Abbildungen der Seite

ment; thoughts and images seem to rise up fresh from the writer's own ehservation, and not merely gathered at secondhand: a considerable portion of it is in blank-verse, but the author uses various measures, in all of which his versification is graceful and flowing. A single short specimen will show something of this : it is a speech made by Flora to the country gods :

“ Not Iris, in her pride and bravery,

Adorns ber arch with such variety;
Nor doth the milk-white way. in frosty night,
Appear so fair and beautiful in sight,
As do these fields and groves and sweetest bowers,
Bestrew'd and deck'd with parti colour'd flowers.
Along the bubbling brooks, and silver, glide,
That at the bottom do in silence slide :
The watery flowers and lilies on the banks,
Like blazing comets, burgeon all in ranks :
Under the bawihorn and the poplar tree,
Where sacred Phoebe may delight to be,
The primrose, and the purple byacinth,
The dainty violet, and the wholesome minth,
The double daisy, and the cowslip, queen
Of summer flowers, do overpeer the green;
And round about the valley as ye pass,
Ye may ne see for peeping flowers the grass :
That well the mighty Juno, and the rest,
May boldly think to be a welcome guest
On Ida hills, when, to approve the thing,
The queen of flowers prepares a second spring."

The plot of the piece is simply this : Juno, Pallas, and Venus get at strife who shall have the apple of discord which Ate has thrown amongst them, with a direction that it be given to the fairest. As each thinks herself the fairest, they agree to refer the question to Paris, the Trojan shepherd; and he, after mature deliberation, awards the golden ball to Venus. An appeal is taken from his judgment : he is arraigned before Jupiter in a synod of the gods for having rendered a partial and unjust sentence; but he defends him. self so well that their godships are at loss what to do. A last, by Apollo's advice, the matter is referred to Diana, whe

as she wants no lovers, cares little for her own beauty. Diana sets aside all their claims, and awards the apple to Queen Elizabeth ; which verdict gives perfect satisfaction all round. A part of Diana's speech must suffice to show the author's hand at blank-verse:

• There wons within these pleasant shady woods,
Where neither storm nor sun's distemperature
Have power to hurt by cruel heat or cold;
Under the climate of the milder heaven,
Where seldom lights Jove's angry thunderbolt,
For favour of that sovereign earthly peer ;
Where wbistling winds make music 'mong the trees,
Far from disturbance of our country gods;
Amidst the cypress springs a gracious nymph,
That honours Dian for ber chastity,
And likes the labours well of Phoebe's groves :
The place Elizium hight, and of the place
Her name that governs there Eliza is;
A kingdom that may well compare with mine.
An ancient seat of kings, a second Troy,
Ycompass'd round with a commodious sea.
She giveth laws of justice and of peace;
And on her head, as fits her fortune best,
She wears a wreath of laurel, gold, and palm;
Her robes of purple and of scarlet dye;
Her veil of wbite, as best befits a maid:
Her ancestors live in the house of fame :
She giveth arms of happy victory,
And fowers to deck her lions, crown'd with gold."

Another drama commonly ascribed to Peele was printed in 1594, a part of the title-page reading thus : “ The Battle of Alcazar, fought in Barbary, between Sebastian king of Portugal and Abdilmelec king of Morocco ; with the death of Captain Stukeley: As it was sundry times played by the Lord High Admiral's servants." The piece was written, lowever, as early as 1589; for in that year Peele published a farewell to “Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake, knights, and all their brave and resolute followers," at their setting out on the disastrous expedition against Portugal; und among other things he clearly alludes to the play:

u Bid theatres and proud tragedians,

Bid Mahomet and mighty Tamburlaine,
King Charlemagne, Tom Stukeley, and the rest,
Adieu. To arms, to arms, to glorious arms !”

On the other hand, the play alludes to the wreck of the Spanish Armada, in 1588, which ascertains the writing to have been after that event. It is a strange performance, and nearly as worthless as strange ; being full of tearing rant and fustian; while the action, if such it may be called, goes it with prodigious licence, jumping to and fro between Portugal and Africa without remorse. The evidence is strong for ascribing it to Peele, still we have some difficulty in believing it to be his : certainly it is not written in his native vein, nor, as to that matter, in any body's else ; for it betrays at every step an ambitious imitation of Marlowe, wherein, as usually happens, the faults of the model are exaggerated, and its excellences not reached. Feele could not have been cast into such an ecstasy of rant and disorder but from a wild attempt to rival the author of Tamburlaine, which is several times referred to in the piece.

Stukeley is the right hero of the play. He was a crazy adventurer, who perished at the battle of Alcazar in 1578. Fuller calls him a “bubble of emptiness and meteor of ostentation.” At the time of the play the story was doubtless well remembered, and was probably chosen, because likely to be popular, and because it gave an opportunity to abuse the Romanists, to compliment the Queen, and to fill the stage with noisy incidents and persons. The play is all in blank-verse, with occasional couplets interspersed. The following, besides being one of the best passages in itself, is probably the most characteristic of the person : it is from one of the hero's speeches :

“ There shall no action pass my hand or sword,

That cannot make a step to gain a crown;
No word shall pass the office of my tongue,

That sounds nol of affection to a crown;
No thought hove being in my lordlv breast,

That works not every way to win a crown:
Deeds, words, and thoughts shall all be as a king's;
My chiefest company shall be with kings,
And my deserts shall counterpoise a king's ;
Why should I not, then, look to be a king ?
King of a molebill had I rather be,
Than the richest subject of a monarchy:
Huff it, brave mind! and never cease t'aspire,

Before thou reign sole king of thy desire." The Famous Chronicle of King Edward the First came from the press in 1593. This was probably written laier than the preceding, and is much superior to it every way, though less Peele-like than The Arraignment of Paris. Still its chief claim to notice is as an early attempt in the Historical Drama which Shakespeare brought to such perfection. The character of Edward is portrayed with considerable spirit and truth to history, and is perhaps Peele's best effort in that line. On the other hand, Queen Elinor of Castile is shockingly disfigured, and this, not only in contempt of history, which might be borne with if it really enriched the scene, but to the total disorganising of the part itself: the purpose of which disfigurement was, no doubt, to gratify the bitter national antipathy to the Spaniards. Peele seems to have been incapable of the proper grace and delectation of comedy: nevertheless, the part of Prince Lluellen, of Wales, and his adherents, who figure pretty largely, and sometimes in the disguise of Robin Hood and his merry men, shows something of comic talent, and adds not a little to the entertainment of the performance. The other comic portions have nothing to recommend them. The serious parts are all in blank-verse; the others mostly in prose.

Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes is included among Peele's works by Mr. Dyce, though, we confess, on what seems to us rather slender evidence. The oldest known copies of it are dated 1599, but Mr. Collier thinks it was written before 1590. It goes on seven-feet rhyming Alexandrines, and consists mainly of the loves and adventures of knights-errant, the story being taken, no doubt, from the fields of old

romance. Therewithal, it has some features proper to a Moral-play, one of the persons being named Subtle-shift, who answers to the old Vice : besides, there are personifications of Rumour, who carries news to the different parties, and of God's Providence, who rescues one of the heroines from death. We have, also, a cowardly enchanter, Bryar Sansfoy, who keeps a horrible dragon in the Forest of Marvels; the head of which dragon has to be cut off by one of the knights for a present to his lady-love. Sir Clamydes having slain the beast, Sansfoy forthwith casts him into a sleep, steals his armour, hastens to the Court of Denmark, and palms himself off upon Juliana as her true knight. The hero clips it after him, but on arriving is not recognized by his mistress, till a tournament is appointed, when Sans foy, rather than fight, confesses his fraud. The best part of the piece relates to Neronis, a princess who follows Sir Cly. omon, and endures sundry hardships, in the disguise of a page. Alexander the Great is one of the characters. The play does not deserve further notice : we can scarce believe that Peele wrote it.

The Old Wives' Tale, printed in 1595, is little worth mention save as having probably contributed somewhat to one of the noblest and sweetest poems ever written. Two brothers are represented as wandering in quest of their sister, whom an enchanter named Sacrapant has imprisoned ; they call her name, and Echo replies. Seeing what they are at, Sacrapant gives her a potion that suspends her rea. son, and induces self-oblivion. His magical powers depend on a wreath which encircles his head, and on a light enclosed in glass which he keeps hidden under the turf. The brothers afterwards meet with an old man, also skilled in magic, who enables them to recover their sister. A Spirit in the likeness of a beautiful young page comes to Sacrapant, tears off his wreath, and kills him. Still the sister remains enchanted, and cannot be released till the glass is broken and the light extinguished, which can only be done

« ZurückWeiter »