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O! when I think of the inexhaustible mine of virgin treasure in our Shakspeare, that I have been almost daily reading him since I was ten years old, -that the thirty intervening years have been unintermittingly and not fruitlessly employed in the study of the Greek, Latin, English, Italian, Spanish and German belle lettrists, and the last fifteen years in addition, far more intensely in the analysis of the laws of life and reason as they exist in man, -and that upon every step I have made forward in taste, in acquisition of facts from history or my own observation, and in knowledge of the different laws of being and their apparent exceptions, from accidental collision of disturbing forces,—that at every new accession of information, after every
successful exercise of meditation, and every fresh presentation of experience, I have unfailingly discovered a proportionate increase of wisdom and intuition in Shakspeare;—when I know this, and know too, that by a conceivable and possible, though hardly to be expected, arrangement of the British theatres, not all, indeed, but a large, a very large, proportion of this indefinite all-round which no comprehension has yet drawn the line of circumscription, so as to say to itself, • I have seen the whole')-might be sent into the heads and hearts – into the very souls of the mass of mankind, to whom, except by this living comment and interpretation, it must remain for ever a sealed volume, a deep well without a wheel or a wivdlass ;—it seems to me a pardonable enthusiasm
et to steal away from sober likelihood, and share in so rich a feast in the faery world of possibility! Yet
Shake even in the grave cheerfulness of a circumspect hope, much, very much, might be done; enough, assuredly, to furnish a kind and strenuous nature with ample motives for the attempt to effect what Sie may be effected.
SHAKSPEARE, A POET GENERALLY.
LOTHED in radiant armour, and authorized
speare came forward to demand the throne of fanie, as the dramatic poet of England. His excellences compelled even his contemporaries to seat him on that throne, although there were giants in those days contending for the same honour. Hereafter I would fain endeavour to make out the title of the English drama as created by, and existing in, Shakspeare, and its right to the
of dramatic excellence in general. But he had shown himsel a poet, previously to his appearance as a dramatic poet; and had no Lear, no Othello, no Henry IV,, no Twelfth Night ever appeared, we must have admitted that Shakspeare possessed the chief, if not every, requisite of a poet,--deep feeling and exquisite sense of beauty, both as exhibited to the
in the combinations of form, and to the ear in sweet and appropriate melody; that these feelings were under the command of his own will; that in his
very first productions he projected his mind
out of his own particular being, and felt, and made others feel, on subjects no way connected with himself, except by force of contemplation and that sublime faculty by which a great mind becomes that, on which it meditates. To this must be added that affectionate love of nature and natural objects, without which no man could have observed so steadily, or painted so truly and passionately, the very minutest beauties of the external world :
And when thou hast on foot the purblind bare,
Sometimes he runs among the flock of sheep,
For there his smell with others' being mingled,
By this poor Wat far off, opon a hill,
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear,
Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
Venus and Adonis.
But lo! from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud, &c. is much more admirable, but in parts less fitted for quotation.
Moreover Shakspeare had shown that he possessed fancy, considered as the faculty of bringing together images dissimilar in the main by some one point or more of likeness, as in such a passage as this :
Full gently now she takes him by the band,
So white a friend ingirts so white a foe! 16.
in Lear, where the deep anguish of a father spreads the feeling of ingratitude and cruelty over the very elements of heaven ;-and which, combining many circumstances into one moment of consciousness, tends to produce that ultimate end of all human thought and human feeling, unity, and thereby the reduction of the spirit to its principle and fountain, who is alone truly one.
Various are the workings of this the greatest faculty of the human mind, both passionate and tranquil. In its tranquil and purely pleasurable operation, it acts chiefly by creating out of many things, as they would have appeared in the description of an ordinary mind, detailed in unimpassioned succession, a oneness, even as nature, the greatest of poets, acts upon us, when we open our eyes upon an extended prospect. Thus the flight of Adonis in the dusk of the evening :
Look! how a bright star shooteth from the sky;
So glides he in the night from Venus' eye! How many images and feelings are here brought together without effort and without discord, in the beauty of Adonis, the rapidity of his flight, the yearning, yet hopelessness, of the enamored gazer, while a shadowy ideal character is thrown over the whole! Or this power acts by impressing the stamp of humanity, and of human feelings, on inanimate or mere natural objects :
Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,