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“ The hounds, whom we left in full cry, continue their music without remission as long as they are faithful to the scent; as a summons, it should seem, like the seaman's cry, to pull together, or keep together, and it is a certain proof to themselves and their followers that they are in the right way. On the instant that they are “ at fault," or lose the scent, they are silent. * * *
The weather, in its impression on the scent, is the great father of “faults,” but they may arise from other accidents, even when the day is in every respect favorable. The intervention of ploughed land, on which the scent soon cools or evaporates, is at least perilous; but sheep-stains, recently left by a flock, are fatal: they cut off the scent irrecoverably -- making a gap, as it were, in the clew, in which the dogs have not even a hint for their guidance."
Compare Shakspeare again :
“ Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell,
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer;
For there his smell with others being mingled,
Then do they spend their mouths : Echo replies,
One more extract from Mr. Ayton :
“Suppose, then, after the usual rounds, that you see the hare at last (a sorry mark for so many foes) sorely beleaguered — looking dark and drag gled — limping heavily along; then stopping to listen — again tottering on a little - and again stopping; and at every step, and every pause, hearing the death-cry grow nearer and louder.'
One more comparison, and we have exhausted Shakspeare's description :
To harken if his foes pursue him still;
And now his grief may be compared well
“ Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
For misery is trodden on by many,
Here, then, be it observed, are not only the same objects, the same accidents, the same movement, in each description, but the very words employed to convey the scene to the mind are often the same in each. It would be easy to say that Mr. Ayton copied Shakspeare. We believe he did not. There is a sturdy ingenuousness about his writings which would have led him to notice the Venus and Adonis if he had had it in his mind. Shakspeare and he had each looked minutely and practically upon the same scene; and the wonder is, not that Shakspeare was an accurate describer, but that in him the accurate is so thoroughly fused with the poetical, that it is one and the same life.
The celebrated description of the courser in the Venus and Adonis is another remarkable instance of the accuracy of the young Shakspeare's observation. Not the most experienced dealer ever new the points of a horse better. The whole poem, indeed, is full of evidence that the circumstances by which the writer was surrounded, in a country district, had entered deeply into his mind, and were reproduced in the poetical form. The bird “tangled in a net" - the “di-dapper peering through a wave" - the " blue-veined violets" the
“Red morn, that ever yet betokened Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field'
the fisher that forbears the "ungrown fry" — the sheep "gone to fold" — the caterpillars feeding on “the tender
- and, not to weary with examples, that exquisite
“Look how a bright star shooteth from the sky,
So glides he in the night from Venus' eye,”.
all these bespeak a poet who had formed himself upon nature, and not upon books. To understand the value, as well as the rarity of this quality in Shakspeare, we should open any contemporary poem.
Take Marlowe's 66 Herc and Leander" for example. We read line after line, beautiful, gorgeous, running over with a satiating luxuriousness; but we look in vain for a single familiar image. Shakspeare describes what he has seen, throwing over the real the delicious tint of his own imagination. Marlowe looks at Nature herself very rarely; but he knows all the conventional images by which the real is supposed to be elevated into the poetical. His most beautiful things are thus but copies of copies. The mode in which each poet describes the morning will illustrate our meaning :
“ Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
Who doth the world so gloriously behold,
We feel that this is true. Compare
“By this Apollo's golden harp began
We are taught that this is classical.
Coleridge has observed that, “in the Venus and Adonis, the first and most obvious excellence is the perfect sweetness of the versification; its adaptation to the subject; and the power displayed in varying the march of the words
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without passing into a loftier and more majestic rhythm than was demanded by the thoughts, or permitted by the propriety of preserving a sense of melody predomi
This self-controlling power of " varying the march of the words without passing into a loftier and more, majestic rhythm” is, perhaps, one of the most signal instances of Shakspeare's consummate mastery of his art, even as a very young man.
He who, at the proper season, knew how to strike the grandest music within the compass of our own powerful and sonorous language, in his early productions breathes out his thoughts
“ To the Dorian mood Of flutes and soft recorder."
The sustained sweetness of the versification is never cloying; and yet there are no violent contrasts, no sudden elevations: all is equable in its infinite variety. The early comedies are full of the same rare beauty. In Love's Labor 's Lost - The Comedy of Errors - A Midsummer Night's Dream - we have verses of alternate rhymes formed upon the same model as those of the Venus and Adonis, and producing the same feeling of placid delight by their exquisite harmony. The same principles on which he built the versification of the Venus and Adonis exhibited to him the grace which these elegiac harmonies would impart to the scenes of repose in the progress of a dramatic action.
We proceed to the Lucrece. Of that poem the date of the composition is fixed as accurately as we can desire, In the dedication to the Venus and Adonis the poet says, “If your honor seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honored you with some graver labor.” In 1594, a year after the Venus and Adonis, Lucrece was published, and was dedicated to Lord Southampton. This, then, was undoubtedly the “graver labor ; " this was the pro
* “ Biographia Literaria,” vol. ii. p. 14.
duce of the " idle hours” of 1593. Shakspeare was then nearly thirty years of age - the period at which it is held by some he first began to produce any thing original for the stage. The poet unquestionably intended the “graver labor" for a higher effort than had produced the first heir " of his invention. He describes the Venus and Adonis as "unpolished lines" — lines thrown off with youthful luxuriousness and rapidity. The verses of the Lucrece are "untutored lines" lines formed upon no established model. There is to our mind the difference of eight or even ten years in the aspect of these poems difference as manifest as that which exists between Love's Labor's Lost, and Romeo and Juliet. Coleridge has marked the great distinction between the one poem and the other :
" The Venus and Adonis did not perhaps allow the display of the deeper passions. But the story of Lucretia seems to favor, and even demand, their intensest workings. And yet we find in Shakspeare's management of the tale neither pathos nor any other dramatic quality. There is the same minute and faithful imagery as in the former poem, in the same vivid colors, inspirited by the same impetuous vigor of thought, and diverging and contracting with the same activity of the assimilative and of the modifying faculties; and with a yet larger display, a yet wider range of knowledge and reflection : and, lastly, with the same perfect dominion, often domination, over the whole world of language.” *
It is in this paragraph that Coleridge has marked the difference - which a critic of the very highest order could alone have pointed out — between the power which Shakspeare's mind possessed of going out of itself in a narrative poem, and the dramatic power. The same mighty, and to most unattainable, power, of utterly subduing the selfconscious to the universal, was essential to the highest excellence of both species of composition, — the poem and
*." Biographia Literaria," vol. ii. p. 21.
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