Page images
PDF
EPUB

Flora and Zephyrus were seen busily gathering with roses, wedding garments, rocks, and spada flowers from the bower, throwing them into baskets hearts transfixed with arrows, others flaming, T. which two sylvans held, attired in changeable gins' girdles, garlands, and worlds of such lica taffety. Besides two other allegorical characters, | Enter Venus in her chariot, attended by the Grace Night and Hesperus, there were nine masquers, re and delivers a speech expressive of her anxiety ** presenting Apollo's knights, and personated by recover her son Cupid, who has run away frugbar young men of rank.

The Graces then make proclamation as follows:After songs and recitative, the whole vale was suddenly withdrawn, and a hill with Diana's tree 1st Grace. Beauties, have you seen this toy, discovered. Night appeared in her house with Nine

Called love, a little boy, Hours, apparelled in large robes of black taffety,

Almost naked, wanton, blind ; painted thick with stars; their hair long, black, and

Cruel now, and then as kind ! spangled with gold; on their heads coronets of stars,

If he be amongst ye, say ; and their faces black. Every Hour bore in his hand

He is Venus' runaway. a black torch painted with stars, and lighted. | 2d Grace. She that will but now discorer Night. Vanish, dark vales, let night in glory shine,

Where the winged wag doth horer, As she doth buru in rage ; come, leave our shrine,

Shall to-night receive a kiss, You black-haired hours, and guide us with your lights,

How or where herself would wish; Flora hath wakened wide our drowsy sprites.

But who brings him to his inother, See where she triumphs, see her flowers are thrown,

Shall have that kiss, and another. And all about the seeds of malice sown ;

3d Grace. He hath marks about him plenty; Despiteful Flora, is't not enough of grief,

You shall know him among twenty. That Cynthia's robbed, but thou must grace the thief?

All his body is a fire, Or didst not hear Night's sovereign queen complain

And his breath a flame entire, Hymen had stolen a nymph out of her train,

That, being shot like lightning in, And matched her here, plighted henceforth to be

Wounds the hcart but not the skin. Lore's friend and stranger to virginity ? And mak’st thou sport for this?

| 1st Gracy. At his sight the sun hath turn'd,

Neptune in the waters burn'd; Flora. Be mild, stern Night ;

Hell hath felt a greater heat ; Flora doth honour Cynthia and her right ; * *

Jove himself forsook his seat ; The nymph was Cynthia’s while she was her own,

From the centre to the sky But now another claims in her a right,

Are his trophies reared high. By fate reserved thereto, and wise foresight.

| 2d Grace. Wings he hath, which though re clip, • Zephyrus. Can Cynthia one kind virgin's loss be- |

He will leap from lip to lip, moan ?

Over liver, lights, and heart, How, if perhaps she brings her ten for one ? * *

But not stay in any part ; After some more such dialogue, in which Hesperus

And if chance his arrow misses, takes part, Cynthia is reconciled to the loss of her

Ile will shoot himself in kisses. nymph; the trees sink, by means of enginery, under | 3d Grace. lle doth bear a golden bow, the stage, and the masquers come out of their tops

And a quiver hanging low, to fine music. Dances, processions, speeches, and

Full of arrows, that outbrave songs follow, the last being a duet between a Sylvan

Dian's shafts ; where, if he hare and an Hour, by the way of tenor and bass.

Any head more sharp than other, Syl. Tell me, gentle Ilour of Night,

With that first he strikes his mother. Wherein dost thou most delight?

Ist Grace. Still the fairest are his fuel. Hour. Not in sleep. Syl. Wherein, then ?

When his days are to be cruel, Hour. In the frolic view of men.

Lovers' hearts are all his food, Syl. Lov'st thou music! Hour. Oh, 'tis sweet.

And his baths their warınest blood ; Syl. What's dancing ? Hour. Even the mirth of feet.

Nought but wounds his hand doth season, Syl. Joy you in fairies and in elves?

And he hates none like to Reason. Hour. We are of that sort ourselves :

| 2d Grace. Trust him not; his words, though sweet, But, Sylvan, say, why do you love Only to frequent the grove !

Seldom with his heart do meet.

All his practice is deceit; Syl. Life is fullest of content,

Every gift it is a bait ; Where delight is innocent.

Not a kiss but poison bears ; Hour. Pleasure must vary, not be long;

And most treason in his tears. Come, then, let's close and end our song.

| 3d Grace. Idle minutes are his reign; Then the masquers made an obeisance to the king,

Then the straggler inakes his gain, and attended him to the banqueting room.

By presenting maids with toys, The masques of Jonson contain a great deal of

And would have ye think them joys; fire poetry, and even the prose descriptive parts are

'Tis the ambition of the elf remarkable for grace and delicacy of language-as,

To have all childish as himself. for instance, where he speaks of a sea at the back of a scene, catching the eye afar off with a wander | 1st Grace. If by these ye please to know him, ing beauty.' In that which was produced at the

Beauties, be not nice, but show him. marriage of Ramsay, Lord Haddington, to Lady | 2d Grace. Though ve had a will to hide him, Elizabeth Ratcliff, the scene presented a steep red

Now, we hope, ye'll not abide him. clill, topped by clouds, allusive to the red cliff from which the lady's name was said to be derived ; before

3d Grace. Since you hear his falser play, which were two pillars charged with spoils of love,

And that he 's Venus' runaway, ' amongst which were old and young persons bound Cupid enters, attended by twelve boys, representing 1 Diana. I'the Sports and pretty Lightnesses that accompany Love,' who dance, and then Venus apprehends her But hark! what tumult from yond' cave is heard ? son, and a pretty dialogue ensues between them and What noise, what strife, what earthquake and alarms, Hymen. Vulcan afterwards appears, and, claiming As troubled Nature for her maker feard, the pillars as his workmanship, strikes the red cliff, And all the Iron Age were up in arms! which opens, and shows a large luminous sphere containing the astronomical lines and signs of the Hide me, soft cloud, from their profaner eyes, zodiac. He makes a quaint speech, and presents the Till insolent Rebellion take the field ; sphere as his gift to Venus on the triumph of her | And as their spirits with their counsels rise, son. The Lesbian god and his consort retire ami

I frustrate all with showing but my shield. cably to their chariot, and the piece ends by the

[She retires behind a cloud. singing of an epithalamium, interspersed with dances of masquers :

The Iron Age presents itself, calling forth the Evils.

1. Age. Come forth, come forth, do we not hear Up, youths and virgins, up, and praise

What purpose, and how worth our fear,
The god, whose nights outshine his days;

The king of gods hath on us?
Hymen, whose hallow'd rites

He is not of the Iron breed,
Could never boast of brighter lights ;

That would, though Fate did help the deed,
Whose bands pass liberty.

Let Shame in so upon us.
Two of your troop, that with the morn were free,
Are now waged to his war.

Rise, rise then up, thou grandame Vice
And what they are,

Of all my issue, Avarice,
If you'll perfection see,

Bring with thee Fraud and Slander,
Yourselves must be.

Corruption with the golden hands,
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished star!

Or any subtler Ill, that stands

To be a more commander.
What joy, what honours can compare
With holy nuptials, when they are i

Thy boys, Ambition, Pride, and Scorn,
Made out of equal parts

Force, Rapine, and thy babe last born,
Of years, of states, of hands, of hearts !

Smooth Treachery, call hither.
When in the happy choice

Arm Folly forth, and Ignorance,
The spouse and spoused have foremost voice!

And teach thein all our Pyrrhic dance :
Such, glad of Hymen's war,

We may triumph together,
Lire what they are,
And long perfection see;

Upon this enemy so great,
And such ours be.

Whom, if our forces can defeat,
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished star !

And but this once bring under,
We are the masters of the skies,

Where all the wealth, height, power lies,
Still further to illustrate this curious subject, and

The sceptre, and the thunder.
to revive a department of our literature almost
totally unknown, we present one entire masque of Which of you would not in a war
Jonson, a short but beautiful one, which was repre Attempt the price of any scar,
sent at court in 1615, ‘by the lords and gentlemen, To keep your own states even ?

the king's servants,' and seems to have been designed But here, which of you is that he,
| as a compliment to the king on the point of his love Would not himself the weapon be,
of justice.

To ruin Jove and heaven ?

About it, then, and let him feel
The Golden Age Restored.

The Iron Age is turn'd to steel,

Since he begins to threat her :
The court being seated and in expectation,

And though the bodies here are less
Load Music: Pallas in her chariot descending to a

Than were the giants; he'll confess softer music.

Our malice is far greater. Look, look ! rejoice and wonder

The Evils enter for the Antimasque, and dance to two drums, That you, offending mortals, are

trumpets, and a confusion of martial music. At the end of (For all your crimes) so much the care

which PALLAS re-appears, showing her shield. The Evils Of him that bears the thunder.

are turned to statues. Jove can endure no longer,

Pal. So change, and perish, scarcely knowing how,
Your great ones should your less invade;
Or that your weak, though bad, be made

That 'gainst the gods do take so vain a vow,

And think to equal with your mortal dates, A prey unto the stronger,

Their lives that are obnoxious to no fates. And therefore means to settle

'Twas time t'appear, and let their folly see Astræa in her seat again;

'Gainst whom they fought, and with what destiny. And let down in his golden chain

Die all that can remain of you, but stone, An age of better metal.

And that be seen a while, and then be none !

Now, now descend, you both belov'd of Jove,
Which deed he doth the rather,

And of the good on earth no less the love.
That even Envy may behold

[The scene changes, and she calls Time not enjoy'd his head of gold Alone beneath his father,

ASTRÆA and the GOLDEN AGE. But that his care conserveth,

Descend, you long, long wish'd and wanted pair,
As time, so all time's honours too,

And as your softer times divide the air,
Regarding still what heav'n should do,

So shake all clouds off with your golden hair;
And not what earth deserveth.

For Spite is spent : the Iron Age is filed, 14 tumult, and clashing of arms heard within. | And, with her power on earth, her name is dead.

The first Dance.
Pal. Already do not all things smile!
Ast. But when they have enjoy'd a while

The Age's quickening power :
Age. That every thought a seed doth bring,

And every look a plant doth spring,

And every breath a flower : Pal. The earth unplough'd shall yield her crop,

Pure honey from the oak shall drop,

The fountain shall run milk :
The thistle shall the lily bear,
And every bramble roses wear,

And every worm make silk.
Cho. The very shrub shall balsam sweat,

And nectar melt the rock with heat,

Till earth have drank her fill :
That she no harmful weed may know,
Nor barren fern, nor mandrake low,

Nor mineral to kill.

ASTRÆA and the GOLDEN AGE descending with a song.
Ast. G. Age. And are we then

To live agen,

With men !
Ast. Will Jove such pledges to the earth restore

As justice ?
G. Age. Or the purer ore !
Pal. Once more.
G. Age. But do they know,

How much they owe ? :

Below ?
Ast. And will of grace receive it, not as due !
Pal. If not, they harm themselves, not you.
Ast. True.'
G. Age. True.

Cho. Let narrow natures, how they will, mistake, The great should still be good for their own sake.

[They come forward. Pal. Welcome to earth, and reign. Ast. G. Age. But how, without a train,

Shall we our state sustain ? Pal. Leave that to Jove : therein you are

No little part of his Minerva's care.

Expect awhile.You far-famed spirits of this happy isle, That, for your sacred songs have gain’d the style Of Phæbus' sons, whose notes the air aspire Of th' old Egyptian, or the Thracian lyre, That Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, Spenser, hight, Put on your better flames, and larger light, To wait upon the Age that shall your names new

nourish, Since Virtue press'd shall grow, and buried Arts shall

flourish.
Chau. Gow. We come.
Lyd. Spen. We come.
Omnes.

Our best of fire,
Is that which Pallas doth inspire.

[They descend. Pal. Then see you yonder souls, set far within the

shade, That in Elysian bowers the blessed seats do keep, That for their living good, now semi-gods are made, And went away from earth, as if but tam’d with sleep? These we must join to wake ; for these are of the strain That justice dare defend, and will the age sustain.

Cho. Awake, awake, for whom these times were kept. O wake, wake, wake, as you had never slept ! Make haste and put on air, to be their guard, Whom once but to defend, is still reward. Pal. Thus Pallas throws a lightning from her shield.

[The scene of light discorcred. Cho. To which let all that doubtful darkness yield. Ast. Now Peace. G. Age. And Love. Ast. Faith, G. Age. Joys. Ast. G. Age. All, all increase.

[A pause.
Chau. And Strife,
Gow. And Hate,
Lyd. And Fear,
Spen. And Pain,
Omnes. All cease.

Pal. No tumour of an iron vein.
The causes shall not come again.
Cho. But, as of old, all now be gold.

Move, move then to the sounds;
And do not only walk your solemn rounds,
But give those light and airy bounds,
That fit the Genii of these gladder grounds.

IIere the main Dance.

After which,
Pal. But here's not all : you must do more,

Or else you do but half restore

The Age's liberty.
Poe. The male and female us'd to join,

And into all delight did coin

That pure simplicity,
Then Feature did to form advance,
And Youth callid Beauty forth to dance,

And every Grace was by :
It was a time of no distrust,
So much of love had nought of lust;

None fear'd a jealous eye.
The language melted in the ear,
Yet all without a blush might hear;

They liv'd with open vow.
Cho. Each touch and kiss was so well plac'd,

They were as sweet as they were chaste,
And such must yours be now.

Here they dance with the Ladies.
Ast. What change is here! I had not more

Desire to leave the earth before,

Than I have now to stay ;
My silver feet, like roots, are wreath'd
Into the ground, my wings are sheath'd,

And I cannot away.
Of all there seems a second birth ;
It is become a heaven on earth,

And Jove is present here.
I feel the godhead ; nor will doubt
But he can fill the place throughout,

Whose power is everywhere.
This, this, and only such as this,
The bright Astræa's region is,

Where she would pray to live;
And in the midst of so much gold,
Unbought with grace, or fear unsold,

The law to mortals give.
Here they dance the Galliards and Corantos
PALLAS (ascending, and calling the Poets.]
'Tis now enough; behold you here,
What Jove hath built to be your sphere,

You hither must retire.
And as his bounty gives you cause,
Be ready still without your pause,
To show the world your fire.

Like lights about Astræa's throne,

of Bristol, and afterwards of Worcester. He was You here must shine, and all be one,

born ten years before his friend, in 1576, and he surIn fervour and in flame;

vived him ten years, dying of the great plague in That by your union she may grow,

1625, and was buried in St Mary Overy's church, And, you sustaining her, may know

Southwark, on the 19th of August.
The Age still by her name.

The dramas of Beaumont and Fletcher are fifty-
Who vows, against or heat or cold,

two in number. The greater part of them were not To spin your garments of her gold,

| printed till 1647, and hence it is impossible to assign That want may touch you never ;

the respective dates to each. Dryden mentions, that And making garlands ev'ry hour,

Philaster was the first play that brought them into To write your names in some new flower,

esteem with the public, though they had written That you may live for ever.

two or three before. It is improbable in plot, but

interesting in character and situations. The jealousy Cho. To Jove, to Jove, be all the honour given,

of Philaster is forced and unnatural; the character That thankful hearts can raise from earth to heaven.

of Euphrasia, disguised as Bellario, the page, is a

copy from Viola, yet there is something peculiarly FRANCIS BEAUMONT-JOHN FLETCHER. delicate in the following account of her hopeless | The literary partnerships of the drama which we

ershins of the drama which we attachment to Philaster : have had occasion to notice were generally brief and

My father oft would speak incidental, confined to a few scenes or a single play.

Your worth and virtue ; and, as I did grow In BEAUMONT and FLETCHER, we have the inte

More and more apprehensive, I did thirst resting spectacle of two young men of high genius,

To see the man so prais'd; but yet all this of good birth and connexions, living together for ten

Was but a maiden longing, to be lost years, and writing in union a series of dramas, pas

As soon as found ; till, sitting in my window, sionate, romantic, and comic, thus blending together

Printing my thoughts in lawn, I saw a god, their genius and their fame in indissoluble con

I thought (but it was you), enter our gates. nexion. Shakspeare was undoubtedly the inspirer of

My blood flew out, and back again as fast these kindred spirits. They appeared when his

As I bad puff’d it forth and suck'd it in
Like breath. Then was I called away in haste
To entertain you. Never was a man
Heav'd from a sheep-cote to a sceptre raised
So high in thoughts as I: you left a kiss
Upon these lips then, which I mean to keep
From you for ever. Í did hear you talk,
Far above singing! After you were gone,
I grew acquainted with my heart, and search'd
What stirr'd it so. Alas ! I found it love;
Yet far from lust ; for could I but have lived
In presence of you, I had had my end.
For this I did delude my noble father
With a feign'd pilgrimage, and dress'd myself
In habit of a boy ; and for I knew
My birth no match for you, I was past hope
of having you. And, understanding well
That when I made discovery of my sex,
I could not stay with you, I made a vow,
By all the most religious things a maid
Could call together, never to be known,
Whilst there was hope to hide me from men's eyes,
For other than I seem'd, that I might ever
Abide with you : then sat I by the fount

Where first you took me up.
Philaster had previously described his finding the

disguised maiden by the fount, and the description is Fletcher.

highly poetical and picturesque : genius was in its meridian splendour, and they were

Hunting the buck, | completely subdued by its overpowering influence. I found him sitting by a fountain-side,

They reflected its leading characteristics, not as Of which he borrow'd some to quench his thirst, slavish copyists, but as men of high powers and

And paid the nymph again as much in tears. attainments, proud of borrowing inspiration from a

A garland lay him by, made by himself, source which they could so well appreciate, and

Of many several flowers, bred in the bay, which was at once ennobling and inexhaustible.

Stuck in that mystic order, that the rareness Francis Beaumont was the son of Judge Beaumont,

Delighted me : But ever when he turn'd a member of an ancient family settled at Grace Dieu, His tender eyes upon them he would weep, in Leicestershire. He was born in 1586, and educated As if he meant to make them grow again. at Cambridge. He became a student of the Inner Seeing such pretty helpless innocence Temple, probably to gratify his father, but does not

Dwell in his face, I ask'd him all his story. seem to have prosecuted the study of the law. He He told me that his parents gentle died, was married to the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Leaving him to the mercy of the fields, Henry Isley of Kent, by whom he had two daughters. Which gave him roots ; and of the crystal springs, He died before he had completed his thirtieth year, Which did not stop their courses ; and the sun, and was buried, March 9, 1615–6, at the entrance to Which still, he thank'd him, yielded him his light. St Benedict's chapel, Westminster Abbey. John Then took he up his garland, and did show Fletcher was the son of Dr Richard Fletcher, bishop What every flower, as country people hold,

[graphic]

Did signify ; and how all, order'd thus,

profound or vigorous, language; his thoughts are Express'd his grief : and to my thoughts did read noble, and tinged with the ideality of romance ; his The prettiest lecture of his country art

metaphors vivid, though sometimes too forced; he That could be wish'd ; so that methought I could possesses the idiom of English without much peHare studied it. I gladly entertain'd him

dantry, though in many passages he strains it beyond Who was as glad to follow.

common use; his versification, though studiously

irregular, is often rhythmical and sweet; yet we The Maid's Tragedy, supposed to be written about are seldom arrested by striking beauties. Good lines the same time, is a drama of a powerful but un- occur in every page, fine ones but rarely. We lay pleasing character. The purity of female virtue in down the volume with a sense of admiration of what Amintor and Aspatia, is well contrasted with the we have read, but little of it remains distinctly in guilty boldness of Evadne; and the rough soldier- the memory. Fletcher is not much quoted, and has like bearing and manly feeling of Melantius, render not even afforded copious materials to those who cull the selfish sensuality of the king more hateful and the beauties of ancient lore.' His comic powers are disgusting. Unfortunately, there is much licentious. certainly far superior to his tragic. Massinger imness in this fine play-whole scenes and dialogues presses the reader more deeply, and has a moral are disfigured by this master vice of the theatre of beauty not possessed by Beaumont and Fletcher, but Beaumont and Fletcher. Their dramas are • a rank | in comedy he falls infinitely below them. Though unweeded garden,' which grew only the more disor-their characters are deficient in variety, their knowderly and vicious as it advanced to maturity. Flet- ledge of stage-effect and contrivance, their fertility cher must bear the chief blame of this defect, for he of invention, and the airy liveliness of their dialogue, wrote longer than his associate, and is generally give the charm of novelty and interest to their understood to have been the most copious and fertile scenes. Mr Macaulay considers that the models composer. Before Beaumont's death, they had, in which Fletcher had principally in his eye, even for addition to · Philaster,' and the Maid's Tragedy,' his most serious and elevated compositions, were not produced King and no King, Bonduca, The Laws of Shakspeare's tragedies, but his comedies. “It was Candy (tragedies); and The Woman Hater, The these, with their idealised truth of character, their Knight of the Burning Pestle, The Honest Man's For-poetic beauty of imagery, their mixture of the grave tune, The Co.xcomb, and The Captain (comedies). Flet- with the playful in thought, their rapid yet skilful cher afterwards produced three tragic dramas, and transitions from the tragic to the comic in feeling: nine comedies, the best of which are, The Chances, it was these, the pictures in which Shakspeare had The Spanish Curate, The Beggar's Bush, and Rule a made his nearest approach to portraying actual life, Wife and Have a Wife. He also wrote an exquisite and not those pieces in which he transports the imapastoral drama, The Faithful Shepherdess, which Mil-gination into his own vast and awful world of tragic ton followed pretty closely in the design, and partly action, and suffering, and emotion—that attracted in the language and imagery, of Comus. A higher Fletcher's fancy, and proved congenial to his cast of though more doubtful honour has been assigned to feeling.' This observation is strikingly just, applied the twin authors; for Shakspeare is said to have to Shakspeare's mixed comedies or plays, like the assisted them in the composition of one of their works, Twelfth Night,' the Winter's Tale, As You Like The Two Noble Kinsmen, and his name is joined with It,'&c. The rich and genial comedy of Falstaff, ShalFletcher's on the title page of the first edition. The low, and Slender, was not imitated by Fletcher. His bookseller's authority in such matters is of no weight; | •Knight of the Burning Pestle' is an admirable burand it seems unlikely that our great poet, after the lesque of the false taste of the citizens of London for production of some of his best dramas, should enter chivalrous and romantic adventures, without regard into a partnership of this description. The 'Two to situation or probability. On the whole, the dramas Noble Kinsmen' is certainly not superior to some of of Beaumont and Fletcher impress us with a high the other plays of Beaumont and Fletcher.

idea of their powers as poets and dramatists. The The genius of Beaumont is said to have been more vast variety and luxuriance of their genius seem to correct, and more strongly inclined to tragedy, than elevate them above Jonson, though they were desthat of his friend. The later works of Fletcher are titute of his regularity and solidity, and to place chiefly of a comic character. His plots are some- them on the borders of the 'magic circle' of Shaktimes inartificial and loosely connected, but he is speare. The confidence and buoyancy of youth are always lively and entertaining. There is a rapid visible in their productions. They had not tasted of succession of incidents, and the dialogue is witty, adversity, like Jonson or Massinger; and they had elegant, and amusing. Dryden considered that they not the profoundly-meditative spirit of their great understood and imitated the conversation of gentle master, cognisant of all human feelings and symmen much better than Shakspeare; and he states pathies ; life was to them a scene of enjoyment and that their plays were, in his day, the most pleasant pleasure, and the exercise of their genius a source of and frequent entertainments of the stage; 'two of refined delight and ambition. They were gentlemen theirs being acted through the year, for one of who wrote for the stage, as gentlemen have rarely Shakspeare's or Jonson's.' It was different some done before or since. forty years previous to this. In 1627, the King's Company bribed the Master of the Revels with £5,

(Generosity of Cæsar.) to interfere in preventing the players of the theatre called the Red Bull, from performing the dramas of [Ptolemy, king of Egypt, having secured the head of Pompey, Shakspeare. One cause of the preference of Beau

comes with his friends Achoreus and Photinus to present it to mont and Fletcher, may have been the license of

Cæsar, as a means of gaining his favour. To them enter Cesar, their dramas, suited to the perverted taste of the Antony, Dolabella, and Sceva.] court of Charles II., and the spirit of intrigue which Pho. Do not shun me, Cæsar. they adopted from the Spanish stage, and naturalised From kingly Ptolemy I bring this present, on the English. •We cannot deny,' remarks Hallam, The crown and sweat of thy Pharsalian labour,

that the depths of Shakspeare's mind were often The goal and mark of high ambitious honour. unfathomable by an audience; the bow was drawn Before, thy victory had no name, Cæsar, by a matchless hand, but the shaft went out of sight. | Thy travel and thy loss of blood, no recompense ; All might listen to Fletcher's pleasing, though not | Thou dream’ust of being worthy, and of war,

« PreviousContinue »