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Sweet stream ! that hast thy birth-place in the vale
I am that lorn returner, gentle stream!
W. P. P.
SH AKSPEARE'S SEVEN A GES.
Then the soldier ;
When a man is impelled to do a thing, whether to invent a machine, feed the poor, make a speech, or write a play — when the wants of his nature drive him to action of some kind for activity is as much a want as rest — he will most likely do it well ; i. e., he will follow some rule, some plan, some pattern, he has in his mind, and which, perhaps, he has acquired unconsciously, and only knows himself to be possessed of, by the demand it makes to be applied. As birds delight in flying, as horses love the chase, and as all the brute creation rejoice in the exercise of their powers, so eloquence, ingenuity, and all the higher powers of man, are ever seeking to give themselves a visible form in action. When men act on purpose, they are stiff and artificial; when they act from principle, they are good ; but when they act from an irrepressible desire to do, they are true, or in the path of truth.
Men often do and say their best things unconsciously. And thus were the finest passages of Shakspeare written. The story about the Vicar of Wakefield does not contradict this; neither does Campbell's opinion of his 'Hohenlinden,' himself calling it 'humdrum stuff' – an opinion not far out of the way, though the world has reversed it.* For as the young, at other times awkward, move gracefully to the sound of music, not aware that they are describing lines of beauty in every motion, so when men act from strong impulse, they must be working under some powerful natural plan, which will lead them, in consistency and good proportions, to the conclusion of their subject. Are those lines which are considered the choice passages of Goldsmith and Shakspeare, underscored in the original ? Does the bee guard more fiercely the wax or the honey of her labor ? We select the parts that suit our taste, and are applicable to our wants and situation, and some passages please all the world, and are applicable to all the world, because all men have something in common; but the whole was framed from a nearly perfect plan, where the parts are so rich, and shining, and true. The elegant extracts, the newspaper selections, from a popular writer, are perhaps often the offspring of the least study, but the most feeling; those passages which have flowed from his mind by natural association; not a labored imitation, a half-formed conception, or phrases of ambitious phraseology.' The heavens are not astonished at the lightnings they engender, nor does the atmosphere start when it conducts the sound of the thunder, more than when it brings to our ears the murmuring of the rivulet. Both are the result of a general law, which is always going on; sometimes in productions of beauty, then of comfort, and again of terror and pain; as the divine gift of poetry, in its natural developments, instructs, reproves, delights, and elevates. But this was not written to instruct, nor that to reprove; neither this to delight, nor that to elevate. The poet was only following out a plan in his mind, and the variety of his moods is the variety of nature.
Mrs. Siddons and the Indian orator were found to use the same tones of voice to express similar passions and emotions. Neither had rules of voice. They gave themselves up to the teaching of the occasion, and became famous. The player who feels his part, as well as the orator who speaks from his heart, in his physical nature undergoes the changes which answer to the sentiments of the character he represents, and thus produces effects only equalled by reality. For instance; real suffering closes the box or larynx in the throat, and causes that smothered sound we hear from sorrowing persons. No art or study can compensate for want of feeling; and the labor of the actor should not be a practise in tones and gestures, but a working up of himself to a just appreciation of, and sympathy with, the character he is to personate. All rules of rhetoric, of poetry, of arithmetic, are but descriptions of what people do, most obviously, to produce a certain effect; they are framed for the assistance of those who will not think, cannot feel, and do not understand. Every scolding Hecate, at times — for the violent are also the most gentle uses all the tones of voice recognised in • Rush on Elocution ;' and the veriest huckster at a bargain, the most abject miser, applies rules of arithmetic he could not read in print. The patriot rises into the orator, when his rights are invaded, and sits down without knowing that he has kindled fires of patriotism in every bosom of those who heard him, and spoken, perhaps with some improvement upon them, according to the directions laid down in Cicero de Oratore ;' and the poet, in the love of nature, thinks in music, ‘for the numbers come.'
* Let our correspondent match us this line:
• Far flashed the red artillery!
The Father of all things sometimes creates a man who does every thing well, without any assistance from what is called learning and rule; one who, though ignorant of books, is learned in things, and who, by acting directly and independently, reaches results no plodder could ever attain to ; thus claiming for himself the paternity of all science, whether pertaining to matter or mind. Laws of oratory, poetry, and arithmetic, were made at the same time with the law of gravitation ; (this is mentioned for the benefit of those who have been educated in the belief that there is no higher tribunal than the Quarterlies ;) and as the world enjoyed the latter until the birth of a Newton, without ever thinking of what was always before their eyes, it may be that the phenomenon of a Shakspeare, a Goldsmith, a Coleridge, may not yet have been referred to a true principle. In an age of so much bigotry in taste, when men are made or crushed in a day by the great leviathans of letters, it is singular to think that the perpetual books were written, when there were few written or printed words in the world, and no self-constituted judges to forestall public judgment of an author; that what has now passed into binding and gilt, on the sacred shelves of libraries, had no reference in its production to any thing but present use. Without presumption, perhaps, it may be said, concerning what is still a great mystery, that the reason why we have to look back for models in sculpture, painting, poetry, and almost everything grand and noble - patriotism, self-devotion, religion - is, that the past had occasion for all these, and we have not, though we might have happily, were not this an age of unprincipled partisanship and money.
Having copied out from a pocket Shakspeare the · Fourth Age' of the great historian of our race, thus much of words or thoughts (the reader must decide for himself ) came to the writer, while in a serious and somewhat sad frame of mind, as he contemplated the shortness of man's history, he was led to the question, why Shakspeare divided his book into seven chapters ? Why, Sir, are there not seven cardinal virtues ? Seven mortal sins ? Seven golden candlesticks ? Seven heavens ? 'Tis more than I know, replied my uncle Toby. Are there not seven wonders of the world ? Seven days of Creation ? Seven planets ? (in Shakspeare's time only six known, answers an objector,) Seven plagues? Do not children shed their teeth the seventh year ? Is not the human frame renewed once in seven years ? But add to these the seven wise men' — the seven stars. Surely all these make a sufficient reason why man's ages should be scven.
Observe, too, the charm of odd numbers! Is there no reason in it? Why the five acts of a tragedy, the three acts of a comedy, the
one act of a farce ? Who ever heard of a committee of two? Do you often find a four-leafʼd clover? Even things are unknown in nature. A prism has three sides. Revolutions in France last three days. Hens batch in three weeks. A discourse has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Man has three natures, the moral, intellectual, and physical, and is subject to three great states, life, death, and eternity; and there are three ages on each side of the apex of the • seven ages. The middle point is the important one in every work; it contains the argument of a discourse; it is the fulcrum of the lever. In the ages,' it is ‘the soldier' the
age of action. Behold man in his prime! Infancy has budded, and boyhood blossomed ; the fragrance of love and affection has emanated from the flower now is the fruit. Life has thus far been spent in helplessness — in dreams and visions — in preparation for action. It has been a delight and a discipline. At times, clouds have obscured its happiness, and the youth has met with obstacles he did not anticipate. But as yet he has had no serious grief; for the tears of the school-boy are soon dry, and the sighs of the lover soon dissipated. The fights and disputes, the emulations and rivalries, of the boy, the sorrows, and hot tears, and sobbing disappointments, of too tender, hearts having done their ofhce, are soon forgotten. A spirit of hope, strong physical powers, a flow of spirits, known only to youth, have triumphed over all sorrows. No written romance ever equalled, in incident and adventure, in passion and enthusiasm, that romance which can never be written, which has been going on in the human mind in the three first stages of its history. And if it were written, it could never be read, except by its author, for every mind has an individual language, in which it talks to itself. Sometimes our poets have confidence to utter snatches of the inner language to the multitude, and they pronounce it jargon and nonsense. To them it is so. The fault is in the utterance too great a confidence in the sympathy of the world. Some minds, like Shelly, and Chatterton, and Keats, have dared, to their destruction, to summon to the light and scrutiny of the world those spirits never made for day, but, created to lie encradled in the bosom, and do the secret bidding of the soul.
But now the illusions are gone; the mists are lifted from the valleys; the rugged, the smooth, appear what they are. Awakened from his trance, the 'soldier' rejoices to find that he is to exchange fancy for fact, and his energy knows no bounds, his zeal no moderation. A trumpet sounds in his ears; 'that bright dream was his last!' He flings the garland of roses from his brow ; he unclasps the arms that would entwine him; a mightier energy than he has yet known, impels him, and Fame beckons him away from Love. Thus he becomes a 'soldier of the cross,' or he contends in the arena of politics. He reads away his eye-sight over musty parchments, and learns forms and precedents, that he may be a contender in courts. Money, gain, the counterfeit of power, demands his days and nights, that he may wear the palm of victory on 'change. He travels in foreign lands, in danger of life and health, that he may have know. ledge. A soldier he becomes, and fights no inglorious battle with want, poverty, and neglect, that he may win not to be unknown.
Alas! sometimes a soldier, armed with steel, he is, and hopes to find his heart's ease in a carnage and a slaughter; consents to look upon his fellow men as mere tools, by whose imprisonment and death he is to raise an imperishable monument to his name. Vain hope, this last ! The time is coming, if not now just by, when war shall be considered as base and brutal, as it is wicked and dishonorable; when, instead of tinsel dresses, and the drum and fife, and all its 'pomp and circumstance, they who fight, whose trade is blood, shall wear mourning dresses, and, like the executioners at hangings, go not unmasked.
• The soldier' must have deep excitements. No longer can he bend to the delicate influences of bis youth, save for pastime and relief. His nature asks the storm. As the early shoots and tendrils of the plant, grown to become the tree, which no longer can wave, to quicken the circulation of its juices, with the evening breeze, nor feel the lighter zephyrs of the heavens, now seems to court the rising wind, and fling its arms joyfully in the tempest; so man, the soldier, rushes to the conflicts, frenzies, quarrels, which may task his strength. Excitement he must have. Talk not of the dangers of youth, the seductions of vice, and the love of pleasure, in the young, and quake with fear. Bad influences these may be ; yet how do they compare in danger with those riper crimes, those smooth-faced villauies, those canting deviltries, those speculating robberies, that task the pride of mind, at the same time that they subserve baser passions, and burl the strong man down many fathoms deep in sin, never to rise! The youth allured from virtue, taken in a fault, in which his body sins and not his mind, may still come back and 'seek his father's face,' repent, and love, and be forgiven. Not so the man to whom the world is real. Led away by no soft passion, no novel game, he sins in earnest with his soul; concocts, and plans, and executes, and riots in his crime. “He seeks the bubble reputation, even in the cannon's mouth ;' reputation for skill, talent, energy; and loses virtue, peace, and heaven. 'Jealous in honor,' he fights duels; * sudden and quick in quarrel,' he seeks contention.
Happy may he consider himself, who, in this dangerous age, makes his campaigns clothed in the Christian armor; who takes unto himself the whole armor of God, that he may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.'