Imatges de pÓgina

it relates to whatever is most interesting in human life. Whoever therefore has a contempt for poetry, has a contempt for himself and humanity.

2. That the language of poetry is superior to the language of painting; because the strongest of our recollections relate to feelings, not to faces.

3. That the greatest strength of genius is shown in describing the strongest passions: for the power of the imagination, in works of invention, must be in proportion to the force of the natural impressions, which are the subject of them.

4. That the circumstance which balances the pleasure against the pain in tragedy, is, that in proportion to the greatness of the evil, is our sense and desire of the opposite good excited; and that our sympathy with actual suffering is lost in the strong impulse given to our natural affections, and carried away with the swelling tide of passion, that gushes from and relieves the heart.


RICHARD II. is a play little known compared with Richard III., which last is a play that every unfledged candidate for theatrical fame chooses to strut and fret his hour upon the stage in; yet we confess that we prefer the nature and feeling of the one to the noise and bustle of the other; at least, as we are so often forced to see it acted. In Richard II., the weakness of the king leaves us leisure to take a greater interest in the misfortunes of the man. After the first act, in which the arbitrariness of his behavior only proves his want of resolution, we see him staggering under the unlooked-for blows of fortune, bewailing his loss of kingly power, not preventing it, sinking under the aspiring genius of Bolingbroke, his authority trampled on, his hopes failing him, and his pride crushed and broken down under insults and injuries, which his own misconduct has provoked, but which he has not courage or manliness to resent. The change of tone and behavior in the two competitors for the throne, according to their change of fortune, from the capricious sentence of banishment passed by Richard upon Bolingbroke, the sup pliant offers and modest pretensions of the latter on his return, to the high and haughty tone with which he accepts Richard's resignation of the crown after the loss of all his power, the use which he makes of the deposed king to grace his triumphal progress through the streets of London, and the final intimation of his wish for his death, which immediately finds a servile executioner, is marked throughout with complete effect, and without the slightest appearance of effort., The steps by which Bolingbroke mounts the throne, are those by which Richard sinks into the grave. We feel neither respect nor love for the deposed

monarch; for he is as wanting in energy as in principle: but we pity him, for he pities himself. His heart is by no means hardened against himself, but bleeds afresh at every new stroke of mischance; and his sensibility, absorbed in his own person, and unused to misfortune, is not only tenderly alive to its own sufferings, but without the fortitude to bear them. He is, however, human in his distresses; for to feel pain and sorrow, weakness, disappointment, remorse and anguish, is the lot of humanity, and we sympathize with him accordingly. The sufferings of the man make us forget that he ever was a king.

The right assumed by sovereign power to trifle at its will with the happiness of others as a matter of course, or to remit its exercise as a matter of favor, is strikingly shown in the sentence of banishment so unjustly pronounced on Bolingbroke and Mowbray, and in what Bolingbroke says when four years of his banishment are taken off, with as little reason.

"How long a time lies in one little word! Four lagging winters and four wanton springs End in a word: such is the breath of kings."

A more affecting image of the loneliness of a state of exile can hardly be given, than by what Bolingbroke afterwards observes of his having "sighed his English breath in foreign clouds ;" or than that conveyed in Mowbray's complaint at being banished for life.

"The language I have learned these forty years,

My native English, now I must forego;

And now my tongue's use is to me no more

Than an unstringed viol or a harp,

Or like a cunning instrument cas'd up,

Or being open, put into his hands

That knows no touch to tune the harmony.

I am too old to fawn upon a nurse,

Too far in years to be a pupil now."—

How very beautiful is all this, and, at the same time, how very English too!

Richard II. may be considered as the first of that series of English historical plays, in which "is hung armor of the in

vincible knights of old," in which their hearts seem to strike against their coats of mail, where their blood tingles for the fight, and words are but the harbingers of blows. Of this state of accomplished barbarism, the appeal of Bolingbroke and Mowbray is an admirable specimen. Another of these "keen encounters of their wits," which serve to whet the talkers' swords, is where Aumerle answers in the presence of Bolingbroke to the charge which Bagot brings against him, of being an accessory in Gloster's death.

"Fitzwater. If that thy valor stand on sympathies,
There is my gage, Aumerle, in gage to thine;

By that fair sun that shows me where thou stand'st,
I heard thee say, and vauntingly thou spak'st it,
That thou wert cause of noble Gloster's death.
If thou deny'st it twenty times thou liest,
And I will turn thy falsehood to thy heart,
Where it was forged, with my rapier's point.

Aumerle. Thou dar'st not, coward, live to see the day.
Fitzwater. Now, by my soul, I would it were this hour.
Aumerle. Fitzwater, thou art damn'd to hell for this.
Percy. Aumerle, thou liest; his honor is as true,

In this appeal, as thou art all unjust;

And that thou art so, there I throw my gage

To prove it on thee, to th' extremest point

Of mortal breathing. Seize it, if thou dar'st.

Aumerle. And if I do not, may my hands rot off,

And never brandish more revengeful steel

Over the glittering helmet of my foe.

Who sets me else? By heav'n, I'll throw at all.

I have a thousand spirits in my breast,

To answer twenty thousand such as you.

Surry. My Lord Fitzwater, I remember well

The very time Aumerle and you did talk.

Fitzwater. My lord, 't is true: you were in presence then :

And you can witness with me, this is true.

Surry. As false, by heav'n, as heav'n itself is true.

Fitzwater. Surry, thou liest.

Surry. Dishonorable boy!

That lie shall lie so heavy on my sword,

That it shall render vengeance and revenge
Till thou the lie-giver and that lie rest
In earth as quiet as thy father's skull.
In proof whereof, there is mine honor's pawn:
Engage it to the trial, if thou dar'st.

FITZWATER. How fondly dost thou spur a forward horse:

If I dare eat, or drink, or breathe, or live,

I dare meet Surry in a wilderness,

And spit upon him, whilst I say he lies,
And lies, and lies: there is my bond of faith,
To tie thee to thy strong correction.

As I do hope to thrive in this new world,
Aumerle is guilty of my true appeal."

The truth is, that there is neither truth nor honor in all these noble persons: they answer words with words, as they do blows with blows, in mere self-defence: nor have they any principle whatever but that of courage in maintaining any wrong they dare commit, or any falsehood which they find it useful to assert. How different were these noble knights and "barons bold" from their more refined descendants in the present day, who, instead of deciding questions of right by brute force, refer everything to convenience, fashion, and good breeding! In point of any abstract love of truth or justice, they are just the same now that they were then.

The characters of old John of Gaunt, and of his brother York, uncles to the King, the one stern and foreboding, the other honest, good-natured, doing all for the best, and therefore doing nothing, are well kept up. The speech of the former, in praise of England, is one of the most eloquent that ever was penned. We should, perhaps, hardly be disposed to feed the pampered egotism of our countrymen by quoting this description, were it not that the conclusion of it (which looks prophetic) may qualify any improper degree of exultation.

"This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-Paradise,

This fortress built by nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall

(Or as a moat defensive to a house)
Against the envy of less happy lands.

This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,

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