Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the neighborhood, that the Squire thinks, neys were only made on horseback, and in a little while, it will be scarce worth the extraordinary difficulties of travelliving in. The enormity that has thus ing, owing to bad roads, bad accommodiscomposed my worthy host is an at- dations, and highway robbers, seemed to tempt of the manufacturer to have a line separate each village and hamlet from of coaches established, that shall diverge the rest of the world. The lord of the from the old route, and pass through the manor was then a kind of monarch in the neighboring village.

little realm around him. He held his I believe I have mentioned that the court in his paternal hall, and was looked Hall is situated in a retired part of the up to with almost as much loyalty and country, at a distance from any great deference as the king himself. Every coach-road; insomuch that the arrival of neighborhood was a little world within a traveler is apt to make every one look itself, having its local manners and cusout of the window, and to cause some toms, its local history and local opinions. talk among the ale-drinkers at the little The inhabitants were fonder of their inn. I was at a loss, therefore, to ac- homes, and thought less of wandering. count for the Squire's indignation at a It was looked upon as an expedition to measure apparently fraught with con- travel out of sight of the parish steeple; venience and advantage, until I found and a man that had been to London was that the conveniences of traveling were a village oracle for the rest of his life. among his greatest grievances.

What a difference between the mode of In fact, he rails against stage-coaches, traveling in those days and at present! post-chaises, and turnpike-roads, as seri- At that time, when a gentleman went ous causes of the corruption of English on a distant visit, he sallied forth like a rural manners. They have given facili

They have given facili- knight-errant on an enterprise, and every ties, he says to every humdrum citizen to family excursion was a pageant.

How trundle his family about the kingdom, splendid and fanciful must one of those and have sent the follies and fashions of domestic cavalcades have been, where town whirling, in coach-loads, to the re- the beautiful dames were mounted on motest parts of the island. The whole palfreys magnificently caparisoned, with country, he says, is traversed by these embroidered harness, all tinkling with flying cargoes; every by-road is explored silver bells; attended by cavaliers richly by enterprising tourists from Cheapside attired on prancing steeds, and followed and the Poultry, and every gentleman's by pages and serving-men, as we see them park and lawns invaded by cockney represented in old tapestry! The sketchers of both sexes, with portable try, as they traveled about in those days, chairs and portfolios for drawing. were like moving pictures. They de

He laments over this, as destroying lighted the eyes and awakened the admithe charm of privacy, and interrupting ration of the common people, and passed the quiet of country life; but more espe- before them like superior beings; and, cially as affecting the simplicity of the indeed, they were so; there was a hardy peasantry, and filling their heads with and healthful exercise connected with this half-city notions. A great coach-inn, he equestrian style that made them generous says, is enough to ruin the manners of a and noble. whole village. It creates a horde of sots In his fondness for the old style of and idlers; makes gapers and gazers and traveling, the Squire makes most of his newsmongers of the common people, and journeys on horseback, though he laments knowing jockeys of the country bump- the modern deficiency of incident on the kins.

road, from the want of fellow-wayfarers, The Squire has something of the old and the rapidity with which every one feudal feeling. He looks back with re- else is whirled along in coaches and postgret to the "good old times” when jour- | chaises. In the "good old times," on the

The gen

contrary, a cavalier jogged on through pilgrims previous to their departure, was bog and mire, from town to town, and now lumbered with huge wagons. Crates, hamlet to hamlet, conversing with friars boxes, hampers, and baskets, containing and franklins, and all other chance com- the good things of town and country, panions of the road; beguiling the way were piled about them; while, among the with travelers' tales, which then were straw and litter, the motherly hens truly wonderful, for every thing beyond scratched and clucked, with their hungry ones' neighborhood was full of marvel broods at their heels. Instead of Chauand romance; stopping at night at some cer's motley and splendid throng, I only "hostel,” where the bush over the door saw a group of wagoners and stableboys proclaimed good wine, or a pretty hostess enjoying a circulating pot of ale; while made bad wine palatable; meeting at a long-bodied dog sat by, with head on supper with travelers, or listening to the one side, ear cocked up, and wistful song or merry story of the host, who was gaze, as if waiting for his turn at the generally a boon companion, and pre- tankard. sided at his own board; for, according to Notwithstanding this grievous deold Tusser's "Innholder's Posie," clension, however, I was gratified at per

ceiving that the present occupants were At meales my friend who vitleth here not unconscious of the poetical renown And sitteth with his host,

of their mansion. An inscription over Shall both be sure of better cheere, And 'scape with lesser cost.

the gateway proclaimed it to be the inn

where Chaucer's pilgrims slept on the The Squire is fond, too, of stopping at night previous to their departure; and at those inns which may be met with here the bottom of the yard was a magnificent and there in ancient houses of wood and sign representing them in the act of sallyplaster, or calimanco houses, as they | ing forth. I was pleased, too, at noticing are called by antiquaries, with deep that though the present inn was comparaporches, diamond-paned bow-windows, tively modern, the form of the old inn paneled rooms, and great fireplaces. He was preserved. There were galleries will prefer them to more spacious and round the yard, as in old times, on which modern inns, and would cheerfully put opened the chambers of the guests. To up with bad cheer and bad accommoda- these ancient inns have antiquaries tions in the gratification of his humor. ascribed the present forms of our theatres. They give him, he says, the feeling of Plays were originally acted in the innold times, insomuch that he almost ex- yards. The guests lolled over the galpects in the dusk of the evening to see leries, which answered to our modern some party of weary travelers ride up to dress-circle; the critical mob clustered in the door with plumes and mantles, trunk- the yard, instead of the pit; and the hose, wide boots, and long rapiers. groups gazing from the garret windows

The good Squire's remarks brought to were no bad representatives of the gods mind a visit I once paid to the Tabard of the shilling gallery. When, thereInn, famous for being the place of as- fore, the drama grew important enough semblage whence Chaucer's pilgrims set to have a house of its own, the architects forth for Canterbury. It is in the bor- took a hint for its construction from the ough of Southwark, not far from Lon- yard of the ancient "hostel." don Bridge, and bears, at present, the I was so well pleased at finding these name of "The Talbot.” It has sadly remembrances of Chaucer and his poem, declined in dignity since the days of that I ordered my dinner in the little parChaucer, being a mere rendezvous and lor of the Talbot. Whilst it was prepacking-place of the great wagons that paring, I sat at the window musing and travel into Kent. The court-yard, which gazing into the court-yard, and conjurwas anciently the mustering-place of the ing up recollections of the scenes depicted in such lively colors by the poet, until, by of garlic and onions, and drinker of degrees, boxes, bales and hampers, boys, "strong wine, red as blood," that carried wagoners and dogs, faded from sight, and a cake for a buckler, and babbled Latin my fancy peopled the place with the mot- in his cups; of whose brimstone visage ley throng of Canterbury pilgrims. The “children were sore aferd";—and the galleries once more swarmed with idle buxom wife of Bath, the widow of five gazers, in the rich dresses of Chaucer's husbands, upon her ambling nag, with her time, and the whole cavalcade seemed to hat broad as a buckler, her red stockpass before me. There was the stately ings and sharp spurs; and the slender, knight on sober steed, who had ridden choleric reeve of Norfolk, bestriding his in Christendom and heathenesse, and had good gray stot;" with close-shaven beard, "foughten for our faith at Tramissene"; his hair cropped round his ears, long, —and his son, the young squire, a lover, lean calfless legs, and a rusty blade by and a lusty bachelor, with curled locks his side ;--and the jolly Limitour, with and gay embroidery; a bold rider, a lisping tongue and twinkling eye, welldancer, and a writer of verses, singing beloved of franklins and housewives, a and fluting all day long, and "fresh as

great promoter of marriages among the month of May";—and his “knot- young women, known at the taverns in headed” yeoman; a bold forester, in every town, and by every "hosteler and green, with horn, and baudrick, and dag- gay tapstere.” In short, before I was ger, a mighty bow in hand, and a sheaf roused from my reverie by the less poetiof peacock arrows shining beneath his cal but more substantial apparition of a belt;—and the coy, smiling, simple nun, smoking beefsteak, I had seen the whole with her gray eyes, her small red mouth, cavalcade issue forth from the hosteland fair forehead, her dainty person clad gate, with the brawny, double-jointed, in featly cloak and “ 'ypinched wimple," red-haired miller, playing the bagpipes her coral beads about her arm, her before them, and the ancient host of the golden brooch with a love motto, and her Tabard giving them his farewell Godpretty oath "by Saint Eloy"; and the send to Canterbury. merchant, solemn in speech and high on When I told the Squire of the existhorse, with forked beard and “Flaund- ence of this legitimate descendant of the rish bever hat";-and the lusty monk, ancient Tabard Inn, his eyes absolutely “full fat and in good point," with glistened with delight. He determined berry brown palfrey, his hood fastened to hunt it up the very first time he viswith gold pin, wrought with a love-knot, ited London, and to eat a dinner there, his bald head shining like glass, and his and drink a cup of mine host's best wine face glistening as though it had been in memory of old Chaucer. The genanointed ;-and the lean, logical, senten- eral, who happened to be present, immeditious clerke of Oxenforde, upon his half- ately begged to be of the party; for he starved, scholar-like horse ;-and the liked to encourage these long-established bowsing sompnour, with fiery-cherub houses, as they are apt to have choice old face, all knobbed with pimples, an eater wines.

ON THE KNOCKING AT THE GATE IN MACBETH

THOMAS DE QUINCEY Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) is known as the “master of impassioned prose.” He was a member of the Coleridge-Wordsworth group of poets, many of whom he alienated by his injudicious revelations of their private affairs. Together with Coleridge and Hazlitt he marked the beginning of that nineteenth century criticism of Shakespeare which looked upon the poet as one inspired and without fault. To this literature belongs the essay "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth” (1823). But he is best known to the world as the English Opium Eater, a character unhesitatingly revealed in his naïve Confessions. His prose ranks among the most beautiful in the language in its imaginative and 'rhythmical qualities. His style, marked by frequent digressions, gives careful attention to detail, and is often infused with lyrical fervor.

From my boyish days I had always felt | effects, he will be utterly unable to make a great perplexity on one point in Mac- the smallest approximation to it. Yet beth: it was this: the knocking at the why ?-For he has actually seen the efgate, which succeeds to the murder of fect every day of his life. The reason Duncan, produced to my feelings an ef- is that he allows his understanding to fect for which I never could account: overrule his eyes. His understanding, the effect was that it reflected back upon which includes no intuitive knowledge of the murder, a peculiar awfulness and a the laws of vision, can furnish him with depth of solemnity: yet, however obsti- no reason why a line which is known and nately I endeavored with my understand- can be proved to be a horizontal line, ing to comprehend this, for many years I should not appear a horizontal line: a never could see why it should produce line, that made any angle with the persuch an effect.

pendicular less than a right angle, would Here I pause for one moment to ex- seem to him to indicate that his houses hort the reader never to pay any atten- were all tumbling down together. Action to his understanding when it stands cordingly he makes the line of his houses in opposition to any other faculty of his a horizontal line, and fails of course to mind. The mere understanding, how- produce the effect demanded. Here then ever useful and indispensable, is the mean- is one instance out of many, in which est faculty in the human mind and the not only the understanding is allowed to most to be distrusted: and yet the great overrule the eyes, but where the undermajority of people trust to nothing else; standing is positively allowed to obliterwhich may do for ordinary life, but not ate the eyes as it were: for not only does for philosophic purposes. Of this, out of the man believe the evidence of his underten thousand instances that I might pro- standing in opposition to that of his eyes, duce, I will cite one. Ask of any person but (which is monstrous !) the idiot is not whatsoever, who is not previously pre- aware that his eyes ever gave such evipared for the demand by a knowledge of dence. He does not know that he has perspective, to draw in the rudest way seen (and therefore quoad his consciousthe commonest appearance which depends ness has not seen) that which he has seen upon the laws of that science-as for

every day of his life. But to return from instance, to represent the effect of two this digression-my understanding could walls standing at right angles to each furnish no reason why the knocking at other, or the appearance of the houses on the gate in Macbeth should produce any each side of a street, as seen by a person

effect direct or reflected: in fact, my unlooking down the street from one ex- derstanding said positively that it could tremity. Now in all cases, unless the not produce any effect. But I knew betperson has happened to observe in pic- ter: I felt that it did : and I waited and tures how it is that artists produce these clung to the problem until further knowledge should enable me to solve it.-At of "the poor beetle that we tread on," length, in 1812, Mr. Williams? made exhibits human nature in its most abject his début on the stage of Ratcliffe High- and humiliating attitude. Such an atway, and executed those unparalleled | titude would little suit the purposes of murders which have procured for him the poet. What then must he do? He such a brilliant and undying reputation. must throw the interest on the murderer: On which murders, by the way, I must our sympathy must be with him; (of observe, that in one respect they have had course I mean a sympathy of comprean ill effect, by making the connoisseur hension, a sympathy by which we enter in murder very fastidious in his taste, into his feelings, and are made to underand dissatisfied with any thing that has stand them-not a sympathy of pity or been since done in that line. All other approbation :) in the murdered person all murders look pale by the deep crimson of strife of thought, all flux and reflux of his: and, as an amateur once said to me passion and of purpose, are crushed by in a querulous tone, “There has been ab- one overwhelming panic: the fear of insolutely nothing doing since his time, or stant death smites him "with its petrific nothing that's worth speaking of." But mace." But in the murderer, such a this is wrong: for it is unreasonable to murderer as a poet will condescend to, expect all men to be great artists, and there must be raging some great storm of born with the genius of Mr. Williams.- passion-jealousy, ambition, vengeance, Now it will be remembered that in the hatred—which will create a hell within first of these murders (that of the him; and into this hell we are to look. Marrs) the same incident (of a knocking In Macbeth, for the sake of gratifying at the door soon after the work of ex- his own enormous and teeming faculty of termination was complete) did actually creation, Shakespeare has introduced two occur which the genius of Shakespeare murderers: and, as usual in his hands, had invented: and all good judges and they are remarkably discriminated: but the most eminent dilettanti acknowledged though in Macbeth the strife of mind is the felicity of Shakespeare's suggestion as greater than in his wife, the tiger spirit not soon as it was actually realized. Here so awake, and his feelings caught chiefly then was a fresh proof that I had been by contagion from her—yet, as both were right in relying on my own feeling in finally involved in the guilt of murder, opposition to my understanding; and the murderous mind of necessity is finally again I set myself to study the problem: to be presumed in both. This was to be at length I solved it to my own satisfac- expressed; and on its own account, as tion; and my solution is this. Murder well as to make it a more proportionable in ordinary cases, where the sympathy is antagonist to the unoffending nature of wholly directed to the case of the mur- their victim, “the gracious Duncan," and dered person, is an incident of coarse and adequately to expound "the deep damnavulgar horror; and for this reason—that tion of his taking off,” this was to be exit Alings the interest exclusively upon the pressed with peculiar energy. We were natural but ignoble instinct by which we to be made to feel that the human nature, cleave to life; an instinct which, as be- i. e., the divine nature of love and mercy, ing indispensable to the primal law of spread through the hearts of all creatures, self-preservation, is the same in kind and seldom utterly withdrawn from man (though different in degree) amongst all —was gone, vanished, extinct; and that living creatures; this instinct therefore, the fiendish nature had taken its place. because it annihilates all distinctions, and And, as this effect is marvellously acdegrades the greatest of men to the level complished in the dialogues and solilo

quies themselves, so it is finally consum1Mr. Williams was a notorious highwayman, and the murders mentioned were actu

mated by the expedient under consideraally committed.

tion; and it is to this that I now solicit

« AnteriorContinuar »