« PreviousContinue »
Sweet Philomel, the bird
The flowers have had a frost,
Now all these careful sights
That how to hope upon delights,
And, therefore, my sweet Muse, Thou know'st what help is best, Do now thy heavenly cunning use, To set my heart at rest.
A PASTORAL OF PHILLIS AND CORIDON.
FROM THE SAME.
On a hill there grows a flower,
In that bower there is a chair,
It is Phillis fair and bright,
This is she, the wise, the rich,
Who would not this face admire ?
O fair eyes, yet let me see
Thy poor silly Coridon.
Thou that art the shepherd's queen,
If so I bathe me in the spring,
E'en on the brink I hear him sing;
If so I meditate alone,
He will be partner of my moan;
For why, than love I am more true:
FROM THE SAME.
FIRST shall the heavens want starry light,
First shall the top of highest hill
First direful Hate shall turn to peace,
And Pleasure mourn, and Sorrow smile,
First Time shall stay his stayless race,
FROM THE SAME.
LOVE in my bosom, like a bee,
Now with his wings he plays with me,
Within mine eyes he makes his nest,
My kisses are his daily feast,
And if I sleep, then pierceth he
And makes his pillow of my knee
Strike I my lute, he tunes the string,
Else I with roses every day
And bind ye, when ye long to play,
For your offence;
I'll shut my eyes to keep ye in,
I'll make you fast it for your sin,
I'll count your power not worth a pin, Alas! what hereby shall I win?
If he gain-say me.
What, if I beat the wanton boy
He will repay me with annoy,
Then sit thou safely on my knee,
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
[Born, 1586. Died, 1616.-Born, 1576. Died, 1625.]
THOSE names, united by friendship and confederate genius, ought not to be disjoined. Francis Beaumont was the son of Judge Beaumont of the Common Pleas, and was born at Grace-Dieu, in Leicestershire, in 1586. He studied at Oxford, and passed from thence to the Inner Temple; but his application to the law cannot be supposed to have been intense, as his first play, in conjunction with Fletcher, was acted in his twenty
first year, and the short remainder of his life was devoted to the drama. He married Ursula, daughter and co-heiress of Sir Henry Isley of Kent, by whom he had two daughters, one of whom was alive, at a great age, in the year 1700. He died in 1616, and was buried at the entrance of St. Benedict's chapel, near the Earl of Middlesex's monument, in the collegiate church of St. Peter, Westminster. As a lyrical poet, F. Beau
mont would be entitled to some remembrance independent of his niche in the drama.
John Fletcher was the son of Dr. Rich: Fletcher, bishop of London: he was born probably in the metropolis, in 1576, and was admitted a pensioner of Bennet college about the age of fifteen. His time and progress at the university have not been traced, and only a few anecdotes have been gleaned about the manner of his life and death. Before the marriage of Beaumont, we are told by Aubrey, that Fletcher and he lived together in London, near the Bankside, not far from the theatre, had one *** in the same house between them, the same clothes, cloak, &c. Fletcher died in the great plague of 1625. A friend had invited him to the country, and he unfortunately staid in town to get a suit of clothes for the visit, during which time he caught the fatal infection. He was interred in St. Saviour's, Southwark, where his grave, like that of Beaumont's in Westminster, is without an inscription.
Fletcher survived his dramatic associate ten years so that their share in the drama that passes by their joint names was far from equal in quantity, Fletcher having written between thirty and forty after the death of his companion*. Respecting those which appeared in their common lifetime, the general account is, that Fletcher chiefly supplied the fancy and invention of their pieces, and that Beaumont, though he was the younger, dictated the cooler touches of taste and accuracy. This tradition is supported, or rather exaggerated, in the verses of Cartwright to Fletcher, in which he says,
"Beaumont was fain
To bid thee be more dull; that's write again,
Many verses to the same effect might be quoted, but this tradition, so derogatory to Beaumont's genius, is contradicted by other testimonies of rather an earlier date, and coming from writers who must have known the great dramatists themselves much better than Cartwright. Ben Jonson speaks of Beaumont's originality with the emphasis peculiar to the expression of all his opinions; and Earle, the intimate friend of Beaumont, ascribed to him, while Fletcher was still alive, the exclusive claim to those three distinguished plays, the Maid's Tragedy, Philaster, and King and No King; a statement which Fletcher's friends were 1 likely to have contradicted, if it had been untrue. If Beaumont had the sole or chief merit of those pieces, he could not have been what Cartwright would have us believe, the mere pruner of Fletcher's luxuriancies, an assessor, who made him write again and more dully. Indeed, with reve• Fletcher was assisted by Massinger in one instance, probably in several; and it is likely that after Beaumont's death he had other auxiliaries. [Rowley, Middleton, and Shirley, were his other assistants.]
rence to their memories, nothing that they have left us has much the appearance of being twice written and whatever their amiable editor, Mr. Seward, may say about the correctness of their plots, the management of their stories would lead us to suspect, that neither of the duumvirate troubled themselves much about correctness. Their charm is vigour and variety, their defects a coarseness and grotesqueness that betray no circumspection. There is so much more hardihood than discretion in the arrangement of their scenes, that if Beaumont's taste and judgment had the disposal of them, he fully proved himself the junior partner. But it is not probable that their departments were so divided.
Still, however, the scanty lights that enable us to guess at what they respectively wrote, seem to warrant that distinction in the cast of their genius which is made in the poet's allusion to
"Fletcher's keen treble, and deep Beaumont's base." Beaumont was the deeper scholar. Fletcher is said to have been more a man of the world. Beaumont's vein was more pathetic and solemn, but he was not without humour; for the mockheroic scenes, that are excellent in some of their plays, are universally ascribed to him. Fletcher's muse, except where she sleeps in pastorals, seems to have been a nymph of boundless unblushing pleasantry. Fletcher's admirers warmly complimented his originality at the expense of Beaumont*, on the strength of his superior gaiety, as if gay thoughts must necessarily be more original than serious ones, or depth of sensibility be allied to shallowness of invention. We are told also that Beaumont's taste leant to the hard and abstract school of Jonson, while his coadjutor followed the wilder graces of Shakspeare. But if Earle can be credited for Beaumont's having written Philaster, we shall discover him in that tragedy to be the very opposite of an abstract painter of character; it has the spirit of individual life. The piece owes much less to art than it loses by negligence. Its forms and passions are those of romance, and its graces, evidently imitated from Shakspeare, want only the fillet and zone of art to consummate their beauty.
On the whole, while it is generally allowed that Fletcher was the gayer, and Beaumont the graver genius of their amusing theatre, it is unnecessary to depreciate either, for they were both original and creative; or to draw invidious comparisons between men who themselves disdained to be rivals.
[At the expense of all genius, for in the panegyrical poems in which Fletcher is so warmly complimented, and to which Mr. Campbell alludes, the writers wrote to say good things that looked like true, and were satisfied when the arrow of adulation was drawn to the head. Commendatory poems at the best reflect very little of real opinion, and when brought into biography are more apt to mislead than inform.]
THEN, my good girls, be more than women wise,
That downcast eye of thine, Olympias,
What would this wench do if she were Aspatia ?
Fie, you have miss'd it here, Antiphila.
As this sad lady's was ;-do it by me;
Mine arms thus, and mine hair blown with the wind,
Wild as that desert; and let all about me
Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks
Sent by the gods, I hope, to this intent,
Of which he borrow'd some to quench his thirst,
Phil. But, boy, it will prefer thee: thou art And bear'st a childish overflowing love [young, To them that clap thy cheeks and speak thee fair yet.
But when thy judgment comes to rule those passions,
Bell. In that small time that I have seen the
Bell. Sir, if I have made
A fault of ignorance, înstruct my youth;
I shall be willing, if not apt to learn.
Age and experience will adorn my mind
For once. What master holds so strict a hand
| Over his boy, that he will part with him
Bell. I am gone.
Now I perceive she loves me; she does show it In loving thee, my boy: she's made thee brave.
Bell. My lord, she has attired me past my wish, Past my desert, more fit for her attendantThough far unfit for me who do attend. [women Phil. Thou art grown courtly, boy. Oh, let all That love black deeds learn to dissemble here: Here by this paper, she does write to me As if her heart were mines of adamant To all the world besides, but unto me A maiden snow that melted with my looks.
Tell me, my boy, how doth the princess use thee? For I shall guess her love to me by that.
Bell. Scarce like her servant, but as if I were
As mothers fond do use their only sons;
Phil. Why, this is wond'rous well;
But what kind language does she feed thee with? Bell. Why, she does tell me she will trust my youth
With all her loving secrets, and does call me
Phil. This is much better still.
Bell. Methinks your words
Fall not from off your tongue so evenly,
Phil. Thou art deceived, boy.
Phil. And does she clap thy cheeks?
Phil. And does she kiss thee, boy?-ha!
Phil. Come, come, I know she does.
Phil. Oh, my heart!
This is a salve worse than the main disease. Tell me thy thoughts, for I will know the least That dwells within thee, or will rip thy heart To know it: I will see thy thoughts as plain As I do now thy face.
Bell. Why, so you do.
She is (for aught I know), by all the gods,
The points of swords, tortures, nor bulls of brass,
Phil. Then it is no time
To dally with thee :-I will take thy life,