Sidor som bilder

Ing. A mere empiric, one that gets what he hath by observation, and makes only nature privy to what he endites: so slow an inventor, that he were better betake himself to his old trade of bricklaying; a blood whoreson, as confident now in making of a book, as he was in times past in laying of a brick.

William Shakspeare.

Jud. Who loves Adonis' love, or Lucrece' rape,

His sweeter verse contains heart-robbing life.

Could but a graver subject him content,

Without love's lazy foolish languishment."

This passage might seem to ascertain the date of the piece, as it must be supposed to have been written before Shakspeare had become known as a dramatic poet. Yet he afterwards introduces Kempe the actor talking with Burbage, and saying, "Few (of the University) pens play well: they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and of that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why, here's our fellow Shakspeare puts them all down; ay, and Ben Jonson too."-There is a good deal of discontent in all this; but the author complains of want of success in a former attempt, and appears not to have been on good terms with fortune. The miseries of a poet's life forms one of the favourite topics of The Return from Parnassus,' and are treated as if by some one who had "felt them knowingly." Thus Philomusus and Studioso chaunt their griefs in concert.

"Phil. Bann'd be those hours, when 'mongst the learned throng, By Granta's muddy bank we whilom sung.

Stud. Bann'd be that hill which learned wits adore,

Where erst we spent our stock and little store.

Phil. Bann'd be those musty mews, where we have spent

Our youthful days in paled languishment.

Stud. Bann'd be those cozening arts that wrought our woe,

Making us wandering pilgrims to and fro.

Phil. Curst be our thoughts whene'er they dream of hope;
Bann'd be those haps that henceforth flatter us,
When mischief dogs us still, and still for aye,
From our first birth until our burying day.
In our first gamesome age, our doting sires
Carked and car'd to have us lettered:
Sent us to Cambridge where our oil is spent:
Us our kind college from the teat did tent,
And forced us walk before we weaned were.

From that time since wandered have we still

In the wide world, urg'd by our forced will;
Nor ever have we happy fortune tried;

Then why should hope with our rent state abide ?"

"Out of our proof we speak."-This sorry matter-of-fact retrospect of the evils of a college life is very different from the hypothetical aspirations after its incommunicable blessings expressed by a living writer of true genius and a lover of true learning, who does not seem to have been cured of the old-fashioned prejudice in favour of classic lore, two hundred years after its vanity and vexation of spirit had been denounced in 'The Return from Parnassus :'

"I was not trained in academic bowers;

And to those learned streams I nothing owe,
Which copious from those fair twin founts do flow:
Mine have been anything but studious hours.
Yet can I fancy wandering 'mid thy towers,
Myself a nursling, Granta, of thy lap.

My brow seems tightening with the Doctor's cap;
And I walk gowned; feel unusual powers.

Strange forms of logic clothe my admiring speech;
Old Ramus' ghost is busy at my brain,

And my skull teems with notions infinite:

Be still, ye reeds of Camus, while I teach

Truths which transcend the searching schoolmen's vein;
And half had stagger'd that stout Stagyrite."*

Thus it is that our treasure always lies where our knowledge does not, and fortunately enough perhaps; for the empire of imagination is wider and more prolific than that of experience.

The author of the old play, whoever he was, appears to have belonged to that class of mortals, who, as Fielding has it, feed upon their own hearts; who are egotists the wrong way, made desperate by too quick a sense of constant infelicity; and have the same intense uneasy consciousness of their own defects that most men have self-complacency in their supposed advantages. Thus venting the driblets of his spleen still upon himself, he prompts the Page to say, "A mere scholar is a creature that can strike fire in the morning at his tinder-box, put on a pair of lined

* 'Sonnet to Cambridge,' by Charles Lamb

slippers, sit rheuming till dinner, and then go to his meat when the bell rings; one that hath a peculiar gift in a cough, and a license to spit or if you will have him defined by negatives, he is one that cannot make a good leg, one that cannot eat a mess of broth cleanly, one that cannot ride a horse without spur-gall ing, one that cannot salute a woman and look on her directly, one that cannot

[ocr errors]

If I was not afraid of being tedious, I might here give the examination of Signor Immerito, a raw ignorant clown (whose father has purchased him a living,) by Sir Roderick and the Recorder, which throws a considerable light on the state of wit and humour, as well as of ecclesiastical patronage in the reign of Elizabeth. It is to be recollected that one of the titles of this play is "A Scourge for Simony.'

Rec. For as much as nature has done her part in making you a handsome likely man-in the next place some art is requisite for the perfection of nature: for the trial whereof, at the request of my worshipful friend, I will in some sort propound questions fit to be resolved by one of your profession. Say what is a person that was never at the university?

Im. A person that was never in the university, is a living creature that can eat a tythe pig.

Rec. Very well answered: but you should have added-and must be officious to his patron. Write down that answer, to shew his learning in logic.

Sir Rod. Yea, boy, write that down: very learnedly, in good faith. I pray now let me ask you one question that I remember, whether is the masculine gender or the feminine more worthy?

Im. The feminine, sir.

Sir Rod. The right answer, the right answer. In good faith, I have been of that mind always: write, boy, that, to shew he is a grammarian.

Rec. What university are you of?

Im. Of none.

Sir Rod. He tells truth: to tell truth is an excellent virtue: boy, make two heads, one for his learning, another for his virtues, and refer this to the head of his virtues, not of his learning. Now, Master Recorder, if it please you, I will examine him in an author, that will sound him to the depth; a book of astronomy, otherwise called an almanack.

Rec. Very good, Sir Roderick; it were to be wished there were no other book of humanity; then there would not be such busy state-prying fellows as are now a-days. Proceed, good sir.

Sir Rod. What is the dominical letter?

Im. C, sir, and please your worship.

Sir Rod. A very good answer, a very good answer, the very answer of the

book. Write down that, and refer it to his skill in philosophy. How many days hath September?

Im. Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November, February hath twenty-eight alone, and all the rest hath thirty and one.

Sir Rod. Very learnedly, in good faith: he hath also a smack in poetry. Write down that, boy, to show his learning in poetry. How many miles from Waltham to London?

Im. Twelve, sir.

Sir Rod. How many from Newmarket to Grantham ?

Im. Ten, sir.

Sir Rod. Write down that answer of his, to show his learning in arithmetic.

Page. He must needs be a good arithmetician that counted [out] money so lately.

Sir Rod. When is the new moon?

Im. The last quarter, the fifth day, at two of the clock, and thirty-eight minutes, in the morning.

Sir Rod. How call you him that is weather-wise?

Rec. A good astronomer.

Sir Rod. Sirrah, boy, write him down for a good astronomer. What day of the month lights the queen's day on?

Im. The 17th of November.

Sir Rod. Boy, refer this to his virtues, and write him down a good subject.

Page. Faith, he were an excellent subject for two or three good wits; he would make a fine ass for an ape to ride upon.

Sir Rod. And these shall suffice for the parts of his learning. Now it remains to try, whether you be a man of a good utterance, that is, whether you can ask for the strayed heifer with the white face, as also chide the boys in the belfry, and bid the sexton whip out the dogs: let me hear your voice.

Im. If any man or woman-
Sir Rod. That's too high.
Im. If any man or woman.

Sir Rod. That's too low.

Im. If any man or woman can tell any tidings of a horse with four feet, two ears, that did stray about the seventh hour, three minutes in the forenoon, the fifth day

Sir Rod. Boy, write him down for a good utterance. Master Recorder, I think he hath been examined sufficiently.

Rec. Ay, Sir Roderick, 'tis so: we have tried him very thoroughly.

Page. Ay, we have taken an inventory of his good parts, and prized them accordingly.

Sir Rod. Signior Immerito, forasmuch as we have made a double trial of thee, the one of your learning, the other of your erudition; it is expedient, also, in the next place, to give you a few exhortations, considering the greatest clerks are not the wisest men: this is therefore first to exhort you to abstain

from controversies; secondly, not to gird at men of worship, such as myself, but to use yourself discreetly; thirdly, not to speak when any man or woman coughs: do so, and in so doing, I will persevere to be your worshipful friend and loving patron. Lead Immerito in to my son, and let him despatch him, and remember my tythes to be reserved, paying twelve-pence a-year.

'Gammer Gurton's Needle'* is a still older and more curious relic; and is a regular comedy in five acts, built on the circumstance of an old woman having lost her needle, which throws the whole village into confusion, till it is at last providentially found sticking in an unlucky part of Hodge's dress. This must evidently have happened at a time when the manufacturers of Shef field and Birmingham had not reached the height of perfection which they have at present done. Suppose that there is only one sewing-needle in a parish, that the owner, a diligent, notable old dame, loses it, that a mischief-making wag sets it about that another old woman has stolen this valuable instrument of household industry, that strict search is made everywhere in-doors for it in vain, and that then the incensed parties sally forth to scold it out in the open air, till words end in blows, and the affair is referred over to the higher authorities, and we shall have an exact idea (though perhaps not so lively a one) of what passes in this authentic document between Gammer Gurton and her Gossip Dame Chat, Diccon the Bedlam (the causer of these harms), Hodge, Gammer Gurton's servant, Tyb, her maid, Cocke, her 'prentice boy, Doll, Scapethrift, Master Baillie, his master, Doctor Rat, the curate, and Gib the Cat, who may be fairly reckoned one of the dramatis persona, and performs no mean part.

"Gog's crosse, Gammer" (says Cocke, the boy), "if ye will laugh, look in but at the door.

And see how Hodge lieth tumbling and tossing amidst the floor.

Raking there some fire to find among the ashes dead+

Where there is not a spark so big as a pin's head:
At last in a dark corner two sparks he thought he sees,

Which were indeed nought else but Gib our cat's two eyes.

* The name of Still has been assigned as the author of this singular production, with the date of 1566.

+ That is, to light a candle to look for the lost needle.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »