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DOWN THE AGES.
"The sands are numbered that make up my life; Here must I stay, and here my life must end."
"Time is the King of man,
For he is their parent, and he is their grave. And gives them what he will, not what they crave."
DURING the years 1614, 1615 and 1616 Shakspere sauntered about for pleasure and business among the bohemians and nobility of London, Oxford and Stratford, piecing and renewing his personal and real estate for the benefit of his two daughters, Susannah and Judith, and thus making every preparation for that eternal sleep that never fails to shut down the pale and bloodless eyelids of meandering, melancholy man.
The spectacular play of "King Henry the Eighth" was given at the Globe Theatre on the evening of the 29th of June, 1613.
It had been largely advertised as a royal historical dramatic treat, and the nobility were there in great force.
William and myself before leaving London occu
pied a private box as spectators on the left of the great stage. The audience numbered nearly two thousand, pit, gallery and cockloft being filled to overflowing.
During the third act of the play a cannon was fired, giving a grand salute to the mimic King Henry and his royal train as they appeared before the assembled multitude.
Part of the gun wadding fired by the mock cannon was thrown on the open roof of the Globe, and immediately ignited the thatch, spreading flames around the top rim of the great octagonal playhouse.
Shakspere saw at once the danger of stampeding the audience through the two great, high doors, and with his natural calmness and imperial courage rushed in front of the footlights and said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, there is no danger if you be calm and brave, and file out of the building in good order."
"Those near the right and left doors will please go out slowly, and all the actors will remain on the stage until the people disappear." At this juncture, at the suggestion of William, the actors were ordered to sing "God Save the King," and every mortal escaped unhurt from the building. Yet two hours after it was a mass of blazing cinders and ashes.
Burbage, Jonson, Fletcher, Drayton, Condell, Heming and Peele continued to furnish rare sports and masks for theatrical and court edification, but the brilliant star that had shone with undimmed luster for thirty years on the dramatic stage of London was only glowing with a lambent light, throw
ing its last rays over the world as it went down in crimson glory over the western hills of Warwickshire.
Yet, while the great poet and dramatist himself would never again tread the play platform, or throw his sonorous, magic voice over a London audience, the great children and characters of his matchless brain would hold the dramatic boards and thrill the heart and soul of mankind as long as human nature laughed and suffered on the globe.
Shakspere had more self-control than any man I ever met, and his reason was ever holding court in his conscience.
He, who reigns within himself, and rules
After thirty years of a wandering battle with Dame Fortune, testing her griefs and glories, it was a sweet consolation for William and myself to drift back to the scenes of childhood and tread again the streets, roads, fields and hills that blessed our boyhood hours.
In the spring of 1614 William and myself wandered over the fields and ridges to Coventry, and visited Warwick Castle. The young Earl of Leicester gave us a hearty welcome; for the praise that William had received at court and the light that dazzled from his lamp of literary fame made him an honored guest in cot or palace, strewing about his pathway the flowers of faith and affection.
Returning to Stratford one evening in May we stood on the same old hill top beyond the Clopton Bridge, looking at the sparkling spires and steeples
of the town; and all seemed as natural as when we left them in the morning of life.
The hills and fields were blooming as of old, the Avon wound its serpentine course to the sea, the song of the ploughman and shepherd swelled from the vale, the lowing of cattle, strolling homeward for the night echoed among the hills, the blackbird, thrush and vagrant crow sang and croaked as they hastened with their mates to their feathered families, and the daisies, wild roses, hedge rows, hawthorn bushes, and grand old elms and oaks bloomed in their everlasting garments of variegated beauty.
As the cardinal colors of the dying day threw their last rays over the placid bosom of the Avon, and the murmur of laughing voices floated up from the town to mingle, as it were, with the curling smoke from glistening chimney tops, William and I scampered down the hill, over the bridge, on by the old mill, and entered the open gate of "New Place," as Judith, his intellectual daughter, welcomed her famous father with exuberant affection.
Here was rest indeed. For like weather-beaten mariners or soldiers of fortune, each of us had been buffeted by the billows of Fate; and yet with all the scars she gave, we never knew a day, though cloudy and stormy, that we could not see rifts of sunshine breaking through the entanglements of adversity.
Our mind, a kingdom was, in every clime,
The strolling players, literary guild and traveling nobles never failed in passing through Stratford to visit Shakspere at his beautiful and comfortable home at "New Place." It was Liberty Hall to every guest that passed the threshold of the retired Bard, where like a full-rigged ship on a summer sea, he moved down in peace, through the sunset beams of a brilliant life, accompanied by his friends and affectionate daughters into the harbor of rest beneath the walls of old Trinity Church.
Susannah, the oldest daughter, had married Dr. John Hall several years before the poet's death, and occupied the old Shakspere house on Henley street, and her mother lived with the family, a solace to her daughter and beautiful granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall.
Mrs. Shakspere, the buxom Anne Hathaway of vanished years, was entirely subdued and found consolation in her devoted daughters and religious duties. She could be found at every prayer meeting and Sunday sermon in the Shakspere pew of Trinity Church.
William seldom attended Puritan meetings, Episcopal conclaves, or Papist masses. He paid formal respect, at long range, to all sacerdotal ceremonies, not bothering himself about dogmas, creeds and bulls, put forth by little, cunning man for earthly power and financial benefit.
He believed in God and in himself,