Obrazy na stronie

unsubstantial; for, to say nothing of Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, and the Sonnets, all which are finished with a kind of fastidious exactness : there are numberless verses and scenes in the plays, which prove he had an ear as correctly tuned as that of Pope, but far surpassing him in true and various melody: and equal, if not superior, even to Milton himself. Whenever, therefore, we find a passage of general excellence and beauty, disfigured by an uncouth line, or a line itself decrepid or unweildy, we may reasonably conclude it is the effect of either unfaithful recitation, or hasty transcription ; thus, when the king accosts young Hamlet:

• 'Tis sweet and commendable in your na

ture, Hamlet, “ To give these mourning duties to your

father. “ But you must know, your father lost a

father, “ That father lost, lost his, and the survivor

bound,” &c.

It is plain that the hypermeter in the

first and fourth lines has been impertinently or carelessly obtruded, and that the verse ran thus :)

“ 'Tis sweet and commendable in you,

Hamlet, “ To give these mourning duties to your

father. “ But you must know, your father lost a

father, “ That father his, and the survivor bound,”


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The last of these lines, indeed, Pope very properly corrected. But let us proceed, and see if we can rationally associate such crudities with the mellow harmony of what follows:

- “ And the survivor bound “ In filial obligation, for some term, “ To do obsequious sorrow, but to pér.

sevěr “ In obstinate condolement, is a course “ Of impious stubbornness ; 'tis unmanly

grief, “ It shows a will most incorrect to heaven; “ A heart unfortified, or mind impatient; “ An understanding simple and unschoold: “ For, what we know must be, and is as

common “ As any, the most vulgar, thing to sense“ Why should we, in our peevish opposi

tion, - Take it to heart ? · Fie! 'tis a fault to

heaven : “ A fault against the dead; a fault to na

ture: “ To reason most absurd; whose common

theme “ Is death of fathers ; and who still has

cried “ From the first corse, till — he that

died, to-day “ This must be so

It may be observed, in these verses, that the dissyllabic termination occurs pretty often; and once the trisyllabic. This occasional redundance is, certainly, as Dennis remarked, an improvement in our dramatic metre; though that critic is mistaken in ascribing to Shakspeare, either the invention of it, or the frequent introduction

of the trisyllabic ending. The latter, in truth, is rarely resorted to by our poet ; and very few instances of it can be collected throughout his works ; neither is the dissyllabic an improvement, absolutely; it is no further so than as it varies and extends the general harmony; and, therefore, it should not be called forth too often, but if we find it here, in three successive lines, we shall not want evidence of similar or greater freedom in writers whose numbers are supposed to be more correct ; as in Otway, with whom it abounds; and in Rowe, whose distinguishing praise seems to be the smoothness of his verse: but let us turn to instances more apposite, and compare these casual superfluities with such as are exhibited by contemporaries; by Jonson, Massinger, and Fletcher, who are not satisfied with an incidental or moderate use of the redundant ending; but seem, especially the two latter, to affect and prefer it, giving it place, sometimes, without intermission, for many lines, and, certainly, throughout their works, with more continuity than the regular heroic.c) But there is, further, a conspicuous blemish in

the prosody of these writers, from which Shakspeare is entirely free. The dissyllabic ending is only admissible where the accent reposes on the penultima; and is followed by a weak syllable of a constituent word, as

“ His mother was a votress of my order,"

or, at least, by a monosyllable, that is nearly mute, as

“ To fall-in-love with what she fear'd to

look on,"

and in this manner, only, does our poet employ it ; and rather, as it appears, through expediency than choice ; whereas, his corrivals of the day are so enamoured of the excess, that they will often prodigally burthen the ear to obtain it at the expence of a new, distinct, and emphatic word.(d)

This uncouth exuberance, so prevalent with Beaumont and Fletcher, as well as Massinger, that it disfigures the greater part of their poetry, is so uncongenial to

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