Abbildungen der Seite

parison, by which it is introduced the whole episode* of the Lemnian women, and particularly their parting from the Argonauts, and the farewel speech of Hypsipilè. -The unhappy deatht of Cizycus, and the tragical fate of Clitè, his young and beautiful bride. The sufferings of Phineus. The death of the gallant and virtuous Idmon, in the second book. I— The murder || of young Absyrtus, and particularly the circumstance of his blood sprinkling his cruel sister, as she turned aside her eyes, in the fourth book. The parting of Medea from her home.f- The circumstance of her leaving a lock of her hair, for her mother. Her affecting expostulations,** with Jason, and the leaders of the Argonauts, when she became apprehensive of their giving her up to her offended father. The description of the mourn. ful endtt of the pious and interesting augur Mopsus.--All these are passages, of such genuine and exquisite pathos, that the reader must be insensible, indeed, who can peruse them, in the original, (I fear my translation will give but a faint idea of their merit,) and refuse to their author, the praise of possessing full power over the sacred source of sympathetic tears. It would be a superfluous task, to dwell, particularly, on our poet's excellence, in the delineation of the passion of love; or the admirable exhibition, which he has given, of the changeful wish of Medea's troubled thought.[1–This

* See Book I. y. 610, et sequentes.
+ See Book I. v. 1030, et sequentes.
I See Book II. v. 817.
|| See Book IV. v. 446...

See Book IV. v. 10~70.
** See Book IV. v. 350, et sequentes.
tt See Book IV. v. 1500-1536.
$See Book III., passim..


part shame,

part of Apollonius has received its full measure of praise, and been the admiration of the reader of taste and feeling, in every age. The highest and the noblest panegyric on these passages, the truest test of their intrinsical beauty, and supreme poetic excellence, are their having excited the admiration, and engaged the imitation, of such an exquisite master in the art of poetry, as Virgil. And justly did they engage; since the parts, which he has derived from his Greek prototype, are those, which charm and interest us the most, in his ad. mirable poem. · With the powers of exhibiting the impassioned and pathetic, Apollonius possessed a consunimate knowledge of human nature, a complete insight into all the workings of the bosom--into all the plaits and foldings of the human heart; together with a perfect acquaintance with characters, and a happy facility of unfolding and exhibiting them. The deep penetration and experience in human nature, and the power of reading the secrets of the heart, are manifested, in the artful conduct * and reserve of Hypsipilè, as to the true circumstances of the massacre at Lemnos, and the dexterous suppression of those circumstances, which were most likely to excite abhorrence. In this, the author consults probability, decorum, and human nature. He takes care to tell us, that the Argonauts supposed that the young queen had succeeded to her father, in the ordinary course of nature; intimating, that, had they known the truth, they would have fled abhorrent. The whole detail, of the rise, the progress, and circumstances, of the fatal passion of Medea t-the conflict of contending passions in her bosom--the reserve, the diffidence, the conscious

* See Book I. v. 655.
+ See Book III. v. 603.

tion of site their father, an act of rebel and con.

shame, and artifice, of Chalciope and Medea,* mutually fearing, yet desiring, to entrust each other with a dangerous secret, and each, respectively, aiming and con. triving to draw a sister, into an act of rebellion and treachery against their father. The demeanour and conversation of Medea and Fason,t at their first interview.-The changes of purpose in Medea, I previous to that interview-her determination to poison herself, and then the love of life returning, and painting the charms of nature, and the joys of existence, in the most gay and amiable colours—the care of the princess, to adora her person for the first meeting. All these, particularly the interview between Medea and Jason, are in the highest perfection of poetry, combining a thousand beauties, uniting various excellencies, the tender, the pathetic, a knowledge of the human heart, the developement of feeling, refined sentiment, beauty of de. scription, grace, and elegance. The confusion and self-accusation of the lovers, in the presence of Circe, when they came to be absolved by her|l--the dignified conduct of the gracious enchantressgi -the silent retreat of the criminal pair, opprest by conscious guilt** -are highly natural and truly affecting; and show the author's perfect knowledge of the human heart.

From this faculty, of speaking to the feelings, and exhibiting the pathetic, and impassioned, the transition is obvious and easy, to the power of seising and depicting the various traits of character.-In this respect,

[merged small][ocr errors]

and in another, which I shall hereafter mention, the poem of Apollonius is most truly dramatic. He possesses, in an eminent degree, a talent, which has the most striking and happy effect, in the drama; I mean, the art of contrasting personages and characters. Thus, many of his incidents and conversations, are so well imagined and contrived, that they would gain peals of applause, were they to be exhibited, on the stage. The concealed ambition of Jason, the artful aspiring covered with the veil of modesty, is contrasted, with the superior nature, and towering dignity, of Hercules, feeling his own greatness, and rejecting the command, offered to him, by the unanimous consent of the Argonauts, as conscious that rank or station could add nothing to the greatness of his character.---The ferocious bravery, and impious boasting, of the turbulent and savage Idas, are opposed to the calm resolve, and pious daring, of the noble and determined Idmon, and the divine prescience of the enlightened Mopsus.The im. petuous friendship, the sudden heat and fury of Telamon, at the close of the first book, are dexterously set, in juxtaposition with the calmness, the prudence, and patient address, of Jason, intent only on his great obe ject, postponing every other consideration, and submitting to every thing, which may forward its attainment.

In the combat between Amycus aud Pollux, and the description of the two champions; in the details, of the intercourse between Jason and Æetes; in the conferences, between Juno, Minerva, and Venus; in the negociation, where Medea artfully circumvents the simplicity of Absyrtus; we may remark our poet's skill, in grouping and contrasting his figures.

It would be easy, to multiply instances, to show the excellence of Apollonius, in poyrtraying characters. What a bold and masterly delipeation does he give us,

[ocr errors]

of Hercules, although that hero appears, but for a short time, in the action of the poem! How artfully does he recal him, to the recollection of the reader, when it is least expected; and, even in his absence, impress an idea of his virtue and greatness !—The artless and simple majesty, the unbending firmness, and self-centered grandeur, the disregard of private interest, the scorn of ease and pleasurable indulgence, the love of conflict and toil, peculiar to the hero, are admirably marked out, in the sketch, which is given by the poet!—The supercilious pride and jealous ferocity of Æetes; the amiable hospitality, and scrupulous regard to justice, of Alcinous, are exhibited, in the most lively manner. The goodnatured artifice, the well-meaning intrigue, and female love of meddling, in Aretè; her contrivance to circumvent her husband, and save Medea, by hastening her nuptials with Jason, are highly natural, characteristic, and interesting.-But, above all, we must admire the character of Medea, as a masterly portrait. Every feature, every line, is accurately just, and natural; and shows the strongest conception, and the happiest execution. It is not surpast by any thing given in Shake. speare.t-Medea has been, at all times, a favourite of the tragic drama. But, in no hands does she appear more perfectly herself, with all her terrors, and all her allurements, than in those of our poet.--Her violent love, her stormy passions, her deep dissimulation, her artifice, her insinuating address, her prevailing eloquence, her inflexible resolution, her powers of sorcery, her af

* See Book I.

+ If we could suppose Lady Macbeth, as violently possessed by love, as Shakespeare has shown her to be actuated by ambition, she would be Medea-ferox invictaque. .


« ZurückWeiter »