Sivut kuvina

In the subsequent Satire, our author more particularly censures the intemperance of his brethren ; and illustrates their absolute inability to write, till their imaginations were animated by wine, in the following apt and witty comparison, which is worthy of Young.

As frozen dunghills in a winter's morn,
That void of vapours seemed all beforn,
Soon as the Sun sends out his piercing beams,
Exhale forth filthy smoak, and stinking steams;
So doth the base and the fore-barren brain,

Soon as the raging wine begins to raign. În the succeeding lines, he confines his attack to Marlow, eminent for his drunken frolics, who was both a player and a poet, and whose tragedy of Tamerlape the Great, represented before the year 1588, published in 1590, and confessedly one of the worst of his plays, abounds in bombast. Its false splendour was also burlesqued by Beaumont and Fletcher in The Coxcomb; and it has these two lines, which are ridiculed by Pistol, in Shakspeare's King Henry the Fourth ", addressed to the captive princes who drew Tamerlane's chariot:

Holla, you pamper'd jades of Asia,
What, can ye draw but twenty miles a day?

We should, in the mean time, remember, that by many of the most skilful of our dramatic writers, tragedy was now thought almost essentially and solely to consist, in the pomp of declamation, in sounding expressions, and unnatural amplifications of style. But to proceed :

One, higher pitch'd, doth set bis soaring thought
On crowned kings that fortune low hath brought ;
Or some vpreared high-aspiring swaine,
As it might be the Turkish Tamberlaine 19 :
Then weeneth he his base drink-drowned spright
Rapt to the threefold loft of Heauen's hight:
When he conceiues upon his faigned stage
The stalking steps of his great personage
Graced with huff-cap termes, and thundering threats,
That his poor hearers hair qvite vpright sets,
So soon as some braue-minded hungrie youth
Sees fitly frame to his wide-strained mouth,

See also Freeman's Epigrams, the second part, entitled, Run and a great Cast. Lond. 1614, 4to. ,
Epigr. 92. Şignat. K. 3.

Shakespeare, that nimble Mercury thy braine, &c,
Who list reade lust, there's Venus and Adonis,

Trae model of a most lasciuious letcher. 18 A. ii. S. iv.

19 There is a piece entered to R. Jones, Aug. 14, 1590, entitled, Comicall Discourses of Tamberlain the Cithian (Scythian] Shepherd. Registr. Station, B. f. 262. b. Probably the story of Tamerlane was introduced into our early drama from the following publication: The Historie of the great Emperour Tamerlane, drawn from the antient Monuments of the Arabians. By messire Jean du Bec, abbot of Mortimer. Translated into English by H. M. London, for W. Ponsonbie, 1597, 4to. I cite from a second edition.

He vaunts his voice vpon a hired stage,
With high-set steps and princelie carriage.
There if he can with termes Italianate,
Big-sounding sentences, and words of state,
Faire patch me vp his pure iambicke verse,
He rauishes the gazing scoffolders 20.

But, adds the critical satirist, that the minds of the astonished audience may not be too powerfully impressed with the terrours of tragic solemnity, a Vice, or buffoon, is suddenly and most seasonably introduced.

Now lest such frightful shews of fortvne's fall,
And bloody tyrant's rage, should chance appall
The dead-struck audience, mid the silent rout
Comes leaping in a self-misformed lout,
And laughs, and grins, and frames his mimic face,
And jostles straight into the prince's place.-
A goodlie hotch-potch, when vile russetings
Are match'd with monarchs, and with mighty kings :
A goodly grace to sober tragick Muse,
When each base clowne his clumsy fist doth bruise !

To complete these genuine and humorous anecdotes of the state of our stage in the reign of Elizabeth, I make no apology for adding the paragraph immediately following, which records the infancy of theatric criticism.

Meanwhile our poets, in high parliament,
Sit watching euerie word and gesturement,
Like curious censors of some doutie gear,
Whispering their verdict in their fellows ear.
Woe to the word, whose margin in their scrole 22
Is noted with a black condemning coal!
But if each period might the synod please,
Ho! bring the ivie boughs, and bands of bayes 23.

In the beginning of the next Satire, he resumes this topic. He seems to have conceived a contempt for blank verse; observing that the English iambic is written with little trouble, and seems rather a spontaneous effusion, than an artificial construction.

Too popular is tragick poesie,
Straining his tiptoes for a farthing fee;
And doth, beside, on rimeless numbers tread :
Unbid iambicks flow from careless head.

** Those who sate on the scaffold, a part of the play-house which answered to our upper-gallery. So again, B. iv. 2. f. 13.

When a craz'd scaffold, and a rotten stage,

Was all rich Nenius his heritage. See the conformation of our old English theatre accurately investigated in the Supplement to Shakespeare, i. 9. seq. [See supr. vol. iii. 327.] » La striking the benches to express applause.

?? B. i. 3. f. 8.

23 Copy

He next inveighs against the poet, who

in high heroic rimes Compileth worm-eat stories of old times.

To these antique tales he condemns the application of the extravagant enchantments of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, particularly of such licentious fictions as the removal of Merlin's tomb from Wales into France, or Tuscany, by the magic operations of the sorceress Melissa 24, The Orlando had been just now translated by Harrington.

And maketh up his hard-betaken tale
With strange inchantments, fetch'd from darksom vale
Of some Melissa, who by magick doom
To Tuscans soile transporteth Merlin's tomb.

But he suddenly checks his career, and 'retracts his thoughtless temerity in presuming to blame such themes as had been immortalised by the Fairy Muse of Spenser.

But let no rebel satyr dare traduce
Th' eternal legends of thy Faerie Muse,
Renowned Spenser! whom no earthly wight
Dares once to emulate, much less dares despight.
Salust 25 of France, and Tuscan Ariost,
Yield vp the lawrell garland ye haue lost 26 !

În the fifth, he ridicules the whining ghosts of The Mirrour of Magistrates, which the ungenerous and unpitying poet sends back to Hell, without a penny to pay Charon for their return over the river Styx 27.

In the sixth, he laughs at the hexametrical versification of the Roman prosody, so contrary to the genius of our language, lately introduced into English poetry by Stanihurst the translator of Virgil, and patronised by Gabriel Harvey and sir Philip Sidney.

Another scorns the homespun thread of rimes,
Match'd with the lofty feet of elder times.
Giue me the numbred verse that Virgil sung,
And Virgil's selfe shall speake the English tounge.--
The nimble dactyl striving to outgo
The drawling spondees, pacing it below :
The lingering spondees labouring to delay
The breathless dactyls with a sudden stay 28.

His own lines on the subject are a proof that English verse wanted to borrow ne graces from the Roman.

[blocks in formation]

16 B. i. 4. f. 11. In the stanzas called A Defiance to Envy, prefixed to the Satires, he declares his reluctance and inability to write pastorals after Spenser.

At Colin's feet I throw my yielding reede. But in some of those stanzas in which he means to ridicule the pastoral, he proves himself admirably qualified for this species of poetry. 29 B. j. 6. f. 13, 14.

37 B. i. 5. f. 12.

The false and foolish compliments of the sonnet-writer, are the object of the seventh Satire.

Be she all sooty black, or berry brown,
She 's white as morrow's milk, or flakes new-blown.

He judges it absurd, that the world should be troubled with the history of the smiles or frowns of a lady; as if all mankind were deeply interested in the privacies of a lover's heart, and the momentary revolutions of his hope and despair 29.

In the eighth, our author insinuates his disapprobation of sacred poetry, and the metrical versions of scripture, which were encouraged and circulated by the puritans. He glances at Robert Southweli's Saint Peter's Complaint 39, in which the saint weeps pure Helicon, published this year, and the same writer's Funerall Teares of the Two Maries. He then, but without mentioning his name, ridicules Markhan's Sion's Muse, a translation of Solomon's Songs". Here, says our satirical critic, Solomon assumes the character of a modern sonnetteer ; and celebrates the sacred spouse of Christ with the levities and in the language of a lover singing the praises of his mistress 33.

The hero of the next Satire I suspect to be Robert Greene, who practised the vices which he so freely displayed in his poems. Greene, however, died three or four years before the publication of these Satires ». Nor is it very likely that he should have been, as Oldys has suggested in some manuscript papers, Hall's contemporary at Cambridge, for he was incorporated into the university of Oxford, as a master of arts from Cambridge, in July, under the year 1588 34. But why should we be solicitous to recover a name, which indecency, most probably joined with dulness, has long ago deservedly delivered to oblivion ? Whoever he was, he is surely unworthy of these elegant lines :

Envy, ye Muses, at your thriving mate!
Cupid hath crowned a new laureate.
I sawe his statue gayly tir'd in green,
As if he had some second Phebus been:
His statue trimm'd with the Venerean tree,
And shrined fair within your sanctuary.
What he, that erst to gain the rhyming goal, &c.

He then proceeds, with a liberal disdain, and with an eye on the stately buildings of his university, to reprobate the Muses for this unworthy profanation of their dignity.

Take this, ye Muses, this so high despight,
And let all hatefull, luckless birds of night,
Let screeching owles nest in your razed roofs;
And let your floor with horned satyr's hoofs
Be dinted and defiled euerie morn,
And let your walls be an eternal scorn!

29 B. i. 7. f. 15.

39 Wood says that this poem was written by Davies of Hereford. Ath. Oxon. i. 445. But he had given it to Southwell, p. 334. 31 See supr. vol. iii. p. 318.

32 B. i. 8. f. 17, * In 1593, Feb. 1, a piece is entered to Danter called Greene's Funerall. Registr. Station. B. f. 304. b.

24 Registr. Univ. Oxon. sub ann.

His execration of the infamy of adding to the mischiefs of obscenity, by making it the subject of a book, is strongly expressed.

What if some Shoreditch 3s fury shoud incite
Some lust-stung lecher, must he needs indite
The beastly rites of hired uenery,
The whole world's vniuersal bawd to be ?
Did neuer yet no damned libertine,
Nor older heathen, nor new Florentine 3, &c.

Our poets, too frequently the children of idleness, too naturally the lovers of pleasure, began now to be men of the world, and affected to mingle in the dissipations and debaucheries of the metropolis. To support a popularity of character, not so easily attainable in the obscurities of retirement and study, they frequented taverns, became libertines and buffoons, and exhilarated the circles of the polite and the profligate. Their way of life gave the colour to their writings: and what had been the favourite topic of conversation, was sure to please, when recommended by the graces of poetry. Add to this, that poets now began to write for hire, and a rapid sale was to be obtained at the expense of the purity of the reader's mind 37. The author of The Return from Parnassus, acted in 1606, says of Drayton, a true genius, “However, he wants one true note of a poet of our times, and that is this : he cannot swagger it well in a tavern 38."

The first Satire of the second book properly belongs to the last. . In it, our author continues his just and pointed animadversions on immodest poetry, and hints at some pernicious versions from the Facetiæ of Poggius Florentinus, and from Rabelais. The last couplet of the passage I am going to transcribe, is most elegantly expressive.

But who conjur'd this bawdie Poggie's ghost
From out the stewes of his lewde home-bred coast;
Or wicked Rablais' drunken reuellings 39,
To grace the misrule of our tauernings ?
Or who put bayes into blind Cupid's fist,
That he should crowne what laureates him list *0 ?

By tauernings, he means the increasing fashion of frequenting taverns, which seem to have multiplied with the play-houses. As new modes of entertainment sprung up, and new places of public resort became common, the people were more often called together, and the scale of convivial life in London was enlarged. From the play-house they went to the tavern. In one of Decker's pamphlets, printed in 1609, there is a cu

35 A part of the town notorious for brothels.

26 Peter Aretine. 37 Harrington has an Epigram on this subject. Epigr. B. i. 40.

Poets hereaft for pensions need not care,

Who call you beggars, you may call them lyars;
Verses are grown svch merchantable ware,

That now for sonnets, sellers are and buyers.
And again, he says a poet was paid “two crownes a sonnet." Epigr. B. i. 39.

38 A. i. S. ii.

39 Harvey, in his Foure Letters, 1592, mentions “the fantasticall mould of Aretine or Rabelays." p. 48. Aretine is mentioned in the last Satire.

40 B. ii. 1. f. 25.

« EdellinenJatka »