Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

will require sagacity and profound penetration, as well as a minute and accurate knowledge of facts, to fathom such a man's motives or principles ; and we shall watch with some degree of anxiety the progress of a work that is intended to describe and defend a personage of such importance, and, as intimated, to vindicate his policy.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Art. VI.-1. The Bride of Messina : a Tragedy; with Choruses. By

SCHILLER. Translated by A. LODGE, Esq. M. A. 2. The Patrician's Daughter : a Tragedy. By J. WESTLAN MARSTON. 3. Old Maids : a new Comedy. By SHERIDAN KNOWLES. We wish to avoid all controversy with regard to the moral effects of the stage and to confine ourselves on the subject of the drama to the literary merits of the pieces which come before us. One thing is manifest relative to this topic, that play-writers and playhousegoers we are sure to have in the present state of society. In these circumstances it becomes our duty as journalists to watch the progress and to pronounce upon the character of dramatic productions, welcoming such as appear to be the purest and the most elevating in point of sentiment, so that public taste may not be degraded beyond its present condition, by such pestiferous pieces as have frequently been written for the stage, and perused in private by persons too susceptible.

Each of the three productions before us have claims upon our approval as compared with the majority of dramatic works. The Bride of Messina is one of Schiller's most characteristic works, and has been translated by a person who is evidently not merely a ripe scholar in the language of the original, but is possessed of a poetical temperament, which, if not akin to that of the celebrated author, is at least such as that he appreciates the beauties and peculiarities of the piece, and can transfuse them into his mother tongue. A remarkable feature in this modern tragedy consists of the choruses which are introduced in observance of the ancient models, the dramatist's idea being that the poets of those distant days " found the chorus in nature, and for that reason employed it. It grew out,” it is further observed, “ of the poetical respect of real life. In the new tragedy it becomes an organ which aids in making the poetry prominent.” This opinion and short account may induce some of our readers to examine the work and to test for themselves the soundness of the poet's theory.

The Patrician's Daughter is by a writer who also entertains a theory of his own, but which may be questioned. He says, “ Consider our merchant when he returns from 'Change; the poet as he walks unnoted in our streets; the calm demeanour of the agitated diplomatist; the smooth brow and accustomed smile of a regnant

beauty, while jealous rivals wound with courtesy, and torture selon les règles. What suspense ! what aspirations! what subdued emotions! There is truly stuff for tragedy in the age of civilization.”

Now, although it may not be right “to limit to the past, the dramatic exhibition of our nature," for this may be “ virtually to declare our nature itself radically altered," as Mr. Marston observes; yet tragedy must present something more active and full of storm than suspense, aspirations and subdued emotions : therefore dramatists find it convenient for the most part to recur to periods when the conventionalities of civilization had not reduced manners to a perfect smoothness, and the actions of the highest spirits of the age to a dead level. “The Patrician's Daughter” itself is not merely very deficient of action, but while the author proposes to himself to picture human nature as exhibited in very modern times, he falls back upon an age most celebrated in the history of the British drama for his metaphors and much of his phraseology, instead of giving us the real language and life of the period to which his plot belongs : thus, if not virtually declaring our nature itself to be radically changed, intimating that passion and deep suffering cannot find adequate expression in the language of our times. But Mr. Marston has otherwise fallen into error; for he has not taught the highest and noblest lesson towards the correction of modern conventionalities, making the catastrophe arise from the pride and ungenerous conduct of the hero, rather than as the result of vindicating grand principles, or of any lofty impulse.

The antagonism and the fatal circumstances which destroy the Patrician's Daughter, arise from the pride of a low-born man of genius having had to endure the contempt of a family of high station, according to the conventionalities of society. Mordaunt is the victim at first of this pride of rank, for having aspired to the hand of Lady Mabel Lynterne, whose father is an earl, cherishing the most exclusive aristocratic feelings. The earl's sister, Lady Lydia, discovering Mordaunt's aspirations, by misrepresentation and strategy causes a scornful refusal to be given to him, although Mabel had begun to entertain a love for her over-sanguine suitor ; and he leaves the noble Lord's stately mansion, after the following

scene:

* Mordaunt. Stay!
Before we part, I have a word or two
For Lady Mabel's ear.–

:-I know right weli
The world has no tribunal to avenge
An injury like mine; you may allure
The human heart to love, warm it with smiles
To aspirations of a dream-like bliss,
From which to wake is madness; and when spells
Of
your

enchantment have enslaved it quite,

for sport

Its motives, feelings, energies, and hopes,
Abstracted from all objects, save yourself ;
So that you are its world, its light, its life,
And all besides is dark, and void, and dead :
I say, that very heart, brought to this pass,
You may spurn from your path, pass on and jest :
And the crowd will jest with you; you will glide
With eye as radiant, and with brow as smooth,
And feet as light, through your charmed worshippers,
As though the angel's pen had failed to trace
The record of your crime; and every night,
Lulled by soft flatteries, you may calmly sleep
As do the innocent—but it is crime,
Deep crime, that you commit. Had

you
Trampled upon the earth a favourite rose,
Pride of the garden, or in wantonness
Cast in the sea, a jewel not your own,

All men had held you guilty of offence-
Lydia (to the Earl.) Is't meet that longer you should brook this cen-

sure ?
Mordaunt (disregarding her). And is it then no sin,

To crush those flowers of life, our freshest hopes,
With all the incipient beauty, in the bud,
Which know no second growth? To cast our faith
In humankind, the only amulet
By which the soul walks fearless through the world,
Into those floods of memoried bitterness,
Whose awful depths no diver dares explore ;
To paralyse the expectant mind, while yet
On the world's threshold, and existence' self
To drain of all, save its inert endurance.
To do this unprovoked, I put it to you,
Is not this sin? To the unsleeping eye
Of Him who sees all aims, and knows the wrongs
No laws save His redress, I make appeal
To judge between us. There's an hour will come,
Not of revenge, but righteous retribution !

The Earl. Well! sir,
Our conference is ended!

Mordaunt. Yes! but its issues
Have yet to be revealed.

Exit Mordaunt.
The Earl. Hither! Mabel. (Mabel reels forward and

falls into her father's arms.") Several years elapse before the opening of the next scene; during which interval the rejected lover has received a title, and has become distinguished in public and political life. He is now the accepted suitor to Lady Mabel, and a grand marriage is on the eve apparently of solemnization, a company of guests having assembled

1

to witness the ceremony. Still, Sir Edgar Mordaunt's bearing and conduct are remarkable and mysterious. For example, he indulges in a string of speeches that have an ominous tone, which terminate in a peremptory refusal to wed the lady who now with parental approval undisguisedly loves the low-born but at length exalted man of genius. Here is part of his explanation :

Mordaunt. Encouraged thus, I straightway sought the Earl,
Entreated his permission to be ranked
As Lady Mabel's suitor, when it pleased her
Smilingly to admit, that she had toyed
With me, to while away an idle hour.
I hasted home ;-in a few days the tale
Of the plebeian aspirant supplied
Mirth to a thousand jesters.-- What presumption
In him to love thus !—What effrontery
To have a heart! I own that fault, however,
Is not patrician. Now for once be men
And women, or if you can, be human.
Have you loved ever? known what 'tis to stake
Your heart's whole capital of blessedness
Upon one die, the chance of love returned !
To lose the cast; be beggared in your soul;
Then to be spurned and made a public scorn
By those who tempted the fatal throw,
Which drained your heart of riches,—and all this,
Because

your birth was lowly ?-Had you borne it?
I have not sought for vengeance in this act.
My life, my energies, my talents all
Did I task for the deed! Such apparatus
Was meant for nobler uses, than belong
To a mere private feud-but I have fought
A battle for high principles, and taught
Convention, when it dares to tread down Man,
MAN SHALL ARISE IN TURN, AND TREAD IT DOWN!
As for this lady !--she has never loved me,
Nor have I lately sought to win her love:
I would not wreak on her such wretchedness,
As she caused me for pastime! I have done,
My mission is fulfilled!

[Moves towards the door. Pierpoint (drawing his rapier). You shall not quit this house,

until you answer
For this indignity!

Mabel (who rushes forward and arrests his arm.)
(With great agitation) Upon your life,
Injure him not! put up your sword, I say,

[Mordaunt regards her earnestly. (Haughtily.) He is not worthy of it.

[Exit Mordaunt."

The wreck and the misery caused by this specimen of refined or rather mean revenge become tragic enough before the curtain drops. Now, whatever objections may be made to the conduct of the plot, it cannot be denied that there is great power in the passages quoted, just as there are many proofs throughout the piece of manly feeling, and much beautiful writing. He is no common-place workman who could in the manner shown give dramatic effect to cold convention ; although we think he should have preached a more attractive and ennobling lesson than that founded on the principle of dudgeon.

With two short extracts, containing power and beauty that require no preface, we close our notice of “ The Patrician's Daughter."

" Mordaunt. 'Tis our Time's curse
That under worship of the selfish Idol
We designate the Practical, it scoffs
At the sweet lore taught in the Poet's page,
And deems the pictures of heroic men,
The generous, the high-hearted, and the pure,
The idle coinage of a dreamy brain ;
And yet, what art so practical as that
Which showing what men should be, nourishing
Feelings of goodness, beauty, bravery,
By portraiture of those possessing them,
Describes the mental model of a world

After which it were well that ours were fashioned ?"
Here follow sentiments of a kindred tone :-

Mordaunt. Is not yon sunset splendid ?

Lydia. Yes!
But we may see that often, and it bears
Not now on our discourse.

Mordaunt. Indeed it does-
However proud, or great, or wise, or valiant
The Lady Mabel's ancestors, that sun
From

age
to

age, has watched their honours end,
As man by man fell off, and centuries hence
Yon light, unto Oblivion may have lit
As many stately trains, as now have passed.
And yet my soul, orb of eternity,
When yonder globe is ashes, as your sires,
Shall shine on undecaying.-When men know
What their own natures are, and feel what God
Intended them to be, they are not awed

By pomps the sun outlives.” Knowles's “Old Maids” abounds with manly sentiments and direct appeals to nature, without the sickly affectations of the fine school

« ForrigeFortsæt »