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him the accurate is so thoroughly fused with the poetical, that it is one and the same life.
The celebrated description of the courser in the Venus and Adonis' is another remarkable instance of the accuracy of the young Shakspere's observation. Not the most experienced dealer ever knew the points of a horse better. The whole poem indeed is full of evidence that the circumstances by which the writer was surrounded, in a country district, had entered deeply into his mind, and were reproduced in the poetical form. The bird “tangled in a net” – the “ di-dapper peering through a wave"—the “ blue-veined violets ”_the
Red morn, that ever yet betoken'd
Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field”the fisher that forbears the “ ungrown fry”-the sheer
gone to fold"—the caterpillars feeding on " the tender leaves"- and, not to weary with examples, that exquisite image,
“ Look how a bright star shooteth from the sky,
So glides he in the night from Venus' eye all these bespeak a poet who had formed himself upon nature, and not upon books. To understand the value as well as the rarity of this quality in Shakspere, we should open any contemporary poem. Take Marlowe's * Hero and Leander' for example. We read line after , line, beautiful, gorgeous, running over with a satiating. luxuriousness; but we look in vain for a single familiar, image. Shakspere describes what he has seen, throwing, over the real the delicious tint of his own imagination, i Marlowe looks at Nature herself very rarely; but he
knows all the conventional images by which the real is supposed to be elevated into the poetical. His most beautiful things are thus but copies of copies. The mode in which each poet describes the morning will illustrate our meaning :
“ Lol here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
Who doth the world so gloriously behold,
The cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold."
* By this Apollo's golden harp began
Till she, o'ercome with anguish, shame, and rage,
Dang'd down to hell her loathsome carriage.” We are taught that this is classical.
Coleridge has observed that, “ in the · Venus and Adonis,' the first and most obvious excellence is the perfect sweetness of the versification; its adaptation to the subject; and the power displayed in varying the march of the words without passing into a loftier and more majestic rhythm than was demanded by the thoughts, or permitted by the propriety of preserving a sense of melody predominant.'
This self-controlling power of varying the march of the words without passing into a loftier and more majestic rhythm" is perhaps one 9.1 in
Biographia Literaria,' vol. ii. p. 14.
of the most signal instances of Shakspere's consummate mastery of his art, even as a very young man. He who, at the proper season, knew how to strike the grandest music within the compass of our own powerful and sonorous language, in his early productions breathes out his thoughts
" To the Dorian mood Of flutes and soft recorder." The sustained sweetness of the versification is never cloying; and yet there are no violent contrasts, no sudden elevations : all is equable in its infinite variety. The early comedies are full of the same rare beauty. In ‘Love's Labour's Lost'— The Comedy of Errors -• A Midsummer Night's Dream'—we have verses of alternate rhymes formed upon the same model as those of the “Venus and Adonis,' and producing the same feeling of placid delight by their exquisite harmony. The same principles on which he built the versification of the Venus and Adonis' exhibited to him the grace which these elegiac harmonies would impart to the scenes of repose in the progress of a dramatic action,
We proceed to the ‘Lucrece.' Of that poem the date of the composition is fixed as accurately as we can desire.
In the dedication to the Venus and Adonis' the poet says—“ If your honour seem but pleased I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours till I have honoured you with some graver labour.” In 1594, a year after the “Venus and Adonis,' "Lucrece' was published, and was dedicated to Lord Southampton. This, then, was
undoubtedly the “graver labour ;" this was the produce of the “idle hours” of 1593. Shakspere was then nearly thirty years of age—the period at which it is held by some he first began to produce anything original for the stage. The poet unquestionably intended the “graver labour" for a higher effort than had produced the “first heir” of his invention. He describes the
Venus and Adonis' as “unpolished lines” - lines thrown off with youthful luxuriousness and rapidity. The verses of the "Lucrece are “untutored lines"lines formed upon no established model. There is to our mind the difference of eight or even ten years in the aspect of these poems a difference as manifest as that which exists between . Love's Labour's Lost' and Romeo and Juliet.' Coleridge has marked the great distinction between the one poem and the other :-
“ The Venus and Adonis' did not perhaps allow the display of the deeper passions. But the story of Lu. cretia seems to favour, and even demand, their intensest workings. And yet we find in Shakespeare's management of the tale neither pathos nor any other dramatic quality. There is the same minute and faithful imagery as in the former poem, in the same vivid colours, inspirited by the same impetuous vigour of thought, and diverging and contracting with the same activity of the assimilative and of the modifying faculties ; and with a yet larger display, a yet wider range of knowledge and reflection : and, lastly, with the same perfect dominion, often domination, over the whole world of lan. guage.'
Biographia Literaria,' vol. ii. p. 21.
It is in this paragraph that Coleridge has marked the difference-which a critic of the very highest order could alone have pointed out—between the power which Shakspere's mind possessed of going out of itself in a narrative poem, and the dramatic power. The same mighty, and to most unattainable, power, of utterly subduing the self-conscious to the univ tial to the highest excellence of both species of composition,--the poem and the drama. But the exercise of that power was essentially different in each. Coleridge, in another place, says, “ in his very first production he projected his mind out of his own particular being, and felt, and made others feel, on subjects no way connected with himself except by force of contemplation, and that sublime faculty by which a great mind becomes that on which it meditates." But this “sublime faculty" went greatly farther when it became dramatic. In the narrative poems of an ordinary man we perpetually see the narrator. Coleridge, in a passage previously quoted, has shown the essential superiority of Shakspere's narrative poems, where the whole is placed before our view, the poet unparticipating in the passions. There is a remarkable example of how strictly Shakspere adhered to this principle in his beautiful poem of A Lover's Complaint.' There the poet is actually present to the
“ From off a hill whose concave womb re worded
A plaintful story from a sistering vale,
**Literary Remains,' vol. ii.