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tion, we know that he was a friend of Shakspere. There is nothing in the first seventeen Sonnets which might not have been written in the artificial tone of the Italian poetry, in the working out of this scheme. Suppose, again, that in other Sonnets the poet, in the same artificial spirit, complains that the friend has robbed him of his mistress, and avows that he forgives the falsehood. There is nothing in all this which might not have been written essentially as a work of fiction, -received as a work of fiction,-handed about amongst“ private friends" without the slightest apprehension that it would be regarded as an exposition of the private relations of two persons separated in rank as they probably were in their habitual intimacies,of very different ages,-the one an avowedly profligate boy, the other a matured
But this supposition does not exclude the idea that the poet had also, at various times, composed, in the same measure, other poems, truly expressing his personal feelings,—with nothing inflated in their tone, perfectly simple and natural, offering praise, expressing love to his actual friends (in the language of the time “ lovers"), showing regret in separation, dreading unkindness, hopeful of continued affection. These are also circulated amongst“ private friends." Some “ W. H.” collects them together, ten, or twelve, or fifteen years after they have been written ; and a publisher, of course, is found to give to the world any productions of a man 80 eminent as Shakspere. But who arranged them? Certainly not the poet himself: for those who believe in their continuity must admit that there are portions which it is impossible to regard as continuous. In the same volume with these Sonnets was published a most exquisite narrative poem, ' A Lover's Complaint.' The form of it entirely prevents any attempt to consider it autobiographical. The Sonnets, on the contrary, are personal in their form ; but it is not therefore to be assumed that they are all personal in their relation to the author. It is impossible to be assumed that they could have been printed with the consent of the author as they now stand. If he had meant in all of them to express his actual feelings and position, the very slightest labour on his part—a few words of introduction either in prose or verse—would have taken those parts which he would have naturally desired to appear like fiction, and which to us even now look like fiction, out of the possible range of reality. The same slight labour would, on the other hand, have classed amongst the real, apart from the artificial, those Sonnets which he would have desired to stand apart, and which appear to us to stand apart, as the result of real moods of the poet's own mind.
It is our intention, without at all presuming to think that we have discovered any real order in which these extraordinary productions may be arranged, to offer them to the reader upon a principle of classification, which, on the one hand, does not attempt to ect the idea that a continuous poem, or rather several continuous poems, may be traced throughout the series, nor adopt the belief that the whole can be broken up into fragments ; but which, on the other hand, does no violence to the meaning of the author by a pertinacious adherence to a principle of continuity, sometimes obvious enough, but at other times maintained by links as fragile as the harness of Queen Mab's chariot :
“ Her traces of the smallest spider's web,
Her collars of the moonshine's watery beams." The reader will have the text of the first edition before him ; and he will be enabled at every step to judge whether the original arrangement, to which we must constantly refer, was a systematic or an arbitrary one.
The earliest productions of a youthful poet are commonly Love-Sonnets, or Elegies as they were termed in Shakspere's time. The next age to that of the school boy is that of
6 the lover,
Made to his mistress' eyebrow." We commence our series with three Sonnets which certainly bear the marks of juvenility, when compared with others in this collection, as distinctly impressed upon them as the character of the poet's mind at different periods of his life is impressed upon . Love's Labour 's Lost' and ` Macbeth :
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy will,
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lov'st me,—for my name is Will.—136.
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
So will I pray that thou mayst bave thy Will,
If thou turn back, and my loud crying still. - 143. The figures which we subjoin to each Sonnet show the place which it occupies in the collection of 1609. If the reader will turn to our reprint of that text, he will see where these Sonnets, through each of which the same play upon the poet's name is kept up with a boyish vivacity, are found. The two first follow one of those from which Mr. Brown derives the title of what he calls «The Sixth Poem,' being • To his Mistress, on her Infidelity."* Mr. Brown, however, qualifies the dissimilarity of tone by the following admission :-“ All the stanzas in the preceding poems (to Stanza 126) are retained in their original order; the printers, without disturbing the links, having done no worse than the joining together of five chains into one. But I suspect the same attention has not been paid to this address to his mistress. Indeed, I farther suspect that some stanzas, irrelevant to the subject, have been introduced into the body of it." The stanzas to which Mr. Brown objects are the 135th and 136th, just given. But let us proceed. The poet now sings the praise of those eyes which so took his brother-poet, Phineas Fletcher :
“But most I wonder how that jetty ray,
Should shine so bright, and night should make so sweet a day." We know not the colour of Anne Hathaway's eyes ; but how can we affirm that the following three Sonnets were not addressed to her ?
In the old age black was not counted fair,
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
* Shakspeare's Autobiographical Poems,' p. 96.
In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds,
And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.—131.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
And all they foul that thy complexion lack.-132. But the two last immediately precede the Sonnet beginning
“ Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan,
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me: and so the lady of the “mourning eyes " is associated with a tale of treachery and sin. The line of the 131st Sonnet,
“ In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds," may be held to imply something atrocious. The two first lines, however, show of what the poet-lover complains :
« Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel." The 128th Sonnet has never heen exceeded in airy elegance, even by the professed writers of amatory poems
How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st,
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.-128. The 130th, too, is one of the prettiest vers de société that a Suckling, or a Moore, could have produced :
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.—130. Aud of what character is the 129th Sonnet, which separates these two playful compositions? It is a solemn denunciation against unlicensed gratifications--a warning
“ To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell." If we are to bring those Sonnets in apposition where the “ leading idea " is repeated, we shall have to go far back to find one that will accord with the 130th :
So is it not with me as with that muse,
Let them say more that like of bearsay well;
I will not praise, that purpose not to sell.—21. This is the 21st Sonnet; and it has as much the character of a love-sonnet as any we have just given.
The tyranny of which the poet complains in the 131st Sonnet forms the subject of the three following :
O, call not me to justify the wrong
Yet do not so; but since I am near slain,
Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain.—139.