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· Hermione quits her disdainfully. Pyrrhus enters, and Cephisa advises her mistress to endeavour to soften him. Of this Andromache despairs : she will not venture to cast her eyes upon him. Pyrrhus who waits only a look and does not obtain it, cries out angrily
Allons aux Grecs livrer le fils d'Hector. Upon this she falls at his feet. He reproaches her with her inflexibility
Sa grâce à vos desirs pouvait être accordée;
Ah! Seigneur, vous entendiez assez
N'aurait jamais d'un maître embrassé les genoux. The most beautiful part of this answer arises from our knowledge that it is not pride which has prevented her from throwing herself at the feet of Pyrrhus. She who could supplicate Hermione, would have been equally lofty towards her: but she trembles to implore a man, who places so high a price on his favour. Thus, notwithstanding her dangers and her grief, she does not even mention that love, of which she cannot bear the idea; she strives only to move him by considerations of pity and generosity. This attention to Nature is the very persection of art.
Seigneur, voyez l’état où vous me réduisez:
J'ai cru que sa prison deviendrait son asyle.
Il ne séparát point des dépouilles si cheres ! What inexpressible charms, what magic there is in this style! Never did grief bewail itself in plaints so touching. Pyrrhus is moved and consents still to save Astyanax: but he renews with more force than ever his resolution to abandon him to the Greeks, unless Andromache will marry him. He is determined to crown him or sacrifice him: he leaves the choice to her, and it is then that the widow of Hector adopts the only expedient that is left to preserve at once her own fame and the life of her son. She recommends her son to the faithful Cephisa: and determines to marry Pyrrhus, and on her return from the altar to sacrifice herself at the tomb of her first husband.
Fais connaître à mon fils les héros de sa race;
Sacrifié mon sang, ma haîne, et mon amour. The desperate action of Orestes and the murder of Pyrrhus in the temples, at the moment when he receives the hand of Andromache, prevents the princess from executing her melancholy design. But what a terrible catastrophe terminates the fate of Orestes and Hermione! What a moment is that when this female, distracted and furious, demands the blood which she herself incited him to shed!
Mais parle: de son sort qui t'a rendu l'arbitre ?
Qui te l'a dit? This last is the most beautiful phrase, perhaps, that passion ever pronounced. If we should venture to compare it with the celebrated qu'il mourut, would be to bring together things very different : we should find in one the sublime of a grand sentiment, and in the other the sublime of a great passion. The one is calculated to produce great effect on the stage; it transports when it is heard; the other astonishes and confound3 when we reflect upon it. It was necessary to have conjectured very accurately to what an excess of madness and frenzy a person in the situation of Hermione might be driven, to put in her mouth such a question after she had employed a whole scene to prevail upon Orestes to do this deed—and with the idea of which her whole mind, until this moment, had been occupied: and yet the question is so just, that we are struck without being surprised. It has however every kind of merit; it makes a part of the catastrophe, it commences the punishment of Orestes, it finishes that of Hermione: and it shows a profound knowledge of the revolutions of the human heart.
Situations so highly wrought should necessarily terminate in the shedding of blood; and in such a case we could not say in the words of la Bruyere that blood was spilled merely for form's sake. A woman who could assasinate her lover ought to kill herself. Such is the fate of Hermione; and Orestes becomes a prey to the furies, This denouement is worthy of one of the most tragical dramas that ever was represented. But are there no faults in this dramatic Chef-d'æuvre? If we may believe the authors of the Dictionaire Historique there are some great blemishes in it. At the article Racine they say: this tragedy would be admirable if the vascillation of Pyrrhus, the despair of Orestes, and the transports of Hermione did not tarnish its beauty. This decision seems severe, since it condemns precisely what we admire: nay more, without these very things which tarnish the tragedy, according to the critic, it would not exist. Thus are talents judged, even in the same age. I shall not do Racine so much injustice as to refute such criticisms. If . we reject a few trifling faults we inay affirm that this is the first play in which all the characters are uniformly what they should be. By producing on the stage such accurate and striking examples of the inexhaustible passion of love, Racine opened a new and abundant source of French tragedy. This art, which Corneille had established chiefly on the basis of astonishment and admiration, and upon a nature sometimes too ideal, Racine placed upon a nature always just, and upon an intimate knowledge of the human heart. He was then original in his turn, as Corneille had been before him; with this difference, that the edifice of the one strikes the eye by irregular beauties and unshapen pomp, whereas the other attracts attention by those beautiful proportions and graceful forms with which taste understands the art of embellishing the majesty of genius.
LETTER FROM CORTEZ TO THE KING OF SPAIN ON THE CON
QUEST or Mexico.
(Continued from page 210.) In the several quarters of Mexico are superb edifices, or temples,* for the worship of idols, adjoining which are very beautiful
*« We likewise saw another great building, which was a temple, and which contained those that were called the valiant, or fighting gods, and here were many kinds of furious beasts.
“....... In this accursed place were many vipers, and poisonous serpents, which have in their tails somewhat that sounds like castanets; these are the most dangerous of all, and were kept in vessels filled with feathers, where they reared their young, and were fed with the flesh of human beings and dogs, and I have been assured, that after our expulsion from Mexico, all these animals lived for many days upon the bodies of our comrades who were killed upon that occasion. These beasts, and horrid reptiles, were retained to keep company with their infernal gods, and when these animals yelled and hissed, the place seemed like-hell itself." Diaz, p. 142.
“ From the square we proceeded to the great temple, but before we entered it, we made a circuit through a number of large courts, the smallest of which appeared to me to contain more ground than the great square in Salamanca, with double incloures, built of lime and stone, and the courts paved with large white cut stone, very clean; or where not paved, they were plaistered and polished. When we had ascended to the summit of the temple, the ascent to which was by one hundred and fourteen steps, we
houses for the priests;* these wear black garments, and never cut or comb their hair from the time of their entering into the service
observed on the platform as we passed, the large stones whereon were placed the victims who were to be sacrificed. Here was a great figure, which resembled a dragon, and much blood, fresh spilt. Here we had a clear prospect of the three causeways by which Mexico communicated with the land, and of the aqueduct of Chapultepeque, which supplied the city with the finest water. We were struck with the number of canoes, passing to and from the main land, loaded with provisions and merchandise, and we could now perceive, that in this great city, and all the others of that neighbourhood, which were built in the water, the houses stood separate from each other, communicating only by small draw-bridges, and by boats, and that they were built with terraced tops. We observed also the temples and adoratories of the adjacent cities, built in the form of towers and fortresses, and others on the causeway, all wbite-washed, and wonderfully brilliant. The noise and bustle of the market place below us could be heard almost a league off; and those who bad been at Rome and at Constantinople said, that for convenience, regularity, and population, they had neyer seen the like.” Diaz, pp. 145–6.
Bernal Diaz, in speaking of the great temple of Mexico, says, “ The ground whereon this temple stood was as much as six of the largest buildings of this country occupy. From the base it diminished to the summit, whereon was a tower in which the idols were placed, and from the middle of the ascent to the top were five concavities, like barbicans, but without parapets. At a little distance from this temple stood a tower, a true bell, or babitation for demons, with a mouth resembling that of an enormous monster, wide open, and ready, as it were, to devour those who entered. At the door stood frightful idols, by it was a place for sacrifice, and within, boilers, and pots full of water, to dress the flesh of the victims, which was eaten by the priests. The idols were like serpents and devils, and before them were tables and knives for sacrifice, the place being covered with the blood, which was spilt on these occasions.” Diaz, p. 148.
The same author says, that the temple of Cholula was higher than this, having a hundred and twenty steps, and was held in great veneration.
All writers agree that the great temple was surrounded by high walls, and was as large as a city. (Cortez says a town of five hundred inhabitants. It has four principal gates, on each of which was a kind of fortress, filled with arms, forming, as it were, an arsenal. It was garrisoned by ten thousand men, who served at the same time as a guard for the sovereign. The court was surrounded by large halls, each of which might contain a thousand men. The interior of the circuit contained more than twenty towers, or pyramids, on the tops of which were erected idols. The principal was on the most elevated.
Romusio has given a plan of these towers. Five stories, or solid planes, formed their divisions, and they were ascended by a stair-way formed in one of the sides, each part of which consisted of eighteen or twenty steps from ope story to the other. On the last plane arose two towers, in the shape of steeples, as well built as the other parts. A number of similar towers were to be seen in the city, partly consecrated to religious worship, and in part designed as fortifications, or appropriated to the sepulchral rites of the great lords. Lettere Americane.
* Diaz says that each temple had its particular priests, who wore long vestments of black, somewhat between the dress of the doinipicans and our VOL. IV.