Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

and beauty. He became a proselyte to the Roman Catholic faith, and subsequently a cauon of the Church of Loretto.

Crashaw is mystical in style and thought. His verse abounds in metaphor and conceit; yet he is seldom dull, and his versification- is often highly musical. He has genuine poetic genius, and after Donne,, may be considered the greatest religious poet of the age. In one of his poems occurs the well-known conceit relative to the miracle of water being turned to wine: —

"The conscious water saw its God, and blushed."

These fine lines are also his: —

"A happy soul, that all the way
To heaven hath a summer day."

This extract is from Crashaw's " Temperance, or, The Cheap Physician : " —

"Age? Wouldst see December smile?
Wonldst see nests of new roses grow
In a bed of reverend snow;
Warm thonghts, free spirits flattering
Winter's self into a Spring?
In sam, wonldst see a man that can
Live to be old, and still a man'
Whose latest and most leaden honrs
Fall with soft wings, stuck with soft flowers;
And when life's sweet fable ends,
Soul and body part like friends, —
No quarrels, mnrmnrs, no delay;
A kiss, a sigh, and so away.
This rare one, reader, wonldst thon see?
Hark, hither! and thyself be he."

Among the miscellaneous poets of this period we have Sylvester and Barnwell and Marlowe the dramatist. Marlowe's "Passionate Shepherd" is a poem of great beauty. Sylvester claims notice as the now generally received author of the "Soul's Errand," an impressive poem long accredited to Raleigh.

"Warner, Daniel, and Drayton, are the three poets most conspicuous in the period immediately succeeding Spenser. The two latter have been already noticed, but Warner's "Albion's England " must be noted as a lively and amusing poem, —in form a history of Southern Britain, from the Deluge to the reign of James I. It embraces every striking event or legend which the old chronicles afford. It has force, vivacity, and graphic description, but little of high imaginative art, and is held now to have been especially suitable for a more barbarous age.

Warner was an attorney by profession; and his style, curt, direct and clear, was in his day much admired. This fable is one of its neatest specimens: —

"An ass, an old man, and a boy did through the city pass;
And whiles the wanton boy did ride, the old mail led the ass.
'See yonder doting fool,' said folks,' that scarce can crawl for age,
Doth set the boy upon his ass, and makes himself his page.'
Anon, the blamed boy alights, and lets the old man ride,
And as the old man did before, the boy the ass did guide.
But passing so, the people then did much the old man blame,
And told him, 'Churl, thy limbs be tough; let ride the boy, for

shame!'

The fault thus found, both man and boy did back the am and ride;
Then that the ass was overcharged each man that met them cried.
Now both alight, and go on foot, and lead the empty beast;
But then the people laugh, and sny that one might ride at least.
The old man, seeing that he could no ways the people please,
Not blameless then, did drive the ass, and drown him in the seas."

CHAPTER VII.
OLD ENGLISH DRAMA.

IT is not in general versification alone that the poetical strength of the Elizabethan age is chiefly manifested; toward the latter part of Elizabeth's reign arose the dramatic form of composition and representation, and attracted nearly all the poetical genius of England.

"At the dawn of modern civilization," says our historian, " most countries of modern Europe possessed a rude kind of theatrical entertainment, consisting not in those exhibitions of natural character and incident which constituted the plays of ancient Greece and Rome, but in representations of the principal supernatural events in the Old and New Testaments, and of the history of the saints, whence they were denominated 'Miracle plays.' Considered favorable to the diffusion of religious feeling, they were under the immediate management of the clergy, by whom they appear also to have been acted."

The Miracle play of Saint Katharine, to which allusion has already been made, was acted at Dunstable in 1119, and was the first theatrical representation in England of which we have any account; though how long such entertainments may have existed there, is not known.

The most sacred persons, not excluding the Deity himself, were introduced into these plays; yet judged by the traces of them which remain, they appear to have been profane and indecorous in the highest degree. "In the reign of Henry Sixth," says the same writer, "persons representing sentiments and abstract ideas, being introduced into the Miracle plays, gave birth to a new and improved form of dramatic compositions, entirely or chiefly composed of such characters, and called 'Moral plays.'"

As it required some poetical and dramatic ingenuity to image forth the characters and assign appropriate speeches to each, the " Moral plays " may be considered as a great advance upon the " Miracles." The only scriptural character retained in them was the Devil. As this distinguished personage was painted as black as he should be, amply furnished with the popular hoof and horns, and supplied with a tail of becoming length, and was also perpetual!y beaten about the stage by an attendant character called the " Vice," it is to be inferred that he not only served to enliven these sober entertainments, but conveyed the sound moral lesson which was intended. However this may have been, the Devil was then the darling of the multitude.

"My husband, Timothy Tattle," says the good gossip in Ben Jonson's play, " was wont to say that there was no play without a fool and a devil in it. He was for the Devil still, God bless him! The Devil for his money, he would say; I would fain see the Devil."

Moral plays appear to have been at the height of popularity in the reign of Henrj* VIII., in whose reign acting first became a distinct profession, both Miracle and Moral plays having previously been represented by clergymen and school-boys, and only brought forth occasionally as a part of some public or private festivity.

"It was soon found," continues our informant, "that a real human being, with a real name, was better calculated to move the audience, to hold their attention, and to impress them with moral truths than a being who only represented a notion of the mind; and in the early part of the sixteenth century the substitution of these for the symbolical characters gradually took place; and thus, with some aid from the Greek dramatic literature which now began to be studied, and from the improved theatres of Italy and Spain, the genuine English drama took its rise.

"The regular drama was from its commencement divided into Comedy and Tragedy, the elements of both being found quite distinct in the rude entertainments we have described."

The Interlude — so called from its being acted in the intervals of a banquet — preceded the modern comedy, and generally represented some familiar incident in the style of the broadest, coarsest farce.

John Heywood, supported as a wit, musician, and writer of plays in the court of Henry VIII., was a distinguished writer of interludes, and is considered the inventor of this species of writing.

The earliest specimen of comedy that can now be found, was the production of Nicolas Udall, master of the Westminster School. It bears the uncouth title of " Ralph Royster Doyster," and is supposed to have been written not later than 1551. The scene is in London, and the characters exhibit the manners of the middle class of that day. It is divided into five acts, and the plot is amusing and well constructed.

The next is " Gammer Gurton's Needle," supposed to have been written about 1565, or still earlier. Tragedy, of later origin than comedy, came directly from the more elevated portions of the Moral plays, and from the pure models of Greece and Rome. The earliest known specimen of this kind of composition is the tragedy of " Ferrex

« ZurückWeiter »