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6th Hag. I had a dagger : what did I with that?
Killd an infant to have his fat.
I scratch'd out the eyes of the owl before,
I tore the bat's wing; what would you have more ! Dame. Yes, I have brought to help our vows
Hornèd poppy, cypress-boughs,
Exhale earth's rottenest vapours,
Charm. Deep, O deep we lay thee to sleep;
We leave thee drink by, if thou chance to be dry;
Dame. Stay! all our charms do nothing win
Upon the night; our labour dies,
Charm. Blacker go in, and blacker come out :
Hno! har! har! hoo!
A cloud of pitch, a spur and a switch,
His head of a drake, his tail of a snake. (A loud and beautiful music is heard, and the Witches vanish.)
A CATCH OF SATYRS. Silenus bids his Satyrs awaken a couple of Sylvans, who have fallen
asleep while they should have kept watch.
Buz, quoth the blue fly,
Hum, quoth the bee;
And so do we,
Thus, do you see?
Else it was hè.
“It is impossible that anything could better express than this, either the wild and practical joking of the satyrs, or the action of the thing described, or the quaintness and fitness of the images, or the melody and even the harmony, the intercourse, of the musical words, one with another. None but a boon companion with a very musical ear could have written it. It was not for nothing that Ben lived in the time of the fine old English composers, Bull and Ford, or partook his canary with his 'lov’d Alphonso,' as he calls him, the Signor Ferrabosco.”—A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla, in Ainsworth's Magazine, No. xxx.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
BEAUMONT, BORN 1586—DIED 1615.
POETRY of the highest order and of the loveliest character abounds in Beaumont and Fletcher, but so mixed up with inconsistent, and too often, alas ! revolting matter, that, apart from passages which do not enter into the plan of this book, I had no alternative but either to confine the extracts to the small number which ensue, or to bring together a heap of the smallest quotations,—two or three lines at a time. I thought to have got a good deal more out of the Faithful Shepherdess, which I had not read for many years; but on renewing my acquaintance with it, I found that the same unaccountable fascination with the evil times which had spoilt these two fine poets in their other plays, had followed its author, beyond what I had supposed, even into the regions of Arcadia.
Mr. Hazlitt, who loved sometimes to relieve his mistrust by a fit of pastoral worship, pronounces the Faithful Shepherdess to be "& perpetual feast of nectar'd sweets, where no crude surfeit reigns.” I wish I could think so.
There are both hot and cold dishes in it, which I would quit at any time to go and dine with the honest lovers of Allan Ramsay, whose Gentle Shepherd, though of another and far inferior class of poetry, I take upon the whole to be the completest pastoral drama that ever was written.
It is a pity that Beaumont and Fletcher had not been born earlier, and in the neighbourhood of Shakspeare, and become his playmates. The wholesome company of the juvenile yeoman (like a greater Sandford) might have rectified the refined spirits of the young gentlemen, and saved their Hippocrene from becoming ditch-water. Even as it is, they seem different men when writing in their own persons, and following the taste of the town. Compare, for example, Beaumont's exquisite verses on Melancholy (here printed) with any one of their plays; or Fletcher's lines entitled An Honest Man's Fortune with the play of the same name, to which it is appended. The difference is so great, and indeed is discernible to such an equal degree in the poetry which startles you in the plays themselves (as if two different souls were writing one passage), that it appears unaccountable, except on some principle anterior to their town life, and to education itself. Little is known of either of their families, except that there were numerous poets in both ; but Fletcher's father was that Dean of Peterborough (afterwards Bishop of London) who behaved with such unfeeling impertinence to the Queen of Scots in her last moments, and who is said (as became such a man) to have died of chagrin because Elizabeth was angry at his marrying a second time. Was poetry such a "drug” with “both their houses that the friends lost their respect for it? or was Fletcher's mother some angel of a woman-some sequestered Miranda of the daywith whose spirit the "earth" of the Dean her husband but ill accorded ?
Every devout lover of poetry must have experienced the wish of Coleridge, that Beaumont and Fletcher had written
poems instead of tragedies." Imagine as voluminous a set of the one as they have given us of the other ? It would have been to sequestered real life what Spenser was to the land of Faery,-a retreat beyond all groves and gardens, a region of medicinal sweets of thought and feeling. Nor would plenty of fable have been wanting. What a loss! And this,—their birthright with posterity—these extraordinary men sold for the mess of the loathsome pottage of the praise and profligacy of the court of James I.
But let us blush to find fault with them, even for such a descent from their height, while listening to their diviner moods.
Hence, all you vain delights,
Wherein you spend your folly ;
But only Melancholy ;