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Canst thou, O partial sleep! give thy repose
Shakspeare was evidently fully aware of the greatness of the sea, its power, its intense sublimity-but I do not think his words exhibit that extreme love of the sea and of the roaring elements which we find (sometimes perhaps only simulated) in the writers of the present day. Nothing of the Westward Ho! character. At times a feeling of horror may be discovered when speaking of the mighty deep; for instance, in Richard III, Clarence says
Methought, that Gloster stumbled ; and, in falling,
In the time of Queen Elizabeth, the sea, with its evervarying adventures and opportunities for obtaining wealth, not always by the most honourable means, began to open a new profession for the younger sons of the gentry. Drake and Greenville and their associates were many of them men of lineage and name in the western counties-Raleigh was an accomplished courtier, and kindred spirits accompanied him
• 2 Henry IV, Act ii, Scene 1.
+ Richard III, Act i, Scene 4.
to found the first English colony in honour of the Virgin Queen, and to make buccaneering inroads on the Spanish Main. In one passage some reference is made to this. It is where the father of Proteus is reproached because he did not send his son from home
While other men, of slender reputation,
But at the close of the sixteenth century, the sea must have been chiefly regarded as the scene of the greatest contest in which England had ever been engaged
When that great fleet invincible against her brought in vain
All the incidents of that death-struggle and that glorious victory were fresh in men’s minds when Shakspeare wrote his plays—the greatness of the preparations of Spain, the small means of defence which this country possessed beyond brave hearts and hardy English men. There is a passage in Twelfth Night which may have been taken from some of the tales of the naval encounters with the argosies of Spain
A bawb vessel was he captain of,
There is another passage in Cymbeline which may have reference to the same tremendous trial
* Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act i, Scene 3. + Twelfth Night, Act v, Scene 1.
Remember, sir, my liege,
The natural bravery of your isle; which stands
It is probable from this and other passages that our forefathers attributed the wonderful deliverance they had experienced, in no slight degree, to that ever moving barrier of waters which surrounds the cliffs of Albion, and keeps her free from hostile foes. The same idea appears in King John, when England is described as
That pale, that white-fac'd shore,
It may not be out of place to quote a parallel passage from the present laureate, in which he uses the same idea, though we cannot help feeling that the isolation of Britain is gradually becoming a thing of the past,
God bless the narrow sea,
God bless the narrow seas !
I shall conclude this paper with the dying words of one whose name will ever be connected with this county, the great son of a great king, John of Gaunt, "time-honour'd
+ King John, Act ii, Scene 1.
* Cymbeline, Act ii, Scene 1. | Tennyson's Princess.
“Lancaster,” - on his death-bed, with his bodily powers oozing away, his mind turns not so much to his own son, an exile in disgrace, but on the sorrows and dangers of his country, seeking to impart wholesome counsel to her rulers, and then, like “ a prophet new inspired,” pouring forth those noble words on the land of his nativity,
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
* Richard II, Act ii, Scene 1.
THE GREENWOOD OF SHAKSPEARE.
(READ 19TH JANUARY, 1865.)
I NOW come to the second part of my subject, the merry greenwood and its inhabitants, and Shakspeare's intense love of the beauties of the country and wonderful power in describing them,-a power so great that the Puritan poet of the next generation speaks of him as
Sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child,
In the forest in that most poetical of plays, the MidsummerNight's Dream, the two bands of lovers meet with their extraordinary adventures; thither the rustics resort for their rehearsal, choosing a green plot for their stage, and a hawthorn brake for their tyring-house; there the Queen of the Amazons is led by her lover to hear the music of the hounds. Again, in As You Like It, the various characters find refuge in sylvan fastnesses from the tyranny of an usurping Duke, and there
Exempt from public haunt,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.* To a similar scene Sir Valentine fled, having forfeited the favour of the Duke of Milan--there he became the leader of a band of outlaws, and found consolation for the disappointment of his hopes, as he says :
This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods,
Tupe my distresses, and record my woes.t