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Thou ever young, fresh, lov’d, and delicate wooer,
Timon of Athens,
I cannot dismiss these remarks respecting the beauty of his style, without noticing the astonishing variety and richness of his imagery. He is the most figurative writer, Ollian perhaps excepted, in our language ; yet his fimilies and metaphors are chosen with such exquisite propriety, and so happily adapted to the disposition, situation, and circumstances, of the different speakers, that his style very rarely appears stiff, or laboured, or affected; and if he is ever justly chargeable with those faults, they muchoftener arise from violent ellipfes and inversions of language, from licentious modes of expression, and words used in anomalous fenses, than from the improper or injudicious use of metaphorical ornament. I do not mean however to affert, that throughout the entire extent of his voluminous productions, are not to be found a
considerable number of indefensible images, and even of ridiculous conceits; but I affirm, that they bear a very small proportion to those passages in which the happiest use is made of this liberty; and “ the “ poet's eye, in a. fine frenzy rolling," seems to
glance glance from heaven to earth in search of objects, from whence to borrow apt and suitable allusions to grace and dignify his page. .
His images are indeed taken from a most comprehensive survey of the works of nature and of art, and the knowledge he displays is so various and extensive, that it cannot but raise astonishment, how in the course of a life, the early part of which appears to have been wasted in idleness and dissipation, and the rest devoted to the duties of his profession as an actor, manager, and author, he could find op, portunities to amass such inexhaustible stores of mental treasure. The first act of Hamlet alone will furnish a sufficient number of examples, to show the exquisite judgment and taste which Shakespeare exhibits in the choice and application of his metaphors,
-Look, the morn, in ruffet mantle clad,
Laer. For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour,
The charieft maid is prodigal enough,
Oph. I Mall th' effects of this good leffon keep,
Shew me the steep and thorny way to heaven ;
-My fate cries out,
I find thee apt;
The last particular which I shall insist upon, as one of the principal characteristics of this great poet, is the unrivalled skill or rather felicity of his versification ; for, though nothing can appear less the effect of care and study, never did any author so happily express, and in such a variety of instances, that curious correspondence between sense and found in which its grand excellence consists; his cadences are sometimes so melodious and grateful to the ear, that they may be compared to the soft and mellifluous breathings of a flute; and at other times so full and powerful, as to resemble the animating sounds of the trumpet : every passion and affection of the mind assumes that precise tone which is peculiarly suitable to it ; and the accents of grief, rage, love, pity, indignation, and despair, are scarcely to be distinguished with less ease and certainty by the various flow of the numbers, than the precise fense of the passages from the words. If this has the air of hyperbole and extravagance, I can only say, that though the admirers of this poet have perhaps been too forward to defend or extenuate his faults: in speaking of his characteristic excellencies and beauties, I really think it is almost. impossible to be guilty of excess in our applause : there appears even something almost fupernatural in the genius of this man ; something to which the rest of mankind bear neither relation nor resemblance. But it may be proper to subjoin a few specimens of the curious felicity in his versification, which I have been remarking upon, and which may serve at once as illustrations and proofs of what I have advanced. How flow and mournful the movement of the following lines !.
: Conft. What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
Hear me, oh, hear me !
Ibid. One would imagine Shakespeare was describing, in these charming lines, the very effect which they are made to produce.
"That strain again ; it had a dying fall :
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing, and giving odour. Twelfth Night. But in what bold and sounding language are the grand and magnificent ideas expresfed, which are conveyed in the following lines :
Ye elves of hills, &c.—by whose aid
The Tempest. It seems to me scarcely poslible to pronounce the following line and a half in a tone of voice much above a whisper :
Pray you, tread softly, that the blind mole may not Hear a foot fall.
gay and pleasing the turn of the verse when Romeo's dreams <
presage fome joyful news at hand :"
My bosom's lord sits lightly on his throne ;
How soft and tender the accents of love in this and a thousand other pafiages : -Oh hear me breath