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MEMORY of my beloved the AUTHOR,
MR WILLIAM SHAKESPEAR;
And what he hath left us.
O draw no envy, Shakespear, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book, and fame :
While I confess thy writings to be fuch,
As neither man, nor mufe can praise too much.
'Tis true, and all men's fuffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise:
For feelieft ignorance on thefe may light,
Which, when it founds at beft, but echoes right;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it feem'd to raife.
Thefe are, as fome infamous bawd, or whore,
Should praise a matron. What could hurt her more?
But thou art proof against them; and, indeed,
Above th' ill fortune of them, or the need:
I therefore will begin. Soul of the age!
The applaufe! delight! the wonder of our stage!
My Shakespear rife! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenfer, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive ftill, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee fo, my brain excuses;
I mean, with great but difproportion'd muses:
For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee furely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didft our Lily outfhine,
Or fporting Kid, or Marlow's mighty line.
And though thou hadft fmall Latin and lefs Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I would not feek
For names; but call forth thund'ring Æfchylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles, to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy bufkin tread,
And fhake a fage: or, when thy focks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all, that infolent Greece, or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or fince did from their afhes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou haft one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the mufes, ftill were in their prime,
When like Apollo he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!
Nature herfelf was proud of his defigns,
And joy'd to wear the dreffing of his lines!
Which were fo richly fpun, and woven fo fit,
As, fince, fhe will vouchfafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Ariftophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated, and deferted lie,
As they were not of nature's family.
Yet muft I not give nature all: thy art,
My gentle Shakespear, muft enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion. And, that he
Who cafts to write a living line, muft fweat,
(Such as thine are) and ftrike the fecond heat
Upon the mufes' anvil; turn the fame,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel, he may gain a scorn,
For a good poet's made, as well as born :
And fuch wert thou. Look, how the father's face
Lives in his iffue, even fo the race
Of Shakespear's mind and manners brightly fhines
In his well torned, and true filed lines:
In each of which he feems to shake a lance
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet fwan of Avon! what a fight it were
To fee thee in our water yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James!
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a conftellation there!
Shine forth, thou ftar of poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage,
Which, fince thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.
Addreffed to Sir THOMAS HANMER, on his edition
of SHAKESPEAR'S Works.
HILE born to bring the mufe's happier days,
A patriot's hand protects a poet's lays,
While nurs❜d by you she fees her myrtles bloom,
Green and unwither'd o'er his honour'd tomb;
Excuse her doubts, if yet she fears to tell
What fecret transports in her bosom swell:
With conscious awe fhe hears the critick's fame,
And blushing hides her wreath at Shakespear's name.
Hard was the lot those injur'd strains endur'd,
Unown'd by science, and by years obfcur❜d :
Fair fancy wept; and echoing fighs confefs'd
A fix'd despair in every tuneful breaft.
Not with more grief th' afflicted fwains appear,
When wintry winds deform the plenteous year;
When lingering frofts the ruin'd feats invade
Where peace reforted, and the graces play'd.
Each rifing art by just gradation moves,
Toil builds on toil, and age on age improves :
The mufe alone unequal dealt her rage,
And grac'd with nobleft pomp her earlieft ftage.
Preferv'd through time, the fpeaking scenes impart
Each changeful wifh of Phaedra's tortur'd heart:
Or paint the curfe, that mark'd the 'Theban's reign,
A bed incestuous, and a father flain.
With kind concern our pitying eyes o'erflow,
Trace the fad tale, and own another's wo.
To Rome remov'd, with wit fecure to please,
The comick fifters kept their native ease.
With jealous fear declining Greece beheld
Her own Menander's art almoft excell'd!
But every mufe effay'd to raise in vain
Some labour'd rival of her tragick ftrain;
Ilyffus' laurels, though transferr'd with toil,
Droop'd their fair leaves, nor knew th' unfriendly foil.
As arts expir'd, refistless dulness rose;
Goths, priefts, or Vandals, all were learning's foes.
Till Julius first recall'd each exil'd maid,
And Cofmo own'd them in th' Etrurian shade:
Then deeply skill'd in love's engaging theme,
The foft Provencial paff'd to Arno's ftream:
With graceful case the wanton lyre he ftrung,
Sweet flow'd the lays but love was all he fung.
The gay description could out fail to move;
For, led by nature, all are friends to love.
But heaven, ftill various in its works, decreed
The perfect boast of time should last fucceed.
The beauteous union must appear at length,
Of Tuscan fancy, and Athenian ftrength:
One greater mufe Eliza's reign adorn,
And even a Shakespear to her fame be born!
Yet ah! fo bright her morning's opening ray,
In vain our Britain hop'd an equal day!
No fecond growth the western ifle could bear,
At once exhaufted with too rich a year.
Too nicely Fonfon knew the critick's part;
Nature in him was almoft loft in art.
• The Oedipus of Sophocles.
▸ Julius II. the immediate predeceffor of Leo X..