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For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lily outshine,
Or sporting Kid, or Marlow's mighty line.
And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I will not seek
For names; but call forth thund’ring Eschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, bim of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy buskin tread,
And shake a stage: or when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!
Nature berself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines !
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all: thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion. And that he
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the seeond beat
Upon the Muse's anvil; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel, he may gain a scorn,
For a good poet's made, as well as born.
And such wert thou. Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue: even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well-torned, and true filed lines :
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet swan of Avon! wbat a sight it were,
To see thee in our water yet appear,
And make those slights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James !
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a constellation there!
Shine fortb, thou star of poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage,
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like
And despairs day, but for thy volumes' light.
WORTHY MASTER SHAKSPEARE,
A mind reflecting ages past, whose clear
And equal surface can make things appear,
Distant a thousand years, and represent
Them in their lively colours, just extent:
To outrun hasty time, retrieve the fates,
Rowl back the heavens, blow ope the iron gates
Of death and Lethe, where confused lye
Great heaps of ruinous mortality:
In that deep dusky dungeon, to discern
A royal ghost from churls; by art to learn
The physiognomy of shades, and give
Them sudden birth, wond'ring how oft they live;
What story coldly tells, what poets feign
At second hand, and picture without brain,
Senseless and soul-less shews: To give a stage,-
Ample, and true with life,—voice, action, age,
As Plato's year, and new scene of the world,
Them unto us, or us to them had hurld:
To raise our ancient sovereigns from their herse,
Make kings his subjects; by exchanging verse
Enlive their pale trunks, that the present age
Joys in their joy and trembles at their rage:
Yet so to temper passion, that our ears
Take pleasure in their pain, and eyes in tears
Both weep and smile; fearful at plots so sad,
Then laughing at our fear; abus'd, and glad
To be abus'd ; affected with that truth
Which we perceive is false, pleas'd in that ruth
At which we start, and, by elaborate play,
Tortur'd and tickld; by a crab-like way
Time past made pastime, and in ugly sort
Disgorging up his ravin for our sport :-
-While the plebeian imp, from lofty throne,
Creates and rules a world, and works upon
Mankind by secret engines; now to move
A chilling pity, then a rigorous love;
To strike up and stroak down, both joy and ire;
To steer the affections; and by heavenly fire
Mold us anew, stoln from ourselves:-
This,-and much more, which cannot be exprest
But by himself, his tongue, and his own breast,-
Was Shakspeare's freehold; which his cunning brain
Improv'd, by favour of the nine-fold train ;-
The buskin'd muse, the comick queen, the grand
And louder tone of Clio, nimble hand
And nimbler foot of the melodious pair,
The silver-voic'd lady, the most fair
Calliope, she whose speaking silence daunts,
And she whose praise the heavenly body chants.
These jointly woo'd him, envying one another ;
Obey'd by all as spouse, but lov'd as brother;-
And wrought a curious robe, of sable grave,
Fresh green, and pleasant yellow, red most brave,
And constant blue, rich purple, guiltless white,
The lowly russet, and the scarlet bright:
Branch'd and embroider'd like the painted spring;
Each leaf match'd with a flower, and each string
Of golden wire, each line of silk: there run
Italian works, whose thread the sisters spun;
And there did sing, or seem to sing, the choice
Birds of a foreign note and various voice:
Here hangs a mossy rock; there plays a fair
But chiding fountain, purled: not the air,
Nor clouds, nor thunder, but were living drawn;
Not out of common tiffany or lawn,
But fine materials, which the Muses know,
And only know the countries where they grow.
Now, when they could no longer him enjoy,
In mortal garments pent,-Death may destroy,
They say, his body; but bis verse shall live,
And more than nature takes our hands shall give:
In a less volume, but more strongly bound,
Shakspeare shall breathe and speak; with laurel crown'd,
Which never fades ; fed with ambrosian meat;
In a well-lined vesture, rich and neat:-
So with this robe they cloath him, bid him wear it;
For time shall never stain, nor envy tear it.
The friendly Admirer of his Endowments,
I. M. S.
These admirable verses were first prefixed to the second folio printed in 1632, they are here placed as a noble tribute from a contemporary to the genius of our immortal Poet. Conjecture has been vainly employed upon the initials 1. M. S. affixed. I entirely subscribe to Mr. Boaden's opinion that they are from the pen of GEORGE CHAPMAN; the structure of the verse and the phraseology bear marks of his hand, and the vein of poetry such as would do honour to his genius.
S. W. S.
THE PREFACE OF THE PLAYERS. Prefixed to the First Folio Edition published in 1623. TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS, From the most able, to him that can but spell: there you are number'd. We had rather you were weigh’d. Especially, when the fate of all Bookes depends upon your capacities: and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well! it is now poblique, and you wil stand for your priviledges wee know: to read, and
Do so, but buy it first. That doth best commend a Booke, the Stationer saies. Then, how odde soever your braines be, or your wisedomes, make your licence the same, and spare not. Judge your sixe-pen'orth, your shillings worth, your five shillings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, whatever you do, Buy. Censure will not drive a Trade, or make the Jacke go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and sit on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the Cockpit, to arraigne Playes dailie, know, these Playes have had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Appeales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, than any purchas'd Letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to have bene wished, that the Author himselfe had lived to have set forth, and overseen his owne writings; But since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you, doe not envie his Friends, the office of their care and paine, to have collected and publish'd them; and so to have publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with divers stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors, that expos’d them: even those are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived thē: Who, as he was a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together: and what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our province, wbo onely gather his works, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to your divers capacities,
you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you : for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe : And if then you doe not like him surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him And so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom if you need can bee your guides : if you neede them not, you can leade you selves, and others. And such readers we wish him.