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prehends a great deal. It includes vividness of imagination, depth of thought, delicacy of feeling, carefulness of observation, discernment of hidden relations, and whatever else may be necessary to clothe thought in expressions of supreme fitness and beauty.
Far above every other writer of ancient or modern times Shakespeare voices, in its manifold life, the human soul. This fact makes his works a storehouse of riches, to which we constantly turn. Are we oppressed at times with a morbid feeling of the emptiness of life? How perfectly Shakespeare voices our sentiment:
“ Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
Or again :
“ We are such stuff
If we recognize the fact that somehow there is a mysterious power controlling our lives, we are told
“ There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will."
But, as our consciousness tells us, we are not wholly at the mercy of this overruling agency:
“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky
What beautiful expression he gives to the trite observation that contentment is better than riches !
6 'Tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
What clear expression he gives to the indistinct feeling of beauty that sometimes comes to us in the presence
of some object in nature ! He surprises its secret, and embodies it in an imperishable word :
“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank !" But why multiply illustrations, when they are found on almost every page of his works?
And what shall be said of Shakespeare's influence? He so entirely eclipsed his contemporary dramatists that their works are scarcely read. There are passages in his works that we could wish omitted — panderings to the corrupt taste of the time. But they are exceptional, and at heart the poet's sympathy, as in the case of every truly great man, is on the side of virtue. His writings, as a whole, carry with them the uplifting power of high thought, noble feeling, and worthy deeds.
Many of his thoughts and characters pass into the intellectual life of each succeeding generation. “Hamlet," “The Merchant of Venice,” and “Romeo and Juliet ” are read by nearly every young student; and to have read any one of Shakespeare's masterpieces intelligently marks an epoch in the intellectual life of youth. But his dramas give pleasure not alone to the young. With minds enriched by experience and study, we turn, in the midst of active life, to his works for recreation and instruction. He but appears greater with our enlarged capacity to appreciate him. If he gathered about him a circle of cultivated friends and admirers in his life, he has shown himself still stronger in death. The circle has widened until it comprehends many lands.
He has exerted a noteworthy influence upon foreign literature, especially in Germany and France. Translated into the languages of these countries, his works have been extensively studied, admired, and imitated. He is lectured on in German universities, and some of his ablest critics have been German and French. He has stimulated a prodigious amount of intellectual activity; and his biographers, editors, translators, critics, and commentators are numbered by the hundred. No other English author has gathered about him such an array of scholarship and literary ability.
There is no abatement of interest in his works. Societies are organized for their systematic study, and periodicals are devoted to their illustration. There is no likelihood that he will ever be superseded; as he wrote in the proud presentiment of genius,
“Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme.”
Future ages will turn to his works as a mirror of nature, and find in them the most perfect expression of their deepest and most precious experience. It is safe to say that his productions are as imperishable as the English language or the English race.
THE AVON AND HOLY TRINITY CHURCH.
"Thou soft-flowing Avon, by thee, silver stream, Of things more than mortal sweet Shakespeare would dream.' -GARRICK.