Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

poet's desigu, as here explained) with infinite sait, replies:

...O! that a mighty man of such descent,

„Of such possessions, and so high esteem,

..Should be infused with so foul a spirit!" „And again, afterwards:

..Oh! noble Lord , bethink thee of thy birth,
..Call home thy ancient thoughts from banish.

ment; And banish hence these lowly abject themes." For, what is the recollection of this high descent and large possessions to do for him ? And, for the introduction of what better thoughts and nobler purposes, are these lowly abject themes to be discarded? Why the whole inventory of Patrician pleasures is called over; and he hath his choice of whichsoever of them suits best with his lordship's improved palate. A long train of 'servants ready at his beck: musick, such as twenty caged nightingales do sing: couches, soster and sweeter than the lustful bed of Semiramis: burning odours, and distilled waters: floors bestrewed with carpets: the diversions of hawks, hounds, and horses: in short, all the objecis of exquisite indulgence are presented to him.

„But among these, one species of refined enjoy. ment, which requires a taste, above the coarse bred. ing of abject commonalty, is chiefly insisted on. We had a hint, of what we were to expect, before:

„Carry him gently to my fairest chamber,
„And hang it round with all my wanton

pictures." Sc. ii. And what lord, in the luxury of his wishes, could feign to himself a more delicious collection, thau is here dclineated ?

Tanz

,2 Man. Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch

thee straight Adonis painted by a running brook; And Cytherea all in sedges hid: ,Which seem to move and wanton with her

breath, Even as the waving sedges play with wind. Lord. We'll shew thee Io, as she was a maid;

And how she was beguiled and surprised,

As lively painted, as the deed was done. .3 Man. Or Daphne, roaming through a thorny

wood; Scratching her legs, that one should swear

she bleeds: .So work manly the blood and tears are drawn.' These pictures , it will be owned, are, all of them, well chosen. But the servants were not so deep in the secret, as their master. They dwell entirely on circumstantials. While his lordship, who had, pro. bably, been trained in the chast school of Titian, is for coming to the point more directly. There is a fine ridicule implied in this.

„After these incentives of picture, the charms of beauty itself are presented, as the crowning pri. vilege of his high 'station :

Thou hast a lady far more beautiful

Than any woman in this waning age.' Here indeed the poet plainly forgets himself.

The state, if not the enjoyment, of nobility, surely demanded a mistress, instead of a wife. All that can be said in excuse of this indecorum, is, that he perhaps conceived, a simple beggar, all unused to the refinements of high life, would be too much shocked, at setting out, with a proposal, so remote from all his former practices. Be it, as it will, beauty cven in a wife, had such an effect on this

Vol. VI.

17

mock Lord, that, quite melted and overcome by
it, he yieids himself at last to the inchanting de
ception:

I see, I hear, I speak;
I smell swect savours, and I feel softihings:-

Upon my life, I am a Lord indeed.
The satyr is so strongly marked in this last line,
that one can no longer doubt of the writer's inten.
tion. If any should, let me further remind him
that the poet, in this fiction, but makes his Lord
play the same game, in jest, as the Sicilian iyrant
acted, long ago, very seriously. The two cases
are so similar, that some readers may, perhaps,
suspect the poet of having taken the whole conceit
from Tully, His description of this instructive
scenery is given in the following words:

„Visne (inquit Dionysius ) Ô Damocle, quoniam te haec vita delectat, ipse eandem degustare et fortunam experiri meam ? Cum se ille cupere dixisset, conlocari ju-sit hominem in aurco lecto, strato pulcherrimo, textili stragulo magnificis operi. bus picto: abacosque complures ornavit argento auroque caelato: hinc ad mensam eximia forma pueros delectos jussit consistere, eosqne nutum illius intuentes diligenter ministrare: aderant un. guenta, coronae: incendebantur odores: mensae conquisitissimis epulis extruebuntur," (Tusc. Dispy Lib. V. 21.)

It follows, that Damocles fell into the sweet delusion of Christophero Sly.

Fortunatus sibi Damocles videbatur.' „The event in these two dramas was, indeed, different. For the philosopher took care to make the flatterer sensible of his mistake; while the poet did not think fit to disabuse the beggar. But this was according to the desigu of each. For, the

:

1

former would show the misery of regal luxury; the latter its vanity. The tyrant, therefore, is painted wretched. And his Lordship only a beggar in disguise.

..To couclude with our poet. The strong ridi. cule and decorum of this Induction makes it appear, how impossible it was for Shakspeare, in his idlest hours, perhaps, when he was only revising the trash of others, not to leave some strokes of the master behind him. But the morality of its purpose should chiefly recommend it to us. For the whole was writ. ten with the best design of exposing that moustrous Epicurean position, that the true enjoyment of life consists in a delirium of sensual pleasure. And this, in a way tht most likely to work upon the great, by showing their pride, that it was fit only to constitute the summum bonum of one No better than a poor and loathsome beggar.'

Sc. iii. „Nor let the poet be thought to have dealt too freely with his betters, in giving this representation of nobility. He had the highest authority for what he did. For the great master of life himself gave no other of Divinity.

. Ipse pater veri Doctus Epicurus in arte ,,Jussit et hanc vitam dixit habere Deos."

Petron. c. 132. STEEVENS. The circumstance on which the Inductiou to the anonymous play, as well as that to the present comedy, is founded, is related (as Langbaine has observed ) by Heuterus, Rerum Burgund. Lib. IV. The earliest English original of this story in prose that I have met with, is the following, which is found in Goulart's ADMIRABLE AND MEMORABLE HISTORIES, translated by E. Grimstone, quarto, 1607; but this tale (which Goulart translated from Here terus) had undoubtedly appeared in English, in some other shape, before 1591:

..PHILIP called the good Duke of Bourgundy, in the memory of our ancestors, being at Bruxells with his Court, and walking one night after supper through the strečts, accompanied with some of his favoriis, he found lying upon the stones a cer. taine artisan that was very dronke, and that slept soundly. It pleased the Prince in this artisan to make trial of the vanity of our life, whereof he had be. fore discoursed with his familiar friends. He there. fore caused this sleeper to be taken up, and carried into his palace: he commands him to be layed in one of his richest beds; a riche night-cap 10 be given him; his foule shirt to be taken off, and to have another put on him of fine Holland. When as this dronkard had digested his wine, and began to awake, behold there comes about his bed Pages and Groom. es of the Dukes chamber, who drawe the curteines, and make many courtesies, and, being bare-headed, aske him if it please him to rise, and what apparell it would please him to put on that day. Thes bring him rich apparell. The new Monsieur amazed at such courtesie, and doubting whether he dreampt or waked, suffered himself to be drest, and led out of the chamber. There came noblemen which saluted him with all honour, and conduct him to the Masse, where with great ceremonie they gave him the booke of the Gospell, and the Pixe to kisse, as they did usually to the Duke. From the Masse, they bring him backe into the pallace; he washes his hands, and sittes downe at the table well furnished. After dinner, the great Chamberlaine commandes cardes to be brought, with a greatè summe of money. This Duke in imagination playes with the chiefe of the court. Then they carry him to walke in the

« PredošláPokračovať »