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classed under the same title, is even to be found in the early dramatick productions of our author. See particularly the Comedy of Errors, vol. iv. p. 199. Any short composition in verse, indeed, seems to have gone under that name. In Turberville's Songs and Sonnets there is not one that can properly be so called; and the same may be said of many other publications of that time. It has been observed, indeed, as a proof of these poems having some man of high rank as their object, that Shakspeare, upon several occasions, has declared that one person alone is the object of his praise, and that the language which he employs could only be applicable to a peculiarly dignified individual; but such, I apprehend, is the constant strain of amatory or encomiastick poetry.
In the selection of his topicks, Shakspeare has been exposed to no small censure; but Mr. Malone, in a note on the thirty-second Sonnet, has fully vindicated him by the practice of his times, and it would be easy to multiply examples of those who, like him, have adopted language, when addressing a male object, which the more correct taste of the present day would consider as appropriate only to the other sex. The origin of this singular mode of writing may be traced to a fondness for classical imitation. The second eclogue of Virgil appears to have been particularly admired, and was translated into English hexameters, both by Webbe and by Abraham Fraunce, the friend of Spenser. Care, however, was taken to rescue Virgil's allegory, for so it was deemed, from any unbecoming interpretation. The poet, as we are told by Webbe in the argument prefixed to his version, "blameth the youth for the unsteadfastness of his witt and wandering appetite, in refusing the freendly counsayle which he used to give him." There were, indeed, some curious heades who objected to this style of composition, and who thought, not without reason, that moral instruction might be conveyed in a less questionable garb; and some were so rigid in their notions on this subject that even the "unspotted bays" of Spenser did not wholly escape from animadversion. Webbe, in his Discourse of English Poetrie, has thus defended his fourth eclogue (by a slip of his memory, or the printer's mistake, it has erroneously been called the sixth,) from these censures, and has at the same time taken an opportunity to assert the prerogative of poets: "One only thing therein haue I hearde some curious heades call in question: viz. the motion of some vnsauery loue, such as in the sixt [fourth] Eglogue he séemeth to deale withall, (which say they) is skant allowable to English eares, and might well haue béene left for the Italian defenders of loathsome beastlines, of whom perhappes he learned it; to thys obiection I haue often aunswered and (I thinke truely) that theyr nyce opinion ouershooteth the Poets meaning, who though hee in that as in other thinges, immitateth the auncient Poets, yet doth not meane, no more did they before hym, any disordered loue, or the filthy lust of the deuillish Pederastice take
in the worse sence, but rather to shewe howe the dissolaté life of young men intangled in loue of women, doo neglect the fréendshyp and league with their olde freendes and familiers. Why (say they) yet he shold gyue no occasion of suspition, nor offer to the viewe of Christians, any token of such filthinesse, howe good soeuer hys meaning were: wherevnto I oppose the simple conceyte they haue of matters which concerne learning or wytt, wylling them to gyue Poets leaue to vse theyr vayne as they see good it is their foolysh construction, not hys wryting that is blameable. Wée must prescrybe to no wryters, (much lessé to Poets) in what sorte they should vtter theyr conceyts. But thys wyll be better discussed by some I hope of better abillity."
The poetical merits of Shakspeare's Sonnets are now, I believe, almost universally acknowledged, notwithstanding the contemptuous manner in which they have been mentioned by Mr. Steevens: the contest between that gentleman and Mr. Malone on this subject will be found at their close. Whatever may be the reader's decision, he has here an opportunity which Mr. Steevens would have wished to withhold from him, of judging for himself.
TO THE ONLY BEGETTER'
MR. W. H.
AND THAT ETERNITY PROMISED
BY OUR EVER-LIVING POET,
To the only BEGETTER-] The begetter is merely the person who gets or procures a thing, with the common prefix be added to it. So, in Decker's Satiromastix: "I have some cousin-germans at court shall beget you the reversion of the master of the king's revels." W. H. was probably one of the friends to whom Shakspeare's sugred sonnets, as they are termed by Meres, had been communicated, and who furnished the printer with his copy. BOSWELL.
2 T. T.] i. e. Thomas Thorpe. See the extract from the Stationers' books. MALONE.
FROM fairest creatures we desire increase 3,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
3 From fairest creatures we desire increase, &c.] See Venus and Adonis :
Upon the earth's increase why should'st thou feed, "Unless the earth with thy increase be fed,
By lay of nature thou art bound to breed,
"That thine may live when thou thyself art dead;
"In that thy likeness still is left alive." Boswell. If the first nineteen Sonnets be attentively examined, they will be found only to expand the argument of that stanza. I have been tempted frequently to consider those, and many more of the collection, as parts of a design to treat the subject of Adonis in the sonnet form; relinquished by the poet for the present more manageable stanza. BOADEN.
4 And, tender churl, MAK'ST WASTE in NIGGARDING.] So, in' Romeo and Juliet:
"Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste? Rom. She hath and in that sparing makes hugc waste.” C. VOL. XX.