BELL'S POEMS OF GREENE AND MARLOWE.*
"Where men are ready, lingering over hurts."
"Dominion cannot suffer partnership: This needs no foreign proof nor far-fet story. Rome's infant walls were steep'd in brothers' blood; Nor then was land or sea to breed such hate ; A town with one poor church set them at odds."
Mr. Bell has not republished the author's versions from Ovid's Elegies, which are preserved in Mr. Dyce's editions ; and the re- maining original (non-dramatic) works of Marlowe appear only to comprise the well-known song, "Come, live with me, and be my love," and two short poems of far less merit. The poems of Greene, collected out of his miniature novels or pamphlets, are- comparatively insipid, at least in their present isolation. But they may be inspected with some interest for the services which Greene has apparently rendered to our literature by the plot of his Dorastus and Fawnia (whether he originated it, or derived it from a Spanish or Italian source), which Shakespeare is known to have appropriated and improved in the Winter's Tale. Moreover, the confessions Greene left behind him of his profligate career, although the fruits of repentance in them are deplorably embittered by remnants of spite and jealousy, contain some notices respecting Marlowe and Shakespeare which biographers are compelled to sift, as well as they can, for the meagre elements of truth that may be contained in them.
All the poems of our two authors have been thoroughly edited, in connection with, their plays, by Mr. Dyce, whose arrangement is followed in the present volume of Bell's English Poets, now reprinted nearly as in 1856. His biographical memoirs have been abridged and colourably altered, and some very trivial discussions raised upon his various readings, &c. But the present collector seems to have anticipated Mr. Dyce in annexing to Greene's poems the "Maiden's Lament," of which the existence was first made known to the Shakespeare Society by Mr. Reardon in 1845. Only Mr. Bell still publishes this piece almost exactly according to the text of the single extant MS., which Mr. Dyce carefully corrected in his last edition, having had to weed out several palpable errors, even involving absolute breaks here and there in the succession of the rhymes. The poem is an elegy on Sir Christopher Hatton, representing his death as deplored by all the virtues, and by the repre- sentatives of all classes in the realm of England. It is a dry composition, but not wanting in a certain kind of stateliness. The remaining pieces are chiefly of a pastoral char- acter. They have s licentious tendency common to Marlowe's. works, which is often carried to lengths as inconsistent with true- poetical spirit as with morality, seeing that all pleasant subjects- are not therefore beautiful. But the most specious quality in Marlowe is a kind of imperial audacity in his sentiments and arguments, which might prepare us for the boundless and fearless ambition of his hero, Faustus. Hence we are not surprised to find Marlowe accused by contemporaries, though most explicitly by no very reputable witnesses, not only of riotous habits such as led to his death, but of a systematic unbelief and profanity. These charges, which certainly cannot affect the popular works • The Poems of Robert Creole and Christopher Marlowe. .The Poem of Coorpor Edited, with Memoirs, by Robert BelL London : Griffin and Co.
THE most alluring piece in this little volume is of course Mac- lowe's "Hero and Leander," a splendid though most licentious product of the voluptuous spirit of the Renascence. blarlowe's "First Book of Lucan" is, moreover, an interesting translation, although the versification is rougher than might have been ex- pected, the context of each hexameter being generally pinched
into a single line of ten or eleven syllables, where in more modern , versions it would have been spun out into a couplet. But this in 4r a fault on the right side, and has not prevented many passage& from having been rendered with admirable vigour, as, for in- stance,— " As when against pine-bearing Ossa's racks
Beats Thracian Boreas, or when trees, bowed down And rustling, swing up as the wind lets breath."
of the poet so much as his private character, Mr. Dyce was inclined to credit much more than Mr. Bell has done, andnot, we think, with- out judgment and consideration. Yet it will be found that one or two at least of what were called "damnable opinions" by the Puritans of the sixteenth century have in these days been supported by men of much more respectable conduct and attainments than Marlowe's were,—witness the article in Barnes's prepared indict- ment, "That the Indians and many authors of antiquity have assuredly written of 16,000 years agone, wher [ea.s] Adam is
proved to have lived within 6,000 years." For Indians read Egyptians, and the affirmation will remind every one of the late Baron Bunsen's programmes. Only there was a rude and defiant tone in Marlowe's discourses which naturally offended his ordinary neighbours, and led them to represent him as blasphem- ing Heaven when he meant only to insult theologians. From the above cursory observations it will be understood that the volume before us contains one work of unquestioned genius, but ill-fitted for ordinary circulation, and several scraps by a weaker writer, of which some would be equally reprehensible if they were not profoundly silly. We should have to give a different cha- racter of George Chapman's continuation of "Hero and Leander," but we take little pleasure, for our own part, in the extravagant myths, tropes, and conceits of this writer. He has handled Musaeus as he did Homer, with a Gothic taste that might as well have been employed in adding gargoyles to a Parthenon, or hoops and furbelows to the Venus of Milo. Altogether, though we cannot dispute the claims of these poems to a place in a series of British classics, they ought hardly to have been among the first re-issued in cheap and attractive volumes. To critical- students we would recommend the following queries :-1. Where is the original of a piece of eighteen lines, beginning,
"A monster seated in the midst of men,
"Is but a stomach overcharged with meats That takes delight in endless gluttony."
—which, as both 31r. Dyce and Mr. Bell tell us, purports to be a trans- dation from Dante. Thereis nothing like it in our editions of the Italian poet. 2. Although Greene's English hexameters, and most of the others of his epoch, are far from being well written, even according to the most limited views of the capacity of our language, yet as it is evident that they can be scanned by rule more than those of the present day, so that every long syllable is lengthened either by position or by the nature of the vowel, might not these and similar compositions be advantageously ransacked by etymologists to investigate many otherwise imperceptible changes that have taken place in English orthoepy ? Suppose such endings of lines as "embroils eyelids," "loss of her amours," to be fairly judged by comparison with about a hundred lines of Greene's from the " Hexametra Rosamundre," and three other pieces, it will appear probable that he read, or might have read, amour, amorous, like aimour or aamour, and so on. In like manner it might be shown that he pronounced another with an omega, and have, was, as heave, waas :—
Here did he deeply swear and call great Pan for a witness That Rosamond was only the rose belov'd by Alexis ; That Thessaly [Thessaill had not such another nymph to delight him; None, quoth he, but Venus [?Venus'] fair shall have any kisses.
(The second verse is accented on Mr. Spedding's principles.) We think such lines ought to be published with the most troublesome words in italics, to warn the reader how they are to be scanned, and assist him in testing the consistency of the author's prosody. At any rate our editors should be more careful to insert a few apostrophes, which are wanted to save the metre in such lines as— "When bonny maids do meet with the swains in the valley by Tempe."
(Read wi' the,f the.) Nor can we hold them justified in neglecting these points by the ridicule they find it easy to cast upon the whole subject of these metrical experiments. It is sometimes prudent to make truth the test of ridicule.