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salient points. If Chaucer followed up his subject too doggedly, perhaps Shakspeare was too volatile and heedless. The Muse's wing too often lifted him off his feet. He made infinite excursions to the right and the left.
"He hath done
Mad and fantastick execution,
Engaging and redeeming of himself
With such a careless force and forceless care,
As if that luck in very spite of cunning
Bade him win all."
Chaucer attended chiefly to the real and natural, that is, to the involuntary and inevitable impressions on the mind in given circumstances: Shakspeare exhibited also the possible and the fantastical,—not only what things are in themselves, but whatever they might seem to be, their different reflections, their endless combinations. He lent his fancy, wit, invention, to others, and borrowed their feelings in return. Chaucer excelled in the force of habitual sentiment; Shakspeare added to it every variety of passion, every suggestion of thought or accident. Chaucer described external objects with the eye of a painter, or he might be said to have embodied them with the hand of a sculptor, every part is so thoroughly made out, and tangible :-Shakspeare's imagination threw over them a lustre
-"Prouder than when blue Iris bends."
Every thing in Chaucer has a downright reality. A simile or a sentiment is as if it were given in upon evidence. In Shakspeare the commonest matter of
fact has a romantick grace about it; or seems to float with the breath of imagination in a freer element. No one could have more depth of feeling or observation than Chaucer, but he wanted resources of invention to lay open the stores of nature or the human heart with the same radiant light, that Shakspeare has done. However fine or profound the thought, we know what is coming, whereas the effect of reading Shakspeare is "like the eye of vassalage encountering majesty." Chaucer's mind was consecutive, rather than discursive. He arrived at truth through a certain process; Shakspeare saw every thing by intuition. Chaucer had great variety of power, but he could do only one thing at once. He set himself to work on a particular subject. His ideas were kept separate, labelled, ticketed, and parcelled out in a set form, in pews and compartments by themselves. They did not play into one another's hands. They did not re-act upon one another, as the blower's breath moulds the yielding glass. There is something hard and dry in them. What is the most wonderful thing in Shakspeare's faculties is their excessive sociability, and how they gossiped and compared notes together.
We must conclude this criticism; and we will do it with a quotation or two. One of the most beautiful passages in Chaucer's tale is the description of Cresseide's first avowal of her love.
"And as the new abashed nightingale,
And, after, sicker doth her voice outring;
See also the two next stanzas, and particularly
that divine one beginning
"Her armes small, her back both straight and soft," &c.
Compare this with the following speech of Troilus to Cressida in the play:
"O, that I thought it could be in a woman;
And if it can, I will presume in you,
To feed for aye her lamp and flame of love,
Might be affronted with the match and weight
Of such a winnow'd purity in love;
How were I then uplifted! But alas,
I am as true as Truth's simplicity,
These passages may not seem very characteristick at first sight, though we think they are so. We will give two, that cannot be mistaken. Patroclus says to Achilles,
"Rouse yourself; and the weak wanton Cupid
Troilus, addressing the God of Day on the approach of the morning that parts him from Cressida. says with much scorn,
"What! proffer'st thou thy light here for to sell ?
If nobody but Shakspeare could have written the former, nobody but Chaucer would have thought of the latter.-Chaucer is the most literal of poets, as Richardson is of prose writers.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
THIS is a very noble play. Though not in the first class of Shakspeare's productions, it stands next to them, and is, we think, the finest of his historical plays, that is, of those in which he made poetry the organ of history, and assumed a certain tone of character and sentiment, in conformity to known facts, instead of trusting to his observations of general nature or to the unlimited indulgence of his own fancy. What he has added to the history, is upon a par with it. His genius was, as it were, a match for history as well as nature, and could grapple at will with either. This play is full of that pervading comprehensive power by which the poet could always make himself master of time and circumstances. It presents a fine picture of Roman pride and Eastern magnificence: and in the struggle between the two, the empire of the world seems suspended, "like the swan's down feather,
"That stands upon the swell at full of tide,