« PředchozíPokračovat »
truth and closeness of his pictures, that he knows the lesson hy heart. Yet there is not a trace of egotism.
One more royal trait properly belongs to the poet. I mean his cheerfulness, without which no man can be a poet, - for beauty is his aim. He loves virtue, not for its obligation, but for its grace: he delights in the world, in mail, in woman,
for the lovely light that sparkles from them. Beauty, the spirit of joy and hilarity, he sheds over the universe. Epicurus relates, that poetry hath such charms that a lover might forsake his mistress to partake of them. And the true bards have been noted for their firm and cheerful temper. Homer lies in sunshine ; Chaucer is glad and erect; and Saadi says, “ It was rumored abroad that I was penitent; but what had I to do with repentance ?” Not less sovereign and cheerful, - much more sovereign and cheerful, is the tone of Shakspeare. His name suggests joy and emancipation to the heart of men. If he should appear in any company of human souls, who would not march in his troop? He touches nothing that does not borrow health and longevity from his festal style.
And now, how stands the account of man with this bard and benefactor, when in solitude, shuting our cars to the reverberations of his fame, we seek to strike the balance ? Solitude has austere lessons; it can teach us to spare both heroes and poets; and it weighis Shakspeare also, and finds him to share the halfness and imperfection of humanity.
Shakspeare, Homer, Dante, Chaucer, saw the splendor of meaning that plays over the visible world; knew that a tree had another use than for apples, and corn another than for meal, and the ball of the earth, than for tillage and roads that these things bore a second and finer harvest to the mind, being emblems of its thoughts, and conveying in all their natural history a certain mute commentary on human life. Shakspeare employed them as colors to compose his picture. He rested in their beauty; and never took the step which seemed inevitable to such genius, namely, to explore the virtue which resides in these symbols, and imparts this power,
- what is that which they themselves say? He converted the elements, which waited on his command, into entertainments. Ile was master of the revels to mankind. Is it not as if one should have, through majestic powers of science, the comets given into his hand, or the planets and their moons, and should draw them from their orbits to glare with the municipal fire-works on a holiday night, and advertise in all towns, “very superior pyrotechny this evening !” Are the agents of nature, and the power to understand them, worth no more than a street serenade, or the breath of a cigar? One renienībers again the trumpet-text in the Koran, -.“The beavens and the earth, and all that is between them, think ye we have created them in jest ?” As long as the question is of talent and mental power, the world of men has not his equal to show. But when the question is to life, and its materials, and its auxiliaries, how does he profit me ? What does it signify? It is but a Twelfth Night, or Midsummer Night's Dream, or a Winter Evening's Tale : what signifies another picture more or less ? The Egypcan verdict of the Shakspeare Societies comes to mind,
that he was a jovial actor and manager. I cannot marry this fact to his verse. Other admirable men bare led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought; but this man, in wide contrast. Had he been less, liad le reached only the common measure of great authors, of Bacon, Milton, Tasso, Cervantes, we might leave the fact in the twilight of human fate: but, that this man of men, he who
gave to the science of mind a new and larger subject than had ever existed, and planted the standard of humanity some furlongs forward into Chaos, – that he should not be wise for himself, - it must even go into the world's history, that the best poet led an obscure and profane life, using his genius for the public amusement.
Well, other men, priest and prophet, Israelite, German, and Swede, beheld the same objects : they also saw through them that which was contained. And to what purpose? The beauty straight way vanished; they read commandments, all-excluding mountainous duty; an obligation, a sadness, as of piled mountains, fell on them, and life became ghastly, joyless, a pilgrim's progress, a probation, heleaguered round with doleful histories of Adam's fall and curse, behind us; with doomsdays and purgatorial and penal fires before us; and the heart of the seer and the heart of the listener sank in them. It must be conceded that these are half-views of halla
The world still wants its poet-priest, a l'econciler, who shall not trifle with Shakspeare the player, nor shall grope in graves with Swedenborg the mourner; but who shall see, speak, and act, with equal inspiration. For knowledge will brighten the sunshine; right is more beautiful than private affection; and love is compatible with universal wisdom.