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coldly and imperfectly spun out into near two thousand. The attention therefore of these graver personages must have been engaged by the moral tendency of the piece, rather than by the force of style in which it is related. STEEVENS.

This first essay of Shakspeare's Muse does not appear to me by any means so void of poetical merit as it has been represented; and I may, in support of my opinion, quote the words of that elegant poet Mr. Fenton, who in his notes on Waller, after quoting some lines from Ovid on this subject, observes that "the passion of Venus for Adonis, is likewise described with great delicacy by Bion, and our admirable Shakspeare, in language only inferior to the finest writers of antiquity." In what high estimation it was held in our author's life-time, may be collected from what has been already observed in the preliminary remark, and from the circumstances mentioned in a note which the reader will find at the end of The Rape of Lucrece.

Gabriel Harvey's words, as quoted by Mr. Steevens in a note on Hamlet, (not that the judgment of one who thought that English verses ought to be constructed according to the rules of Latin prosody, is of much value,) are these. "The younger sort take much delight in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis: but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, have it in them to please the wiser sort."

To the other eulogiums on this piece may be added the concluding lines of a poem entitled Mirrha the Mother of Adonis; or Lustes Prodegies, by William Barksted, 1607:

"But stay, my Muse, in thine own confines keep,

66 And wage not warre with so deere-lov'd a neighbor;
"But having sung thy day-song, rest and sleep;
"Preserve thy small fame, and his greater favor.
"His song was worthie merit; Shakespeare, hee
Sung the faire blossome, thou the wither'd tree :
"Laurel is due to him; his art and wit

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"Hath purchas'd it; cyprus thy brows will fit." "Will you read Virgil? says Carew in his Dissertation on The excellencie of the English tongue, (published by Camden in his Remaines, 1614,) "take the earl of Surrey;" [he means Surrey's translation of the second and fourth Æneid.] "Catullus? Shakespeare, and Marlowe's fragment."

In A Remembrance of some English poets, at the end of The Complaints of Poetry, by Richard Barnefield, 1598, the authour, after praising some other writers, thus speaks of our poet: "And Shakespeare, thou, whose honey-flowing vaine


(Pleasing the world) thy praises doth containe;

"Whose Venus and whose Lucrece, sweet and chaste,

Thy name in fame's immortal booke have placte ;

"Live ever you, at least in fame live ever!
66 Well may the body die, but fame die never."

To these testimonies I may add that of Edward Phillips, and perhaps that of Milton, his uncle; for it is highly probable that the eulogium on Shakspeare, given in the Theatrum Poetarum, 1674, was either written or revised by our great epick poet. In Phillips's account of the modern poets our author is thus described:

"William Shakspeare, the glory of the English stage, whose nativity at Stratford upon Avon in the highest honour that town can boast of. From an actor of tragedies and comedies, he became a maker; and such a maker, that though some others may perhaps preserve a more exact decorum and economie, especially in tragedy, never any express'd a more lofty and tragick height, never any represented nature more purely to the life; and where the polishments of art are most wanting, (as perhaps his learning was not extraordinary,) he pleaseth with a certain wild and native elegance; and in all his writings hath an unvulgar style, as well as in his Venus and Adonis, his Rape of Lucrece, and other various poems, as in his dramaticks."

Let us, however, view these poems, uninfluenced by any authority. To form a right judgment of any work, we should take into our consideration the means by which it was executed, and the contemporary performances of others. The smaller pieces of Otway and Rowe add nothing to the reputation which they have acquired by their dramatick works, because preceding writers had already produced happier compositions; and because there were many poets, during the period in which Rowe and Otway exhibited their plays, who produced better poetry, not of the dramatick kind, than theirs; but, if we except Spenser, what poet of Shakspeare's age produced poems of equal, or nearly equal, excellence to those before us? Did Turberville? Did Golding? Did Phaer? Did Grant? Did Googe? Did Churchyard? Did Fleming? Did Fraunce? Did Whetstone? Did Gascoigne? Did Sidney? Did Marlowe, Nashe, Kyd, Harrington, Lilly, Peele, Greene, Watson, Breton, Chapman, Daniel, Drayton, Middleton or Jonson? Sackville's Induction is the only small piece of that age, that I recollect, which can stand in competition with them. If Marlowe had lived to finish his Hero and Leander, of which he wrote only the first two Sestiads, he too perhaps might have contested the palm with Shakspeare.

Concerning the length of these pieces, which is, I think, justly objected to, I shall at present only observe, that it was the fashion of the day to write a great number of verses on a very slight subject, and our poet in this as in many other instances adapted himself to the taste of his own age.

It appears to me in the highest degree improbable that Shakspeare had any moral view in writing this poem; Shakspeare, who, (as Dr. Johnson has justly observed,) generally "sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more careful to please than

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to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral purpose; -who "carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong, and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their examples to operate by chance." As little probable is it, in my apprehension, that he departed on any settled principles from the mythological story of Venus and Adonis. As well might we suppose, that in the construction of his plays he deliberately deviated from the rules of Aristotle, (of which after the publicacation of Sir Philip Sidney's Treatise he could not be ignorant,) with a view to produce a more animated and noble exhibition than Aristotle or his followers ever knew. His method of proceeding was, I apprehend, exactly similar in both cases; and he no more deviated from the classical representation on any formed and digested plan, in the one case, than he neglected the unities in the other. He merely (as I conceive,) in the present instance, as in many others, followed the story as he found it already treated by preceding English writers; for I am persuaded that the Sheepheard's Song of Venus and Adonis, by Henry Constable, preceded the poem before us. Of this, it may be said, no proof has been produced; and certainly I am at present unfurnished with the means of establishing this fact, though I have myself no doubts upon the subject. But Marlowe, who indisputably wrote before Shakspeare, had in like manner represented Adonis as "insensible to the caresses of transcendent beauty." In his Hero and Leander he thus describes the lady's dress :

"The outside of her garments were of lawne;

"The lining purple silke, with guilt stars drawne *
"Her wide sleeves greene, and border'd with a grove,
"Where Venus in her naked glory strove

"To please the carelesse and disdainful eyes

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Of proud Adonis, that before her lies."

See also a pamphlet entitled Never too Late, by Robert Green, A. M. 1590, in which the following madrigal is introduced: "Sweet Adon, dar'st not glance thine eye

"(N'oseres vous, mon bel amy?)



Upon thy Venus that must die?

Je vous en prie, pitty me:

"N'oseres vous, mon bel, mon bel,
"N'oseres vous, mon bel amy?

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with guilt stars DRAWNE :] By drawne I suppose the poet means, that stars were here and there interspersed. So, in Kind-Hartes Dreame, a pamphlet written in 1592: pain'd with yellow, drawn out with blew." MALONE.


- his hose

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"I must die through Cupid's dart;
Je vous en prie, pitty me.

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"N'oseres vous, mon bel, mon bel,

"N'oseres vous, mon bel amy?" &c.

I have not been able to ascertain who it was that first gave so extraordinary a turn to this celebrated fable, but I suspect it to have proceeded from some of the Italian poets. The late Mr. Warton, whom I consulted on this subject, was not more successful than myself in investigating this point.

The poem already quoted, which I imagine was written by Henry Constable, being only found in a very scarce miscellany, entitled England's Helicon, quarto 1600, I shall subjoin it. Henry Constable was the author of some sonnets prefixed to Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesie, and is "worthily joined (says A. Wood,) with Sir Edward Dyer," some of whose verses are preserved in the Paradise of Daintie Devises, 1580.-Constable likewise wrote some sonnets printed in 1594, and some of his verses are cited in a miscellaneous collection entitled England's Parnassus, 1600. He was of St. John's College, in Cambridge, and took the degree of bachelor of arts in 1579. Edmund Bolton in his Hypercritica, (which appears to have been written after the year 1616, and remained in manuscript till 1722, when it was printed by Hall at the end of Triveti Annales,) has taken a view of some of our old English poets, and classes Constable with Gascoigne, Dyer, Warner, and Thomas Sackville, earl of Dorset. -"Noble Henry Constable (says he,) was a great master of English tongue, nor had any gentleman of our nation a more pure, quick, or higher delivery of conceit: witness among all other, that sonnet of his before his majesty's Lepanto. I have not seen much of Sir Edward's Dyer's Poetry. Among the lesser late poets George Gascoigne's works may be endured. But the best of those times, (if Albion's England be not preferred,) is The Mirrour of Magistrates, and in that Mirrour, Sackville's Induction."

The first eight lines of each stanza of the following poem ought rather perhaps to be printed in four, as the rhymes are in the present mode not so obvious; but I have followed the arrangement of the old copy, which probably was made by the author. MALONE.

The miscellany from which the following song was extracted is no longer so scarce as when Mr. Malone described it as such. It has within these few years been reprinted. Yet as an illustration of our author's poem, I have not thought I was justified in removing it from its place. BoswELL.

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