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not be forgotten, that we date the composition of Venus and Adonis anterior to 1590, that the comparison solely applies to narrative poetry, and consequently that all contest with Spenser is precluded.

It now remains to be proved, that the merits of this mythological story are not solely founded on its occasional felicity of versification but that in description, in the power of delineating, with a master's hand, the various objects of nature, it possesses more claims to notice than have hitherto been allowed.

After the noble pictures of the horse which we find drawn in the book of Job, and in Virgil, few attempts to sketch this spirited animal can be expected to succeed; yet, among these few, impartial criticism may demand a station for the lines below :

“ Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,

And now his woven girts he breaks asunder,
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunder. -

His ears up prick’d; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass'd crest now stands on end;
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send: -

Sometimes he trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty, and modest pride:
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say, lo! thus my strength is try'd. —

Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-porportion'd steed,
His art's with Nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excell a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace, and bone.

Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad-breast, full eyes, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs, and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide.”

Venus, apprehensive for the fate of Adonis, should he attempt to hunt the boar, endeavours to dissuade him from his purpose, by drawing a most formidable description of that savage inmate of the woods, and by painting, on the other hand, the pleasures to be derived from the pursuit of the hare. The danger necessarily incurred from attacking the former, and the various efforts by which the latter tries to escape her pursuers, are presented to us with great fidelity and warmth of colouring.

66 Thou had'st been gone, quoth she, sweet boy, ere this,

But that thou told'st me, thou would'st hunt the boar,
O be advis'd; thou know'st not what it is
With javelin's point a churlish swine to gore,

Whose tushes never-sheath'd he whetteth still,
Like to a mortal butcher, bent to kill.

On his bow back he hath a battle set
Of bristly pikes, that ever threat his foes;
His eyes, like glow-worms, shine when he doth fret;
His snout digs sepulchres where-e'er he goes ;

Being mov'd, he strikes whate'er is in his way,
And whom he strikes, his crooked tushes slay.

His brawny sides, with hairy bristles armed,
Are better proof than thy spear's point can enter;
His short thick neck cannot be easily harmed;
Being ireful, on the lion he will venture. -

But if thou needs wilt hunt, be ruld by me;
Uncouple at the timorous flying hare,
Or at the fox, which lives by subtlety,
Or at the roe, which no encounter dare:

Pursue these fearful creatures o'er the downs,

And on thy well-breath'd horse keep with thy hounds.
And when thou hast on foot the purblind hare,
Mark the poor wretch to overshoot his troubles,
How he out-runs the wind, and with what care
He cranks and crosses, with a thousand doubles:-

Sometime he runs among the flock of sheep,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell;
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,
To stop the loud pursuers in their yell;

And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer;
Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear;

VOL. II.

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the author possessed, at the commencement of his career, no small portion of those powers which were afterwards to astonish the world powers alike unrivalled either in developing the terrible or the beautiful.

6. And therefore hath she bribed the Destinies,

To cross the curious workmanship of nature,
To mingle beauty with infirmities,
And pure perfection with impure defeature;

Making it subject to the tyranny
Of sad mischances and much misery;

As burning fevers, agues pale and faint,
Life-poisoning pestilence, and frenzies wood,
The marrow-eating sickness, whose attaint
Disorder breeds by heating of the blood :

Surfeits, impostumes, grief, and damn'd despair

And not the least of all these maladies,
But in one minute's sight brings beauty under —

As mountain snow melts with the mid-day sun.

6 Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,

From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast
The sun ariseth in his majesty;

Who doth the world so gloriously behold,

That cedar tops and hills seem burnish'd gold.
Venus salutes him with this fair good morrow:
O thou clear god, and patron of all light,
From whom each lamp and shining star doth borrow
The beauteous influence that makes him bright.”

If we compare the Venus and Adonis of Shakspeare with its classical prototypes ; with the Epitaphium Adonidis of Bion, and the beautiful narrative of Ovid, which terminates the tenth book of his Metamorphoses, we

we must confess the inferiority of the English poem, to the former in pathos, and to the latter in elegance; but if

* These, and the following extracts, are taken from Mr. Malone's edition of the Poems of Shakspeare.

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we contrast it with the productions of its own age, it cannot fail of being allowed a large share of relative merit. It has imbibed, indeed, too many of the conceits and puerilities of the period in which it was produced, and it has lost much interest by deviating from tradition; for, as Mr. Steevens has remarked, “ the common and more pleasing fable assures us, that

“ when bright Venus yielded up her charms, The blest Adonis languish'd in her arms;"

yet the

passages which we have quoted, and the general strain of the poem, are such as amply to account for the popularity which it once enjoyed.

That this was great, that the work was highly valued by poetic minds, and, as might be supposed, from the nature of its subject, the favourite of the young, the ardent, and susceptible, there are not wanting several testimonies. In 1595, John Weever had written at the

age

of nineteen, as he informs us, a collection of Epigrams, which he published in 1599 †; of these the twenty-second is inscribed Ad Gulielmum Shakspeare, and contains a curious though quaint encomium on some of the poet's earliest productions:

“ Honie tong'a Shakspeare, when I saw thine issue,

I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
Their rosie-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddesse said to be their mother.
Rose-cheeckt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her.”

* Malone's Supplementto Shakspeare, 1780, vol. i. p. 463.

† “ Epigrammes in the oldest Cut and newest Fashion. A twice seven Houres (in so many Weekes) Studie. No longer (like the Fashion) not anlike to continue. The first seven, John Weever.

Sit voluisse sit valuisse. At London: printed by V. S. for Thomas Bushell, and are to be sold at his shop, at the great North doore of Paules. 1599. 12mo."— Vide Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. vi. p. 156.

# Beloe's Anecdotes, vol. vi. p. 159.

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