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In exile; ye who through the embattled field
Seek bright renown; or who for nobler palms
Contend, the leaders of a public cause;
Approach: behold this marble. Know ye not
The features? Hath not oft his faithful tongue
Told you the fashion of your own estate,
The secrets of your bosom? Here then, round
His monument with reverence while ye stand,
Say to each other: "This was Shakspeare's form;
"Who walk'd in every path of human life,
"Felt every passion; and to all mankind
"Doth now, will ever, that experience yield
"Which his own genius only could acquire." AKENSIDE.
when lightning fires
The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground,
When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,
And ocean, groaning from his lowest bed,
Heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky;
Amid the mighty uproar, while below
The nations tremble, Shakspeare looks abroad
From some high cliff, superior, and enjoys
'The elemental war.
From the Remonstrance of Shakspeare.
Supposed to have been spoken at the Theatre-Royal, when the French Comedians were acting by subscription.
What though the footsteps of my devious muse
The measur'd walks of Grecian art refuse?
Or though the frankness of my hardy style
Mock the nice touches of the critick's file?
Yet what my age and climate held to view
Impartial I survey'd, and fearless drew.
And say, ye skilful in the human heart,
Who know to prize a poet's noblest part,
What age, what clime, could e'er an ampler field
For lofty thought, for daring fancy yield?
I saw this England break the shameful bands,
Forg'd for the souls of men by sacred hands;
I saw each groaning realm her aid implore;
Her sons the heroes of each warlike shore;
Her naval standard, (the dire Spaniard's bane,)
Obey'd through all the circuit of the main.
Then too great commerce, for a late-found world,
Around your coast her eager sails unfurl'd:
New hopes new passions thence the bosom fir'd;
New plans, new arts, the genius thence inspir'd;
Thence every scene which private fortune knows
In stronger life, with bolder spirit, rose.
Disgrac'd I this full prospect which I drew?
My colours languid, or my strokes untrue?
Have not your sages, warriors, swains, and kings,
Confess'd the living draught of men and things?
What other bard in any clime appears,
Alike the master of your smiles and tears?
Yet have I deign'd your audience to entice
With wretched bribes to luxury and vice?
Or have my various scenes a purpose known,
Which freedom, virtue, glory, might not own?
When learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes
First rear'd the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose;
Each change of many-colour'd life he drew,
Exhausted worlds, and then imagin'd new:
Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting Time toil'd after him in vain:
His pow'rfull strokes presiding truth impress'd,
And unresisted passion storm'd the breast.
Upon Shakspeare's Monument at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Great Homer's birth seven rival cities claim;
Too mighty such monopoly of fame.
Yet not to birth alone did Homer owe
His wond'rous worth; what Egypt could bestow,
With all the schools of Greece and Asia join'd,
Enlarg'd the immense expansion of his mind:
Nor yet unrival'd the Mæonian strain;
The British Eagle* and the Mantuan Swan
Tow'r equal heights. But, happier Stratford, thou
With incontested laurels deck thy brow;
Thy bard was thine unschool'd, and from thee brought
More than all Egypt, Greece, or Asia taught;
Not Homer's self such matchless laurels won;
The Greek has rivals, but thy Shakspeare none.
Hard was the lot those injur'd strains endur'd,
Unown'd by science, and by years obscur'd:
Fair fancy wept; and echoing sighs confess'd
A fixt despair in every tuneful breast.
From Epistle to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of Shakspeare's Works.
Not with more grief the afflicted swains appear,
When wintry winds deform the plenteous year;
When lingering frosts the ruin'd seats invade
Where Peace resorted, and the Graces play'd.
Each rising art, by just gradation moves,
Toil builds on toil, and age on age improves :
The muse alone unequal dealt her rage,
And grac'd with noblest pomp her earliest stage.
Preserv'd through time, the speaking scenes impart
Each changeful wish of Phædra's tortur'd heart;
Or paint the curse, that mark'd the Theban's* reign,
A bed incestuous, and a father slain.
With kind concern our pitying eyes o'erflow,
Trace the sad tale, and own another's woe.
To Rome remov'd, with wit secure to please,
The comick sisters kept their native ease.
With jealous fear declining Greece beheld
Her own Menander's art almost excell'd:
But every muse essay'd to raise in vain
Some labour'd rival of her tragick strain;
Illyssus' laurels, though transferr'd with toil,
Droop'd their fair leaves, nor knew th' unfriendly soil.
As arts expir'd, resistless Dullness rose;
Goths, priests, or Vandals,—all were learning's foes.
Till Juliust first recall'd each exil'd maid,
And Cosmo own'd them in the Etrurian shade:
Then deeply skill'd in love's engaging theme,
The soft Provencial pass'd to Arno's stream:
With graceful ease the wanton lyre he strung;
Sweet flow'd the lays,-but love was all he sung.
The gay description could not fail to move;
For, led by nature, all are friends to love.
But heaven, still various in its works, decreed
The perfect boast of time should last succeed.
The beauteous union must appear at length,
Of Tuscan fancy, and Athenian strength:
One greater muse Eliza's reign adorn,
And even a Shakspeare to her fame be born.
Yet ah! so bright her morning's opening ray,
In vain our Britain hop'd an equal day.
No second growth the western isle could bear,
At once exhausted with too rich a year.
Too nicely Jonson knew the critick's part;
Nature in him was almost lost in art.
Of softer mold the gentle Fletcher came,
The next in order, as the next in name.
*The Oedipus of Sophocles.
Julius II, the immediate predecessor of Leo X.
With pleas'd attention 'midst his scenes we find
Each glowing thought, that warms the female mind;
Each melting sigh, and every tender tear,
The lover's wishes, and the virgin's fear.
His every strain the Smiles and Graces own;*
But stronger Shakspeare felt for man alone:
Drawn by his pen, our ruder passions stand
Th' unrivall'd picture of his early hand.
With gradual steps,† and slow, exacter France
Saw Art's fair empire o'er her shores advance:
By length of toil a bright perfection knew,
Correctly bold, and just in all she drew:
Till late Corneille, with Lucan's‡ spirit fir'd,
Breath'd the free strain, as Rome and He inspir'd;
And classick judgment gain'd to sweet Racine
The temperate strength of Maro's chaster line.
But wilder far the British laurel spread,
And wreaths less artful crown our poet's head.
Yet He alone to every scene could give
The historian's truth, and bid the manners live.
Wak'd at his call I view, with glad surprize,
Majestick forms of mighty monarchs rise.
There Henry's trumpets spread their loud alarms,
And laurell'd Conquest waits her hero's arms.
Here gentler Edward claims a pitying sigh,
Scarce born to honours, and so soon to die!
Yet shall thy throne, unhappy infant, bring
No beam of comfort to the guilty king:
The time shall come,§ when Gloster's heart shall bleed
In life's last hours, with horror of the deed:
When dreary visions shall at last present
Thy vengeful image in the midnight tent:
Thy hand unseen the secret death shall bear,
Blunt the weak sword, and break the oppressive spear.
Where'er we turn, by fancy charm'd, we find
Some sweet illusion of the cheated mind.
Oft, wild of wing, she calls the soul to rove
With humbler nature, in the rural grove;
* Their characters are thus distinguished by Mr. Dryden.
† About the time of Shakspeare, the poet Hardy was in great repute in France. He wrote, according to Fontenelle, six hundred plays. The French poets after him applied themselves in general to the correct improvement of the stage, which was almost totally disregarded by those of our own country, Jonson excepted.
The favourite author of the elder Corneille.
Turno tempus erit, magno cùm optaverit emptum
Intactum Pallanta, &c.
Where swains contented own the quiet scene,
And twilight fairies tread the circled green:
Dress'd by her Irand, the woods and vallies smile,
And Spring diffusive decks the inchanted isle.
O more than all in powerful genius blest,
Come, take thine empire o'er the willing breast!
Whate'er the wounds this youthful heart shall feel,
Thy songs support me, and thy morals heal.
There every thought the poet's warmth may raise,
There native musick dwells in all the lays.
O might some verse with happiest skill persuade
Expressive Picture to adopt thine aid!
What wondrous draughts might rise from every page!
What other Raphaels charm a distant age!
Methinks even now I view some free design,
Where breathing Nature lives in every line:
Chaste and subdued the modest lights decay,
Steal into shades, and mildly melt away.
-And see, where Antony,* in tears approv'd,
Guards the pale relicts of the chief he lov'd:
O'er the cold corse the warrior seems to bend,
Deep sunk in grief, and mourns his murder'd friend!
Still as they press, he calls on all around,
Lifts the torn robe, and points the bleeding wound.
But who is he,† whose brows exalted bear
A wrath impatient, and a fiercer air?
Awake to all that injur'd worth can feel,
On his own Rome he turns the avenging steel.
Yet shall not war's insatiate fury fall
(So heaven ordains it) on the destin❜d wall.
See the fond mother, 'midst the plaintive train,
Hung on his knees, and prostrate on the plain!
Touch'd to the soul, in vain he strives to hide
The son's affection in the Roman's pride:
O'er all the man conflicting passions rise,
Rage grasps the sword, while Pity melts the eyes.
Methinks I see with Fancy's majick eye,
The shade of Shakspeare, in yon azure sky.
On yon high cloud behold the bard advance,
Piercing all nature with a single glance:
In various attitudes around him stand
The Passions, waiting for his dread command.
First kneeling Love before his feet appears,
And musically sighing melts in tears.
* See the tragedy of Julius Cæsar.
Coriolanus. See Mr. Spence's dialogue on the Odyssey,