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song. The two stanzas are in the tragedy, ascribed to Fletcher of “ Rollo, Duke of Normandy.” There is no possibility, we apprehend, of deciding the authorship of the second stanza, (see Illustrations of Measure for Measure, Act iv.) The other poem, beginning,
“Let the bird of loudest lay,".
is found with Shakspeare's name in a book printed in 1601, the greater part of which consists of a poem translated from the Italian by Robert Chester, entitled “ Love's Martyr; or, Rosalin's Complaint: allegorically shadowing the Truth of Love, in the constant Fate of the Phænix and Turtle.” There is a second title to this volume prefixed to some supplementary verses : “ Hereafter follow diverse Poetical Essaies on the former Subject, viz., the Turtle and Phænix. Done by the best and chiefest of our modern Writers, with their Names subscribed to their particular Works. Never before extant." The name “ Wm. Shake-speare " is subscribed to this poem, in the same way that the names of Ben Jon: son, Marston, and Chapman are subscribed to other poems.
“If the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather." These are the words which, in relation to the Venus and Adonis, Shakspeare addressed, in 1593, to the Earl of Southampton. Are we to accept them literally? Was the Venus and Adonis the first production of Shakspeare's imagination ? Or did he put out of his view those dramatic performances which he had then unquestionably produced, in deference to the critical opinions which regarded plays as works not belonging to "invention "? We think that he used the words in a literal sense. We regard the Venus and Adonis as the production of a very young man, improved, perhaps, considerably in the interval between its first composition and its publication, but distinguished by peculiarities which belong to the wild luxuriance of youthful power, such power, however, as few besides Shakspeare have ever possessed.
A deep thinker and eloquent writer, Julius Charles Hare, thus describes “the spirit of self-sacrifice," as applied to poetry : -
“ The might of the imagination is manifested by its launching forth from the petty creek, where the accidents of birth moored it, into the wide ocean of being, — by its going abroad into the world around, passing into whatever it meets with, animating it, and becoming one with it. This complete union and identification of the poet with his poem, - this suppression of his own individual insulated consciousness, with its narrowness of thought and pettiness of feeling, - is what we admire in the great masters of that which for this reason we justly call classical poetry, as representing that which is symbolical and universal, not that which is merely occasional and peculiar. This gives them that majestic calınness which still breathes upon us from the statues of their gods. This invests their works with that lucid, transparent atmosphere wherein every form stands out in perfect definiteness and distinctness, only beautified by the distance which idealizes it. This has delivered those works from the casualties of time and space, and has listed them up like stars into the pure firmament of thought, so that they do not shine on one spot alone, nor fade like earthly flowers, but journey on from clime to clime, shedding the light of beauty on generation after generation. The same quality, amounting to a total extinction of his own selfish being, so that his spirit became a mighty organ through which Nature gave utterance to the full diapason of her notes, is what we wonder at in our own great dramatist, and is the groundwork of all his other powers; for it is only when purged of selfishness that the intellect becomes fitted for receiving the inspirations of genius." *
What Mr. Hare so justly considers as the great moving principle of "classical poetry,” — what he further notes as the preeminent characteristic of "our own great dramatist,” — is abundantly found in that great dramatist's earliest work. Coleridge was the first to point out this pervading quality in the Venus and Adonis : and he has done this
• The Victory of Faith; and other Sermone." By Julius Charles Ilare, M. A. 1840. P. 277.
so admirably, that it would be profanation were we to attempt to elucidate the point in any other than his own words :
" It is throughout as if a superior spirit, more intuitive, more intimately conscious, even than the characters them. selves, not only of every outward look and act, but of the flux and reflux of the mind in all its subtlest thoughts and feelings, were placing the whole before our view; himself mean while unparticipating in the passions, and actuated only by that pleasurable excitement which had resulted from the energetic fervor of his own spirit in so vividly cxhibiting what it had so accurately and profoundly contemplated. I think I should have conjectured from these poems, that even then the great instinct which impelled the poet to the drama was secretly working in him, prompting him by a series and never-broken chain of imagery, always vivid, and, because unbroken, often minute, - by the highest effort of the picturesque in words of which words are capable, higher, perhaps, than was ever realized by any other poet, even Dante not excepted, — to provide a substitute for that visual language, that constant intervention and running comment by tone, look, and gesture, which in his dramatic works he was entitled to expect from the players. His Venus and Adonis seem at once the characters themselves, and the whole representation of those characters by the most consummate actors. You seem to be told nothing, but to see and hear every thing. Hence it is, that, from the perpetual activity of attention required on the part of the reader, — from the rapid flow, the quick change, and the playful nature of the thoughts and images, — and, above all, from the alienation, and, if I may hazard such an expression, the utter aloofness of the poet's own feelings from those of which he is at once the painter and the analyst, – that though the very subject cannot but detract from the pleasure of a delicate mind, yet never was poem less dangerous on a moral account." *
Coleridge, in the preceding chapter of his “Literary Life,” says, “During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and
" Biographia Literaria,” 1817, vol. ii. p. 15.