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that both are too highly seasoned with the peculiar spicery of the time to carry an abiding relish. Their shape and physiognomy express rather the literary fashion of the age than the Poet's mental character; and what was then apt to be regarded as the crowning witchcraft of poetry, has the effect now of studied and elaborate coldness; the real glow of the work being drowned and lost to us in a profuse and redundant sparkling of conceit.
A passage from Coleridge may fitly dismiss the subject: “No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language. In Shakespeare's poems, the creative power and the intellectual energy wrestle as in a war-embrace. Each in its excess of strength seems to threaten the extinction of the other. At length, in the drama they were reconciled, and fought each with its shield before the breast of the other. The Venus and Adonis did not, perhaps, allow the display of the deeper passions. But the story of Lucretia seems to favour, and even demand their intensest workings. 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 assimulative 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 language.”
RIGHT-HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLY,
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not 'the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness. Your lordship’s in all duty,
1 In Shakespeare's time, moiety was used indifferently for any part of a thing, whether the half, or more or less than half. The plays furnish several instances in point. See vol. iii. page 191, note 8, and vol. xv. page 10,
2 This probably refers to some solid and practical instance of the Earl's generosity to the Poet; and a credible tradition assigns the building of the Globe theatre as the motive and occasion of it. See the Life, vol. i. page 30.
LUCIUS TARQUINIUS, - for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus, – after he had caused his own father-in-law Servius Tullius to be cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people's suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom, went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea. During which siege the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the King's son, in their discourses after supper every one commended the virtues of his own wife ; among whom Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife, though it were late in the night, spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports. Whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius, being inflamed with Lucrece' beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp ; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was, according to his estate, royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night he treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied with Junius Brutus, the other with
1 This argument is presumed to have been written by the Poet himself, and it was prefixed to the edition of 1594. Besides that it narrates the story with clearness and simplicity, it has the further interest of being the only prose composition of Shakespeare, not dramatic, known to exist, except the two dedications to Southampton.
Publius Valerius ; and, finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself. Which done, with one consent they all avowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins; and, bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the King: wherewith the people were so moved, that with one consent and a general acclamation the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state-government changed from kings to consuls.
FROM the besieged Ardea all in post,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Haply that name of chaste unhappily set
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
1 As Dyce remarks, Shakespeare gives the right classical pronunciation of this name, Ardea, not Ardéa.
2 This is the old let, occurring repeatedly in the plays, but now obsolete, meaning to hinder or prevent. Here it seems to be used reflexively: did not let or hinder himself; that is, did not forbear.