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THERE is beyond the Alps a towne of ancient fame, Where bright renoune yet shineth cleare, Verona men it name; Bylt in an happy time, bylt on a fertyle soyle, Maynteined by the heavenly fates, and by the townish toyle.
* In a preliminary note on Romeo and Juliet i observed that it was founded on The Tragicall Hystory of Romeus and Juliet, printed in 1562. That piece being almost as rare as a manuscript, I reprinted it a few years ago, and shall give it a place here as a proper supplement to the commentaries on this tragedy.
From the following lines in An Epitaph on the Death of Maister. Arthur Brooke drounde in passing to New-Haven, by George Tuberville, [Epitaphes, Epigrammes, &c. 1567,] we learn that the former was the author of this poem:
“ Apolio lent him lute, for solace sake,
“ 'To sound his verse by touch of stately string, “ And of the never-fading baye did make
" A lawrell crowne, about his browes to cling:
" In proufe that he for myter did excell,
“ As may be judge by Julyet and her mate ;
“ For there he shewde his cunning passing well,
“ When he'the tale to English did translate.
“ But what? as he to forraigne realm was bound,
“ With others moe his soveraigne queene to serve,
“. Amid the seas unluckie youth was drownd,
“ More speedie death than such one did deserve." The original relater of this story was Luigi da Porto, a gentleman of Vicenza, who died in 1529: His novel did not appear till some years after his death; being first printed at Venice, in octavo, in 1535, under the title of La Giulietta. In an epistle pre. fixed to this work, which is addressed Alla bellissima e leggiadra Madonna Lucina Savorgnana, the author gives the following account (probably a fictitious one of the manner in which he be. came acquainted with this story:
“ As you yourself have seen, when heaven had not as yet le. velled against me its whole wrath, in the fair spring of my youth I devoted myself to the profession of arms, and, following therein many brave and valiant men, for some years I served in your delightful country, Frioli, through every part of which, in the course of my private service, it was my duty to roam. I was ever accustomed, when upon any expedition on horseback, to bring with me an archer of mine, whose name was Peregrino, a man about fifty years old, well practised in the military art, a pleasant com.
The fruitefull hilles above, the pleasant vales belowe,
The silver streame with chanel depe, that through the town doth
The store of springes that serve for use, and eke for ease,
And other moe commodities, which profit may and please ;
Eke many certayne signes of thinges betyde of olde,
To fyll the houngry eyes of those that curiously beholde;
Doe make this towne to be preferde above the rest
Of Lombard townes, or at the least, compared with the best.
In which whyle Escalus as prince alone did raygne,
To reache rewarde unto the good, to paye the lewde with payne,
Alas! I rewe to thinke, an heavy happe befell,
Which Boccace skant, not my rude tonge, were able foorth to tell.
panion, and, like almost all his countrymen of Verona, a great talker This man was not only a brave and experienced soldier, but of a gay and lively disposition, and, more perhaps than be came his age, was for ever in love; a quality which gave a double value to his valour. Hence it was that he delighted in relating the most amusing novels, especially such as treated of love, and this he did with more grace and with better arrangement than any I have ever beard. It therefore chanced that, departing from Gra. disca, where I was quartered, and, with this archer and two other of my servants, travelling, perhaps impelled by love, towards Udi. no, which route was then extremely solitary, and entirely ruined and burned up by the war,—wholly absorbed in thought, and riding at a distance from the others, this Peregrino drawing near me, as one who guessed my thoughts, thus addressed me: Will you then for ever live this melancholy life, because a cruel and disdainful fair one does not love you? though I now speak against myself, yet, since advice is easier to give than to follow, I must tell you, master of mine, that, besides its being disgraceful in a man of your profession to remain long in the chains of love, almost all the ends to which he conducts us are so replete with misery, that it is dangerous to follow him. And in testimony of what I say, if it so please you, I could relate a transaction that happened in my native city, the recounting of which will render the way less solitary and less disagreeable to us; and in this relation you would perceive how two noble lovers were conducted to a miserable and piteous death.'— And now, upon my making him a sign of my wil. lingness to listen, he thus began."
The phrase, in the beginning of this passage, when heaven had' not as yet levelled against me its whole wrath, will be best explained by some account of the author, extracted from Crescimbeni, Is. toria della Volgar Poesia, T. V. p. 91: “ Luigi da Porto, a Vi. centine, kvas, in his youth, on account of his valour, made a leader in the Venetian army; but, fighting against the Germans in Fri. uli, was so wounded, that he remained for a time wholly disabled, and afterwards lame and weak during his life; on which account, quitting the profession of arms, he betook himself to letters,” &
Within my trembling hande my penne doth shake for feare,
And, on my colde amazed head, upright doth stand my hearę.
But sith shee doeth commaunde, whose hest I must obeye,
In moorning verse a woful chaunce to tell I will assaye.
Helpe, learned Pallas, helpe, ye Muses with your art,
Help, all ye damned feends, to tell of joyes retournd to smart:
Help eke, ye sisters three, my skillesse pen tindyte,
For you it causd, wbich I alas! unable am to wryte.
There were two auncient stocks, which Fortune hygh did plage
Above the rest, indewd with welth, and nobler of their race;
Lovd of the common sorte, lovd of the prince alike,
And lyke unhappy were they both, when Fortune list to stryke;
Whose prayse with equal blast Fame in her trumpet blew;
The one was clyped Capelet, and thother Mountague.
A wonted use it is, that men of likely sorte,
(I wot not by what furye forsd) envye eache others porte.
So these, whose egall state bred envye pale of hew,
And then of grudging envies roote blacke hate and rancor grew;
As of a littel
sparke oft ryseth mighty fyre, So, of a kyndled sparke of grudge, in fames flash oute their eyre: And then theyr deadly foode, first hatchd of trifling stryfe, Did bathe in bloud of smarting woundes,-it reved breth and lyfe. No legend lye I tell: scarce yet theyr eyes be drye, That did behold the grysly sight with wet and weeping eye. But when the prudent prince who there the scepter néide, So great a new disorder in his commonweale behelde, By jentyl meane he sought their choler to asswage, And by perswasion to appease their blameful furious rage; But both his woords and tyme the prince hath spent in vayne, So rooted was the inward hate, he lost his buysy payne. When frendly sage advise ne gentyll woords avayle, By thondring threats and princely powre their courage gan he
quayle; In hope that when he had the wasting flame supprest, In time he should quyte quench the sparke that boornd within
their brest. Now whylst these kyndreds do remayne in this estate, And eche with outward frendly shew doth hydę his inward hate, One Romeus, who was of race a Mountague, Upon whose tender chyn as yet no manlyke beard there grewe, Whose beauty and whose shape so farre the rest dyd stayne, That from the cheef of Veron youth he greatest fame dyd gayne, Hath found a mayde so fayre (he founde so foul his happe) Whose beauty, shape, and comely grace, did so his heart esz
trappe, That from his owne affayres his thought she did remove; Onely he sought to honour her, to serve her and to love. To her he writeth oft, oft messengers are sent, At length, in hope of better spede, himselfe the lover went; Present to pleade for grace, which absent was not founde, And to discover to her eye his new receaved wounde. But she that from her youth was fostred evermore With vertues foode, and taught in schole of wisdomes skilfull lore,
By aunswere did cuite off thaffections of his love,
That he no more occasion had so vayne a sute to move:
So sterne she was of chere, (for all the payne he tooke)
That, in reward of toyle, she would not geve a frendiy looke,
And yet how much she did with constant minde retire,
So much the more bis fervent minde was prickt fourth by desyre,
But when he, many monthes, hopeless of his recure,
Had served her, who forced not what paynes he did endure,
At length he thought to leave Verona, and to prove
If chaiinge of place might chaunge away bis ill-bestowed love;
And speaking to himselfe, thus gan he make his mone:
“What booteth me to love and serve a fell unthankfull one,
Sith that my humble sute, and labour sow de in vayne,
Can reape none other fruite at all but scorne and proude discayne?
What way she seekes to goe, the same I seeke to runne,
But she the path wherein I treade with spedy flight doth shunne.
I cannot live except that nere to her I be;
She is ay best content when she is farthest of from me,
Wherefore henceforth I will farre from her take my flight;
Perlaps, mine eye once banished by absence from her sight,
This fyre of myne, that by her pleasant eyne is fed,
Shall little and little weare away, and quite at last be ded.".
But whilest he did decree this purpose still to kepe.
A contrary repugnant thought sanke in his brest so depe,
That douteful is he now which of the twayne is best,
In syghs, in teares, in plainte, in care, in sorrow and unrest,
He mones the daye, he wakes the long and werey night;
So depe hath love, with pearcing hand, ygravid her bewty bright
Within his brest, and hath so mastred quyte his hart,
That he of force must yelde ås thrall;--no way is left to start.
He cannot stave his steppe, but forth styll must he ronne,
He languisheth and melts awaye, as snowe agaynst the sonne.
His kindred and alves do wonder what he ayles,
And eche of them in frendly wyse his heavy hap bewayles.
But one emong the rest, the trustiest of his feeres,
Farre more than he with counsel fild, and ryper of his yeeres,
Gan sharply him rebuke; such love to him he bare,
That he was fellow of bis smart, and partner of his care,
“ Wbat meanst thou Romeus, quoth he, what doting rage
Doth make thee thus consume away the best part of thine age,
In seking her that scornes, and hydes her from thy sight,
Not forsing all thy great expence, ne yet thy honour bright,
Thy teares, thy wretched lyfe, ne thine unspotted truth,
Which are of force, I weene, to move the hardest hart to ruthe!
Now, for our frendships sake, and for thy health, I pray
That thou hencefoorth become thine owne;-O give no more away
Unto a thankles wight thy pretious free estate:
In that thou lovest such a one thou seemst thy self to hate.
For she doth love els where, and then thy time is lorne;
Or els (what booteth thee to sue?) Loves court she hath forsworne.
Both yong thou art of yeres, and high in Fortunes grace:
What man is better shapd than thou? who hath a sweeter face?
By painfull studies meane great learning hast thou wonne,
Thy parents have none other heyre, thou art theyr oneiy sonne.
What greater greefe, trowst thou, what woful dedly smart,
Should so be able to distraine thy seely fathers hart,
As in his age to see the plonged deepe in vice,
When greatest hope he hath to heare thy vertues fame arise?
What shall thy kinsmen think, thou cause of all their ruthe?
Thy dedly foes doe gh to skorne thy yll-employed youth.
Wherefore my counsell is, that thou henceforth beginne
To knowe and flye the errour which to long thou livedst in.
Remove the veale of love that kepes thine eyes so blynde,
That thou ne canst the readiy path of thy forefathers fynde.
But if unto thy will so much in thrall thou art,
Yet in some other place bestowe thy witles, wandring hart.
Choose out some woorthy dame, her honor thou, and serve,
Who will give eare to thy complaint, and pitty ere thou sterve.
But sow no more thy paynes in such a barraine soyle
As yelds in harvest time no crop, in recompence of toyle.
Ere long the townish dames together will resort,
Some one of beauty, favour, shape, and of so lovely porte,
With so fast fixed eye perhaps thou mayst beholde,
That thou shalt quite forget thy love and passions past of olde."
The yong mans listning eare receivd the holsome sounde,
And reasons truth y-planted so, within his heade had grounde;
That now with healthy coole y-tempred is the heate,
And piece-ineale weares away the greefe that erst his heart did
To his approved frend a solemne othe he plight,
At every feast y-kept by day, and banquet made by night,
At pardons in the churche, at games in open streate,
And every where he would resort where ladies wont to mete;
Eke should his savage heart like all indifferently,
For he would vew and judge them all with unallured eye.
How happy had he been, had he not been forsworne!
But twice as happy had be been, had he been never borne.
For ere the moone could thrise her wasted hornes renew,
False Fortune cast for him, poore wretch, a mischiefe new to
The wery winter nightes restore the Christmas games,
And now the seson doth invite to banquet townish dames.
And fyrst in Capels house, the chiefe of all the kyn
Sparth for no cost, the wonted use of banquets to begin.
No lady fayre or fowle was in Verona towne,
No knight or gentleman of high or lowe renowne,
But Capilet himselfe hath byd unto his feast,
Or, by his name in paper sent, appointed as a geast.
Yong damsels thither flocke, of bachelers a rowte,
Not so much for the banquets sake, as bewties to serche out.
Biit not a Montagew would enter at his fate,
(For, as you heard, the Capilets and they were at debate)
Save Romeus, and he in maske, with hydden face,
The supper done, with other five did prease into the place.