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slow or swift dissolution, as we now see it everywhere, this other sovereign Poet, with his seeing eye, with his perennial singing voice, was sent to take note of it, to give long-enduring record of it. Two' fit men: Dante, deep, fierce as the central fire of the world; Shakspeare, wide, placid, far-seeing, as the Sun, the upper light of the world. Italy produced the one world-voice; we English had the honour of producing the other.
3. Curious enough how, as it were by mere accident, this man came to us. I think always, so great, quiet, complete and self-sufficing is this Shakspeare, had the Warwickshire Squire not prosecuted him for deer-stealing, we had perhaps never heard of him as a Poet! The woods and skies, the rustic Life of Man in Stratford there, had been enough for this man! But indeed that strange outbudding of our whole English Existence, which we call the Elizabethan Era, did not it too come as of its own accord ? The Tree Igdrasil' buds and withers by its own laws,—too deep for our scanning. Yet it does bud and wither, and every bough and leaf of it is there, by fixed eternal laws; not a Sir Thomas Lucy but comes at the hour fit for him.
4. Curious, I say, and not sufficiently considered: how everything does co-operate with all; not a leaf rotting on the highway but is indissoluble portion of solar and stellar systems; no thought, word or act of man but has sprung withal out of all men, and works sooner or later, recognisably or irrecognisably, on all men! It is all a Tree: circulation of sap and influences, mutual communication of every minutest leaf with the lowest talon of a root, with every other greatest and minutest portion of the whole. The Tree Igdrasil, that has its roots down in the Kingdoms of Hela and Death, and whose boughs overspread the highest Heaven !-
5. In some sense it may be said that this glorious Elizabethan Era with its Shakspeare, as the outcome and flowerage of all which had preceded it, is itself attributable to the Catholicism of the Middle Ages. The Christian Faith, which was the theme of Dante's song, had produced this Practical Life which Shakspeare was to sing. For Religion then, as it now and always is, was the soul of Practice; the primary vital fact in men's life. And remark here, as rather curious, that Middle-Age Catholicism was abolished, so far as Acts of Parliament could abolish it, before Shakspeare, the noblest product of it, made his appearance.
6. He did make his appearance nevertheless. Nature at her own time, with Catholicism or what else might be necessary, sent him forth; taking small thought of Acts of Parliament. King Henrys, Queen Elizabeths go their
way; and Nature too goes hers. Acts of Parliament, on the whole, are small, notwithstanding the noise they make.
What Act of Parliament, debate at St. Stephen's, on the hustings or elsewhere, was it that brought this Shakspeare into being ? No dining at Freemasons' Tavern, opening subscription lists, selling of shares, and infinite other jangling and true or false endeavouring! This Elizabethan Era, and all its nobleness and blessedness, came without proclamation, preparation of
Priceless Shakspeare was the free gift of Nature; given altogether silently;-received altogether silently, as if it had been a thing of little account. literally, it is a priceless thing. One should look at that side of matters too.
7. Of this Shakspeare of ours, perhaps the opinion one sometimes hears a little idolatrously expressed is, in fact, the right one; I think the best judgment not of this country only, but of Europe at large, is slowly pointing
And yet, very
to the conclusion, That Shakspeare is the chief of all Poets hitherto; the greatest intellect who, in our recorded world, has left record of himself in the way of Literature. On the whole, I know not such a power of vision, such a faculty of thought, if we take all the characters of it, in any other man.
Such a calmness of depth; placid joyous strength; all things imaged in that great soul of his so true and clear, as in a tranquil unfathomable sea!
8. It has been said that in the constructing of Shakspeare's Dramas there is, apart from all other faculties' as they are called, an understanding manifested, equal to that in Bacon's Novum Organum. That is true; and it is not a truth that strikes every one. It would become more apparent if we tried, any of us for himself, how, out of Shakspeare's dramatic materials, we could fashion such a result! The built house seems all so fit,—every way as it should be, as if it came there by its own law and the nature of things, -we forget the rude disorderly quarry .
it was shaped from. The very perfection of the house, as if Nature herself had made it, hides the builder's merit.
9. Perfect, more perfect than any other man, we may call Shakspeare in this: he discerns, knows as by instinct, what condition he works under, what his materials are, what his own force and its relation to them is. It is not a transitory glance of insight that will suffice; it is deliberate illumination of the whole matter; it is a calmly seeing eye; a great intellect, in short. How a man, of some wide thing that he has witnessed, will construct a narrative, what kind of picture and delineation he will give of it,-is the best measure you could get of what intellect is in the man. Which circumstance is vital and shall stand prominent; which unessential, fit to be suppressed; where is the true beginning, the true sequence and ending? To find out this, you task the whole force of insight that is in the man.
10. He must understand the thing; according to the depth of his understanding will the fitness of his answer be. You will try him so, Does like join itself to like; does the spirit of method stir in that confusion, so that its embroilment becomes order? Can the man say, Fiat lux, Let there be light; and out of chaos make a world? Precisely as there is light in himself, will he accomplish this.—Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881).
Questions on the lesson :-Dante—to what nation did he belong? What is the name of his poem? (see notes). Of what does Carlyle regard that poem as the embodiment? Of what are Shakspeare's works the embodiment? In what one word does Carlyle sum up what Dante embodies—what Shakspeare embodies? What is said of the precise time at which Shakspeare appeared? What name is given to him? What is said of his eye-of his voice? What led, does Carlyle think, to his being known as a poet? Why would he,
but for that, have probably remained in obscurity? What remarks are made on the connections of things with one another? Of the leaf? Of men's thoughts, words, &c.? To what does he compare all these connections? To what does he think the greatness of the Elizabethan age was due? What is said to be the judgment of Europe regarding Shakspeare? In the understanding manifested in his dramas with whom is Shakspeare compared ? In what book? How is it suggested that Shakspeare's marvellous powers might be tested?
Danté, Alighieri, born at Florence in 1265. His Divina Com. media is a vision of the realms of eternal punishment (Inferno), of expiation (Purgatorio), and of bliss (Paradiso) in the invisible world.
Tree Igdrasil, or Yggdrasil, the great ash-tree under which, according to the Scandinavian mythology, Odin the chief god sat to adminster justice. Its roots ran in three directions, one to the gods in heaven, the second to the Frost-giants on earth, and the third to the under-world. Each root has beneath it a fountain of wonderful virtue.
Sir Thomas Lucy lived at Charlecote, about three miles from Stratford-on-Avon, where Shakspeare was born and spent his youth. The story is that along with some of his companions he was guilty of poaching in the park of Sir Thomas, and that having resented the punishment which was inflicted on him by writing sarcastic verses on the justice, the poet was compelled to flee from Stratford. It was then he went to London.
Bacon, Francis (1561-1626), was the author of the Novum Or. gănum. It is his greatest work as a philosopher. The fundamental principle of the new method is that man is to observe the method .and order of Nature, and thus to be her interpreter.
i It is more than a century since White in his Natural History of Selborne (see Graded Reader V.) called attention to the important place occupied by worms in the economy of nature. The smallest insects that are seen floating in the air or creeping on the leaves are of more value than