Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

of Cæfær, with the state and circumstances of the common wealth at that political crisis, it plainly appears that he meant to declare against it.

His words are : “ With respect to Cæfar, though, whilst “ his imperial power was in its infancy, he treated his oppo

nents with severity; yet, as soon as that power was confirmed, the tyranny was rather a nominal, than a real thing ; « for no tyrannical action could be laid to his charge. Nay, « such was the condition of Rome then, that it evidently “ required a master; and Cæsar was no more than a tender and

jkilful physician, appointed by Providence to heal the diftcmpers of the

ftate. Of course the people lamented his death, and were implacably enraged against his asasins.

Cowley, in his fine Ode to Brutus, brings heavy charges also against him, on account of this action; though he seems only to do so, in order to vindicate him from thein. But then he does not pretend to defend him from the facts themselves, justifying him only upon the higher principle which had rene dered him guilty of them.

However, I think that he is feverer upon his hero even than Plutarch, by mentioning that weak and unphilosophic exclamation of his, where he says, he had mistaken virtue for a good, but found it only a name.

" What can we say, but thine own tragic word ?

66 That virtue, which had worshipped been by thee, 4. As the most solid good, and greatest deity,

By this fatal proof became

« An idol only, and a name.' This circumstance his Biographer had favourably suffered to pass unnoticed ; and of which Balzac says, “ that Brutus seems do to lament his disappointment here, as if he was upbraiding a jilling mistress.. If he had acted solely from virtue, he would not have complained that he had missed the reavard.

But though the principle might have been ever so right, in itself, the action was certainly wrong, in him. There are duties involved in duties, sometimes, which may counteract each other, and thereby render what might be the virtue of one person, the vice of another. Many situations and cases of this kind may be proposed; but I shall not launch beyond my subject

Brutus had many and great obligations to Cæfar. He owed him his life-nay, 'tis faid, even his firf life *; and had the lives of several of his friends faved also at his intercession. He had ever lived with him in the greatest intimacy, and on

the * Cæsar had an amour with Servilia, the mother of Brutus, before his birth,

the footing of his first friend. Nay, Cæsar had created himself enemies, by his partiality towards him, in the preferring him to posts of profit and honour, which others, from their services, were better intitled to. One of these malecontents was Caffius, who from that very resentment became the first mover and principal actor in the conspiracy. And were all these obligations to be cancelled by one dath of the Stoic's pen?

Stoical virtues are not always moral ones. Those metaphysical braveries (for I was wrong in calling them virtues) which exceed the feelings of humanity, have never, as I said before, been able to inspire my mind with either admiration or elteem.

The sympathy of nature is wanting, and true philosophy has good reason to fufpect every principle or motive of action to be fophisticate, that bears not this original imprefion.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

(1) L

ET it be fo, thy truth then be thy dower :

For by the sacred radiance of the sun, The mysteries of Hecate, and the night, By all the operations of the orbs, From whom we do exist, and cease to be; Here I disclaim all my paternal care, Propinquity and property of blood, And as a stranger to my heart and me, Hold thee, from this, for ever. The barb'rous Scya

thian, Or he that makes his generation meffes

Το

(1) Let, &c.] The Reader will do well to observe, ShakeSpear makes his characters in King Lear strictly conformable to the religion of their times: the not attending sufficiently to this, hath occasioned some critics greatly to err in their remarks on tbis play.

To gorge his appetite, shall to my bofom
Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and reliev'd,
As thou my sometime daughter.

[ocr errors]

Bastardy.
Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound; (2) wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The courtesy of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base ?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as gen'rous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base ? with baseness ? bastardy? base, base ?
(3) Who, in the lusty itealth of nature, take

More

(2) Wherefore, &c.] The baslard is here complaining of the tyranny of custom, and produces two instances, to thew the plague and oppression of it; the first, in the case of elder brothers; the second, of bastards. With regard to the first, we are to suppose him speaking of himself only as an objector, making the case his own, according to a common manner of arguing : “ Wherefore, says he, Thould I (or any man) Itand in [within] the plague (the punishment or scourge] of custom, why fhould I continue in its oppressive power, and permit the courtesy of nations to deprive me, to take away from, rob, and injure me, because, &c.

(3) Who, &c.] Mr. Warburton quotes a passage here, well worth remarking" How much the lines following this are in character, says he, may be seen by that monstrous wish of Vanini, the I:alan atheist, in his tract; De admirandis naturae rcginge dia que mortalium arcanis, printed at Paris 1616, the very year our poet died. O utinam extra legitimum & connubialem thorum effem procreatus! Ita enim progenitores mei in venerem incalu sent ardent's, ai cumulatim afscutimg; generosa semina contulissent, é quibus ego firma bianduiam, ac elegantiam, robuftas corporis vires, mentemque mubilam consequutus fuissem. At quia roruga run inn icb.l. bis o: batus sum tonis. Had the book been publined but ten or twenty years sooner, who would not have believ'd that Shakespear. alluded to this passage? But

the

More composition and fierce quality ;
Than doth within a dull, stale, tired bed
Go to creating a whole tribe of fops,
(4) Got 'tween asleep and wake?

Scene VIII. Astrology ridiculd.

(5) This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are fick in fortune, (often the surfeits of our

own

the divinity of his genius foretold, as it were, what such an atheist as Vanini would say, when he wrote upon such a subject."

I have forbore giving a translation of the Latin, because Shakespear's words are a fine paraphrase of it, and because it perhaps is not proper for all ears: but if, supposing Vanini had wrote first, we should have imagined, Shakespxar alluded to him; why may we not, as it is, believe Vanini alluded to Shakespear,

(4) Got 'tween sleep and wake.] This reading runs thro' all the editions, and is indeed very plausible: tho’ it seems to me, the passage originally stood, Got atween Neep and wake. The a might very easily have been fo transposed, and atween is very common with all the old writers down to, and below our author.

[ocr errors]

(5) This, &c.] Astrology was in much higher credit in our author's time than in Milton's, who, nevertheless, hath satirised it in the severest manner poflible, by making it patronised eveu by the devil himself: for in the 4th book of luis Paradise Rre gain'd, the devil thus addresses our Saviour.

-If I read aught in heaven,
Or heav'n write aught of fate, by what the stars
Voluminous or single characters
In their conjunction met, give me to spell,
Sorrows and labours, oppofitions, hate,
Attend thee, scorns, reproaches, injuries,
Violence and stripes, and lastly cruel death:
A kingdom they portend thee, but what kingdom,
Real or allegoric, I discern not,
Nor when : eternal sure, as without end,

Without

« AnteriorContinua »