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H.E. Marshall

    "William came o'er the sea, 
    With bloody sword came he. 
    Cold heart and bloody sword hand 
    Now rule the English land." 
            The Heimskringla

MANY of you have, no doubt, been to the theater. You have seen pantomimes and Peter Pan, perhaps; perhaps, too, a play of Shakespeare, - a comedy, it may be, which made you laugh, or even a tragedy which made you want to cry, or at least left you sad. Some of you, too, have been to "Pageants," and some may even have been to an oratorio, which last may have been sung in a church.

OF all the dramatists who were Shakespeare's friends, of those who wrote before him, with him, and just after him, we have little room to tell. But there is one who stands almost as far above them all as Shakespeare stands above him. This is Ben Jonson, and of him we must speak.

DURING the years in which Swift found time to write these playful letters to Stella he was growing into a man of power. Like Defoe he was a journalist, but one of far more authority. The power of his pen was such that he was courted by his friends, feared by his enemies. He threw himself into the struggle of party, first as a Whig, then as a Tory; but as a friend said of him later, "He was neither Whig nor Tory, neither Jacobite nor Republican. He was Dr. Swift."* He was now, he says:—

*Lord Orrery.

WHEN Byron wandered upon the Continent he met and made friends with another poet, a greater than himself. This poet was called Percy Bysshe Shelley, and of him I am going to tell you something in this chapter.

On the 4th of August, 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place, near the village of Warnham, in Sussex. His father, "a well-meaning, ill-doing, wrong-headed man," was of a good family, and heir to a baronetcy. His mother was a beautiful woman.

HAS there ever been a time when no stories were told? Has there ever been a people who did not care to listen? I think not.

When we were little, before we could read for ourselves, did we not gather eagerly round father or mother, friend or nurse, at the promise of a story? When we grew older, what happy hours did we not spend with our books. How the printed words made us forget the world in which we live, and carried us away to a wonderland,

THE good king of whom we read in the last chapter was called Athelwold, and the poet tells us that there were happy days in England while he reigned. But at length he became sick unto death. Then was he sore grieved, because he had no child to sit upon the throne after him save a maiden very fair. But so young was she that she could neither "go on foot nor speak with mouth." So, in this grief and trouble, the King wrote to all his nobles, "from Roxburgh all unto Dover," bidding them come to him.

IN this chapter I am going to give you a part of one of the Townley plays to show you what the beginnings of our drama were like,

Although our forefathers tried to make the pageants as real as possible, they had, of course, no scenery, but acted on a little bare platform. They never thought either that the stories they acted had taken place long ago and in lands far away, where dress and manners and even climate were all very different from what they were in England.

ALTHOUGH Ben Jonson's days ended sadly, although his later plays showed failing powers, he left behind him unfinished a Masque called The Sad Shepherd which is perhaps more beautiful and more full of music than anything he ever wrote. For Ben's charm did not lie in the music of his words but in the strength of his drawing of character. As another poet has said of him, "Ben as a rule—a rule which is proved by the exception—was one of the singers who could not sing; though, like Dryden, he could intone most admirably."*

*Swinburne.

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