« AnteriorContinuar »
mind, the lover's humour. Besides, the pleasant discovery at the last, and Biron's eloquent poetry, make ample amends.
If Shakspeare had not assured us this young Ferdinand was King of Navarre, I could not have believed it. He is so unlike a king or a Ferdinand. He never once pleads his sacred anointment, nor threatens with his royal displeasure, nor receives flattery from great men of his own making, nor can he despise Costard the clown. His wit allows him to sport a jest, and his good temper to take one from others; and at all times he is superior to playing the monarch over his associates. Longaville, "well fitted in the arts, glorious in arms," and the " well accomplished youth," Dumain, are as much kings of the conversation as himself. A weariness of courtly pleasures, and the fashion and the idleness of the day, give these youths a butterfly-notion of being bookworms. Scholars they will be, and learned ones, and that at the end of three years; so they are to study very hard, and "not to see a woman in that term," with other strict observances touching fasting and watching,—easy to "record in a schedule." Their oaths are taken, and Biron, from pure good fellowship, joins the " Holy Alliance." Biron, whose ascendant mind cannot but convince their common sense, has no control over their folly. He argues, he rallies, but all in vain. Rousseau was not the first to "reason against reading;" Shakspeare's Biron was before him; and your hard spellers in a closet ought to con over the following passages betimes:
"Study is like the Heaven's glorious sun,
That will not be deep search'd with saucy looks;
"So study evermore is overshot:
The " admired princess," "a maid of grace and complete majesty," with her three lovely girls, soon bring the gentlemen to their senses.
Then, for broad comic, what a list of unconscious drolls! We have a " refined traveller of Spain," a " tough Signor," "this child of fancy, that Armado Light."
"One, whom the music of his own vain tongue
And he "is in love, yea, he loveth ;" and asks favour of the "sweet welkin to sigh in his face." Holofernes stalks about with the ghost of a head; vanity was his Judith. This portentous schoolmaster was a satire On Florio, who gave the world a huge volume of hard words, miscalled a dictionary; he provoked Shakspeare by some ugly daubing, and Shakspeare, in return, painted him at full length. He "smells false Latin," and can "humour the ignorant" in bad verses,—" a gift," quoth he, "that I have, simple, simple! a foolish extravagant spirit, &c." and he is "thankful for it." Moreover he will play three of the worthies for his own share, " thriee worthy gentleman !" and " will not be put out of countenance." Sir Nathaniel, "the hedge-priest," is hi* toad-eater, and piously says, "Sir, I praise the Lord for you, and so may my parishioners;" takes out his table-book to note a " most singular and choice epithet;" calls deer-shooting "very reverend sport, truly; and done in the testimony of a good conscience;" and gets a dinner gratis, "for society (saith the text) is the happiness of life." Some one says Shakspeare's characters are eternal,— God forbid! I beg pardon of the old courtier, Boyet, for placing him in such company, as "he is Cupid's grandfather, and learns news of him," one " that kissed away his hand in courtesy," and
• • • « Pgcks Up y,\tt as pigeons peas;
Costard, in his rusticity, looks on him as " a swain, a most simple clown!" and Costard is cunning,—he "had rather pray a month with mutton and porridge, than fast a week with bran and water," and has the capacity to hope he shall "fast on a full stomach." All these gentry speak, or ape to speak in
"Taffata phrases, silken terms precise,
"They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps," as the little boy, Moth, tells us, that'' handful of wit, who purchases his experience by his penny of observation," not too young to join, for the joke's sake, and with the best effect, in their full-blown talk, though old enough to laugh at it,—a character the poet has introduced to prove the absurdity of men priding themselves on the deformity of language. Oh! 1 have forgotten Dull the constable! "a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation."—" Via, goodman Dull! thou hast spoken no word all this while.
"Dull. Nor understood none neither, sir."
Thanks to these inverted commas, I have made a brilliant paragraph, and hope it will teach my readers to read "Love's Labour Lost." In the mean time let me refresh them with those often quoted lines, the character of Biron:
* • * * * "A merrier man,
For every object that the one doth catch,
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest;
Which his fair tongue (conceit's expositor),
Delivers in such apt and gracious words,
That aged ears play truant at his tales,
And younger hearmgs are quite ravished;
So sweet and voluble is his discourse." And now, almost a novelty I believe, for it is to be feared the passage is little known, here is a long strain of Shakspeare's best poetry. It is put in the mouth of Biron, at the conclusion of the scene, after the discovery in the grove. Never was so true and so beautiful a compliment paid to women.
"Have at you then, affection's men at arms:
Consider what you first did swear unto ;—
To f<isl,—to study,—and to see no woman,—
Flat treason 'gainst the kingly state of youth!
Say, can you fast? your stomachs are too young,
And abstmence engenders maladies.
And where that you have vow'd to study, lords,
In that each of you hath forsworn his book;
Can you still dream, and pore, and thereon look?
l?or when would you, my lord, or you, or you,
Have found the ground of study's excellence,
Without the beauty of a woman's face?
From women's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They are the ground, the books, the academies.
From which doth spring the true Promethian fire.
Why, universal plodding prisons up
The nimble spirits in the arteries;
As motion, and long-during action, tires
The sinewy vigour of the traveller.
Now, for not looking on a woman's face,
You have in that forsworn the use of eyes,
And study too, the causer of your vow;
For where is any author in the world
Teaches such beauty as a woman's eye?
Learning is but an adjunct to ourself.
And where we are, our learning likewise is.
Then, when ourselves we see in ladies' eyes,
Do we not likewise see our learning there?
O, wc have made a vow to study, lords,
And in that vow we have forsworn our books;
For when would you, my liege, or you, or you,
In leaden contemplation, have found out
Such fiery numbers, as the prompting eyes
Of beauteous tutors have enrich'd you with?
Other slow arts entirely keep the brain,
And therefore finding barren practisers,
Scarce show a harvest of their hea\y toil;
But love, first learned in a lady's eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain,
But with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.
It adds a precious seeing to the eye;
A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle blind;
A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound,
When the suspicious head of theft is stopp'd;
Love's feeling is more soft, and sensible,
Than are the tender horns of cockled snails;
Love's tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste;
For valour is not love a Hercules
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?
Subtle as sphinx ; as sweet, and musical,
As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair;
And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes Heaven drowsy with the harmony.
Never durst poet touch a pen to write,
Until his ink were temper'd with love's sighs;
O, then his lines would ravish savage ears,
And plant in tyrants mild humility!
From women's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethian fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academies,
That show, contain, and nourish all the world;
Else, none at all in aught proves excellent.
Then fools you were these women to forswear,
Or, keeping what is sworn, you will prove foois.
For wisdom's sake, a word that all men love,—
Or, for love's sake, a word that loves all men,—
Or, for men's sake, the authors of these women,—
Or women's sake, by whom we men are men,
Let us once lose our oaths, to find ourselves,
Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.
It is religion to be thus forsworn;
For chanty itself fulfils the law,
And who can'severlove from charity? H. M.
ROSEDALE AND ITS TENANTS.
About ten years ago the sober monotony of the quiet country neighbourhood in which 1 have passed the greater part of my life, was enlivened by the erection of one of the prettiest cottages that ever sprang into existence in brick or on paper. All strangers go to see Rosedale, and few " cots of spruce gentility" are so well worth seeing. Fancy a low irregular white rough-cast building thatched with reeds, covered with roses, clematis, and passion-flowers, standing on a knoll of fine turf amidst flower-beds and shrubberies and magnificent elms, backed by an abrupt hill, and looking over lawny fields to a green common, which is intersected by a gay high road, dappled with ponds of water, and terminated by a pretty village edging off into rich woodlands: imagine this picture oi a place tricked out with ornaments of all sorts, conservatories, roseries, rustic seats, American borders, Gothic dairies, Spanish hermitages, and flowers stuck as close as pins in a pincushion, with every thing, in short, that might best become the walls of an exhibition-room, or the back scene of a play: conceive the interior adorned in a style of elegance still more fanciful, and it will hardly appear surprising that this "unique bijou," as the advertisements call it, should seldom want a tenant. The rapid succession of these occupiers is the more extraordinary matter. Every body is willing to come to Rosedale, but nobody stays.
In the first place it has the original sin of most ornamented cottages, that of being built on the foundation and within the walls of a real labourer's dwelling; by which notable piece of economy the owner saved some thirty pounds at the expense of making half his rooms mere nutshells, and the whole house incurably damp—to say nothing of the inconvenience of the many apartments which were erected as after-thoughts, the addenda of the work, and are only to be come at by outside passages and French window-doors. Secondly, that necessary part of a two-story mansion, the staircase, was utterly forgotten by architect, proprietor, and builder, and never missed by any person, till, the ladder being one day taken away at the dinner-hour, an Irish labourer accidentally left behind was discovered by the workmen on his return perched like a bird on the top of the roof, he having taken themethod of going up the chimney as the quickest way of getting down. This adventure occasioned a call for the staircase, which was at length inserted by the by, and is as much like a step-ladder in a dark corner as any tWng well can be. * Thirdly and lastly, this beautiful abode is
• This forgetful ness is not unexampled. A similar accident is said to have happened to Madame d'Arblay in the erection of a cottage built from the profits of her admi rable Camilla.
most thoroughly inconvenient and uncomfortable. In the winter one might have as much protection in the hollow of a tree,—cold, gusty, sleety, wet,—snow threatening from above like an avalanche,—water gushing up from below like a fountain,—a house of cardpaper would be the solider refuge; in the summer it is proportionably close and hot, giving little shade and no shelter; and all the year round it is overdone with frippery and finery, a toy-shop in action, a Brobdignagian babyhouse. Every room is in masquerade: the saloon Chinese, lull of jars and mandarins and pagodas; the library Egyptian, all covered with hieroglyphics, and swarming with furniture, crocodiles, and sphynxes. Only think of a crocodile couch and a sphynx sofa! They sleep in Turkish tents, and dine in a Gothic chapel. Now English ladies and gentlemen in their everyday apparel look exceedingly out of place amongst such mummery. The costume won't do—it is not in keeping. Besides, the properties themselves are apt to get shifted from one scene to another, and all manner of anomalies are the consequence. The mitred chairs and screens of the chapel, so very upright and tall and carved and priestly, were mixed up oddly enough with the squat Chinese bonzes; whilst by some strange transposition a pair of nodding mandarins figured amongst the Egyptian monsters, and by the aid of their supernatural ugliness, really looked human. Then the room taken up by the various knicknackery, the unnamed and unnameable generation of gewgaws! It always seemed to me to require more housemaids than the house would hold. And the same with the garden. You are so begirt with garlands and festoons, flowers above and flowers below, that you walk about under a perpetual sense of trespass, of taking care, of doing mischief, now bobbing against a sweetbriar, in which rencontre you have the worst; now flapped against by a woodbine, to the discomfiture of both parties; now revenging all your wrongs by tripping up an unfortunate balsam ;—bonnets, coatskirts, and flounces in equal peril! The very gardeners step gingerly, and tuck their aprons tightly round them before they venture into that fair demesne of theirs which is, so to say, overpeopled. In short, Rosedale is a place to look at rather than to live in—a fact which will be received without dispute by some scores of tenants, by the proprietor of the County Chronicle, who keeps the advertisement of this "matchless villa" constantly set, to his no small emolument, and by the neighbourhood at large, to whom the succession of new faces, new liveries, and new equipages driving about our rustic lanes, and sometimes occupying a very tasty pew in our village-church, has long supplied a source of conversation as constant and as various as the weather.
The first person who ascertained, by painful experiment, that Rosedale was uninhabitable, was the proprietor, a simple young man from the next town, who unluckily took it into his head that he had a taste for architecture, and landscape-gardening, and so forth; and falling into the hands of a London upholsterer and a country nurseryman, assisted by a scenepainter from one of the theatres, produced the effort of genius that I have endeavoured to describe. At the end of a month he found that nobody could live there; and with the advice of the nurseryman, the upholsterer, and the scene-painter, began to talk of improving and rebuilding and new-modelling; nay he actually went so far as to send for the bricklayer—but, fortunately for our man of taste, he had a wife, and she