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FROM THE TRAGEDY OF DARIUS.'
Time, through Jove's judgment just,
Through drought and moisture jar.
How dare vain worldlings vaunt
These fearful signs do prove
Which they no longer love :
Who was so happy yet
Destruction to procure.
In what we most repose
Long time we toil to find
A dream, a breath, a fume?
(JOHN FLETCHER was born in December, 1579, at Rye in Sussex, where his father, who ultimately became Bishop of London, was minister. He was admitted pensioner at Benet College, Cambridge, in 1591 ; and little is known of his life between this date and the period of his connection with Beaumont.
FRANCIS BEAUMONT was the son of Sir F. Beaumont, of Grace-Dieu in Leicestershire, and was born at that place, probably in 1585. He resided for a short time at Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke College), Oxford, and was entered of the Inner Temple in 1600.
Not many years after this we may suppose the friendship between the two poets to have begun. •They lived together on the Bank side,' in Southwark, 'not far from the Play-house' (the Globe), and wrote for the theatre. The most celebrated of their joint productions were composed probably between 1608 and 1611. But the common life which has been described by Aubrey, and is itself almost a poem (if partly a comic one), must have been disturbed in 1613, when Beaumont married In the spring of 1616 he died. So far as is known, Fletcher remained single till his death, which took place in August, 1625.)
Coleridge wished that Beaumont and Fletcher had written poems instead of tragedies. It was a bold wish, though not an unfriendly one ; but perhaps we should be readier to echo it if Coleridge had spoken of lyrics rather than of poems generally. The longer poems of Beaumont which remain to us are, on the whole, not remarkable. He composed a free paraphrase of Ovid's Remedia Amoris. Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, printed as early as 1602, when he was probably seventeen years old, is noteworthy chiefly on that account. In this poem, written in the same metre as Marlowe's Hero and Leander, and founded on a passage in Ovid's Metamorphoses, there is plenty of luxuriance and facility, but also a superabundance of mere voluptuous description and of frigid conceits. Some of Beaumont's memorial poems are marked by an almost incredible want of taste. But the case is very different with the letter to Ben Jonson, in which their merry meetings at the Mermaid' are described with great animation and doubtless with truth. By Fletcher there are but three poems extant; but each has an interest of its own. Two of them are addressed to 'the true master in his art' and `his worthy friend,' Ben Jonson; and the other, Upon an Honest Man's Fortune, is more than worthy of its place at the end of the comedy which bears that name. In it we seem to come nearer than usual to the poet himself, who probably knew too much of 'want, the curse of man,' but never lost heart or belief in himself, and who has here described with admirable strength, what Goethe afterwards felt so keenly, the self-sufficience of the mind and its superiority to fortune.
• Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.' These are fine lines, and there are others in the poem as good ; yet we should hardly be willing to exchange one of the best of the plays for them. But when we come to the purely lyrical poems, the songs from the dramas and the speeches from The Faithful Shepherdess, we feel that we are standing on different ground. Of the passages here selected some belong indubitably to Fletcher alone, and one, certainly the grandest, to Beaumont alone. The great lines On the Tombs in Westminster are written in the common rhyming couplets of four accents which have been so plentifully and so variously used in English poetry. It was a favourite metre of Fletcher's too, and it is interesting to compare the difference of its effect in the hands of the two poets. There is a grave strength in Beaumont's verse, and a concentrated vigour of imagination in such lines as
• Here are sands, ignoble things,
Dropt from the ruin'd sides of kings,' which hardly belongs to Fletcher's lighter nature. On the other hand, all the qualities of his dramatic verse, its delightful ease and grace, and its overflowing fancifulness, come out in the lyrical speeches of the Faithful Shepherdess. Milton himself, though he put a greater volume of imagination and sound into the measure, never gave it such an airy lightness; and we must look onwards