« VorigeDoorgaan »
Subject and servile to all discontents,
Sith in his prime death doth my love destroy,
By this the boy, that by her side lay kill'd,
Resembling well his pale cheeks, and the blood
She bows her head the new-sprung flower to smell,
She crops the stalk, and in the breach appears
Poor flower, quoth she, this was thy father's guise,
And so 'tis thine ; but know, it is as good
Here was thy father's bed, here in my breast ;
There shall not be one minute in an hour,
Thus weary of the world, away she hies,
Holding their course to Paphos, where their queen
“Lvcrece. London. Printed by Richard Field, for Iohn Harrison, and are to be sold at the signe of the white Greyhound in Paules Churh-yard. 1594.” 4to. 47 leaves.
“Lvcrece At London, Printed by P. S. for John Harrison. 1598." 8vo. 36 leaves.
“ Lvcrece London. Printed by I. H for Iohn Harrison. 1600." 8vo. 36 leaves.
“ Lvcrece. At London, Printed be N. O, for Iohn Harison. 1607." 8vo. 32 leaves.
“Lucrece," as it is merely called in the earlier impressions, came out in the year following “ Venus and Adonis," and it was printed for John Harrison, the publisher of the edition of “ Venus and Adonis,” in 1596. It had been previously entered, under a more explanatory title, in the Stationers' Registers :
“ 9 May 1594. “ Mr. Harrison, sen.) A booke intitled the Ravyshement of
Lucrece." Like “ Venus and Adonis," it was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, but in a more confident and assured spirit.
This second production was, probably, not quite so popular as the first, and it was not again printed until 1598, for the same bookseller, who put forth a third edition of it in 1600 : the fourth edition was issued in 1607: these are not so marked, and Malone tells us that he had heard of impressions in 1596 and 1602, but they have not since come to light; and our belief is, that “Lucrece was only printed four times between 1594 and 1607. An edition in 1616 purports to have been “newly revised and corrected;" but, as Malone truly states, “it is the most inaccurate and corrupt of the ancient copies; and he adds that “most of the alterations seem to have been made, because the reviser did not understand the poet's meaning." That Shakespeare had nothing to do with the revision and correction of this edition requires no proof; and so little was it esteemed, that it was not followed in its changes in the edition of 1624, which also professes to have been “newly revised.” This last is accompanied by marginal notes, prosaically explanatory of the incidents poetically narrated.
The earliest mention of " Lucrece occurs in the year in which it made its first appearance. Michael Drayton published his “Matilda," (a poem in seven-line stanzas, like “Lucrece") in 1594, and there we meet with the following passage :
“ Lucrece, of whom proud Rome hath boasted long,
Lately reviv'd to live another age,
She is remember'd, all forgetting me,
A difficulty here may arise out of the fifth line, as if Drayton were referring to a play upon the story of Lucrece, and it is very possible that one was then in existence. Thomas Heywood's tragedy, “ The Rape of Lucrece," did not appear in print until 1608, and he could hardly have been old enough to have been the author of such a drama in 1594: he may, nevertheless, have availed himself of an elder play, and, according to the practice of the time, he may have felt warranted in publishing it as his own. It is likely, however, that Drayton's expressions are not to be taken literally, and that his meaning merely was, that the story of Lucrece had lately been revived, and brought upon the stage of the world: if this opinion be correct, the stanza we have above quoted contains a clear allusion to Shakespeare's "Lucrece;" and a question then presents itself, why Drayton entirely omitted it in the after impressions of his “ Matilda ?" He was a poet who, as we have shown in the Introduction to “ Julius Cæsar," (Vol. vii. p. 4) was in the habit of making extensive alterations in his productions, as they were severally reprinted, and the suppression of this stanza may have proceeded from many other causes than repentance of the praise he had bestowed
upon a rival,
The edition of " Lucrece" we have taken as our text is the first, which, like “ Venus and Adonis," was printed by Richard Field, though not on his own account.
be stated on the whole to be an extremely creditable specimen of his typography: as the sheets were going through the press, some material errors were, however, observed in them, and they are therefore in several places corrected. This fact has hitherto escaped remark, but the variations are explained in our notes.
Modern editors have performed their task without due care, but of their want of attention we shall only here adduce two specimens. In one of the speeches in which Lucrece endeavours to dissuade Tarquin from his purpose, she tells him,
“ Thou back’st reproach against long-living laud." Which every
modern editor misprints,
“ Thou back’st reproach against long-lived laud." Our second proof is from a later portion of the poem, just after Collatine has returned home, and meets his dishonoured wife : the true text, speaking of Collatine and Lucretia, is,
“ Both stood like old acquaintance in a trance
Met far from home, wondering each other's chance." Malone, and all editors after him, make nonsense of the couplet, by printing,
“ But stood like old acquaintance in a trance," &c. depriving the verb of its nominative, and destroying the whole force of the figure. It would be easy to add other instances of the same kind, but we refer for them to our notes.