Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

concernynge his damnable opinions and judgment of Relygion and score of Gods worde." It is a comfort to know that the ruffian who drew up the charges, a certain “Rychard Bame," was hanged 1 at Tyburn on 6th December 1594. Doubtless Bame was backed by some person or persons of power and position. It was a deliberate attempt on the part of some fanatics to induce the public authorities to institute a prosecution for blasphemy against the poet. How the charges would have been met it is not easy to say; probably his friends-particularly his patron Sir Thomas Walsingham-would have been powerful enough to avert any serious danger. To a modern reader many of the charges put forward by Bame seem too silly to deserve any serious attention. If Marlowe had been a man of such abandoned principles as his enemies represented, I strongly doubt whether Chapman, who was distinguished for strictness of life, would have cherished his memory with such affection and respect. To my mind the apostrophe to Marlowe in the Third Sestiad of Hero and Leander shows clearly that the two poets were on terms of intimacy, and I fail to understand how Dyce arrived at the opposite conclusion. It is much to be regretted that no copy can now be found of the elegy on Marlowe written by Nashe and prefixed to the Tragedy of Dido, 1594. The elegy was seen by Bishop Tanner, who in his account of Marlowe writes,-"Hanc [sc. Tragedy of Dido) perfecit et edidit Tho. Nashe, Lond. 1594, 4to.

1 This fact was discovered by Malone from the Stationers' Registers, Book B, p. 316.

Petowius in præfatione ad secundam partem Herois et Leandri multa in Marlovii, commendationem adfert ; hoc etiam facit Tho. Nash in Carmine elegiaco tragedia Didonis præfixol in obitum Christoph. Marlovii, ubi quatuor ejus tragoediaram mentionem facit, necnon et alterius De Duce Guisio(Bibl. Brit., p. 512). Petowe's encomium, to which Tanner refers, runs thus :

"Quicke-sighted spirits,-this suppos'd Apollo,
Conceit no other but th' admired Marlo;
Marlo admir'd, whose honney-flowing vaine
No English writer can as yet attaine ;
Whose name in Fame's immortall treasurie
Truth shall record to endles memorie ;
Marlo, late mortall, now fram'd all diuine,
What soule more happy then that soule of thine ?
Liue still in heauen thy soule, thy same on earth!
Thou dead, of Marlos Hero findes a dearth.
Weepe, aged Tellus ! all on earth 2 complaine !
Thy chiefe-borne faire hath lost her faire againe :
Her faire in this is lost, that Marlo's want
Inforceth Hero's faire be wonderous scant.
Oh, had that king of poets breathed longer,
Then had faire beautie's fort been much more stronger !

i Warton, in his Hist. of Eng. Poetry, mentions this elegy of Nashe's, but it is doubtful whether he ever saw it. In Malone's copy of Dido (preserved in the Bodleian) is the following MS. note :-"He[Warton) informed me by letter that a copy of this play was in Osborne's catalogue in the year 1754 ; that he then saw it in his shop (together with several of Mr. Oldys's books that Osborne had purchased) and that the elegy n question, 'on Marlowe's untimely death,' was inserted immediately after the title-page; that it mentioned a play of Marlowe's entitled the Duke of Guise and four others, but whether particularly by name he could not recollect. Unluckily he did not purchase this rare piece, and it is now God knows where."

2 Old ed. “All earth on earth."

His goulden pen had clos'd her so about,
No bastard æglet's quill, the world throughout,
Had been of force to marre what he had made;
For why they were not expert in that trade.
What mortall soule with Marlo might contend,
That could 'gainst reason force him stoope or bend ?
Whose siluer-charming toung mou'd such delight,
That men would shun their sleepe in still darke night
To meditate vpon his goulden lynes,
His rare conceyts, and sweet-according rimes.
But Marlo, still-admired Marlo's gon
To liue with beautie in Elyzium ;
Immortal beautie, who desires to heare
His sacred poesies, sweete in euery eare :
Marlo must frame to Orpheus' melodie
Himnes all diuine to make heauen harmonie.
There euer live the prince of poetrie,

Liue with the liuing in eternitie ! ” In his preface “To the quick-sighted Reader," Petowe says that his poem was “the first fruits of an unripe wit, done at certaine vacant howers." The poem has little merit, but the young writer's admiration for Marlowe is genuine and striking.

Other admirers of Marlowe were not silent. George Peele, in his “Prologue to the Honour of the Garter,” written immediately after the poet's death, has these lines :

“Unhappy in thine end, Marley, the Muses' darling for thy verse, Fit to write passions for the souls below,

If any wretched souls in passion speak.” “ J. M." in a MS. poem written in 1600 (quoted by Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps in his Life of Shakespeare), speaks with tenderness of "kynde Kit Marloe." In a famous

passage of the Hierarchie of the Blessed Angels, 1635, Heywood writes :

“Marlo, renown'd for his rare art and wit,

Could ne'er attain beyond the name of Kit,
Although his Hero and Leander did
Merit addition rather."

In Michael Drayton's admirable "Epistle to Henry Reynolds of Poets and Poesy," 1627, occur the fine lines which have been so frequently quoted :

“Next ? Marlow, bathed in the Thespian springs,

Had in him those brave translunary things
That the first poets had ; his raptures were
All air and fire which made his verses clear;
For that fine madness still he did retain,
Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.”

Much has been written of Marlowe in glowing verse and eloquent prose by writers of our own time; but not even Mr. Swinburne's impassioned praise is finer than the pathetic Death of Marlowe, published nearly half a century ago by the poet who passed so recently, full of years, from the ingratitude of a forgetful generation.

Mr. J. A. Symonds has defined the leading motive of Marlowe's work as L'Amour de l'Impossible—“the love or lust of unattainable things." Never was a poet fired with a more intense aspiration for ideal beauty and ideal power.

As some adventurous Greek of old might have sailed away, with warning voices in his ears, past the

1 Old ed. “Neat,"

pillars of Hercules in quest of fabled islands beyond the sun, so Marlowe started on his lonely course, careless of tradition and restraint, resolved to seek and find "some world far from ours” where the secret springs of Knowledge should be opened and he should touch the lips of Beauty. What Marlowe might have achieved if his life had not been so cruelly cut short it were vain to speculate. The enthusiasm which has led some of his admirers to hint that he might have seriously contested Shakespeare's claim to supremacy is uncritical and absurd. Chapman speaks of men

“That have strange gifts in nature but no soul

Diffused quite through to make them of a piece.” All the Elizabethan dramatists, in greater or less degree, possessed these “strange gifts in nature," but in Shakespeare alone was the soul “diffused quite through.” Marlowe showed stupendous power in exciting terror and pity ; but it is in single situations rather than in the clear-eyed development of the plot that his power is seen at its highest. Shakespeare's sympathy with humanity in all its phases was infinite; Marlowe was a lofty egoist, little moved by the joys and sorrows of ordinary mortals. The gift of radiant humour, which earned for Shakespeare the title of “gentle” among his contemporaries, was denied to Marlowe.

There are passages of Marlowe that for majesty and splendour can never be forgotten ; but before the magical cadences of Antony and Cleopatra all the voices of the world fall dumb. Shakespeare began his career as a pupil of Marlowe; the lesser poet was self-taught. More than VOL. I.

f

« ZurückWeiter »