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With the exception of Perkin Warbeck,' his dramas are destitute of outlook. This moral contraction heightens the intensity of passion, which in his conception of it has always its ancient significance of suffering. His comic scenes are contemptible. He is at his greatest when dealing with the subtleties of the human heart. Through him we enter into the darker zones of the soul; we apprehend its remoter sufferings. Confusion of spiritual vision, blended with the tyranny of passion, produce his greatest scenes. His are the tragedies of unfulfilled desire."
The verse of Ford is measured, passionless, polished. There is a subtle music in his lines which haunts the memory.
«Parthenophil is lost, and I would see him;
For he is like to something I remember,
A great while since, a long, long time ago.” With Ford the sun-born radiance of the noblest Elizabethan drama fades from the stage. An artificial light, thereafter, replaced it.
[Perkin Warbeck and his followers are presented to King Henry VII. by Lord Dawbeny as prisoners.]
AWBENY — Life to the King, and safety fix his throne.
I here present you, royal sir, a shadow
Of Majesty, but in effect a substance
Of pity; a young man, in nothing grown
To ripeness, but th' ambition of your mercy;
Perkin, the Christian world's strange wonder!
We observe no wonder; I behold ('tis true)
An ornament of nature, fine and polished,
A handsome youth, indeed, but not admire him.
How come he to thy hands?
At Bewley, near Southampton; registered,
With these few followers, for persons privileged.
I must not thank you, sir! you were to blame
To infringe the liberty of houses sacred;
Dare we be irreligious ?
They voluntarily resigned themselves,
So ? 'twas very well
'Twas very well. Turn now thine eyes,
Young man! upon thyself and thy past actions:
What revels in combustion through our kingdom
A frenzy of aspiring youth has danced;
Till wanting breath, thy feet of pride have slipt -
To break thy neck.
But not my heart; my heart
Will mount till every drop of blood be frozen
By death's perpetual winter. If the sun
Of Majesty be darkened, let the sun
Of life be hid from me, in an eclipse
Lasting and universal. Sir, remember
There was a shooting in of light when Richmond
(Not aiming at the crown) retired, and gladly,
For comfort to the Duke of Bretagne's court.
Richard, who swayed the sceptre, was reputed
A tyrant then; yet then, a dawning glimmer'd
To some few wand'ring remnants, promising day
When first they ventur'd on a frightful shore
At Milford Haven.
Whither speeds his boldness?
Check his rude tongue, great sir.
Oh, let him range:
The player's on the stage still; 'tis his part:
He does but act. – What followed ?
Where at an instant, to the world's amazement,
A morn to Richmond and a night to Richard
Appear'd at once. The tale is soon applied:
Fate which crowned these attempts, when least assured,
Might have befriended others, like resolved.
A pretty gallant! thus your aunt of Burgundy,
Your duchess aunt, informed her nephew: so
The lesson, prompted, and well conned, was molded
Into familiar dialogue, oft rehearsed,
Till, learnt by heart, 'tis now received for truth.
Warbeck — Truth in her pure simplicity wants art
To put a feigned blush on; scorn wears only
Such fashion as commends to gazers' eyes
Sad ulcerated novelty, far beneath; in such a court
Wisdom and gravity are proper robes
By which the sovereign is best distinguished
From zanies to his greatness.
King Henry –
Your antic pageantry, and now appear
In your own nature; or you'll taste the danger
Of fooling out of season.
No less than what severity calls justice,
And politicians safety; let such beg
As feed on alms: but if there can be mercy
In a protested enemy, then may it
Descend to these poor creatures whose engagements
To the bettering of their fortunes have incurred
A loss of all to them, if any charity
Flow from some noble orator; in death
I owe the fee of thankfulness.
What a bold knave is this!
We trifle time with follies.
Urswick, command the Dukeling and these fellows
To Digby, the Lieutenant of the Tower.
Noble thoughts Meet freedom in captivity: the Tower,
Our childhood's dreadful nursery!
King Henry —
Was ever so much impudence in forgery ?
The custom, sure, of being styled a king
Hath fastened in his thought that he is such.
PENTHEA'S DYING SONG
From The Broken Heart)
H, NO more, no more,- too late;
Sighs are spent; the burning tapers
Of a life as chaste as fate,
Pure as are unwritten papers,
Are burnt out; no heat, no light
Now remains; 'tis ever night.
Love is dead; let lovers' eyes
Locked in endless dreams,
Th' extremes of all extremes,
Ope no more, for now Love dies;
Now Love dies — implying
Love's martyrs must be ever, ever dying.
FROM THE LOVER'S MELANCHOLY)
MA ENAPHON— Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales
Which poets of an elder time have feigned
To glorify their Temple, bred in me
Desire of visiting that paradise.
To Thessaly I came; and living private
Without acquaintance of more sweet companions
Than the old inmates to my love, my thoughts,
I day by day frequented silent groves
And solitary walks. One morning early
This accident encountered me: I heard
The sweetest and most ravishing contention
That art and nature ever were at strife in.
I cannot yet conceive what you infer
By art and nature.
I shall soon resolve ye.
A sound of music touched my ears, or rather
Indeed entranced my soul. As I stole nearer,
Invited by the melody, I saw
This youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute,
With strains of strange variety and harmony,
Proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge
To the clear quiristers of the woods, the birds,
That, as they flocked about him, all stood silent,
Wondering at what they heard: I wondered too.
And so do I: good, on!
Nature's best skilled musician, undertakes
The challenge, and for every several strain
The well-shaped youth could touch, she sung her own;
He could not run division with more art
Upon his quaking instrument than she,
The nightingale, did with her various notes
Reply to: for a voice and for a sound,
Amethus, 'tis much easier to believe
That such they were than hope to hear again.
How did the rivals part ?
You term them rightly;
For they were rivals, and their mistress harmony.
Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last
Into a pretty anger, that a bird,
Whom art had never taught cliffs, moods, or notes,
Should vie with him for mastery, whose study
Had busied many hours to perfect practice.
To end the controversy, in a rapture
Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly
So many voluntaries and so quick,
That there was curiosity and cunning,
Concord in discord, lines of differing method
Meeting in one full centre of delight.
Now for the bird.
The bird, ordained to be
Music's first martyr, strove to imitate
These several sounds; which when her warbling throat
Failed in, for grief down dropped she on his lute,
And brake her heart. It was the quaintest sadness,
To see the conqueror upon her hearse
To weep a funeral elegy of tears;
That trust me, my Amethus, I could chide
Mine own unmanly weakness that made me
A fellow mourner with him.
I believe thee.
He looked upon the trophies of his art,
Then sighed, then wiped his eyes, then sighed and cried :-
« Alas, poor creature! I will soon revenge
This cruelty upon the author of it;
Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood,
Shall never more betray a harmless peace
To an untimely end:” and in that sorrow,
As he was pushing it against a tree,
I suddenly stept in.