Abbildungen der Seite

(O! misery on't !) the wise gods seel* our eyes ;
In our own filth drop (? drown) our clear judgments; make us
Adore our errors ; laugh at us while we strut
To our confusion.

Ant. and Cleop., Act iii. Sc. 13.

Sentiments as awful as they are just; and which will not appear either too irreverent for a Christian man to write, when we remember how often in the Psalms, and in the Book of Proverbs, God is said 'to laugh,' and 'to mock' at the calamities of those who have despised His laws; or too profound for a heathen man to utter, when we compare the deep sayings of Persius respecting the confirmed and reprobate votaries of vicious self-indulgence, in his 3rd Satire :

Sed stupet hic vitio, et fibris increvitt opimum
Pingue ; caret culpa ; nescit quid perdat, et alto
Demersus, summâ rursum non bullit in undâ.

Nothing can exceed the irony which represents a man as faultless, only because he has rendered himself senseless, and incapable of judging between right

and wrong

Sect. 6. Of Faith and Thankfulness towards God.

'Put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man,' is a Scriptural precept which Shakspeare has not been slow to echo, nor has he failed to do full

* i.e., close : a term of falconry, not to be confounded with seal. + Comp. Habakkuk ii. 6.

justice to the contrast with which the Scriptures so
often accompany that precept, viz., the duty and the
satisfaction of placing our trust in God. The devoted
but not over-honest nurse in Romeo and Juliet can
tell her mistress

There's no trust,
No faith, no honesty in men; all perjured,
All forsworn, all nought, all dissemblers.*

Act ïïi. Sc. 2.
And the Duke of Bedford can ask, in King Henry
VI., ist Part:-
What is the trust or strength of foolish men?

Act iii. Sc. I.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

And yet we are senseless enough, as the Lord Hastings testifies, in King Richard III., to make more account of man's favour, which is so worthless, than of the favour of God, which is above all price :

O! momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God !
Who builds in air his hope, of your fair looks,
Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
Ready with every nod to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.

Act iii. Sc. 4.
As Cardinal Wolsey 'tumbled down from the
eminence to which he had been raised, and thereby
was led, all too late, to exclaim :-

O! Cromwell, Cromwell, Had I but served my God with half the zeal

* See Ps. xii. 2; xiv. 3 ; cvi. 10.

I served my king, He would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies.

King Henry VIII., Act iii. Sc. 2. In the scene which discovers the murder of King Duncan, in the castle of Macbeth-after Lady Macbeth has been carried out, feigning to be overcome by the bloody spectacle which she had herself contrived-Banquo exclaims, as if the sight of such a catastrophe brought home to his mind its true lesson, the utter insecurity, not only of all earthly greatness, but of all trust in man

Fears and scruples shake us:
IN THE GREAT HAND OF God I STAND; and, thence,
Against the undivulged prete nce I fight
Of treasonous malice.

Macbeth, Act ii. Sc. 3. And so the good King Henry V. recognized the blessedness of being able to place his confidence where alone it ought to be placed, when, with reference to the overwhelming numbers of the French, before the battle of Agincourt, he said to the Duke of Gloster :

We are in God's hands, brother, not in theirs.

King Henry V., Act iii. Sc. 5. Comp. Ps. xxxi. 15. And he felt it sinful to boast of anything he could do by his own power:

Forgive me, God,
That I do brag thus! this your air of France
Hath blown that vice in me; I must repent.

Go, therefore, tell thy master-
he is speaking to Montjoy, the French herald-.

Here I am ;
My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk ;

My army but a weak and sickly guard :
Yet, God* BEFORE, tell him we will come on,
Though France himself, and such another neighbour,
Stand in our way.

Act iii. Sc. 6. And he was justified by the result. Nor was the grateful piety of the father less conspicuous in the son, whose prayer for himself it is :

0! Lord, that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness !

King Henry VI., 2nd Pt., Act i. Sc. 1. and whose exhortation to another-an exhortation which every man who has any just sense of the Divine goodness will not fail to apply to his own soul, and to practise in his own life :

Poor soul! God's goodness hath been great to thee :
Let never day nor night unhallowed pass,
But still remember what the Lord hath done.

Ibid., Act ii. Sc. 1, There are two occasions—one extraordinary, the other of ordinary occurrence-in regard to which our poet desired, it would seem, more especially to recommend this great duty of thankfulness towards God. The extraordinary occasion is when a victory has been gained. It is delightful to observe in what an amiable light the character of King Henry V. has been placed in this respect. Not even David himself has exhibited more fervent gratitude to the Divine Author of his victories than our pious sovereign,

* i.e., God being our guide. The phrase is used again by the king in the same play, Act i. Sc. 2.

after the defeat of the French in the battle of Agincourt. Thus, when Montjoy, the French herald, announced to the king the tidings-- The day is yours'-his first exclamation is a Non nobis, Domine, in these words :

Praised be God, and not our strength for it!

King Henry V., Act iv. Sc. 7.

And soon after, when the English herald came and delivered more fully the particulars of the victory, more fully rose also from the royal lips the ascription of praise and thanksgiving :

K. Henry.

O! God, Thy arm was here,
And not to us, but to Thy arm alone
Ascribe we all. When, without stratagem,
But in plain shock and even play of battle,
Was ever known so great and little loss
On one part and the other ? Take it, God,

For it is only Thine.

'Tis wonderful !
K. Henry. Come, go we in procession to the village:

And be it death proclaimed through our Host,
To boast of this, or take that praise from God
Which is His only.

Ibid., Sc. 8.

And how he himself behaved in strict accordance with his own command, is reported by the chorus at the opening of the next and concluding Act; the description refers to his return and entry into London :

Where that his lords desire him to have borne
His bruised helmet, and his bended sword,
Before him through the city, he forbids it,

« ZurückWeiter »