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sentiment, and taste, and feeling, never so refined, such as prompted the writings of Alison, and Goldsmith, and Burns. It is, in a manner, born to a man. It is the influence Shakspeare exerts, more and more, as the world grows wiser, and comes to see more clearly what he means. Byron once possessed this power for a season, but that age has passed. Wordsworth and Carlyle have small German principalities under their sway. Scott, after all that has been said, never ruled in those high courts of the intellect, where men never appear in boots; in short, he lacks spirituality and refinement. None but the bard of Avon ever bore wide and extended rule.' The reason of this is not so much on account of the newness and beauty of his precepts and conclusions, (“queer terms in which to talk of Shakspeare,' says the reader; 'one would think the writer was criticizing a sermon;') as because they are adapted to our wants, and seem to be the echo of our own experience. Shakspeare is the universal mirror in which any man can see himself. There he may find the riddle of his own life unravelled; there too, for the first time, he is aware of his own motives; and after living somewhat, and being ready to exclaim, • Life seems to me to be a great farce,' he turns to Shakspeare, and finds written:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.' Whatever the subject, Shakspeare has anticipated all that can be said. If we can quote him aptly, we consider the argument our own. Whether in a sermon or at a supper, by our fireside or in the halls of debate, to weave in Shakspeare, is to gain applause. In a few words he says more than other men say in large volumes ; and his wisdom seems more like inspiration than the result of thought. He is a sound jurist, a profound statesman, abounding in wit, of superior taste in dress, behavior, and cookery; and he is all this, without wearing a wig, or living at court; without being a dandy, a flatterer, or a glutton.
In the twenty-eight lines put into the mouth of the melancholy Jaques,' the two first of which we have just quoted, it seems that a little book was intended to be written. It has preface, chapter and verse. The hero, man, is introduced, according to the best models, in his 'purse's arms, and made to describe a complete circle above ground, even to 'second childishness :' whereas some writers are content to give us a mere arc of a man. But nothing can be more perfect in its kind than our subject; and we look in vain, in the whole range of the plays, for a speaker better worthy than the quaint Jaques to be the utterer of so great a work. Without appearing to be aware that he is saying “immortal words,' without any apparent effort at condensation, governed by the perfect balancing of expression to thought, he is touched to produce fine issues, and says what will always be read, if for no other reason, because it is a whole, and a short and true one.
This character, who ‘met a fool i' the forest,' from whom he extracted so much wisdom, seems himself to be a kind of higher 'fool,' if we judge from the sageness of his remarks, and the privilege of his tongue. He appears to be the favorite of his author, and has the
· Fools' — the • Melancholy Jaques.'
honor of speaking his own sentiments, and of being the organ of his complaints against an unjust world. He is represented as loving
to lay along Under an oak, whose antique root peeps out Upon the brook that brawls along the wood,'
in such mood as we may easily imagine he himself loved to lie, when forming into being his own deep-toned inspirings. The more fitly to bring him into sympathy with himself, he removes him from the din of courts, and places him in the forest of Arden. There he allows him all freedom of thought and observation, and, in ‘motley wear,' to pour out those serio-comic sayings, which are the sincerest sayings a man ever utters : for his solemn and set words are the offspring of place and circumstance ; his lighter sallies the mere ebullition of a fleeting feeling; while, always longing to be himself, when he does indulge in such an imprudence, he thinks to shield his hearty frankness by a jocose manner and a high-key'd laugh.
Shakspeare's love for · fools,' the deep philosophy of his ' fools,' is explained by Jaques, when he says,
"Give me leave
If they will patiently receive my medicine;' for in the 'fool' he could consistently give vent to those bitter taunts and those private opinions that his regard for his art forbade him to put into the lips of any pretendedly rational person — those very prudent people, who are known at this day, who, before they speak, must see how and when their words will fall, whom offend, how affect party, how touch interest. The world Shakspeare painted was our world. Mankind are ever the same, Persons of place and consequence could no more say what they thought then, than they can now. We do not sympathize with their restraints, and wonder they are not more bold with their opportunities are half vexed with them for their prudence; but the master genius was true to nature, and only gives us his true opinions, his real feelings, by the 'mouth of fools.'
If it would not be considered irreverent, we would say, that this notion furnishes some illustration of the apostle's meaning, where he
any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise,' i. e., let him become disregardful of the usual motives that cramp other men, that his sense may have full play. And again ; 'God hath chosen the foolish things of the world io confound the wise. Now we contend that Shakspeare and the apostle had one and the idea
this subject. Indeed it would not be difficult to show that Shakspeare was a diligent student of the Bible, and, in the then scarcity of books, did not neglect so rich a fund of thought and expression as the sacred pages. It
may be said that the plays are full of satire upon the abuses of the world, and that the author does every where speak openly and boldly. It is not so; it would not be natural to be so. Shakspeare's plays are not satires, but bona fide pictures of events and scenes. Herein consist their beauty and popularity. When the disappointed
man rails, we set it to the account of his disappointment; when innocence complains, we pity the singularity of her case; when the misanthrope scorns, we regret his bile, and think our author very consistent; but the world, the world escapes. Far otherwise is it with the disinterested remark of the 'fool,' who is privileged to speak, and paid for speaking; whose own comfort is augmented by his severity upon others, and who, like a razor, is valued only as he is sharp.
The banishment of the Duke brings Jaques into his native element. His melancholy is a passion, for no man is happier. He is a thinker. He revels about the woods,
'Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing;' weeps with the 'poor deer,' scolds about the Duke for his encroachments upon natural liberty, and is as wild in all his actions, and as wise in all he says, as any •fool could be.
To select Shakspeare's favorite, where all are so favored, is almost presumption ; but we cannot help this conclusion. The most showy characters are not always the greatest favorites with their authors. The most popular productions by no means bear a corresponding interest in their minds, over other, lesser famed, works of the poet and the painter. A little poem, perhaps unnoticed by the great world, shall register the cherished thoughts and private feelings of the one; a small picture, that the casual observer deems insignificant, shall be a view of the spot where the other first loved —' of the cot where he was born' – by chance, it may be a green mound, with a stone at its head, and trees, and a simple enclosure; there he has spent his whole art, and it is to him more than all the gorgeous drapery and speaking features of his lauded efforts. What the world the most admires, the individual rarely loves, and takes home to his soul, to foster with his secret sympathies, and deify by his private devotions. The mother loves most fondly her deformed child, not because it is deformed or maimed, but not having the world's admiration, shut out from common paths by its hapless lot, it grows faster in those inner qualities, those higher sympathies that bind the souls of men.
The child thus situated has associations, and is happy in interchanges of thoughts and affections with its mother, which the • fair in form' do not know.
From our view of Jaques, we attach great importance to all he says; and if for no other reason, we should do so from his having committed to him the uttering of that little book, multum in parvo, of which we will now quote the introduction :
"All the world's a stage,
His acts being seven ages.' In the conclusion, of our introduction, we would say, that we mean to read this book with curious and attentive eyes; for in its leaf seems to be written the history of man.
CHAPTER FIRST - AGE FIRST-INFANCY.
'At first, the infant, Muling and puking in the nurse's arins.
Thus begins and closes the first chapter of man's history. Why say more, in a book which was to be immortal in its conciseness ? Every mother and father can fill up the outline. It is enough for our author to say, that infancy is a season of helplessness and sickness, of danger and of pain. To get foothold in the world is hard ; to maintain it is labor; and when time has cemented our feet to the rocky soil, to tear asunder the habit of living, is harder still. The infant dies, as it first lived, by a single gasp. The playful boy asks for his hoop and ball, and weeps, as he languishes on his last couch, when he hears the merry shout of his play-fellows beneath his window. He asks to see the sunshine, and longs for the green pastures and the running streams. At some still hour of morning, when the day has settled into soberness, he asks his mother to raise him upon his pillow, that he may lean his head upon her bosom; and so he dies. But there is no illusion, when the man enters the dark valley of the shadow of death. All is real solemnity — an awe that forbids open and violent resistance; but his arms are fastened like a vice around his wife and his children, or his eyes are rivetted upon a lofty goal he had almost reached. But a giant hand unlocks his embrace, and an iron film covers his eyes, and silently and shudderingly he passes.
At its first breath, the infant utters a cry, by which the mother knows she has given birth to a living child. How true a token that it is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward! Wise Providence, who hast for thy own best purpose appointed sorrow to man while on earth, how kind and beneficent art thou, in beginning this immortal training at the first! The little 'muling' thing! A puke is thy first dose, or was ; physic may have improved. This is not all. Thou art submitted to no gentle rubbing, no questionable bath. Taken from the tender cradle of a mother's care, who has moved in all her ways mindful of her precious burden, and who has already learned to love thee by the pain thou causedst, as she will hereafter delight in thy tiny scratches, and no careful handlings of her cap and lace, thou art each morn immersed in water from the pump. This will teach thee to bear the cold glances of thy friends, when fortune frowns and they shall look askance at thee; and thou must learn to look calm amid estrangement; to be passive under wrong; to be forgiving of injury. All early suffering is for thy good. The fires of affliction purify; the chills of adversity strengthen.
Escaping from this rough introduction to our world, happy art thou if permitted to cuddle to thy mother's breast. Perchance no such blissful lot awaits thee. Thy mother, darling, may be one whom, with all a mother's tenderness ready to glow and flourish around her heart, cruel fashion and her kindest friends have persuaded, that to nurse thee, to let thee slake thy longing lips at the true fountain, is a sin against the ton. Oh miserable state! Thy tender limbs clad in garments the curious work of six long months, with cap
made elegantly rough with dot and eyelet-hole, like a huge nutmeggrater, thou art condemned to some old nurse, whose eager eyes, meanwhile she dandles, rocks, and trots, shall be engaged to look for some strange mark of leg of bacon, strawberry or peach, or read thy fortune in her grounds of tea. And worse than this, must ever and anon feed her huge nostrils with a pound of snuff, to help her incantations damned and dire. Who can depict the horror that must swell thy breast, when that lean, spectacled face fills the virgin retina of thine eye! If there be a standard of beauty, we pity thee.
But oh! most blessed by comparison, though .cabined, cribbed, confined,' if thy mother be an honest craftsman's wife, who cannot spare to buy thee foreign milk! Then shalt thou repose thy cheek upon a couch made soft by love and 'sleepless tenderness;' then shalt thou bite to please thyself, and ease thy sprouting gums, while she, ‘fond creature,' shall be happy even in her pain. And happy still art thou, if born in some low, humble thatch, where decent poverty joined with pious trust shall make a little heaven for thy new eyes, with flowers and clambering vines, and all the thousand ingenious contrivances which taste prompts, and nature supplies materials for executing, where there is love, and virtue, and humility. Then too shall the arms of a father, made strong by toil, lift thee as if thou wert a feather, till thy tiny arms shall flap, and thy new-found voice shall crow, with joy at such a parentage.
But where can we find tears enough to weep thy lonely fate, if brought a 'sinless child of sin' into this world, with none to own thy coming ? Some cold evening in December, perhaps a wealthy merchant, warm from his coal fire, shall stumble over thee, encased in a band-box, in which thou hast been for hours upon his door-stone. Think not thy stay will be long in his abode. Thou wilt be handled tenderly, and woinen there may weep for a few moments; and they will look if thou bearest any mark of lover or acquaintance. But, curiosity satisfied, and the longing of some maiden aunt repressed, to adopt thee as a gift of heaven to her unappropriated existence, thou shalt be trundled to the Foundling Hospital. There babies are no novelty — turned off like a morning baking of biscuits. We hope in mercy thou wilt die; not for thy body's sake, but for thy soul's. Not all the pleasing incidents of 'Japhet' in his Search may chance to thee; but thou mayest bear all his pain, and more ; and if heaven have given thee a sensitive mind, thou wilt live with a heavy sense of wrong rankling in thy bosom, and seek crime, and recklessly steep thy name in guilt, to wound thy cruel father's heart.
Dear infancy! whether born in palaces or hovels ; whether thy birth be welcomed by the sound of bells, or namelessly thou art laid upon the stranger's door-stone ; thou art doomed to have untold wishes, unexpressed desires, pains thou canst never tell, and to shed tears, of course.
Here is the greatest reason for sympathy with the infant's 'age.' Often no ingenuity can interpret its moan. An opiate may lull it, but it will wake to moan again. How many die in agony! What writhings of the limbs! A pin is now sticking deep in its tender flesh! It has no tongue to tell its intense suffering.
Its pains end not with the nurse's arms.' What thumps and tum