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Two glasses, where herself herself beheld
That, you being dead, the day should yet be light,
Ne'er settled equally, too high or low
That all love's pleasure shall not match his woe. It shall be fickle, false, and full of fraud, And shall be blasted in a breathing-while ; The bottom poison, and the top o'er-straw'd With sweets, that shall the sharpest fight beguile :
The strongest body shall it make most weak, Strike the wise dumb, and teach the fool to
speak. It shall be sparing, and too full of riot, Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures";
“ His steeds to water at those springs
66 On chalic'd flow'rs that lies. See note on this paffage, last edit. Vol. IX. p. 220.
STEEVENS. —this is my spite,] This is done, purposely to vex and dife
A LONE. • Ne'er fettled equally, too high, or low;] So, in The Midfum. mer Night's Dream:
" The course of true love never did run smooth &c.
STEEVENS. ? -to tread the measures ;] To dance. So, in K. Rich. III;
“ Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,
Make the young old, the old become a child.
Perverse it shall be, when it seems most toward,
Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.
Sith in his prime death doth my love destroy,
They that love best, their love shall not enjoy. By this, the boy that by her side lay killid, Was melted like a vapour from her sight!, And in his blood that on the ground lay spilld, A purple flower sprung up, checquer'd with white;
Resembling well his pale cheeks, and the blood
Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood. She bows her head, the rew-fprụng flower to smell
, Comparing it to her Adonis' breath ;
8 Itfall ke cause of war, &c.] Several of the effects here predicted of love, in Timon of Athens are ascribed to gold.
STEEVENS , Was melted like a rapour-) So, in Macbeth:
and what seem'd corporal, melted " Like breath into the wind.” STEEVENS. Again, in The Tempest:
“ These our actors,
And says, within her bosom it shall dwell,
the stalk, and in the breach appears Green dropping fap, which the compares to
Poor flower, quoth she, this was thy father's guise,
And so 'tis thine; but know, it is as good
To wither in my breast, as in his blood. Here was thy father's bed, here in my breast'; Thou art the next of blood, and 'tis thy right: Lo! in this hollow cradle take thy rest, My throbbing heart shall rock thee day and night:
There shall not be one minute of an hour, Wherein I will not kiss my sweet love's flower.
Thus weary of the world, away she hies,
this change :
'-bere is my breaf,] As Venus sticks the flower to which Adonis is turned, in her bosom, I think we must read against all the copies, and with much more elegance:
Here was thy father's bed, here in my breast For it was her breast which she would insinuate to have been Ą. donis' bed. The close of the preceding stanza partly warrants
-but know it is as good “ To wither in my breast, as in his blood.” As the succeeding lines in this stanza likewise do: “ Low in this hollow cradle take thy reft."
THBOBALD. I have received this emendation, as the reading is, I think, more elegant, and the change very small.
Holding their course to Paphos, where their queen
2 This poem is received as one of Shakspeare's undisputed performances,-a circumstance which recommends it to the notice it might otherwise have escaped.
There are some excellencies which are less graceful than even their opposite defects; there are some virtues, which being merely conftitutional, are entitled to very small degrees of praise. Our poet might design his Adonis to engage our elteem, and yet the iluggish coldness of his disposition is as offensive as the impetu. ous forwardness of his wanton mistress. To exhibit a young man insensible to the careffes of transcendent beauty, is to describe a being too rarely seen to be acknowledged as a natural character, and when seen, of too little value to deferve such toil of representation. No elogiums are due to Shakspeare's hero on the score of mental chastity, for he does not pretend to have subdued his de. fires to his moral obligations. He strives indeed, with Platonick absurdity, to draw that line which was never drawn, to make that distinction which never can be made, to separate the purer from the grofler part of love, afligning limits, and afcribing bounds to each, and calling them by different names; but if we take his own word, he will be found at laft only to prefer one gratification to another, the sports of the field to the enjoyment of immortal charnis. The reader will easily confess that no great respect is due to the judgment of such a would-be Hercules, with fuch a choice before him.- In short, the story of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar is the more interesting of the two ; for the passions of the former are repressed by conscious rectitude of mind, and obe. dience to the highest law. The present narrative only includes the disappointment of an eager female, and the death of an unfur. ceprible boy, The deity, from her language, should seem to have been educated in the school of Meffalina; the youth, from “his backwardness, might be suspected of having felt the discipline of a Turkish feraglio:
It is not indeed very clear'whether Shakspeare meant on this occasion, with Le Brun, to recommend continence as a virtue, or to try his hand with Aretine on a licentious canvas. If our poet had
any moral design in view, he has been unfortunate:n his conduct of it. The shield which he lifts in defence of chastity, is wrought with such meretricious imagery as cannot fail to counteract a moral purpose.—Shakspeare, however, was no unkilful mythologist, and must have known that Adonis was the offspring of Cynaras and Myrrha. His judgment therefore would have "prevented him from raising an example of continence out of the produce of an incestuous bed. ---Confidering this piece only in the light of a jeu d'esprit, written without peculiar tendency, we shall even then be sorry that our author was unwilling to leave
the character of his hero as he found it; for the common and more pleasing fable assures us, that
-when bright Venus yielded up her charms, “ The blest Adonis languil'd in her arms." We should therefore have been better pleased to have seen him in the situation of Afcanius,
cum gremio fotum dea tollit in altos “ Idaliæ lucos, ubi mollis amaracus illum
". Floribus et multa aspirans complectitur umbra ;” than in the very act of repugnance to female temptation, self-denial being rarely found in the catalogue of Pagan virtues.
If we enquire inta the poetical merit of this performance, it will do no honour to the reputation of its author. The great excellence of Shakspeare is to be fought in dramatick dialogue, exprefsing his intimate acquaintance with every passion that sooths or ravages, exalts or debases the human mind. Dialogue is a form of composition which has been known to quicken even the genius of those who in mere uninterrupted narrative have funk to a level with the multitude of common writers. The smaller pieces of Otway and Rowe have added nothing to their fame.
Let it be remembered too, that a contemporary author, Dr. Gabriel Harvey, points out the Venus and Adonis as a favourite only with the young, while graver readers bestowed their attention on the Rape of Lucrece. Here I cannot help observing that the poetry of the Roman legend is no jot superior to that of the mythological story. A tale which Ovid has completely and affectingly cold in about one hundred and forty verses, our author has coldly and imperfectly spun out into near two thousand. The attention therefore of these graver personages must have been engaged by the moral tendency of the piece, rather than by the force of style in which it is related. STEEVENS.
This first essay of Shakspeare's Muse does not appear to me fo entirely void of poetical merit as it has been represented. In what high eitimation it was held in our author's life-time, may be collected from what has been already observed in the preliminary remark, and from the circumstances mentioned in a note which the reader will find at the end of The Rape of Lucrece.
To the other elogiums on this piece may be added the conclude ing lines of a poem entitled Mirrha the Mother of Adonis ; or Luftes Prodegies, by William Barksted, 1607;
os But stay, my Muse, in thine own confines keep,
" And wage not warre with so deere lov'd a neighbor ; " But having sung thy day-long, rest and sleep;
“ Preserve thy small fame, and his greater favor.