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Pard. Pope July the Sixth hath granted fair and well –
Fr. That when to them God hath abundance sent -
Pard. And doth twelve thousand years of pardon to them sond -
Fr. They would distribute none to the indigent-
Pard. That anght to this holy chapel lend.”

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Everything in these old farces is rudimentary. They are not merely coarse; they are vulgar.

In France it was better, but France had something which may fairly be called literature before any other country in Europe, not literature in the highest sense, of course, but something, at any rate, that may be still read with pleasure for its delicate beauty, like “ Aucassin and Nicolete,” or for its downright vigor, like the “ Song of Roland,” or for its genuine humor, like “Renard the Fox.” There is even one French Miracle Play of the thirteenth century, by the trouvère Rutebeuf, based on the legend of Theophilus of Antioch, which might be said to contain the germ of Calderon's “El Magico Prodigioso," and thus, remotely, of Goethe's “Faust.” Of the next century is the farce of “Patelin,” which has given a new word with its several derivatives to the French language, and a proverbial phrase, revenons à nos moutons, that long ago domiciled itself beyond the boundaries of France. “Patelin" rises at times above the level of farce, though hardly to the region of pure comedy. I saw it acted at the Théâtre Français many years ago, with only so much modernization of language as was necessary to make it easily comprehensible, and found it far more than archæologically entertaining. Surely none of our old English Interludes

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could be put upon the stage now without the gloomiest results. They were not, in my judgment, the direct, and hardly even the collateral, ancestors of our legitimate comedy. On the other hand, while the Miracle Plays left no traces of themselves in our serious drama, the play of Punch and Judy looks very like an impoverished descendant of theirs.

In Spain it was otherwise. There the old Moralities and Mysteries of the Church Festivals are renewed and perpetuated in the Autos Sacramentales of Calderon, but ensouled with the creative breath of his genius, and having a strange phantasmal reality in the ideal world of his wonderworking imagination. One of his plays, “ La Devocion de la Cruz,” an Auto in spirit if not in form, dramatizes, as only he could do it, the doctrine of justification by faith. In Spain, too, the comedy of the booth and the plaza is plainly the rude sketch of the higher creations of Tirso and Lope and Calderon and Rojas and Alarcon, and scores of others only less than they. The tragicomedy of “Celestina," written at the close of the fifteenth century, is the first modern piece of realism or naturalism, as it is called, with which I am acquainted. It is coarse, and most of the characters are low, but there are touches of nature in it, and the character of Celestina is brought out with singular vivacity. The word tragicomedy is many years older than this play, if play that may be called which is but a succession of dialogues, but I can think of no earlier example of its application to a production in

dramatic form than by the Bachelor Fernando de Rojas in this instance. It was made over into English, rather than translated, in 1520, - our first literary debt to Spain, I should guess. The Spanish theatre, though the influence of Seneca is apparent in the form it put on, is more sincerely a growth of the soil than any other of modern times, and it has one interesting analogy with our own in the introduction of the clown into tragedy, whether by way of foil or parody. The Spanish dramatists have been called marvels of fecundity, but the facility of their trochaic measure, in which the verses seem to go of themselves, makes their feats less wonderful. The marvel would seem to be rather that, writing so easily, they also wrote so well. Their invention is as remarkable as their abundance. Their drama and our own have affected the spirit and sometimes the substance of later literature more than any other. They have to a certain extent impregnated it. I have called the Spanish theatre a product of the soil, yet it must not be overlooked that Sophocles, Euripides, Plautus, and Terence had been translated into Spanish early in the sixteenth century, and that Lope de Rueda, its real founder, would willingly have followed classical models more closely had the public taste justified him in doing so. But fortunately the national genius triumphed over traditional criterions of art, and the Spanish theatre, asserting its own happier instincts, became and continued Spanish, with an unspeakable charm and flavor of its

own.

One peculiarity of the Spanish plays makes it safe to recommend them even virginibus puerisque,

they are never unclean. Even Milton would have approved a censorship of the press that accomplished this. It is a remarkable example of how sharp the contradiction is between the private morals of a people and their public code of morality. Certain things may be done, but they must not seem to be done.

I have said nothing of the earlier Italian Drama because it has failed to interest me. But Italy had indirectly a potent influence, through Spenser, in suppling English verse till it could answer the higher uses of the stage. The lines — for they can hardly be called verses — of the first attempts at regular plays are as uniform, flat, and void of variety as laths cut by machinery, and show only the arithmetical ability of their fashioners to count as high as ten. A speech is a series of such laths laid parallel to each other with scrupulous exactness. But I shall have occasion to return to this topic in speaking of Marlowe.

Who, then, were the Old English Dramatists ? They were a score or so of literary bohemians, for the most part, living from hand to mouth in London during the last twenty years of the sixteenth century and the first thirty years of the seventeenth, of the personal history of most of whom we fortunately know little, and who, by their good luck in being born into an unsophisticated age, have written a few things so well that they seem to have written themselves. Poor, nearly all of them,

they have left us a fine estate in the realm of Faery. Among them were three or four men of genius. A comrade of theirs by his calling, but set apart from them alike by the splendor of his endowments and the more equable balance of his temperament, was that divine apparition known to mortals as Shakespeare. The civil war put an end to their activity. The last of them, in the direct line, was James Shirley, remembered chiefly for two lines from the last stanza of a song of his in " The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses," which have become a proverb:

“Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust."

It is a nobly simple piece of verse, with the slow and solemn cadence of a funeral march. The hint of it seems to have been taken from a passage in that droningly dreary book the “ Mirror for Magistrates.” This little poem is one of the best instances of the good fortune of the men of that age in the unconscious simplicity and gladness (I know not what else to call it) of their vocabulary. The language, so to speak, had just learned to go alone, and found a joy in its own mere motion, which it lost as it grew older, and to walk was no longer a marvel.

Nothing in the history of literature seems more startling than the sudden spring with which English poetry blossomed in the later years of Elizabeth's reign. We may account for the seemingly unheralded apparition of a single genius like Dante or Chaucer by the genius itself; for, given that,

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