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If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,
When other petty griefs have done their spite,
But in the onset come; so shall I taste
At first the very worst of Fortune's might.” &c.
We hope that we shall not fatigue our readers by adding a few more specimens from this store. Our object is, if possible, to enrich our pages with all that is best in the poems of Shakespeare. They are worthy of study. If they appear harsh or quaint to the reader at the first glance, let him be assured, that they contain high poetry and striking sense. He will like them better on a second reading, we think, and better still on a third. If, after all, he shall dislike them, the fault will be--(we must be candid, where Shakespeare is concerned)-in him-ay, even in her, though it be a lady.
We are exceedingly disposed to quote the 94th Sonnet, if it be only for the sake of two beautiful lines—
“ The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live und die.”
But we must pass on, at once, to the 98th and the 102nd, which we cannot leave behind us.
They are as follows.
have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing;
That heavy. Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew :
Nor did I wonder at the lilies white,
Nor praise the deep vermillion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet, seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
shadow I with these did play."
“My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear:
That love is merchandis’d, whose rich esteeming
The owner's tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays ;
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days :
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burdens every bough,
And sweets, grown common, lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometimes hold my tongue,
Because I would not dull you with my song."
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove :
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken ;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out e'en to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.”
We will now enable the reader to draw his own comparisons between Shakespeare and some others of our famous Sonneteers. As poets and as profound writers, not even Milton can be placed by his side, and the others are far apart; but as writers of the Sonnet, they may, with less hazard, be brought into competition with him We will begin with a Sonnet of Drummond.
“ Alexis, here she stay'd, among these pines,
Sweet hermitress, she did alone repair :
· Here did she spread the treasure of her hair,
More rich than that brought from the Colchian mines;
Here sat she by these musked eglantines ;
The happy flowers seem yet the print to bear:
Her voice did sweeten here thy sugаred lines,
To which winds, trees, beasts, birds, did lend an ear.
She here me first perceived, and here a morn
Of bright carnations did o'erspread her face :
Here did she sigh, here first my hopes were born,
Here first I got a pledge of promised grace;
But ah! what serves to have been made happy so,
Sith passed pleasures double but new woe!”
The next is one of Sir Philip Sidney. We transcribe it almost at random from the Astrophel and Stella.
“No more, my dear, no more these counsels try,
Oh! give my passions leave to run their race :
Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace,
Let folks o'ercharg'd with brain against me cry:
Let clouds bedim my face, break in mine eye,
Let me no step but of lost labour trace:
Let all the earth with scorn recount my case,
But do not will me from my love to fly.--
I do not envy Aristotle's wit,
Nor do aspire to Cæsar's bleeding fame,
Nor aught do care though some above me sit,
Nor hope nor wish another course to frame,
But that which once may win thy cruel heart:
Thou art my wit, and thou my virtue art.” The reader may take a Sonnet, said to have been written by Sir Walter Raleigh. It is occasionally prefixed to editions of the Faërie Queen of Spenser, and is entitled a
"Vision upon the conceipt of
The Faerie Queen.
Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay
Within that temple, where the vestal flame
Was wont to burn, and passing by that way
To see that buried dust of living fame,
Whose tomb fair love, and fairer virtue kept.
All suddenly I saw the Faërie Queen:
At whose approach the soul of Petrarch wept ;
And from thenceforth those graces were not seen,
For they this queen attended, in whose stead
Oblivion laid him down on Laura's hearse.
Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And groans of buried ghosts the heav'ns did pierce,
Where Homer's spright did tremble all for grief,
And curst th' access of that celestial thief.”
We now come to Milton. There is a high tone of dignity
about all his writings, and it does not desert him even in the Sonnets. Be they familiar or patriotic-Do they address the nightingale, or invoke the clemency of heaven-Do they call upon Cromwell or Vane, or warn the soldier from defacing the poet's home, they are equally and severely beautiful. There is a strength, a majesty, an air about them, which no other Sonnets possess. They seem (we make one exception) consecrated to a high design, and to come up fully to the intent of the poet. There is no weakness, or quaintness, or want of purpose in them : but they are engines in the poet's hand, and seem to accomplish whatsoever he wills. We will venture to extract two :--the first, “When the Assault was intended the City,” is sufficient, we should think, to deter any one from profaning the home of the Muses.
“Captain, or colonel, or knight in arms,
Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,
If deed of honour did thee ever please,
Guard then and him within protect from harms.
He can requite thee; for he knows the charms
That call fame on such gentle acts as these,
And he can spread thy name o'er lands and seas,
Whatever clime the sun's bright circle warms.
Lift not thy spear against the muse’s bower:
The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower
Went to the ground : and the repeated air
Of sad Electra's poet had the power
To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare."
The second sounds like an inspiration. Milton was a religious enthusiast, as well as a grand poet. He was a partizan as well as a sectarian. His creed did not consist wholly in the milder virtues (though he had a fine resignation) nor in passive endurance, when the wound was from the hands of men. He fought with the Bible and the sword. He punished as well as convinced. In this case the wrath of the poet seems to be wide awake, and thus he utters his passionate anathema.
- On the late Massacre in Piedmont.
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipt stocks and stones,
Forget not, in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that roll’d
Mother with infant down the rocks. The moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
O’er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundred fold, who, having learn'd thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.”
The next Sonnet is from Warton. He was an elegant writer, too much praised perhaps in his own day, and too much neglected now. There is a pensive air about most of his writings, and even a fine spirit when he touches upon the “olden time,” to which he was more than ordinarily attached. He spent his life among colleges and black-letter books, and left some pleasant and useful records behind him. The following is addressed “ To the River Lodon.”
“Ah! what a weary race my feet have run,
Since first I trod thy banks with alders crown'd,
And thought my way was all thro' fairy ground,
Beneath the azure sky and golden sun:
When first my muse to lisp her notes begun !
While pensive memory traces back the round
Which fills the varied interval between;
Much pleasure, more of sorrow, marks the scene,-
Sweet native stream! those skies and suns so pure
No more return to cheer my evening road !
Yet still one joy remains, that not obscure
Nor useless all my vacant days have flow'd
From youth's gay dawn to manhood's prime mature,
Nor with the Muse's laurel unbestow'd.”
We will select two more Sonnets, and then return to bid farewell to our great author
The first is from the pen of Mr. Wordsworth, and is entitled, “ Venice.”
“Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee;
And was the safeguard of the West: the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
Venice the eldest child of liberty.
She was a maiden city, bright and free;
No guile seduced, no force could violate;
And when she took unto herself a mate,
She must espouse the everlasting sea.
And what if she had seen those glories fade,
Those titles vanish, and that strength decay;