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He stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows,
Growing on's cheek, but none knows how;
O cruel Love! on thee I lay
My curse, which shall strike blind the day:
What bird so sings, yet so does wail?
GEORGE PEELE held the situation of city poet and conductor of pageants for the court. In 1584 his Arraignment of Paris, a court show, was represented before Elizabeth. The author was then a young man, who had recently left Christ Church, Oxford. In 1593, Peele gave an example of an English historical play in his Edward I. The style of this piece is turgid and monotonous; yet in the following allusion to England, we see something of the high-sounding kingly speeches in Shakspeare's historical plays:
Apostrophe to England.
Illustrious England, ancient seat of kings,
Erst has not quaked and trembled at the name
Her neighbour realms, as Scotland, Denmark, France,
Longshank, your king, your glory, and our son,
Peele was also author of the Old Wives' Tale, a legendary story, part in prose, and part in blank verse, which afforded Milton a rude outline of his fable of Comus. The Old Wives' Tale was printed in 1595, as acted by 'the Queen's Majesty's Players.' The greatest work of Peele is his Scripture drama, the Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe, with the tragedy of Absalom, which Campbell terms the earliest fountain of pathos and harmony that can be traced in our dramatic poetry.' The date of representation of this drama is not known; it was not printed till 1599, after Shakspeare had written some of his finest comedies, and opened up a fountain compared with which the feeble tricklings of Peele were wholly insignificant. It is not probable that Peele's play was written before 1590, as one passage in it seems a direct plagiarism from the Faery Queen of Spenser. We may allow Peele the merit of a delicate poetical fancy and smooth musical versification. The defect of his blank verse is its want of variety: the art of varying the pauses and modulating the verse without the aid of rhyme had not yet been generally adopted. In David and Bethsabe, this monotony is less observable, because his lines are smoother, and there is a play of rich and luxurious fancy in some of the
Prologue to King David and Fair Bethsabe.
The cherubim and angels laid their breasts;
The golden wires of his ravishing harp,
He gave alarum to the host of heaven,
That, winged with lightning, brake the clouds, and cast
Of this sweet poet, Jove's musician,
BETHSABE and her maid bathing. King DAVID above.
Hot sun, cool fire, tempered with sweet air,
Inflame unstaid desire,
Nor pierce any bright eye
That wandereth lightly.
To flowers sweet odours, and to odours wings,
And with their murmur summon easeful Sleep,
Charles Lamb says justly, that the line, 'seated in
Bethsabe. Come, gentle Zephyr, tricked with those above passage. It is indeed a noble poetical perfumes
That erst in Eden sweetened Adam's love,
And stroke my bosom with the silken fan:
This shade-sun-proof-is yet no proof for thee;
Can creep through that his lances1 cannot pierce.
Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,
To play the wanton with us through the leaves.
David. What tunes, what words, what looks, what wonders pierce
My soul, incensed with a sudden fire!
What tree, what shade, what spring, what paradise,
That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill,
See, Cusay, see the flower of Israel,
Dav. Go now and bring her quickly to the king;
Dav. Bright Bethsabe shall wash in David's bower In water mixed with purest almond flower, And bathe her beauty in the milk of kids; Bright Bethsabe gives earth to my desires, Verdure to earth, and to that verdure flowers,
1 The sun's rays.
Parable of Nathan and David.
Nathan. Thus Nathan saith unto his lord the king:
In oxen, sheep, and cattle of the field;
Which he had bought, and nourished by his hand;
David. Now, as the Lord doth live, this wicked man
Nath. THOU ART THE MAN, AND THOU HAST
David, thus saith the Lord thy God by me:
And saved thee from the tyranny of Saul;
And might, thou know'st, if this had been too small,
Wherefore, then, hast thou gone so far astray,
Yea, with the sword of the uncircumcised
Thou hast him slain; wherefore, from this day forth,
Dav. Nathan, I have against the Lord, I have
Nath. David, stand up; thus saith the Lord by me:
To triumph and blaspheme the Lord of Hosts,
In 1588, THOMAS KYD produced his play of Hieronimo or Jeronimo, and some years afterwards a second part to it, under the title of The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again. This second part is supposed to have gone through more editions than any play of the time. Ben Jonson was afterwards engaged to make additions to it, when it was revived in 1601, and further editions in 1602. These new scenes are said by Lamb to be 'the very salt of the old play,' and so superior to Jonson's acknowledged works, that he attributes them to Webster, or some 'more potent spirit' than Ben. This seems refining too much in criticism. Kyd, like Marlowe, often verges upon bombast, and 'deals largely in blood and death.' Nothing seems to be known of his personal history.
HIERONIMO mad, for the loss of his murdered son.
To make a father dote, rave, or run mad?
He must be fed, be taught to go, and speak.
Ay, or yet? why might not a man love a calf as well? Or melt in passion o'er a frisking kid, as for a son? Methinks a young bacon,
Or a fine little smooth horse-colt,
Should move a man as much as doth a son;
None but a damned murderer could hate him.
When his strong arm unhorsed the proud prince
And his great mind, too full of honour, took
To mercy that valiant but ignoble Portuguese.
And there is Nemesis, and furies,
And things called whips,
And they sometimes do meet with murderers:
They do not always 'scape-that's some comfort.
Ay, ay, ay, and then time steals on, and steals, and steals,
Till violence leaps forth, like thunder
And so doth bring confusion to them all.
JAQUES and PEDRO, Servants. Jaques. I wonder, Pedro, why our master thus At midnight sends us with our torches light, When man and bird and beast are all at rest, Save those that watch for rape and bloody murder. Is much distract since his Horatio died: Pedro. O Jaques, know thou that our master's mind And, now his aged years should sleep in rest, His heart in quiet, like a desperate man Grows lunatic and childish for his son: Sometimes, as he doth at his table sit, He speaks as if Horatio stood by him; Then starting in a rage, falls on the earth, Cries out: Horatio, where is my Horatio?' So that with extreme grief, and cutting sorrow, There is not left in him one inch of man. See, here he comes.
Hier. I pry through every crevice of each wall,
Ped. We are your servants that attend you, sir.
Was I so mad to bid you light your torches now?
Ped. Then we burn daylight.
Hier. Let it be burned: Night is a murderous slut, That would not have her treasons to be seen: And yonder pale-faced Hecate there, the moon, Doth give consent to that is done in darkness. And all those stars that gaze upon her face, Are aglets on her sleeve, pins on her train: And those that should be powerful and divine, Do sleep in darkness when they most should shine. Ped. Provoke them not, fair sir, with tempting words. The heavens are gracious; and your miseries And sorrow make you speak you know not what.
Hier. Villain! thou liest; and thou doest nought But tell me I am mad: thou liest ; I am not mad: I know thee to be Pedro; and he, Jaques.
I'll prove it to thee; and were I mad, how could I? Where was she the same night when my Horatio was
She should have shone: search thou the book.
Had the moon shone in my boy's face, there was a kind of grace,
That I know, nay, I do know had the murderer seen him,
His weapon would have fallen, and cut the earth,
ISABELLA, his wife, enters.
Isabella. Dear Hieronimo, come in a-doors.
Hier. Indeed, Isabella, we do nothing here.
Till at length it grew a gallows, and did bear our son.
Hier. Bid him come in, and paint some comfort,
The Painter enters.
Painter. God bless you, sir.
Hier. Wherefore? why, thou scornful villain? How, where, or by what means should I be blest? Isa. What wouldst thou have, good fellow? Pain. Justice, madam.
Hier. O ambitious beggar, wouldst thou have that That lives not in the world?
Why, all the undelved mines cannot buy
An ounce of justice, 'tis a jewel so inestimable.
I tell thee, God hath engrossed all justice in his hands, And there is none but what comes from him.
Pain. O then, I see that God must right me for my murdered son.
Hier. How! was thy son murdered?
1 Tags of points.
THOMAS NASH, a lively satirist, who amused the town with his attacks on Gabriel Harvey and the Puritans, wrote a comedy called Summer's Last Will and Testament, which was exhibited before Queen Elizabeth in 1592. He was also concerned with Marlowe in writing the tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage. He was imprisoned for being the author of a satirical play, never printed, called the Isle of Dogs. Another piece of Nash's, entitled the Supplication of Pierce Penniless to the Devil, was printed in 1592, which was followed next year by Christ's Tears over Jerusalem. Nash was a native of Lowestoft, in Suffolk, and was born about the year 1564; he was of St John's College, Cambridge. He died about the year 1600, after a 'life spent,' he says, 'in fantastical satirism, in whose veins heretofore I misspent my spirit, and prodigally conspired against good hours.' He was the Churchill of his day, and was much famed for his satires. One of his contemporaries remarks of him, in a happy couplet :
His style was witty, though he had some gall; Something he might have mended, so may all. Return from Parnassus.
The versification of Nash is hard and monotonous. The following is from his comedy of Summer's Last Will and Testament, and is a favourable specimen of his blank verse: great part of the play is in prose:
I never loved ambitiously to climb,
Or thrust my hand too far into the fire.
In Pierce Penniless, Nash draws a harrowing picture of the despair of a poor scholar :
Ah, worthless wit! to train me to this woe:
Ill thrive the folly that bewitched me so !
On this subject, Nash was always fluent. He was an author by profession-careless, jovial, and dissipated-alternating between riotous excess and abject misery. His ready and pungent pen was at the service of any patron or cause that would pay, but he was generally in want. In his Pierce Penniless, he thus paints his situation in 1592: Having spent many years in studying how to live, and lived a long time without money; having tired my youth with folly, and surfeited my mind with vanity, I began at length to look back to repentance, and addressed my endeavours to prosperity; but all in vain. I sat up late and rose early, contended with the cold and conversed with scarcity; for all my labours turned to loss: my vulgar muse was despised and neglected; my pains not regarded, or slightly rewarded; and I myself in prime of my best wit, laid open to poverty.'
The condition of the times Nash describes as lamentable. Men of art,' he says, 'must seek alms of cormorants, and those that deserve best, to be kept under by dunces, who count it a policy to keep them bare, because they should follow their books the better.' But he is quite willing to let himself out to one of these wealthy dunces: 'Gentles, it is not your lay chronographers, that write of nothing but mayors and sheriffs, and the Dear Year and the Great Frost, that can endow your names with never-dated glory, for they want the wings of choice words to fly to heaven, which we have; they cannot sweeten a discourse, or wrest admiration from mere reading, as we can, reporting the meanest accident. Poetry is the honey of all flowers, the quintessence of all sciences, the marrow of all wits, and the very phrase of angels: how much better is it, then, to have an eloquent lawyer to plead one's case than a strutting townsman, who loseth himself in his tale, and doth nothing but make legs; so much it is better for a nobleman or gentleman to have his honour's story related and his deeds emblazoned by a poet than a citizen. . . . For my part, I do challenge no praise of learning to myself, yet have I worn a gown in the university; but this I dare presume, that if any Mæcenas bind me to him by his bounty, or extend some sound liberality to me worth the speaking of, I will do him as much honour as any poet of my beardless years shall in England. Not that I am so confident what I can do, but that I attribute so much to my thankful mind above others, which would enable me, I am persuaded, to work miracles. On the contrary side, if I be evil entreated, or sent away with a flea in mine ear, let him look that I'll rail on him soundly, not for an hour or a day while the injury is fresh in my memory, but in some elaborate polished poem, which I will leave to the world when I am dead, to be a living image to all ages of his beggarly parsimony and ignorant illiberality: and let him not, whatsoever he be, treasure the weight of my words by this book, where I write quicquid in buccam veniret, as fast as my hand can trot; but I have terms, if I be vexed, laid in steep in aquafortis and gunpowder, that shall rattle through the skies, and make an earthquake in a peasant's
The works of this formidable satirist are numerous-as, Return of the Renowned Cavaliero Pasquil of England (1589); Strange Newes of the
Intercepting Certaine Letters (1592)—another fling at Harvey; Martin's Month's Mind (1589); Pasquil's Apology (1590); The Terrors of the Night, or a Discourse of Apparitions (1594); &c. The least valuable of his productions are his attempts at the drama, but the stage offered attractions at that period which were irresistible to a needy author.
ROBERT GREENE, a more distinguished dramatist, is believed to have been born at Norwich, about the year 1560. He was a graduate of St John's College, Cambridge, 1578, but took his degree of M.A. at Clare Hall in 1583. In his work, The Repentance of Robert Greene (1592), the unfortunate dramatist confesses his early iniquities. Being at the university of Cambridge,' he says, I light among wags as lewd as myself, with whom I consumed the flower of my youth, who drew me to travel into Italy and Spain, in which places I saw and practised such villainy as is abominable to declare. Thus by their counsel I sought to furnish myself with coin, which I procured by cunning sleights from my father and my friends, and my mother pampered me so long, and secretly helped me to the oil of angels; so that being then conversant with notable braggarts, boon-companions, and ordinary spendthrifts, that practised sundry superficial studies, I became as a scion grafted into the same stock, whereby I did absolutely participate of their nature and qualities. At my return into England, I ruffled out in my silks, in the habit of Malcontent, and seemed so discontent that no place would please me to abide in, nor no vocation cause me to stay myself in; but after I had by degrees proceeded master of arts (1583), I left the university, and away to London, where-after I had continued some short time, and driven myself out of credit with sundry of my friends-I became an author of plays and a penner of lovepamphlets, so that I soon grew famous in that quality, that who, for that trade, known so ordinary about London as Robin Greene? Young yet in years, though old in wickedness, I began to resolve that there was nothing bad that was profitable; whereupon I grew so rooted in all mischief, that I had as great a delight in wickedness as sundry have in godliness, and as much felicity I took in villainy as others had in honesty.' This account is amply borne out by contemporary testimony, especially by that of Gabriel Harvey, who has painted Greene in the darkest colours. In the midst of his dissipation, however, Greene lost none of his facility for literary composition. His first performance, Mamillia, appeared in 1583; and before his death, on the 3d of September 1592, he had produced above forty plays, poems, and tales. His works were highly popular, and were eagerly bought up by all classes. The most creditable of his prose works are short tales and romances, interspersed with poetry-as Pandosto, the Triumph of Time, or the History of Dorastus and Faunia (1589); the History of Arbasto, King of Denmark; A Pair of Turtle Doves, or the Tragical History of Bellora and Fidelio; Menaphon; &c. Others relate to his own history and adventures-as Greene's Never too Late, or a Power of Experience;