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and our own bard of Avon, though with effect-he leaves it as the one they are more drawn within the com- never to be obliterated—and with admon circle of human life, and may, mirable transition passes on to give therefore, be more directly and pal- some idea of the duration of his grief pably pathetic, yet want the romantic “ Seven whole months by the lonerange and wild accompaniment which ly Strymon"make the original an untiring and
Septem illum totos perhibent ex ordine ever-affecting narrative. It is one of those subjects, the embellishment of Rupe sub aëriả, deserti ad Strymonis unwhich poetry has but vaguely defined,
dam leaving the fuller accomplishment for Flevisse, et gelidis hæc evolvisse sub anthe sister art. The painter will find
tris, in it full scope for his genius; it com- Mulcentem tigres, et agentem carmine prises a series of pictures, each vary- quercus. iug in character-it admits of sub
And how truly pathetic is the simile! limity, magnificence, tenderness, beau
and how is the cruelty and tenderness ty, richness of scenery, forest and mountain, with their subdued and lis
touched off by the epithets durus and tening monsters, leopards and tigers, and the warmth of the nest !- And
implumes, and the violence of detraxit and the wild revelry of the Bacchana
then the loneliness of the grief_the lian women.
If we must act the Didascalus, the night season—the whole night ferule or a sound Hogging for Ovid. “ Qualis populeå mærens Philomela sub His jejune narrative has not a single umbra beauty-it is cold and feeble. Nor Amissos queritur fætus, quos durus arashall his trite sermonizing save him. And, oh! the puerile conceit that Eu- Observans nido implumes detraxit ; at illa rydice did not complain, when relaps. Flet noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile ing into death and Orcus, because it showed she was too much loved! Integrat, et mæstis late loca questibus imWhat business had he to prose it
plet.” away that we must all die
The whole tale of the Pastor Aris“ Tendimus huc omnes, hæc est domus
tæus (whom, by the by; we do not at ultima ; vosque
all pity for the loss of his bees), of
which the Orpheus forms but a part, Humani generis longissima regna tenetis."
is, perhaps, the richest of Virgil's epi. And his abominable conclusion merits sodes. But even in Virgil we object for him the real taking up.
to the speech of Eurydice. True, it Now let us see Virgil's account, is the best that could be made for her, read it again and again—it is all Mu.
but it is destructive of the shadow of sic of Affection. If sparingly told, it mystery, which throws her image upis well set, and what is told reaches on the imagination as of a creature the heart. The sole, the absorbing of lovo spiritualized, and as yet under passion of Orpheus breathes in the the prohibition of the human senses. inimitable hexameters-inimitable in The injunction renders her invisible, tone, and in such choice of words, that and should have rendered her inaud. a substitution cannot be imagined. În ible.. How striking is this yet re. all this it is perfect. What a tone of maining mystery of Death upon the melancholy pervades it! Virgil leaves living imagined in the Alcestis of Eumuch of the agony of Orpheus to be ripides! Simple, too, is the story of imagined, as a thing not to be told. Alcestis. Admetus, King of ThesWe see what Orpheus saw with his saly, is fated to die. Apollo, who, mind's eye—the picture that haunted banished from the Gods, had served him-his Eurydice in the Stygian bark, him, obtains life for him, on condition never to be restored. She was éven that one should die willingly in his before him in that fearful passage
stead. Alcestis alone, his wife, con
sents to die for him. She dies. At the “ Illa quidem Stygia nabat jum frigida
moment of her death, Hercules arrives cymba."
as a guest to the house of Admetus. Having thus shown that such was the The hospitable Admetus receives him, ever-present scene in the mind's eye concealing the cause of his grief. of Orpheus, he could add no more This, however, Hercules learns from the servants, and determines to res. been said proverbially that still wacue Alcestis from the hands of Death. ters run deep;' her passions are not He accordingly lies in ambush at the veheinent, but in her settled mind the sepulchre, seizes, wrestles with Death, sources of pain or pleasure, love or and obtains Alcestis. Hercules re- resentment" (the last we would omit turns with her to Admetus, but does as not shown, at least in action, in that not discover her until the lamenting of Alcestis), "are, like the springs that husband has given proof of his love feed the mountain lakes, impenetraand the depth of his affliction, by re- ble, unfathomable, and inexhaustible. fusing to receive her to his care, sup- Shakspeare has conveyed (as is his posing her to be one whom Hercules custom) a part of the character of (as he had declared) had won as the Hermione in scattered touches; and prize of his toils, and requested Adme- through the impressions she produces tus to preserve until his return. The on all around her.”
« The play here terminates in the restoration expressions,“most sacred lady,' dread of Alcestis to her husband. She is mistress,' • sovereign,' with which thus, in her dying, and more full and she is addressed or alluded to; the happy restoration, the true Eurydice. boundless devotion and respect of The dim and faintly sketched charac- those around her, and their confidence ter of fable is brought out from the in her goodness and innocence, are so cold shades of Orcus into the warmth many additional strokes in the porand glow of life and love, a mere indi- trait.” There is a striking instance vidual human being, and therefore the of one of these incidental touches in more an object of our admiration and Euripides ; one of the servants speaks sympathy, breathing virtuous patience, of Alcestis as unknown endurance, and indomitable Δέσποιναν, ή μοι πάσι τ' οίκέταισιν ήν affection, in her dying breath. Eury. Mýtape xexov ydp peoplwy éppútto, dice is the ideal personification, Alces; 'Opoyds parácsovo úvdpós--Line 772. tis the natural perfection of wedded love.
My mistress, who to me and all the doEvery thing in the play is made
mestics was subservient to the developement of this
As a mother, for from innumerable ills
she freed us, beautiful character. She has none to support her (no female friend) in her Soothing the anger of her husband. resolution, and her husband is unable Admetus we can scarcely respect ; and, we fear, unworthy the sad office: bad as the act of allowing his wife to she is supported solely by her love- die for him is, the dialogue between her own gentle, yet firm mind. It is him and his old father, whom he upthis union of firmness and gentleness braids for not dying, instead of his that constitutes the beauty, we had wife, for him, sinks him lower in our almost said the rarity, of her character. regard than the occasion of the drama Our sympathy is kept alive by her requires—and the old man has, uncontinual dying; there is no cessation questionably, the best of the argument. from the secret working of the doom owards the end of the play, however, under which, whilst she suffers, she he rises, through pity for his unfeigned loses not one particle of her resolution: love and affliction, and his refusal to nor has her ebbing life less tenderness; receive his undiscovered wife brought as the life-blood chills, life lingers as to him by Hercules, somewhat in our it were in the surviving warmth of her esteem; so that we are artfully thus affections. Mrs Jameson, in her ad- prepared entirely to sympathize with mirable work on the Female Charac- him, and finally to enter into his full ters of Shakspeare, in that of Her- happiness in having the lovely, the mione not unaptly describes Alcestis. lost Alcestis restored to him. His “ She is a queen, a matron, and a aversion to look at the lady to be inmother; she is good and beautiful, trusted to his eare, and at the first royally descended ; a majestic sweet- hasty look the resemblance to the form ness, a grand and gracious simplicity, of Alcestis, and his burst of feeling, an easy, unforced, yet dignified self- and wonder, and entreaty that she possession, are in all her deportment, should be removed from his sight, and in every word shè utters ; she is thereupon, are perfect in dramatic one of those characters of whom it has effect.
συ δ', ο γύναι,
And you, O lady,
This lady, that you do not utterly destroy me undone.
Δοκώ γαρ, αυτήν είσορών, γυναίχ οράν
My wife. How liko Shakspeare, where poor old Lear, in similar doubt and surprise, says,
“Methinks I should know you, and know this man,
To be my child Cordelia."- King Lear, Act IV., Scene 5. Thus Admetus, that the interest may be still in suspense, has the vision removed from his eyes, for they are dimn with tears, and he can for awhile no longer see; and then is his grief renewed with double bitterness, as from a double loss.
θολοί δε καρδίαν· έκ δ' όμματων
How afresh do I taste the bitterness of this grief ! The refusal of Hercules to deliver her into any other hand but that of Admetus most feelingly and naturally brings about the discovery. He receives her with averted look, and knows not that she is his wife till he is told to look at her, and see if she be like her, and be happy. The recognition (even ending in terror, lest it be unreal-some phantom conjured from the dead—is true to nature) is finely conceived. Admclus. Ω θεοί, τί λέξω; θαύμ’ ανέλπιστον τόδεν
Γυναίκα λεύσσω τήνδ' εμήν έτητύμως. .
*Η κίρτομός με θεού τις εμπλήσσει χαρά;
() Gods! what shall I say? unhoped for is this miracle ;
Or does some false heart-cutting joy of the God strike me with wonder?
Admetus. Oh! take care, then, that this be no phantom of the dead. And what does Alcestis say ? Al- happiness? And who would dissolve cestis ! the recovered from the dead, the spiritual awe that is around her? “ forbid to tell the secrets of that pri- - The spell of Death in Life. She son-house." Can speech tell her speaks not. When Admetus asks why
she speaks not, who could give the which the newly-vested spirit must in
Ad. Τί γάρ ποθ' ήδ' άναυδος έστηκεν γυνή και
Κλύει», πριν αν θεοίσι τοίσι νερτέροις
'Αλλ' είσαι είσω τήνδε. Line 1146.
Address'd to you before her purification, and rites
But lead her now within. In the tale of Orpheus, he is him- of the Winter's Tale. The fabulous self every thing—not so in the play. is altogether dropped. We lose someThe Eurydice there is every thing in thing, it is true, of the awful interest, Alcestis. It is sufficient, therefore, the wondrous mystery of the rescue in the latter, that the conquest over from Death itself-that bold personifiDeath should be by main force ; for, cation; but the situations, therefore, had the spell of Orpheus been added, the more come home to our own hearts. the pathos of the wife's devotion would In the Alcestis, we admire more have been diminished, and the dying than we pity. She is a voluntary sufweakness of the gentle wife is not ill ferer. So, indeed, to a certain exset off by the vigour of the arm that tent, is Hermione, for she endures a rescues her; yet the real story is sixteen years'seclusion--unnecessarily, more poetical, and more really grand but for her honour's sake—but, in all in itself. Hercules conquers Hades by that relates to her husband, she is main force-Orpheus by a new power, vilely injured. Euripides makes Adhis lyre, a thousand times more po- metus but a poor character. Shaktent; for the earth yields to his incan- speare makes Leontes a wicked one. tation, and opens to him a passage, Perhaps the Queen sees but his jealand Pluto and Proserpine are not ousy as the cause of his cruelty to constrained, but charmed. Death is her, and may therefore be excused for but as the minister-the servant-and her final reconciliation ; but the comhad not delivered up his charge; but manding one of his courtiers secretly in the case of Orpheus the inexorable to poison Polyxenes, the object of his deities were moved. We have ob. jealous passion, his friend, and his served that Admetus is not the most guest, is so mean a piece of villany, worthy character. Was this intended that we are scarcely reconciled to him to show the nature of woman's love? throughout the play, and are the less to enhance it? to exalt it? How per- interested in bis penitence. This fect is that woman in her all-perfect would have been injurious to the love, whose sense of duty, and obe- piece, were it not for the divided indience, and affection, absorbs to itself, terest afforded by Perdita in the two but to annibilate them, the defects of last acts. In Perdita Hermione finds the man she has chosen, and sees in her reward. She is, indeed, reconhim but the husband and the father! ciled to Leontes, and wonderfully fine If Euripides bas selected so poor a is that reconciliation, and therein she, character as Admetus, we may sup- too, like Alcestis, is silent; but Perpose it was not without reason, for dita she blesses like a creature that Shakspeare has even worse mated had for years been conversant with Hermione. And here in Hermione holy thoughts and prayers for the prewe have Eurydice again—the new servation of her child, and as one enversion, the invention, but from the titled to bless. original tale, of consummate genius. The statue is a fine conception, a If, in the Alcestis, the Eurydice be beautiful version of the fable, and the brought within the circle of domestic peculiar character of Hermione well life, a real dramatis persona, it is suits it. She has all the calm dignity, much more the case in the Hermione even in her greatest trials, which is the grace of ancient marbles. We tence, and of his love, of the agony of are not surprised to see her represent his affection, yet still she moves not ! ed, for she is statuesque (if there be The impetuous Paulina could not have such a word) throughout. She is borne this--yet it is not for Hermione sensible of her husband's full peni- that she fears" Paulina
i'n draw the curtain, My Lord's almost so far transported, that
He'll think anon it lives.” And even yet Hermione moves not. Nay! she waits the bidding, and as it were the animating the statue by an incantation ; and when she stirs, she moves solemnly, as one slowly returning to life. Shakspeare here did not forget the mystery of the original fable“ Paulina. Stir ; nay, come away,
Bequeath to death your numbness, for from him
[Hermione comes down.
You hear my spell is lawful.” Here, too, as far as he could, has Shakspeare taken advantage of the silence of Alcestis. They embrace, but not a word does she yet speak. We learn her action from others “ Leontes.
Oh, she is warm !
Lawful as eating. “ Polyx. She embraces him.” Alcestis has no friend, no compa- the riotous Bacchânts, so have the two uion. She needed none. Admetus plays their revel and wake. The was to her all in all-and she the self- jovial Hercules, who seems to have devoted. It was necessary for the taken out a license " to be drunk on plot that Hermione should have a the premises,” is at once the contrast friend ; Leontes was not all to her and the relief to the universal wo of she regarded the Oracle, and lived in the house of Admetus. The counhope of recovering her child. But, try wake, with the merry knave Authat she may stand alone in interest, tolycus, set off the graver scenes, and how unlike is the calm Hermione to pleasantly prepare the mind for the the impassioned and vehement Paul- concluding happiness. Shakspeare ina, and how little do they come in must somehow or other have met with contact in the play, that the majestic the play of Euripides, for he certainly quiet may not suffer.
alludes to the story. Florizel speaks As the original Orpheus is among of Apollo serving Admetus
" And the fire-robed god, Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,
As I seem now. And it is not impossible that the very idea of the statue may have been suggested by the following passage from the Alcestis of Euripides, wherein . Admetus proposes to have a statue made of his wife :
Σοφή δε χειρί τεκτόνων δέμας το σον
Imag'd form be laid in my bed. Can we wonder at the charm of such tales as Orpheus, Alcestis, and Hermione-or in one, of Eurydice—the lost Eurydice !--the just recovered—and the lost again. What is it but the poetical version of bereft affection's nightly dream ? Did it not glide in with the stillness of night, and, enacting life, draw Milton's curtain