The verse is in a way peculiar. It is intended as blank verse, and it is true that the licences taken do not exceed those commonly allowed by the practice of dramatists such as Fletcher, but here they are wholly unregulated by any natural feeling for metre or rhythm, and the resuit can hardly be called pleasing. On the other hand, there are a few happy lines, as where a lover bids his penitent mistress
Knock at Repentance gate, one tear of thine
Will easily compell an entrance. (V. ii.)
There are also some passages of forcible vigour, not always subject to dramatic propriety. Nevertheless, the qualities of life and brightness displayed are sufficient to induce a belief that had the author begun writing at a moment more propitious than the eve of the civil war, and pursued his career on the practical London stage, our drama might have been the richer by, say, a second Shirley, an addition which those who know that writer best will probably rate most highly. In any case the composition must, I think, be held to surpass in genuine qualities Cowley’s flashy precocity.
This will be the most convenient place to mention an anonymous and undated play entitled Love’s Victory, extracts from a manuscript of which were printed in 1853. The style of the piece is not much guide as to the date, but the play does not appear to be early, in spite of the somewhat archaic spelling. It is in rime; mostly decasyllabic couplets, but with free intermixture of alternative rime and frequent lyrical passages. It is of course difficult to gather much of the plot from the printed extracts, but so far as it is possible to judge the play appears to have been a pure pastoral, with Venus and Cupid introduced in the finale, while the situations and characters are those habitual to pastorals, including the quite superfluous protesting of a not very prepossessing chastity. The only more original trait is the scene in which the nymphs meet and relate their love adventures, a rather awkward device for carrying on the involution of the plot. There is a certain ease in the verse, but on the whole the poetic merit is small.
We have now passed in review all the regular pastoral plays lying within our scope. There remain a number of shorter compositions of a similar or at least analogous nature, as well as a good many masques and other pieces in which the pastoral element is more or less dominant. These it will for our present purpose be convenient to consider in connexion with each other, and without troubling ourselves too much concerning such nice differences of form as may be found to exist among them.
Masques and General Influence