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This has all the greatness of Nature's “ equal eye.” You may see how truly Decker felt it to be of this kind, by the company in which he has placed it; and there is a consummation of propriety in its wildness, for he is speaking of lunatics :
There are of madmen, as there are of tame,
Middleton partakes of the poetry and sweetness of Decker, but not to the same height: and he talks more at random. You hardly know what to make of the dialogue or stories of some of his plays. But he has more fancy; and there is one character of his (De Flores in the “ Changeling") which, for effect at once tragical, probable, and poetical, surpasses anything I know of in the drama of domestic life. Middleton has the honour of having furnished part of the witch poetry to Macbeth, and of being conjoined with it also in the powerful and beautiful music of Locke.
From Massinger, Ford, and the others (as far as I have met with them, and apart from the connexion of Massinger's name with Decker), I could
find nothing to extract of a nature to suit this particular volume, and of equal height with its contents. It is proper to state, however, that I have only glanced through their works : for though no easily daunted reader, I never read an entire play either of Ford or Massinger. They repel me with the conventional tendencies of their style, and their unnatural plots and characters. Ford, however, is elegant and thoughtful; and Massinger has passion, though (as far as I know) not in a generous shape. With these two writers began that prosaical part of the corruption of dramatic style (merging passionate language into conventional) which came to its head in Shirley.
Donusa. What magic hath transform’d me from myself?
To this union
Durham. To this unity, a mystery
Ford's Perkin Warbeck.
Both these passages are the first I came to, on dipping into their works. One might fancy one'sself reading Cato or the Grecian Daughter, instead of men who had breathed the air of the days of Shakspeare.
Massinger was joint author with Decker, of the play from which the scene of the lady and the angel is taken ; but nobody who knows the style of the two men can doubt for a moment to which it belongs. I have, therefore, without hesitation assigned it according to the opinion expressed by Mr. Lamb.
FLIGHT OF WITCHES.
Scene, a Field. Enter HECATE, STADLIN, HOPPO, and other
Witches. FIRESTONE in the back-ground.
Hec. The moon 's a gallant; see how brisk she rides !
Ay, is 't not, wenches,
O’t will be precious!
Briefly in the copse,
'T is high time for us then.
You are fortunate still ;
Prepare to flight then;
Hie thee, Hecate;
I'll reach you quickly.
[Exeunt all the Witches except HECATE. Fire. They are all going a birding to-night: they talk of fowls i' th' air that fly by day; I am sure they 'll be a company of foul sluts there to-night: if we have not mortality after’t, I'll be hanged, for they are able to putrefy it, to infect a whole region. She spies me now.
Hec. What, Firestone, our sweet son ?
Fire. A little sweeter than some of you, or a dunghill were too good for me.
[Aside. Hec. How much hast here? Fire.
Nineteen, and all brave plump ones, besides six lizards and three serpentine eggs.
Hec. Dear and sweet boy! what herbs hast thou ?
Fire. Here 's panax too, I thank thee—my pan aches I'm sure, with kneeling down to cut 'em. Hec.
Every blade of 'em,
Hie thee home with 'em :
Fire. Aloft, quoth you? I would you would break your neck once, that I might have all quickly! [Aside] - Hark, hark, mother! they are above the steeple already, flying over your head with a noise of musicians.
Hec. They're they indeed. Help, help me; I'm too late else.
Come away, come away,
Hecate, Hecate, come away.
I come, I come, I come,
Where's Stadlin ?
Come away, make up the count.
[A spirit like a cat descends. [Voice above.] There's one comes down to fetch his dues,
A kiss, a coll, a sip of blood;
Since the air 's so sweet and good ?
Either come, or else refuse.
Malkin my sweet spirit and I.
To ride in the air
When the moon shines fair,