Page images

thunders of applause repay her for the effort, in the more brilliant and
effective scenes. Antony's recognition of Cleopatra at Tarentum is one
of these, free from that false taste and that straining for effect which show
a want of power in the artist, the profuse use of colours to supply the
place of a few bold, decided strokes.
Ant. Thou here! 'mid foes-faithless as-
Cleo. Antony!

Ye gods! 'tis he!
Ant. Alone! is't real? Eros, is this she?

My queen-my ador'd-yet ah how pale and sad !
Cleo. Absence and suffering ! yes! my courage fail'd me.

Let us not part again.

Go thou-I follow,
Cleo. You are no longer free.

Your love unbinds me.
Cleo. You see it now ! life is not life without you.

I had already snapp'd the bonds that bound me.

I hasten'd to thee.

And I came to seek you.
Ant. Ah! at what risks—what courage.

Here comes Iras!
What tidings?

Queen-the vessel waits for us.
Cleo. (to Iras.) 'Tis Antony.

Cleopatra then is happy.
Cleo. Speed! let us fly! my fleet at Actium

Commands the seas—there will we battle Cæsar!

There shall he render count for all his insults. Ant. I am thine, my love! now and for ever thine. Cleo. Fool that I was! to fear, envy Octavia.

[Exeunt all.

Act III., Scene VIII. Here Octavia, attended by Ventidius, comes to seek Antony. Ven. Unworthy as he is! we are too late;

He is fled, but let us haste-

No, it is over!
For Cæsar's sister ne'er will deign to mar
Joys that insult her. My brother's but too ready-
All is prepared—the sentence is gone forth,
The gods have will'd it. Let us seek his children,

And so conceal my woe-their father's infamy.
Ven. Nay, I will follow them!

No! I conjure you.
Cherish his children's love for him, 'tis all
We now can do. Antony's is a name
To live through time-to fill men's tongues and story;

Nor should his sons hear aught but of his glory.
Ven. Oh Antony! and couldst thou scorn such virtues ?
Oct. No! 'tis too much, in vain I would be patient !

Rank, fortune, fame, all, all I would renounce
To save him-be the lov'd, ador'd, fond mistress.

Act III., Scene IX. The fortune of Antony is decided, and the Greek, that active and adventurous agent becomes busiest towards the mournful close. In an interview between this “illustrious obscure” and Ventidius, he treats the latter with an hauteur and nonchalance rather mortifying, after saving a man's life, reading him a severe lecture upon the duty of obeying a royal mistress under all circumstances; though she ask you to take a cup of poison. A visit to the quiet, classical shades was nothing compared to beholding the favoured Antony, the despair and death of the bright gem of Egypt's beauties. He is, in short, one of the most disinterested lovers upon record, for he aids Antony, while he enjoys his rage and confusion at Cleopatra's flight. To mitigate his wrath, Cleopatra, true to her fatal mission, gives out a false report of her own death, and Antony falls on his own sword. The scene after the battle is well told.

Cleo. Pardon, my best beloved, -my glorious-victim.
Ant. No, I would hate to expiate my crime.
Cleo. I am guilty, true ; be just, curse me and kill —

Or let me weep with you.

Whom you dishonour'd.
I was renown'd; you have made me infamous-

Sold me to Cæsar-my most hated riv al.
Cleo. (weeping.) Should I be here then?

Let thy dastard fleet
Desert us e'en as victory shone on us.
Cleo. What should I say? You would not listen to me.
Ant. And I, t'abandon my old soldiers,

Battling unto the death ! By all the gods,
I am sham'd to speak it 'fore thee; but be speedy,
To whom wouldst sell me, is it to young Cæsar?

Act IV. Scene V. But she soon succeeds in pacifying him, and he summons his old spirit, and resolves to battle it to the last.

Ant. Didst see me fight?

I saw thy noble rage;
It made me proud to witness! I, all courage,
As I were steel, my soul like molten flame,
And war itself seem'd but a glorious game.
I tremble? never! to the winds I gave
My swelling sails. I stood upon the prow,
My tresses floating like an angry spirit,
Mingling fierce vengeance with your warriors' cries.
Rejoicing in that human storm of passions
That outblew the ocean's breath. We drank to Neptune-
To Jove, the mighty stator; and to Mars
Threw goldon cups--our tributes to the waves.
Maddening we ran from poop to poop, imploring

With earthly bribes the help of gods and seas.
Ant. So brave! admir'd me, too. Then wherefore fled-

What demon spirited you?

List to me—when the carnage spread about us,
And flashing brands like fiery monsters rode
Above the deep-and ’neath the waters, too-
An unseen hand hurl'd them on board our war-ships,
Till all the ocean seem'd one mass of flame.
At the dread sight of such confusion-horror-
Whole squadrons struggling like the sea's own tempests,
And on the shore that mute and moveless camp-
The cries, the whistling of the darts and jav'lins,
And the blue waves all purple with the gore.
Oh, 'twas too much! for then I could not see you-
Methought you slain ; and ah! I saw a soldier
So like you, fall. Why should you die for Cæsar?
Glory? a shadow-live no more for love.
No, no! fate spoke the word! I turn'd and fled.

Act IV. Scene V. Such is a fair sample of the merits of the new “Cleopatra.” If far from all we could wish, it is decidedly superior to the “ Judith," and other efforts of the same spirited and pleasing writer.

[blocks in formation]

I HAD been for some time in Paris alone, and as must for ever be the case when living apart from all ties of friendship and affection, was beginning to feel lonely even amid the noise and dissipation of this first capital of the world. I had grown weary, and sated even to disgust, of the very elegance and refinement, and was beginning once more to sigh for my old wandering life, and my old hardships and privations. I had just arrived at that pitch of satiety at which the very mind becomes jaundiced, and every object is seen, as it were, through a green and yellow atmosphere. Things which had upon first inspection excited admiration, nay, sometimes enthusiasm, now created a nausea difficult to describe. What had appeared magnificence and grandeur in the public buildings, now appeared nought but overgrown wearisome size ; what had seemed ingenuity in their inventions and manufactures now dwindled into the most puerile frivolity. I had begun almost to fancy myself growing childish by residing with such a people. So, having made up my trunks at the hotel, I strolled forth to take


last dinner at the Palais Royal, and went on my way rejoicing that it was the last.

I was first turning into the garden when I was accosted by my old friend R

whom I had not seen for many years. I was delighted with the rencontre, and after many a cordial greeting on both sides, we agreed to turn in together to Véfour's, and take our dinner in company. Hewas a great philosopher, my friend R- Nature had done her best to make him so, and the world's experience had increased this naturai stoicism without souring his temper, save now and then, when memory of the past would rise like a ghostly warning to bid him place no faith in the world's friendships and the world's affections. He had reason to place a high value on his knowledge of mankind, for it had been bought with many a bitter pang,


many a wringing of the heart. A faithless love, a treacherous friend assailing him on his very outset into life, had crushed his young feelings into bitterness, and made him exclaim in his despair, that “all men are liars ;” but now that the first sharp edge of his wrath

grown more blunted, there remained with him that sort of calm and cold philosophy, a mingling together of pity and of scorn for the weak.

[ocr errors]


nesses and errors of his fellow men, and yet withal such generous sympathy for their woes, that his mind was in a perpetual struggle between the promptings of his own noble generous nature, and the false and selfish doctrines inculcated by the base ingratitude of the world. When we had dined, he proposed a stroll into the garden, to which I gladly assented, and taking a chair opposite the fountain, we passed a delicious hour in friendly converse of old scenes and youthful reminiscences, until we were reminded by the chill damp of night that it was time to seek other quarters more congenial to my friend's weak state of health, and my own intention of setting forth betimes on the morrow.

Such was the charm of R—-'s spirit and conversation, that I found it hard to part with him, and would gladly have enjoyed his society a few hours longer, but to all my propositions for spending the remainder of the evening at some public place of amusement, he returned a decided negative. Musard was tiresome—the theatre a bore—the opera assonnant -and, at length, in answer to my pressing entreaties, he returned frankly :

“ I will own, dear friend, without disguise, that I have grown somewhat Parisian, and like my worthy models, the elderly gentlemen of this good city, I have mes habitudes.

“Oh, in that case” replied I, stopping short, and holding out my hand to bid him farewell.

“ Nay, 'tis not as you think," said he, with gentleness, as he looked in my face, and beheld the peculiar smile which had gathered there ; "you, who know so well the history of my life, should not have suspected that I would launch again on that sea of troubles.”

“ But in Paris a man may be forgiven, if he should forget the anguish of the past and the wise resolutions for the future, among the allurements and seductions which beset him on all sides."

“ Nay, more," returned he, mournfully, “ he should be envied for the very faculty of forgetfulness. 'Tis a rare gift, and those who possess it should be thankful. But—a truce to grave reflections—come with me, and let me show you one whose philosophy, like my own, hath stood the test of many a bitter trial. You will smile to find where my homage has been daily paid for well nigh fifteen years—where my admiration has all been spent. It has been laid at the feet of one who, no longer in possession of youth and beauty, is yet to me the most interesting of her sex. She has taught me how to live, by teaching me, by her experience, all that life is worth, and to her narrations alone, for she abstains from counselling, do I owe much of that resignation which, at first, I feared would be unattainable. But come, you who are for ever seeking new pages in the book of human life, may have some interest in the perusal of this, and I shall be greatly disappointed in my own judgment, if you do not find a charm beyond that of novelty in her acquaintance."

Of course, to such a proposition I was but too happy to accede, and, crossing the garden, he led me to the side of the square opening on the Place des Victoires. Here, stopping in what seemed to me one of the most unfrequented corners, he entered a little glass case, for it would require a stretch of the imagination to dignify it with the name of shop, wherein the piles of fresh nosegays, the scattered leaves, the wreaths and hearts, and quaint devices of immortelles, proclaimed the temple of one of those priestesses of Flora, whose very existence is peculiar to the city

[ocr errors]

of Paris,-a bouquetière. I had at first expected to behold, seated within this fairy shrine, a young and elegant female, such as I had been accustomed to see occupying the counters of the magasins which encircle the Palais Royal,-a being all smiles, and pink muslin, with satin apron and plaited frill, with hair so black and shining that it might be taken for a satin skull cap, with large gilt brooch and mock gold waist buckle ; in short, one of those delicious, beaming, toiling, light-hearted creatures, poor as nuns, yet elegant and poetical as houris—a grisette of Paris. I was mistaken. The only occupant of the little shop was a lady somewhat past the prime of life, rather on its decline, of a mild and benign expression of countenance, whose coal black eyes, still possessing much of the vigour and fire of youth, seemed to borrow additional lustre from the soft pallor of her features. She was attired in a close-fitting dress of rich black silk. A snowy fichu of plaited muslin was crossed in tight folds over her bosom, sufficiently open at the throat to disclose the massive gold heart and cross, still worn by those females of her calling who follow the old régime. Her head-dress consisted of the high and picturesque cap, generally worn by females of all classes before the time of the Revolution, and now but seldom seen. It was composed of the richest Mechlin, which, descending in a cloud on each side of her face, lent it even a greater paleness, by casting over her cheek and brow that peculiarly soft shade, so loved by painters, and which they prize so highly, as giving an indescribable interest even to the tamest portrait.

She was busily engaged, when we entered, sorting the buds and leaves of a large bunch of orange blossoms. A beautiful bouquet of the delicious plant lay on the marble slab beside her, and her fingers were weaving, with a skill and nicety unknown but to those of her profession in Paris, a chaplet of the same, drawing through each starry blossom an elastic silver-wire, yet leaving it as fresh as when gathered from the tree.

She smiled as my friend entered the shop, and extended her hand across the little counter towards him ; and with that bland, old-fashioned politeness, which in former days knew no distinction of station as regards the softer sex, he bent forward, and carried it to his lips.

I remarked, by the way, that the hand was fair and dimpled as that of the most luxurious sultana, and must, moreover, at that moment, have been redolent of the fragrant orange-blossoms, therefore felt no astonishment at my friend's courtesy. I must confess, however, that I was somewhat put out of countenance by the ceremonious manner in which I was introduced to this bouquetière by R- who seemed to use as much ceremony and etiquette, as though he had been commissioned to present me at court.

The object of all this homage raised her eyes towards me with a soft, sleepy look, but I could observe a sly, quiet smile play about the corners of her mouth, as her glance fell upon a full-blown, damask rose, which I had purchased as I came along, and which but a moment before I had imagined to be beautiful. I had fortunately presence of mind enough to feel the mute criticism, and instantly dislodged it, with a request, that she would replace it with one of her own compositions, as she was wont to call those bouquets upon which she had bestowed peculiar care. She instantly complied, evidently pleased with this mark of attention, and in a few moments presented me with a bouquet des bois, at the same time

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »