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Tell Age it daily wasteth,
THE COUNTRY'S RECREATIONS. Heart-tearing cares and quiv'ring fears, Anxious sighs, untimely tears,
Fly, fly to courts,
Fly to fond worldling's sports;
Where mirth’s but mummery,
And sorrows only real be.
Come, serene looks,
Clear as the crystal brooks,
Peace and a secure mind,
Which all men seek, we only find. Abused mortals, did you
know Where joy, heart's ease, and comforts grow,
You'd scorn proud towers,
And seek them in these bowers;
Nor murmurs e'er come nigh us,
Blest silent groves! O may ye be
May pure contents
For ever pitch their tents
Which we may every year
HIS LOVE ADMITS NO RIVAL.
Shall I, like a hermit, dwell
OF Shakespeare, the greatest modern poet, almost as little is known as of Homer himself. He is to us but as a voice :-nature's oracle and interpreter. Little more has been recorded of him than that he was born at Stratford-on-Avon, A.D. 1564, of an humble origin; that he left the country for London, having previously, and when but eighteen years of age, married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years older than himself; that in London he supported himself by acting, and by writing for the stage; that he made a competent fortune, and retired to his native place; and that he died there in 1616 at the age of fifty-three. So indifferent to fame was Shakespeare, that, not only did he write nothing after he had left London, then in the fulness of his powers, but he took no pains to preserve those plays which had been the most successful ever known in England. We owe our possession of his works to the accident of the actors having preserved the copies given to them in order to allow them to learn their several parts.
Shakespeare possessed all the great qualities of poetry in perfection, and united them with the utmost penetration, compass, and depth of philosophic intellect. His expressions have become household words; and it is through his plays that thousands have grown acquainted with the history of their country. Invention and imagination (the creative and the shaping powers), passion and pathos, inexhaustible fancy, vigour of conception, and wealth of description, power and felicity of language, strength, and sweetness, the largest intelligence, and the happiest temperament, a profound sense of the humanities, and an equally profound sense of the beautiful,—all these qualities, found separately elsewhere, are in Shakespeare combined. He is the most truthful of poets : yet in his delineations of character, it is not the individual merely, with the accidents and conventionalities that belong to the individual, which we contemplate. Without ceasing to be individual, his characters are generic also; and thus exhibit to us the universal moulds of nature, and an exposition of humanity as it exists in all places and ages. Such poetry could not exist except sustained by a spirit at once moral and human; and, despite an occasional license of language, which belonged to his age, but in which he indulges far less than his dramatic contemporaries, there is a soundness at heart, and a cordial wisdom about Shakespeare's dramas, which makes them (when rightly understood) a mine of morality and of philosophy, as far as such qualities can easily be put forward in dramatic form. The religion of Shakespeare is not known. That he was a Christian no one who appreciates his poetry can doubt; and it is as certain that his religious tone has no sympathy with the sect or the conventicle. It has been frequently remarked, that in the whole series of his bistorical plays, in which he so often delineates ecclesiastical persons and treads on tender ground, he never is betrayed into a sneer, or drops a hint in sanction of that polemical tradition which grew up in the courts of Elizabeth and James the First, and which nearly to our own time has indirectly transmitted itself through English literature. The contrast in this respect between Shakespeare and several of his dramatic contempo. raries is remarkable.
EXHORTATION TO MERCY.
Merchant of Venice, act iv. scene 2.
LORENZO AND JESSICA.
Merchant of Venice, act v. scene 1. Lor. 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 choiring to the young-eyed cherubims : Such harmony is in immortal souls ! But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close us in, we cannot hear it. Come, ho, and wake Diana with a hymn; With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear, And draw her home with music.
Jes. I'm never merry when I hear sweet music. [Music.
Lor. The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
Enter Portia and Nerissa at a distance.
Ner. When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.
Por. So doth the greater glory dim the less : A substitute shines brightly as a king,