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Leda, sailing on the stream
To deceive the hopes of man.
Doted on a silver swan ;
Hear, ye ladies that are coy,
What the mighty Love can do.
The chaste moon he makes to woo :
Circled round about with spies,
Doting at the altar dies;
(*) Where no love was.
See how extremes meet, and passion writes as conceit does, in these repetitions of a word :
Where no love was, lov'd a shower.
So, still more emphatically, in the instance afterwards :
Fear the fierceness of the boy
than which nothing can be finer. Wonder and earnestness conspire to stamp the iteration of the sound.
INVOCATION TO SLEEP.
Sung to Music; the EMPEROR VALENTINIAN sitting by, sick, in a chair,
Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,-
© Easy, sueet. In rhymes like night and sweet, the fine ears of our ancestors discerned a harmony to which we have been unaccustomed. They perceived the double e, which is in the vowel i,-night nah-eet. There is an instance in a passage in the Midsummer Night's Dream, extracted at page 156, where the word bees, as well as mulberries and dewberries, is made to rhyme with eyes, arise, &c. Indeed, in such words as mulberries the practice is still retained, and e and i considered corresponding sounds in the fainter terminations of polysyllables :-free, company, fly, company.
Was ever the last line of this invocation surpassed ? But it is all in the finest tone of mingled softness and earnestness. The verses are probably Fletcher's. He has repeated a passage of it in his poem entitled An Honest Man's Fortune :
Oh, man! thou image of thy Maker's good,
() si sic omnia !
MIDDLETON, DECKER, AND WEBSTER.
WHEN about to speak of these and other extraordinary men of the days of Shakspeare, the Marstons, Rowleys, Massingers, Draytons, &c., including those noticed already, I wasted a good deal of time in trying to find out how it was that, possessing, as most of them did, such a pure vein of poetry, and sometimes saying as fine things as himself, they wrote so much that is not worth reading, sometimes not fit to be read. I might have considered that, either from self-love, or necessity, or both, too much writing is the fault of all ages and of every author. Even Homer, says Horace, sometimes nods. How many odes might not Horace himself have spared us! How many of his latter books, Virgil! What theology, Dante and Milton ! What romances, Cervantes ! What comedies, Ariosto! What tragedies, Dryden! What heaps of words, Chaucer and Spenser! What Iliads, Pope !
Shakspeare's contemporaries, however, appear to have been a singularly careless race of men, compared with himself. Could they have been rendered so by that very superiority of birth and education which threw them upon the town, in the first instance, with greater confidence, his humbler prospects rendering him more cautious ? Or did their excess of wit and fancy require a counter-perfection of judgment, such as he only possessed? Chapman and Drayton, though their pens were among the profusest and most unequal, seem to have been prudent men in conduct; so in all probability were Ford and Webster; but none of these had the animal spirits of the others. Shakspeare had animal spirits, wit, fancy, judgment, prudence in money matters, understanding like Bacon, feeling like Chaucer, mirth like Rabelais, dignity like Milton ! What a man! Has anybody discovered the reason why he never noticed a living contemporary, and but one who was dead ? and this too in an age of great men, and when they were in the habit of acknowledging the pretensions of one another. It could not have been jealousy, or formality, or inability to perceive merits which his own included; and one can almost as little believe it possible to have been owing to a fear of disconcerting his aristocratic friends, for they too were among the eulogizers : neither can it be attributed to his having so mooted all points, as to end in caring for none; for in so great and wise a nature, good nature must surely survive everything, both as a pleasure and a duty. I have made up my mind to think that his theatrical managership was the cause. It naturally produced a dislike of pronouncing judgments and incurring responsibilities. And yet he was not always a manager ; nor were all his literary friends playwrights. I think it