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in any of the Essays on the Learning of Shakespear.
Nothing can be better managed than the caution which the king gives the meddling Archbishop, not to advise himself rashly to engage in the war with France, his scrupulous dread of the consequences of that advice, and his eager desire to hear and follow it.
"And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
Another characteristic instance of the blindness of human nature to every thing but its own interests is the complaint made by the king of " the ill neighbourhood" of the Scot in attacking England when she was attacking France.
"For once the eagle England being in prey, To her unguarded nest the weazel Scot Comes sneaking, and so sucks her princely eggs."
It is worth observing that in all these plays, which give an admirable picture of the spirit of the good old times, the moral inference does not at all depend upon the nature of the actions, but on the dignity or meanness of the persons committing them. "The eagle England" has a right "to be in prey," but "the weazel Scot" has none " to come sneaking to her nest," which she has left to pounce upon others. Might was rihgt, without equivocation or disguise, in that heroic and chivalrous age. The substitution of right for might, even in theory, is among the refinements and abuses of modern philosophy.
A more beautiful rhetorical delineation of the effects of subordination in a commonwealth can hardly be conceived than the following:—
"For government, though high and low and lower, Put into parts, doth keep in one consent, Congruing in a full and natural close, Like music.
Therefore heaven doth divide
The state of man in divers functions,
Obedience: for so work the honey bees;
Creatures that by a rule in nature, teach
The art of order to a peopled kingdom.
They have a king, and officers of sorts
Where some, like magistrates, correct at home;
Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad;
Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds;
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor;
Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
The singing masons building roofs of gold,
The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
The poor mechanic porters crowding in
Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate;
The sad-eyed justice, with his surly hum,
Delivering tier to executors pale
The lazy yawning drone. I this infer,
That many things, having full reference
To one consent, may work contrariously:
As many arrows, loosed several ways,
Come to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;
As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea;
As many lines close in the dial's centre;
So may a thousand actions, once a-foot,
End in one purpose, and be all well borne
Henry V. is but one of Shakespear's secondrate plays. Yet by quoting passages, like this, from his second-rate plays alone, we might make a volume " rich with his praise,"
"As is the oozy bottom of the sea
With sunken wrack and sumless treasuries."
Of this sort are the king's remonstrance to Scroop, Grey, and Cambridge, on the detection of their treason, his address to the soldiers at the siege of Harfleur, and the still finer one before the battle of Agincourt, the description of the night before the battle, and the reflections on ceremony put into the mouth of the king.
"O hard condition; twin-born with greatness, Subjected to the breath of every fool, • Whose sense no more can feel but his own wringing! What infinite heart's ease must kings neglect, That private men enjoy? and what have kings, That privates have not too, Save ceremony? Save general ceremony? And what art thou, thou idol ceremony) What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st more Of mortal griefs, than do thy worshippers? What are thy rents? what are thy comings-in? O ceremony, shew, me but thy worth! What is thy soul, O adoration? Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form, Creating awe and fear in other men? Wherein thou art less happy, being feared, Than they in fearing.
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!
Think'st thou, the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
Can'st thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it J No, thou proud dream,
That play'st so subtly with a king's repose,
I am a king, that fine thee: and I know,
"Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The enter-tissu'd robe of gold and pearl,
The farsed title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the shore of the world,
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave;
Who, with a body fill'd, and vacant mind,
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread,
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell:
But, like a lackey, from the rise to set,
Sweats in the eye of Phosbus, and all night
Sleeps in Elysium; next day, after dawn,
Doth rise, and help Hyperion to his horse;
And follows so the ever-running year
With profitable labour, to his grave:
And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,
Winding up days with toil, and nights with sleep,
Has the forehand and vantage of a king.
The slave, a member of the country's peace,
Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots,
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,
Whose hours the peasant best advantages."
Most of these passages are well known: there is one, which we do not remember to have seen noticed, and vet it is no whit inferior to the rest in heroic beauty. It is the account of the deaths of York and Suffolk. /
"Exeter. The duke of York commends him to your majesty.