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Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love still

my argument; my best is dressing old words new, Spending again what is already spent:

For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.


So, all

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every


For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since seldom coming, in the long year set,
Like stones of worth, they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.
So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special-blest
By new unfolding his imprison'd pride.

Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope,

Being had, to triumph, being lack'd, to hope. I have chosen these favorites almost at random; and the point I would make — also a paradox — is that it is because Shakespeare's best sonnets are completely intellectual and dispassionate, that they make so personal an appeal. They are, after all, no more convincing than “Hamlet.” Our own most inner chords can be made to vibrate, whether through music, architecture, or poetry, only by forces which have passed through some prism or crystal of the mind, and which are as impersonal as geometry.

The fact that these Sonnets were addressed to a young man has distressed the critics of the afterworld; though it is to be observed that the masses of mankind have always accepted them simply, each reader taking his share of them as poetry. There exists, of course, such a thing as love between persons of the same sex. This kind of love is often true and noble, and contains an element of passion. It has been hymned by Milton in his “Lycidas,” by Keats in his “Adonais” and by Tennyson in his “In Memoriam.” This sort of love is apt to run into extravagances and vices, and is a troublesome kind of passion. An attachment of this sort may possibly have had some share in the creation of Shakespeare's Sonnets. I do not see it there myself. I see only reminiscences of ordinary love evoked by fancy, expressed in terms of passing fashion, and controlled by the mind of the greatest poet that ever lived.

If Shakespeare had given us in his Sonnets pictures of lust and debauchery, I should still not regard them as throwing much light on his personal history, for they would have been as ideal as his Tarquin. He eludes us in the Sonnets as completely as in the plays, and for the same reason: his mind had the power of grasping abstractions that are larger than we can compass. We are led to suspect that a brain such as his could not evolve the personal; he translated it into an abstraction as soon as he saw it. In the process of expressing a private opinion, he turned it into a generality, and this habit became so inveterate with him, and he became so alarmingly clever, so completely absorbed in the explosions of his thought at each moment, that we are shaken and surprised, as perhaps he was; but it is only the universal in ourselves which is touched. It is the impersonal, the divine, that we get from him, whether in play or sonnet. We find our own intimate thoughts in him, and exclaim, as Stephano did when he heard the music of the invisible Ariel, “This is the tune of our catch played by the picture of nobody.” APPENDIX I


In all great art there seems to be a lightness of touch, a transparency, a fluidity attained without loss of weight as if a thing could be at the same time both a mountain and a mirage. This supersubtlety of the vehicle itself daunts the beholder, or overcomes him like a summer cloud. We do not know how the thing is done, or on what it depends. When we read poetry to ourselves, there is nothing between our minds and the mind of the poet; the vehicle is purely intellectual; the ideas of the poet pass from his mind to ours in silence. But when poetry is read aloud, recited, or acted on a stage, new arts come into existence, the arts of speech and gesture, and the like, and the new arts must partake of all the power and all the subtlety of the verse behind them.

Though it is impossible to decide how much of charm a good delivery can lend to verse, it is plain that a bad delivery will destroy any poetry whatever. In the plays of Shakespeare almost every idea is syllabled by someone on

Stage directions ar If there is a knocking, the porter says, “Knock, knock, knock"; a modern playwright would have relied on a stage direction. But on Shakespeare's stage every character is, like Prospero, surrounded by Ariels, to whom he talks in asides. They all soliloquize. Soliloquy, the bugbear of modern dramatists, is Shakespeare's main reliance.

When an actor who has been trained in the modern drama plays Shakespeare, he is apt to make either too much or too little of his lines. The school he has learned in is a school crude simplicity, of long pauses nd dynamic effects, of melodrama rubbed in by heavy psy

the stage


chology. The flashes and cadenzas of Shakespeare, his leaps into the beyond and sudden turns of humor and extravagance, outrun the modern stage. Your actor, perhaps, tries to dramatize his lines and relate them to his conception of the part. Alas! he must first have a conception of the poet himself. The nimble-footed naturalism of Shakespeare demands a Proteus who can turn at will into air, fire, or water, into Puck, Mercutio, or Malvolio.

A Shakespearean play is a headlong race of wit, pathos, and expressiveness. The actors must vibrate like musical instruments, and shake off a thousand fancies with facility, while their major passions are rumbling underneath and uncoiling at the proper time.

In the acting of poetic drama every effect is connected with enunciation — with the lips, teeth, tongue, voice, and intonation of the actor. This part of his performance must be absolutely perfect, and with a perfection that merges into the action and beauty of the rest and becomes lost in the thoughts behind his words. The speech of an actor, his whispers or his roars, must be modulated and edged with a delivery as delicate as the sting of the bee; for this enunciation, even when it seems to be lost on the ear, qualifies his whole rendering and gives it a refinement which nothing else can give. The following is Dr. Doran's account of Edmund Kean as Sir Giles Overreach, the miser, money-lender, and extortioner in Massinger's play, "A New Way to Pay Old Debts.” I cite the passage as a tribute to the power of elocution.

"In this last character, all the qualities of Kean's voice came out to wonderful purpose, especially in the scene where Lovel asks him,

Are you not moved with the sad imprecations
And curses of whole families, made wretched
By your sinister practices ? -

to which Sir Giles replies:

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