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astounding coarseness. Beaumont and Fletcher's good company saved them from that, in words. In spirit they are full of it. But Decker never mixes up (at least not as far as I can remember) any such revolting and impossible contradictions in the same character as they do. Neither does he bring a doubt on his virtue by exaggerating them. He believes heartily in what he does believe, and you love him in consequence. It was he that wrote that character, the piety of which has been pronounced equal to its boldness :
The best of men
His universal sympathy enabled him to strike out that audacious and happy simile, “untameable as flies,” which Homer would have admired, though it is fit to make poetasters shudder. The poetaster, had Decker offered to make him a present of it, would have been afraid of being taken for a fly himself. Images are either grand in themselves, or for the thought and feeling that accompany them.
This has all the greatness of Nature's “equal eye.” You may see how truly Decker felt it to be of this kind, by the company in which he has placed it; and there is a consummation of propriety in its wildness, for he is speaking of lunatics :
There are of madmen, as there are of tame,
Middleton partakes of the poetry and sweetness of Decker, hut not to the same height; and he talks more at random. You hardly know what to make of the dialogue or stories of some of his plays.
But he has more fancy; and there is one characte
of his (De Flores in the “ Changeling”) which, for effect at once tragical, probable, and poetical, surpasses anything I know of in the drama of domestic life. Middleton has the honor of having furnished part of the witch poetry to Macbeth, and of being conjoined with it also in the powerful and beautiful music of Locke.
From Massinger, Ford, and the others (as far as I have met with them, and apart from the connexion of Massinger's name with Decker), I could find nothing to extract of a nature to suit this particular volume, and of equal height with its contents. It is proper to state, however, that I have only glanced through their works: for though no easily daunted reader, I never read an entire play either of Ford or Massinger. They repel me with the conventional tendencies of their style, and their unnatu. ral plots and characters. Ford, however, is elegant and thoughtful; and Massinger has passion, though (as far as I know) not in a generous shape. With these two writers began that prosaical part of the corruption of dramatic style (merging passionate language into conventional) which came to its head in Shirley
Donusa. What magic hath transform'd me from myself?
To this union
Durham. To this unity, a mystery
Ford's Perkin Warbeck.
Both tnese passages are the first I came to, on dipping into their works. One might fancy one's self reading Cato or the Grecian Daughter, instead of men who had breathed the air of the days of Shakspeare.
Massinger was joint author with Decker, of the play from which the scene of the lady and the angel is taken; but nobody who knows the style of the two men can doubt for a moment to which it belongs. I have, therefore, without hesitation assigned it according to the opinion expressed by Mr. Lamb.
FLIGHT OF WITCHES.
Scene, a Field. Enter HECATE, STADLIN, HOPPO, and other Witches.
FIRESTONE in the background.
Ay, is 't not, wenches,
O’t will be precious !
Briefly in the copse,
'T is high time for us then
You are fortunate stili;
Prepare to flight then;
Hie thee, Hecate;
I'll reach you quickly.
[Exeunt all the Witches except HECATE. Fire. They are all going a birding to-night: they talk of fowls i’ th' air that fly by day; I am sure they'll be a company of foul sluts there to-night: if we have not mortality after 't, I'll be hanged, for they are able to putrefy it, to infect a whole region She spies me now.
Hec. Whrt, Firestone, our sweet son ?
Fire A little sweeter than some of you, or a dunghill were too good for me.
[Aside. Hec How much hast here?
Nineteen, and all brave plump ones, besides six lizards and three serpentine eggs.
Hec. Dear and sweet boy ! what herbs hast thou ?
Fire. Here's panax too-I thank thee-my pan aches I'm sure, with kneeling down to cut 'em. Hec.
Every blade of 'em,
Hie thee home with 'em :
Fire. Aloft, quoth you? I would you would break your neck once, that I might have all quickly! (Aside.]-Hark, hark, mother! they are above the steeple already, flying over your head with a noise of musicians.
Hec. They 're they indeed. Help, help me; I'm too late else.
Come away, come away,
Hecate, Hecate, come away.
With all the speed I may.
Where's Stadlin ?
Come away, make up the count.
[A spirit like a cat descenils [Voice above.] There's one comes down to fetch his dues,
A kiss, a coll, a sip of blood;
Since the air 's so sweet and good ?
Either come, or else refuse.
Hec Now I'm furnished for the flight.
Malkin my sweet spirit and I.
To ride in the air
When the moon shines fair,
Or cannon's throat our height can reach. [Voice above.] No ring of bells, &c.
Fire. Well, mother, I thank your kindness: you must be gambolling i th' air, and leave me to walk here, like a fool and a mortal.
THE CHRISTIAN LADY AND THE ANGEL.
An ANGEL, in the guise of a Page, attends on DOROTHEA
Dor. My book and taper
Here, most holy mistress.
Ang. No, my dear lady; I could weary stars,
Be nigh me still then.