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[IN a tract dated 1637, Dekker speaks of himself as a man of threescore years This is the only clue to his age that has been discovered. He was born in London and apparently lived all his life there, as playwright, pamphleteer, and miscellaneous literary hack. His plays were published separately at various dates from 1600 to 16:6. He frequently worked with other dramatists, Webster, Middleton, Massinger, Ford, etc.]

Dekker had several qualities which made him a desirable coadjutor in play-writing. He was a master of the craft of the stage. A man of quick sympathies, unconquerable buoyancy of spirit, infinite readiness and resource, he had lived among the people who filled the theatres, and took a genuine delight in moving them by the exhibition of common joys and sorrows. His whole heart went with his audience, and, though he had not the loftiness of aim of his greatest contemporaries, none of them had a finer dramatic instinct. He knew London as well as Dickens, and had something of the same affection for its oddities and its outcasts. The humour which lights up its miseries, the sunshine which plays over its tears, the simple virtues of the poor and unfortunate, patience, forgiveness, mirthfulness, were the favourite themes of this tender-hearted dramatist. His plays are full of life and movement, of pathos that is never maudlin and humour that is never harsh. Vice always gets the worst of it, hardness of heart above all never goes unpunished, but relenting leniency always comes in to keep retribution within gentle bounds. Virtue is always triumphant, but it is discovered in the most fantastic shapes and the least conventional habiliments. It needs some charity to tolerate such heroes and heroines as Simon Eyre, the mad shoemaker, Candido, the patient citizen, Orlando Friscobaldo, Bellafronta, and other types of strangely disguised goodness, but the dramatist's own love for them, with all their absurd eccen

tricities, is infectious. He laughs at them heartily, and carries us with him in his humour, but he knows how to change the key and soften laughter into tenderness.

Dekker's verse is naturally graceful and copious, keeping unforced pace with the abundance of matter supplied by his fertile invention. He was not a careful writer. He probably never blotted a line,' and one cannot read his plays without wishing that he had 'blotted a thousand.' His intellect had not the intense chemical energy of Shakespeare's, through which no thought could pass unchanged; and he did not strain after originality as some of his great compeers did, Webster, Jonson, Ford, and Chapman. He poured out in an easy stream whatever came readiest, and his best passages do not run far without being marred by some poor commonplace, tumbled out as it entered the mint, without any new stamp impressed upon it. It is in his songs, interspersed at too rare intervals through his plays, that Dekker appears at his best. He had the most exquisite gift of song. Few of his contemporaries had a harder life, but all the miscellaneous drudgery through which he had to toil for a precarious livelihood failed to destroy his elasticity and spirits, and his songs rise from the earth like bird-songs, clear, fresh, spontaneous. There is genuine lyrical rapture in the notes. Like most town-bred poets, he had a passion for the country, and his fancy is never more happy than when dwelling on rustic delights.



[From Patient Grissil.]

Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?
O sweet Content!

Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplexed?
O Punishment!

Dost laugh to see how fools are vexed
To add to golden numbers golden numbers?

O sweet Content, O sweet, O sweet Content!

Work apace, apace, apace, apace,
Honest labour bears a lovely face.
Then hey noney, noney; hey noney, noney.

Canst drink the waters of the crisped spring?
O sweet Content!

Swim'st thou in wealth, yet sink'st in thine own tears?
O Punishment !

Then he that patiently Want's burden bears
No burden bears, but is a king, a king.

O sweet Content, O sweet, O sweet Content! Work apace, apace, etc.


[From Patient Grissil.]

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby.
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you.
You are care, and care must keep you
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,

Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

[From Old Fortunatus.]

Fortune smiles, cry holiday!
Dimples on her cheek do dwell.
Fortune frowns, cry well-a-day!
Her love is Heaven, her hate is Hell.
Since Heaven and Hell obey her power,
Tremble when her eyes do lower.
Since Heaven and Hell her power obey,
When she smiles cry holiday!

Holiday with joy we cry,

And bend and bend, and merrily
Sing Hymns to Fortune's deity,
Sing Hymns to Fortune's deity.


Let us sing merrily, merrily, merrily,
With our songs let Heaven resound.
Fortune's hands our heads have crowned
Let us sing merrily, merrily, merrily.


[From the Sun's Darling.]

Haymakers, rakers, reapers, and mowers,
Wait on your Summer-Queen!

Dress up with musk-rose her eglantine bowers,
Daffodils strew the green!

Sing, dance, and play,

'Tis holiday!

The Sun does bravely shine

On our ears of corn.

Rich as a pearl

Comes every girl.

This is mine, this is mine, this is mine. Let us die ere away they be borne.

Bow to our Sun, to our Queen, and that fair one

Come to behold our sports:

Each bonny lass here is counted a rare one,
As those in princes' courts.

[blocks in formation]

Wind jolly huntsmen, your neat bugles shrilly,
Hounds make a lusty cry;

Spring up, you falconers, partridges freely
Then let your brave hawks fly!

Horses amain,

Over ridge, over plain,

The dogs have the stag in chase:
'Tis a sport to content a king.

So ho! ho! through the skies
How the proud bird flies,
And sousing, kills with a grace!
Now the deer falls; hark! how they ring.

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