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“ When the French king saw the Englishmen, his blood changed ; and he said to his marshals, · Make the Genoese go on before and begin the battle, in the name of God and St Denis. There were of the Genoese cross-bows about a fifteen thousand, but they were so weary of going a-foot that day, a six leagues, armed with their cross-bows, that they said to their constables, • We be not well ordered to fight this day, for we be not in the case to do any great deed of arms; we have more need of rest.' These words came to the Earl of Alençon, who said, 'A man is well at ease to be charged with such a sort of rascals, to be faint and fail now at most need. Also, the same season, there fell a great rain, and an eclipse, with a terrible thunder; and, before the rain, there came flying over the battles a great number of crows for fear of the tempest coming. Then anon the air began to wax clear, and the sun to shine fair and bright, the which was right in the Frenchmen's eyen, and on the Englishmen's back. When the Genoese were assembled together, and began to approach, they made a great leap and cry to abash the Englishmen, but they stood still and stirred not for all that. Then the Genoese again, the second time, made another leap and a fell cry, and stepped forward a little, and the Englishmen removed not one foot.Thirdly, again they leaped and cried, and went forth till they came within shot; then they shot fiercely with their cross-bows. Then the English archers stepped forth one pace, and let fly their arrows so wholly and thick that it seemed snow. When the Genoese felt the arrows piercing through heads and arms and breasts, many of them cast down their cross-bows, and did cut their strings, and returned discomfited. When the French king saw them flee away, he said, Slay these rascals, for they shall let and trouble us without reason. Then ye should have seen the men-at-arms dash in among them and killed a great number of them, and ever still
the Englishmen shot whereas they saw the thickest press ; the sharp arrows ran into the men-at-arms and into their horses ; and many fell horse and men among the Genoese ; and when they were down, they could not relieve again; the press was so thick that one overthrew another. And also, among the Englishmen, there were certain rascals that went on foot with great knives, and they went in among the men-at-arms, and murdered many as they lay on the ground, both earls, barons, knights, and squires, whereof the King of England was after displeased, for he had rather they had been taken prisoners."
THERE were two subjects on which the Bachelor and his Egeria seldom agreed,—the comparative merits of the ancients and moderns, and the genius of Shakspeare. In the course of the foregoing pages we have had occasion, at different times, to advert to their sentiments with regard to the former, and we now intend to shew something of what they severally thought respecting the latter.
The Nymph, one evening after they had returned home from the theatre, said, somewhat petulantly,
“ Well! let the players and play-going gentry say what they will, the dramas of that same glorified
Shakspeare are heavy and improbable spectacles. I do not dispute that they contain beautiful passages. I am not going, don't be afraid, to deny his merits, but only to say, that he has been more praised, not, perhaps, than he may be found to deserve, but than he has been read. His plots are quite extravagant, his characters are often caricatures, and the stars of his poetry are so involved amidst clouds of mediocrity, that a stranger, without a guide, migh look for them all the livelong night of the shortest day, and probably not find one of them.”
“ When I see you so inclined to be peremptory," replied Benedict, “I think it is always best to let you have the argument your own way. But surely, my love, you do not intend to maintain that Shakspeare is not the greatest genius among the moderns ?"
« Of the comparative greatness of his genius I was saying nothing,” cried the Nymph more sharply than was consistent with conjugal subordination, 6 but only that his dramas are very dull; yea, and very absurdly constructed. Can any thing be worse, as a piece of art, than “ Hamlet,” which we have this evening endeavoured to endure throughout ? I say endeavoured; for, notwithstanding your affected adoration of the few and far between passages of nature and poetry which it contains, I was often - under more apprehension for the consequences of your yawning, than for the dramatic result of any one incident.”
« Why,” exclaimed the Bachelor, “ nobody goes to see a play of Shakspeare from any curiosity with respect to the result of the scenes, as connected with the story, but to consider how far the personations of the actors come up to the ideas we form of the characters by having studied them in our closets."
“ Now look ye, friend," said the Nymph briskly, “ does not that proceed from a preconceived, or preadopted, opinion of some superior excellence in his delineation of character ? and yet, find me two critics who are agreed whether Hamlet is to be considered as serious, or half-mad, or pretending to be so ? Look how lame and impotent the conclusion of the plot is, compared to what was to be expected from the introduction of a prelude so solemn as the appearance of a ghost! But I will not make a stand merely on the mechanical part of his dramas—the construction of the fable ;-some of his noblest passages are not superior to similar passages in the plays of his contemporaries. Take down his works, and give me those of Beaumont and Fletcher, and I will match you.” .
Benedict, as all obedient husbands should do, when so required, to keep peace in the house, acquiesced ; and when the books were arranged before them, he opened Cymbeline, and said,—“ Here is a description of the military enthusiasm of a boy,-match it if you can."
“This Paladour (whom The king his father call'd Guiderius) Jove ! When on my three-foot stool I sit, and tell The warlike feats I've done, his spirits fly out Into my story : say thus mine enemy fell, And thus I set my foot on's neck-even then The princely blood flows in his cheek, he sweats, Strains his young nerves, and puts himself in posture That acts my words."
“ Good," said Egeria, “ very good,” turning over the leaves of the Maid's Tragedy ; but here is Melantius' account of the heroic aspirations of Amintor while a boy, and it is better :"
“When he was a boy, As oft as I returned (as, without beast, . I brought home conquest), be would gaze upon me, And view me round, to find in what one limb The virtue lay to do those things he heard ; Then would he wish to see my sword, and feel The quickness of the edge, and in his hand Weigh it. He oft would make me smile at this; His youth did promise much, and his ripe years Will see it all performed.”
“ But,” exclaimed the Bachelor, opening As You like It, “ find me any thing half so touching and romantic as the moralizing of Jaques ?”
- To-day my lord of Amiens and myself