Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

tem of thought, or style of composition. all its varied parts it consists of the ordinary Yet of imagination, as well as impression, and familiar features of humanity; and in we are unable to say decidedly that it does thinking of this wayward and capricious benot exist, because, like impression, it only ing, whose accumulated wrongs and misebecomes perceptible to us through the me- ries have almost stupified his energies, whose dium of words; and as all individuals are melancholy, natural or induced, has connot able to use this medium with force and verted the “brave, o'erhanging firmament” perspicuity, we necessarily lose many of the into “a pestilent congregation of vapours," brilliant conceptions of those around us. we feel with him in all his weakness, as We may however assert as an indisputable with a man; and for him with all his faults, fact, that poetry of the highest order was as for a brother. In memory too, how disnever yet produced without the powerful tinet is Hamlet from all the creations of infeexercise of the faculty of imagination. rior minds! He seems to occupy a place in

As a wonderful instance of the force and history, rather than in fiction ; and in searchefficacy of imagination, as well as of im- ing out the principles of human feeling, we pression, power, and taste, we might single refer to him as to one whose existence was out Milton, were it not that power is more real, rather than ideal. This may be said of essentially the characteristic of his works. all Shakespeare's characters, and so powerHe has equals in the other requisites of a ful is the evidence of truth impressed upon poet, while in power he stands unrivalled. them, that where he chooses to depart from

But, supreme in the region of imagination circumstantial fact, our credence clings to is our inimitable Shakespeare; and that he him in preference to less imaginative histois inimitable is perhaps the greatest proof rians. of the perfection of his imaginative powers. Perhaps the most remarkable fact in conThe heroes of Byron have been multiplied nection with the genius of this wonderful through so many copies that we have grown writer, is the immense variety of his characweary of the original; but who can imitate ters. In almost all other fictitious writings, the characters of Shakespeare? And yet we recognize the same hero, appearing in how perfectly human is every individual of different forms-sometimes seated on an eastthe multitude which he has placed before ern throne, and sometimes presiding over us—so human as to be liked and disliked, the rude ceremonial of an Indian wigwam ; according to the peculiar cast of mind in the while the same heroine figures in the “sable persons who pronounce upon them; just in stole” of a priestess, or in the borrowed orthe same manner as characters in ordinary náments of a bandit's bride. But the peolife attract or repel those with whom they ple of Shakespeare amongst whom we seem come in contact. Every one forms the same to live, are in no way beholden to situation opinion of the Corsair, because he has a few or costume, for appearing to be what they distinctive qualities, by which he is known really are. They have an actual identityand copied; while no two individuals agree an individuality that would be distinctly perupon the character of Hamlet-a character ceptible in any other circumstances, or unof all others perhaps least capable of imita- der any other disguise. tion. Yet let us ask, is Hamlet less natural One of the favorite painters of our day, or than Conrad ? Quite the reverse. If ever rather of yesterday, has but three heads, the poet's mind conceived a perfectly origi- which serve all his purposes—an old man nal man, it is Hamlet, in whose mysterious with white hair and flowing beard, a Grecian nature is displayed the most astonishing female, and a semi-roman hero ; and in the effort of imagination; and yet so true is the same way many of our writers make use of dark picture to the principles of human three or more distinctions of character-a nature, that we perceive at once the repre- hero and a heroine-a secondary hero to sentation of a creature formed after the thwart their loves-a secondary heroine to similitude of ourselves.

assist either one party or the other-perThe fact is, that though as a whole it haps to play at cross purposes with her misstands alone, even in the world of fiction, in tress or her friend: and a fool or buffoon,

[ocr errors]

6

(who varies least of all,) to rush upon the and doffs the mantle of enchantment, he stage when more important personages are

stands before us, not debased and powerless, likely to be reduced to a dilemma. But in but full of the native majesty of a nobleShakespeare even the fools are as motley as man and a prince. To his daughter, the the garb they wear; and the women, who pure and spiritual Miranda, one of our most with other writers vary only from the ten- talented, yet most feminine writers," has so der to the heroic, are of all ages, and of all lately done, perhaps more than justice, that distinctions of character and feeling; while nothing can be added to her own exquiamongst the immense number of men whom sitely poetical description of the island he introduces to our acquaintance, there is no nymph, who has “sprung up into beauty single instance of greater resemblance than beneath the eye of her father, the princely we find in real life. Perhaps the nearest magician; her companions the rocks and approach to similarity is in the blundering woods, the many-shaped, many-tinted clouds absurdities of justices of the peace, or coun- and the silent stars ; her playmates the try magistrates, a class of people with whom ocean billows that stoop their foamy crests, ("if ancient tales say true”) it is probable and run rippling 10 kiss her feet.” the poet may have been brought into no very Of Ariel, the “delicate Ariel,” that most pleasing kind of contact, and hence arises ethereal essence that ever assumed the form the vein of satire which flows through every of beauty in the glowing visions of imagindescription of their conduct and conversa- ation, what can we say? so entirely and tion.

purely spiritual is this aerial being, that we Beyond this, there is another striking proof know not whether to speak of him as callof the wonderful extent of Shakespeare's | ing up “spirits from the vasty deep,” rolling imaginative powers. Throughout the whole the thunder clouds along the stormy heavof his plays we never recognize the man ens, whelming the helpless mariners in the himself. In the works of almost every other foaming surge, and dashing their “ goodly writer, the author appears before us, and we bark” upon the echoing rocks; or if her, become in some measure acquainted with his gentie, willing, and obedient, hastening on peculiar tone of mind and individual cast of ready service at a moment's bidding, and character ; but Shakespeare is equally at asking for the love, as well as the approbahome with the gloomy or the gay, the licen- tion, of the island lord. We know of notious or the devout, the sublime or the thing within the range of ordinary thought familiar, the terrific or the lovely. We never from which the character of Ariel can be detect him identifying himself either with borrowed, and certainly it is the nearest in the characters, or the sentiments of others; approach to a perfectly original conception, and though we wonder, and speculate upon of any which in our literature adorns the the mind that could thus play with all the page of fiction. feelings of humanity, Shakespeare himself Of Caliban, too monstrous for a manremains invisible and unknown, like a mas- too fiendish for a beast, it may also be said ter magician regulating the machinery which that he is entirely the creature of imaginaat the same time conceals his own person, tion; and indeed throughout the whole of and astonishes the world.

this astonishing drama, the mind of the auThe Tempest is generally considered the thor seems to have taken the widest possimost imaginative of Shakespeare's plays, ble range of which human genius is capaand certainly it contains little, in scenery, or ble. The very existence of these beings upon circumstance, that can be associated with a solitary island, isolated and shut out from ordinary life. In the character of Prospero, human fellowship, involves, in difficulties as we are forcibly struck with the originality of strange as insurmountable to ordinary powthe conception; because it combines whaters, the usual course of thought and action, is not to be found elsewhere—the art of a and renders it infinitely more reconcilable to necroniancer with the dignity of a man of honour and integrity ; and when he lays down his magic wand, " unites the spell,”

• Mrs. Jameson.

PROSPERO.

our prejudices, that Prospero, in such a situa

PROSPERO. tion,

Twelve years since, Miranda, twelve years since,

Thy father was the duke of Milan, and
“ with the stars,

A prince of power.
And the quick spirits of the universe"

MIRANDA should hold “his dialogues.”

Sir, are not you my father ?" How beautiful, amidst all the complicated machinery of her father's magic, is the deli

Again, when Prospero describes the horcate simplicity of Miranda! She wonders rors of their situation afloat upon the sea, not at the prodigies around her, because her and his, how full of tender and yet noble

how natural and feminine is her reply, trust and her love are centered in her father, and she believes him to have power to dis

feeling! solve as well as to enforce the spell; yet

“ PROSPERO. why he should exercise this power for any

"In few, they hurried us on board a bark, other than humane and gracious purposes, Bore us some leagues to sea; where they prepar'd she is at a loss to conceive, and therefore A rotten carcass of a boat not rigg'd,

Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats she ventures to call his attention to the

Instinctively had quit it. There they hoist us wreck of a “brave vessel” which she has

To cry to the sea that roar'd to us; to sigh first seen dashed amongst the rocks, and To the winds, whose pity, sighing back again,

Did us but loving wrong. then she adds

MIRANDA. “ Had I been any God of power, I would

Alack! what trouble
Have sunk the sea within the earth, or e'er

Was I then to you!
It should the good ship so have swallow'd, and
The freighting souls within her."

O! a cherubim Finding the natural disposition to wonder Thon wast, that did preserve me! Thou didst smile, and inquire, just dawning in her mind,

Infused with a fortitude from heaven,

When I have deck'd the sea with drops full salt." Prospero thinks it time to explain the mystery of their situation, and then follows that Ariel's description of the tempest raised touching and beautiful description of their by the command of Prospero, is such as former life, their wrongs, and sufferings, none but the liveliest imagination could have which, occasionally interrupted by the jeal- inspired. ousy of the narrator, lest the attention of his

" ARIEL. child should wander, and by her simple

“All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I como ejaculations of wonder and concern, is un- To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly, paralleled alike for its imaginative charm,

To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride

On the curl'd clouds; to thy strong bidding task and for its accordance with the principles of

Ariel, and all his quality. nature. For instance, when Miranda is

PROSPERO. questioned by her father whether she can

Hast thou, spirit, remember a time before she came into that Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee ? cell, and whether she can recall such by

ARIEL. any other house, or person, or image, she To every article.

I bonrded the king's ship: now on the beak, answers

Now on the waste, the deck, in every cabin,

I flar'd amazement. Sometimes I'd divide "MIRANDA.

And burn in many places : on the top-mast, * Tis far off;

The yards, and bolt-sprit, would I flame distinctly, And rather like a dream than an assurance

Then meet, and join : Jove's lightnings, the precursors That my remembrance warrants: Had I not

O' the dreadful thunder clap, more momentary Four or nve women once, that tended me?

And sight outrunning were not. The fire and cracks PROSPERO.

Of sulphurous roaring, the most mighty Neptune

Seem'd to besiege, and make his bold waves tremble, Thou hadst, and more, Miranda. But how is it

Yea, his dread trident shake."
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysin of time ?

After all this, the imperative magician re-
If thou remember'st aught ere thou cam'st here;
How thou cam'st here thou may'st.

quires yet farther service, when Ariel, in MIRANDA.

language true to a nature more human than But that I do not

his own, meekly reminds his master of the

promised freedom for which his spirit is ever pining

" ARIEL. “I pray thee: Remember, I have done thee worthy service, Told thee no lies, made no mistakings, serv'd Without or grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise To bate me a full year.

PROSPERO.
Dost thou forget
From what a torment I did free thee?

ARIEL.

No.

PROSPERO.
Thou dost; and think'st it much to tread the ooze
or the salt deep;
To run upon the sharp wind of the north;
To do me business in the veins of the earth,
When it is bak'd with frost."

There is certainly too much of harshness and contempt to suit our feelings, in the language which Prospero addresses to his "tricksy spirit.” But yet sometimes, when Ariel asks of the diligent execution of his master's mission, “Was't not well done ?" and receives a gracious answer full of approbation; when the magician turns away from coarser natures to welcome with smiles his invincible messenger in the air; and especially when at last he dismisses him, with

“My Ariel, This is thy charge; then to the elements Be free, and fare thou well !" Thus breaking his bondage with the gentleness of affection; we have only to extend our thoughts a little farther beyond the sphere of common life, and we feel that a spirit, gentle, and pure, and elastic, like that of Ariel, would be more than soothed by a single word or look of kindness-more than rewarded with all it could desire, centred in the glorious blessing of liberty.

Even the monster Caliban has also an imagination amongst all his brutalities, or how could he thus describe the influence of the magic spell, by which his being was surrounded ?

The following passage, well known to every reader, can never become too familiar, or lose its poetic and highly imaginative charm by repetition:

4 these our actors.
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air :
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this unsubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."-

How beautiful, and still imaginative is the scene, in which the heart of the magician begins to melt for the sufferings of those he has been afflicting with retributive justice!

“Say, my spirit, How fares the king and his followers ?

ARIEL Confined together In the same fashion as you gave in charge; Just as you left them ; all prisoners, sir, In the lime grove which weathersends your cell; They cannot budge, till your release. The king, His brother, and yours, abide all three distracted; And the remainder mourning over them, Brim-null of sorrow and dismay; but, chiefly, Him that you term’d the good old lord, Gonzalo, His tears run down his beard, like winter drops From eaves of reeds : your charm so strongly works

'em, That if you now beheld them, your affections Would become tender.

PROSPERO. Dost thou think so, spirit?

ARIEL. Mine would, sir, were I human.

PROSPERO.
And mine sball.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
or their alllictions ? and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion'd as they, be kindlier mov'd than thou art !
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the

quick,
Yet with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury
Do I take part: the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go, release them, Ariel !
My charms I'll break, their senses I'll restore,
And they shall be themselves.

ARIEL.
I'll fetch them, sir.

PROSPERO. Ye elves, of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves; And ye, that on the sands with printless foot Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him,

"Be not afear'd, the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand iwanging instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That if I then had wak'd after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought, would open and show riches,
Ready to drop upon me; that when I waked,
I cried to dream again."

When he comes back; you demy-puppets, that with storm and tempest, pouring the waters By moon-shine do the green sour ringlets make,

of bitternes upon the pleasant paths of earth, Whereof the eve not bites; and you, whose pastiine Is it to make midnight mushrooms; that rejoice and calling upon the troubled elements to To hear the solemn curfew: by whose aid

bring their tribute of despair. (Weak masters though ye be.) I have bedimm'd The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds,

What then is imagination to the good or And 'twixt the green sea and the azur'd vault to the evil? An angel whose protecting Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder

wings are stretched out above the pathway Have I given fire, and rilled Jove's stout oak With his own bolt; the strong-bas'd promontory

to the gates of heaven-a demon whose Have I made shake: and by the spurs pluck'd up ghastly image beckons from precipice to The pine and cedar: graves at my command,

gulf-down, down into the fathomless abyss Have wak'd their sleepers; op'd, and let them forth, By my so potent art. But this rough magic

of endless night: a gentle visitant, who I here abjure: and when I have requir'd

brings a tribute of sweet flowers-a fearful Some heavenly music, (which even now I do)

harbinger of storms and darkness: a voice To work mine end upon their senses, that This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,

of melody that sings before us as we jourBury it certain fathoms in the earth,

ney on-a cry that tells of horrors yet to And, deeper than did ever plummet sound, I'll drown my book.”

come: a wreath of beauty shadowing our

upward gaze-a crown of thorns encircling It is easy to bring proofs of the existence a bleeding brow: a wilderness of verdure of imagination-more easy from the pen of spread beneath our wandering steps-an Shakespeare than from that of any other adder in that verdure lurking to destroy: writer; but what language shall describe its a comforter whose smile diffuses light-an power! what hand shall reach to the utmost enemy whose envenomed arrow rankles in boundary of space and time—from the the heart: a joyful messenger going forth source of light to the centre of darkness- upon an embassy of love-a hideous monfrom the heights of heaven, to the depths of ster howling at the gates of hell. hell, to draw forth the attributes of imagina- True to the impulse of nature, imagition, and embody them in a visible sign? nation rushes forth with certain aim, and Countless as the varieties of human charac- never brings home sweets to the malevolent, ter are those of the nature and office of this or poison to the pure heart; but penetrating actve principle; and whatever is the ten- into paths unknown, gathers riches for the dency of the mind to happiness or misery supply of confidence and hope, or collecting -to good or evil, imagination, faithful to the its evidence from “trifles light as air,” sharimpulse of the feelings, ranges through crea- pens the pangs of envy and mistrust. tion, collecting sweets or bitters—delicious There are who treat imagination as a food, or deadly poison.

light to be extinguished—a power to be This faculty, more than any other, be- overcome-a demon to be exorcised. But speaks the progress, or the declension of the ask the child who sits with sullen brow beimmortal soul. Like the dove of peace, it neath unnatural discipline, whether imagi

soars with the spirit in its upward flight- nation is not pointing to flowery paths, and like the ominous raven it goes before it in its stimulating his unbroken will to seek them downward fall. To those who seek for in despite of stripes and tears. Ask the beauty and happiness, imagination lifts the self-isolated misanthrope, when lonely and veil of nature, and discloses all her charms, unloved he broods over the dark future and unfolds the rosebud to the morning sun, the joyless past, whether imagination does wakens the lark to sing his matins to the not call up images of social comfort, of purple dawn, or folds back the mantle of friendly intercourse, and “homefelt delight," misty clouds, and calls upon the day-beam which his sad solitude can never know. to arise; while those who close their eyes Ask the pale monk whose daily penance upon the loveliness that smiles around them, drags him to an early grave, whether imit darkens with a tenfold gloom, sharpening agination steals not with the moonbeams the thorns that lie beneath their feet, stun into his silent cell, whispering of another ning the ear with the harsh tumult of dis- heaven than that of which he reads—a heacordant sounds, rousing the bellowing deep | ven even upon earth, to which a broken vow,

« PoprzedniaDalej »