Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama
Walter W. Greg
Part 6 out of 10
The wise shall misconceive me, and the wit
Scornd and neglected shall my meaning hit. (I. v.)
Upon this Claius fled, leaving his children in the care of his sister
Thestylis. Although Philaebus was dead, two younger children remained to
Pilumnus, Damon and Urania. In the course of years it fortuned that Urania
and Amyntas fell in love, and though misliking of the match, Pilumnus went
so far as to consult the oracle concerning his daughter's dowry. With the
uncalled-for perversity characteristic of oracles the 'ompha'
That which thou hast not, mayst not, canst not have
Amyntas, is the Dowry that I crave:
Rest hopelesse in thy love, or else divine
To give Urania this, and she is thine.
Pondering whereon Amyntas lost his wits. In the meanwhile Amarillis had
conceived an unhappy passion for Damon, who in his turn sought the love
of the nymph Laurinda, having for rival Alexis.
This is the situation at the opening of the action. In the first act we
find Laurinda unable or unwilling to decide between her rival lovers, and
her endeavours to play them off one against the other afford some of the
most amusing scenes of the piece. Learning from Thestylis of Amarillis'
love for Damon, she determines on a trick whereby she hopes to make her
choice without appearing to slight either of her suitors. She bids them
abide by the award of the first nymph they meet at the temple in the
morning, and so arranges matters that that nymph shall be Amarillis, whose
love for Damon she supposes will move her to appoint Alexis for herself.
In the meanwhile the banished Claius has returned, in order, having heard
of Amyntas' madness, to apply such cures as he has learnt in the course of
his wanderings. He is successful in his attempt, and without revealing his
identity departs, having first privately obtained from Urania the promise
that she will vow virginity to Ceres, lest Amyntas by puzzling afresh over
the oracle should again lose his reason. The nymphs now appear at the
temple, and the foremost, who is veiled, is appealed to by Damon and
Alexis to give her decision. She reveals herself as Amarillis, and Damon,
fearing that she will decide against him, refuses to be bound by the award
of so partial an arbiter. Alexis thereupon goes off to fetch Laurinda, who
shall force him to abide by his oath, while Damon in a fit of rage seeks
to prevent Amarillis' verdict by slaying her. He wounds her with his spear
and leaves her for dead. She recovers consciousness, however, when he has
fled, and with her blood writes a letter to Laurinda bequeathing to her
all interest in Damon. At this point Claius returns upon the scene, and
finding her wounded applies remedies. Damon too is led back by an evil
conscience, and Pilumnus likewise appears. Claius, in his anxiety to make
Amarillis reveal her assassin, betrays his own identity, to the joy of his
old enemy Pilumnus. Alexis now returns with Laurinda, and upon hearing the
letter which Amarillis had written, Damon confesses his crime and declares
that henceforth his love is for none but her. His life, however, is
forfeit through his having shed blood in the holy vale, and he is led off
in company with Claius to die at the altar of Ceres. In the fifth act we
find all prepared for the double sacrifice, when Amyntas enters, and
bidding Pilumnus stay his hand, claims to expound the oracle. Claius'
blood, he argues, has been already shed in Amarillis, and has quenched the
fire of Damon's love for Laurinda, rekindling it again to Amarillis' self.
Moreover, had not the oracle warned them that the recognized guardians of
wisdom would fail to interpret truly, and that such a scorned wit as that
of the 'mad Amyntas' would discover the meaning? Furthermore, he argues
that since Amarillis was the victim the goddess aimed at, her blood might
without sin be shed even in the holy vale, while Damon is of the priestly
stock to which that office justly pertained. Thus Claius and Damon are
alike spoken free, and Sicily is relieved of the goddess' curse. While the
general rejoicing is at its height, Urania is brought in to take her
vestal vows at the altar. In spite of her lover's remonstrance she kneels
before the shrine and addresses her prayer to the goddess. At length the
appeased deity deigns to answer, and in a gracious echo reveals the
solution of the enigma of the dowry--a husband.
This plot is a mingling of comedy in the scenes of Laurinda's
'wavering' and the 'humours' of Amyntas' madness, and of tragi-comedy
in the catastrophe. But besides this there is what may best be described
as an antiplot of pure farce, in which the main character is the roguish
page Dorylas, who in the guise of Oberon robs Jocastus' orchard, tricks
Thestylis into marrying the foolish augur, and gulls everybody all round.
The humour of this portion of the piece may be occasionally a trifle broad
and at the same time childish, but there is nevertheless no denying the
genuineness of the quality, while the verse is as a rule sparkling, and
the dialogue both racy and pointed, occasionally displaying qualities
hardly to be described as other than brilliant.
This comic subplot obviously owes nothing to Guarini, but is introduced
in accordance with the usage of the English popular drama, and is grafted
somewhat boldly on to the conventional stock. Dorylas is one of the most
inimitable and successful of the descendants of Lyly's pages; while the
characters of Mopsus and Jocastus, although the former no doubt owes his
conception to a hint in the _Aminta_, belong essentially to the English
romantic farce. The scenes in which the page appears as Oberon surrounded
by his court recall the introduction of the 'mortal fairies' of the _Merry
Wives,_ and that in which Amyntas' 'deluded fancy' takes the augur for a
hound of Actaeon's breed may owe something to a passage in _King Lear_.
But even apart from the elements of farce and comedy there are important
aspects in which the _Amyntas_ severs itself from the stricter tradition
of the Italian pastoral. Randolph, while adopting the machinery and much
of the scenic environment of Guarini's play, made certain not unimportant
alterations in the dramatic construction, tending towards greater variety
and complicity. In the _Pastor fido_ the four main characters, though they
ultimately resolve themselves into two pairs, are throughout
interdependent, and their story forms but a single plot. That the play
should have needed a double solution, the events that bring two couples
together having no connexion with one another, was a dramatic blunder but
imperfectly concealed by the fact that Silvio and Dorinda are purely
secondary, the whole interest being concentrated on the fortunes of
Mirtillo and Amarilli. In Randolph's play, on the other hand, there are no
less than six important characters. These are divided into two groups,
each with an independent plot, one of which contains a telling though
somewhat conventional [Greek: peripe/teia], while the other, though
possessing originality and pathos, is lacking in dramatic possibilities.
Thus each supplies the elements wanting in the other, and if woven
together harmoniously, should have been capable of forming the basis of a
well-constructed play. The first of these groups consists of Laurinda,
Alexis, Damon, and Amarillis, the last two being really the dramatically
important ones, though their fortunes are connected throughout. It is
Laurinda's choice of Alexis that leads to the union of Damon and
Amarillis, and it is not till Damon has unconsciously fulfilled the
oracle and been freed by its interpretation, that the loves of Laurinda
and Alexis can hope for a happy event. Thus Randolph has at least not
fallen into the error by which Guarini introduced a double catastrophe
into a single plot, though he has not altogether avoided a somewhat
similar danger. This is due to the other group above mentioned, consisting
of Amyntas and Urania, who, so far as the plot is concerned, are
absolutely independent of the other characters. Their own story is
essentially undramatic, although it possesses qualities which would make
it effective in narrative; and it is, moreover, wholly unaffected by the
solution of the other plot. This is obviously a weak place in the
construction of the play, but the author has shown great resource in
meeting the difficulty. First, by placing the interpretation of the oracle
in the mouth of Amyntas, who must yet himself remain hopeless amid the
general rejoicing, he has produced a figure of considerable dramatic
effect, and so kept the attention of the audience braced, and stayed the
relaxing effect of the anti-climax. Secondly, he has amused the spectators
with some excellent fooling until, while Io and Paean are yet resounding,
it is possible to crown the whole by the solution of the second oracle,
and send the hero and his love to join the others in the festive throng.
The imperfection of plot is there, but the author has been skilful in
concealing it, and it may well be that his success would appear all the
greater were his play to be put to the real test of dramatic composition
by being actually placed on the boards.
But there is yet another point in which the _Amyntas_ differs not only
from its Italian model but from its English predecessors likewise. This is
a certain genially humorous conception of the whole, quite apart from and
beyond the mere introduction of comedy and farce, which we have never
found so marked before, and which has indeed been painfully absent from
the pastoral since Tasso penned the final chorus of the _Aminta_. This
humorous tone is never harshly forced upon the attention, and consists, in
a measure, merely in the fact of the comic business constantly elbowing
the serious action, and thus saving the latter from the danger of becoming
stilted and pretentions--a fault not less commonly and quite as justly
charged against pastoral literature as that of artificiality. A leaven of
humour is the great safeguard against an author taking either himself or
his creations too seriously. Randolph's _Amyntas_, it is true, renounces
the high ideality of its predecessors, of the _Aminta_ and the _Pastor
fido_, of _Hymen's Triumph_ and the _Faithful Shepherdess_; but it makes
up for it by human sanity of feeling and expression, by good humour and by
wit. It is, moreover, genuinely diverting. Here at least we find no
endeavour to attain to the importance and solemnity of a classical tragedy
as with Guarini, nor a striving after an utterly unreal, unsympathetic and
impossible ideal as with Fletcher. It is, moreover, noticeable and
eminently to the credit of the author that the comic scenes, even when
somewhat extravagant alike in tone and proportion, seldom clash
unpleasantly with the more serious passages, nor derogate from the
interest and dignity of the whole.
The play has generally met with a far from deserved neglect, owing in part
no doubt to the singular failure on the part of most critics to apprehend
correctly the nature and conditions of pastoral poetry. Mr. W. C.
Hazlitt, who edited Randolph's works in 1875, does not so much as mention
the play in the perfunctory introduction, in which he chiefly follows the
extravagant, pedantic, and utterly worthless article in the sixth volume
of the _Retrospective Review_. The merits of the piece have been
somewhat more fully recognized by Dr. Ward and Mr. Homer Smith, but the
treatment accorded the play by the former is necessarily scanty, while
that of the latter is inaccurate. Throughout a tendency is manifest to
find fault with the artificiality of the piece, and to blame the author
for not representing the true 'simplicity' of pastoral life. That the
pastoral tradition was a wholly impossible, not to say an absurd one,
bearing no true relation to nature at all, may be admitted; and it may be
lamented by such as love to shed bitter tears because the sandy shore is
not a well-swept parquet, or because anything you please is not something
else to which it bears not the smallest resemblance. It may or may not be
unfortunate that Randolph should have elected to write _more pastorali_,
but to censure the individual work because it is not of a type to which
its author never had the remotest intention of making it conform, and to
which except for something like a miracle it was impossible that it should
even approach, is the acme of critical fatuity. Judged in accordance with
the intention of the author the _Amyntas_ is no inconsiderable achievement
for a young writer, and compared with other works belonging to the same
tradition it occupies a highly respectable place. With Tasso's _Aminta_
and Fletcher's _Faithful Shepherdess_ it cannot, in point of poetic merit,
for one moment compare, falling as far below them in this as it surpasses
them in complexity and general suitability of dramatic construction. A
fairer comparison may be made between it and the _Pastor fido_ in Italian
or _Hymen's Triumph_ in English, and here again, though certainly with
regard to the former and probably with regard to the latter it stands
second as poetry, as a play it is decidedly better suited than either for
representation on the stage--at least on a stage with the traditions and
conventions which prevailed in this country in the author's day.
* * * * *
It is then in the matter of the poetical quality of the verse that
Randolph's play appears to least advantage. Living in a polished and
cultured literary circle at Cambridge, and enjoying after his remove to
London the congenial fellowship of the tribe of Ben, he naturally attained
the ease and skill necessary to maintain a respectable level of
composition, but he was sparing of the higher flights. He seldom strikes
the attention by those purple patches which make many of his
contemporaries so quotable, yet, while by no means monotonously correct,
it is equally seldom that he sinks much below his general level. The
dialogue is on the whole natural and easy, and at the same time crisp and
pointed. A few of the more distinctively poetic and imaginative passages
may be quoted, in order to give some idea of the style. Laurinda thus
appoints a choice to her brace of lovers:
I have protested never to disclose
Which 'tis that best I love: But the first Nymph,
As soone as Titan guilds the Easterne hills,
And chirping birds, the Saints-bell of the day,
Ring in our eares a warning to devotion--
That lucky damsell what so e're she be
[That first shall meet you from the temple gate]
Shall be the Goddesse to appoint my love,
To say, 'Laurinda this shall be your choice':
And both shall sweare to stand to her award! (III. i.)
Another passage of deliberate poetic elaboration is the monologue of
Claius on once again treading his native soil:
I see the smoake steame from the Cottage tops,
The fearfull huswife rakes the embers up,
All hush to bed. Sure, no man will disturbe mee.
O blessed vally! I the wretched Claius
Salute thy happy soyle, I that have liv'd
Pelted with angry curses in a place
As horrid as my griefes, the Lylibaean mountaines,
These sixteene frozen winters; there have I
Beene with rude out-lawes, living by such sinnes
As runne o' th' score with justice 'gainst my prayers and wishes:
And when I would have tumbled down a rock,
Some secret powre restrain'd me. (III. ii.)
By far the greater part of the play is in blank verse, but in a few
passages, particularly in certain dialogues tending to stichomythia, the
verse is pointed, so to speak, with rime. The following is a graceful
example in a somewhat conceited vein; the transition, moreover, from
blank to rimed measure has an appearance of natural ease. The rivals are
awaiting the arbitrement of their love:
_Alexis._ How early, Damon,
Doe lovers rise!...
_Damon._ No Larkes so soon, Alexis.
_Al._ He that of us shall have Laurinda, Damon,
Will not be up so soone: ha! would you Damon?
_Da._ Alexis, no; but if I misse Laurinda,
My sleepe shall be eternall.
_Al._ I much wonder the Sunne so soone can rise!
_Da._ Did he lay his head in faire Laurinda's lap,
We should have but short daies.
_Al._ No summer, Damon.
_Da._ Thetis to her is browne.
_Al._ And he doth rise
From her to gaze on faire Laurinda's eyes....
_Da._ I heare no noise of any yet that move.
_Al._ Devotion's not so early up as love.
_Da._ See how Aurora blushes! we suppose
Where Tithon lay to night.
_Al._ That modest rose
He grafted there.
_Da._ O heaven, 'tis all I seeke,
To make that colour in Laurinda's cheeke. (IV. iv.)
A more tragic note is struck in the speech in which Claius retorts on
Pilumnus after his discovery:
I, glut your hate, Pilumnus; let your soule
That has so long thirsted to drinke my blood,
Swill till my veines are empty;... I have stood
Long like a fatall oake, at which great Jove
Levels his thunder; all my boughes long since
Blasted and wither'd; now the trunke falls too.
Heaven end thy wrath in mee! (IV. viii.)
In some of these 'high tragical endeavours,' and notably in Damon's
confession, we do indeed find a certain stiltedness, but even here there
rings a true note of pathos in the farewell:
I goe to write my story of repentance
With the same inke, wherewith thou wrotes before
The legend of thy love. (IV. ix.)
These passages will serve to give a fair and not unfavourable impression
of the style, but I have reserved for separate consideration what I
consider to be the most striking portions of the play. The first of these
is the string of Latin songs in which the would-be elves comment on their
nefarious proceedings in Jocastus' orchard. I quote certain stanzas only:
Nos beata Fauni Proles,
Quibus non est magna moles,
Quamvis Lunam incolamus,
Hortos saepe frequentamus.
Furto cuncta magis bella,
Furto dulcior Puella,
Furto omnia decora,
Furto poma dulciora.
Cum mortales lecto jacent,
Nobis poma noctu placent;
Illa tamen sunt ingrata,
Nisi furto sint parata.
* * * * *
Oberon, descende citus,
Ne cogaris hinc invitus;
Canes audio latrantes,
Et mortales vigilantes.
* * * * *
I domum, Oberon, ad illas
Quae nos manent nunc ancillas,
Quarum osculemur sinum,
Inter poma, lac et vinum. (III. iv.)
To discuss verses such as these seriously is impossible. The dog-Latin of
the fellow of Trinity is inimitable, while there is a peculiarly roguish
delicacy about his humour. In the admirable ease with which the words are
adapted to the sense, the songs are unsurpassed except by the very best of
the _carmina vagorum_. Lastly, as undoubtedly the finest passage of the
play, and as one that must give us pause when we would deny to 'prince
Randolph' the gifts requisite for the higher imaginative drama, I must
quote the scene in which the distracted Amyntas fancies that in his
endless search for the 'impossible dowry' he has arrived on the shores of
Styx and boarded Charon's bark.
_Amyntas._ Row me to hell!--no faster? I will have thee
Chain'd unto Pluto's gallies!
_Urania._ Why to hell,
My deere Amyntas?
_Amyntas._ Why? to borrow mony!
_Amarillis._ Borrow there?
_Amy._ I, there! they say there be more Usurers there
Then all the world besides.--See how the windes
Rise! Puffe, puffe Boreas.--What a cloud comes yonder!
Take heed of that wave, Charon! ha? give mee
The oares!--So, so: the boat is overthrown;
Now Charons drown'd, but I will swim to shore....
My armes are weary;--now I sinke, I sinke!
Farewell Urania ... Styx, I thank thee! That curld wave
Hath tos'd mee on the shore.--Come Sysiphus,
I'll rowle thy stone a while: mee thinkes this labour
Doth looke like Love! does it not so, Tysiphone?
_Ama._ Mine is that restlesse toile.
_Amy._ Is't so, Erynnis?
You are an idle huswife, goe and spin
At poore Ixions wheele!
Am I known here?
_Ura._ Amyntas, deere Amyntas--
_Amy._ Who calls Amyntas? beauteous Proserpine?
'Tis shee.--Fair Empresse of th' Elysian shades,
Ceres bright daughter intercede for mee,
To thy incensed mother: prithee bid her
Leave talking riddles, wilt thou?... Queene of darknesse,
Thou supreme Lady of eternall night,
Grant my petitions! wilt thou beg of Ceres
That I may have Urania?
_Ura._ Tis my praier,
And shall be ever, I will promise thee
Shee shall have none but him.
_Amy._ Thankes Proserpine!
_Ura._ Come sweet Amyntas, rest thy troubled head
Here in my lap.--Now here I hold at once
My sorrow and my comfort.--Nay, ly still.
_Amy._ I will, but Proserpine--
_Ura._ Nay, good Amyntas--
_Amy._ Should Pluto chance to spy me, would not hee
Be jealous of me?
Tell not Urania of it, least she feare
I am in love with Proserpine: doe not Fury!
_Ama._ I will not.
_Ura._ Pray ly still!
_Amy._ You Proserpine,
There is in Sicilie the fairest Virgin
That ever blest the land, that ever breath'd
Sweeter than Zephyrus! didst thou never heare
Of one Urania?
_Amy._ This poore Urania
Loves an unfortunate sheapheard, one that's mad, Tysiphone,
Canst thou believe it? Elegant Urania--
I cannot speak it without tears--still loves
Amyntas, the distracted mad Amyntas.
Is't not a constant Nymph?--But I will goe
And carry all Elysium on my back,
And that shall be her joynture.
_Ura._ Good Amyntas,
Rest here a while!
_Amy._ Why weepe you Proserpine?
_Ura._ Because Urania weepes to see Amyntas
So restlesse and unquiet.
_Amy._ Does shee so?
Then will I ly as calme as doth the sea,
When all the winds are lock'd in Aeolus jayle;
I will not move a haire, not let a nerve
Or Pulse to beat, least I disturbe her! Hush,--
_Ura._ And so doe you.
_Amy._ You talk too loud,
You'l waken my Urania.
_Ura._ If Amyntas,
Her deere Amyntas would but take his rest,
Urania could not want it.
_Amy._ Not so loud! (II. iv.)
It was no ordinary imagination that conceived this example of the
grotesque in the service of the pathetic.
I have endeavoured in the above account to do a somewhat tardy justice to
the considerable and rather remarkably sustained qualities of Randolph's
play. I do not claim that as poetry it can be compared with the work of
Tasso, Fletcher, or Jonson, or that it even rivals that of Guarini or
Daniel, though had Randolph lived he might easily have surpassed the
latter. But I do claim that the _Amyntas_ is one of the most interesting
and important of the experiments which English writers made in the
pastoral drama, that it possesses dramatic qualities to which few of its
kind can pretend, and that pervading and transforming the whole is the
genial humour and the sparkling wit of its brilliant and short-lived
author. His pastoral muse was a hearty buxom lass, and kind withal, not
overburdened with modesty, yet wholesome and cleanly, and if at times her
laugh rings out where the subject passes the natural enjoyment of kind, it
is even then careless and merry, and there is often a ground of real fun
in the jest. Her finest qualities are a sharp and ready wit and a wealth
of imaginative pathos, alike pervaded by her bubbling humour; on the other
hand there are moments, if rare, when in an ill-considered attempt to
assume the buskin tread she reveals in her paste-board fustian somewhat of
the unregeneracy of the plebian trull. The time may yet come when
Randolph's reputation, based upon his other works--the _Jealous Lovers_, a
Plautine comedy, clever, but preposterous in more ways than one, the
_Muses' Looking Glass_, a perfectly undramatic morality of humours, and
the poems, generally witty, occasionally graceful, and more than
occasionally improper--will be enhanced by the recognition of the fact
that he came nearer than any other writer to reconciling a kind of
pastoral with the temper of the English stage. It was at least in part due
to a constitutional indifference on the part of the London public to the
loves and sorrows of imaginary swains and nymphs, that Randolph's play
failed to leave any appreciable mark upon our dramatic literature.
In Jonson's _Sad Shepherd_ we find ourselves once again considering a work
which is not only one of very great interest in the history of pastoral,
but which at the same time raises important questions of literary
criticism. So far the most interesting compositions we have had to
consider--Daniel's _Hymen's Triumph_, Fletcher's _Faithful Shepherdess_,
Randolph's _Amyntas_--have been attempts either to transplant the Italian
pastoral as it stood, or else so to modify and adapt as to fit it to the
very different conditions of the English stage. Jonson, on the other hand,
aimed at nothing less than the creation of an English pastoral drama.
Except for such comparatively unimportant works as _Gallathea_ and the
_Converted Robber_, the spectators found themselves, for the first
time, on English soil. In spite of the occasional reminiscences of
Theocritus and the Arcadian erudition concerning the 'Lovers Scriptures,'
the nature of the characters is largely English. The names are not those
of pastoral tradition, but rather of the popular romance, Aeglamour,
Lionel, Clarion, Mellifleur, Amie, or more homely, yet without Spenser's
rusticity, Alken; while the one name of learned origin is a coining of
Jonson's own, Earine, the spirit of the spring. The silvan element, which
had been variously present since Tasso styled his play _favola
boschereccia_, was used by Jonson to admirable purpose in the introduction
of Robin Hood and his crew. A new departure was made in the conjoining of
the rustic and burlesque elements with the supernatural, in the persons of
the witch Maudlin, her familiar Puck-hairy, her son the rude swineherd
Lorel, and her daughter Douce the proud. In every case Jonson appropriated
and adapted an already familiar element, but he did so in a manner to
fashion out of the thumbed conventions of a hackneyed tradition something
fresh and original and new.
Unfortunately the play is but half finished, or, at any rate, but half is
at present extant. The fragment, as we have it, was first published, some
years after the author's death, in the second volume of the folio of
1640, and the questions as to whether it was ever finished and to what
date the composition should be assigned are too intricate to be entered
upon here. Suffice it to say that no conclusive arguments exist for
supposing that more of the play ever existed than what we now possess, nor
that what exists was written very long before the author's death. It is
conceivable that the play may contain embedded in it fragments of earlier
pastoral work, but the attempt to identify it with the lost _May Lord_ has
little to recommend it. Seeing that the play is far from being as
generally familiar as its poetic merit deserves, I may be allowed to give
a more or less detailed analysis of it in this place.
After a prologue in which Jonson gives his views on pastoral with
characteristic self-confidence, the Sad Shepherd, Aeglamour, appears,
lamenting in a brief monologue the loss of his love Earine, who is
supposed to have been drowned in the Trent.
Here she was wont to goe! and here! and here!
Just where those Daisies, Pincks, and Violets grow:
The world may find the Spring by following her;
For other print her aerie steps neere left. (I. i.)
He retires at the approach of Marian and the huntsmen, who are about to
fetch of the king's venison for the feast at which Robin Hood is to
entertain the shepherds of the vale of Belvoir. When they have left the
stage Aeglamour comes forward and resumes his lament in a strain of
melancholic madness. He is again interrupted by the approach of Robin
Hood, who enters at the head of the assembled shepherds and country
maidens. Robin welcomes his guests, and his praise of rustic sports calls
forth from Friar Tuck the well-known diatribe against the 'sourer sort of
shepherds,' in which Jonson vented his bitterness against the hypocritical
pretensions of the puritan reformers--a passage which yields, in biting
satire, neither to his own presentation in the _Alchemist_ nor to Quarles'
scathing burlesque quoted on an earlier page. As they discourse they
become aware of Aeglamour sitting moodily apart, unheeding them. He talks
to himself like a madman.
It will be rare, rare, rare!
An exquisite revenge: but peace, no words!
Not for the fairest fleece of all the Flock:
If it be knowne afore, 'tis all worth nothing!
Ile carve it on the trees, and in the turfe,
On every greene sworth, and in every path,
Just to the Margin of the cruell Trent;
There will I knock the story in the ground,
In smooth great peble, and mosse fill it round,
Till the whole Countrey read how she was drown'd;
And with the plenty of salt teares there shed,
Quite alter the complexion of the Spring.
Or I will get some old, old Grandam thither,
Whose rigid foot but dip'd into the water,
Shall strike that sharp and suddaine cold throughout,
As it shall loose all vertue; and those Nimphs,
Those treacherous Nimphs pull'd in Earine;
Shall stand curl'd up, like Images of Ice;
And never thaw! marke, never! a sharpe Justice.
Or stay, a better! when the yeares at hottest,
And that the Dog-starre fomes, and the streame boiles,
And curles, and workes, and swells ready to sparkle;
To fling a fellow with a Fever in,
To set it all on fire, till it burne,
Blew as Scamander, 'fore the walls of Troy,
When Vulcan leap'd in to him, to consume him. (I. v.)
Robin now accosts him, hoping, since his vengeance is so complete, that
he will consent to join his fellows in honouring the spring. At this his
distracted fancy breaks out afresh:
A Spring, now she is dead: of what, of thornes?
Briars, and Brambles? Thistles? Burs, and Docks?
Cold Hemlock? Yewgh? the Mandrake, or the Boxe?
These may grow still; but what can spring betide?
Did not the whole Earth sicken, when she died?
As if there since did fall one drop of dew,
But what was wept for her! or any stalke
Did beare a Flower! or any branch a bloome,
After her wreath was made. In faith, in faith,
You doe not faire, to put these things upon me,
Which can in no sort be: Earine,
Who had her very being, and her name,
With the first knots, or buddings of the Spring,
Borne with the Primrose, and the Violet,
Or earliest Roses blowne: when Cupid smil'd,
And Venus led the Graces out to dance,
And all the Flowers, and Sweets in Natures lap,
Leap'd out, and made their solemne Conjuration,
To last, but while shee liv'd. Doe not I know,
How the Vale wither'd the same Day?... that since,
No Sun, or Moone, or other cheerfull Starre
Look'd out of heaven! but all the Cope was darke,
As it were hung so for her Exequies!
And not a voice or sound, to ring her knell,
But of that dismall paire, the scritching Owle,
And buzzing Hornet! harke, harke, harke, the foule
Bird! how shee flutters with her wicker wings!
Peace, you shall heare her scritch. (ib.)
To distract him Karoline sings a song. But after all he is but mad
north-north-west, and though he would study the singer's conceits 'as a
new philosophy,' he also thinks to pay the singer.
Some of these Nimphs here will reward you; this,
This pretty Maid, although but with a kisse;
[_Forces Amie to kiss Karolin._
Liv'd my Earine, you should have twenty,
For every line here, one; I would allow 'hem
From mine owne store, the treasure I had in her:
Now I am poore as you. (ib.)
There follows a charming scene in which Marian, returning with the
quarry, relates the fortunes of the chase, and proceeds, amid Robin's
interruptions, to tell how 'at his fall there hapt a chance worth mark.'
_Robin._ I! what was that, sweet Marian? [_Kisses her._
_Marian._ You'll not heare?
_Rob._ I love these interruptions in a Story; [_Kisses her
They make it sweeter.
_Mar._ You doe know, as soone
As the Assay is taken-- [_Kisses her again._
_Rob._ On, my Marian.
I did but take the Assay. (I. vi.)
To cut the story short, while the deer was breaking up, there
sate a Raven
On a sere bough! a growne great Bird! and Hoarse!
crying for its bone with such persistence that the superstitious huntsmen
swore it was none other than the witch, an opinion confirmed by
Scathlock's having since beheld old Maudlin in the chimney corner,
broiling the very piece that had been thrown to the raven. Marian now
proposes to the shepherdesses to go and view the deer, whereupon Amie
complains that she is not well, 'sick,' as her brother Lionel jestingly
explains, 'of the young shepherd that bekiss'd her.' They go off the
stage, and the huntsmen and shepherds still argue for a while of the
strange chance, when Marian reappears, seemingly in ill-humour, insults
Robin and his guests, orders Scathlock to carry the deer as a gift to
Mother Maudlin, and departs, leaving all in amazement. In the next act
Maudlin relates to her daughter Douce how it was she who, in the guise of
Marian, thus gulled Robin and his guests out of their venison and brought
discord into their feast. Douce is clad in the dress of Earine, who, it
now appears, was not drowned, but is imprisoned by the witch in a hollow
tree, and destined by her as her son Lorel's mistress. The swineherd now
enters with the object of wooing the imprisoned damsel, whom he releases
from the tree, Maudlin and Douce retiring the while to watch his success,
which is small. Baffled, he again shuts the girl up in her natural cell,
and his mother, coming forward, rates him soundly for his clownish ways,
reading him a lecture for his guidance in his intercourse with women, in
which she seems little concerned by the presence of her daughter. This
latter, so far as it is possible to judge from the few speeches assigned
to her in the fragment, appears to be of a more agreeable nature than one
might, under the circumstances, have expected. Jonson sought, it would
appear, to invest her with a certain pathos, presenting a character of
natural good feeling, but in which no moral instinct has ever been
awakened; and it is by no means improbable that he may have intended to
dissociate her from her surroundings in order to balance the numbers of
his nymphs and swains. After Lorel has left them, Maudlin shows Douce
the magic girdle, by virtue of which she effects her transformations, and
by which she may always be recognized through her disguises. In the next
scene we find Amie suffering from the effect of Karol's kiss. She is ill
at ease, she knows not why, and the innocent description of her love-pain
possesses, in spite of its quaint artificiality, something of the
_naivete_ of _Daphnis and Chloe_.
How often, when the Sun, heavens brightest birth,
Hath with his burning fervour cleft the earth,
Under a spreading Elme, or Oake, hard by
A coole cleare fountaine, could I sleeping lie,
Safe from the heate? but now, no shadie tree,
Nor purling brook, can my refreshing bee?
Oft when the medowes were growne rough with frost,
The rivers ice-bound, and their currents lost,
My thick warme fleece, I wore, was my defence,
Or large good fires, I made, drave winter thence.
But now, my whole flocks fells, nor this thick grove,
Enflam'd to ashes, can my cold remove;
It is a cold and heat, that doth out-goe
All sense of Winters, and of Summers so. (II. iv.)
To the shepherdesses enters Robin, who upbraids Marian for her late
conduct towards him and his guests. She of course protests ignorance of
the whole affair, bids Scathlock fetch again the venison, and remains
unconvinced of Robin's being in earnest, till Maudlin herself comes to
thank her for the gift. Marian endeavours to treat with the witch, and
begs her to return the venison sent through some mistake, but Maudlin
declares that she has already departed it among her poor neighbours. At
this moment, however, Scathlock returns with the deer on his shoulders, to
the discomfiture of the witch, who curses the feast, and after tormenting
poor Amie, who between sleeping and waking betrays the origin of her
disease, departs in an evil humour. The scene is noteworthy for its
delicate comedy and pathos.
_Amie_ [_asleep_]. O Karol, Karol, call him back againe ...
_Marian._ How is't Amie?
_Melifleur._ Wherefore start you?
_Amie._ O' Karol, he is faire, and sweet.
_Maud._ What then?
Are there not flowers as sweet, and faire, as men?
The Lillie is faire! and Rose is sweet!
_Amie._ I', so!
Let all the Roses, and the Lillies goe:
Karol is only faire to mee!
_Mar._ And why?
_Amie._ Alas, for Karol, Marian, I could die.
Karol he singeth sweetly too!
_Maud._ What then?
Are there not Birds sing sweeter farre, then Men?
_Amie._ I grant the Linet, Larke, and Bul-finch sing,
But best, the deare, good Angell of the Spring,
_Maud._ Then why? then why, alone,
Should his notes please you? ...
_Amie._ This verie morning, but--I did bestow--
It was a little 'gainst my will, I know--
A single kisse, upon the seelie Swaine,
And now I wish that verie kisse againe.
His lip is softer, sweeter then the Rose,
His mouth, and tongue with dropping honey flowes;
The relish of it was a pleasing thing.
_Maud._ Yet like the Bees it had a little sting.
_Amie._ And sunke, and sticks yet in my marrow deepe
And what doth hurt me, I now wish to keepe. (II. vi.)
After this exhibition of her malice the shepherds and huntsmen no longer
doubt that it was Maudlin herself who deceived them in the shape of
Marian, and they determine to pursue her through the forest. The wise
shepherd, Alken, undertakes the direction of this novel 'blast of
venerie,' and thus discourses of her unhallowed haunts: /p Within a
gloomie dimble shee doth dwell, Downe in a pitt, ore-growne with brakes
and briars, Close by the ruines of a shaken Abbey Torne, with an
Earth-quake, down unto the ground; 'Mongst graves, and grotts, neare an
old Charnell house, Where you shall find her sitting in her fourme, As
fearfull, and melancholique, as that Shee is about; with Caterpillers
kells, And knottie Cobwebs, rounded in with spells. Thence shee steales
forth to releif, in the foggs, And rotten Mistes, upon the fens, and
boggs, Downe to the drowned Lands of Lincolneshire. .....[There] the sad
Mandrake growes, Whose grones are deathfull! the dead-numming Night-shade!
The stupifying Hemlock! Adders tongue! And Martagan! the shreikes of
lucklesse Owles, Wee heare! and croaking Night-Crowes in the aire!
Greene-bellied Snakes! blew fire-drakes in the skie! And giddie
Flitter-mice, with lether wings! The scalie Beetles, with their
habergeons, That make a humming Murmur as they flie! There, in the stocks
of trees, white Faies doe dwell, And span-long Elves, that dance about a
poole, With each a little Changeling, in their armes! The airie spirits
play with falling starres, And mount the Sphere of fire, to kisse the
Moone! While, shee sitts reading by the Glow-wormes light, Or rotten wood,
o're which the worme hath crept, The banefull scedule of her nocent
charmes. (II. viii.)
In the third act we are introduced to Puck-hairy, who laments his lot as
the familiar of the malignant witch in whose service he has now to 'firk
it like a goblin' about the woods. Meanwhile Karol meets Douce in the
dress of Earine, who, however, runs off on the approach of Aeglamour. The
latter fancies she is the ghost of his drowned love, and falls into a
'superstitious commendation' of her. His delusions are conceived in a vein
no less happy and more distinctly poetical than those of Amyntas.
But shee, as chaste as was her name, Earine,
Dy'd undeflowr'd: and now her sweet soule hovers,
Here, in the Aire, above us; and doth haste
To get up to the Moone, and Mercury;
And whisper Venus in her Orbe; then spring
Up to old Saturne, and come downe by Mars,
Consulting Jupiter; and seate her selfe
Just in the midst with Phoebus, tempring all
The jarring Spheeres, and giving to the World
Againe, his first and tunefull planetting!
O' what an age will here be of new concords!
Delightfull harmonie! to rock old Sages,
Twice infants, in the Cradle o' Speculation,
And throw a silence upon all the creatures!...
The loudest Seas, and most enraged Windes
Shall lose their clangor; Tempest shall grow hoarse;
Loud Thunder dumbe; and every speece of storme
Laid in the lap of listning Nature, husht,
To heare the changed chime of this eighth spheere! (III. ii.)
After this Lionel appears in search of Karol, who is in requisition for
the distressed Amie. They are about to go off together when Maudlin again
appears in the shape of Marian, with the news that Amie is recovered and
their presence no longer required. At this moment, however, Robin appears,
and suspecting the witch, who tries to escape, seizes her by the girdle
and runs off the stage with her. The girdle breaks, and Robin returns with
it in his hand, followed by the witch in her own shape. Robin and the
shepherds go off with the prize, while Maudlin summons Puck to her aid and
sets to plotting revenge. Lorel also appears for the purpose of again
addressing himself to his imprisoned mistress, and, if necessary, putting
his mother's precepts into practice. With the words of the witch:
Gang thy gait, and try
Thy turnes with better luck, or hang thy sel';
the fragment breaks off abruptly. From the Argument prefixed to Act III we
know that Lorel's purpose with Earine was interrupted by the entrance of
Clarion and Aeglamour, and her discovery was only prevented by a sudden
mist called up by Maudlin. The witch then set about the recovery of her
girdle, was tracked by the huntsmen as she wove her spells, but escaped
by the help of her goblin and through the over-eagerness of her pursuers.
Strangely different estimates have been formed of the merits of Jonson's
pastoral, alike in itself and in contrast with Fletcher's play. Gifford,
who, in spite of his vast erudition, seldom soared in his critical
judgements above the more obvious and conventional considerations of
propriety and style, praised the work as 'natural and elegant' in thought,
and in language 'inexpressibly beautiful,' while at the same time with the
petty insolence which habitually marked his utterances concerning any who
stood in rivalry with his hero, he referred to the _Faithful Shepherdess_
as being 'insufferably tedious' as a poem, and held that as a drama 'its
heaviness can only be equalled by its want of art.' Gifford's spleen,
however, had evidently been aroused by Weber, who had declared the _Sad
Shepherd_ to be written 'in emulation of Fletcher's poem, but far short of
it,' and his remarks must not be taken too seriously. Two quotations will
serve to illustrate the diversity of opinion among modern critics. They
display alike more condescension to particulars and greater weight of
judgement. Thus we find Mr. Swinburne, in his very able study of Ben
Jonson, not a little disgusted at the introduction of the broader humour
and burlesque of the dialect-speaking characters, Maudlin, Lorel,
Scathlock, in conjunction with the greater refinement of Robin, Marian,
and the shepherds. 'A masque including an antimasque, in which the serious
part is relieved and set off by the introduction of parody or burlesque,
was a form of art or artificial fashion in which incongruity was a merit;
the grosser the burlesque, the broader the parody, the greater was the
success and the more effective was the result: but in a dramatic attempt
of higher pretention than such as might be looked for in the literary
groundwork or raw material for a pageant, this intrusion of incongruous
contrast is a pure barbarism--a positive solecism in composition.... On
the other hand, even Gifford's editorial enthusiasm could not overestimate
the ingenious excellence of construction, the masterly harmony of
composition, which every reader of the argument must have observed with
such admiration as can but intensify his regret that scarcely half of the
projected poem has come down to us. No work of Ben Jonson's is more
amusing and agreeable to read, as none is more graceful in expression or
more excellent in simplicity of style.' This last is high meed of praise,
but it is the question raised in the earlier portion of the criticism that
now particularly concerns us. His love of strong contrasts has no doubt
influenced Mr. Swinburne to express at any rate not less than he felt, but
he has raised a perfectly clear and evident issue, and one which it is
impossible for the critic to neglect. Although had the play undergone
final revision, it is possible that Jonson, whose literary judgement was
of no mean order, would have softened some of the harsher contrasts in his
work, it is evident that they were in the main intentional and
deliberately calculated. This appears alike from the prologue, in which he
denounces the heresy
That mirth by no meanes fits a Pastorall,
as also from what we gather concerning an earlier work, in which he
introduced 'clownes making mirth and foolish sports,' as recorded by
Drummond. As against Mr. Swinburne's view may be set that of Dr. Ward. 'In
_The Sad Shepherd_ [Jonson] has with singular freshness caught the spirit
of the greenwood. If this pastoral is more realistic in texture than
either Spenser's or Milton's efforts in the same direction, the result is
due, partly to the character of the writer, partly to the circumstance
that Jonson's "shepherds" are beings of a definite age and country. It
must, however, be observed that the personages in this pastoral are in
part not shepherds at all, but Robin Hood and his merry men. We may admit
that the lucky combination thus hit upon could probably not easily be
repeated; but this is merely to acknowledge the felicity of the author's
invention.' Allowing for the difference of temper in the two writers, it
will be seen that the view taken of certain essentials of the piece is as
favourable in the one case as it is unfavourable in the other. Both alike
are critics of recognized standing, so that whichever position one may
feel disposed to adopt, ample authority may be quoted in support. There
are unfortunate occasions on which one's favourite oracle perversely
refuses to accommodate himself to one's own view. Mr. Swinburne is a
writer from whom on points of aesthetic judgement I for one differ, but
with the greatest reluctance. Nevertheless in the present case I feel
bound to record my dissent.
Jonson's play was, as I have already said, an attempt to create a new and
genuinely English form of pastoral drama. How far did he succeed? Mr.
Homer Smith charitably hints that it was owing to the 'exquisite poetry'
in which Jonson's design was clothed 'that many critics do not perceive
that he failed in the task he set himself.' This is, however, but to
repeat in cruder form Mr. Swinburne's contention. That Jonson did not
fail in the task he set himself it would be difficult to maintain--only,
however, I believe, because he faiied to carry it to completion. Had he
lived to finish the remaining portion of the play in a manner consonant
with that which he has left us, there would probably have been no question
as to the propriety of the means he used. I am fully aware how difficult
and often dangerous it is in these matters to argue from a mere fragment,
especially in view of the breakdown of so many plays when they come to the
unravelling, but it should be borne in mind that in the matter of dramatic
construction Jonson stood head and shoulders above all the other writers
with whom we have been concerned, Fletcher not excepted.
Before, however, proceeding to discuss the issue raised by Mr. Swinburne,
it will be well to clear up certain minor misapprehensions. In the first
place Mr. Homer Smith states that Jonson 'wove together the two threads,
pastoral and forest, apparently regarding them of equal importance and
seeing no incongruity in the combination.' In so far as this may be taken
to imply a necessary incompatibility of the traditions of field and
forest, it is of course utterly opposed to the whole history of pastoral
tradition. Tasso's Silvia and Guarini's Silvio alike are silvan not in
name only, but are truly figures of the woods, hunters of the wolf and
boar; while the same distinction survives in a modified form in Daniel's
_Hymen's Triumph_, in which the ruder characters, Montanus and the rest,
are described as foresters. The contrast appears sharply in the _Maid's
Metamorphosis_ in the characters of Silvio and Gemulo; more faintly
indicated by Randolph in Laurinda's lovers, of whom one frequents the
woods and one the plains. The pastoral and forest traditions are in their
essence and history indistinguishable. Probably, however, what the
writer had in view was some supposed incongruity between the characters of
popular romance, such as Robin and his crew, and the shepherds whom he
regards as pure Arcadians. This is the same objection as that raised by
Mr. Swinburne, to which I shall return.
Another point which has been somewhat obscured by previous writers is the
comparative importance of the two threads. Thus, again to quote Mr. Homer
Smith, it has been held that 'In general the pastoral incidents serve as
an underplot, utterly foreign in spirit to the main plot.' Against this
view that the pastoral is, intentionally at least, the subsidiary element,
the title itself is a strong argument--'The Sad Shepherd: A Tale of Robin
Hood.' Clearly the first title would naturally indicate the main subject
of the plot, and the vague addition suggest, the surroundings amid which
the action is laid. This is a consideration which no amount of
stichometrical argument can seriously discount, especially in the case of
a fragment. The same view is borne out by the plot itself so far as it is
known to us. In Aeglamour's despair at the supposed loss of his love we
have a situation already familiar from at least two English pastorals,
_Hymen's Triumph_ and Rutter's _Shepherds' Holiday_; while in the
detention of Earine in the power of the witch we have the material for an
exciting and touching development. Where else can we look for the elements
of a plot? The only possible alternative lies in the dissensions sown by
Maudlin between Robin and his love Maid Marian. Here indeed we find the
materials for some excellent comedy, and the instinctive sympathy excited
by the characters in the breast of every Englishman, as well as the
exquisite charm and grace imparted to the forest scenes by Jonson's verse,
have undoubtedly combined to obscure the real action in the earlier part
of the fragment. But since Lord Fitzwater's daughter is doomed by an
unkind tradition to remain Maid Marian still, no fortunate solution of the
_imbroglio_ can do more than restore the harmony which had been before,
and the plot would therefore be open to the precise objection from the
dramatic point of view which we found in the case of the _Faithful
Shepherdess_. Moreover, the complication is completely solved by the end
of the second act, and it was obviously introduced for no other purpose
than to bring about a general crusade against the wise woman and her
confederate powers, which should be the means of restoring Earine to her
Sad Shepherd. Thus the story of these lovers alone can supply the
materials for the main, or indeed for any real plot at all; and the fact
that, as Mr. Homer Smith informs us, out of some thousand lines less than
half are devoted to strictly pastoral interests, is but evidence of the
felicity of construction, by which Jonson, while keeping the pastoral plot
as the mainspring of the piece, nevertheless avoided the tediousness
almost inseparable from pastoral action and atmosphere, and threw the
burden of stage business upon the more congenial personages of Maid
Marian, Robin Hood and his merry men, the Witch of Paplewich, and Robin
Goodfellow. It remains for us to consider the fundamental question which
arises in connexion with Mr. Swinburne's criticism. Are the various
threads of which Jonson wove his plot in themselves incompatible and
incongruous? Is it correct to describe the parts played by the more rustic
characters as a grotesque antimasque to the action of the polished
shepherds? Or is Dr. Ward right in considering the combination a happy
one, and the characters harmonious? Now any one who wishes to defend Mr.
Swinburne's view must do so on one of two ground: either he must maintain
the general proposition that various degrees of idealization are
essentially incompatible within the limits of a single artistic
composition, or else he must hold that the contrast between the two sets
of characters in the actual play is itself of a grossness to offend the
sense of literary propriety in an audience. If any one is prepared without
qualification to maintain the former of these two propositions, he is
welcome to do so, and he will be perfectly entitled to condemn Jonson's
pastoral on the strength of it; but I doubt whether this was the intention
of the critic himself. Although as a general rule the English drama found
its romance rather in what it imagined to be realism than in conscious
idealization, yet the contrast between the imaginative and refined
creations of the fancy and the often coarse and gross transcripts from
common life are too frequent even to require specific mention, and many
shades even of imaginative painting, many degrees of idealism, may
frequently be met with in the course of a single play. What of Rosalind,
Phoebe, and Audrey in _As You Like It_? But that is a question to which we
shall have to return. It will, however, be contended that in the _Sad
Shepherd_ we are introduced to a wholly idealized and artificially refined
atmosphere surrounding the shepherds and their hosts, which is yet
constantly liable to be broken in upon by beings of the outer world, rude
unchastened mortals compounded of our common clay, whose entrance dispels
at a stroke the delicate, refined atmosphere of pastoral convention. This
brings us to the second alternative mentioned above, to meet which we
shall have to condescend to particulars, and consider the real natures of
the various groups of personages with which Jonson crowds his stage.
The question of the incongruity of the various characters in Jonson's
pastoral is one which every reader of taste must decide for himself. All
that the critic can hope to do is to point out how the figures on the
stage compare with previous tradition and convention on the one hand, and
with the characters of actual life on the other. But in doing this I hope
to be able to vindicate Jonson's taste, for I believe Mr. Swinburne to be
in error in regarding the shepherds of the play as more, and the rustic
characters as less, idealized than Jonson intended them, and than they in
reality are. Were the shepherds the pure Arcadians Mr. Homer Smith asserts
them to be, and were it necessary with Mr. Swinburne to regard Scathlock
and Maudlin as mere parody and burlesque, then indeed Jonson's taste, as
exhibited in the _Sad Shepherd_, would not be worth defending. But it is
It is necessary in the first place, however, to make certain admissions.
It is true that in the fragment as we possess it there are certain
passages which pass beyond any legitimate idealization of the actual world
in which Jonson chose to lay his scene, and which contrast jarringly and
irreconcilably with the coarser threads of homespun. Thus Aeglamour, in so
far as it is possible to form an opinion, keeps too much of the artificial
Arcadianism of the Italians about him, and is hardly of a piece with the
rest of the personae. The same may be said of the name at least of Earine;
of her character it is impossible to judge--in one passage indeed we find
her talking broad dialect, but that doubtless only through an oversight of
the author. Much the same may be censured of individual passages: the
singularly out-of-place catalogue of 'Lovers Scriptures' put into the
mouth of Clarion, and, in a speech of Aeglamour's, the collocation of Dean
and Erwash, Idle, Snite, and Soar, with the nymphs and Graces that come
dancing out of the fourth ode of Horace. Some have been inclined to add an
occasional reminiscence of Sappho or so; but critics appear somewhat dense
at understanding that when Amie, for instance, speaks of 'the dear good
angel of the spring,' it is not she but her creator who is exhibiting a
familiarity with the classics. In this and similar cases the fact of
borrowing in no wise affects the question of dramatic propriety. Certain
incongruities must then be admitted, but they lie rather in casual
passages than in any necessary portion of the play; while in so far as
they appear in the presentation of any character, the contrast seems to
lie rather between Aeglamour and the rest of the shepherds than between
these and the less polished huntsmen. It should furthermore be
remembered--though the remark is perhaps strictly beside, or rather
beyond, the point--that where the incongruous elements are not
fundamental, it is always possible that they might have been removed had
the play undergone revision.
Subject to these reservations it appears to me that the characters and
general tone of Jonson's pastoral are perfectly harmonious and congruent.
The shepherds are far removed from the types of Arcadian convention, and
may more properly be regarded as idealizations from the actual country
lads and lasses of merry England. Their names are borrowed from popular
romance, which, if somewhat French in its tone, was certainly in no way
antagonistic to the legends of Sherwood nor to the agency of witchcraft
and fairy lore. Even Alken, in spite of his didactic bent, is as far
as possible from being the conventional 'wise shepherd,' and certainly no
Arcadian ever displayed such knowledge as he of the noble art, while his
lecture on the blast of hag-hunting, though savouring somewhat of
burlesque, contains perhaps the most thoroughly charming and romantic
lines that ever flowed from the pen of the great exponent of classical
tradition. That the characters owe nothing to Arcadian tradition is not
contended, nor do I know that it would be desirable that they should not,
since that tradition forms at least a convenient, if not an altogether
necessary, precedent for such pastoral idealization; but even if it is
going rather far to say that they 'belong to a definite age and country,'
they have yet sufficient individuality and community of human nature to be
wholly fitting companions for the gallant Robin and his fair lady. Jonson,
it would appear, consciously adopted the pastoral method, if hardly the
pastoral mood, of Theocritus, in contradistinction to that of the courtly
poets in Italy. It will be noticed that he has not forborne to introduce
references to sheepcraft, but the fact that these enter more or less
naturally into the discourse, and are not, as in Fletcher's pastoral,
introduced in the vain hope of giving local colour to wholly uncolourable
characters, saves them from having the same stilted effect, and is at the
same time evidence of the greater reality of Jonson's personae. It is also
noteworthy that Jonson has even ventured upon allegorical matter in one
passage at least, but has succeeded in doing so in a manner in no wise
incongruous with the nature of actual rustics, though the collocation of
Robin Hood and the rise of Puritanism must be admitted to be historically
something of an anachronism.
Robin and Maid Marian are, of course, characters no whit less idealized
than the shepherds, though the process was largely effected by popular
tradition instead of by the author. But this being so, such characters as
Much and Scathlock must be no less incongruous with Robin and Marian than
with Karol and Amie--a proportion which those who love the old Sherwood
tradition would be loath to admit. In any case the incongruity, if it
exists, is not of Jonson's devising, but consecrated for ages in the
popular mind. The truth is, however, that Much and Little John, Scathlock
and Scarlet are, in spite of their more homely speech and humour, scarcely
less idealized than any of the other characters I have mentioned. That
Jonson has even sought to tone down such harshness of contrast as he found
is noticeable in his treatment of a recognized figure of burlesque like
Friar Tuck, who is throughout portrayed with decorum and respect.
Lastly, to come to the third group of characters. If it was impossible for
an English audience to regard as burlesque such popular and sympathetic
characters as Robin and his merry men, so a malignant witch and a
mischievous elf were far too serious agents of ill to be treated in this
light either. Characters whose unholy powers would have fitted them for
death at the stake can scarcely have been regarded even by the rude
audiences of pre-restoration London as fitting subjects of farce, while
there is nothing to lead us to suppose that Jonson, whatever his private
opinion on the subject may have been, sought in the present instance to
cast ridicule upon the belief in witches, but rather it is evident that he
laid hands upon everything that could give colour to their sinister
reputation. On the other hand, he has treated the whole subject with an
imaginative touch which relieves us of all tragic or moral apprehension,
removes all the squalid and unblessed surroundings into the region of
romantic art, and makes it impossible to regard the characters as less
idealized than those of the shepherds and huntsmen. I cannot myself but
regard the elements of witchcraft and fairy employed by Jonson as far more
in harmony not only with Robin Hood and his men, but also with the
shepherds of Belvoir vale, than would have been the oracles, satyrs, and
other outworn machinery of regular pastoral tradition.
There remains the rusticity of language which distinguishes some of the
ruder characters from others more refined. That some contrast between the
groups was intended is indisputable, that the contrast is rather harsher
than the author intended may be plausibly maintained. There is, on the
whole, a lack of graduation. Into the question of dialectism in general it
is needless to enter. The speech employed would be inoffensive, were it
not that it is, and is felt to be, no genuine dialect at all, but a mere
literary convention, a mixture of broad Yorkshire and Lothian Scots, not
only utterly out of place in Sherwood forest, but such as can never have
been spoken by any sane rustic. Still more than of Spenser is Ben's dictum
true of himself, that where he departed from the cultivated English of his
day, whether in imitation of the ancients or of provincial dialect matters
not, he failed to write any language at all. Yet here, if anywhere, we
should be justified in arguing that it is unfair to judge an unrevised
fragment as if it were a completed work in the form in which the author
decided to give it to the world. Jonson, as his _English Grammar_ shows,
was not without a knowledge of the antiquities at least of our tongue, and
it is reasonable to suppose that, had he lived to publish his pastoral
himself, he would have removed some of the more glaring enormities of
language, along with certain other improprieties which could hardly have
escaped his critical eye.
Jonson then, as it seems to me, setting aside a few points of minor
importance, successfully combined what he found suited to his purpose in
previous pastoral tradition, with what was most romantic and attractive in
popular legend and a genuine idealization from actual types, to produce a
veritable English pastoral, which failed of success only in that it
remained unfinished at the death of its author.
* * * * *
In 1783 F. G. Waldron published his continuation of Jonson's fragment.
This work, while betraying throughout the date of its composition, and
falling in every respect short of the original, yet catches some measure
of its glamour and charm, and has received deserved, if somewhat
qualified, praise at the hands of Jonson's critics. The chief faults of
the piece are the writer's anxiety to marry every good character and
convert every bad one, and the manner in which the dramatic climax by
which Aeglamour and Earine should be brought together is frittered away.
The shepherdess is duly released from the hands of the lewd Lorel, but
only to find that her lover has drowned himself. The hermit is, of course,
introduced to revive the Sad Shepherd and restore his wits, and so all
ends happily. The only original passage of any particular merit is the
hunter's dirge over the drowned Aeglamour, which is perhaps worth
The chase is o'er, the hart is slain!
The gentlest hart that grac'd the plain;
With breath of bugles sound his knell,
Then lay him low in Death's drear dell!
Nor beauteous form, nor dappled hide,
Nor branchy head will long abide;
Nor fleetest foot that scuds the heath,
Can 'scape the fleeter huntsman, Death.
The hart is slain! his faithful deer,
In spite of hounds or huntsman near,
Despising Death, and all his train,
Laments her hart untimely slain!
The chase is o'er, the hart is slain!
The gentlest hart that grac'd the plain;
Blow soft your bugles, sound his knell,
Then lay him low in Death's drear dell!
The English Pastoral Drama
We have seen in an earlier chapter what had been achieved within the
limits of the mythological drama proper, and also how it had fared with
the attempts to introduce the Italian pastoral into England either by way
of translation or of direct imitation. We have also seen how, in three
notable compositions, three different and variously gifted artists had
endeavoured to produce a form of pastoral drama suited to the requirements
of the English stage, and how they had each in turn fallen short of
complete success. We have now to consider a series of plays, less
distinguished on the whole, though varying greatly in individual merit,
which, amid the luxuriant growth of the romantic drama, tended, in a more
spontaneous and less purposeful manner, towards the creation of something
of a pastoral tradition. We shall find in these plays a considerable
traditional influence, a groundwork, as it were, borrowed from the
Arcadian drama of Italy, together with frequent elements owing their
origin to plays of the mythological type. But in the great majority of
cases we shall also find another influence, which will serve to
differentiate these plays from those we have been hitherto concerned with.
This is the influence of the so-called pastoral romances of the Spanish
type, which manifests itself in the introduction of characters and
incidents, warlike, courtly, or adventurous, borrowed more or less
directly from the works of writers such as Sidney, Greene, and Lodge.
Their influence was extended and enduring, and survived until, towards the
middle of the seventeenth century, the fashionable tradition of the
_Astree_ was introduced from France. It was evinced both in a general
manner and likewise in direct dramatic adaptation. Since the romances
thus dramatized lay claim to a pastoral character, it will be necessary
for us to examine as briefly as may be these stage versions, however
little of the pastoral element may survive, as a preliminary to
considering other plays in which the debt is less specific.
There are extant at least seven plays founded upon Sidney's
_Arcadia_. Since these appear to be wholly independent of one
another, it will be convenient to disregard chronology, and to consider
first those which have for subject the main story of the romance, four in
number, and then the remaining three founded upon various incidents.
First, then, and most important, Shirley's play bearing the same title as
the romance will claim our attention as the most full and faithful
stage-rendering of Sidney's work. Although not printed till 1640 the play
was, according to Mr. Fleay's plausible conjecture, performed on the
king's birthdayas early as 1632. It cannot exactly be pronounced a good
play, but the dramatization is effected in a manner which does justice to
the very great abilities of the author, and the same measure of success
would probably not have been attained by any other dramatist of the time.
At the opening of the play we find that Basilius, king of Arcadia, has, in
consequence of a threatening oracle, committed the government of his
kingdom into the hands of a nobleman Philanax, and retired into a rural
'desert' along with his wife Gynecia and his daughters Philoclea and
Pamela. Here they live in company with the 'most arrant dotish clowne'
Dametas, his wife Miso and daughter Mopsa, rustic characters which supply
a coarsely farcical element in the plot, certainly no less out of place
and inharmonious in the play than in the romance. There are also the
cousins Pyrocles and Musidorus, son and nephew respectively to Euarchus,
king of Thessaly, who have arrived in quest of the princesses' loves, and
have obtained positions near the objects of their affection, the one
disguised as an Amazon under the name of Zelmane, the other seeking
service under Dametas and assuming the name of Dorus. Complications,
moreover, have already arisen, Basilius falling in love with the supposed
Amazon, while Gynecia sees through the disguise and falls in love with the
concealed Pyrocles. The disguised lover, in order to allay suspicion, has
to feign a return of love to the queen and also to humour the dotage of
the king, in the meanwhile revealing himself and his love to Philoclea,
whom her father employs to court the affections of the Amazon. Musidorus,
on his part, while pretending to court Mopsa, takes the opportunity of
addressing his suit to Pamela. At length all is arranged, the princesses
consenting to accompany their lovers in flight, and the various guardians
being cleverly duped. Pyrocles gives rendezvous both to Basilius and
Gynecia in a dark and lonely cave, Dametas is sent to dig for hidden
treasure, Miso to seek her maligned husband in the house of one of her
female neighbours, and Mopsa to await the coming of Apollo in the
wishing-tree. Musidorus and Pamela make for the coast, while Pyrocles goes
to fetch his mistress Philoclea. While, however, he is endeavouring to
persuade her to take the final and irrevocable step, they are both
overcome by a strange drowsiness and are discovered by Dametas, who,
disappointed of his treasure, has missed his charge Pamela and comes to
give the alarm. Musidorus and his mistress on their side have been
captured by outlaws, who, discovering their identity, bring them back,
hoping thereby to secure their own pardons. In the meantime, in the cave
Gynecia has given Basilius by mistake for Zelmane a love potion, which
turns out apparently to be a strong narcotic, for the king at once falls
into a death-like trance, and the queen, discovering her mistake and
overcome by shame and remorse, accuses herself publicly of having poisoned
her husband, and is consequently put under guard. At this juncture
Euarchus happens to arrive in search of his son and nephew, and consents
to act as judge in the case. The princes, who for no apparent reason
assume false names, are brought up for judgement and sentenced to death by
Euarchus, whom, unaccountably enough, they fail to recognize. They are
about to be led off to execution when Basilius, who is lying on a bier in
the judgement hall, suddenly rises, the potion having spent its force.
Explanations and recognitions of course follow, the oracle is
satisfactorily expounded, and all ends to the sound of marriage bells.
It will be seen that in spite of the description 'pastoral' which appears
on the title-page of the play, there is little or nothing of this nature
to be found in the plot, and in this it is typical of all the plays
founded upon Sidney's romance. The only pastoral element indeed is a sort
of show or masque, presented by the rustic characters in company with
certain shepherds, and even here little of a pastoral nature is visible
beyond the characters of the performers. As a play, the _Arcadia_ is
distinctly pleasing; the action is bright and easy, the gulling scenes are
very entertaining, and some of the love scenes, notably that in which
Pyrocles endeavours to persuade Philoclea to escape with him, are
charmingly written. Take for instance the following passage, in which the
princess confesses her love:
such a truth
Shines in your language, and such innocence
In what you call affection, I must
Declare you have not plac'd one good thought here,
Which is not answer'd with my heart. The fire
Which sparkled in your bosom, long since leap'd
Into my breast, and there burns modestly:
It would have spread into a greater flame,
But still I curb'd it with my tears. Oh, Pyrocles,
I would thou wert Zelmane again! and yet,
I must confess I lov'd thee then; I know not
With what prophetick soul, but I did wish
Often, thou were a man, or I no woman.
_Pyrocles._ Thou wert the comfort of my sleeps.
_Philoclea._ And you
The object of my watches, when the night
Wanted a spell to cast me into slumber;
Yet when the weight of my own thoughts grew heavy
For my tear dropping eyes, and drew these curtains,
My dreams were still of thee--forgive my blushes--
And in imagination thou wert then
My harmless bedfellow.
_Pyr._ I arrive too soon
At my desires. Gently, oh gently, drop
These joys into me! lest, at once let fall,
I sink beneath the tempest of my blessings. (III. iv.)
Or again when he urges her to escape:
I could content myself
To look on Pyrocles, and think it happiness
Enough; or, if my soul affect variety
Of pleasure, every accent of thy voice
Shall court me with new rapture; and if these
Delights be narrow for us, there is left
A modest kiss, where every touch conveys
Our melting souls into each other's lips.
Why should not you be pleas'd to look on me?
To hear, and sometimes kiss, Philoclea?
Indeed you make me blush. [_Draws a veil over her face_.]
_Pyr._ What an eclipse
Hath that veil made! it was not night till now.
Look if the stars have not withdrawn themselves,
As they had waited on her richer brightness,
And missing of her eyes are stolen to bed. (ib.)
These passages display the tenderer side of Shirley's gift at its best,
and prove that, had he but set himself the task, he possessed the very
style needed for a successful imitation of the Italian pastoral adapted to
the temper of the English romantic drama.
But Shirley's, though the most complete, was not the earliest attempt at
placing Sir Philip's romance upon the boards. As long before as 1605 was
acted Day's _Isle of Gulls_, a farcical and no doubt highly topical play,
which is equally founded on the _Arcadia_, though it follows the story far
less closely. Day's title was probably suggested by Nashe's _Isle of
Dogs_, a satirical play performed in 1597, which brought its author into
trouble, but if it deserves Mr. Bullen's epithet of 'attractive,' it must
be admitted that it is almost the only part of the play to which that
epithet can be applied. Day was in no wise concerned to maintain the
polished and artificial dignity of the original; his satiric purpose
indeed called for a very different treatment. The _Isle of Gulls_ is a
comedy of the broadest and lowest description, almost uniformly lacking in
charm, notwithstanding a certain skill of dramatization, and the
occurrence of passages which are good enough of their kind. It will easily
be conceived that a highly ideal and romantic plot treated in the manner
of the realistic farce of low life may offer great opportunities of
satiric effect; but it must have made the courtly Sidney turn in his grave
to see his gracious puppets debased into the vulgar rogues and trulls of
the lower-class London drama. Day in no wise sought to hide his
indebtedness, but on the contrary acknowledged in the Induction that his
argument is but 'a little string or Rivolet, drawne from the full streine
of the right worthy Gentleman, Sir Phillip Sydneys well knowne Archadea.'
The chief differences between the play and its source are as follows.
Basilius and Gynetia--as Day writes the name--are duke and duchess of
Arcadia--near which, apparently, the island is situated--Philoclea
and Pamela become Violetta and Hipolita, Pyrocles and Musidorus appear as
Lisander and Demetrius, Philanax and Calander from being lords of the
court become captains of the castles guarding the island, and Dametas
comes practically to occupy the post of Lord Chamberlain. Among the more
important characters Euarchus disappears and Aminter and Julio, rivals of
the princes in the ladies' loves, are added, as also Manasses,
'scribe-major' to Dametas. When the princes have at last prevailed upon
their loves to elope with them, and tricked as before their various
guardians into leaving the coast clear, they are in their turn persuaded
to leave the ladies in the charge of their disguised rivals, who, of
course, secure them as their prizes. Thus the gulling is singularly
complete all round, not least among the gulled being the audience, whose
sympathy has been carefully enlisted on the princes' behalf. The last
scene, in which all the characters forgather from their various ludicrous
occupations, is, as might be expected, one of considerable confusion,
which is rendered all the more confounded by frequent errors in the
speakers' names, which remain in spite of the labours of Day's
If we approach the play with Sir Philip's romance in our mind, the
characters cannot but appear one and all offensive. In every case Day has
indulged in brutal caricature. The courtly characters are represented from
the point of view of a prurient-minded bourgeoisie; the rustic figures are
equally gross in their vulgarity; while the traitor Dametas, who serves as
a link between the two classes, is an upstart parasite, described with a
satiric touch not unworthy of Webster as 'a little hillock made great with
others' ruines.' But if we are content to forget the source of the play,
we may take a rather more charitable view. Not all the characters are
consistently revolting, several, including the princesses, having at times
a fine flavour of piquant roguishness, at others a touch of easy
sentiment. For a contemporary audience, of course, there were other points
of attraction in the play, for the satirical intent is sufficiently
obvious, though it is needless for us here to inquire into the personages
adumbrated, that investigation belonging neither to pastoral nor to
literary history properly speaking. By far the cleverest as well as the
most pleasing scene in the play is that introducing a game of bowls,
during which Lisander courts Violetta in long-drawn metaphor. Part at
least of this brilliant double-edged word-play must be quoted, even though
the verse-capping may at times pass the bounds of strict decorum:
_Duke._ Doth our match hold?
_Duchess._ Yes, whose part will you take?
_Duchess._ Soft, that match is still to make.
_Violetta._ Lets cast a choice, the nearest two take one.
_Lisander._ My choice is cast; help sweet occasion.
_Viol._ Come, heere's agood.
_Lis._ Well, betterd.
_Duch._ Best of all:
_Lis._ The Duke and I.
_Duke._ The weakest goe to the wall.
_Viol._ Ile lead.
_Lis._ Ile follow.
_Viol._ We have both one mind.
_Lis._ In what?
_Viol._ In leaving the old folke behinde.
_Duke._ Well jested, daughter; and you lead not faire,
The hindmost hound though old may catch the hare.
_Duch._ Your last Boule come?
_Viol._ By the faith a me well led.
_Lis._ Would I might lead you.
_Lis._ To my bed.
_Viol._ I am sure you would not.
_Lis._ By this aire I would.
_Viol._ I hope you would not hurt me and you should.
_Lis._ Ide love you, sweet ...
_Duke._ Daughter, your bowle winnes one.
_Viol._ None, of my Maidenhead, Father; I am gone:
The Amazon hath wonne one.
_Lis._ Yield to that.
_Viol._ The cast I doe.
_Viol._ Nay scrape out that. (II. v.)
The unprinted dramas founded on the _Arcadia_ need not detain us long.
One is preserved in a volume of manuscript plays in the British Museum,
and is entitled _Love's Changelings' Change_. It is written in a hand
of the first half of the seventeenth century, small and neat, but, partly
on account of the porous nature of the paper, exceedingly hard to read.
The dramatis personae include a full cast from the _Arcadia_; and somewhat
more stress appears to be laid on the pastoral elements than is the case
in either of the printed plays. From what I have thought it necessary to
decipher, however, I see no reason to differ from Mr. Bullen, who
dismisses it as 'a dull play.' The prologue may serve as a specimen
of the style of the piece.
This Scaene's prepar'd for those that longe to see
The crosse Meanders in Loves destinie;
To see the changes in a shatterd wit
Proove a man Changlinge in attemptinge it;
To change a noble minde t'a gloz'd intent
Beefore such change will let um see th' event.
This change our Famous Princes had, beefore
Their borrowed shape could speake um any more,
And nought but this our Poet feares will seize
Your liking fancies with that new disease.
Wee hope the best: all wee can say tis strange
To heare with patient eares Loves changelinges Change
--which, if this is a fair sample, is very likely true. Below the prologue
the writer has added the couplet:
Th' old wits are gone: looke for noe new thing by us,
For _nullum est jam Dictum quod non sit dictum prius_.
The other play is preserved in a Bodleian manuscript, and is entitled
'The Arcadian Lovers, or the Metamorphosis of Princes.' 'The name of the
author,' writes Mr. Hazlitt following Halliwell, 'was probably Moore, for
in the volume, written by the same hand as the play, is a dedication to
Madam Honoria Lee from the "meanest of her kinsmen," Thomas Moore. A
person of this name wrote _A Brief Discourse about Baptism_, 1649.' Mr.
Falconer Madan, however, in his catalogue ascribes the manuscript to the
early eighteenth century, a date certainly more in accordance with the
character of the handwriting. If, therefore, the conjecture concerning the
author's name is correct, he may be plausibly identified with the Sir
Thomas Moore whose tragedy _Mangora_ was acted in 1717. The manuscript,
which contains various poetical essays, includes not only the complete
play, which is in prose, but also a verse paraphrase of a large portion of
the same. Neither prose nor verse possesses the least merit.
The earliest of the plays founded upon episodes in the _Arcadia_ is
Beaumont and Fletcher's _Cupid's Revenge_, which was acted by the children
of the Queen's Revels, and published in 1615. A revision, possibly by
another hand, has introduced considerable confusion into the titles of the
personae, but need not otherwise concern us. The plot of the play is
based on two episodes in the romance, one relating to the vengeance
exacted by Cupid on the princess Erona of Lycia for an insult offered to
his worship, the other to the intrigue of prince Plangus of Iberia with
the wife of a citizen, and the tragic complications arising therefrom.
These two stories are combined by the dramatists, with no very conspicuous
skill, into one plot. Plangus and Erona, under the names of Leucippus and
Hidaspes, are represented as brother and sister, children of the old
widowed duke of Lysia. They make common cause in seeking to abolish the
worship of Cupid, and their tragedies are represented as alike due to his
offended deity. No sooner has the old duke, yielding to his daughter's
prayers, prohibited the worship of the god, than Hidaspes falls
desperately in love with the deformed dwarf Zoilus, and begs him in
marriage of her father. The duke, infuriated at such an exhibition of
unnatural and disordered affection in his daughter, causes the dwarf to be
beheaded, whereupon the princess languishes and dies. In the
meanwhile Leucippus has fallen in love with Bacha, the widow of a citizen,
and frequents her house secretly, where being surprised by his father, he
protests so strongly of her chastity--hoping thereby to save her credit
and his own--that the old duke falls in love with her himself, and shortly
afterwards marries her. Having now become duchess she seeks to renew her
intercourse with the prince, and being repulsed resolves upon revenge. She
makes the duke believe that his son is plotting against him, and so
secures his arrest and condemnation, hoping thereby to obtain the crown
for Urania, her daughter by a previous marriage. The citizens, however,
rise in revolt and rescue Leucippus, who thereupon goes into voluntary
exile. He is followed by Urania, a simple and innocent girl, who, knowing
her mother's designs upon his life, hopes to counteract her malice by
attending on the prince in the disguise of a page. The duchess in fact
sends a man to murder the prince, the attempt being frustrated by Urania,
who herself receives the blow and dies, the murderer being then slain by
Leucippus. In the meanwhile the duke dies, and the friends of the prince
hasten to him, bringing with them the duchess as a prisoner. She however,
seeing her schemes doomed to failure, nurses revenge, and succeeds in
stabbing Leucippus, then turning the dagger into her own heart.
More ink than was necessary has been spilt over the motive of this wildly
melodramatic play. Seward expressed an opinion that there was nothing in
the action of the brother and sister deserving such severe retribution. To
him Mason retorted, with somewhat childish seriousness, that, the
characters being supposed pagan, the speech of the princess must be held
a sacrilegious blasphemy. So Sidney no doubt intended it, and so Beaumont,
who was evidently the author of the scene in question, intended it too,
and he would possibly, if left to himself, have executed the rest in a
manner consonant with this intention. But his collaborator took the
opportunity of adding a scene between certain of the lords of the court,
in which, with characteristic coarseness, he represented the condemned
worship in the light of mere vulgar licence. The fact is that not only the
playwrights, but, no doubt, the majority of the audience as well, were
interested chiefly in the extravagance of the plot, and cared little or
nothing for the adequacy of the motive. As a drama the piece is decidedly
poor, and the construction which ends the sister's part of the tragedy in
the second act leaves much to be desired. There is, moreover, something
particularly and unnecessarily revolting in Hidaspes' passion for the
deformed dwarf, and something forced in the contrast between Leucippus'
licentious relations with Bacha at the beginning of the play and the
self-righteousness of his later attitude. Both faults are unfortunately
rather typical, one of the extravagant colouring affected by the
dramatists, the other of the coarse and hasty characterization to which
Fletcher in particular is apt to condescend. There are, however, some good
passages in the play, though it is not always easy to assign them to their
author. The scenes in which Urania appears are pretty, though inferior to
the very similar ones in the nearly contemporary _Philaster_. The song of
the maidens as they watch by their dying mistress, palinode and dirge in
one, is striking in the blending of diverse modes:
Cupid, pardon what is past,
And forgive our sins at last!
Then we will be coy no more,
But thy deity adore;
Troths at fifteen we will plight,
And will tread a dance each night,
In the fields or by the fire,
With the youths that have desire.
* * * * *
Thus I shut thy faded light,
And put it in eternal night.
Where is she can boldly say,
Though she be as fresh as May,
She shall not by this corpse be laid,
Ere to-morrow's light do fade? (II. v.)
There is a suggestion of better things, too, in the lines:
he is like
Nothing that we have seen, yet doth resemble
Apollo, as I oft have fancied him,
When rising from his bed he stirs himself,
And shakes day from his hair. (I. iii.)
The authors, or one of them, had also learned something of Shakespeare's
quaint humour, as appears in the remark:
What should he be beheaded? we shall have it grow so base shortly,
gentlemen will be out of love with it. (II. iii.)
The main plot of the above reappears in _Andromana_, a play which was
published in 1660 as 'By J. S.' It had probably never been performed when
it was printed, and though the initials were possibly intended to suggest
Shirley's authorship, there can be little doubt that he was wholly
innocent of its parentage. An allusion to Denham's _Sophy_ places the date
of composition after 1642. The plot is taken direct from the
_Arcadia_, the names being retained, and there is nothing to show that the
author, whoever he may have been, knew anything of _Cupid's Revenge_. The
story, however, is practically the same except for the addition of the
episode of Plangus defeating the Argive rebels, and the omission of the
character which appears as Urania in Beaumont and Fletcher's play and as
Palladius in the original romance. The end is also slightly different.
After the prince has been rescued by the citizens, Andromana, the queen,
plots a general massacre. Plangus overhears her conversation with her
instrument and confidant, and runs him through with his sword on the spot.
At Andromana's cries the king enters, and she forthwith accuses the
prince of attempting violence towards her; the king stabs his son,
Andromana stabs the king, next the prince's friend Inophilus, and finally
herself. She seems on the whole satisfied with this performance, and with
her last breath exclaims:
I have lived long enough to boast an act,
After which no mischief shall be new.
Little need be said of this play. It is wholly lacking in distinction of
any sort or kind, and the last act with the catastrophe is a mere piece of
extravagant botching. There are, however, here and there passages which
are worth rescuing from the general wreck. One of these is the opening of
the first scene between Plangus and Andromana:
_Plangus._ It cannot be so late.
_Andromana._ Believe 't, the sun
Is set, my dear, and candles have usurp'd
The office of the day.
_Plan._ Indeed, methinks
A certain mist, like darkness, hangs on my eye-lids.
But too great lustre may undo the sight:
A man may stare so long upon the sun
That he may look his eyes out; and certainly
'Tis so with me: I have so greedily
Swallow'd thy light that I have spoil'd my own.
_And._ Why shouldst thou tempt me to my ruin thus?
As if thy presence were less welcome to me
Than day to one who, 'tis so long ago
He saw the sun, hath forgot what light is. (I. v.)
Occasional touches, too, are not without flavour:
You can create me great, I know, sir,
But good you cannot. You might compel,
Entice me too, perhaps, to sin. But
Can you allay a gnawing conscience,
Or bind up bleeding reputation? (II. v. end.)
Shall I believe a dream?
Which is a vapour borne along the stream
Of fancy. (V. iii.)
The last in this somewhat dreary catalogue is Glapthorne's _Argalus and
Parthenia_, published in 1639 and acted probably the previous year. It is
founded on the episode related in Books I and III of the _Arcadia_,
and possibly on Quarles' poem already noticed. The story is briefly as
follows. Demagoras, finding his suit to Parthenia rejected in favour of
Argalus, robs her of her beauty by means of a poisonous herb, an outrage
for which he is slain by his rival. After a while Parthenia regains her
beauty through the care and skill of the queen of Corinth, and returns to
her lover. During the marriage festivities the king sends for Argalus to
act as champion against a knight who has carried off his daughter, and
Argalus, obeying the summons, finds himself opposed to his friend
Amphialus. They fight, and Argalus is slain. Parthenia then appears
disguised as a warrior in armour, challenges Amphialus, and suffers a like
fate. With this inconsequent and unmotived tragedy is interwoven a slight
and incongruous underplot of rustic buffoonery. As a whole Glapthorne's
play is of inconsiderable merit. Here and there, however, we come upon a
passage which might make us hope better things of the author. Of
Argalus it is said that
His gracions merit challenges a wife,
Faire as Parthenia, did she staine the East,
When the bright morne hangs day upon her cheeks
In chaines of liquid pearle. (I. i.)
Demagoras is a glorious warrior who would compel love as he has done fame.
Though Parthenia reminds him that
Mars did not wooe the Queen of Love in Armes,
his fierce soul yet dwells on deeds of force:
I'll bring on
Well-manag'd troops of Souldiers to the fight,
Draw big battaliaes, like a moving field
Of standing Corne, blown one way by the wind
Against the frighted enemy; (ib.)
and, remembering former conquests:
This brave resolve
Vanquish'd my steele wing'd Goddesse, and ingag'd
Peneian Daphne, who did fly the Sun,
Give up to willing ravishment, her boughes
T' invest my awfull front. (ib.)
Parthenia, healed from the poison, returns
Beauty new shining like the Queen of night,
Appearing fresher after she did shroud
Her gawdy forehead in a pitchy cloud:
Love triumphs in her eyes; (III, end.)
and the pastoral poetess Sapho promises an 'epithalamy' for the bridal
Till I sing day from Tethis armes, and fire
With ayry raptures the whole morning quire,
Till the small birds their Silvan notes display
And sing with us, 'Joy to Parthenia!' (ib.)
Into her mouth, too, is put the following picture of the bride which has
some kinship with contemporary baroque in Italian architecture and
painting, and also occasionally anticipates in a remarkable manner the
diction of the following century.
The holy Priest had joyn'd their hands, and now
Night grew propitious to their Bridall vow,
Majestick Juno, and young Hymen flies
To light their Pines at faire Parthenia's eyes;
The little Graces amourously did skip,
With the small Cupids, from each lip to lip;
Venus her selfe was present, and untide
Her virgine Zone; when loe, on either side
Stood as her handmaids, Chastity and Truth,
With that immaculate guider of her youth
Rose-colour'd Modestie: These did undresse
The beauteous maid, who now in readinesse,
The Nuptiall tapers waving 'bout her head,
Made poore her garments, and enrich'd her bed. (IV. i.)
So again we find single expressions which are striking, as when Parthenia
bids Amphialus, sooner than appease her wrath, to hope
To charme the Genius of the world to peace; (V.)
or when, dying, she commends herself to her dead lover:
take my breath
That flies to thee on the pale wings of death. (ib.)
And yet it would be scarcely unfair to describe these as for the most part
the beauties of decay; they are as rich embroidery upon rotten cloth, and
are achieved by careful elaboration of sensuous imagination, and the art
of arresting the attention upon a commonplace thought by the use of some
striking epithet or novel and daring turn of expression. For the wider and
more essential beauties of conception, character, and construction we look
in vain in Glapthorne's play.
Sidney's _Arcadia_, however, though the most important, was not the only
so-called pastoral romance which left dramatic progeny. It has been
customary to describe the _Thracian Wonder_, a play of uncertain
authorship, as founded upon the story of Curan and Argentile in Warner's
_Albion's England_, a metrical emporium of historical legend very popular
at the close of the sixteenth century. The narrative in question was later
expanded into a separate work by one William Webster, and published in
1617. That Collier should have given a quite erroneous abstract of
Warner's tale, and should then have proceeded to claim it as the source of
the play in question, is perhaps no great matter for astonishment, nor
need it particularly surprise us to find certain modern critics swallowing
the whole fiction on Collier's authority. What is extraordinary is that a
scholar of Dyce's ability and learning should have been misled. For it is
quite evident that the _Thracian Wonder_ is based, though hardly closely,
on no less famous a work than Greene's _Menaphon_. This should of
course have been apparent to critics even without the hint supplied by
Antimon in the second scene of Act IV: 'She cannot choose but love me now;
I'm sure old Menaphon ne'er courted in such clothes.' The dramatist,
however, has not followed his source slavishly; the pastoral element is
largely suppressed or at least subordinated, and the catastrophe somewhat
altered. Instead of the siege of the castle by the shepherds when the
heroine is carried off by her own son, we have the following ending. The
king himself carries off his daughter, and her son and husband, ignorant
of course of their mutual relationship, put themselves at the head of the
shepherds in pursuit. At this moment the country is invaded by the king of
Sicily, who comes to seek his son, the husband of the heroine, and by the
king of Africa, who comes to avenge the banished brother of the king of
Thrace. After much fighting it is resolved to decide the issue by single
combat, in the course of which explanations ensue which lead to a general
recognition and reconciliation. The pastoral element is represented by old
Antimon an antic shepherd, a clown his son, his daughter a careless
shepherdess and her despised lover, and a careless shepherd.
The play was printed in 1661 by Francis Kirkman, who ascribed it on the
title-page to John Webster and William Rowley. All critics are agreed that
the former at least had nothing to do with the composition; but beyond
that it is difficult to go. Perhaps the mention of 'old Menaphon' might be
taken to indicate that the romance was at least not new at the time of the
composition of the play, for Menaphon himself was not an old man. In spite
of the small merit of the play from a poetical point of view, and of
occasional extraordinary oversights in the plot--for instance, we are
never told how the infant who is shipwrecked on the shore, presumably of
Arcadia, comes to be a young man in the service of the king of Africa--its
badness has perhaps been exaggerated, and it is undoubtedly from the pen
of an experienced stage-hack. I do not know, however, that any passage is
Any argument in favour of an early date for the _Thracian Wonder_, based
on its being founded on Greene's romance, is sufficiently answered by
Thomas Forde's _Love's Labyrinth_, which is a much closer dramatization of
the same story, retaining the names and characters almost unchanged, but
which cannot have been written very long before its publication in 1660.
One episode, the death of Sephistia's mother, a character unknown to
Greene, is apparently borrowed from Gomersall's _Lodovick Sforza_.
The play, which lies somewhat beyond our limits, represents in its worst
form the _debacle_ of the old dramatic tradition, continued past its date
by writers who had no technical familiarity with the stage. It is equally
without poetic merit, except in a few incidental songs. Of these, some are
borrowed from Greene, one is a translation from Anacreon also printed in
the author's _Poetical Diversions_, some are original. Of the last, one
may be worth quoting.
Fond love, no more
Will I adore
Thy feigned Deity;
Go throw thy darts
At simple hearts
And prove thy victory.
Whilst I do keep
My harmless sheep
Love hath no power on me;
'Tis idle soules
Which he controules,
The busy man is free.
Readers of Suckling will recognize the inspiration of the following lines:
Why so nice and coy, fair Lady,
Prithee why so coy?
If you deny your hand and lip
Can I your heart enjoy?
Prithee why so coy?
There is one obvious omission from the above list of plays founded on
pastoral romances, but it has been made intentionally. The interest which
from our present point of view attaches to _As You Like It_ lies less in
the relation of that play to its source in Lodge's romance than to the
fact that in it Shakespeare summed up to a great extent, and by
implication passed judgement upon, pastoral tradition as a whole. It will
therefore be more convenient and more appropriate to postpone
consideration of the piece until we have followed out the influence of
that tradition, and watched its effect in the wide field of the romantic
drama, and come at the end ourselves to face the question of the meaning
and the merits of pastoralism as a literary creed.
Looking back for a moment over the plays just passed in review, it is
impossible not to be struck by the fact that they present in themselves
but the slightest traces of pastoral. It is evident that it was not there
that lay the dramatists' interest in the romances. This observation is
important, for the tendency is not confined to those plays which are
directly founded on works of the sort. The idea of pastoral current among
the playwrights, and no doubt among the audience too, was largely derived
from novels such as the _Arcadia_, and, as we have seen, the tradition of
these works was one rather of polite chivalry and courtly adventure than
of pastoralism proper. Had no other forces been at work the tradition of
the stage influenced by the romances would have probably shown no trace of
pastoral at all. As it was, something of a genuinely pastoral tradition
arose out of the mythological plays and the attempts at imitating the
Italian drama, and this combined with the more popular but less genuine
pastoralism of the romances to produce the peculiar hybrid which we
commonly find passing under the name of pastoral in this country.
The pastoral tradition, such as it was, that thus formed itself on the
English stage remained to the end hesitating, tentative, and undefined. At
no time did it become an enveloping atmosphere of artistic creation.
Authors approached it as it were from the outside, from no sense of inner
compulsion, but experimentally from the broader standpoint of the romantic
drama, and with the air of pioneers and innovators, as if ignorant of what
had been already achieved in the same line by their predecessors.
Consequently, in spite of the considerable following it enjoyed, this
romantic-pastoral tradition lacked vitality, and failed as a rule to
attract authors of more pre-eminent powers. We have already seen how the
three chief English experiments stand apart from it, and we shall find as
we proceed that there are other plays as well which it is difficult to
bring strictly into line, though they are not in themselves of sufficient
importance to claim separate consideration. In some measure, indeed, it
may be truly said that, like the history of the Senecan drama or of
classical versification, the history of the dramatic pastoral in England
is that of a long series of incoherent and more or less fruitless
experiments. There is, however, an important difference between the two
cases, for in the pastoral we are at least aware of a striving towards
some new and but dimly apprehended form of artistic expression. It is true
that this was never attained; and looking back from the vantage-ground of
time we may doubt whether after all it was worth attaining, but it serves
to differentiate the pastoral experiment from those others whose object
was but the revival of a past for ever vanished. The English pastoral
drama had one advantage at least over many other literary fopperies, in
that it obeyed the fundamental law of literary progress, which is one with
A chronological survey of the regular plays to be classed as pastorals
will best serve the needs of our present inquiry, and for this purpose it
is fortunate that in nearly all cases we possess evidence which enables us
to date the work with tolerable accuracy, while the few which yet remain
doubtful are themselves unimportant, and probably fall near the limit of
our period. Even, however, were this not so, the singular independence of
most of the pieces and the absence of any visible line of development
would make uncertainty as to their order of far less consequence here than
in many departments of literary history in which similar evidence is
In substance, then, the romantic pastoral in England was a combination of
the Arcadian drama of Italy with the chivalric romance of Spain, as
familiarized through the medium of Sidney's work, and also, though less
consistently, with the never very fully developed tradition of the
mythological play. In form, again, it may be said to represent the
mingling of the conventions of the Italian drama with the freer action and
more direct and dramatic presentation of the romantic stage. The earliest
play in which these characteristics are found is the anonymous _Maid's
Metamorphosis_, printed and probably acted 'by the Children of Powles' in
1600. The plot, which from the blending of different elements it
presents is of considerable historical interest, is briefly as follows.
Eurymine, of whose connexions we hear nothing but that she is supposed to
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