« AnteriorContinuar »
From the orient to the drooping west,
Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold The acts commenced on this ball of earth; (1) Upon my tongues continual flanders ride,
(1) Upon my, &c.] In the stage direction, rumour is said to enter painted full of tongues. Shakespear, in his description of rumour, had doubtless a view either to Virgil's celebrated description of fame, or Ovid's defeription of her cave in the 12th book of his metamorphoses : I shall give the reader part of both, and in as close a translation as poffible, that he may judge the better.
Monstrum borrendum, &c.
A monster, hideous, vast; as many plumes
As in her body stick, so many eyes
For ever waking (wondrous to relate)
There grew beneath ; as many babling tongues,
And list’ning ears as many: by night The fies
Noisy thro' fhades obscure, 'twixt earth and heav'n :
Nor are her eyes by pleasing number clos'd;
Watchful and prying round, by day, she fits
On some high palace-top, or lofty tow'r,
The which in every language I pronounce;
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace while covert enmity,
Under the smile of safety wounds the world ;
And who but rumour, who but only I,
Make fearful musters, and prepar'd defence,
(2) Whilst the big year, swoll'n with some other griefs,
Iš thought with child by the stern tyrant war,
And no such matter? Rumour is a pipe
Blown by furmises; jealoufies, conjectures ;
And of so easy and fo plain a stop,
That the blunt monster, with uncounted heads,
The still discordant wavering multitude,
Can play upon it.
-Contention, like a horse
Full of high feeding, madly hath broke loose,
And bears down all before him.
And mighty towns alarms: nor less intent
On spreading fallhood, than reporting truth, &c.
See Trapp. Virg. Æn. 4.
Atria turba tenent, &c.
Hither in crowds the vulgar come and go ; * (To the cave
Millions of rumours here fly to and fro: of fame.)
Lies mixt with truth, reports that vary still,
The itching ears of folks unguarded fill :
They tell the tale; the tale in telling grows,
And each relater adds to what he knows;
Rath error, light credulity are here,
And caufeless transport, and ill-grounded fear ;
New-rais'd fedition, secret whispers blown
By nameless authors and of things unknown;
Fame all that's done in heav'n, earth, ocean views,
And o'er the world still hunts around for news.
Sec Garth's Ovid. b. 12. (2) Year, &c.] Others read car.
• SCENE II. Poft-Messenger.
After him came spurring hard
A gentleman almost forefpent with speed,
That stopp'd by me to breathe his bloodied horse:
He ask'd the way to Chester; and of himn
I did demand the news from Shrewsbury.
He told me that rebellion had ill luck:
And that young Harry Percy's fpur was cold.
With that he gave his able horse the head,
And, bending forward, struck his agile heels
Against the panting sides of his poor jade
Up to the rowel head; and starting fo,
He seem'd in running to devour the way,
Staying no longer question.
SCENE III. Messenger with ill news.
Yea, this man's brow, like to a title-leaf,
Foretels the nature of a tragic volume;
So looks the strond, whereon th'imperious flood
Hath left a witness'd usurpation.
Thou trembleít, and the whiteness in thy cheek
apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand.
Even such a man, fo faint, fo fpiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe be-gone,
Drew Priam's curtain in the dead of night,
And would have told him half his Troy was burn'd.
I see a strange confession in thine eye;
Thou shak'ít thy head, and hold'st it fear or fin
To speak a truth: if he be flain, say fo;
offends not that reports
his death : And he doth fin, that doth belie the dead, Not he, which says, the dead is not alive. (3) Yet the first bringer of unwelcome news
(3) Yet, &c.] Mr. Theobald remarks “this observation is certainly true in nature, and has the sanction of no less authori.
Hath but a lofing office; and his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,
Remember'd tolling a departed friend.
Greater Griefs destroy the lefs.
As the wretch, whose fever-weaken'd joints,
Like strengthless hinges, buckle under life,
Impatient of his fit, breaks like a fire
Out of his keeper's arms ; ev’n so my limbs,
Weaken'd with grief, being now enrag'd with grief,
Are thrice themselves. Hence, therefore, thou nice
crutch, A scaly gauntlet now with joints of steel Muit glove this hand: and hence, thou fickly quoif, Thou art a guard too wanton for the head, Which princes, filesh'd with conquest, aim to hit. ? Now bind
brows with iron, and approach The rugged'ít hour that time and spight dare bring To frown upon th' enrag'd Northumberland ! (4) Let heav'n kifs earth! now let not nature's hand Keep the wild flood confin'd! Let order die,
ties than those of Æschylus and Sophocks, who say almost the same thing with our author here.
Alas! the bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but an evil and unwelcome office.
The ingrateful task of bringing evil news
Is ever odious-
Sophocles. (4) Let.] Longinus in his 15th section, speaking of noble and terrible images, commends Æschylus for his success in them : Æschylus, says he, has made bold attempts in noble and truly heroic images : as, in one of his tragedies, the seven commanders against Toutes, without betraying the least sign of pity or regret, bind themselves by oath not to survive Etcocles:
The seven, a warlike leader, each in chief,
Stood round, and o'er the black bronze shield they new
And let this world no longer be a stage
To feed contention in a ling'ring act:
But let one spirit of the first-born Cain
Reign in all bofoms, that each heart being set
On bloody courses, the rude scene may end,
(5) And darkness be the burier of the dead !
Scene VI. The Fickleness of the Vulgar.
(6) An habitation giddy and unsure
Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.
O thou fond many! with what loud applause
Did'at thou beat heav'n with bletling Boling broke,
Before he was what thou wouldst have him be?
And now, being trim'd up in thine own desires,
Thou, beastly feeder, art fo full of him,
That thou provok'st thyself to cast him up.
A fullen bull: then plunging deep their hands
Into the foaming gore, with oath, invok'd
Mars and Enyo, and blood-thirsty terror.” Upon which the translator, judiciously quoting a fine image of this fort from Milton, afterwards observes, “ how vehemently does the fury of Northumberland exert itself in Shakespear, when he hears of the death of his son Hotfpur. The rage and distraction of the surviving father Thews how important the son was in his opinion. Nothing must be, now he is not: nature itself must fall with Percy. His grief renders him frantic : his anger desperate." And I think we may justly add, that no writer excels so much in these great and terrible images, as ShakeSpear, the Æschylus of the British stage. See Timon of Athens, A. 4. S. 1.
(5) Ant, &c.] Εμι θανοντος γαια μιχθήτω πυρε.
With me, departing hence, all earth consum'd
Perish in general conflagration.
And Medea tells us, she shall then only rest
When with herself all nature is involv'd
In universal ruin.-
Sen. Med. Act. (5) See Coriolanus, A. I. S. 3.