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more overpoweringly effective in poetic mechanism and material conception, is less profoundly and subtly impressive. In Ford's best work we are usually conscious of a studious arrangement of emotion and expression, a steady inductive process of feeling as of thought, answering to the orderly measure of the verse. That swift and fiery glance which fashes at once from all depths to all heights of the human spirit, that intuition of an indefinable and infallible instinct which at a touch makes dark things clear and brings distant things close, is not a gift of his ; perhaps Webster alone of English poets can be said to share it in some measure with Shakespeare. Bosola and Flamineo, Vittoria Corombona and the Duchess of Malfi, even Romelio and Leonora in that disjointed and chaotic play “The Devil's Law-case,” good characters and bad alike, all have this mark upon them of their maker's swift and subtle genius ; this sudden surprise of the soul in its remoter hiding-places at its most secret work. In a few words that startle as with a blow and lighten as with a flame, the naked natural spirit is revealed, bare to the roots of life. And this power Ford also has shown here at least; witness the passionate subtlety and truth of this passage, the deepest and keenest of his writing, as when taken with the context it will assuredly appear :
“ Annabella. Be not deceived, my brother ;
Well, then :
Ann. So I have read too.
But 'twere somewhat strange
That's most certain.
So we shall. Gio. Have you heard so ?” All the horror of this wonderful scene is tempered into beauty by the grace and glow of tenderness which so suffuses it as to verify the vaunt of Giovanni
“If ever after-times should hear
Kiss me again-forgive me.” The soft and fervent colour of Ford's style, the smooth and finished measure of his verse, never fail him throughout the nobler parts of this tragedy; but here as elsewhere we sometimes find, instead of these, a certain hardness of tone peculiar to him. The ferocious nakedness of reciprocal invective in the scene where Soranzo discovers the pregnancy of Annabella has no parallel in the works of his great compeers. M. Taine has translated the opening passages of that scene in the division of his history of English literature which treats of our great dramatists. He has done full justice to the
force and audacity of Ford's realism, which indeed he seems to rate higher than the depth and pathos, the sweet and subtle imagination, of other poets, if not than the more tender and gracious passages of Ford himself. He has dwelt, it appears to me, with especial care and favour upon three men of high genius, in all of whom this quality or this defect is conspicuous, of hardness too often deepening into brutality. A better and keener estimate of Ford, of Dryden, and of Swift can hardly be found than M. Taine's. Their vigorous and positive genius has an evident attraction for his critical spirit, which enjoys and understands the tangible and definable forces of mind, handles the hard outline, relishes the rough savour of the actual side of things with which strength of intellect rather than strength of imagination has to deal. As with Swift and Dryden among their fellows, so with Ford among his, the first great quality that strikes a student is the force of grasp, the precision of design, the positive and resolute touch with which all things are set down. A dramatic poet of Ford's high quality cannot of course be wanting in beauty and tenderness, in delicacy and elevation, unknown to men whose mightiest gift was that of noble satire, though the genius so applied were as deep and wide and keen, the spirit so put to service as swift and strong and splendid, as that of the two great men just mentioned. Not only the lovely lines above cited, but the very names of Calantha and Penthea, bear witness at once in our memory to the grace and charm of their poet's work at its best. The excess of tragic effect in his scenes, his delight in “fierce extremes” and volcanic eruptions of character and event, have in the eyes of some critics obscured the milder side of his genius. They are not without excuse. No one who has studied Ford throughout with the care he demands and deserves can fail to feel the want of that sweet and spontaneous fluency which belongs to the men of Shakespeare's school—that birdlike note of passionate music which vibrates in their · verse to every breath of joy or sorrow. There is something too much now and then of rule and line, something indeed of hard limitation and apparent rigidity of method. I say this merely by comparison ; set against the dramatists of any later school, he will appear as natural and instinctive a singer as any bird of the Shakespearian choir. But of pure imagination, of absolute poetry as distinguished from intellectual force and dramatic ability, no writer of his age except Massinger has less. Yet they are both poets of a high class, dramatists of all but the highest. They both impress us with a belief in their painstaking method of work, in the care and conscience with which their scenes were wrought out. Neither Ford nor Massinger could have ventured to indulge in the slippery style and shambling license which we pardon in Decker for the sake of his lyric note and the childlike delicacy of his pathos, his tenderness of colour and his passionate fancy ; nor could they have dared the risk of letting their plays drift loose and shift for themselves at large, making the best that might be made of such rough and unhewn plots as Cyril Tourneur's, Middleton's, or Chapman's sustained and quickened by the unquenchable and burning fire, the bitter ardour and angry beauty of Tourneur's verse, the grace and force of Middleton's fluent and
exuberant invention, the weight of thought and grave resonance of Chapman's gnomic lines. They could not afford to let their work run wild ; they were bound not to write after the erratic fashion of their time. All the work of Massinger, all the serious work of Ford, is the work of an artist who respects alike himself, his art, and the reader or spectator who may come to study it. There is scarcely another dramatic poet of their time for whom as much can be said. On the other hand, there is scarcely another dramatic poet of their time who had not more than they had of those “raptures” which “were all air and fire,” of “that fine madness which rightly should possess a poet's brain.” The just and noble eulogy of Drayton, though appropriate above all to the father of English tragedy, is applicable also more or less to the successors of Marlowe, as well as to the master of the "mighty line " himself. To Ford it is less appropriate ; to Massinger it is not applicable at all. This is said out of no disrespect or ingratitude to that admirable dramatist, whose graver and lighter studies are alike full of interest and liberal of enjoyment; but the highest touch of imagination, the supreme rapture and passion of poetry, he has not felt, and therefore he cannot make us feel.
The story of Giovanni and Annabella was probably based either on fact or tradition; it may perhaps yet be unearthed in some Italian collection of tales after the manner of Cinthio and Bandello (with the tale of incest in Rosset's “Histoires Tragiques” it has little in common); but in spite of Ford's own assertion I am inclined to conjecture that the story sculptured with such noble skill and care in the scenes of "The Broken