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The homely house that harbours quiet rest;,
The cottage that affords no pride nor care ; The mean that 'grees with country music best;
The sweet consort of mirth and music's fare ; Obscurèd life sets down a type of bliss : A mind content both crown and kingdom is.
Sitting by a river's side,
Who esteem your virgin blisses,
He that did sing the motions of the stars,
Pale-coloured Phæbe's borrowing of her light, Aspects of planets oft opposed in jars,
Of Hesper, henchman to the day and night; Sings now of love, as taught by proof to sing, Women are false, and love a bitter thing.
I loved Eurydice, the brightest lass,
More fond to like so fair a nymph as she ; In Thessaly so bright none ever was,
But fair and constant hardly may agree : False-hearted wife to him that loved thee well, To leave thy love, and choose the prince of hell !
Theseus did help, and I in haste did hie
To Pluto, for the lass I loved so :
I tuned my harp, and she and I 'gan go ;
She slipped aside, back to her latest love,
Unkind, she wronged her first and truest feere ! Thus women's loves delight, as trial proves
By false Eurydice I loved so dear,
(CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE was born at Canterbury in February, 1564, and educated at the King's School in his birth-place, and at Benet (Corpus Christi) College, Cambridge. He was killed in a tavern brawl, and was buried at Deptford, June 1, 1593. The dates and order of his works are somewhat uncertain. Of his plays, the first, Tamburlaine the Great, a tragedy in two parts, must have been acted in public by 1587. It was followed by The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, The Jew of Malta (probably in 1589 or 1590), The Massacre at Paris (not earlier than the end of 1589), Edward II, and The Tragedy of Queen Dido, which was probably left unfinished at Marlowe's death, and completed by Nash. Another play, Lust's Dominion, was for some time wrongly attributed to Marlowe; but, in return for this injustice, the probability that he may have had at least a share in Shakespeare's 2 and 3 Henry VI, or in the plays on which those dramas were based, is now rather widely admitted. Of his poems, the translations of Ovid's Amores and the first book of Lucan's Pharsalia are of uncertain date. The Passionate Shepherd to his Love was first printed complete in England's Helicon, 1600, but is quoted in The Jew of Malta. Hero and Leander was left unfinished at Marlowe's death; Chapman completed it, dividing Marlowe's fragment into two parts, which now form the first two Sestiads of the poem.]
Marlowe has one claim on our affection which everyone is ready to acknowledge ; he died young. We think of him along with Chatterton and Burns, with Byron, Shelley, and Keats. And this is a fact of some importance for the estimate of his life and genius. His poetical career lasted only six or seven years, and he did not outlive his “hot days, when the mad blood's stirring.' An old ballad tells us that he acted at the Curtain theatre in Shoreditch and 'brake his leg in one rude scene, When in his early age.' If there is any truth in the last statement, we may suppose that Marlowe gave up acting and confined himself to authorship. He seems to have depended for his livelihood on his connection with the stage ; and probably, like many of his fellows and friends, he lived in a free and even reckless way. A more unusual characteristic of Marlowe's was his atheism.' No reliance can be placed on the
details recorded on this subject ; but it was apparently only his death that prevented judicial proceedings being taken against him on account of his opinions. The note on which these proceedings would have been founded was the work of one Bame, who thought that 'all men in christianitei ought to endeavour that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped,' and was hanged at Tyburn about eighteen months afterwards. But other testimony points in the same direction; and a celebrated passage in Greene's Groatsworth of Wit would lead us to suppose that Marlowe was given to blatant profanities. Whatever his offences may have been—and there is nothing to make us think he was a bad-hearted man-he had no time to make men forget them. He was not thirty when he met his death.
The plan of the present volumes excludes selections from Marlowe's plays; but as his purely poetical works give but a one-sided idea of his genius, and as his importance in the history of literature depends mainly on his dramatic writings, some general reference must be made to them. Even if they had no enduring merits of their own, their effect upon Shakespeare-an effect which, to say nothing of Henry VI, is most clearly visible in Richard III—and their influence on the drama would preserve them from neglect. The nature of this influence may be seen by a glance at Marlowe's first play. On the one hand it stands at the opposite pole to the classic form of the drama as it is found in Seneca, a form which had been adopted in Gorboduc, and which some of the more learned writers attempted to nationalise. There is no Chorus in Tamburlaine or in any of Marlowe's plays except Dr. Faustus; and the action takes place on the stage instead of being merely reported. On the other hand, in this, the first play in blank verse which was publicly acted, he called the audience
* From jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits,
and fixed the metre of his drama for ever as the metre of English tragedy. And, though neither here nor in Dr. Faustus could be yet afford to cast off all the conceits of clownage, he was in effect beginning to substitute works of art for the formless popular representations of the day. Doubtless it was only a beginning. The two parts of Tamburlaine are not great tragedies. They are full of mere horror and glare. Of the essence of drama, a sustained and developed action, there is as yet very little ; and what action there
is proceeds almost entirely from the rising passion of a single character. Nor in the conception of this character has Marlowe quite freed himself from the defect of the popular plays, in which, naturally enough, personified virtues and vices often took the place of men. Still, if there is a touch of this defect in Tamburlaine, as in the few of Malta, it is no more than a touch. The ruling passion is conceived with an intensity, and portrayed with a sweep of imagination unknown before ; a requisite for the drama hardly less important than the faculty of construction is attained, and the way is opened for those creations which are lifted above the common and yet are living flesh and blood. It is the same with the language. For the buffoonery he partly displaced Marlowe substitutes a swelling diction, 'high astounding terms, and some outrageous bombast, such as that which Shakespeare reproduced and put into the mouth of Pistol. But, laugh as we will, in this first of Marlowe's plays there is that incommunicable gift which means almost everything, style ; a manner perfectly individual, and yet, at its best, free from eccentricity. The mighty line' of which Jonson spoke, and a pleasure, equal to Milton's, in resounding proper names, meet us in the very first scene ; and in not a few passages passion, instead of vociferating, finds its natural expression, and we hear the fully-formed style, which in Marlowe's best writing is, to use his own words,
‘Like his desire, lift upward and divine.' ‘Lift upward' Marlowe's style was at first, and so it remained. It degenerates into violence, but never into softness. If it falters, the cause is not doubt or languor, but haste and want of care. It has the energy of youth ; and a living poet has described this among its other qualities when he speaks of Marlowe as singing
With mouth of gold, and morning in his eyes.' As a dramatic instrument it developed with his growth and acquired variety. The stately monotone of Tamburlaine, in which the pause falls almost regularly at the end of the lines, gives place in Edward II to rhythms less suited to pure poetry, but far more rapid and flexible. In Dr. Faustus the great address to Helen is as different in metrical effect as it is in spirit from the last scene, where the words seem, like Faustus heart, to ‘pant and quiver.' Even in the Massacre at Paris, the worst of his plays, the style becomes unmistakeable in such passages as this :