Imagens das páginas

Ah what a life were this ! how sweet, how lovely!
Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade
To shepherds looking on their silly sheep
Than doth a rich-embroidered canopy
To kings that fear their subjects' treachery?
And, to conclude, the shepherd's homely curds,
His cold, thin drink out of his leather bottle,
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade-
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys-
Is far beyond a prince's delicates,
His viands sparkling in a golden cup,
His body couched in a curious bed,

care, mistrust and treason wait on him. And another far more strenuous king, worn out with labour and ceremony, thus apostrophizes sleep:

O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down And steep my senses in forgetfulness? Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, And hushed with buzzing nightflies to thy slumber, Than in the perfumed chambers of the great Under the canopies of costly state, And lulled with sounds of sweetest melody? Wilt thou, upon the high and giddy mast, Seal up the shipboy's eyes, and rock his brains

In cradle of the rude, imperious surge,
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads and hanging them
With deafening clamour in the slippery clouds,
That, with the hurly, death itself awakes ?
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude
And, in the calmest and most stillest night,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low-lie-down,
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

The knightliest figure in Shakspeare is a deposed king. Richard the Second is the prey of favourites, wastes his substance and neglects his duties, till a rival, the shrewd and splendid Bolingbroke, profiting by his neglect, thrusts him from his seat. But, in the hour of humiliation, all the king awakens in Richard—not, indeed, the royal courage to reassert his claims, but the full sense of the dignity which he has lost, of the opportunities which he has thrown away, and of the God whom he has offended. He bends patiently beneath his heavy fate, as the storm of misfortune breaks over him; yet, as he goes to his doom, it is with steps more kingly than he has ever walked with before; and none of Shakspeare's kings in their glory affect us as does this one, when, almost mad with grief, he cries :

For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings-
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed,
All murdered. For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh, which walls-about our life,
Were brass impregnable; and, humoured thus,
Comes at the last and, with a little pin,
Bores through his castle-wall; and farewell king!
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence; throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty;
For you have but mistook me all this while;
I live with bread like you, feel want, taste grief,
Need friends. Subjected thus,

How can you say to me, I am a king ?
Yet it may be questioned whether there was in
Richard the will to repent.

WAR.-In the period to which Shakspeare's Histories relate England was incessantly at war. There were the wars with the French, sometimes on foreign soil and sometimes on the soil of England. Then there followed the Civil Wars, when the claims of the rival roses were being determined. Wherever war is taking place, it must move every section of society; and it was especially the absorbing interest of the classes with which Shakspeare chiefly concerned himself—the kings and the nobles. It was their trade and even their pastime; for the chief public entertainment was the mimic war of the tournament. Accordingly the pages of these Histories are crowded with war in all its phases. On the eve of an outbreak we hear the country ringing with the hammers of armourers and see the young men selling their all to buy a sword and a horse. Then, amidst sounds confused, the levies are shipped at the seaport; and now

behold the threaden sails, Borne with the invisible and creeping wind, Draw the huge bottoms through the furrowed sea, Breasting the lofty surge. Oh do but think You stand upon the rivage, and behold A city on the inconstant billows dancing, For so appears this fleet majestical.

Then we see some French town approached from opposite sides by the contending armies, while the citizens tremble and their magistrates come out on the walls to carry on the difficult negotiations. Perhaps the flags of war are folded up, the dispute being settled by a contract of marriage between two young people of the contending countries, whereon ensues the stately ceremonial of the wedding. Or, if the valour of the troops is put to the proof, then at last the English are carried back again to the shores of Albion, where the inhabitants await them on the white cliffs ; and the conqueror passes on, to enter London in triumph. Shakspeare is very great in the description of pageants; and never does his verse move with a lighter measure than when he is picturing the crowds, the flags and the cheering for a victory.

But, while he unfolds all the splendour of his genius in depicting the glorious side of war, he is not forgetful of the other side of the lives sacrificed, of the weeping mothers and widows, of the fields torn up and the country harried. Along with brave men there went to the French wars all the tag-rag-andbobtail of the country; and multitudes, dishabituated to honest labour in the wars, became, when they returned home, the pests of the country. This class is depicted in Falstaff and his companions—the cowardly braggadocio Pistol, the fiery-faced Bardolph, the pot-valorous Nym and the rest.

As the type of those soldiering days we may take Harry Hotspur. This valiant dog-of-war never can get enough of fighting and marches to battle as gaily

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