Imágenes de páginas


feeble eyes.


much less criminal, in her case, for In a beautiful description, the mes. that Venus was sovereign of the carth, senger finishes the narrative. Hipthe ocean, and the sky, and that even polytus is brought upon the stage, and the Gods acknowledged her sway, but his innocence is established by the inthat if she would follow hier advice, a tervention of Diana, who reconciles remedy might still be devised. Hip- him to his father. polytus is informed, by the nurse, of 7. For me there is no more delight in the love of Phædra, who, hurried on life. by shame and despair, dies by her II. For thee I sorrow, and not for own hands. Meanwhile Theseus ar

myself. rives, and finds the letter already

T. Oh! would that I had died instead mentioned, and, in the paroxysm of

of thee. his grief and rage, meets Hippolytus,

II. Father, how cruel are the gifts of whom, in the bitterness of his spirit,

Neptune. he curses, and orders into banishment.

T. Oh! that my tongue had not pro. He defends himself from the charge The Gods combined against me to deceive

nounced the prayer ; by his known character, but the nurse, having bound him by an oath of se H. The shades of death o'erspread my crecy, he does not even insinuate the guilt of Phædra. He quits the stage T. My son, how wretched thou wilt with these words:


thy father.

11. The gates of death are open to reH. Wretch that I am, my doom is

ceive me. fix'd for ever.

T. Oh! say thou dost acquit me of Oh! virgin huntress, whose abodes I love

thy death. More than the shrines of all the other Gods,

H. I do acquit thee,—thou art innoI must relinquish Athens and its glory. Oh! ye delightful vallies of Trezené, T. How generous thou art to me, my son. Where I have spent the gollen hours of H. I die, and fare thee well for ever, youth,

father. Farewell, I ne'er must look on you again ; T. Oh! glorious Athens, what a heavy Ye young companions of my happier days,

loss Speak consolation to me, and conduct me Hast thou sustained in this illustrious man; From forth this land.

Oh! woe is me. A messenger arrives, and informs This play is peculiar among the Theseus of the fatal accident which Greek tragedies, as being founded on had befallen his son :

love; but the love of Phædra is a guilty

passion, and it is by her generous M. We wept, as we prepared our master's struggle to conquer it, and by those

steeds On the sea beach, washıed by the rolling nature in which she transports herself


involuntary and enthusiastic bursts of For we had heard the gallant prince was

in imagination, to the favourite haunts doom'd,

of the object of her idolatry, and by By thy decree, to quit his native land, the atonement she makes in preferring An exile, never more to see his country;

death to shame, that Euripides has And soon he came, the tidings to contirin, rendered her character so greatly inAnd he was beautiful amid his sorrow, teresting. A dramatic writer among And melody was in his words of woe ; ourselves has fallen into the same train And with him came a multitude of youths of feeling, when he makes one of his Of his own age, whose souls were knit to

personages, in very similar circumhis By the indissoluble bonds of friendship;

stances, beautifully exclaim, And of their weeping there had been no Oh! that I were on the hill side with end,

Bertram. Had not he cried, My friends, why stand I shall now consider the metamorwe here?

phosis of this play by a French poet. I must obey the orders of my father. Then lifting up his hands to heaven, he

In the original, every thing is Greek; cried,

a Greek legend, Greek customs, Greek Oh! Jove, if I am guilty, let me perish ;

characters, Greek mythology, and pure But if I die or live, convince my father

Attic taste; but there is reason to fear That I am innocent, and he has wrongd that the Frenchman has mingled :

little of the seasoning of his coun




try with the simple viands of Greece. her own husband. This was a refineHe tells us, in a preface to his play, ment that could only have entered inthat the ancients blamed the charac- to the head of a Frenchman of the ter of Hippolytus as being too free age of Lewis the Fourteenth. The from the weaknesses incident to our only crime of which she is guilty in nature. They may have done so, and Euripides, is the false accusation of they may have been wrong. No very an innocent man by her last act, but attentive perusal of this play will con- to this she is led by the fear of her vince us, that much of its pathos arises name being sullied after death by his from the purity of his manners, and testimony against her. Racine has the lofty moral tone of his mind. He put the accusation into the mouth of was simply a young man of a cultivat- the nurse, and says, “ J'ai crû que la ed taste, addicted to the study of phi- calomnie avoit quelque chose de trop losophy, and fond of field sports;- bas et de trop noir pour la mettre whose bosom had not hitherto felt the dans la bouche d'une princesse. Cette passion of love, and who, therefore, bassesse m'a paru plus convenable à une fancied it a weakness to which he was nourrice.” It was likely enough that superior. It was certainly not the ri- such trash as this should issue from gour of virtue to receive, with indig- the courtly sycophants of that age. nation, the advances of a

The truth is, that, in such cases, whom he had every reason to believe princes and princesses are mere men a wanton, who wished to seduce him and women ; and there is even reason into an unnatural crime; and, even to believe that the tragic writers have in the heat of his resentment, to in- generally chosen the palace as the dulge in an invective against the whole scene of their actions, only because it sex; for whatever the ancients may has been the theatre of great crimes, have said, or Racine may have sup- more frequently than the dwellings of posed, this is all that appears in the humbler men; but he has been guilty play. But, by way of endowing him of a greater violation of nature in makwith more amiable and more interest- ing her accuse herself, in the end of ing qualities, he makes him a whining the play, which is inconsistent with lover, who has long entertained an the whole conception of her character. involuntary and a hopeless passion for He has, besides, omitted the scene of Aricie, a new personage whom he has reconciliation, one of the most tender introduced for this purpose, and thus in the play, and has allowed Hipporuins the whole beauty and integrity lytus to die suspected of a revolting of the creation of Euripides. In or- crime, more intolerable to such a mind der to diminish the guilt of Phædra, than a thousand deaths. Such are he has made another change in pro- the changes Racine has made on the pagating a report of the death of The- fable, and the reader may judge if seus, in which she believed. This they are improvements. was altogether unnecessary. In the 'I'he author has said, “ Je n'ai pas Greek play, her love is a divine in- laissé d'enrichir ma piéce de tout ce fliction, and even though that idea qui m'a paru le plus éclatant dans la could not be introduced into a modern sienne." "I shall examine how far this tragedy, the sentiment is involuntary, promise is fulfilled. One of the most and her heart and her actions are brilliant passages in the Greek play, alike pure. She sees her danger, and is that in which the young hunter laments it, and is long the martyr of returns from the chace, singing the concealment. The interest of the praises of Diana, and bearing a garpiece is in the struggle betwixt love land to offer at her shrine. In this and duty in her mind; and, when description, we feel the inspiration of she can no longer maintain the com the silence, and solitude, and darkness bat, she withdraws from it by a vo- of the groves, and tread among flowers luntary death. This is as tragical as visited only by the wing of the wild possible, and it was certainly an ex- bee, and have our souls purified by traordinary way of removing the hor- the chastity of the dews.

These are ror of guilt, and of heightening pa- the genuine themes of poetry. We thos, to represent her as making

a de- have a similar passage in a celebrated claration of love to a son immediately work, of such beauty, that I cannot after the death of his father, who was resist the temptation of quoting it.


a man.

Hie away, hie away,

few happy touches, brought before Over bank and over brae,

the mind, in the richness of Nature, Where the copsewood is the greenest, the skies, and the woodlands, and the Where the fountains glisten sheenest, mountains of Greece. Where the lady-fern grows strongest, Where the morning dew lies longest, Dieux ! que ne suis je assise à l'ombre Where the black-cock sweetest sips it,

des forets. Where the fairy latest trips it ; Hie to haunts right seldom seen,

This is one of the few poetical lines Lovely, lonesome, cool, and green,

in the French play, because it is literOver bank and over brae,

ally taken from the Greek ; but, the Hie away, hie away.

moment the poet has got into a train

of true feeling and genuine poetry, It is probable, that, at the moment of composition, the Scottish minstrel did by a strange infatuation he quits it,

and degenerates into such ravings asnot think of the lines of Euripides, or perhaps was not aware of their exist De l'amour j'ai toutes les fureurs. ence, yet, with all his well earned fame, he will not blush at having ac Yes! the delicate-minded, but uncidentally fallen into the track of such fortunato, Phædra, who would suffer

For these refreshing views of death rather than breathe her passion nature, to which the poet's mind is into the ear of any one living, disever ready to escape froin the crowds closes the secret of her soul to Hippoand constraints of the city, Racine lytus himself. In a conversation, in has substituted a conversation between which he endeavours to console her Hippolytus and a friend, in which he for the death of Theseus, he says,professes a determination to go in Peut-être votre epoux voit encore le jour. search of his father, who had been long absent from his country; but it But nothing was further from her soon appears that his object is to shun wishes ; and she replies, the fascination of a young princess, for whom, in the style of true French On ne voit point deux fois les rivages des gallantry, il brule:

Que dis-je ? il n'est point mort, puisque il

respire en vous. Je fuis, je l'avoûerai, cette jeune Aricie.

-Connois donc Phedre et toute sa fureur.

Je t'aime, In the same style he addresses the lady:

J'ai langui, j'ai scché, dans les feux, dans

les larmes. Il faut vous informer D'un secret que mon cæur ne peut plus

This would have been food for the renfermer;

woman-hate of Hippolytus indeed ; Vous voyez devant vous un prince deplor- but the unwelcome husband starts up, able.

and spoils the intrigue. Theseus is

astonished at the confusion and emAnd, again,

barrassment of her manner, and the Mes seuls gemissements font retentir les coldness of his son. bois,

Que vois-je ? quelle horreur dans ces lieux Et mes coursiers oisifs ont oublié ma voix.


Fait fuir devant mes yeux ma famille There was certainly nothing to pre

eperduc. vent Racine from writing so; he hung his reputation as a poet on the risk ;

The nurse then clears up the mysbut he had no right to commit mur- tery, by the accusation of Hippolytus, der on the fine inventions and glo- and, as in the Greek play, the father rious imaginations of Euripides, and prays to Neptune to inflict vengeance to give to the sickly bantling of his on the son. own fantastic brain the name of the Et toi Neptune, higli-minded Hippolytus. Nor has Je t'implore aujourdhui, venge un malhe been more fortunate in the scene

heureux pere. which he has substituted for that in which Phædra first appears in the


young man protests his innoGreek play, where the genius of Eu

cence in vain. ripides has blended the enthusiasm of Le jour n'est pas plus pur que le fond de love with its concealment, and, by a


mon cau.


And, when driven to extremity, in This is one of the few passages which order to remove all suspicion of love Racine has not changerl, and it is rafor Phædra, he confesses his secret ther extraordinary that he should have passion for Aricie, though he knew blundered alike in his copy and his she was of a race hated by his father. changes. The story of the sea-monJe l'adorai, et mon ane à vos ordres re

ster raised by Neptune in answer to belle,

the prayers of Theseus, is tolerable in Ne peut ni soupirer ni bruler que pour

Euripides, because it was within the elle.

superstitious belief of the country; But Theseus, who considers this a have devised simpler means of over

but surely a Christian poet might mere artifice, remains inexorable. Phædra intercedes for him with her turning a chariot than the agency of husband; and it is not enough for and in her last moments acquits Hip

a heathen god. Phædra takes poison, Racine to represent her as degrading herself by the declaration of her love, polytus by the confession of her own he must likewise find a rival for her;

Such is the far famed Phedre, the and, instead of listening to her solici- glory of the French stage. The retations, he tells her,

putation which this tragedy has obIl soutient qu'Aricie a son cæur, a sa foi, tained in France, would almost tempt Qu'il aime.

us to believe that there was one standAnd she thus

ard of nature there, and another in her feelings

expresses to the nurse :

England and Greece. It is fortunate,

however, that there are principles in Ænone, qui l'eut crut! j'avois une rivale, which the majority of mankind are Le tigre que jamais je n'abordai sans crainte, agreed, by which we may judge of the Soumis, apprivoisé, reconnait une vain accidental tastes and false refinements

queur, Aricie a trouvé le chemin de son cæur.

of any age or country. To this test it

is my purpose to bring this play; and Hippolytus, before his departure, the poetry of the age of Lewis XIV., has a tender interview with Aricie, which is considered by the French whom he urges to an elopement. She themselves as the golden age of their is alarmed, no doubt.

literature--on the productions of which A. Mais vous m'aimez, Seigneur, et ma

all their poetry since has been mo

delled. Never was there an age, pergloire alarmée.

haps, in which any people had deviBut he calms her fears,

ated further from the simplicity of Non, non, j'ai trop de soin de votre renom

nature, and, of course, in which poetry mée ;

was more unlikely to thrive. In that

reign, every thing appears in a state adding, that there was a temple where of monstrous distortion. All the moral mortals did not dare to commit per, feelings were sophisticated and corrupta jury; that they would go there and ed, and the simple pleasures of nature pledge their mutual faith.

were neglected by the minions of a Est un temple sacré, formidable aux par- profligate court, who preferred the jures,

cheek plastered with rouge to the fresh Des dieux les plus sacrés j'attesterai le bloom of youth and beauty, and the

tinsel of the royal drawing-room, to Et la chaste Diane et l'auguste Junon,

the glorious garniture of heaven and Et tous les dieux enfin, temoins de mes

earth, and degraded the dignity of tendresses, Garantiront la foi de mes saintes promesses.

man into the grimaces of a monkey.

Among them there was nothing of No novel writer ever cooked up friendship but the smile; and the Gretna-Green and the blacksmith in pure fountains of love and domestic more delightful style. Oh! genius of affection were poisoned by an unEuripides, couldst thou have foreseen blushing gallantry that made a jest of this indignity! But the happy lovers fidelity and the union of congenial are interrupted by the entrance of hearts ; nor were the well-heads of Theseus, who is the grand Marplot of virtue alone tainted,—the polluted

waters overflowed the land, and corThe death of Hippolytus is taken rupted the whole mass of society. In from Euripides in all its circumstances. such a state of things, it would


the play.

be vain to look for true taste. In ter fitted for the smartness of an epiother countries, courtiers have been gram, than the lofty imaginations of contented to walk abroad and enjoy an enthusiastic mind, or the deep feelthe voice of the muse in her native ings of the heart; and it may be safeelement, amid the beauties, or sublimi- ly asserted, that if the writings of ties, or solitudes of nature ; in France Homer, and Shakespear, and Milton, alone, she has been compelled to en- and Spencer, are poetry, we look in ter the palace, (where she ought never vain for any thing similar in France, to have appeared but armed with to which we should give the name. whips and scorpions,) tricked up in Such as it is we shall examine it, and the garb of a court wanton, with her the French themselves will not say golden tresses bedaubed with powder, that we treat them unfairly, if we and the celestial tints of her counte rest their pretensions to it on the nance overlaid with “paint an inch Phedre. thick ;" and the consequence has been, The structure of their verse is like that the Divinity has fled in indigna- every thing else, the most artificial tion, and left an incubus in her place. and constrained that ever was invent

This artificial people seem to have ed. The ear is fatigued, and the wanted the very eleinents of the po- mind disgusted by the constant recuretical character, simplicity, and since rence of rhyme in a conversation rity, and profound feeling, and enthu- poein, and there is a total want of the siasm, and the spontaneous kindling of variety of pauses and cadences on delight, from the great or the lovely which all the music of rythmical lanin the various shows of external na guage depends. Intense feeling rejects ture. With them green fields, and a multitude of words, and the noblest leafy forests, and pure waters, and thoughts are always expressed in the bright skies, are themes unworthy of simplest language ; but, with the poetry. They have wilfully shut their French, feeling degenerates into sentieyes on the windows of heaven, and mental declamation, and greatness into denied themselves what other poets inflation. Wehave seen how the beautihave considered their most noble pri- ful simplicity of the Greek characters is vilege, the unlimited range of the ruined by the meretricious refinement universe. They have contined them- of the French poet, and equally so are selves to the human passions and their the sentiments

that they utter, which, consequences upon human character; whether they be tender or sublime, and as they have neglected one wide are always true to nature. Instead of field of nature, so in that which they the elevation of soul with which Euhave selected they have forsaken the ripides has inspired his hero, and the right path.

rich and refreshing scenes with which A French author has said that his he has surrounded his path, we have countrymen havenot“ la tétteepique;" such lines as he might have added, with equal justice, l'imagination poetique;" ‘and Mais que sert d'affecter un superbe disit has been lately acknowledged by a - French lady, of deserved celebrity,

Avouez le, tout change, et depuis quelques

jours, that the prose writers of France are

On vous voit moins souvent, orgueilleux more poetical than the poets them

et sauvage, selves. On another occasion, we may Tantôt faire voler un char sur le rivage, consider the poetry of their prose, Tantôt savant dans l'art par Neptune inand perhaps discover that they have venté, as little to boast of here.

Rendre docile au frein une coursier inexamine their poetry by the stand

dompté, ard of nature, as it has existed in all Les forets de nos cris moins souvent retenages, from the times of Homer down

tissent, wards, we shall find that it is as arti. Chargés d'un feu secret vos yeux s'apficial and fantastic as their character. Il n'en faut point douter vous aimez, vous

pesantissent, They are, in truth, an imaginationless

brulez, race, but in proportion to their de vous perissez d'un mal qui vous dissimu. ficiency in all the qualities requisite lez. to form the poetical character are their vanity and conceit. Their very lan When the characters ought to speak guage is unpoetical, being much bet- the language of the passion, under the


If we

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