Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

quercus,

arator

carmen

and our own bard of Avon, though with effect-he leaves it as the one they are more drawn within the com never to be obliterated-and with admon circle of human life, and may, mirable transition passes on to give therefore, be more directly and pal. some idea of the duration of his griefpably pathetic, yet want the romantic “Seven whole months by the lonely range and wild accompaniment which Strymon"make the original an untiring and ever-affecting narrative. It is one of “Septem illum totos perhibent ex or

dine menses those subjects, the embellishment of

Rupe sub aëria, deserti ad Strymonis which poetry has but vaguely defined, undam leaving the fuller accomplishment for Flevisse, et gelidis hæc evolvisse sub the sister art. The painter will find antris, in it full scope for his genius; it com- Mulcentem tigres, et agentem carmine prises a series of pictures, each varying in character-it admits of sub. And how truly pathetic is the simile ! limity, magnificence, tenderness, beau, and how is the cruelty and tenderness ty, richness of scenery, forest and touched off by the epithets durus and mountain, with their subdued and lis. implumes, and the violence of detraxit tening monsters, leopards and tigers, and the warmth of the nest ! And and the wild revelry of the Bacchana- then the loneliness of the grief-the lian women.

night season—the whole night If we must act the Didascalus, the ferule or a sound flogging for Ovid.

“Qualis populea mærens Philomela sub

umbra His jejune narrative has not a single Amissos queritur fætus, quos durus beauty—it is cold and feeble. Nor shall his trite sermonizing save him. Observans nido implumes detra:cit ; at And, oh! the puerile conceit that Eu illa rydice did not complain, when relaps. Flei noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile ing into death and Orcus, because it showed she was too much loved ! Integrat, et mæstis late loca questibus What business had he to prose it

implet.” away that we must all die ?

The whole tale of the Pastor Aris"Tendimus huc omnes, hæc est domus tæus (whom, by the by, we do not at ultima ; vosque

all pity for the loss of his bees), of Humani generis longissima regna tene- which the Orpheus forms but a part, tis."

is, perhaps, the richest of Virgil's epi. And his abominable conclusion merits sodes. But even in Virgil we object for him the real taking up.

to the speech of Eurydice. True, it *** Now let us see Virgil's account

is the best that could be made for her, read it again and again—it is all Mu- but it is destructive of the shadow of sic of Affection. If sparingly told, it mystery, which throws her image upis well set, and what is told reaches on the imagination as of a creature the heart. The sole, the absorbing

of love spiritualized, and as yet under passion of Orpheus breathes in the the prohibition of the human senses. inimitable hexameters-inimitable in

The injunction renders her invisible, tone, and in such choice of words, that and should have rendered her inaua substitution cannot be imagined. In

dible. How striking is this yet reall this it is perfect. What a tone of maining mystery of Death upon the melancholy pervades it! Virgil leaves living imagined in the Alcestis of Eumuch of the agony of Orpheus to be ripides! Simple, too, is the story of imagined, as a thing not to be told. Alcestis. Admetus, King of ThesWe see what Orpheus saw with his saly, is fated to die. Apollo, who, mind's eye—the picture that haunted banished from the Gods, had served him—his Eurydice in the Stygian bark, him, obtains life for him, on condition never to be restored. She was even

that one should die willingly in his before him in that fearful passage

stead. Alcestis alone, his wife, con

sents to die for him. She dies. At the “Illa quidem Stygia nabat jam frigida moment of her death, Hercules arrives cymba.”

as a guest at the house of Admetus. Having thus shown that such was the The hospitable Admetus receives him, ever-present scene in the mind's eye concealing the cause of his griet. of Orpheus, he could add no more This, however, Hercules learns from

6

the servants, and determines to res- been said proverbially that still wacue Alcestis from the hands of Death. ters run deep;' her passions are not He accordingly lies in ambush at the vehement, but in her settled mind the sepulchre, seizes, wrestles with Death, sources of pain or pleasure, love or and obtains Alcestis. Hercules re- resentment" (the last we would omit, turns with her to Admetus, but does as not shown, at least in action, in that not discover her until the lamenting of Alcestis), “ are, like the springs that husband has given proof of his love feed the mountain lakes, impenetraand the depth of his affliction, by re- ble, unfathomable, and inexhaustible. fusing to receive her to his care, sup- Shakspeare has conveyed (as is his posing her to be one whom Hercules custom) a part of the character of (as he had declared) had won as the Hermione in scattered touches, and prize of his toils, and requested Adme- through the impressions she produces on tus to preserve until his return. The all around her.

· The play here terminates in the restoration expressions, ó most sacred lady,' • dread of Alcestis to her husband. She is mistress,' sovereign,' with which thus, in her dying, and more full and she is addressed or alluded to; the happy restoration, the true Eurydice. boundless devotion and respect of The dim and faintly sketched charac- those around her, and their confidence ter of fable is brought out from the in her goodness and innocence, are so cold shades of Orcus into the warmth many additional strokes in the porand glow of life and love, a mere indi- trait.” There is a striking instance vidual human being, and therefore the of one of these incidental touches in more an object of our admiration and Euripides; one of the servants speaks sympathy, breathing virtuous patience, of Alcestis as unknown endurance, and indomitable

Δέσποινα affection, in her dying breath. Eury. Mieno carròs yàn uupiwv {povera.

, ή η πάσι τ' οίκέταισιν ην dice is the ideal personification, Alces- Onyàs pudácsovo' ávopos.-Line 772. tis the natural perfection of wedded love.

My mistress, who to me and all the do

inestics was Everything in the play is made subservient to the developement of this As a mother, for from innumerable ills

she freed us: beautiful character. She has none to

Soothing the anger of her husband. support her (no female friend) in her resolution, and her husband is unable, Admetus we can scarcely respect; and, we fear, unworthy the sad office : bad as the act of allowing his wife to she is supported solely by her love- die for him is, the dialogue between her own gentle, yet firm mind. It is him and his old father, whom he upthis union of firmness and gentleness braids for not dying, instead of his that constitutes the beauty, we had wife, for him, sinks him lower in our almost said the rarity of her character. regard than the occasion of the drama Our sympathy is kept alive by her requires and the old man has, uncontinual dying ; there is no cessation questionably, the best of the argument. from the secret working of the doom Towards the end of the play, however, under which, whilst she suffers, she he rises, through pity for his unfeigned loses not one particle of her resolution : love and affliction, and his refusal to nor has her ebbing life less tenderness : receive his undiscovered wife, brought as the life-blood chills, life lingers as to him by Hercules, somewhat in our it were in the surviving warmth of her esteem; so that we are artfully thus affections. Mrs. Jameson, in her ad- prepared entirely to sympathize with mirable work on the Female Charac- him, and finally to enter into his full ters of Shakspeare, in that of Her- happiness in having the lovely, the mione not unaptly describes Alcestis. lost Alcest's restored to him. His * She is a queen, a matron, and a aversion to look at the lady to be inmother; she is good and beautiful, trusted to his care, and at the first royally descended ; a majestic sweet- hasty look the resemblance to the form ness, a grand and gracious simplicity, of Alcestis

, and his burst of feeling, an easy, unforced, yet dignified self- and wonder, and entreaty that she possession, are in all her deportment, should be removed from his sight, and in every word she utters; she is thereupon, are perfect in dramatic efone of those characters of whom it has fect.

[ocr errors]

συ δ', ω γύναι,
τίς ποτ' ει συ, ταύτ' έχουσ'Αλκήσιοι

Μορφής μέτρ' ίσθι, και προσήίξαι δέμας.
Οι μοι' κόμιζε προς θεών απ' όμμάτων
I'vvaika tnude, jin r' inns jonuivov, Line 1065.

And you, O lady,
Whoever you are, know that you have the same stature
As Alcestis, and are like to her in person.
Alas, me! remove from my eyes, by the gods I beseech you,

This lady, that you do not utterly destroy me undone.
And his after hesitation, how expressed in the breaking of the line

Δοκώ γάρ, αυτων εισορών, γιαϊκ' οι άν
'Env.

Methinks as I look on her, I do behold
My wise.

How like Shakspeare, where poor old Lear, in similar doubt and surprise, says

"Methinks I should know you, and know ibis man,
Yet I am doubtful; for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is; and all the skill i have
Remembers not these garmenis; por I know pot
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me,
For, as I am a man, I think this lady

To be my child Cordelia."-King Lear, Act IV., Scene 5. Thus Admetus, that the interest may still be in suspense, has the vision removed from his eyes, for they are dim with tears, and he can for awhile no longer see; fand then is his grief renewed with double bitterness, as from a double loss.

θολοι δε καρδίαν εκ δ' όμματων
Πηγαί κατερρώγασιν' ώ τλήμων εγώ,

,
“Ως άρτι πένθους τουδε γεύομαι πικρου. ,
It troubles my heart, and from my eyes
The fountains flow down. O, wreiched that I am,
How afresh do I taste the bitterness of this grief!

The refusal of Hercules to deliver her into any other hand but that of Admetus most feelingly and naturally brings about the discovery. He receives her with averted look, and knows not that she is his wife till he is told to look at her, and see if she be like her, and be happy. The recognition (even ending in terror, lest it be unreal-some phantom conjured from the dead—is true to nature) is finely conceived,

Admetus. "Ω θεοί, τί λεξω; θαύμ' ανελπιστον τόδε:

Γυναίκα λειταω τήνδ' εμήν έτηγύμως,

κέρτομος με θεού τις εμπλήσσει χαρά; Hercules. C. έστιν αλλά την δ' οράς δέματα σήν. Admetus. 'Ορα γε, μή τι φάσμα νερτερων τόδ' ή.

Admetus. O Gods! what shall I sar ? an hoped for is this miracle ;

I do indeed look on this my wife;

Or does s me false heart-cutting joy of the God strike me with winder ? Hercules. Not so; but in truth you sec here your very wife. Admetus. Oh! take care, then, that this be nó phantom of the dead.

And what does Alcestis say? Al- happiness? And who would dissolve cestis! the recovered from the dead, the spiritual awe_that is around her? * forbid to tell the secrets of that pri- The spell of Death in Life. She son-house." Can speech tell her speaks not. When Admetus asks why

she speaks not, who could give the which the newly-vested spirit must in
reply but the Hercules who had grap- part put off, in the resumption of her
pled with Death, and knew the undis. mortal loveliness?
coverable mysteries, and the holiness

Ad. Τί γάρ ποθ' ήδ' άναυδος έστηκεν γυνη;
Herc. Ούτω θέμις σοι τήσδε προσφωνημάτων

Κλύειν, πριν αν θεοίσι τοίσι νερτέροις
'Αφαγνισηται, και τρίτον μόλη φάος.

'Ai'ciosy' ciow rúvós. Line 1146.
A2. Why, then, does this lady stand speechless ?
Herc. It is not permitted you as yet to hear her words

Address d to you before her purification, and rites
To the infernal gods, and the third day shall come.

But lead her now within. In the tale of Orpheus, he is him- of the Winter's Tale. The fabulous self every thing—not so in the play. is altogether dropped. We lose someThe Eurydice there is every thing in thing, it is true, of the awful interest, the Alcestis. It is sufficient, therefore, wonderous mystery of the rescue from in the latter, that the conquest over Death itself—that bold personification; Death should be by main force; for, but the situations, therefore, the more had the spell of Orpheus been added, come home to our own hearts. the pathos of the wife's devotion would In the Alcestis, we admire more have been diminished, and the dying than we pity. She is a voluntary sufweakness of the gentle wife is not ill ferer. So, indeed, to a certain exset off by the vigour of the arm that tent, is llermione, for she endures a rescues her yet the real story is sixteen years' seclusion—unnecessarily, more poetical

, and more really grand but for her honour's sake—but, in all in itself

. Hercules conquers Hades by that relates to her husband, she is main force-Orpheus by a new power, vilely injured. Euripides makes Adhis lyre, a thousand times more po- metus but a poor character. Shaktent; for the earth yields to his incan- speare makes Leontes a wicked one. tation, and opens to him a passage, Perhaps the Queen sees but his jealand Pluto and Proserpine are not ousy as the cause of his cruelty to constrained, but charmed. Death is her, and may therefore be excused for but as the minister—the servant-and her final reconciliation; but the comhad not delivered up his charge; but manding one of his courtiers secretly in the case of Orphe's the inexorable to poison Polyxenes, the object of his deities were moved. We have ob- jcalous passion, his friend, and his served that Admetus is not the most guest, is so mean a piece of villainy, Forthy character. Was this intended that we are scarcely reconciled to him to show the nature of woman's love ? throughout the play, and are the less to enhance it? to exalt it? How per. interested in his penitence. This fect is that woman in her all-perfect would have been injurious to the love, whose sense of duty, and obe- piece, were it not for the divided indience, and affection, absorbs to itself, terest afforded by Perdita in the two but to annihilate them, the defects of last acts. In Perdita Hermione finds the man she bas chosen, and sees in her reward. She is, indeed, reconhim but the husband and the father! ciled to Leontes, and wonderfully fine If Euripides has selected so poor a is that reconciliation, and therein she, character as Admetus, we may sup- too, like Alcestis, is silent; but Perpose it was not without reason, for dita she blesses-like a creature that Shakspeare has even worse mated had for years been conversant with Hermione. And here in Hermione holy thoughts and prayers for the prewe have Eurydice again—the new servation of her child, and as one entiversion, the invention, but from the tled to bless. original tale, of consummate genius. The statue is a fine conception, a If, in the Alcestis, the Eurydice be beautiful version of the fable, and the brought within the circle of domestic peculiar character of Hermione well life, a real dramatis persona, it is suits it. She has all the calm dignity, much more the case in the Hermione even in her greatest trials, which is VOL. XLIV.

3

the grace of ancient marbles. We tence, and of his love, of the agony of
are not surprised to see her represent- his affection, yet still she moves not !
ed, for she is statuesque (if there be The impetuous Paulina could not have
cuch a word) throughout. She is borne this yet it is not for Hermione
sensible of her husband's full peni- that she fears
" Paulina.

I'll draw the curtain,
My Lord's almost so far transported, that

He'll think agon it lives." And even yet Hermione moves not. Nay! she waits the bidding, and as it were the animating the statue by an incantation; and when she stirs, she moves solemnly, as one slowly returning to life. Shakspeare here did not forget the mystery of the criginal fable" Paulina. Stir; nay, come away,

Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
Dear life redeems you. You perceive she stirs.

(Hermione comes down. Start not, her action shall be ho'y, as

You hear my spell is lawful.” Here, too, as far as he could, has Shakspeare taken advantage of the silence of Alcestis. They embrace, but not a word does she yet speak. We learn her action from others" Leontes.

Oh, she is warm !
If this be magic, let it be an act

Lawful as eating: Polyx. She embraces him." Alcestis has no friend, no compan- the riotous Bacchants, so leave the two ion. She needed none. Admetus plays their revel and wake. The was to her all in all-and she the sell- jovial Hercules, who seems to have devoted. It was necessary for the taken out a license “to be drunk on plot that Hermione should have a the premises," is at once the contrast friend; Leontes was not all to her- and the relief to the universal wo of she regarded the Oracle, and lived in the house of Admetus.

The country hope of recovering her child. But, wake, with the merry knave Autolycus, that she may stand alone in interest, set off the graver scenes, and pleasanthow unlike is the calm Hermione to ly prepare the mind for the concluding the impassioned and vehement Paul- happiness. Shakspeare must ina, and how httle do they come in con. how or other have met with the p ay of tact in the play, that the majestic quiet Euripides, for be certainly a ludes to may not suffer.

the story.

Florizel speaks of Apollo As the original Orpheus is among serving Admetus

" And the fire-robed god,
Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,

As I seem now. And it is not impossible that the very idea of the statue may have been suggested by the following passage from the Alcestis of Euripides, wherein Admetus proposes to have a statue made of his wife :

Σοφή δε χειρί τεκτόνων δέμα -και τον
Εικασθέν εν λέκτρoισιν έκταθήσεται.
And by the skilful hand of statuary shall your

Imag'd form be laid in my bed. Can we wonder at the charm of such tales as Orpheus, Alcestis, and Hermione -or in one, of Eurydice—the lost Eurydice !--the just recovered—and the lost again. What is it but the poetical version of bereft affection's nightly dream? Did it not glide in with the stillness of night, and, enacting life, draw Milten's curtain?

some.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »