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PREFACE TO THE READER.
IN submitting this little volume to a Shakspere-revering public, the author has but little to remark by way of preface. Of course he does not expect that every one who peruses this work will look upon all the coincidences there noted, between Holy Scripture and Shakspere, as designed and intentional on the part of the Poet; and he is fully aware that some of the instances of coincidence brought forward will, naturally enough, appear less marked and striking than others. He cannot, however, help thinking that a work like the present, may have the effect of at least turning the thoughts of the lovers of our national Poet into a new channel, and of inducing them to carry on for themselves the interesting comparison here initiated between England's Bible and England's Poet. The author wishes to state that he has derived no assistance whatever from any similar work (if any such there be) on the same subject;
and whatever be the opinion of the reader respecting the following pages, they are offered as a small tribute, humble but hearty, of appreciation of the immortal Bard, to whom England in this memorable year, is intending, with one heart and with one voice, to testify her homage and admiration.
PREFACE TO THE READER.
So long as the constitution of the human mind continues unaltered, Shakspere will maintain unquestioned the illustrious titles of "the High Priest of Nature, and the Instructor of Mankind."
Such being the claims of Shakspere to our admiration and respect, I feel sure that I shall incur the displeasure of none but the most narrow-minded, (whose very censure is praise) by endeavouring to set before the reader a few selections which he may read with pleasure, and which a clergyman may bring forward with a full confidence that he is not "misusing the reverence of his place,"1 or forgetful of the sacred office which it is his honour and his privilege to hold.
The special object which I propose in submitting to the reader certain selections from the works of our national Poet, is to show, that whatever might be the stock of human learning which Shakspere had amassed, whether by translations, or otherwise, from the current literature of his day, there was one volume which he had evidently perused with more than ordinary diligence and attention. I shall
King Henry IV., Part II., iv. 2.
endeavour to prove how "deep he was within the books of God;" and to point out how the sublime ideas of the Scriptures, and oftentimes the very language in which those ideas are couched, are reproduced again and again in the pages of Shakspere; and that some of the choicest flowers of his poesy have borrowed their odours from the sacred soil from which they have been transplanted. But it has been objected that our Poet is chargeable with a gross irreverence and frivolity in the use of the sacred words of the Bible. Does not the case rather stand thus? Shakspere, as a Poet of Nature, sets men before us as they are: and it would be unnatural and absurd, if we found his frivolous characters talking with reverence for holy subjects, and simulating a respect for the Sacred Scriptures, which they neither feel, nor care to feel. If Shakspere was to introduce such cha racters at all, he could not do otherwise than introduce them as they are, irreverent and profane. Such characters were common in his day, and are unhappily found among ourselves; characters, which would not be depicted truly, if divested of the spots and blemishes which disfigure while yet they characterise, their pitiful possessors.
The business of selecting passages from the writings of our Poet has been a very agreeable, but by no means an task. We always experience, after wandering through the dreary desert of human thought and expression, a peculiar and sensible pleasure when we light suddenly and unexpectedly on an oasis of scriptural phraseology. Most of us have doubtless felt this at some time or other, while sitting out a dull and prosy discourse, where the text was the only part worth listening to; and we have been gratified, under the circumstances, by its frequent reiteration in the course of the sermon.
The difficulty which I encountered, in selecting passages from Shakspere suitable to the purpose which I have in view, arose from a reluctance to throw aside many bright gems of thought and diction which I might with equal propriety have retained. But, where all could not be noticed, many have been passed over; not from any intrinsic inferiority in themselves, but simply from the necessity which limit of time and space imposes upon me.
The search among the works of the great Poet, and the reluctant sacrifice which I was compelled to make, of so much that is rare and valuable, put me vividly in mind of a Geological ramble which I made, a few years since, in the Isle of Wight. One day (it was at the commencement of the Long Vacation), I sallied forth, with my knapsack on my shoulder, and armed with a ponderous hammer, well suited for the arduous duties which it had that day to perform. The weather was intensely hot, and the walk under the chalk cliffs, and over the "pebbled shore," was calculated to damp the curious ardour even of a Sedgwick or a Miller. But the excitement of a pursuit in which I was at that time a novice served to bear me up against every difficulty. Never shall I forget the heat and toil of that memorable excursion; compared with the labours which I then underwent, the drudgery of a roadside stone-breaker sinks into the merest pastime and amusement. But the geological treasures which I collected made ample amends for all my fatigue. My knapsack was soon filled; and with " many a longing lingering look behind" I quitted reluctantly the scene of my pleasant labours. More than once did I stop to rest, footsore and weary, on my journey homewards, and was compelled on each occasion to decrease the weight of my burden, by rejecting some