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SIR PATRICK SPENS.
"Make ready, make ready, my merry men a',
Our gude ship sails the morn;'
I fear a deadly storm.
Wi' the old moon in her arm;
I fear we'll come to harm.'
A league but barely three, - When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.
It was sic a deadly storm ;
Till a' her sides were torn.
To take my helm in hand
To see if I can spy land ? '
To take the helm in hand,
But I fear you 'll ne'er spy land.' “He had na’ gane a step, a step,
A step but barely ane, -
And the salt sea it came in.
Another o' the twine,
And let na’ the sea come in.'
Another o' the twine,
But still the sea cam in.
To weet their cork-heel'd shoon;
They wat their hats aboon.
That flutter'd on the faim;
That never mair cam hame,
“ The ladyes wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their hair,
For them they 'll see nae mair.
'Tis fifty fathoms deep,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet.” Let me take leave of these ancient strains with one very short fragment,---Armstrong's “Good-night,”-in which, if I have been presuming too much upon your patience, you may find a wish of your own expressed for you :
“ This night is my departing night;
For here nae longer must I stay;
But wishes me away.
I never, never can recall;
SPENSER'S DEATH AND SHAKSPEARE'S BIRTH-INFLUENCE OF THE AGE-INDE
PENDENCE OF HIS IMAGINARY CREATIONS-SMALL KNOWLEDGE OF THE INDIVIDUAL-UNSELFISHNESS OF GENIUS-A SPIRITUAL VOICE IN ALL TIMESHAKSPEARE TRADITIONS-HIS BIRTH, A. D. 1564-DEATH, A. D. 1616-CERVANTES'S DEATH-EPITAPH-EDUCATION - BEN JONSON-POWER OVER LANGUAGE-THE DRAMATIC ART CONGENIAL TO HIS GENIUS-KENILWORTH AND QUEEN ELIZABETH-SHAKSPEARE IN LONDON-THE ARMADA-HIS PATRIOTISM AND LOYALTY -SUBJECTIVENESS OF THE MODERN EUROPEAN MIND-SHAKSPEARE AND BACON-VENUS AND ADONIS-LUCRECE–THE DRAMAS—THE SONNETS-DRAMATIC ART IN ENGLAND-SACRED DRAMAS-MYSTERIES AND MORALITIES-HEYWOODMINOR DRAMATISTS—“THE GENTLE SHAKSPEARE”-THE ACTING DRAMA-PRIMITIVE THEATRES-MODERN ADAPTATIONS-LEAR AND RICHARD III.-THE SUPERNATURAL OF THE DRAMA-MACBETH-THE TEMPEST HIS LAST POEM.
T the very time when, in an obscure lodging in London, the Al gentle spirit of Edmund Spenser was passing away from its fresh sorrows and the worldly troubles so meekly complained of in various passages of his poems, there was dwelling under some humble roof of the same city the mightiest of his many contemporaries among the poets,— WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE. The beginning of his dramatic career dates about the time of the publication of the “Fairy Queen,” not far from the close of the sixteenth century. The term of his authorship belongs not, like Spenser's, exclusively to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, but, beginning in that reign, it survives during a portion of that of her successor, James I.
At the outset of these lectures I took occasion to recognise as one of the offices of criticism to trace the correspondence between the spirit of a great author and that of his age and country, as well as the course of his personal life. The historical and biographical ilļustrations have a value which no careful student should overlook; for often he will find that a knowledge of the temper of the times, the characteristics of the age, and the individual position of the author, will give a deeper insight into his genius. But, important as this process of criticism is, it is essentially subordinate to the higher functions of criticism,—the philosophy of judging the creations of genius by immutable principles of truth, above the range of all that is local, personal, or temporary. It is à prime element of the best order of intellectual endowment to dwell,
sunlike, in a light of its own; and he who seeks to illustrate by external and reflected rays alone shuts his eyes to the chief source of its illumination.
The first principle which meets my reflections upon Shakspeare is the independence of his imaginative creations of all the incidents which are valuable in the appreciation of most works of genius. We know, indeed, the age and the character of the age in which he lived; but, as if to teach the principle just stated, the materials of knowledge of Shakspeare's personal history have in all important particulars been swept away. We do not even know how to spell his name,-a question of orthography on which recently in England there has been a very animated discussion, occasioned by the discovery of one of the very rare autographs of the poet; and the argument goes pretty strongly to show that the usual way is a wrong way.
Of the man Shakspeare we know literally nothing that is of any worth for the exposition of his character as a poet. The letters which made up his name are far less symbolical of the personal existence of a human being than of the creative origin of Hamlet, Macbeth, and Lear, and Cordelia, or Juliet and Desdemona, and the other realities that rise up in our thoughts at the sight or sound of the word “Shakspeare.” From his individual history nothing ever intrudes to disturb the perfect impression made by those inventions into which he seems to have transferred his whole nature,—this self-forgetfulness, this unconscious selfdevotion, bearing witness to the perfection of his creative powers. This transmigration, as it were, of a great poet's spirit into the characters he invents or the ideas he embodies has furnished an eloquent living divine an apposite illustration in expounding the Christian duty of self-sacrifice; and I quote the passage for its reflex connection with the subject now under discussion :
“Whatever has been truly excellent among the products of the hu- . man mind has sprung from the very same source of all good, both in the natural and in the moral world,—the spirit of self-sacrifice. Look, for example, at poetry. The might of the imagination is manifested by its launching forth from the petty creek, where the accidents of birth moored it, into the wide ocean of being -by its going abroad into the world around, passing into whatever it meets with, animating it and becoming one with it. This complete union and identification of the poet with his poem—this suppression of his own individual, insulated consciousness, with its narrowness of thought and pettinesses of feeling
--is what we admire in the great masters of that which, for this reason, we justly call classical poetry, as representing that which is symbolical
SMALL KNOWLEDGE OF THE INDIVIDUAL.
and universal,—not that which is merely occasional and peculiar. This gives them that majestic calmness which still breathes upon us from the statues of their gods. This invests their works with that lucid, transparent atmosphere wherein every form stands out in perfect distinctness, only beautified by the distance which idealizes it. This has delivered those works from the casualties of time and space, and has lifted them up, like stars, into the pure firmament of thought; so that they do not shine on one spot alone, nor fade like earthly flowers, but journey on from clime to clime, shedding the light of beauty on generation after generation. The same quality amounting to a total extinction of his own selfish being, so that his spirit became a mighty organ through which nature gave utterance to the full diapason of her notes, is what we wonder at in our own great dramatist, and is the groundwork of all his other powers; for it is only when purged of selfishness that the intellect becomes fitted for receiving the inspirations of genius."
The loss, therefore, of biographical information respecting the English Dramatist ceases to be to me a subject of regret, because his genius was not swayed by time, or place, or fortune. It is a small conception which presents Shakspeare to our minds in his individual personality, limited to one tract of the earth, and one tract of time, and to one little island, one little half-century. To the truer thought the idea of Shakspeare comes as the idea of a voice,-a spiritual voice, mighty and multitudinous, like the ocean's voice in mid-Atlantic, attuned to no age and echoing to no shore ;—and, like ocean too, taking its colour from its own unfathomed deep, and not from the soil of the lands it beats upon. I repeat that I know of not a single incident in the obscure story of Shakspeare's life of significancy for the study of his poetry. Yet there has prevailed on this point-naturally, tooman insatiable curiosity, the fruit of which has been the accumulation of as much rubbish as was ever raked into one heap by the industry of one impulse. I would be the last to attempt to brush away a literary tradition, no matter how remote or how frail the testimony on which it rested, did I not detect the feature of a falsehood. In the absence of authentic materials for a biography of Shakspeare, conjecture has been busy, with a licentiousness of speculation which makes it necessary to take the stand of unbelief. It is, of course, not my intention to spend more of your time on this part of my subject, dismissing it as worthless : one or two specimens of this gossip will abundantly serve the purpose.
The absurd story of Shakspeare having earned a livelihood by holding horses at the theatre door was originally stated with an imposing array of the oral tradition on which it rested. Its claims to belief may be