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I have with such provision in mine art
Which thou heard'st cry, which thou saw'st sink. A. I. S. 2.
Plung❜d in the foaming brine, and quit the vessel.
Not a hair perish'd.
but for the miracle,
I mean our preservation. A. II. S. 1. “There shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. Acts xxvii. 34.
We were in all in the ship, two hundred three-score and sixteen souls." v. 37.
In the conversation between Prospero and Miranda, respecting their preservation in the "rotten carcase of a boat," in which they had been turn'd adrift, she asks,
How came we ashore? he answers,
By Providence divine.
‚“The centurion—commanded that they which could swim, should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship: and so it came to pass, that they all escaped safe to land.” (43, 44.)
The Sacred Historian proceeds to inform us, that “the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness.”—And “when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And. he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit, they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god." (xxviii. 2-6.)
Shakspeare says of the people of his island,
though they are of monstrous shape,
A. III, S. 3.
He has preserved also the idea of gathering sticks:
I'll bear him no more sticks. A. II. S. 2.
And Ferdinand, A. III. S. i. is introduced bearing a log.
Caliban talks of adders, A. II. S. 2. and says of Trinculo and Stephano, "These be fine things, an if they be not sprights. That's a brave god." Miranda also says of Ferdinand,
What is't? a Spirit?
A thing divine.
A. I. S. 2.
Prospero is represented as an old man, with a long beard, wearing a mantle, which is endowed with supernatural virtue,
And pluck my magic garment from me.—So;
Lye there my art.
Lend thy hand,
[Lays down his mantle.
A. I. S. 2.
which, I suppose, is borrowed from Elijah's. 1 Kings xix. and 2 Kings ii.
He has also a rod, (A. I. S. 2. A. V. S. 1.) with which he performs miracles, and controls the waters, which is undoubtedly taken from that of Moses; for, besides the general idea, there are passages, which incontestibly shew, that he had the history of the Israelites in the wilderness, in his mind; namely, that of the miraculous preservation of their garments (see Deut. viii. 4. xxix. 5. Nehemiah ix. 21.) which is mentioned no less than four times.
On their sustaining garments not a blemish,
But fresher than before.
A. I. S. 2.
Though this island seems to be deşert,-uninhabitable, and almost inaccessible,―Yet-it must needs be of subtile, tender, and delicate temperance. Here is every thing advantageous to life.--But the rarity of it is (which is, indeed, almost beyond credit)-That our garments, being, as they were, drench'd in the sea, hold notwithstanding their fressness and glosses; being rather new dy'd, than stain'd with salt water. A. II. S. 1.
Methinks our garments are now as fresh as when we put them on in Africk, &c. Ditto.
Sir, we were talking, that our garments seem now as fresh, as when, &c. Ditto.
The name of Ariel is taken from Isaiah xxix. 1. and Ezra viii. 16.
This Spirit had formerly been servant to the witch Sycorax, and as Prospero says to him, on account of his being
a spirit too delicate
To act her earthly and abhorred commands,
Did make wolves howl, and penetrate the breasts
To lay upon the damn'd, which Sycorax
Could not again undo; it was mine art,
When I arriv'd, and heard thee, that made gape
A. I. S. 2.
Of the same race with this tricksy Spirit are the Fairies of the MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. But I find even an adversary of the Stage partly defending these; I say partly, because, though, in one sentence, he seems to defend, in another he appears to condemn them. The writer to which I allude, is the Reviewer of The Family Shakspeare, in The Christian Observer for May 1808, vol. vii. p. 328. He says, "Had the creative fancy of the poets merely summoned into being, Elves, Fairies, and other denizens of their ideal world, not the most marble-hearted moralist would have interdicted the perusal of the Drama. Oberon, Titania, Cobweb, and Peaseblossom, as far as our recollection goes, are very innoxious characters."
The other passage is at p. 333 of the same volume:
"It is one of the triumphs of Christianity, when it has persuaded such as combine with a religious profession, a high taste for the literature of poetry, romance, and the drama, to renounce their once cherished familiarity with the auxiliaries of vice. The self-denial here called into action can be estimated by those, and only by those, who have such a taste. But it is the practical character of the religion we endeavour to inculcate, to exercise a sacred violence on the mind, by bringing all its faculties under the controul of a new and
divine principle. While the metaphysical speculator is compelled to abandon"the wisdom of this world" as "foolishness," the wanderer in fairy-land is reminded of an Apostle's assertion, "When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Before him fancy's gilded clouds decay,
Jones (of Nayland,) in a note to Bishop Horne's character of Voltaire, says of him, that, "By making unjust associations, and putting things good and bad together, he leaves no value nor superiority in any thing. The Bible makes known to us the existence of Angels: but what then? Kings had their couriers; so men thought they could do no less than give them to their Deities. Mercury and Iris were the messengers of heathenism; the Persians had their Peris; the Greeks had their Dæmons, &c. In this way he puts error and truth together, till the mind of an unlearned reader, having no touchstone, is confounded and believes nothing." (See The Scholar Armed, vol. ii. p. 283.)
On the subject of Ghosts I will be more brief. As the Ghost of Banquo is now managed, in the Banquet Scene in Macbeth, that is, merely by the guilty conscience of Macbeth picturing it to himself, the effect is very fine and instructive; but I certainly object to introducing them in a visible form. It is true, that many believe departed spirits do sometimes actually appear to persons in this world; and there are some stories of them, on which a thinking and religious mind will not pronounce that they are false; but, excepting those recorded in the Sacred Writings, I know of none to which I can give my positive assent; and we have so little revealed to us in Scripture upon the subject, that I consider it as improper to introduce them. There are some good remarks on this subject, in some papers on The Intermediate State, in the Orthodox Churchman's Magazine, vol. iv. See also Letter LII. in Sir W. Forbes's Life of Dr. Beattie.
There is a remarkable instance of the power of fancy excited and nourished by such representations in Dr. Dodd's Thoughts in Prison, (toward the end of Week the Third,) where he supposes himself to see his Father's Ghost, evidently taken from Hamlet; the passage likewise bearing marks of circumstances derived from King John and Macbeth. Not that I suppose he really fancied he saw his
Father's Ghost; but, having been conversant with these ideas in former days, the effect of it appeared, even under the awful circumstances of imprisonment for a capital crime, and under a near prospect of death. (See also a former passage, p. 136.)
Since there is scarcely any thing so absurd, but that some persons be found to believe it, (as Ghosts, Witchcraft, Fairies, Second Sight, Charms, and the multitude of popular superstitions,) ought not writers to be very cautious how they administer food to such minds, and to restrain their imaginations? Poetic fancy should rather be employed in embellishing, tean inventing; when imagination gets the ascendancy over reason, it is madness. Do not these fictions tend to draw away the mind from truth, and will not plays and poems written upon them, if they get into the places where they are believed, increase the disorder? Such I conceive to be the effect of the Poems of Ossian, in the Highlands of Scotland, of the Witches in Macbeth, (as is farther shewn in a subsequent Note, E.) and the ballad of William and Margaret, &c. &c.,
I remember being very much shocked, (though then little more. than a school boy, and certainly not having the same respect for Sacred subjects which I have now,) with the opening scene in Poor Vulcan, where the heathen deities are represented as being in heaven. There are, I believe, other pieces in which heaven is represented in a still more degrading manner; but I do not recollect ever to have seen it represented but that time. It is true, that this, and other exhibitions, are intended to expose the false religion of the heathens; but still there was something in the attempt to represent heaven which I found very repugnant to my feelings.
Hell is represented in the Pantomime of Don Juan, or The Libertine Destroyed, to which Don Juan is brought, as a punishment for his wickedness; but, though I believe it to be intended, that the piece should have a good moral, and serve as a warning to the libertine, yet the representing hell, and that with furies and dæmons flashing torches over his head, I consider as presumptuous and profane. I have seen the hell of the heathens represented in one or two Harlequin Pantomimes. In these there is generally a mixture of the ludicrous. Collier, speaking of Dryden's King Arthur, says, Why are truth and fiction, heathenism and Christianity, the most serious and the most trifling things blended together, and thrown into one form of diversion? Why is all this done, unless it be to