« PreviousContinue »
if not of all, would doubtless be materially curtailed. Take the greatest dramatic poem written in the English language since Shakspeare – Henry Taylor's Philip Van Artevelde — the first part ends with the hero's triumph, the second with his death; there is no appendix to either. In the Comedies we may sometimes discover another reason - the peripetia or dramatic irony showing the unsatisfactoriness of the object gained in the plot; thus in the Wasps, when Philocleon is induced to relinquish his pettifogging and electioneering habits, the action of the original plot is complete, but the satirist proceeds to show bim behaving worse, and giving more trouble in his character of a fashionable gentleman, than in his old one of a politician. But in the tragedies this superfluity can only be explained by supposing the Greek formula of dramatic action a very different one from that of the moderns. Grote's comparison (in reference to the early myths and legends) of the Greeks to clever children, has often struck us as applicable to many traits of their character and points of their history. This wanting the after-clap to a story, and insisting on having the last possible word about it, is very much in the clever-childish vein. We do not, however, profess to account for the cause of this phenomena; our purpose is only to call the attention of the reader to its existence, and its contrast to the manner in which the unity of action is preserved in its completeness, without the addition of supplementary matter, by the writers of the modern or romantic school. Here the English drama appears
to have attained the juste milieu, but the Modern French Romancists have run into the other extreme, and for fear of weakening the catastrophe by subsequent detail, have frequently cut it too short, and left the action incomplete. The effect of these mutilated catastrophes is very startling at first, but they pall on repetition, and the trick of them becomes unpleasantly manifest. For examples of our meaning, we refer to any play of Dumas, and almost any play of Victor Hugo. Thus in the former's tragedy upon the story of Catharine of Cleves (we can never remember the names of Dumas's tragedies, as they never have the slightest connexion with the subject), the death of St. Megrim does not fully complete the action; we have a desire to know the Duchess fate; and in Lord Leveson
Gower's adaptation of this play to the English stage, she poisons herself immediately after her lover's assassination. This is a case in point, as showing the difference between English and French conceptions on the subject.
A familiar illustration of the difference between the Classic and Romantic methods of winding up the action of a play in the catastrophe, is afforded by the drama of Lucrezia Borgia, as originally written for the stage, as adapted to opera, and as usually sung in opera. In Victor Hugo's play, Gennaro, after discovering that himself and companions have been poisoned at the banquet, stabs Lucrezia, who has just life left to announce their relationship before she falls at his feet. In the operatic version, he dies of the poison, and she sings a lament over him in presence of her husband and the chorus. The former termination is in the Romantic, the latter more resembles the Classic method. And it shows which way the sympathies of most moderns are, that, beautiful as the aria era desso il figlio mio is universally acknowledged to be, still it is generally felt to be almost an impertinence, and the opera as represented on the stage is usually, in compliance with public opinion, made to end with the death of Gennaro.
To return then from our digression: Ajax having fallen, the chorus enter to search for him; at first one division appears:
Labor, labor after labor;
Here and there,
Sure I hear a heavy tread. It is the other division of the chorus, engaged in an equally fruitless search. Tecmessa is the first to discover the body and announce the hero's melancholy end. Teucer now appears and joins in the lamentation. They are preparing to inter the corpse when Menelaus forbids them to proceed. Ajax had endeavored to destroy the army, and especially the chiefs; he had proved more hostile than any Trojan; therefore he shall now be deprived of the honors of burial. Cast out on the yellow sand he shall become the banquet of sea-birds. Teucer
defies Menelaus, who goes off to call his “big brother," Agamemnon. But neither to him will the archer yield. The direst threats are interchanged, when the sage Ulysses interposes. By his expostulations the royal brothers are pacified, and they suffer the funeral obsequies to proceed.
It remains for us to say a few words on the manner in which the editor has accomplished his task.
One thing we do not like in the outset his un-Latinizing the Greek name. In the case of the deities it may do, though even here we think the necessity on the score of accuracy much exaggerated; doubtless Minerva and Mercury, for instance, were not originally equivalents to Athene and Hermes, but the usage of the Augustan poets ultimately made them such. But when it comes to Thukydides and Sophokles, we must enter our protest. True, there is the authority of Mr. Grote; but even Homer nods sometimes, and Grote is a little timorous and inconsistent, wavering between Krete and Crete, and in some other names. This, however, is a small matter. The compilation of notes is usually very good. Sometimes the editor has fallen into the error (which we have also observed in his friend, Professor Felton) of mixing up together several interpretations of different value, without any attempt at deciding among them. We would refer to the note on v. 33 as a striking example of this. Dogmatism, it may be said, shows arrongance in an editor. Possibly, but on the other hand, want of discrimination is a confession of inefficiency. Sometimes, too, we think that, copious as the notes are, a bare reference to a grammar is given where an explanation at length of an idiom or peculiarity would have been desirable. Thus, on v. 27, where the cattle are described as found killed, åvrois ériotárais, shepherds and all, we have merely see Matth. 405, obs. 3. Now an edition of this sort ought to be a manual of the play, so that it may be read without any other book, even a lexicon; such, at least, is our opinion. Moreover, we have a striking recollection of the manner in which a knowledge of this idiom was first impressed upon ourselves by a note in Peile's Agamemnon, while this very brief allusion in the book before us might easily be overlooked by a student.
V. 31. Quaere, may not the intermingling of different tenses in Greek and Latin poets be merely a poetic
licence, for the sake of the measure, as English poets use be for are and ye for you (accusative), both strictly grammatial errors, for the sake of the rhyme?
V. 49. Here we think the editor should have mentioned the other and more common meaning of xai dri, well then I let you alone, and numerous other places.
V. 136. Se nodooovta we would take as an accusative absolute. Any case may be used absolutely in Greek.
V. 352. We really cannot see what would be gained by the proposed substitution of ποιμενοϊν for ποιμένων. . Reiske's emendation, mijlovàv (adopted by Wunder), seems altogether preferable.
V. 659. We prefer Hermann's and Bothe's construction of chíndayxte, but at the same time feel bound to admit that the editor has the majority of commentators on his side. But how he has been induced to take up Mr. Lewes's (not Lewis, as here printed, and which our students would be apt to take up for Tayler Lewis) idea that the Greek chorus dit nol dance, we really cannot conceive. Whoever wants to see an abundant confutation of this crotchet, will find it in the Classical Museum, vol. iii. pp. 229, 599. It is hard to see how a man with an ear for metre can doubt that not only the chorus generally, but some of the main personages occasionally made their entry dancing; Bacchus, for instance, in the Bacchæ of Euripides, when he rushes in with
άπτε κεραύνιον αιθοπα λαμπάδα
σύμφλεγε σύμφλεγε δωματα Πενθέως. . Lighten the glittering | torch of the | thunderbolt! Kindle up! | kindle up! | mansions of | Pentheus!
We had marked some other notes for comment, but being more anxious to praise than criticise this very neatly and carefully got-up edition, abstain from further remark, heartily commending it to all students and scholars.
PARIS IN LITTLE, AND SOME OF
THE VANITIES THEREOF.
Fraser, May 1855.
"GOOD morning, Bleecker, good morning! You are just the very man I wanted to see! You come in as à propos as the monkey in the friar's sermon.'
“What monkey and what friar? It may be an old story, but I don't remember it.'
'Perhaps because it was not worth remembering, for it can't be that I never told it to you. It is an old story to me, which I happened to think of from going to church yesterday in a gymnasium.'
“Yes, a regular gymnasium, and one that is in full operation on weekdays; poles, ropes, ladders, all the apparatus remaining there, only pushed into corners so far as practicable during sermon-time.'
"The congregation were turned out of their regular place of worship by the municipal improvements I suppose?'
“So you might naturally guess, but it happens to be in consequence of a fire. Now this set me thinking of all the queer places where I had been to church.'
No great compliment to the sermon that.'
'It was a very good one though. Still it could not hinder the locality from bringing up some odd associations in my mind, for I have been to church in a good many bizarre and unchurch-like places: stables in, or just out of, Rome, theatres in America, private houses in some countries, and have witnessed some queer scenes also in regular church buildings; it was one of these that occurred to me just as you came in.
"Several years ago, no matter how many, I was in Naples all alone, waiting for three men who were to join me there. As the men didn't come till long after I had seen all the sights, I made a mighty effort to utilize the delay by getting up the language; and finding my previous book-learning of but moderate practical utility, I tried various other plans; one of them was to frequent