Page images
PDF
EPUB

But we must bring this rambling article to a conclusion. Before we do so, however, we should mention, that the superstitious creed of the Welsh comprises a sturdy belief in the existence of all the more common kinds of supernatural beings; such as ghosts, goblins, witches, “ black spirits and white, red spirits and grey, with all their trumpery.” We should observe, also, that the constant communication which now exists between the English and the Welsh, is gradually weaning the mountaineer from many

of his ancient customs and superstitions : and a period, perhaps, will arrive, when all his strange and extravagant ideas of the delusions, which we have adverted to, will cease to exist; and when the mere traditionary remembrance of such fantasies will alone remain, to amuse the inmates of the peasant's cottage, during the long and dreary nights of winter.

Art. V.-The Magnificent Entertainment given to King James,

Queen Anne, his wife, and Henry Frederick, the Prince, upon the day of his Maiesties Triumphant Passage (from the Tower) through his Honourable Citie (and Chamber) of London, being the 15 of March, 1633, as well by the English as by the Strunger's :

With the Speeches and Songes delivered in the severall Pageants. Thomas Dekker. - Imprinted at London, by T.C.for Tho. Man, the yonger. 1604.

As it is our intention to speak bereafter of Dekker, in his quality of a dramatist, we shall not at present trouble the reader with any enumeration of his merits or defects. He was one of the best of the dramatic writers of the celebrated

age of Elizabeth; and composed, besides divers plays, certain

Masques," or "Triumphs,” some of which have now become exceedingly scarce. From one of them, we shall venture to make a few extracts, for the benefit of the reader; partly because it is not to be obtained, (although only a small quarto pamphlet, of about thirty-six leaves,) under a considerable sum of money, and partly because there are some passages in it, which are sufficiently good to justify our laying them before the public.

The Masque or Triumph, so much in fashion with our forefathers, was, generally speaking, some little allegorical, or mythological, device; consisting partly of dialogue, serious or comic, and partly of lyrical verses, adapted to music. It was used on great festivals, such as a coronation, or the birth of an heir to a noble family, or on the occasion of the visit of great persons, whose welcomes were pronounced by gods and goddesses, by satyrs and nymphs, and shepherdesses, and all the rest of those poetical people, who, if we trust the figments of ancient times, haunted the blue heights of Olym. pus, or the laurel-covered hills of Thessaly.

Doctor Johnson, we believe, defines a Masque to be “a dramatic performance, written in a tragic style, without attention to rules or probability.” What the rules were, which belong to the Masque, or by whom they have been disregarded, he does not specify. In support of its “ tragic style,” the reader may take the following passage, which forms the commencement of one of the Masques of Ben Jonson:

“ Room! Room! make room for the bouncing belly,

First father of sauce, and deviser of jelly,
Prime master of arts, and the giver of wit,
That found out the excellent engine, the spit,
The plough and the flail, the mill and the hopper,
The hutch and the halter, the furnace and copper,
The oven and baven, the mawkin and peel,
The hearth and the range, the dog and the wheel ;
He-he first invented the hogshead and tun,
The gimblet and vice, too, and taught 'em to run," &c.

[Pleasure reconciled to Virtue, a Masque.]

Nor is this comic vein peculiar to this production alone, for it pervades most of Ben Jonson's Masques; and there is a lighter comic character discernible, indeed, in most of the Masques extant. “Our great lexicographer," as he is called, is, therefore, in the wrong,—for once.

The principal writers of this species of poetry are, in the first place, Milton, who, in his grand poem of “ Comus," has gone beyond all competitors ; and, secondly, Beaumont and Fletcher, Middleton, Dekker, and Carew. In the “ Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn," (which is attributed to Beaumont alone,) there are some delightful passages. The reader will, we are sure, forgive us for quoting part of a speech addressed by Mercury to Iris :

Thou shalt stand.
Still as a rock, while I, to bless this feast,
Will summon up, with my all-charming rod,
The nymphs of fountains; from whose watery locks,

(Hung with the dew of blessing and increase,)
The greedy rivers take their nourishment.
Ye nymphs, who, bathing in your loved springs,
Beheld these rivers in their infancy,
And joyed to see them, when their circled heads
Refresh'd the air, and spread the ground with flowers ;
Rise from your wells, and, with your nimble feet,
Perform that office to this happy pair,
Which, in these plains, you to Alpheus did,
When, passing hence, through many seas unmix'd,
He gained the favour of his Arethuse."

To this we will venture to add a stanza or two, from the " Priest's song,” (in the same Masque,) addressed to the knights and ladies. The words in italics are particularly imposing.

"On, blessed youths !- for Jove doth pause,
Laying aside his graver laws,

For this device :
And at the wedding such a pair,
Each dance is taken for a prayer,

Each song a sacrifice.”

The knights then dance their" second measure," and the song continues, the only thing in which that can be excepted against being the moral or doctrine at the end. Jupiter, it must be confessed, was an indifferent authority, (though he has passed into a proverb,) in matters of this sort.

“ More pleasing were these sweet delights,

If ladies danced as well as knights;
Run every one of you and catch
A nymph, in honour of this match ;
And whisper boldly in her ear,
Jove will but laugh if you forswear."

The termination of this poem, like

“ The setting sun, and music at its close,”

is exceedingly graceful and pleasant. It is a fit ending for a bridal hymn.

“ Peace and silence be the guide
To the man and to the bride!

If there be a joy yet new
In marriage, let it fall on you,

That all the world may wonder!
If we should stay, we should do worse,
And turn our blessing to a curse,

By keeping you asunder.”

We are very much disposed to extend our offence against order, by quoting to the reader a few passages from Ben Jonson's Gipsey Masque ; but we believe, we must refrain from meddling much with it at present.-What can be more delightful, in its way, than the following strain ?' The Egyptians deált in blessings of old, and this is one of them :

“ The fairy beam upon you,
The stars to glister on you;
A moon of light,
In the noon of night,
Till the Fire-drake hath o'ergone you,
The wheel of furtune guide you,
The boy with the bow beside you.
Run, aye, in the

way,
Till the bird of day,
And the luckier lot betide you !"

The next, in which the Lady Elizabeth Hatfon's fortune is offered at by the five gipsies,' is in a different vein.

“ Mistress of a fairer table
Hath not history or fable;
Others' fortunes may be shewn,
You are builder of

your own.
And whatever heaven hath giv’n you,
You preserve
the state still in

you;
That which time would have depart,
Youth, without the help of art,
You do keep still, and the glory
Of your sex is but your story.”

The song (beginning · The sports are done,') sung by “the Jackman,” is also worthy of quotation; and that which commences with

Good princes soar above their fame,
And in their worth

Come greater forth,
Than in their name"-

is profounder than usual. We are afraid that King James the first (to whom it was addressed) could not have heard this part of the masque distinctly. And this reminds us of Mr. Dekker, whose Magnificent Entertainment” we have for a while neglected.

The · Device' of Dekker opens in the following alarming

manner:

“ The sorrow and amazement, that, like an earthquake, began to shake the distempered body of this Island, (by reason of our late sovereign's departure,) being wisely and miraculously prevented, and the feared wounds of a civil sword, (as Alexander's fury was with music,) being stopt from bursting forth, by the sound of trumpets that proclaimed King James. All men's eyes were presently turned to the north, standing even stone still in their circles, like the points of so many geometrical needles, through a fixed and adamantine desire to behold this forty-five years' wonder now brought forth by time; their tongues neglecting all language else, save that which spake jealous prayers, and unceasable wishes, for his most speedy and longed-for arrival."

This is but the prologue, however, to the great farce which his Majesty King James the first, of blessed memory, played for the benefit of his liege subjects of England and Scotland, during a certain term of years, not easily to be forgotten. He appears, in this instance, to have been heralded by Expectation' and 'Rumour,' (allegorical knights, who were born for the purpose of trumpeting the virtues of kings, and duly disappointing their subjects)—and by · St. George,' and St. Andrew, (linked hand in hand, like the two Kings of Brentford,) whose“ newly begotten amity,” it seems, calls up the “ Genius of the City.” Of this last named person's eloquence, the following is a pleasant specimen.

Genius.

I clap my hands for joy, and seat you both
Next to my heart; in leaves of purest gold,
This most auspicious love shall be enroll’d,
Be join'd to us, and as to earth we bow,
So, to those regal feet, bend your steel'd brow.
In name of all these senators, (on whom
Virtue builds more, then those of antique Rome,)
Shouting a cheerful welcome. Since no clime,
Nor

age that has gone o'er the head of time,

« PreviousContinue »