Citation and Examination of William Shakspeare
by Walter Savage Landor
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Transcribed from the 1891 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



"It was an ancestor of my husband who BROUGHT OUT the famous Shakspeare."

These words were really spoken, and were repeated in conversation as most ridiculous. Certainly such was very far from the lady's intention; and who knows to what extent they are true?

The frolic of Shakspeare in deer-stealing was the cause of his Hegira; and his connection with players in London was the cause of his writing plays. Had he remained in his native town, his ambition had never been excited by the applause of the intellectual, the popular, and the powerful, which, after all, was hardly sufficient to excite it. He wrote from the same motive as he acted,—to earn his daily bread. He felt his own powers; but he cared little for making them felt by others more than served his wants.

The malignant may doubt, or pretend to doubt, the authenticity of the Examination here published. Let us, who are not malignant, be cautious of adding anything to the noisome mass of incredulity that surrounds us; let us avoid the crying sin of our age, in which the "Memoirs of a Parish Clerk," edited as they were by a pious and learned dignitary of the Established Church, are questioned in regard to their genuineness; and even the privileges of Parliament are inadequate to cover from the foulest imputation—the imputation of having exercised his inventive faculties—the elegant and accomplished editor of Eugene Aram's apprehension, trial, and defence.

Indeed, there is little of real history, excepting in romances. Some of these are strictly true to nature; while histories in general give a distorted view of her, and rarely a faithful record either of momentous or of common events.

Examinations taken from the mouth are surely the most trustworthy. Whoever doubts it may be convinced by Ephraim Barnett.

The Editor is confident he can give no offence to any person who may happen to bear the name of Lucy. The family of Sir Thomas became extinct nearly half a century ago, and the estates descended to the Rev. Mr. John Hammond, of Jesus College, in Oxford, a respectable Welsh curate, between whom and him there existed at his birth eighteen prior claimants. He took the name of Lucy.

The reader will form to himself, from this "Examination of Shakspeare," more favourable opinion of Sir Thomas than is left upon his mind by the dramatist in the character of Justice Shallow. The knight, indeed, is here exhibited in all his pride of birth and station, in all his pride of theologian and poet; he is led by the nose, while he believes that nobody can move him, and shows some other weaknesses, which the least attentive observer will discover; but he is not without a little kindness at the bottom of the heart,- -a heart too contracted to hold much, or to let what it holds ebulliate very freely. But, upon the whole, we neither can utterly hate nor utterly despise him. Ungainly as he is. -

Circum praecordia ludit.

The author of the "Imaginary Conversations" seems, in his "Boccacio and Petrarca," to have taken his idea of Sir Magnus from this manuscript. He, however, has adapted that character to the times; and in Sir Magnus the coward rises to the courageous, the unskilful in arms becomes the skilful, and war is to him a teacher of humanity. With much superstition, theology never molests him; scholarship and poetry are no affairs of his. He doubts of himself and others, and is as suspicious in his ignorance as Sir Thomas is confident.

With these wide diversities, there are family features, such as are likely to display themselves in different times and circumstances, and some so generically prevalent as never to lie quite dormant in the breed. In both of them there is parsimony, there is arrogance, there is contempt of inferiors, there is abject awe of power, there is irresolution, there is imbecility. But Sir Magnus has no knowledge, and no respect for it. Sir Thomas would almost go thirty miles, even to Oxford, to see a fine specimen of it, although, like most of those who call themselves the godly, he entertains the most undoubting belief that he is competent to correct the errors of the wisest and most practised theologian.


A part only of the many deficiencies which the reader will discover in this book is attributable to the Editor. These, however, it is his duty to account for, and he will do it as briefly as he can.

The fac-similes (as printers' boys call them, meaning specimens) of the handwriting of nearly all the persons introduced, might perhaps have been procured had sufficient time been allowed for another journey into Warwickshire. That of Shakspeare is known already in the signature to his will, but deformed by sickness; that of Sir Thomas Lucy is extant at the bottom of a commitment of a female vagrant, for having a sucking child in her arms on the public road; that of Silas Gough is affixed to the register of births and marriages, during several years, in the parishes of Hampton Lucy and Charlecote, and certifies one death,—Euseby Treen's; surmised, at least, to be his by the letters "E. T." cut on a bench seven inches thick, under an old pollard-oak outside the park paling of Charlecote, toward the northeast. For this discovery the Editor is indebted to a most respectable, intelligent farmer in the adjoining parish of Wasperton, in which parish Treen's elder brother lies buried. The worthy farmer is unwilling to accept the large portion of fame justly due to him for the services he has thus rendered to literature in elucidating the history of Shakspeare and his times. In possession of another agricultural gentleman there was recently a very curious piece of iron, believed by many celebrated antiquaries to have constituted a part of a knight's breast-plate. It was purchased for two hundred pounds by the trustees of the British Museum, among whom, the reader will be grieved to hear, it produced dissension and coldness; several of them being of opinion that it was merely a gorget, while others were inclined to the belief that it was the forepart of a horse-shoe. The Committee of Taste and the Heads of the Archaeological Society were consulted. These learned, dispassionate, and benevolent men had the satisfaction of conciliating the parties at variance,—each having yielded somewhat and every member signing, and affixing his seal to the signature, that, if indeed it be the forepart of a horse-shoe, it was probably Ismael's,—there being a curved indentation along it, resembling the first letter of his name, and there being no certainty or record that he died in France, or was left in that country by Sir Magnus.

The Editor is unable to render adequate thanks to the Rev. Stephen Turnover for the gratification he received in his curious library by a sight of Joseph Carnaby's name at full length, in red ink, coming from a trumpet in the mouth of an angel. This invaluable document is upon an engraving in a frontispiece to the New Testament. But since unhappily he could procure no signature of Hannah Hathaway, nor of her mother, and only a questionable one of Mr. John Shakspeare, the poet's father,—there being two, in two very different hands,—both he and the publisher were of opinion that the graphical part of the volume would be justly censured as extremely incomplete, and that what we could give would only raise inextinguishable regret for that which we could not. On this reflection all have been omitted.

The Editor is unwilling to affix any mark of disapprobation on the very clever engraver who undertook the sorrel mare; but as in the memorable words of that ingenious gentleman from Ireland whose polished and elaborate epigrams raised him justly to the rank of prime minister, -

"White was not SO VERY white," -

in like manner it appeared to nearly all the artists he consulted that the sorrel mare was not SO SORREL in print.

There is another and a graver reason why the Editor was induced to reject the contribution of his friend the engraver; and this is, a neglect of the late improvements in his art, he having, unadvisedly or thoughtlessly, drawn in the old-fashioned manner lines at the two sides and at the top and bottom of his print, confining it to such limits as paintings are confined in by their frames. Our spirited engravers, it is well-known, disdain this thraldom, and not only give unbounded space to their scenery, but also melt their figures in the air,—so advantageously, that, for the most part, they approach the condition of cherubs. This is the true aerial perspective, so little understood heretofore. Trees, castles, rivers, volcanoes, oceans, float together in absolute vacancy; the solid earth is represented, what we know it actually is, buoyant as a bubble, so that no wonder if every horse is endued with all the privileges of Pegasus, save and except our sorrel. Malicious carpers, insensible or invidious of England's glory, deny her in this beautiful practice the merit of invention, assigning it to the Chinese in their tea-cups and saucers; but if not absolutely new and ours, it must be acknowledged that we have greatly improved and extended the invention.

Such are the reasons why the little volume here laid before the public is defective in those decorations which the exalted state of literature demands. Something of compensation is supplied by a Memorandum of Ephraim Barnett, written upon the inner cover, and printed below.

The Editor, it will be perceived, is but little practised in the ways of literature; much less is he gifted with that prophetic spirit which can anticipate the judgment of the public. It may be that he is too idle or too apathetic to think anxiously or much about the matter; and yet he has been amused, in his earlier days, at watching the first appearance of such few books as he believed to be the production of some powerful intellect. He has seen people slowly rise up to them, like carp in a pond when food is thrown into it; some of which carp snatch suddenly at a morsel, and swallow it; others touch it gently with their barb, pass deliberately by, and leave it; others wriggle and rub against it more disdainfully; others, in sober truth, know not what to make of it, swim round and round it, eye it on the sunny side, eye it on the shady, approach it, question it, shoulder it, flap it with the tail, turn it over, look askance at it, take a pea-shell or a worm instead of it, and plunge again their heads into the comfortable mud. After some seasons the same food will suit their stomachs better.


About one hour before noontide the youth WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, accused of deer-stealing, and apprehended for that offence, was brought into the great hall at Charlecote, where, having made his obeisance, it was most graciously permitted him to stand.

The worshipful Sir Thomas Lucy, Knight, seeing him right opposite, on the farther side of the long table, and fearing no disadvantage, did frown upon him with great dignity; then, deigning ne'er a word to the culprit, turned he his face toward his chaplain, Sir Silas Gough, who stood beside him, and said unto him most courteously, and unlike unto one who in his own right commandeth, -

"Stand out of the way! What are those two varlets bringing into the room?"

"The table, sir," replied Master Silas, "upon the which the consumption of the venison was perpetrated."

The youth, William Shakspeare, did thereupon pray and beseech his lordship most fervently, in this guise:-

"Oh, sir! do not let him turn the tables against me, who am only a simple stripling, and he an old codger."

But Master Silas did bite his nether lip, and did cry aloud, -

"Look upon those deadly spots!"

And his worship did look thereupon most staidly, and did say in the ear of Master Silas, but in such wise that it reached even unto mine,

"Good honest chandlery, methinks!"

"God grant it may turn out so!" ejaculated Master Silas.

The youth, hearing these words, said unto him, -

"I fear, Master Silas, gentry like you often pray God to grant what HE would rather not; and now and then what YOU would rather not."

Sir Silas was wroth at this rudeness of speech about God in the face of a preacher, and said, reprovingly, -

"Out upon thy foul mouth, knave! upon which lie slaughter and venison."

Whereupon did William Shakspeare sit mute awhile, and discomfited; then turning toward Sir Thomas, and looking and speaking as one submiss and contrite, he thus appealed unto him:-

"Worshipful sir! were there any signs of venison on my mouth, Master Silas could not for his life cry out upon it, nor help kissing it as 'twere a wench's."

Sir Thomas looked upon him with most lordly gravity and wisdom, and said unto him, in a voice that might have come from the bench:

"Youth, thou speakest irreverently;" and then unto Master Silas: "Silas! to the business on hand. Taste the fat upon yon boor's table, which the constable hath brought hither, good Master Silas! And declare upon oath, being sworn in my presence, first, whether said fat do proceed of venison; secondly, whether said venison be of buck or doe."

Whereupon the reverend Sir Silas did go incontinently, and did bend forward his head, shoulders, and body, and did severally taste four white solid substances upon an oaken board; said board being about two yards long, and one yard four inches wide,—found in, and brought thither from, the tenement or messuage of Andrew Haggit, who hath absconded. Of these four white solid substances, two were somewhat larger than a groat, and thicker; one about the size of King Henry the Eighth's shilling, when our late sovereign lord of blessed memory was toward the lustiest; and the other, that is to say the middlemost, did resemble in some sort, a mushroom, not over fresh, turned upward on its stalk.

"And what sayest thou, Master Silas?" quoth the knight.

In reply whereunto Sir Silas thus averred:-

"Venison! o' my conscience! Buck! or burn me alive!

The three splashes in the circumference are verily and indeed venison; buck, moreover,—and Charlecote buck, upon my oath!"

Then carefully tasting the protuberance in the centre, he spat it out, crying, -

"Pho! pho! villain! villain!" and shaking his fist at the culprit.

Whereat the said culprit smiled and winked, and said off-hand, -

"Save thy spittle, Silas! It would supply a gaudy mess to the hungriest litter; but it would turn them from whelps into wolvets. 'T is pity to throw the best of thee away. Nothing comes out of thy mouth that is not savoury and solid, bating thy wit, thy sermons, and thy promises."

It was my duty to write down the very words, irreverent as they are, being so commanded. More of the like, it is to be feared, would have ensued, but that Sir Thomas did check him, saying, shrewdly, -

"Young man! I perceive that if I do not stop thee in thy courses, thy name, being involved in thy company's, may one day or other reach across the county; and folks may handle it and turn it about, as it deserveth, from Coleshill to Nuneaton, from Bromwicham to Brownsover. And who knoweth but that, years after thy death, the very house wherein thou wert born may be pointed at, and commented on, by knots of people, gentle and simple! What a shame for an honest man's son! Thanks to me, who consider of measures to prevent it! Posterity shall laud and glorify me for plucking thee clean out of her head, and for picking up timely a ticklish skittle, that might overthrow with it a power of others just as light. I will rid the hundred of thee, with God's blessing!—nay, the whole shire. We will have none such in our county; we justices are agreed upon it, and we will keep our word now and forevermore. Woe betide any that resembles thee in any part of him!"

Whereunto Sir Silas added, -

"We will dog him, and worry him, and haunt him, and bedevil him; and if ever he hear a comfortable word, it shall be in a language very different from his own."

"As different as thine is from a Christian's," said the youth.

"Boy! thou art slow of apprehension," said Sir Thomas, with much gravity; and taking up the cue, did rejoin, -

"Master Silas would impress upon thy ductile and tender mind the danger of evil doing; that we, in other words that justice is resolved to follow him up, even beyond his country, where he shall hear nothing better than the Italian or the Spanish, or the black language, or the language of Turk or Troubadour, or Tartar or Mongol. And, forsooth, for this gentle and indirect reproof, a gentleman in priest's orders is told by a stripling that he lacketh Christianity! Who then shall give it?"


"Who, indeed? when the founder of the feast leaveth an invited guest so empty! Yea, sir, the guest was invited, and the board was spread. The fruits that lay upon it be there still, and fresh as ever; and the bread of life in those capacious canisters is unconsumed and unbroken,"

SIR SILAS (aside).

"The knave maketh me hungry with his mischievous similitudes."


"Thou hast aggravated thy offence, Wil Shakspeare! Irreverent caitiff! is this a discourse for my chaplain and clerk? Can he or the worthy scribe Ephraim (his worship was pleased to call me worthy) write down such words as those, about litter and wolvets, for the perusal and meditation of the grand jury? If the whole corporation of Stratford had not unanimously given it against thee, still his tongue would catch thee, as the evet catcheth a gnat. Know, sirrah, the reverend Sir Silas, albeit ill appointed for riding, and not over-fond of it, goeth to every house wherein is a venison feast for thirty miles round. Not a buck's hoof on any stable-door but it awakeneth his recollections like a red letter."

This wholesome reproof did bring the youth back again to his right senses; and then said he, with contrition, and with a wisdom beyond his years, and little to be expected from one who had spoken just before so unadvisedly and rashly, -

"Well do I know it, your worship! And verily do I believe that a bone of one being shovelled among the soil upon his coffin would forthwith quicken {8a} him. Sooth to say, there is ne'er a buckhound in the county but he treateth him as a godchild, patting him on the head, soothing his velvety ear between thumb and forefinger, ejecting tick from tenement, calling him 'fine fellow,' 'noble lad,' and giving him his blessing, as one dearer to him than a king's debt to a debtor, {8b} or a bastard to a dad of eighty. This is the only kindness I ever heard of Master Silas toward his fellow-creatures. Never hold me unjust, Sir Knight, to Master Silas. Could I learn other good of him, I would freely say it; for we do good by speaking it, and none is easier. Even bad men are not bad men while they praise the just. Their first step backward is more troublesome and wrenching to them than the first forward."

"In God's name, where did he gather all this?" whispered his worship to the chaplain, by whose side I was sitting. "Why, he talks like a man of forty-seven, or more!"

"I doubt his sincerity, sir!" replied the chaplain. "His words are fairer now—"

"Devil choke him for them!" interjected he, with an undervoice.

"—and almost book-worthy; but out of place. What the scurvy cur yelped against me, I forgive him as a Christian. Murrain upon such varlet vermin! It is but of late years that dignities have come to be reviled. The other parts of the Gospel were broken long before,- -this was left us; and now this likewise is to be kicked out of doors, amid the mutterings of such mooncalves as him yonder."

"Too true, Silas!" said the knight, sighing deeply. "Things are not as they were in our glorious wars of York and Lancaster. The knaves were thinned then,—two or three crops a year of that rank squitch- grass which it has become the fashion of late to call the people. There was some difference then between buff doublets and iron mail, and the rogues felt it. Well-a-day! we must bear what God willeth, and never repine, although it gives a man the heart-ache. We are bound in duty to keep these things for the closet, and to tell God of them only when we call upon his holy name, and have him quite by ourselves."

Sir Silas looked discontented and impatient, and said, snappishly, -

"Cast we off here, or we shall be at fault. Start him, sir!— prithee, start him."

Again his worship, Sir Thomas, did look gravely and grandly, and taking a scrap of paper out of the Holy Book then lying before him, did read distinctly these words:-

"Providence hath sent Master Silas back hither, this morning, to confound thee in thy guilt."

Again, with all the courage and composure of an innocent man, and indeed with more than what an innocent man ought to possess in the presence of a magistrate, the youngster said, pointing toward Master Silas, -

"The first moment he ventureth to lift up his visage from the table, hath Providence marked him miraculously. I have heard of black malice. How many of our words have more in them than we think of! Give a countryman a plough of silver, and he will plough with it all the season, and never know its substance. 'T is thus with our daily speech. What riches lie hidden in the vulgar tongue of the poorest and most ignorant! What flowers of Paradise lie under our feet, with their beauties and parts undistinguished and undiscerned, from having been daily trodden on! O, sir, look you!—but let me cover my eyes! Look at his lips! Gracious Heaven! they were not thus when he entered. They are blacker now than Harry Tewe's bull- bitch's!"

Master Silas did lift up his eyes in astonishment and wrath; and his worship, Sir Thomas, did open his wider and wider, and cried by fits and starts:-

"Gramercy! true enough! nay, afore God, too true by half! I never saw the like! Who would believe it? I wish I were fairly rid of this examination,—my hands washed clean thereof! Another time,— anon! We have our quarterly sessions; we are many together. At present I remand—"

And now, indeed, unless Sir Silas had taken his worship by the sleeve, he would may-hap have remanded the lad. But Sir Silas, still holding the sleeve and shaking it, said, hurriedly, -

"Let me entreat your worship to ponder. What black does the fellow talk of? My blood and bile rose up against the rogue; but surely I did not turn black in the face, or in the mouth, as the fellow calls it?"

Whether Master Silas had some suspicion and inkling of the cause or not, he rubbed his right hand along his face and lips, and, looking upon it, cried aloud, -

"Ho, ho! is it off? There is some upon my finger's end, I find. Now I have it,—ay, there it is. That large splash upon the centre of the table is tallow, by my salvation! The profligates sat up until the candle burned out, and the last of it ran through the socket upon the board. We knew it before. I did convey into my mouth both fat and smut!"

"Many of your cloth and kidney do that, good Master Silas, and make no wry faces about it," quoth the youngster, with indiscreet merriment, although short of laughter, as became him who had already stepped too far and reached the mire.

To save paper and time, I shall now, for the most part, write only what they all said, not saying that they said it, and just copying out in my clearest hand what fell respectively from their mouths.


"I did indeed spit it forth, and emunge my lips, as who should not?"


"Would it were so!"


"WOULD IT WERE SO! in thy teeth, hypocrite!"


"And, truly, I likewise do incline to hope and credit it, as thus paraphrased and expounded."


"Wait until this blessed day next year, sir, at the same hour. You shall see it forth again at its due season; it would be no miracle if it lasted. Spittle may cure sore eyes, but not blasted mouths and scald consciences."


"Why! who taught thee all this?"

Then turned he leisurely toward Sir Silas, and placing his hand outspreaden upon the arm of the chaplain, said unto him in a low, judicial, hollow voice, -

"Every word true and solemn! I have heard less wise saws from between black covers."

Sir Silas was indignant at this under-rating, as he appeared to think it, of the church and its ministry, and answered impatiently, with Christian freedom, -

"Your worship surely will not listen to this wild wizard in his brothel-pulpit!"


"Do I live to hear Charlecote Hall called a brothel-pulpit? Alas, then, I have lived too long!"


"We will try to amend that for thee."

William seemed not to hear him, loudly as he spake and pointedly unto the youngster, who wiped his eyes, crying, -

"Commit me, sir! in mercy commit me! Master Ephraim! Oh, Master Ephraim! A guiltless man may feel all the pangs of the guilty! Is it you who are to make out the commitment? Dispatch! dispatch. I am a-weary of my life. If I dared to lie, I would plead guilty."


"Heyday! No wonder, Master Ephraim, thy entrails are moved and wamble. Dost weep, lad? Nay, nay; thou bearest up bravely. Silas, I now find, although the example come before me from humble life, that what my mother said was true—'t was upon my father's demise— 'In great grief there are few tears.'"

Upon which did the youth, Willy Shakspeare, jog himself by the memory, and repeat these short verses, not wide from the same purport:

"There are, alas, some depths of woe Too vast for tears to overflow."


"Let those who are sadly vexed in spirit mind that notion, whoever indited it, and be men. I always was; but some little griefs have pinched me woundily."

Master Silas grew impatient, for he had ridden hard that morning, and had no cushion upon his seat, as Sir Thomas had. I have seen in my time that he who is seated on beech-wood hath very different thoughts and moralities from him who is seated on goose-feathers under doe-skin. But that is neither here nor there, albeit, an' I die, as I must, my heirs, Judith and her boy Elijah, may note it.

Master Silas, as above, looked sourishly, and cried aloud, -

"The witnesses! the witnesses! testimony! testimony! We shall now see whose black goes deepest. There is a fork to be had that can hold the slipperiest eel, and a finger that can strip the slimiest. I cry your worship to the witnesses."


"Ay, indeed, we are losing the day; it wastes toward noon, and nothing done. Call the witnesses. How are they called by name? Give me the paper."

The paper being forthwith delivered into his worship's hand by the learned clerk, his worship did read aloud the name of Euseby Treen. Whereupon did Euseby Treen come forth through the great hall-door which was ajar, and answer most audibly, -

"Your worship!"

Straightway did Sir Thomas read aloud, in like form and manner, the name of Joseph Carnaby; and in like manner as aforesaid did Joseph Carnaby make answer and say, -

"Your worship!"

Lastly did Sir Thomas turn the light of his countenance on William Shakspeare, saying, -

"Thou seest these good men deponents against thee, William Shakspeare." And then did Sir Thomas pause. And pending this pause did William Shakspeare look steadfastly in the faces of both; and stroking down his own with the hollow of his hand from the jaw-bone to the chin-point, said unto his honour, -

"Faith! it would give me much pleasure, and the neighbourhood much vantage, to see these two fellows good men. Joseph Carnaby and Euseby Treen! Why! your worship! they know every hare's form in Luddington-field better than their own beds, and as well pretty nigh as any wench's in the parish."

Then turned he with jocular scoff unto Joseph Carnaby, thus accosting him, whom his shirt, being made stiffer than usual for the occasion, rubbed and frayed, -

"Ay, Joseph! smoothen and soothe thy collar-piece again and again! Hark ye! I know what smock that was knavishly cut from."

Master Silas rose up in high choler, and said unto Sir Thomas, -

"Sir! do not listen to that lewd reviler; I wager ten groats I prove him to be wrong in his scent. Joseph Carnaby is righteous and discreet."


"By daylight and before the parson. Bears and boars are tame creatures, and discreet, in the sunshine and after dinner."


"I do know his down-goings and uprisings."


"The man and his wife are one, saith holy Scripture."


"A sober-paced and rigid man, if such there be. Few keep Lent like unto him."


"I warrant him, both lent and stolen."


"Peace and silence! Now, Joseph Carnaby, do thou depose on particulars."


"May it please your worship! I was returning from Hampton upon Allhallowmas eve, between the hours of ten and eleven at night, in company with Master Euseby Treen; and when we came to the bottom of Mickle Meadow, we heard several men in discourse. I plucked Euseby Treen by the doublet, and whispered in his ear, 'Euseby! Euseby! let us slink along in the shadow of the elms and willows.'"


"WILLOWS AND ELM-TREES were the words."


"See, your worship! what discordances! They cannot agree in their own story."


"The same thing, the same thing, in the main."


"By less differences than this estates have been lost, hearts broken, and England, our country, filled with homeless, helpless, destitute orphans. I protest against it."


"Protest, indeed! He talks as if he were a member of the House of Lords. They alone can protest."


"Your attorney may OBJECT, not PROTEST, before the lord judge.

"Proceed you, Joseph Carnaby."


"In the shadow of the willows and elm-trees, then—"


"No hints, no conspiracies! Keep to your own story, man, and do not borrow his."


"I overrule the objection. Nothing can be more futile and frivolous."


"So learned a magistrate as your worship will surely do me justice by hearing me attentively. I am young; nevertheless, having more than one year written in the office of an attorney, and having heard and listened to many discourses and questions on law, I cannot but remember the heavy fine inflicted on a gentleman of this county who committed a poor man to prison for being in possession of a hare, it being proved that the hare was in his possession, and not he in the hare's."


"Synonymous term! synonymous term!"


"In what term sayest thou was it? I do not remember the case."


"Mere quibble mere equivocation! Jesuitical! Jesuitical!"


"It would be Jesuitical, Sir Silas, if it dragged the law by its perversions to the side of oppression and cruelty. The order of Jesuits, I fear, is as numerous as its tenets are lax and comprehensive. I am sorry to see their frocks flounced with English serge."


"I don't understand thee, viper!"


"Cease thou, Will Shakspeare! Know thy place. And do thou, Joseph Carnaby, take up again the thread of thy testimony."


"We were still at some distance from the party, when on a sudden Euseby hung an —- " {21a}


"As well write DREW BACK, Master Ephraim and Master Silas! Be circumspecter in speech, Master Joseph Carnaby! I did not look for such rude phrases from that starch-warehouse under thy chin. Continue, man!"


"'Euseby,' said I in his ear, 'what ails thee, Euseby?' 'I wag no farther,' quoth he. 'What a number of names and voices!'"


"Dreadful gang! a number of names and voices! Had it been any other day in the year but Allhallowmas eve! To steal a buck upon such a day! Well! God may pardon even that. Go on, go on. But the laws of our country must have their satisfaction and atonement. Were it upon any other day in the calendar less holy, the buck were nothing, or next to nothing, saving the law and our conscience and our good report. Yet we, her Majesty's justices, must stand in the gap, body and soul, against evil-doers. Now do thou, in furtherance of this business, give thine aid unto us, Joseph Carnaby!—remembering that mine eye from this judgment-seat, and her Majesty's bright and glorious one overlooking the whole realm, and the broader of God above, are upon thee."

Carnaby did quail a matter at these words about the judgment-seat and the broad eye, aptly and gravely delivered by him moreover who hath to administer truth and righteousness in our ancient and venerable laws, and especially, at the present juncture, in those against park-breaking and deer-stealing. But finally, nought discomfited, and putting his hand valiantly atwixt hip and midriff, so that his elbow well-nigh touched the taller pen in the ink-pot, he went on.


"'IN THE SHADOW OF THE WILLOWS AND ELM-TREES,' said he, 'AND GET NEARER.' We were still at some distance, maybe a score of furlongs, from the party—"


"Thou hast said it already—all save the score of furlongs."

"Hast room for them, Master Silas?"

"Yea," quoth Master Silas, "and would make room for fifty, to let the fellow swing at his ease."


"Hast room, Master Ephraim?"

"'T is done, most worshipful!" said I. The learned knight did not recollect that I could put fifty furlongs in a needle's eye, give me pen fine enough.

But far be it from me to vaunt of my penmanship, although there be those who do malign it, even in my own township and parish; yet they never have unperched me from my calling, and have had hard work to take an idle wench or two from under me on Saturday nights.

I memorize thus much, not out of any malice or any soreness about me, but that those of my kindred into whose hands it please God these papers do fall hereafter, may bear up stoutly in such straits; and if they be good at the cudgel, that they, looking first at their man, do give it him heartily and unsparingly, keeping within law.

Sir Thomas, having overlooked what we had written, and meditated a while thereupon, said unto Joseph, -

"It appeareth by thy testimony that there was a huge and desperate gang of them afoot. Revengeful dogs! it is difficult to deal with them. The laws forbid precipitancy and violence. A dozen or two may return and harm me; not me, indeed, but my tenants and servants. I would fain act with prudence, and like unto him who looketh abroad. He must tie his shoe tightly who passeth through mire; he must step softly who steppeth over stones; he must walk in the fear of the Lord (which, without a brag, I do at this present feel upon me), who hopeth to reach the end of the straightest road in safety."


"Tut, tut! your worship! Her Majesty's deputy hath matchlocks and halters at a knight's disposal, or the world were topsyturvy indeed."


"My mental ejaculations, and an influx of grace thereupon, have shaken and washed from my brain all thy last words, good Joseph! Thy companion here, Euseby Treen, said unto thee—ay—"


"Said unto me, 'What a number of names and voices! And there be but three living men in all! And look again! Christ deliver us! all the shadows save one go leftward; that one lieth right upon the river. It seemeth a big, squat monster, shaking a little, as one ready to spring upon its prey!'"


"A dead man in his last agonies, no doubt! Your deer-stealer doth boggle at nothing. He hath alway the knife in doublet and the devil at elbow.

"I wot not of any keeper killed or missing. To lose one's deer and keeper too were overmuch.

"Do, in God's merciful name, hand unto me a glass of sack, Master Silas! I wax faintish at the big, squat man. He hath harmed not only me, but mine. Furthermore, the examination is grown so long."

Then was the wine delivered by Sir Silas into the hand of his worship, who drank it off in a beaker of about half a pint,—but little to his satisfaction, for he said shortly afterward, -

"Hast thou poured no water into the sack, good Master Silas? It seemeth weaker and washier than ordinary, and affordeth small comfort unto the breast and stomach."

"Not I, truly, sir," replied Master Silas "and the bottle is a fresh and sound one. The cork reported on drawing, as the best diver doth on sousing from Warwick bridge into Avon. A rare cork! as bright as the glass bottle, and as smooth as the lips of any cow."


"My mouth is out of taste this morning; or the same wine, mayhap, hath a different force and flavor in the dining-room and among friends. But to business—what more?"

"Euseby Treen, what may it be?" said I.

"I know," quoth he, "but dare not breathe it."


"I thought I had taken a glass of wine, verily. Attention to my duty as a magistrate is paramount. I mind nothing else when that lies before me.

"Carnaby! I credit thy honesty, but doubt thy manhood. Why not breathe it, with a vengeance?"


"It was Euseby who dared not."


"Stand still! Say nothing yet; mind my orders. Fair and softly! compose thyself."

They all stood silent for some time, and looked very composed, awaiting the commands of the knight. His mind was clearly in such a state of devotion that peradventure he might not have descended for a while longer to his mundane duties, had not Master Silas told him that, under the shadow of his wing, their courage had returned and they were quite composed again.

"You may proceed," said the knight.


"Master Treen did take off his cap and wipe his forehead. I, for the sake of comforting him in this his heaviness, placed my hand upon his crown; and truly I might have taken it for a tuft of bents, the hair on end, the skin immovable as God's earth!"

Sir Thomas, hearing these words, lifted up his hands above his own head, and in the loudest voice he had yet uttered did he cry, -

"Wonderful are thy ways in Israel, O Lord!"

So saying, the pious knight did strike his knee with the palm of his right hand; and then gave he a sign, bowing his head and closing his eyes, by which Master Carnaby did think he signified his pleasure that he should go on deposing. And he went on thus:-


"At this moment one of the accomplices cried, 'Willy! Willy! prithee stop! enough in all conscience! First thou divertedst us from our undertaking with thy strange vagaries, thy Italian girls' nursery sigh, thy Pucks and pinchings, and thy Windsor whimsies. No kitten upon a bed of marum ever played such antics. It was summer and winter, night and day with us within the hour; and in such religion did we think and feel it, we would have broken the man's jaw who gainsaid it. We have slept with thee under the oaks in the ancient forest of Arden, and we have wakened from our sleep in the tempest far at sea. {29a} Now art thou for frightening us again out of all the senses thou hadst given us, with witches and women more murderous than they.'

"Then followed a deeper voice: 'Stouter men and more resolute are few; but thou, my lad, hast words too weighty for flesh and bones to bear up against. And who knows but these creatures may pop amongst us at last, as the wolf did, sure enough, upon him, the noisy rogue, who so long had been crying WOLF! and WOLF!


"Well spoken, for two thieves; albeit I miss the meaning of the most part. Did they prevail with the scapegrace and stop him?"


"The last who had spoken did slap him on the shoulder, saying, 'Jump into the punt, lad, and across.' Thereupon did Will Shakspeare jump into said punt, and begin to sing a song about a mermaid."


"Sir! is this credible? I will be sworn I never saw one; and verily do believe that scarcely one in a hundred years doth venture so far up the Avon."


"There is something in this. Thou mayest have sung about one, nevertheless. Young poets take great liberties with all female kind; not that mermaids are such very unlawful game for them, and there be songs even about worse and staler fish. Mind ye that! Thou hast written songs, and hast sung them, and lewd enough they be, God wot!"


"Pardon me, your worship! they were not mine then. Peradventure the song about the mermaid may have been that ancient one which every boy in most parishes has been singing for many years, and, perhaps, his father before him; and somebody was singing it then, mayhap, to keep up his courage in the night."


"I never heard it."


"Nobody would dare to sing in the presence of your worship, unless commanded,—not even the mermaid herself."


"Canst thou sing it?


"Verily, I can sing nothing."


"Canst thou repeat it from memory?"


"It is so long since I have thought about it, that I may fail in the attempt."


"Try, however."


"'The mermaid sat upon the rocks All day long, Admiring her beauty and combing her locks, And singing a mermaid song.'"


"What was it? what was it? I thought as much. There thou standest, like a woodpecker, chattering and chattering, breaking the bark with thy beak, and leaving the grub where it was. This is enough to put a saint out of patience."


"The wishes of your worship possess a mysterious influence,—I now remember all.

"'And hear the mermaid's song you may, As sure as sure can be, If you will but follow the sun all day, And souse with him into the sea.'"


"It must be an idle fellow who would take that trouble; besides, unless he nicked the time he might miss the monster. There be many who are slow to believe that the mermaid singeth."


"Ah sir! not only the mermaid singeth, but the merman sweareth, as another old song will convince you."


"I would fain be convinced of God's wonders in the great deeps, and would lean upon the weakest reed like unto thee to manifest his glory. Thou mayest convince me."



"'A wonderful story, my lasses and lads, Peradventure you've heard from your grannams or dads, Of a merman that came every night to woo The spinster of spinsters, our Catherine Crewe.


"'But Catherine Crewe Is now seventy-two, And avers she hath half forgotten The truth of the tale, when you ask her about it, And says, as if fain to deny it or flout it, "POOH! THE MERMAN IS DEAD AND ROTTEN."


"'The merman came up as the mermen are wont, To the top of the water, and then swam upon 't; And Catherine saw him with both her two eyes, A lusty young merman full six feet in size.


"'And Catherine was frighten'd, Her scalp-skin it tighten'd, And her head it swam strangely, although on dry land; And the merman made bold Eftsoons to lay hold (THIS Catherine well recollects) of her hand.


"'But how could a merman, if ever so good, Or if ever so clever, be well understood By a simple young creature of our flesh and blood?


"'Some tell us the merman Can only speak German, In a voice between grunting and snoring; But Catherine says he had learned in the wars The language, persuasions, and oaths of our tars, And that even his voice was not foreign.


"'Yet when she was asked how he managed to hide The green fishy tail, coming out of the tide For night after night above twenty, "You troublesome creatures!" old Catherine replied, "IN HIS POCKET; won't that now content ye?"'"


"I have my doubts yet. I should have said unto her, seriously, 'Kate! Kate! I am not convinced.' There may be witchcraft or sortilege in it. I would have made it a star-chamber matter."


"It was one, sir."


"And now I am reminded by this silly, childish song,—which, after all, is not the true mermaid's,—thou didst tell me, Silas, that the papers found in the lad's pocket were intended for poetry."


"I wish he had missed his aim, sir, in your park, as he hath missed it in his poetry. The papers are not worth reading; they do not go against him in the point at issue."


"We must see that,—they being taken upon his person when apprehended."


"Let Ephraim read them, then; it behooveth not me, a Master of Arts, to con a whelp's whining."


"Do thou read them aloud unto us, good Master Ephraim."

Whereupon I took the papers which young Willy had not bestowed much pains on; and they posed and puzzled me grievously, for they were blotted and scrawled in many places, as if somebody had put him out. These likewise I thought fit, after long consideration, to write better, and preserve, great as the loss of time is when men of business take in hand such unseemly matters. However, they are decenter than most, and not without their moral; for example:-


"Who, O thou sapient, saintly bird! Thy shouted warnings ever heard Unbleached by fear? The blue-faced blubbering imp, who steals Yon turnips, thinks thee at his heels, Afar or near.

"The brawnier churl, who brags at times To front and top the rankest crimes, - To paunch a deer, Quarter a priest, or squeeze a wench, - Scuds from thee, clammy as a tench, He knows not where.

"For this the righteous Lord of all Consigns to thee the castle-wall, When, many a year, Closed in the chancel-vaults, are eyes Rainy or sunny at the sighs Of knight or peer."

Sir Thomas, when I had ended, said unto me,

"No harm herein; but are they over?"

I replied, "Yea, sir!"

"I miss the POSY," quoth he; "there is usually a lump of sugar, or a smack thereof at the bottom of the glass. They who are inexperienced in poetry do write it as boys do their copies in the copy-book, without a flourish at the finis. It is only the master who can do this befittingly."

I bowed unto his worship reverentially, thinking of a surety he meant me, and returned my best thanks in set language. But his worship rebuffed them, and told me graciously that he had an eye on another of very different quality; that the plain sense of his discourse might do for me, the subtler was certainly for himself. He added that in his younger days he had heard from a person of great parts, and had since profited by it, that ordinary poets are like adders,—the tail blunt and the body rough, and the whole reptile cold-blooded and sluggish: "whereas we," he subjoined, "leap and caracole and curvet, and are as warm as velvet, and as sleek as satin, and as perfumed as a Naples fan, in every part of us; and the end of our poems is as pointed as a perch's back-fin, and it requires as much nicety to pick it up as a needle{38a} at nine groats the hundred."

Then turning toward the culprit, he said mildly unto him, -

"Now why canst thou not apply thyself unto study? Why canst thou not ask advice of thy superiors in rank and wisdom? In a few years, under good discipline, thou mightest rise from the owlet unto the peacock. I know not what pleasant things might not come into the youthful head thereupon.

"He was the bird of Venus, {39b} goddess of beauty. He flew down (I speak as a poet, and not in my quality of knight and Christian) with half the stars of heaven upon his tail; and his long, blue neck doth verily appear a dainty slice out of the solid sky."

Sir Silas smote me with his elbow, and said in my ear, -

"He wanteth not this stuffing; he beats a pheasant out of the kitchen, to my mind, take him only at the pheasant's size, and don't (upon your life) overdo him.

"Never be cast down in spirit, nor take it too 'grievously to heart, if the colour be a suspicion of the pinkish,—no sign of rawness in that; none whatever. It is as becoming to him as to the salmon; it is as natural to your pea-chick in his best cookery, as it is to the finest October morning,—moist underfoot, when partridge's and puss's and renard's scent lies sweetly."

Willie Shakspeare, in the mean time, lifted up his hands above his ears half a cubit, and taking breath again, said, audibly, although he willed it to be said unto himself alone, -

"O that knights could deign to be our teachers! Methinks I should briefly spring up into heaven, through the very chink out of which the peacock took his neck."

Master Silas, who like myself and the worshipful knight, did overhear him, said angrily, -

"To spring up into heaven, my lad, it would be as well to have at least one foot upon the ground to make the spring withal. I doubt whether we shall leave thee this vantage."

"Nay, nay! thou art hard upon him, Silas," said the knight.

I was turning over the other papers taken from the pocket of the culprit on his apprehension, and had fixed my eyes on one, when Sir Thomas caught them thus occupied, and exclaimed, -

" Mercy upon us! have we more?"

"Your patience, worshipful sir!" said I; "must I forward?"

"Yea, yea," quoth he, resignedly, "we must go through; we are pilgrims in this life."

Then did I read, in a clear voice, the contents of paper the second, being as followeth:-


"I loved him not; and yet, now he is gone, I feel I am alone. I check'd him while he spoke; yet, could he speak, Alas! I would not check. For reasons not to love him once I sought, And wearied all my thought To vex myself and him: I now would give My love could he but live Who lately lived for me, and when he found 'T was vain, in holy ground He hid his face amid the shades of death! I waste for him my breath Who wasted his for me! but mine returns, And this loin bosom burns With stifling heat, heaving it up in sleep, And waking me to weep Tears that had melted his soft heart. For years Wept he as bitter tears! MERCIFUL GOD! such was his latest prayer, THESE MAY SHE NEVER SHARE! Quieter is his breath, his breast more cold, Than daisies in the mould, Where children spell, athwart the churchyard gate, His name and life's brief date. Pray for him, gentle souls, whoe'er you be, And, oh! pray too for me!"

Sir Thomas had fallen into a most comfortable and refreshing slumber ere this lecture was concluded; but the pause broke it, as there be many who experience after the evening service in our parish-church. Howbeit, he had presently all his wits about him, and remembered well that he had been carefully counting the syllables, about the time when I had pierced as far as into the middle.

"Young man," said he to Willy, "thou givest short measure in every other sack of the load. Thy uppermost stake is of right length; the undermost falleth off, methinks.

"Master Ephraim, canst thou count syllables? I mean no offence. I may have counted wrongfully myself, not being born nor educated for an accountant."

At such order I did count; and truly the suspicion was as just as if he had neither been a knight nor a sleeper.

"Sad stuff! sad stuff, indeed!" said Master Silas, "and smelling of popery and wax-candles."

"Ay?" said Sir Thomas, "I must sift that."

"If praying for the dead is not popery," said Master Silas, "I know not what the devil is. Let them pray for us; they may know whether it will do us any good. We need not pray for them; we cannot tell whether it will do them any. I call this sound divinity."

"Are our churchmen all agreed thereupon?" asked Sir Thomas.

"The wisest are," replied Master Silas.

"There are some lank rascals who will never agree upon anything but upon doubting. I would not give ninepence for the best gown upon the most thrifty of 'em; and their fingers are as stiff and hard with their pedlary, knavish writing, as any bishop's are with chalk- stones won honestly from the gout."

Sir Thomas took the paper up from the table on which I had laid it, and said after a while, -

"The man may only have swooned. I scorn to play the critic, or to ask any one the meaning of a word; but, sirrah!"

Here he turned in his chair from the side of Master Silas, and said unto Willy, -

"William Shakspeare! out of this thraldom in regard to popery, I hope, by God's blessing, to deliver thee. If ever thou repeatest the said verses, knowing the man to be to all intents and purposes a dead man, prythee read the censurable line as thus corrected, -

'Pray for our Virgin Queen, gentles! whoe'er you be.'

although it is not quite the thing that another should impinge so closely on her skirts.

"By this improvement, of me suggested, thou mayest make some amends- -a syllable or two—for the many that are weighed in the balance and are found wanting."

Then turning unto me, as being conversant by my profession in such matters, and the same being not very worthy of learned and staid clerks the like of Master Silas, he said, -

"Of all the youths that did ever write in verse, this one verily is he who hath the fewest flowers and devices. But it would be loss of time to form a border, in the fashion of a kingly crown, or a dragon, or a Turk on horseback, out of buttercups and dandelions.

"Master Ephraim! look at these badgers! with a long leg on one quarter and a short leg on the other. The wench herself might well and truly have said all that matter without the poet, bating the rhymes and metre. Among the girls in the country there are many such SHILLY-SHALLYS, who give themselves sore eyes and sharp eye- water; I would cure them rod in hand."

Whereupon did William Shakspeare say, with great humility, -

"So would I, may it please your worship, an they would let me."

"Incorrigible sluts! Out upon 'em! and thou art no better than they are," quoth the knight.

Master Silas cried aloud, "No better, marry! they at the worst are but carted and whipped for the edification of the market-folks. {44a} Not a squire or parson in the country round but comes in his best to see a man hanged."

"The edification then is higher by a deal," said William, very composedly.

"Troth! is it," replied Master Silas. "The most poisonous reptile has the richest jewel in his head; thou shalt share the richest gift bestowed upon royalty, and shalt cure the king's evil." {45a}

"It is more tractable, then, than the church's," quoth William; and, turning his face toward the chair, he made an obeisance to Sir Thomas, saying, -

"Sir! the more submissive my behaviour is, the more vehement and boisterous is Master Silas. My gentlest words serve only to carry him toward the contrary quarter, as the south wind bloweth a ship northward."

"Youth," said Sir Thomas, smiling most benignly, "I find, and well indeed might I have surmised, thy utter ignorance of winds, equinoxes, and tides. Consider now a little! With what propriety can a wind be called a south wind if it bloweth a vessel to the north? Would it be a south wind that blew it from this hall into Warwick market-place?"

"It would be a strong one," said Master Silas unto me, pointing his remark, as witty men are wont, with the elbow-pan.

But Sir Thomas, who waited for an answer, and received none, continued, -

"Would a man be called a good man who tended and pushed on toward evil?"


"I stand corrected. I could sail to Cathay or Tartary {46a} with half the nautical knowledge I have acquired in this glorious hall.

"The devil impelling a mortal to wrong courses, is thereby known to be the devil. He, on the contrary, who exciteth to good is no devil, but an angel of light, or under the guidance of one. The devil driveth unto his own home; so doth the south wind, so doth the north wind.

"Alas! alas! we possess not the mastery over our own weak minds when a higher spirit standeth nigh and draweth us within his influence."


"Those thy words are well enough,—very well, very good, wise, discreet, judicious beyond thy years. But then that SAILING comes in an awkward, ugly way across me,—that CATHAY, that TARTARUS!

"Have a care! Do thou nothing rashly. Mind! an thou stealest my punt for the purpose, I send the constable after thee or e'er thou art half way over."


"He would make a stock-fish of me an he caught me. It is hard sailing out of his straits, although they be carefully laid down in most parishes, and may have taken them from actual survey."


"Sir, we have bestowed on him already well-nigh a good hour of our time."

Sir Thomas, who was always fond of giving admonition and reproof to the ignorant and erring, and who had found the seeds (little mustard-seeds, 't is true, and never likely to arise into the great mustard-tree of the Gospel) in the poor lad Willy, did let his heart soften a whit tenderer and kindlier than Master Silas did, and said unto Master Silas, -

"A good hour of our time! Yea, Silas! and thou wouldst give HIM eternity!"

"What, sir! would you let him go?" said Master Silas. "Presently we shall have neither deer nor dog, neither hare nor coney, neither swan nor heron; every carp from pool, every bream from brook, will be groped for. The marble monuments in the church will no longer protect the leaden coffins; and if there be any ring of gold on the finger of knight or dame, it will be torn away with as little ruth and ceremony as the ring from a butchered sow's snout."

"Awful words! Master Silas," quoth the knight, musing; "but thou mistakest my intentions. I let him not go; howbeit, at worst I would only mark him in the ear, and turn him up again after this warning, peradventure with a few stripes to boot athwart the shoulders, in order to make them shrug a little, and shake off the burden of idleness."

Now I, having seen, I dare not say the innocence, but the innocent and simple manner of Willy, and pitying his tender years, and having an inkling that he was a lad, poor Willy! whom God had endowed with some parts, and into whose breast he had instilled that milk of loving-kindness by which alone we can be like unto those little children of whom is the household and kingdom of our Lord,—I was moved, yea, even unto tears. And now, to bring gentler thoughts into the hearts of Master Silas and Sir Thomas, who, in his wisdom, deemed it a light punishment to slit an ear or two, or inflict a wiry scourging, I did remind his worship that another paper was yet unread, at least to them, although I had been perusing it.

This was much pleasanter than the two former, and overflowing with the praises of the worthy knight and his gracious lady; and having an echo to it in another voice, I did hope thereby to disarm their just wrath and indignation. It was thus couched:-


"Jesu! what lofty elms are here! Let me look through them at the clear, Deep sky above, and bless my star That such a worthy knight's they are!


"Innocent creatures! how those deer Trot merrily, and romp and rear!


"The glorious knight who walks beside His most majestic lady bride,


"Under these branches spreading wide,


"Carries about so many cares Touching his ancestors and heirs, That came from Athens and from Rome -


"As many of them as are come -


"Nought else the smallest lodge can find In the vast manors of his mind; Envying not Solomon his wit -


"No, nor his women not a bit; Being well-built and well-behaved As Solomon, I trow, or David.


"And taking by his jewell'd hand The jewel of that lady bland, He sees the tossing antlers pass And throw quaint shadows o'er the grass; While she alike the hour beguiles, And looks at him and them, and smiles.


"With conscience proof 'gainst Satan's shock, Albeit finer than her smock, {50a} Marry! her smiles are not of vanity, But resting on sound Christianity. Faith, you would swear, had nail'd {50b} her ears on The book and cushion of the parson."

"Methinks the rhyme at the latter end might be bettered," said Sir Thomas. "The remainder is indited not unaptly. But, young man, never having obtained the permission of my honourable dame to praise her in guise of poetry, I cannot see all the merit I would fain discern in the verses. She ought first to have been sounded; and it being certified that she disapproved not her glorification, then might it be trumpeted forth into the world below."

"Most worshipful knight," replied the youngster, "I never could take it in hand to sound a dame of quality,—they are all of them too deep and too practised for me, and have better and abler men about 'em. And surely I did imagine to myself that if it were asked of any honourable man (omitting to speak of ladies) whether he would give permission to be openly praised, he would reject the application as a gross offence. It appeareth to me that even to praise one's self, although it be shameful, is less shameful than to throw a burning coal into the incense-box that another doth hold to waft before us, and then to snift and simper over it, with maidenly, wishful coyness, as if forsooth one had no hand in setting it asmoke."

Then did Sir Thomas, in his zeal to instruct the ignorant, and so make the lowly hold up their heads, say unto him, -

"Nay, but all the great do thus. Thou must not praise them without leave and license. Praise unpermitted is plebeian praise. It is presumption to suppose that thou knowest enough of the noble and the great to discover their high qualities. They alone could manifest them unto thee. It requireth much discernment and much time to enucleate and bring into light their abstruse wisdom and gravely featured virtues. Those of ordinary men lie before thee in thy daily walks; thou mayest know them by converse at their tables, as thou knowest the little tame squirrel that chippeth his nuts in the open sunshine of a bowling-green. But beware how thou enterest the awful arbours of the great, who conceal their magnanimity in the depths of their hearts, as lions do."

He then paused; and observing the youth in deep and earnest meditation over the fruits of his experience, as one who tasted and who would fain digest them; he gave him encouragement, and relieved the weight of his musings by kind interrogation.

"So, then, these verses are thine own?" The youth answered, -

"Sir, I must confess my fault."


"And who was the shepherd written here Second Shepherd, that had the ill manners to interrupt thee? Methinks, in helping thee to mount the saddle, he pretty nigh tossed thee over, {53a} with his jerks and quirks."

Without waiting for any answer, his worship continued his interrogations.

"But do you woolstaplers call yourselves by the style and title of shepherds?"


"Verily, sir, do we; and I trust by right. The last owner of any place is called the master more properly than the dead and gone who once held it. If that be true (and who doubts it?) we, who have the last of the sheep, namely, the wool and skin, and who buy all of all the flock, surely may more properly be called shepherds than those idle vagrants who tend them only for a season, selling a score or purchasing a score, as may happen."

Here Sir Thomas did pause a while, and then said unto Master Silas, -

"My own cogitations, and not this stripling, have induced me to consider and to conclude a weighty matter for knightly scholarship. I never could rightly understand before how Colin Clout, and sundry others calling themselves shepherds, should argue like doctors in law, physic, and divinity.

"Silas! they were woolstaplers; and they must have exercised their wits in dealing with tithe-proctors and parsons, and moreover with fellows of colleges from our two learned universities, who have sundry lands held under them, as thou knowest, and take the small tithes in kind. Colin Clout, methinks, from his extensive learning, might have acquired enough interest with the Queen's Highness to change his name for the better, and, furthermore, her royal license to carry armorial bearings, in no peril of taint from so unsavoury an appellation."

Master Silas did interrupt this discourse, by saying, -

"May it please your worship, the constable is waiting."

Whereat Sir Thomas said, tartly, -

"And let him wait." {55a}

Then to me, -

"I hope we have done with verses, and are not to be befooled by the lad's nonsense touching mermaids or worse creatures."

Then to Will, -

"William Shakspeare! we live in a Christian land, a land of great toleration and forbearance. Three score cartsful of fagots a year are fully sufficient to clear our English air from every pestilence of heresy and witchcraft. It hath not alway been so, God wot! Innocent and guilty took their turns before the fire, like geese and capons. The spit was never cold; the cook's sleeve was ever above the elbow. Countrymen came down from distant villages into towns and cities, to see perverters whom they had never heard of, and to learn the righteousness of hatred. When heretics waxed fewer the religious began to grumble that God, in losing his enemies, had also lost his avengers.

"Do not thou, William Shakspeare, dig the hole for thy own stake. If thou canst not make men wise, do not make them merry at thy cost. We are not to be paganised any more. Having struck from our calendars, and unnailed from our chapels, many dozens of decent saints, with as little compunction and remorse as unlucky lads throw frog-spawn and tadpoles out of stagnant ditches, never let us think of bringing back among us the daintier divinities they ousted. All these are the devil's imps, beautiful as they appear in what we falsely call works of genius, which really and truly are the devil's own,—statues more graceful than humanity, pictures more living than life, eloquence that raised single cities above empires, poor men above kings. If these are not Satan's works, where are they? I will tell thee where they are likewise. In holding vain converse with false gods. The utmost we can allow in propriety is to call a knight Phoebus, and a dame Diana. They are not meat for every trencher.

"We must now proceed straightforward with the business on which thou comest before us. What further sayest thou, witness?"


"His face was toward me; I saw it clearly. The graver man followed him into the punt, and said, roughly, 'We shall get hanged as sure as thou pipest.'

"Whereunto he answered, -

'Naturally, as fall upon the ground The leaves in winter and the girls in spring.'

And then began he again with the mermaid; whereat the graver man clapped a hand before his mouth, and swore he should take her in wedlock, to have and to hold, if he sang another stave. 'And thou shalt be her pretty little bridemaid,' quoth he gaily to the graver man, chucking him under the chin."


"And what did Carnaby say unto thee, or what didst thou say unto Carnaby?"


"Carnaby said unto me, somewhat tauntingly, 'The big squat man, that lay upon thy bread-basket like a nightmare, is a punt at last, it seems.'

"'Punt, and more too,' answered I. 'Tarry awhile, and thou shalt see this punt (so let me call it) lead them into temptation, and swamp them or carry them to the gallows; I would not stay else.'


"And what didst thou, Joseph Carnaby?"


"Finding him neither slack nor shy, I readily tarried. We knelt down opposite each other, and said our prayers; and he told me he was now comfortable. 'The evil one,' said he, 'hath enough to mind yonder: he shall not hurt us.'

"Never was a sweeter night, had there been but some mild ale under it, which any one would have sworn it was made for. The milky way looked like a long drift of hail-stones on a sunny ridge."


"Hast thou done describing?"


"Yea, an please your worship."


"God's blessing be upon thee, honest Carnaby! I feared a moon-fall. In our days nobody can think about a plum-pudding but the moon comes down upon it. I warrant ye this lad here hath as many moons in his poems as the Saracens had in their banners."


"I have not hatched mine yet, sir. Whenever I do I trust it will be worth taking to market."


"I said all I know of the stars; but Master Euseby can run over half a score and upward, here and there. 'Am I right, or wrong?' cried he, spreading on the back of my hand all his fingers, stiff as antlers and cold as icicles. 'Look up, Joseph! Joseph! there is no Lucifer in the firmament!' I myself did feel queerish and qualmy upon hearing that a star was missing, being no master of gainsaying it; and I abased my eyes, and entreated of Euseby to do in like manner. And in this posture did we both of us remain; and the missing star did not disquiet me; and all the others seemed as if they knew us and would not tell of us; and there was peace and pleasantness over sky and earth. And I said to my companion, -

"'How quiet now, good Master Euseby, are all God's creatures in this meadow, because they never pry into such high matters, but breathe sweetly among the pig-nuts. The only things we hear or see stirring are the glow-worms and dormice, as though they were sent for our edification, teaching us to rest contented with our own little light, and to come out and seek our sustenance where none molest or thwart us'"


"Ye would have it thus, no doubt, when your pockets and pouches are full of gins and nooses."


"A bridle upon thy dragon's tongue! And do thou, Master Joseph, quit the dormice and glow-worms, and tell us whither did the rogues go."


"I wot not after they had crossed the river they were soon out of sight and hearing."


"Went they toward Charlecote?"


"Their first steps were thitherward."


"Did they come back unto the punt?"


"They went down the stream in it, and crossed the Avon some fourscore yards below where we were standing. They came back in it, and moored it to the sedges in which it had stood before."


"How long were they absent?"


"Within an hour, or thereabout, all the three men returned. Will Shakspeare and another were sitting in the middle, the third punted.

"'Remember now, gentles!' quoth William Shakspeare, 'the road we have taken is henceforward a footpath for ever, according to law.'

"'How so?' asked the punter, turning toward him,

"'Forasmuch as a corpse hath passed along it,' answered he.

"Whereupon both Euseby and myself did forthwith fall upon our faces, commending our souls unto the Lord."


"It was then really the dead body that quivered so fearfully upon the water, covering all the punt! Christ, deliver us! I hope the keeper they murdered was not Jeremiah. His wife and four children would be very chargeable, and the man was by no means amiss. Proceed! what further?"

"On reaching the bank, 'I never sat pleasanter in my lifetime,' said William Shakspeare, 'than upon this carcass.'"


"Lord have mercy upon us! Thou upon a carcass, at thy years!"

And the knight drew back his chair half an ell farther from the table, and his lips quivered at the thought of such inhumanity.

"And what said he more? and what did he?" asked the knight.


"He patted it smartly, and said, 'Lug it out; break it.'"


"These four poor children! who shall feed them?"


"Sir! in God's name have you forgotten that Jeremiah is gone to Nuneaton to see his father, and that the murdered man is the buck?"


"They killed the buck likewise. But what, ye cowardly varlets! have ye been deceiving me all this time? And thou, youngster! couldst thou say nothing to clear up the case? Thou shalt smart for it. Methought I had lost by a violent death the best servant ever man had—righteous, if there be no blame in saying it, as the prophet whose name he beareth, and brave as the lion of Judah."


"Sir, if these men could deceive your worship for a moment, they might deceive me for ever. I could not guess what their story aimed at, except my ruin. I am inclined to lean for once toward the opinion of Master Silas, and to believe it was really the stolen buck on which this William (if indeed there is any truth at all in the story) was sitting."


"What more hast thou for me that is not enigma or parable?"


"I did not see the carcass, man's or beast's, may it please your worship, and I have recited and can recite that only which I saw and heard. After the words of lugging out and breaking it, knives were drawn accordingly. It was no time to loiter or linger. We crope back under the shadow of the alders and hazels on the high bank that bordereth Mickle Meadow, and, making straight for the public road, hastened homeward."


"Hearing this deposition, dost thou affirm the like upon thy oath, Master Euseby Treen, or dost thou vary in aught essential?"


"Upon my oath I do depose and affirm the like, and truly the identical same; and I will never more vary upon aught essential."


"I do now further demand of thee whether thou knowest anything more appertaining unto this business."


"Ay, verily; that your worship may never hold me for timorsome and superstitious, I do furthermore add that some other than deer- stealers was abroad. In sign whereof, although it was the dryest and clearest night of the season, my jerkin was damp inside and outside when I reached my house-door."


"I warrant thee, Euseby, the damp began not at the outside. A word in thy ear—Lucifer was thy tapster, I trow."


"Irreverent swine! hast no awe nor shame. Thou hast aggravated thy offence, William Shakspeare, by thy foul-mouthedness."


"I must remind your worship that he not only has committed this iniquity afore, but hath pawed the puddle he made, and relapsed into it after due caution and reproof. God forbid that what he spake against me, out of the gall of his proud stomach, should move me. I defy him, a low, ignorant wretch, a rogue and vagabond, a thief and cut-throat, a — {66a} monger and mutton-eater."


"Your worship doth hear the learned clerk's testimony in my behalf. 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings'—"


"Silas, the youth has failings—a madcap; but he is pious."


"Alas, no, sir! Would I were! But Sir Silas, like the prophet, came to curse, and was forced to bless me, even me, a sinner, a mutton-eater!"


"Thou urgedst him. He beareth no ill-will toward thee. Thou knewedst, I suspect, that the blackness in his mouth proceeded from a natural cause."


"The Lord is merciful! I was brought hither in jeopardy; I shall return in joy. Whether my innocence be declared or otherwise, my piety and knowledge will be forwarded and increased; for your worship will condescend, even from the judgment-seat, to enlighten the ignorant where a soul shall be saved or lost. And I, even I, may trespass a moment on your courtesy. I quail at the words NATURAL CAUSE. Be there any such?"


"Youth! I never thought thee so staid. Thou hast, for these many months, been represented unto me as one dissolute and light, much given unto mummeries and mysteries, wakes and carousals, cudgel- fighters and mountebanks and wanton women. They do also represent of thee—I hope it may be without foundation—that thou enactest the parts, not simply of foresters and fairies, girls in the green- sickness and friars, lawyers and outlaws, but likewise, having small reverence for station, of kings and queens, knights and privy- counsellors, in all their glory. It hath been whispered, moreover, and the testimony of these two witnesses doth appear in some measure to countenance and confirm it, that thou hast at divers times this last summer been seen and heard alone, inasmuch as human eye may discover, on the narrow slip of greensward between the Avon and the chancel, distorting thy body like one possessed, and uttering strange language, like unto incantation. This, however, cometh not before me. Take heed! take heed unto thy ways; there are graver things in law even than homicide and deer-stealing."


"And strong against him. Folks have been consumed at the stake for pettier felonies and upon weaker evidence."


"To that anon."

William Shakspeare did hold down his head, answering nought. And Sir Thomas spake again unto him, as one mild and fatherly, if so be that such a word may be spoken of a knight and parliament-man. And these are the words he spake:-

"Reason and ruminate with thyself now. To pass over and pretermit the danger of representing the actions of the others, and mainly of lawyers and churchmen, the former of whom do pardon no offences, and the latter those only against God, having no warrant for more, canst thou believe it innocent to counterfeit kings and queens? Supposest thou that if the impression of their faces on a farthing be felonious and rope-worthy, the imitation of head and body, voice and bearing, plume and strut, crown and mantle, and everything else that maketh them royal and glorious, be aught less? Perpend, young man, perpend! Consider, who among inferior mortals shall imitate them becomingly? Dreamest thou they talk and act like checkmen at Banbury fair? How can thy shallow brain suffice for their vast conceptions? How darest thou say, as they do: 'Hang this fellow; quarter that; flay; mutilate; stab; shoot; press; hook; torture; burn alive'? These are royalties. Who appointed thee to such office? The Holy Ghost? He alone can confer it; but when wert thou anointed?"

William was so zealous in storing up these verities that he looked as though he were unconscious that the pouring-out was over. He started, which he had not done before, at the voice of Master Silas; but soon recovered his complacency, and smiled with much serenity at being called low-minded varlet.

"Low-minded varlet!" cried Master Silas, most contemptuously, "dost thou imagine that king calleth king, like thy chums, FILCHER and FIBBER, WHIRLIGIG and NINCOMPOOP? Instead of this low vulgarity and sordid idleness, ending in nothing, they throw at one another such fellows as thee by the thousand, and when they have cleared the land, render God thanks and make peace."

Willy did now sigh out his ignorance of these matters; and he sighed, mayhap, too, at the recollection of the peril he had run into, and had ne'er a word on the nail. {70a}

The bowels of Sir Thomas waxed tenderer and tenderer; and he opened his lips in this fashion:-

"Stripling! I would now communicate unto thee, on finding thee docile and assentaneous, the instruction thou needest on the signification of the words NATURAL CAUSE, if thy duty toward thy neighbour had been first instilled into thee."

Whereupon Master Silas did interpose, for the dinner hour was drawing nigh.

"We cannot do all at once," quoth he. "Coming out of order, it might harm him. Malt before hops, the world over, or the beer muddies."

But Sir Thomas was not to be pricked out of his form even by so shrewd a pricker; and like unto one who heareth not, he continued to look most graciously on the homely vessel that stood ready to receive his wisdom.

"Thy mind," said he, "being unprepared for higher cogitations, and the groundwork and religious duty not being well rammer-beaten and flinted, I do pass over this supererogatory point, and inform thee rather, that bucks and swans and herons have something in their very names announcing them of knightly appurtenance; and (God forfend that evil do ensue therefrom!) that a goose on the common, or a game-cock on the loft of a cottager or villager, may be seized, bagged, and abducted, with far less offence to the laws. In a buck there is something so gainly and so grand, he treadeth the earth with such ease and such agility, he abstaineth from all other animals with such punctilious avoidance, one would imagine God created him when he created knighthood. In the swan there is such purity, such coldness is there in the element he inhabiteth, such solitude of station, that verily he doth remind me of the Virgin Queen herself. Of the heron I have less to say, not having him about me; but I never heard his lordly croak without the conceit that it resembled a chancellor's or a primate's.

"I do perceive, William Shakspeare, thy compunction and contrition."


"I was thinking, may it please your worship, of the game-cock and the goose, having but small notion of herons. This doctrine of abduction, please your worship, hath been alway inculcated by the soundest of our judges. Would they had spoken on other points with the same clearness. How many unfortunates might thereby have been saved from crossing the Cordilleras!" {72a}


"Ay, ay! they have been fain to fly the country at last, thither or elsewhere."

And then did Sir Thomas call unto him Master Silas, and say, -

"Walk we into the bay-window. And thou mayest come, Ephraim."

And when we were there together, I, Master Silas, and his worship, did his worship say unto the chaplain, but oftener looking toward me, -

"I am not ashamed to avouch that it goeth against me to hang this young fellow, richly as the offence in its own nature doth deserve it, he talketh so reasonably; not indeed so reasonably, but so like unto what a reasonable man may listen to and reflect on. There is so much, too, of compassion for others in hard cases, and something so very near in semblance to innocence itself in that airy swing of lightheartedness about him. I cannot fix my eyes (as one would say) on the shifting and sudden SHADE-AND-SHINE, which cometh back to me, do what I will, and mazes me in a manner, and blinks me."

At this juncture I was ready to fall upon the ground before his worship, and clasp his knees for Willy's pardon. But he had so many points about him, that I feared to discompose 'em, and thus make bad worse. Besides which, Master Silas left me but scanty space for good resolutions, crying, -

"He may be committed, to save time. Afterward he may be sentenced to death, or he may not."


"'T were shame upon me were he not; 't were indication that I acted unadvisedly in the commitment."


"The penalty of the law may be commuted, if expedient, on application to the fountain of mercy in London."


"Maybe, Silas, those shall be standing round the fount of mercy who play in idleness and wantonness with its waters, and let them not flow widely, nor take their natural course. Dutiful gallants may encompass it, and it may linger among the flowers they throw into it, and never reach the parched lip on the wayside.

"These are homely thoughts—thoughts from a-field, thoughts for the study and housekeeper's room. But whenever I have given utterance unto them, as my heart hath often prompted me with beatings at the breast, my hearers seemed to bear toward me more true and kindly affection than my richest fancies and choicest phraseologies could purchase.

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