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PREFACE TO his Orphans, Guardians ; without ambition either of self-profit, or FIRST FOLIO fame : only to keep the memory of so worthy a Friend, and Fellow
alive, as was our SHAKESPEARE, by humble offer of his plays, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as we have justly observed, no man to come near your L.L. but with a kind of religious address ; it hath been the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the present worthy of your H.H. by the perfection. But, there we must also crave our abilities to be considered, my Lords. We cannot go beyond our own powers. Country hands reach forth milk, cream, fruits, or what they have: and many Nations (we have heard) that had not gums and incense, obtained their requests with a leavened Cake. It was no fault to approach their Gods, by what means they could : And the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples. In that name, therefore, we most humbly consecrate to your
H.H. these remains of your servant, Shakespeare ; that what delight is in them, may be ever your L.L. the reputation his, and the faults ours, if any be committed, by a pair so careful to show their
TO THE GREAT VARIETY OF READERS.
From the most able, to him that can but spell. There you are numbered. We had rather you were weighed. Especially, when the fate of all Books depends upon your capacities : and not of your heads alone, but of your purses. Well! It is now public, and you will stand for your privileges we know: read, &c., and
Do so, but buy it first, that doth best commend a Book, the Stationer says. Then, how odd soever your brains be, or your wisdoms, make your licence the same, and spare not. Judge your
sixpenny worth, your shilling's worth, your five shillings' worth at PREFACE TO a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome. But, FIRST FOLIO whatever you do, Buy. Censure will not drive a Trade, or make the Jack go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and fit on the stage at Black-Friars, or the Cock-pit, to arraign Plays daily, know, these Plays have had their trial already, and stood out all Appeals ; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court, than any purchased Letters of commendation.
It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that the Author himself had lived to have set forth, and overseen his own writings ; but since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right, we pray you do not envy his Friends, the office of their care, and pain, to have collected and published them; and so to have published them; as where (before) you were abused with diverse stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious imposters, that exposed them : even those, are offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them. Who, as he was a happy imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expressor of it. His mind and hand went together. And what he thought, he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers. But it is not our province, who only gather his works, and give them you, to praise him. It is yours that read him. And there we hope, to your diverse capacities, you will find enough, both to draw, and hold you; for his wit can no more lie hid, than it could be lost. Read him, therefore : and again, and again : and if then you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can be your guides : if you need them not, you can lead yourselves, and others. And such Readers we wish him.
TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOVED,
MR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE:
WHAT HE HATH LEFT US.
To draw no envy (Shakespeare) on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy Book, and Fame: While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much. 'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise : For silliest Ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right; Or blind Affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance, Or crafty malice, might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seemed to raise. These are, as some infamous Bawd, or Whore,
Should praise a Matron. What could hurt her more? But thou art proof against them, and indeed
Above th' ill fortune of them, or the need.
I, therefore will begin. Soul of the Age !
The applause ! delight! the wonder of our Stage! My Shakespeare, rise; I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie A little further, to make thee a room :
Thou art a Monument, without a tomb, And art alive still, while thy Book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give. That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses ;
I mean with great, but disproportioned Muses.
For, if I thought my judgment were of years
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
Or sporting Kid, or Marlowe's mighty line.
From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
To life again, to hear thy Buskin tread,
Leave thee alone, for the comparison
sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe. He was not of an age but for all time !
And all the muses still were in their prime, When like Apollo he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a mercury to charm! Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines ! Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other Wit. The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please ;
As they were not of Nature's family.
My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part.
His Art doth give the fashion. And, that he,
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(such as thine are) and strike the second heat Upon the Muses' anvil : turn the same,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame, Or for the laurel, he may gain a scorn,
For a good Poet's made, as well as born.
Lives in his issue, even so, the race
In his well turned and true-filed lines :
As brandished at the eyes of Ignorance.
To see thee in our waters yet appear
That so did take Eliza and our James !
Advanced, and made a Constellation there ! Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping Stage ; Which, since thy flight from hence had mourned like night, And despairus day, but for thy Volumes' light.
UPON THE LINES AND LIFE OF THE FAMOUS
MASTER WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Those hands, which you so clapped, go now, and wring