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resources within himself to strike out a new path, he merely ad. hered with modesty and caution to the classical models with which, as a scholar, he was well acquainted. The language of the dialogue is clear, unaffected, and intelligible without the smallest difficulty, even to this day; it has “no figures nor no fan. tasies,” to which the most fastidious critic can object, but the dramatic power is nearly none at all. It is written expressly to set forth the dangers and mischiefs that arise from the division of sovereign power; and the several speakers dilate upon the dif. ferent views of the subject in turn, like clever school-boys set to compose a thesis, or declaim upon the fatal consequences of ambition, and the uncertainty of human affairs. The author, in the end, declares for the doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance; a doctrine which indeed was seldom questioned at that time of day. Eubulus, one of the old king's counsellors, thus gives his opinion
“ Eke fully with the duke my mind agrees,
Yet how little he was borne out in this inference by the unbi. assed dictates of his own mind, may appear from the freedom and unguarded boldness of such lines as the following, addressed by a favourite to a prince, as courtly advice:
" Know ye that lust of kingdoms hath no law:
Subject to laws of kind and fear of gods ?
The principal characters make as many invocations to the names of their children, their country, and their friends, as Cicero in his Orations, and all the topics insisted upon are open, direct, urged in the face of day, with no more attention to time or place, to an enemy who overhears, or an accomplice to whom they are addressed ; in a word, with no more dramatic insinua. tions or bye-play than the pleadings in a court of law. Almost the only passage that I can instance, as rising above this didactic tone of mediocrity into the pathos of poetry, is one where Mar. cella laments the untimely death of her lover, Ferrex :
“ Ah! noble prince, how oft have I beheld
There seems a reference to Chaucer in the wording of the following lines
" Then saw I how he smiled with slaying knife
Sir Philip Sidney says of this tragedy:.- Gorboduc is full of stately speeches, and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style, and as full of notable morality; which it doth most delightfully teach, and thereby obtain the very end of poetry.” And Mr. Pope, whose taste in such matters was very different from Sir Philip Sidney's, says in still
"The smiler with the knife under his cloke."-Knight's Tale.
stronger terms: “ That the writers of the succeeding age might have improved as much in other respects, by copying from him a propriety in the sentiments, an unaffected perspicuity of style, and an easy flow in the numbers. In a word, that chastity, cor. rectness, and gravity of style, which are so essential to tragedy, and which all the tragic poets who followed, not excepting Shakspeare himself, either little understood, or perpetually neg. lected.” It was well for us and them that they did so!
The Induction to the Mirrour for Magistrates does his muse more credit. It sometimes reminds one of Chaucer, and at others seems like an anticipation, in some degree, both of the measure and manner of Spenser. The following stanzas may give the reader an idea of the merit of this old poem, which was published in 1563 :
By him lay heauie Sleepe cosin of Death
Of high renowne, but as a liuing death,
So dead aliue, of life he drew the breath.
Without respect esteeming equally
King Cræsus pompe, and Irus pouertie.
His vitall thred, and ended with their knife
The fleeting course of fast declining life.
Recounting which, how would he sob and shreek ?
And to be young againe of love besecke.
Had brought on him, all were it woe and griefe,
He might a while yet linger forth his life.
In depth of darknesse waste and weare to nought,
As he had nere into the world been brought.
This wretched Age should life desire so faine,
And knowes ful wel life doth but length his paine.
Fumbling and driueling as he draws his breath,
John Lyly (born in the Weald of Kent about the year 1553), was the author of Midas and Endymion, of Alexander and Campaspe, and of the comedy of Mother Bombie. Of the last it may be said, that it is very much what its name would import, old, quaint, and vulgar.-I may here observe, once for all, that I would not be understood to say, that the age of Elizabeth was all of gold without any alloy. There was both gold and lead in it, and often in one and the same writer. In our impatience to form an opinion, we conclude, when we first meet with a good thing, that it is owing to the age; or, if we meet with a bad one, 'it is characteristic of the age, when, in fact, it is neither; for there are good and bad in almost all ages, and one age excels in one thing, another in another-only one age may excel more and in higher things than another, but none can excel equally and completely in all. The writers of Elizabeth, as poets, soared to the height they did by indulging their own unrestrained enthusiasm ; as comic writers they chiefly copied the manners of the age, which did not give them the same advantages over their successors. Lyly's comedy, for instance, is “poor, unfledged, has never winged from view o'th' nest,” and tries in vain to rise above the ground with crude conceits and clumsy levity. Lydia, the heroine of the piece, is silly enough, if the rest were but as witty. But the author has shown no partiality in the distribution of his gifts. To say the truth, it was a very common fault of the old comedy, that its humours were too low, and the weaknesses exposed too great to be credible, or an object of ridicule, even if they were. The affectation of their courtiers is passable, and diverting as a contrast to present manners; but the eccentricities of their clowns are “very tolerable, and not to be endured.” Any kind of activity of mind might seem to the writers better than none : any nonsense served to amuse their hearers; any cant phrase, any coarse allusion, any pompous absurdity, was taken for wit and drollery. Nothing could be too mean, too foolish, too improbable, or too offensive, to be a proper subject for laughter. Any one (looking hastily at this side of the question only) might be tempted to suppose the youngest children of Thespis a very callow brood, chirping their slender notes, or silly swains “grating their lean and flashy jests on scrannel pipes of wretched straw.” The genius of comedy looked too often like a lean and hectic pantaloon ; love was a slip-shod shepherdess; wit a parti-coloured fool like harlequin, and the plot came hobbling like a clown after all. A string of impertinent and farcical jests (or rather blunders), was with great formality ushered into the world as “a right pleasant and conceited comedy." Comedy could not descend lower than it sometimes did, without glancing at physical imperfections and deformity. The two young persons in the play before us, on whom the event of the plot chiefly hinges, do in fact turn out to