Abbildungen der Seite

of love like those of a mineral, and describes the emotions of the heart as a botanist would the component parts of a herb or flower.

Ought his characters to be passionate, they immediately turn casuists:

"Talking of stones, stars, plants, fishes, flies,
Playing with words and idle similies."

His scenes are, in truth, illustrations of natural history, mineralogy, or botany:-animals and their various dispositions-gems and minerals, and their several virtues-flowers, plants, and trees, and their different qualities, unceasingly rise up before us with all that truth has discovered, or superstition. or tradition delivered, concerning them. But he never brings himself down to the level of vulgar men, nor speaks in the ordinary way of common life. He will not be familiar, lest it should take away respect; and he cannot be natural, for the very essence of his style is contrast and antithesis. To such a degree does he carry his love of opposition, that there is hardly a sentence to be found in his comedies that is not framed on an exact balance of sentiment or diction-that is not rounded, polished, and weighed with the greatest care, so that there may not be found a scruple more in one scale than the other. He is like a tight-rope dancer, who, whenever he leans to one side, counteracts his position by a corresponding declination on the other, and, by this means, keeps himself in a most self-satisfied equipoise. He would not, for the world, say a single word without having something, by way of make-weight, to fill up the sentence. The goddess of justice, herself, never enounced a sentence with more undeviating scrupulosity than he does. He laughs, and is merry on system, and never makes love, or is melancholy, but according to the strict rules of logic. He hunts after a brilliant point, like a boy after a butterfly, merely to put it to the torture, by a minute examination of the fineness of its texture or the variety of its colours. As for his wit, he is a jocose logician and recondite punster-he feeds on a quibble and is in extacy over a jest, which he invests with the solemnity of a moral axiom. His passion for pun-hunting is as invincible as that of his Midas for gold, or Endymion for lunary. In short, he is the most loving of pedants and the most pedantic of lovers, an encomiast of princes and the very prince of coxcombs. Such is the only rare poet of that time, the witty, comical, facetiously-quick, and unparalleled John Lilly.

Lilly wrote, on the whole, nine plays. Alexander and Campaspe, the subject of which is taken from Pliny, one of the earliest and best of them, was published in 1584. In order to

give an accurate idea of Lilly's dramatic talents, it will be necessary to select from his plays a few scenes, or rather speeches, for some of the latter occupy nearly as much space as a mode

rate scene.

Hephestion reasons with Alexander against his passion for the fair captive Campaspe.

"Hephest. I cannot tell Alexander, whether the report be more shamefull to be heard, or the cause sorrowful to be believed? What! is the son of Philip, king of Macedon, become the subject of Campaspe, the captive of Thebes? Is that minde, whose greatnes the world could not containe, drawn within the compasse of an idle alluring eye? Will you handle the spindle with Hercules, when you should shake the speare with Achilles? Is the warlike sound of drum and trump turned to the soft noise of lyre and lute, the neighing of barbed steeds, whose lowdnes filled the aire with terrour, and whose breathes dimmed the sun with smoake, converted to delicate tunes and amorous glances? O Alexander! that soft and yielding minde should not bee in him, whose hard and unconquer'd heart hath made so many yield. But you love, ah griefe! but whom? Campaspe, ah shame, a maid forsooth unknowne, unnoble, and who can tell whether immodest? whose eyes are framed by art to enamour, and whose heart was made by nature to enchant. Ay, but shee is beautifull, yea, but not therefore chaste: Ay, but she is comely in all parts of the bodie: but shee may bee crooked in some part of the minde: Ay, but shee is wise, yea, but she is a woman: beautie is like the black-berry, which seemeth red, when it is not ripe, resembling precious stones that are polished with honie, which the smoother they looke, the sooner they breake. It is thought wonderfull among the seamen, that Mugill, of all fishes the swiftest, is found in the belly of the Bret, of all the slowest and shall it not seeme monstrous to wise men, that the heart of the greatest conquerour of the world, should be found in the hands of the weakest creature of nature? of a woman? of a captive? Hermyns have faire skins, but foul livers; sepulchres fresh colours, but rotten bones; women faire faces, but false hearts. Remember, Alexander, thou hast a campe to governe, not a chamber, fall not from the armour of Mars to the armes of Venus, from the fierie assaults of warre, to the maidenly skirmishes of love, from displaying the Eagle in thine ensigne, to set downe the sparrow. I sigh, Alexander, that where fortune could not conquer, folly should overcome. But behold all the perfection that may bee in Campaspe, a haire curling by nature, not art: sweete alluring eyes; a faire face made in despite of Venus, and a stately port in disdaine of Juno; a wit apt to conceive, and quicke to answere; a skinne as soft as silke, and as smooth as jet; a long white hand, a fine little foot, to conclude, all parts answerable to the best part: what of this though she have heavenly gifts, virtue and beautie, is shee not of earthly metall, flesh and bloud? You, Alexander, that would be a god, shew your selfe in this worse than a man, so soone to be both overseene and over-taken in a woman, whose false teares know their true times, whose smooth words wound deeper than sharpe swords.

There is no surfet so dangerous, as that of honie, nor any poyson so deadly, as that of love; in the one physicke cannot prevaile, nor in the other counsell."

There is a good deal of point in the dialogue of Alexander and Diogenes.

"Diog. Who calleth?

Alex. Alexander: how happened it that you would not come out of your tub to my palace?

Diog. Because it was as farre from my tub to your palace, as from your palace to my tub.

Alex. Why then, doest thou owe no reverence to kings?
Diog. No.

Alex. Why so?

Diog. Because they be no gods.
Alex. They be gods of the earth.
Diog. Yea, gods of earth.

Alex. Plato is not of thy minde.
Diog. I am glad of it.

Alex. Why

Diog. Because I would have none of Diogenes' minde, but Diogenes.

Alex. If Alexander have any thing that may pleasure Diogenes, let me know, and take it.

Diog. Then take not from mee that you cannot give mee, the light of the world.

Alex. What doest thou want.
Diog. Nothing that you have.

Alex. I have the world at command.

Diog. And I in contempt.

Alex. Thou shalt live no longer than I will.
Diog. But I shall die whether you will or no.
Alex. How should one learne to bee content?
Unlearne to covet.


Alex. Hephestion, were I not Alexander, I would wish to bee Diogenes.

Hephest. He is dogged, but discreet; I cannot tell how sharpe, with a kinde of sweetnes, full of wit, yet too too wayward.

Alex. Diogenes, when I come this way againe, I will both see thee, and confer with thee.

Diog. Doe."

It is somewhat extraordinary, that notwithstanding the elaborate and recondite style of Lilly in his dialogues, there is great freedom, grace, and animation, in his lyrical pieces. Take, for example, the song of Apelles.


Cupid and my Campaspe play'd
At cardes for kisses, Cupid pay'd;

He stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows,
His mother's doves, and teame of sparows,
Loses them too; then downe he throwes
The corrall of his lippe, the rose
Growing on's cheek, (but none knows how)
With these, the cristall of his brow,
And then, the dimple of his chinne:
All these did my Campaspe winne.
At last hee set her both his eyes;
Shee won, and Cupid blind did rise.

O Love! has shee done this to thee?
What shall (alas !) become of mee?"

In the same year appeared Sapho and Phaon. The The Sybil's advice to Phaon, who is represented as having, in the first instance, conceived a passion for Sappho, although followed by a subsequent disgust, is worth quoting.

"Sybil. Take heed you doe not as I did. Make not too much of fading beautie, which is faire in the cradle, and foule in the grave, resembling Polyon, whose leaves are white in the morning, and blue before night, or Anyta, which being a sweet flowre at the rising of the sun, becometh a weede, if it be not pluckt before the setting. Faire faces have no fruites, if they have no witnesses. When you shall behold over this tender flesh a tough skinne, your eyes, which were wont to glance at others' faces, will be sunk so hollow, that you can scarce look out of your owne head, and when all your teeth shall wagge as fast as your tongue, then will you repent the time which you cannot recall, and bee forced to beare what most you blame. Lose not the pleasant time of your youth, than the which there is nothing swifter, nothing sweeter. Beautie is a slipperie good, which decreaseth whilst it is increasing, resembling the medlar, which in the moment of his full ripenes, is knowen to be in a rottennesse. Whilst you looke in the glasse it waxeth old with time; if on the sun, parcht with heate; if on the winde, blasted with colde. A great care to keepe it, a short pause to enjoy it, a sodaine time to lose it. Bee not coy when you are courted; fortune's wings are made of time's feathers, which stay not whilst one may measure them. Be affable and curteous in youth, that you may be honoured in age. Roses that lose their colours, keepe their savours and pluckt from the stalke, are put to the stil. Cotonea because it boweth when the sun riseth, is sweetest, when it is oldest and children, which in their tender yeares sow curtesie, shall in their declining states reap pitie. Bee not proud of beautie's painting whose colours consume themselves, because they are beautie's painting."

We shall, also, take leave to quote Sappho's song from the same play.

"O cruell Love! on thee I lay

My curse, which shall strike blinde the day
Never may sleepe with velvet hand
Charme thine eyes with sacred wand;
Thy jaylours shall be hopes and feares,
Thy prison-mates, groanes, sighes, and teares;
Thy play, to weare out weary times,
Phantasticke passions, vowes, and rimes,
Thy bread bee frownes, thy drinke bee gall;
Such, as when you Phaon call

The bed thou lyest on by despaire,

Thy sleepe, fond dreames, thy dreames long care.
Hope (like thy foole) at thy bed's head

Mocke thee, till madnesse strike thee dead,
As, Phaon, thou dost mee with thy proud eyes:
In thee poore Sapho lives, for thee shee dies."

The story of Gallathea turns on a lustral sacrifice of the fairest and chastest virgin on the banks of " Humber flouds," as a peace-offering to Neptune for the sacrilege of the inhabitants in the rasing of his temple. The evasion of this customary propitiation by Gallathea and Phillida, the two fairest and chastest virgins in the country, by assuming the dress of shepherds, occasions the offering up of Hæbe; but Neptune being angry at this deceit, does not, as usual, send his agent, "the monster Agar," for the victim. Hæbe breaks out, whilst bound and in instant expectation of the sacrifice, into a passionate soliloquy, of which there is no parallel in Lilly. The latter part, beginning "farewell the sweet delights of life," is more especially beautiful and pathetic.

"Habe. Miserable and accursed Hæbe, that being neither faire nor fortunate thou shouldest bee thought most happy and beautiful. Curse thy birth, thy life, thy death, being borne to live in danger, and having liv'd, to die by deceite. Art thou the sacrifice to appease Neptune, and satisfie the custome, the bloodie custome, ordained for the safety of thy country. Ay, Hæbe, poore Hæbe, men will have it so, whose forces command our weake natures; nay the gods will have it so, whose powers dally with our purposes. The Egyptians never cut their dates from the tree, because they are so fresh and greene. It is thought wickednes to pull roses from the stalkes in the garden of Palestine, for that they have so lively a red and whoso cutteth the incense tree in Arabia before it fall, committeth sacriledge.

"Shall it onely bee lawfull amongst us in the prime of youth, and pride of beautie, to destroy both youth and beautie: and what was honoured in fruits and flowres as a vertue, to violate in a virgine as a vice? But alas! destiny alloweth no dispute. Die Hæbe! Hæbe die!

« ZurückWeiter »