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Having looked over the sonnets the first time merely for the general impression, I again took up the book one evening for a more minute inspection; and after reading the first six or seven sonnets it struck me, that as marriage was being recommended under various images, there must be some meaning, some thread of connection, though invisible as in a lady's bracelet. I therefore recommenced at the beginning, and soon caught the train of ideas; charmed and delighted with the beautiful imagery and increasing elevation of tone, I hurried on, carried away by the enthusiasm of the poet, to the end of the 20th Sonnet; --the Rubicon was passed, -and I found myself in possession of a most sweet poem-not a mere collection of isolated sonnets, having only a "leading idea” or general reference to the same object—but a perfect poem with the stanzas following in successive order.

It is evident, that the connection of the 20th Sonnet with the preceding one has never been perceived ; it has always been regarded as a sonnet by itself, and separated from the 19th, with which, however, it is most intimately and essentially connected; there is, from the 15th, a gradual rise in the strength of feeling and splendour of declamation, 'till in the 19th,“the poet's eye in a fine phrensy rolling,” and “suiting the action to the word,” he bids defiance to Time,

“ Yet do thy worst, old Time, despite thy wrong,

My love shall in my verse ever live young,” then, still full of poetic fervour, rapt, inspired, he describes the beauty of his love in the 20th Sonnet, being the culminating point, the Corinthian capital, the complement of the whole preceding stanzas, which without it would be tame and lifeless-a body without a head.

The portrait of his love has also been greatly misapprehended, the connoisseurs apparently dazzled by the richness of the colouring; but on a close inspection, it reveals itself as a poetical conception of the highest order of art; nothing material, all expression a woman's face, a man in hue; a woman's gentle heart, a man's bright eye; and then with a few magical touches he paints an ideal face of the most exquisite beauty, the master-mistress of his passion, the love of the beautiful, that intense feeling or passion, that sits crowned in the soul of every artist, be he painter, poet, or sculptor; but so true to nature does the poet paint, mingling the real and ideal, and the ideal and real, as only Shakspere can, that some writers have considered it, as merely the description of a beautiful youth, an Adonis, a British cadet hoghunting, or an immaculate middy; well, each to his taste; there is in them also a divinity that stirreth.

Shakspere's mind appears to have been as practical as poetical; and a mind so constituted may readily have caught the ridiculous side of sonneteering in general, and of the Delias and Amoretti in particular, many of which, though not yet published, were no doubt floating about in private circles; and thus the origin of his taking a beautiful youth for his poetical


lady-love may have been a quiz on those follies, just as Pamela gave rise to Joseph Andrews. It may here be remarked, that my love' means

friend'; but the expression always carries with it a high degree of respect. It should also always be borne in mind, that these sonnets were not written for publication, were given, it is presumable, to the youth himself, by himself distributed amongst his own personal friends, and were preserved as precious jewels with such care, that they were not even surreptitiously printed, 'till ten years after it was known, many 'sugared sonnets' by Shakspere were in circulation amongst 'private friends'; and further, it should be remembered, that the gist of the story runs, marry and transmit a copy of your beautiful face to posterity, or you must live in my immortal lines; so that the poet naturally, and of necessity, swaggers up his own rhymes; yet parties, mistaking this healthy and cheerful vein, accuse him of a presuming and boastful strain.

In the 58th Sonnet, the “better spirit” is supposed to be Spenser or Daniel ; and the 63rd is supposed to refer to Dr. Dee; but it is not probable, that Spenser, living in Ireland, could have been a rival for the favour or friendship of Southampton or of any other lord ; and Daniel's versification does not correspond with “the proud full sail of his great verse”; nor could he "write above a mortal pitch”; but Marlowe is the man-Tamburlaine and Faustus; the familiar ghost, Mephistophiles; Marlowe was also just the splendid and dissipated character to dazzle and lead the young lord astray. There was another and more creditable bond of union between them both being Cambridge men. Marlowe was born in Feb., 1564, and took his degree of A.M. in 1587; and Southampton, in 1589. Marlowe, though only two months older, became a celebrity before Shakspere : having produced Tamburlaine the Great before 1587, which was the first successful experiment in blank verse on the public stage.

It is pleasing to see, that Shakspere respected the genius of his great competitor; and, no doubt, Bacchus took the good-humoured quizzing of Horace all for gospel, as a just tribute of respect due to his allpowerful muse; soon afterwards Marlowe died, having done his work,-improved the stage and corrupted our love,—who then broke the spell of the enchantress, setting his poor lover free to go onwards in his course, the mighty conqueror in the realms of thought.

As Marlowe died in June, 1593, the date of the first portion of the sonnets may be fixed in 1591-2, which supposition is corroborated by the 29th Sonnet, in which the poet says, he has been acquainted with his friend three years. As the young Earl took his degree at St. John's, Cambridge, in 1589, æt. sixteen, he may have been a frequenter of the theatre and acquainted with Shakspere previously to Christmas of

and it is very probable, he may have been in London for a short time during the summer, in

that year;

which case this sonnet may have been written as early as June, 1592; and the first twenty sonnets presented to his lordship on his birthday in Oct., 1591, æt. 18, at which age Shakspere married. In the 87th he describes himself unmistakably as a young man looking several years older than he actually is; the 88th is merely a continuation of the 87th; and it seems to me beyond a doubt, that the strong expressions about “tann'd antiquity, crush'd and o'erworn, and age's steepy night,” are merely the exaggerations of a young poet "writing for effect;" the 95th has always been regarded as a proof, that the poet was at least in middle age, and had probably reached his fortieth year.

95th Sonnet.
That time of year thou may’st in me behold,

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,

Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Let us analyse it-

“In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed, whereon it must expire.” I presume, he means us to understand by the glowing

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