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TO THE MOST NOBLE
AND INCOMPARABLE PAIR OF BRETHREN
WILLIAM, EARL OF PEMBROKE, ETC.
Lord Chamberlain to the King's most excellent Majesty,
PHILIP, EARL OF MONTGOMERY, ETC. Gentleman of His Majesty's Bedchamber;
BOTH KNIGHTS OF THE MOST NOBLE ORDER
OF THE GARTER,
AND OUR SINGULAR GOOD LORDS'
HILST we study to be thankful in our
particular for the many favours we have
received from your Lordships, we are
fallen upon the ill-fortune, to mingle
two the most diverse things that can be, fear and rashness,-rashness in the enterprise, and fear of the success. For when we value the places your Honours sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater than to descend to the reading of these trifles; and while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the defence of our dedication. But since your Lordships have been pleased to think these trifles something heretofore, and have prosecuted both them and their author living with so much favour, we hope that (they out-living him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings) you will use the like indulgence toward them you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference whether any book choose his patrons, or find them: this hath done both. For so much
1 Dedication of the First Folio, 1623.
them; who, as he was a happy imitator of Nature, was
a most gentle expresser of it: his mind and hand went
together; and what he thought, he uttered with that
easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot
in his papers.
But it is not our province, who only
gather his works and give them you, to praise him. It
is yours that read him: and there we hope, to your divers
capacities, you will find enough both to draw and hold
you; for his wit can no more lie hid than it could be lost.
Read him, therefore; and again and again: and if then
you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest
danger not to understand him. And so we leave you
to other of his friends, who, if you need, can be your
guides: if you
need them not, you can lead yourselves
and others. And such readers we wish him.
To the Memory of my beloved, the Author, MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE and what he hath left us.1 1
To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy Name,
Am I thus ample to thy Book and Fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither man nor Muse can praise too much :
"Tis true, and all men's suffrage: but these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise;
For silliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, 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 seem'd to raise :
These are as some infámous 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,
Th' applause, delight, the wonder of our Stage,
My Shakespeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still, while thy Book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses-
I mean, with great but disproportion'd Muses;
For, if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line:
And, though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee I would not seek
1 From the First Folio.
To life again, to hear thy Buskin tread
And shake a Stage; or, when thy Socks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.-
Triumph, my Britain! thou hast one to show,
To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time;
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm.
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines;
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As since she will vouchsafe no other wit:
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.-
Yet must I not give Nature all; thy Art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part:
For, though the Poet's matter Nature be,
His Art doth give the fashion; and that he
Who casts to write a living line must sweat,-
Such as thine are,-and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses' anvil; turn the same,
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 such wert thou.-Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue; even so the race
Of Shakespeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well-turned and true-filed lines;
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.—
Sweet Swan of Avon, what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,
Upon the Lines and Life of the Famous Scenic Poet, MASTER WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'
THOSE hands, which you so clapp'd, go now and wring,
You Britons brave; for done are Shakespeare's days;
His days are done that made the dainty plays,
Which made the Globe of heaven and earth to ring:
Dried is that vein, dried is the Thespian spring,
Turn'd all to tears, and Phoebus clouds his rays:
That corpse, that coffin, now bestick those bays
Which crown'd him poet first, then poet's king.
If tragedies might any prologue have,
All those he made would scarce make one to this;
Where Fame, now that he gone is to the grave—
Death's public tiring-house-the Nuntius is:
For, though his line of life went soon about,
The life yet of his lines shall never out.