Page images
PDF
EPUB

A single name-but in itself a Host!

Great Shakespeare! the World's wonder, Albion's

boast!

I am aware that Shakespeare is not duly appreciated, on the continent. But I call him the wonder of the World, in the spirit of Prophecy! "Tu Marcellus eris." If we might be allowed to hope the realization of the splendid theory of Bishop Wilkins, concerning A Universal Language, there are circumstances on which to ground the presumption, that such aLanguage would be the English. The unquestioned preeminence of our writers, on every subject, a truth admitted by the best informed, even of the French, has already made the English tongue the language of the literary world. Our naval superiority, so decided and brilliant, hath made it the language of Commerce, and wafted, it as it were upon the wings of the wind, to every region under heaven. Peculiar dispensations of Providence, have fixed it on a rock, and conferred upon it a vigorous and youthful revivescence, by allotting it a rising and extensive Empire, in the most flourishing provinces of the Western Hemisphere. I anticipate the time when the genius of North America shall penetrate the Isthmus of Darien ; when by the powerful ascendancy of her arts and her arms, she shall subjugate unto herself the whole of the Southern Peninsula, and make the British language the vernacular tongue of the Transatlantic World. In short, if we reflect on the present situation of the habitable parts of the Globe, if we consider what nation it is that hath peopled New Holland; who it is that holds the keys of the Eastern and Western Indies; and hath swept the flag of France from the Ocean; we shall acquire fresh evidence for the probability of that glorious event, the universal extension of the English Tongue!

Mirror of Universal Nature !-She

More lovely seems; reflected back by thee!
Their Skies two Muses quitted at thy birth,
Skies dear no more-their Shakspeare was on
Earth!

Both claimed thy heart, their sole peculiar care,
And both were grieved, to find the other there;
Two Rival Queens, whose mutual jealousy
Exceeded all things-but their love of thee.
Thalia woos in Rosalind, but fears
Ophelia's beauty, heightened by her tears!
That thou mayst cease to doubt, and they to pine,
By Universal Suffrage-Both are thine!

All that thou hast attempted, All approve! Delighted still, shouldst thou conduct, we rove Where clangs the trump of war, or breathes the lute of love!

i.

Hear frenzied Richard sleep invoke, in vain,
Or see brave Harry mourn o'er Hotspur slain;
Yet hail with smiles, though rages yet the fight,
The resurrection of the merry Knight!
Consistent still, destruction of her prey
He cheats, and lives to laugh another * day;

* In the Merry Wives of Windsor. It is well known that this play was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth, who expressed an ardent desire to see Falstaff in love. Our immortal Bard has contrived to gratify the wish of his Royal Mistress, without sacrificing the consistency of Falstaff's character.

M m

All own the wit that could their Prince enthral, And mixed emotions mark the curtain's fall.

O wondrous grasp of mind, at once t' embrace With strength of Eschylus, Menander's grace; With Otway's tragic pathos, to combine All Congreve's wit, and Jonson's force divine! Thus, the same gale that bids the jocund wave In dalliance blithe, the Bark's deep bosom lave, And fans, at ease reclined, the cabin-boy, And fills the hoary helmsman's heart with joy, Now-Damon of the Storm, its fury guides, And armed with thunder o'er th' Atlantic rides ; Yon low'ring cloud his ebon chariot makes, And billows for his foaming coursers takes ; Then, wide, o'erwhelming havoc spreads around, Till not the ruin of a wreck be found! Till sink th' unconquered. Brave and Britain weeps! Ah then, too late, the fell Destroyer sleeps!

Shakspeare knew, although Elizabeth did not, that love was a passion too refined for Falstaff to entertain. He therefore very properly exhibits the Knight, as the dupe of a mercenary and sensual appetite; such an appetite being the nearest approximation to love, compatible with so gross a mind.

* I allude to the loss of the St. George, the Defence, and the Hero. It is some cousolation, to have it now ascertained, that this melancholy event must be attributed to causes, which no human foresight could prevent, and no human exertions

overcome.

From that sad scene of real woes, I turn
To fling a fading wreath o'er Shakspeare's urn;
Toil fond, as vain, the pleasure of the task
The sole reward my gratitude shall ask.

To roses fragrance, freshness to the spring,
Flowrets to summer, fruits to autumn bring,
Rays to the sun, stars to the galaxy
Present- or plaudits, Heir of Fame, to thee!
Fame-that our tributary streams of praise
No more augment-than rivers ocean raise.

Thou know'st to please all ranks, and every age,
The young, the old, the peasant and the sage ;
While these are charmed, nor least who ask not why,
No Critic smiles-He must his rules apply;
Must strive great Nature's workings to conceal,
Till Aristotle gives him-leave to feel.

Thy vast o'erwhelming theme so fills the mind, No room for him that formed it, can we find; Dazzled by rays that from thy genius dart, We lose at once the Poet, and his art;*

*

[ocr errors]

2

* With the single exception of Homer, no Poet so com pletely veils himself and his art behind his characters, as Shakspeare. In poetry, as in oratory, the "ars celare artem" is a high proof of talent. It was a nobler eulogium on Demos, thenes, when the Athenians left him, breathing this unanimous sentiment, "Let us go and fight against Philip," than if they had expressed themselves, as the mob of Rome did on Cicero, "What a fine Speech our Orator has made.” And we in like manner forget Shakespeare, while we tremble with Macbeth,

Thy rich creation, not its cause, we see,
Forced to forget alike ourselves and Thee!
Magician! that canst work the firmest spell,
And ALL enchant-thyself invisible !

Midst all the works of God, to nothing blind,
Save the vast force of thy transcendent mind,
Hopeless, as negligent* of future fame,
A breath of present praise thine only aim,

[ocr errors]

or weep with Othello, or sympathize with Hamlet; and when most affected by the Passions he has excited, we think least of the Poet who has awakened them.

Many circumstances seem to indicate that Shakspeare was singularly unambitious of future fame. On his learning, much has been said. A decent knowledge of Latin may be perhaps allowed him, although as translations were even then not uncommon, and as Shakspeare was a great devourer of books, he might from that source have acquired much infor mation. His Cæsar bespeaks no mean acquaintance with the manners and customs of the antient Romans.

"Nec licuit populis te parvam Nile videre"

is a line which has been applied with singular felicity to Grey; whose first productions were great. "Dum tener in cunis jam Jove dignus erat." The reverse of this may be said of Shakspeare, as unfortunately tradition has preserved a first attempt of his. It is a fragment of a Satire on Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, from whose Park he had carried off some deer. The fragment begins thus, but it is too miserable to quote at length;

ta

"A parliament Member, a Justice of Peace,

22

At home a poor scare-crow, at London an Ass." These are the first lines, and the best!

« PreviousContinue »