ; and what he has left to us all-to the whole world, will yet fulfil this, if he be studied with a devout faith and a loving heart.

And let the “outward-sainted," who so blithely catch at and question his coarsenesses, and thence infer his immorality, be reminded that these are two distinct things, and that each can and does exist independently of the other. Indelicacy of speech does not necessarily involve immorality of principle, or immorality comprise coarseness of language. (These platitudes cease to be such with a large bulk of the community.) There are books, not readable aloud in the present conventional state of civilisation, which are, nevertheless, purely moral in principle; and others could be cited (of our own age) containing not one objectionable term, the tendency of which is to sap the dearest institutions of social life. Let it then be borne in mind, that although Shakespeare sometimes transgresses the rules of modern decorum, he has never sought to undermine the foundations of moral rectitude. He does not varnish—he does not even polish vice ; and he never gives a questionable complexion to naked, unsophisticated virtue. For a full example of this, refer to the moral of this misunderstood and misrepresented play of “Measure for Measure;"-read that frightful scene in the “Pericles, Prince of Tyre ;” and after rising from the perusal of the whole play, say whether he has not made the heroine, Marina, come forth from the horrid ordeal like an angel of light. She has gone through the furnace, and even the smell of the fire has not passed upon her garments.

Again, Shakespeare never sneers at real piety, and he never hints a contempt for the dearest and most sacred privileges of our social union; and therefore he ranks with the greatest of ethical writers, as he is confessedly the greatest of imaginative ones.

I can only say, in conclusion, and it is a triumphant one, that the most crystal-hearted women in my own little circle of acquaintance are the greatest studiers—not merely readers -of his plays.


Ballantyne & Company, Printers, Edinburgh.

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