« ZurückWeiter »
she speaks not, who could give the which the newly-vested spirit must in
Ad. Τί γάρ ποθ' ήδ' άναυδος έστηκεν γυνή και
Κλύειν, πριν αν θεοίσι τοϊσι νερτέροις
'Αλλ' είσαι είσω τήνδε. Line 1146.
Address'd to you before her purification, and rites
But lead her pow 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, Alcestis. It is sufficient, therefore, the wondrous mystery of the rescue in the latter, that the conquest over from Death itself—that bold personifiDeath should be by main force ; for, cation ; but the situations, therefore, had the spell of Orpheus been added, the more 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 Hermione, 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 Orpheus the inexorable · to poison Polyxenes, the object of his deities were moved. We have ob. jealous passion, his friend, and his served that Admetus is not the most guest, is so mean a piece of villany, worthy 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 Jove, whose sense of duty, and obe- piece, were it not for the divided in. dience, 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 has chosen, and sees in her reward. She is, indeed, reconhim but the husband and the father! If Euripides has selected so poor a
ciled to Leontes, and wonderfully fine very
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 enversion, the invention, but from the titled 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
the grace of ancient marbles. We tence, and of his love, of the agony of
I'll draw the curtain,
He'll think anon 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 original fable“ Paulina. Stir ; nay, come away,
Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
[Hermione comes down,
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 !
Lawful as eating. Polyx. She embraces him." Alcestis has no friend, no compa- the riotous Bacchants, so have the two nion. She needed none. Admetus plays their revel and wake. The was to her all in all--and she the self- 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 counhope of recovering her child. But, try wake, with the merry knave Au. that she may stand alone in interest, tolycus, set off the graver scenes, and how unlike is the calm Hermione to . pleasantly prepare the mind for the the impassioned and vehement Paul- concluding happiness. Shakspeare ina, and how little do they come in must somehow or other have met with contact in the play, that the majestic the play of Euripides, for he certainly quiet may not suffer.
alludes to the story. Florizel speaks As the original Orpheus is among of Apollo serving Admetus
“ And the fire-robed god, Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,
As I seem now."
Σοφή δε χειρί τεκτόνων δέμας το σον
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 Milton's curtain ?
“ Methought I saw my late espoused saint
Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
Rescu'd from death by force, though pale and faint.
Purification in the old law did save,
Full sight of ber in Heaven without restraint ;-
Her face was il'd; yet to my fancied sight
Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
But O, as to embrace me she inclin'd,
I wak’d; she fled; and day brought back my night."- Millon. A dream ! it shall be the poet's mouth,” and visits the subterranean dream. And here is Elton's “ Dream cataracts. So much we consider as of Orpheus.” He has most happily the drop-scene indicative of the genetreated the subject as a dream, with ral character of the piece, for in other the boldness, the transition, the action respects it is unnecessary. From this of a Greek. He is Greek in his he emerges, in his "bodiless, swift dream, and has given us an English presence," and is again upon the moun. version not to be despised. The poet, tains, which are poetically described in a vision,—“my visual sense was as fit scenery for the agency of the soul,"—is amongst strange mountains poem. and forests. He pierces" a cavern's
“ The vulture cross'd the azure with his shade,
Starting, as 't were a leaf, scarce seen and gone." - Page 181. He is in the territory of the Bacchants, hears enchanting music, and “ with a thought” is before a mountain grotto. There are “ nymphs with vine-leaves erown'd." Orpheus, of the music of whose lyre he had heard, is here introduced with effect.
Stags, with their antlers, peep'd; and the streak'd pard
Beneath his foot, the fang still dropping gore.”- Page 182. There is then silence—afterwards comes the song of the Bacchants, who taunt Orpheus with his absence, and his worship of his unaiding god, when his Eurydice, flying from the shepherd Aristæus, fell under the bite of the asp. They then try their amorous arts to engage him in a new affection. În vain
There was a pause : a silence, fearful, deep,
The god, whom they blaspheme, is their own god,
Hear me !-I ask a token.”—Pp. 186, 7. The token is the repossession of Eurydice. Orpheus breaks from the Bacchants, throws himself to the branch of a high tree, whence “rock'd giddily,"
“ when it bending swept
The poet is in spirit with him, and the description of the descent is truly graphic. Orpheus arrives in confidence at the very centre of Infernal Glory, which is gorgeously painted.
“ At length the rock receded over-head;
Through whose ensanguined and transparent light
Fainting, and touch'd the footstool of the god.”—Pp. 193, 4. Mr Elton has made the most advantageous use of the Orphic Remains, and has embodied with high poetical conception the Zivs of the ancient Greek. The following lines are extremely beautiful, and the dream-like visionary transmutation of the distinct yet blended powers of the One are in the truc spirit of poetry :
“ He saw a monarch in his pomp of place
Lifted his plaintive chant, and hailed the goddess.god."-Pp. 194, 6. The “ Song of Orpheus," excepting “ But beware lest haste the first few lines of the poem, we
The spell dissever, think a failure. It sadly wants dig- Or, unembraced, nity. The metre offends, and meets
She is dead for ever!"-P. 201. with little apology in the matter. It From this point Mr Elton reasis of the common sing-song elegiac ; sumes his poetical dignity and power. and as good verses may be found in The dreaming Poet had been disenevery village album amongst its fair- gaged from the Bard Orpheus during handed specimens of youthful and the upward passage, left therefore unvirgin talent. Nor do we see any described. He awaits him at the encharm in the speech of Proserpine, trance of the enormous cavern, the who tells Orpheus that, under spell, roarings of whose subterranean waves his Eurydice « flits behind him".