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THE VISION OF DELIGHT.] From the fol. 1641. This is one of the most beautiful of Jonson's little pieces, light, airy, harmonious, and poetical in no common degree. It stands without a parallel among performances of this kind; and might have convinced even Dr. Aikin, if he had ever condescended to look into Jonson, that "this once celebrated author" had something besides the song in the Silent Woman, (see vol. iii. p. 338,) to relieve "the prevalent coarseness of his tedious effusions."
A Street in Perspective of fair building discovered.
DELIGHT is seen to come as afar off, accompanied with GRACE, LOVE, HARMONY, REVEL, SPORT, LAUGHTER; and followed by WONDER.
ET us play and dance, and sing,
From air, from cloud, from dreams,
Let them oft and sweetly vary;
Here the first ANTIMASQUE entered.
A She-monster delivered of six Burratines,' that dance with six Pantaloons: which done,
Del. Yet hear what your Delight doth pray :
NIGHT rises slowly, and takes her chariot bespangled with stars.
See, see, her scepter and her crown
By this time the NIGHT and MOON being both risen; NIGHT hovering over the place, sung.
Night. Break, Phant'sie, from thy cave of cloud,
1 Of six Burratines.] I can give the reader no idea of the shape of the Burratines. The word itself occurs in that singular production, the Microcosmus, by Purchas; who speaks of it as a strange stuff recently devised and brought into wear," much to his annoyance, p. 268. It was probably a glossy kind of perpetuana: whatever it was, the six young monsters were clothed in it, and formed, it may be presumed, some ridiculous contrast to the formal and fantastic habits of the six old men.
2 Break Phant'sie, &c.] In Whalley's corrected copy I find a long quotation from Hurd's Essay on the Marks of Imitation, (p. 52,) on the subject of Milton's "improvement" of those lines in his Penseroso! I do not give it, because I differ toto cœlo from my "fine and predecessor with regard to its merits. He calls it a
Now all thy figures are allow'd,
judicious criticism," whereas it appears to me a mere string of positions, which, under the affectation of great acuteness, evince nothing but methodical imbecility.
I have yet a word to say of Hurd. The reader must have gathered from what has been already written, that his constant object is to ridicule and degrade Jonson; to drag him forward and, on every occasion, bind him to the triumphant wheels of all whose cause it pleases him to espouse. In the same Essay, (p. 24,) he says: "If Shakspeare had never looked into books, or conversed with bookish men, he might have learned almost all the secrets of paganism from the MASKS of B. Johnson."-He must have "looked into books," I presume, even for this; for he was probably not often invited to court, to partake of them :-but, continues Hurd, after abusing Jonson for his exactness in the use of ancient learning, "The taste of the age, much devoted to erudition, and still more the taste of the princes for whom he writ, gave a prodigious vogue to these unnatural exhibitions. And the knowledge of antiquity, requisite to succeed in them, was, I imagine, the reason that Shakspeare was not over fond to try his hand " (tasty language, this !) "at these elaborate trifles. Once indeed he did, (try his hand,) and with such success as to DISGRACE THE VERY BEST THINGS OF THIS KIND WE FIND IN JOHNSON! The short Mask in the Tempest is fitted up with a classical exactness: " (he had just before ridiculed Jonson for this exactness :) "but its chief merit lies in the beauty of the SHEW, and the richness of the poetry. Shakspeare was so sensible of his superiority that he could not help exulting a little upon it, where he makes Ferdinand say,
'This is a most majestic Vision, and
The intrepid absurdity of this insane criticism (for I am loth to give it its proper name) may be safely pronounced unparalleled. The Tempest itself is indeed a surprising, nay an almost miraculous effort of the highest powers of genius; but the little interlude of which Hurd speaks, is so far from disgracing the very best of Jonson's Masques, that it is nearly as bad as the very worst of them. I am not afraid to affirm, that there was scarcely a writer on the stage at that time, who could not, and who did not, interweave "things" equally good in his dramas. It is, in short, one of those trifling