I jest to Oberon, and make him smile,
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal.
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab ;
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob,
And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale.”

In the second scene of this act, Oberon and Titania meet and taunt each other with the “forgeries of jealousy." Titania tells her king and lord that he has

“Stolen away from fairy land,

And in the shape of Corin sat all day,
Playing on pipes of corn, and versing love
To amorous Phyllida.”

Oberon, on the other hand, accuses her of loving Theseus ; and then she exclaims in reply


“ These are the forgeries of jealousy ;

And never, since the middle summer's spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
Or on the beachèd margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
Therefore, the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs, which, falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud,
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat; and the green corn

Hath rotted, ere his youth attain'd a beard ;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock ;

[ocr errors]

The nine men's morris is filled up with mud ;
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
For lack of tread, are undistinguishable.

Hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose ;
And on old Hyem's thin and icy crown,
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set."

The pretty conceit of Cupid's “ fiery shaft,”

[ocr errors]

“Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon,”

while the fair vestal ! (save the mark !) passed on in maiden meditation, is perhaps, as charmingly inappropriate as any that poet's fancy ever conceived. I refer to it because the bolt of Cupid having missed, naturally enough, the square, ugly woman—who, in poetic fiction, is termed an imperial votaress

“Fell upon a little western flower

Before, milk-white, now purple with love's wound-
And maidens call it love-in-idleness."

My next quotation needs no comment


“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

Bottom's ornithological song I will omit; also the beautiful passage in which Helena recals the


of her friendship with Hermia, and speaks of~

“ Two lovely berries, moulded on one stem,”

herself being one of the twain ; but Bottom's request to Cobweb to bring him “a red-hipped humble-bee on the top of a thistle," and to have a care that “the honey-bag break not,” is too good to be passed over; so is Titania's sylvan fancy as she clasps the ass-headed fool in her arms, and exclaims

“So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle

Gently entwist ; the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm."

And now I come to the “ Taming of the Shrew,” in which, however unpromising the subject, there is here and there a line, betokening Shakspeare's observation of nature and out-door life. Such, for instance, as the following

“ Thy hounds shall make the welkin answer them,

And fetch shrill echoes from the hollow earth."

[ocr errors]

“Say that she frowns ; I'll say, she looks as clear

As morning roses newly washed with dew.”

“ Kate, like the hazel-twig,
Is straight and slender; and as brown in hue
As hazel-nuts, and sweeter than the kernels.”

Two more quotations, and I shall have done with this play. Petruchio says

“For 'tis the mind that makes the body rich ;
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,
So honour peereth in the meanest habit.
What, is the jay more precious than the lark,
Because his feathers are more beautiful ?
Or is the adder better than the eel,
Because his painted skin contents the eye ?"

And Kate, when she is tamed, says

“A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled,

Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty ;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip, or touch one drop of it.”

Adieu to thee, sweet Kate, and to thy mad-brain rudesby of a husband !

The next play is “The Merchant of Venice," one of Shakspeare's most perfect works—according to my opinion, and to Schlegel's—yet it is not until the 4th act that I find a passage to quote. Antonio is the speaker, and his illustrations are exactly adapted to his purpose ; but Antonio, and therefore Shakspeare, could have made them without any personal observation of nature.

“I pray you, think you question with the Jew,

You may as well go stand upon the beach,
And bid the main flood bate his usual height;
You may as well use question with the wolf
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;
You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops, and to make no noise
When they are fretted with the gusts of heaven ;
You may as well do anything most hard,
As seek to soften that (than which what's harder ?)
His Jewish heart.

And then, in the course of the same conversation, Antonio adds


I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death ; the weakest kind of fruit
Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me.”

The three first lines of the delicious scene with which the 5th act commences, may be claimed as our property

“ The moon shines bright :-In such a night as this,

When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,
And they did make no noise : in such a night-

but of what happened in such a night I need not remind you. The beauty of the scene inspired one of the loftiest strains which are to be found, even in Shakspeare

“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank !
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears ; soft stillness, and the night,
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold,
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins:
Such harmony is in immortal souls ;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay,
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”

STANLEY. Thanks for reading us that passage, for it is one that can never be heard too often.

HARTLEY. Certainly, in the confined track along which I am running, I am not likely to come upon another equal to it; nor, indeed, do I remember one in Shakspeare, which surpasses it in sublimity, except it be in “ The Tempest." “ The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces," &c., will ever live as one of the noblest descriptions of this world's mutability. Omitting one or two illustrations of Portia's, which need not detain us, I turn to " Much Ado

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »