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CHAPTER II.

To lie on the grass in summer noons under breathless trees, to glide over smooth waters and watch the still shadows on tranquil shores, is happiness to me. I need then no books -then no companion. But if to that happiness in the mere luxury of repose I may add another happiness of a higher nature, it is in converse with some one friend upon subjects remote from the practical work-day world.-CAXTONIANA, vol. ii., p. 117.

THE next day was spent by STANLEY and myself in an excursion through Exmoor Forest to Simonsbath, where we had a delicious plunge in the cool water, and a long and cheerful ramble over the rough moorland. We took a chaise with us, and left it at the blacksmith's shop while we had our bath and our stroll. I know not how far we wandered; for we were both in high spirits and in active conversation, and consequently in no humour to calculate distance. It was late in the afternoon when we returned, and the valley of the Lyn was already lying in shade. Only a few breaks of golden light here and there, remained to prove how brightly the sun was still shining on the hills. There is something inexpressibly soothing and beautiful in this valley at the close of a summer's day, when nature seems at rest without being torpid; when the trees, with low, faint murmur, speak to us in the solemn voice which is heard in ancient forests, and the river lifts itself in graceful foam-hills over the rocks, as if

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eager to catch a glimpse of its ocean-home. Doubtless, the stream is as lively at noon-tide, and the hills guard this happy valley with as loving a care, and the woods have just as wise a lesson to impart when the sun throws over them its warmest beams, and straggles into their most secret enclosures. But so in the full daylight of earthly prosperity are we surrounded by proofs of Divine love, and might learn lessons of humility, and gather up golden sheaves for the storehouse of heaven. Do we gain all this in our hours of joy? Not often, I trow. It is rather when a subdued shade steals over our landscape, and impending darkness silences our mirth, that we look upwards to Him who can give us light at even-tide, and peace in the most gloomy hour.

Our conversation this evening, so far as I am able to recal it, was as follows:

HARTLEY. Once upon a time, and a long time ago it seems, I read through the whole of Shakspeare's plays in search of rural passages, and was surprised to find how few scenes or even lines in them possess a pastoral flavour.

STANLEY. HARTLEY rejoices in a paradox, and such it surely is to assert that the arch-poet of nature sings but seldom of the country. Shakspeare's poetry deficient in rural passages! Why, ask any man who reads his dramas, of what pervading influence he is conscious, and he will tell you that next to the noble, tolerant, Christian spirit that breathes through them, the loveliness of God's world, or at any rate of English earth, appears to colour every scene, and to affect almost every character.

HARTLEY. And no doubt he will be correct in saying

so; nevertheless I adhere to the assertion, which, if you have patience with me, I undertake to prove.

TALBOT. A fair proposal, certainly; STANLEY and I will listen with all attention to the exposition of your strange creed.

HARTLEY. Well, then, here is Knight's Library edition of the poet, in twelve volumes. I will take up the first six, comprising more than twenty plays; and these plays, which number among them "The Winter's Tale," "As You Like it," and "The Midsummer Night's Dream," contain far more illustrations of nature and country life than the rest of the dramas. Now, if I omit "As You Like it," a pastoral comedy, which might have been composed, and should be read, sub tegmine fagi, I will promise to read, within half an hour, not only every rural paragraph in these volumes, but almost every line which contains an image drawn from external nature.

In the "Two Gentlemen of Verona," after a simile about love and the canker in the rose-bud, a figure of which Shakspeare is strangely fond, I come to a metaphor of Julia's, in which, after blaming her hands for tearing the letter, she exclaims in her pretty anger :

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Injurious wasps! to feed on such sweet honey,

And kill the bees that yield it, with your stings!"

Julia's passion for Proteus awakens within her a brood of sweet fancies. In another place she exclaims to Lucetta, who seeks to qualify and moderate the warmth of her

love :

"The more thou damm'st it up, the more it burns;

The current that with gentle murmur glides,

Thou know'st, being stopp'd, impatiently doth rage,;
But, when his fair course is not hindered,

He makes sweet music with the enamell'd stones
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage;

And so by many winding nooks he strays,
With willing sport, to the wild ocean.
Then let me go, and hinder not my course;
I'll be as patient as a gentle stream,
And make a pastime of each weary step,
Till the last step have brought me to my love;
And then I'll rest, as, after much turmoil,

A blessed soul doth in Elysium."

I may follow up this exquisite passage by a monologue of Valentine's, in which, as Mr. Knight has observed, "we hear the first faint notes of the same delicious train of thought, though greatly modified by the different circumstances of the speaker, that we find in the banished Duke of the Forest of Ardennes :".

"How use doth breed a habit in a man!
This shadowy desert, unfrequented woods,
I better brook than flourishing peopled towns;
Here can I sit alone, unseen of any,

And to the nightingale's complaining notes,
Tune my distresses, and record my woes."

In the "Comedy of Errors" I find only one passage which will suit my purpose, and the image conveyed in it is as old as Horace.

her husband's twin brother,

spouse:

Adriana speaks thus to

mistaking him for her

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Come, I will fasten on this sleeve of thine,
Thou art an elm, my husband, I a vine,

Whose weakness married to thy stronger state,
Makes me with thy strength to communicate;
If aught possess thee from me, it is dross,
Usurping ivy, briar, or idle moss."

"Love's Labour Lost" furnishes us with this familiar couplet :

"Love's feeling is more soft, and sensible,

Than are the tender horns of cockled snails;

and with a song which belongs without doubt to the region of rural poetry :—

SPRING.

1.

"When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,

Do paint the meadows with delight,

The cuckoo, then, on every tree,

Mocks married men, for thus sings he,
Cuckoo ;

Cuckoo, cuckoo,-O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

2.

"When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks ;
When turtles tread, and rooks and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks,

The cuckoo, then, on every tree,

Mocks married men, for thus sings he,

Cuckoo ;

Cuckoo, cuckoo,-O word of fear,

Unpleasing to a married ear!

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