Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ου γάρ τι νύν γε κάχθές, άλλ' αεί ποτε
ζή ταύτα, κουδείς οίδεν εξ ότου φάνη.

Sophocles. Gut 6524

We cannot assign any historical origin to the Drama. Resulting as it did from the constitutional tendencies of the inhabitants of those countries in which it sprang up, it necessarily existed, in some form or other, long before the age of history; consequently we cannot determine the time when it first made its appearance, and must therefore be content to ascertain in what principle of the human mind it originated. This we shall be able to do without much difficulty. In fact the solution of the problem is included in the answer to a question often proposed,—“How are we to account for the great prevalence of idol worship in ancient times?” For, strange as it may appear, it is nevertheless most true, that not only the Drama, (the most perfect form of poetry,) but all poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture, and whatever else is beautiful in art, are the results of that very principle which degraded men, the gods of the earth, into grovelling worshippers of wood and stone, which made them kneel and bow down before the works of their own hands. This principle is that which is generally called the love of imitation,-a definition, however, which is rather ambiguous, and has been productive of much misunderstanding'. We would rather state this principle to be that desire to express the abstract in the concrete, that

· The German reader would do well to consult on this subject Von Raumer's Essay on the Poetic of Aristotle (Abhandl. der Hist. Philologischen Klasse der Kön. Akad. der Wissensch. 1828). We do not think Dr. Copleston's view of this subject (Prælectiones Academicæ, p. 28, seqq.) sufficiently comprehensive.


“striving after objectivity,” as it has been termed by a modern writer, that wish to render the conceivable perceivable, which is the ordinary characteristic of an uneducated inind.

The inhabitants of southern Europe, in particular, have in all ages shown a singular impatience of pure thought, and have been continually endeavouring to represent under the human form, either allegorically or absolutely, the subjects of their contemplations. Now the first abstract idea which presented itself to the minds of rude but imaginative men was the idea of God, conceived in some one or other of his attributes. Unable to entertain the abstract notion of divinity, they called in the aid of art to bring under the control of their senses the object of their thoughts, and willingly rendered to the visible and perishable the homage which they felt to be due to the invisible and eternal. By an extension of the same associations, their anthropomorphized divinity was supposed to need a dwelling-place; hence the early improvements of architecture on the shores of the Mediterranean. His worshippers would then attempt some outward expression of their gratitude and veneration :—to meet this need, poetry arose among them. The same feelings would suggest an

' imitation of the imagined sufferings or gladness of their deity; and to this we owe the mimic dances of ancient Hellas, and the first beginnings of the Drama there.

But although art and religious realism have much in common even in their latest applications, we are not to suppose that all

? Wachsmuth, Hell. Alterth. ii. 2, 113.
3 See Wordsworth's Excursion. (Works, v. p. 160, foll.)

* Thus Strabo says, that “the whole art of poetry is the praise of the gods," η ποιητική πάσα υμνητική. Χ. p. 468. (The word oύσα, which is found in all the editions at the end of this sentence, has evidently arisen from a repetition of the first two syllables of the following word woaútws, and must be struck out. For the sense of the word 'uvntikn), comp. Plato, Legg. p. 700, a.) And Plato, Legg. vii. 799, A. would have all music and dancing consecrated to religion. When Herder says, (Werke z. Schön. Lit. und Kunst, ii. p. 82.)“ Poetry arose, not at the altars, but in wild merry dances ; and as violence was restrained by the severest laws, an attempt was in like manner made to lay hold, by means of religion, on those drunken inclinations of men which escaped the control of the laws,” he does not seem to deny the fact on which we have insisted, that religion and poetry are contemporaneous effects of the same cause ; at all events, he allows that poetry was at first merely the organ of religion. And although V. Cousin endeavours to prove that religion and poetry were the results of different necessities of the human mind, he also contends that they were analogous in their origin. “ Le triomphe de l'intuition religieuse est dans la création du culte, comme le triomphe de l'idée du beau est dans la création de l'art,” &c. (Cours de Philosophie, p. 21, 2.)


attempts to give an outward embodiment to the religious idea are to be considered as real approximations to dramatic poetry. All art is not poetry, and all poetry is not the drama'. Polytheistic worship and its concomitant idolatry are the most favourable conditions for the development of art in all its forms and applications. And conversely, those nations and epochs which have been most remarkable for the cultivation of a pure and spiritual religion have been equally remarkable for a prevalent distaste and incompetency for the highest efforts of art. In ancient times, we have the case of the Israelites : for many years they strove with varying success to resist the temptations to idolatry which surrounded them on every side, and left to Greece and modern Europe the greatest aid to abstract thought, in the alphabet which we still employ. Yet we find that native art was, strictly speaking, non-existent among them. The few symbols which they employed in their early days were borrowed from Egypt or Chaldæa; and when, in the most flourishing epoch of their monarchy, their powerful

5 The view which we have taken in the text, of the origin of the fine arts, is, we conceive, nearly the same as that of Aristotle ; for it appears to us pretty obvious that his treatise on Poetic was, like many of his other writings, composed expressly to confute the opinions of Plato, who taking the word uiunoig in its narrowest sense, to signify the imperfect counterfeiting, the servile and pedantic copying of an individual object, argued against piunois in general as useless for moral purposes. Whereas Aristotle shows that if the word viunois be not taken in this confined sense, but as equivalent to “ representation," as implying the outward realization of something in the mind, it does then include not only poetry, but, properly speaking, all the fine arts : and pinnois is therefore useful, in a moral relation, if art in general is of any moral use. It was, however, as Schleiermacher justly observes, (Anmerkungen zu Platons Staat, p. 543.) not of art absolutely that Plato was speaking, but only of its moral effects ; for doubtless Plato himself would have been most willing to assent to a definition of art which made it an approximation to or copy of the idea of the beautiful (comp. Plat. Rep. vi. p. 484, c.); and this is only Aristotle's opinion expressed in other words. Von Raumer truly remarks in the essay above quoted, p, 118, “ The mapádelyna (Poet. xv. ll. xxvi. 28.) which Aristotle often designates as the object to be aimed at, is nothing but that which is now-a-days called the "ideal,' and by which is understood the most utter opposite of a pedantic imitation.” Herder also was fully aware that although Plato contradicts Aristotle in regard to the Dithyramb, he was speaking in quite a different connexion, "in ganz anderer Verbindung.” (Werke z. Schön. Lit. u. Kunst, ii. p. 86.) We may add, that our definition of uiunong as a synonym for “art,” which has also been given in direct terms by Müller, (Handb. der Archäol. beginn.) “Die Kunst ist eine Darstellung (uiunois) d. h. eine Thätigkeit durch welche ein Innerliches äusserlich wird,” “Art is a representation (uijnous), i. e. an energy by means of which a subject becomes an object,” (comp. Dorians, iv. ch. 7. 8 12.) is the best way of explaining the pleasure which we derive from the efforts of the fancy and imagination, which, as has been very justly observed, is always much greater when “the allusion is from the material world to the intellectual, than when it is from the intellectual world to the material.” (Stewart's Elements of the Philosophy of the Mind, i. p. 306.)


and wealthy king wished to build a temple to the true God, he was obliged to call in the aid of his idolatrous neighbours the Tyrianso. Nay more, it would not be fanciful to connect the subsequent idolatry of Solomon with his patronage of the fine arts. It is remarkable, too, that the first trace of a dramatic tendency in the lyric poetry of the Israelites is visible in an Idyll attributed to the same prince. And far as the book of Job is from any dramatic intention, the dialogues of which it mainly consists must be added to the many proofs which have been adduced of the comparatively modern date, and foreign origin, of that didactic poem'. Even the incomplete metrical system of the Hebrews, as compared with the wonderful variety and perfection of Greek prosody, must be regarded as furnishing supplementary evidence of the inartificial character and antimimetic tendencies of the early inhabitants of Palestine. So also in modern times, long after the Drama had ceased to exhibit any traces of its original connexion with the rites of a heathen worship, and when it was looked upon merely as a branch of literature, or as an elegant pastime, in proportion as Christian nations adhered to or abhorred the sensual rites which the Church of Rome borrowed from heathendom, when it assembled its priest-ridden votaries within the newly-consecrated walls of a profane Basilica,-in the same proportion the Drama throve or declined, and, in this country, either inflicted vengeance on the hapless author of a Histriomastix, or concealed its flaunting robes from the austere indignation of Smectymnuus.

To return, however, to the more immediate influences of polytheism and idolatry on the origination of the ancient drama, we observe that the dramatic art, wherever it has existed as a genuine product of the soil, has always been connected its origin with the religious rites of an elementary worship ®; that is, with those enthusiastic orgies which spring from a personification of the powers of nature. This was the case in India', and in those parts of Italy where scenic entertainments existed

1 Kings vii. 13. 7 Ewald, poetisch. Bücher des alten Bundes, iii. p. 63.

8 In connexion with the Phallic rites of Ilindostan and Greece, we may mention that in the South Sea Islands, at the time of Cook's second voyage, a birth was represented on the stage. See Süvern über Aristoph. Wolken, p. 63, note 6.

9 “Like that of the Greeks, the Hindu Drama was derived from, and formed part of, their religious ceremonies.” Quarterly Rev. No. 89, p. 39.

« PreviousContinue »