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Page 130

CHAPTER VII
SEVENTEENTH CENTURY - PURITANS AND CAVALIERS I

The world may find the spring by following her ;
For other print her airy steps ne'er left :
Her treading would not bend a blade of grass,
Or shake the downy blow-ball from his stalk.

Scattered through Jonson's plays are such beautiful bits of poetry as this ; and when we read them, we forgive him his too slavish attention to the unities.
The Tribe of Ben. Jonson became Poet Laureate, the first poet regularly appointed to that position ; but his courtly honours can hardly have given him as much real pleasure as the devotion of the younger literary men, the " Tribe of Ben," as they were called, who gathered around him with frank admiration and liking.
The romantic plays that most resembled the drama of Shakespeare were written in partnership by two men, Francis Beaumont and john Fletcher. Hardly anything is known of their lives except that they were warm friends and kept bachelor's hall together. Beaumont was twenty-three and Fletcher twenty-eight when their partnership began ; and it lasted until the death of Beaumont, nearly ten years later, after which Fletcher continued alone. Working together was a common practice among the dramatists, and sometimes we can trace almost with certainty the lines of a play written by one man and those written by his fellow-worker ; but in the case of Beaumont and Fletcher, the closest study has resulted in little more than elaborate guesswork. These two come nearest to Shakespeare on his own lines, that is, they can read men well, and they can put their thoughts into beautiful verse ; but in the third point of Shakespeare's greatness they are lacking ; Shakespeare

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