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THE present edition of the Poems of Shakspere comprises the VENUS AND ADONIS, THE RAPE OF LUCRECE, THE PASSIONATE PILGRIM, THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT, and the SONNETS. The Songs from the Plays of Shakspere are necessarily excluded from this edition, it being sufficient for the reader to make a reference to the Dramas to which they respectively belong.
“ Ix the first heir of my invention prove deformer), I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather.” These are the words which, in relation to the “Venus and Adonis,' Shakspere addressed, in 1593, to the Earl of Southampton. Are we to accept them literally? Was the Venus and Adonis ’ the first production of Shakspere's imagination? Or did he put out of his view those dramatic performances which he had then unquestionably produced, in deference to the critical opinions which regarded plays as works not belonging to “ invention"? We think that he used the words in a literal
We regard the Venus and Adonis 'as the production of a very young man, improved, perhaps, considerably in the interval between its first composition and its publication, but distinguished by peculiarities which belong to the wild luxuriance of youthful power, -such power, however, as few besides Shakspere have ever possessed.
A deep thinker and eloquent writer, Julius Charles Hare, thus describes “ the spirit of self-sacrifice,” as applied to poetry :
“The might of the imagination is manifested by its launching forth from the petty creek, where the accidents of birth moored it, into the wide ocean of beingby its going abroad into the world around, passing into whatever it meets with, animating it, and becoming one with it. This complete union and identification of the poet with his poem,—this suppression of his own individual insulated consciousness, with its narrowness of thought and pettiness of feeling,-is what we admire in the great masters of that which for this reason we justly call classical as representing that which is symbolical and universal, not that which is merely occasional and peculiar. This gives them that majestic calmness which still breathes upon us from the statues of their gods. This invests their works with that lucid transparent atmosphere wherein every form stands out in perfect definiteness and distinctness, only beautified by the distance which idealizes it. This has delivered those works from the casualties of time and space, and has lifted them up like stars into the pure firmament of thought, so that they do not shine on one spot alone, nor fade like earthly flowers, but journey on from clime to clime, shedding the light of beauty on generation after generation. The same quality, amounting to a total extinction of his own selfish being, so that his spirit became a mighty organ through which Nature gave utterance to the full diapason of her notes, is what we wonder at in our own great dramatist, and is the groundwork of all his other powers : for it is only when purged of selfishness that the intellect becomes fitted for receiving the inspirations of genius.**