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TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS.
From the most able, to him that can but spell : there you are numbered. We had rather you were weighed. Especially, when the fate of all books depends upon your capacities; and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well, it is now public, and you will stand for your privileges we know: to read, and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a book, the stationer says. Then, how odd soever your brains be, or your wisdoms, make your licence the same, and spare not. Judge your sixpen'orth, your shilling's worth, your five shillings' worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, whatever you do, buy. Censure will not drive a trade, or make the jack go. And though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit on the stage at Blackfriars, or the Cock-pit, to arraign plays daily, know, these plays have had their trial already, and stood out all appeals; and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court, than any purchased letters of commendation.
It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that the Author himself had lived to have set forth, and overseen his own writings; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends the office of their care, and pain, to have collected and published them; and so to have published them, as where (before) you were abused with divers stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors, that exposed them; even those, are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs, and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happy imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together; and what he thought, he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our province, who only gather his works, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that read him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities, you will find enough, both to draw, and hold you; for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be lost. Read him, therefore ; and again, and again : and if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his friends, who, if you need, can be your guides: if you need them not, you can lead yourselves, and others. And such readers we wish him.
Upon the Effigies of my worthy Friend, the Author, Master William Shakespeare,
and his Works.
Spectator, this life's shadow is :—to see
The truer image, and a livelier he,
Turn reader. But observe his comic vein,
Laugh; and proceed next to a tragic strain,
Then weep: so,—when thou find'st two contraries,
Two different passions from thy rapt soul rise,-
Say, (who alone effect such wonders could)
Rare Shake-speare to the life thou dost behold.
An Epitaph on the admirable Dramatic Poet, W. Shakespeare.
What need my Shakespeare for his honour'd bones,
The labour of an age in piled stones;
Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid ?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such dull witness of thy name?
Thou, in our wonder and astonishment,
Hast built thyself a lasting monument:
For whilst, to the shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbers flow; and that each part
Hath, from the leaves of thy unvalued book,
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took ;
Then thou, our fancy of herself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving ;
And, so sepulchred, in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
To the Memory of the deceased Author, Master W. Shakespeare.
Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellows give
The world thy works; thy works, by which outlive
Thy tomb thy name must: when that stone is rent,
And time dissolves thy Stratford monument,
Here we alive shall view thee still: this book,
When brass and marble fade, shall make thee look
Fresh to all ages; when posterity
Shall loathe what's new, think all is prodigy
That is not Shakespeare's, every line, each verse,
Here shall revive, redeem thee from thy hearse.
Nor fire, nor cankering age, as Naso said
Of his, thy wit-fraught book shall once invade :
Nor shall I e'er believe or think thee dead,
(Though miss’d) until our bankrupt stage be sped
(Impossible) with some new strain t' out-do
Passions of Juliet, and her Romeo ;
Or till I hear a scene more nobly take,
Than when thy half-sword parleying Romans spake :
Till these, till any of thy volume's rest,
Shall with more fire, more feeling, be express'd,
Be sure, (our Shake-speare,) thou canst never die,
But, crown'd with laurel, live eternally.
To the Memory of M. W. Shake-speare.
We wonder'd (Shake-speare) that thou went'st so soon
From the world's stage to the grave's tiring-room :
We thought thee dead; but this thy printed worth
Tells thy spectators, that thou went'st but forth
To enter with applause. An actor's art
Can die, and live to act a second part:
That's but an exit of mortality,
This a re-entrance to a plaudite.
THE NAMES OF THE PRINCIPAL ACTORS IN ALL
To the Memory of my beloved, the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare, and what he
hath left us.
To draw no envy (Shakespeare) on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book, and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither man, nor muse, can praise too much ;
"Tis true, and all men's suffrage ; but these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise :
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise :
These are, as some infamous bawd, or whore,
Should praise a matron ; what could hurt her more?
But thou art proof against them; and, indeed,
Above th’ill fortune of them, or the need.
I, therefore, will begin :-Soul of the age,
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage,
My Shakespeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser; or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb;
And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses ;
I mean, with great but disproportion'd muses :
For, if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers ;
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line:
And though thou hadst small Latin, and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
For names; but call forth thundering Æschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles, to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy buskin tread
And shake a stage: or, when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone, for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece, or haughty Rome,
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain! thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time;
And all the muses still were in their prime,
When like Apollo he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm.
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines ;
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As since she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all; thy art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part:
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion; and that he,
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the muses' anvil; turn the same,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel he may gain a scorn,
For a good poet's made, as well as born:
And such wert thou. Look, how the father's face
Lives in his issue; even so the race
Of Shakespeare's mind, and manners, brightly shines
In his well-turned and true-filed lines;
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet Swan of Avon, what a sight it were,
To see thee in our water yet appear;
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James.
But stay; I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a constellation there :
Shine forth, thou star of poets; and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer, the drooping stage;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.