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striking contrast to the lectures of A W. Schlegel, which we recently examined. We will endeavor, in a brief notice, to convey some notion of its contents.
Manfreds, Antonys, sentimental villains, and virtuous courtesans.
The second defect inherent in the choice of singularities and exceptions in matters of passion, is exaggeration. When a poet represents a simple natural passion, he has a rule and measure he sees how passions act upon men, and what he sees he paints. But when he represents a character which is an exception to the ordinary rules of human feeling, where is his measure? In endeavoring to imagine what would be the thoughts and feelings of such a person, he leaves the general ground of experience to
is the portrait of a madman. Let us also remember that when the passions are exaggerated they all resemble each other, and lose their distinctive characteristics. entering a theatre at the close of a modern play, and on seeing the heroine a prey to a convulsive frenzy, on hearing her cries and sobs as she wrings her hands and drags herself along the ground, how are we to know whether it is grief, rage, love, or hate, which drives her to these excesses? Passions are only various and distinguishable from each other whilst they are moderate: they have then their natural language and gestures, and they interest by their diversity. When they become excessive they become uniform; and exaggeration, which is supposed to give relief and contrast to passion, only destroys it.
The first condition of dramatic poetry is that its passion be true. And at the theatre no passion is true but that which is general; that which all the world feels. The heart of the audience is to be moved only by that which is common to all men; psychological curiosities, idiosyncrasies, bizarreries, and exceptions, may interest, but they do not move. Here lies the difference between the ancient and modern drama, between Racine and Victor Hugo. The plunge into the regions of fancy: the result old poet selects for his subjects the most universal passions; and these passions, which are simple in their nature, he represents with simplicity. The modern poet, on the contrary, seeks exceptional and bizarre cases with as much diligence as the ancient poet avoided them Take the example of Love. When the drama has exhausted the emotions which the exhibition of the simple passion excites, it seeks emotion in the painting of singular and fantastic passions; this singularity rapidly leads to extravagance in the incidents, and melodrame triumphs; for what is melodrame but the substitution of physical for mental effects? Marion de Lorme' is an example of the over-refining tendency of modern poets. Victor Hugo has there painted the purity of love in the breast of a courtesan; the thing is possible, but not vraisemblable; it is an exception, a contrast, and therefore undramatic. Modern literature manifests a striking tendency towards the exceptional in character and passion; it loves to elevate the exception into the importance of the rule; it prefers idiosyncrasies to natural passions; it seizes on a detail, a feature, or a contrast, and out of this makes a character. But idiosyncrasies and exceptions have two great faults; monotony and exaggeration.
If to the foregoing we add, that the tendency of modern art is material, that it seeks to excite the senses more than the feelings, and excites even the feelings only through the senses, we shall have tolerably expressed the general ideas of M. Saint Marc Girardin on the subject. Let us follow him now into some details.
Every feeling," he says, "has its histoand this history is interesting because it is the abridgment of the history of humanity. Although the feelings do not change, yet they suffer from the effect of religious and political revolutions. They retain their nature, but they change their expression; and it is in studying these changes of expression that literary criticism writes, without meaning it, the history of the world."
Exceptions and curiosities soon become monotonous. Bizarre people are only amusing for an hour; we afterwards become tired of seeing their ideas and sentiments revolving in the same eccentric circle. There is, in truth, something more tedious than being like all the world, and that is being His lectures are contributions towards always the same. Commonplace people are such a history. The love of life is the first more tolerable than monotonous people. passion of which he treats: it is also the Remember also that bizarrerie is easily most elementary of all. There have been imitated. Consisting as it does of only one times when fashion has pretended to disparticular trait, a detail, not an ensemble, it own this love of life; when stoicism, or is easily copied. Hence the multiplicity of epicureanism, has erected contempt of
The eager-growing rock subdued
death into a system: but this has always] And she compares herself to Niobe, whom, been an affectation. At all times, and with Like encircling ivy all men, love of life has been a real and intense passion. At all times, when men have given a natural expression to their feelings, She subsequently reproaches the Thebans a strong illustration of her horror of death. they have expressed their love of life. Achilles, the ideal of Greek manliness, and who with indifference to her fate, and the gods with injustice. Iphigenia is less proud was always willing to sacrifice his life to something greater, yet when complimented treaties for life are expressed without reand less resolute, and her passionate enby Ulysses, who meets him in Hades, on his now commanding the dead, and thereby serve. She, too, regrets the light of the being greater than when he ruled over the day; she, too, dreads the shades; she, too, living, Achilles mournfully replies that he revolts instinctively against death: an unwould rather be a day-laborer and a slave happy life, she says, is preferable to a if alive, than a king amongst the dead.-splendid death; zaxos v xQtioσor, i Javer xalos. And the audience sympathize with (Od. xi., 487.) her. So would the reader, could he but read her touching speech; but the splendid original we dare not, and Potter's feeble translation we will not, quote.
μη δη μοι θανατον γε παραύδα φαιδιμ' Οδυσσεύ,
Compare also, hateful old age,' yngaï re σTUYEQ, (Il. xix. 356), which energetically expresses his love of life. This would appear contemptible to Stoicism, but in their secret hearts all men sympathize with it. M. Girardin selects as illustrations of the love of life, the Ajax' and 'Antigone' of Sophocles, the Iphigenia' and 'Polyxena' of Euripides, the Polyxena' of Seneca, the 'Iphigénie' of Racine, and the Catarina' of Victor Hugo. Let us follow him in his course.
Polyxena is more resigned, because she has less to regret. Homeless and fatherless, she can only live to be a slave; and she resigns herself to death, but without pomp, without stoical affectation. The Polyxena of Seneca, on the contrary, invites death with bravado, her magnanimity borders upon fury, and she terrifies Pyrrhus, who is to immolate her :
Audax virago non tulit retro gradum :
Antigone, Polyxena,' and Iphigenia, are three maidens sacrificed in the flower of This is the poetry of stoicism, of disease, their age. Neither of them affects a courof ennui, and affectation. By the stoics, age or contempt she does not feel; neither of death was considered as nothing. Mors est them resigns willingly her youth and hopes; It is not an evil, but the absence of all evil: mors adeò extra omne malum all three weep without shame: weep and yet resign themselves. We see here a triumph est, ut sit extra omnem malorum metum. of art which excites pity without exhaust- There is nothing after death, for death iting it; which mixes the plaint with the re-self is nothing. signation, that they may excite pity and respect, and that these two feelings may temper each other in the spectator's breast. Antigone is a martyr, sacrificing herself to her religious sentiments; but she has not the resignation of a martyr. In bidding adieu to life she knows and feels what she is quitting:
Behold me, fellow-citizens;
I tread the last path
I see the last beam of the sun
I shall see it no more.
For the all-reposing Hades leads me
No hymeneal rites may charm me,
Antigone, ed. Böckh, v. 775.
Post mortem nihil est, ipsaque mors nihil.*
Such was the doctrine. What was the
practice? At that period of languor and luxury, as M. Nisard well says, a period of monstrous effeminacies, of appetites to which the world could scarcely suffice, of perfumed baths, of easy and disorderly intrigues, there were daily men of all ranks, of all fortunes, of all ages, who released themselves from their evils by suicide. Marcellinus is attacked with a painful
Iphig. in Aul. v. 1252. Compare also Troades,' v. 629-30.
t Seneca, Troades,' 1151.
to the implied prayer. She offers herself as a victim, because it is her father's will. But can he will it? Can he slay the darling of his eyes, the child who first lisped the name of father, who listened to the warrior's exploits, and flattered him by asking him the names of the countries he was going to conquer? The conclusion of her speech is touched with the same delicate hand.
but curable malady; he is young, rich, has [sage; notice not merely the beauty of the slaves, friends, every thing to make life verse, but the delicacy of the feeling; nopleasant no matter, he conceives the tice how fine the transition from obedience fancy of dying. He assembles his friends and consults them as if he were about to marry. After discussing with them the project of suicide, he puts it to the vote. Some advise him to do as he pleases, but a stoic present bids him die bravely. He followed the advice and killed himself. Suicide was a fashion. The great teacher of the doctrine ended his contemptible existence according to his precepts; but it was by the order of Nero; during his life he had shown no contempt of life's enjoyments. He had been Nero's pander, and he received a pander's wages. These were not trifles; besides his villas and superbly furnished palace, his hard cash alone amounted to 300,000 sestertia, or 2,421,8007. sterling of our money. (Tacit. xiii. 42.) After this, we may be permitted to doubt the sincerity of stoicism; nothing can stagger our conviction of its absurdity.
Ne craignez rien ! mon cœur de votre honneur jaloux,
Ne fera point rougir un père tel que vous;
J'aurai su renfermer un souvenir si tendre.
Ma mère est devant vous, et vous voyez ses
In the 'Iphigénie' of Racine we see nei- There is nothing in Euripides at all ther the Greek ingenuousness, nor the Ro- equal to this. Her prayer has treble force, man affectation. She is resigned, but with- because it does not seem to be a prayer. out bravado; she regrets life, but without She does not lose an inch of her dignity, not terror, without violence. There is some-a jot of her filial obedience, but she alludes thing touching in her respectful submis
Je saurai, s'il le faut, victime obéissante
to all that can make life dear, and gently places before her father's mind the extent of the sacrifice which he demands. 'Iphigénie,' says M. Girardin, 'immolates her grief to paternal authority; she is anxious not to offend by too loud a murmur. This is what Christianity has made of the human touching, because this submission is full of heart.' Observe that Polyxena, in Seneca, mute prayers for life; touching, because braves death, because she despises life; the life she sacrifices is dear to her, al- Iphigénie meets death calmly, because it though her father's will is dearer. Listen is her father's will, and for that father she to these sweet verses, which have the pathos has infinite and reverential love. of those in Euripides, from which they are Iphigénie of Racine resembles more the imitated, together with an impress peculiar-Antigone of Sophocles than the Iphigenia ly Racinean.
Si pourtant ce respect, si cette obéissance
Si près de ma naissance en eut marqué la fin.
Pray, reader, notice the art of this pas
of Euripides indeed Racine, throughout,
Angelo, the tyrant of Padua, tells Catarina that she must die, and bids her choose between the dagger or poison. She exclaims, 'No: 'tis horrible! I will not! I cannot! Think a little, while there is yet time. You are all-powerful, reflect. A
woman, a lonely woman, abandoned, with- | antique Iphigenia, for her regrets embrace out force and without defence, without pa- those things which are universal benefits, rents, without friends! Assassinate her! the light, the beauty of the skies, the Poison her in a miserable corner of her delight in nature. This is a characteristic own house! O mother! mother! mother! of the love of life with the ancients. .. Bid me not have courage! Am I which delights them is nature; that which forced to have courage, 1? I am not delights the moderns is society. The Egashamed of being a feeble woman whom mont of Goethe, when on the point of death, you ought to pity! I weep because death exclaims, 'No escape! Sweet life! beautiterrifies me. It is not my fault.' ful and pleasant habit of existence and acLet us not be understood as comparing tivity, must I part from thee!-part so this melodramatic rubbish with the poetry abandoned! Not in the tumult of battle, of Euripides; our comparison rests on the amidst the clang of arms, dost thou bid me horror both women unhesitatingly manifest adieu!' Compare this with the soliloquy of for death. M. Girardin remarks on Cata- Ajax (in Sophocles), who might also have rina's passion that it is "the cry of the regretted his arms, his combats, his rebody in the agony, not the cry of the soul.nown; but who, like Antigone and IphigeIt is the flesh which revolts against death; nia, dwells only on the beams of the sun, but it is a purely instinctive and material the sacred land of his birth, the fountains revolt, in which the soul takes no part. I and the rivers, the fields of Troy, and witness the sensations of one condemned to Athens his second country and compare death I see the flesh quiver, the visage this also, as M. Girardin bids us, with the turn pale, the limbs trembling; I witness soliloquy of Hamlet, who speaks only of an agony. But why is the material death the whips and scorns of time. Thus difalone represented? Why do you suppress ferently,' exclaims our author, 'do men die the most noble, the most elevated emotions in the north and in the south in the north, of the dying creature, those which address bidding adieu to man and to society with themselves to the real pity of men, the pity satire or contempt; in the south, bidding which is reconciled with admiration and adieu to nature in regrets full of love.' But respect, and not that which borders on dis- in Shakspeare, as in Sophocles, the idea of gust? I am pleased to see Iphigénie re-death is one of terror; ergo, the love of gretting the light of the sun so sweet to life is strong. In Rome, not only the stosee;' I am pleased with her terrors at the ics, but the other poets, looked on death as 'subterranean shades;' I am touched by a glorious exit. her regrets for life, but in her plaints there is something beside the physical fear of death; and when she resigns herself, what nobility! what dignity! How that resignation touches our hearts; so that our pity for her can be prolonged without becoming a sort of uneasy pain. There is a truth, certainly, in the shrieks of Catarina; but it is a truth which, so to speak, belongs to natural history. In the plaints of Iphigénie there is a truth more elevated and more human."
To return to Iphigénie, M. Girardin points out the difference of the ideas entertained by the Greek and French poet: a difference indicative of that between ancient and modern society. The modern Iphigénie, daughter of the king of kings, and destined for the wife of Achilles, thinks of the honors which surround her, and these form the principal objects of her regret. The antique Iphigenia only regrets the loss of the blessed sunshine. Only the daughter of Agamemnon can talk like. the heroine of Racine there is no dying girl who could not repeat the verses of the
The truth is, Rome was peopled with soldiers more than men; these soldiers had their contempt of death formed in perpetual campaigns. How little they regarded the life of others their whole history shows. The gladiatorial fights, brutal and relentless, must have hardened the minds of spectators; and there were no softening influences to counteract them. How different were the Greeks! They did not pretend to despise this beautiful life; they did not affect to be above humanity. Life was precious, and they treasured it; treasured it not with petty fear, but noble ingenuousness. They loved life, and they said so when the time came to risk it for their honor, for their country, or for another, when something they loved better was to be gained by the sacrifice, they died unflinchingly.* The tears shed by Achilles and Ulysses did not unman them; they fought terribly, as they
Compare the reply of Achilles to Xanthus, who foretells his death. Iliad.' xix. 420. Compare also Alcestis in Euripides.
Ajax, and Dido, do not argue respecting their right to dispose of their lives: they yield to the counsels of despair, without argument, without subtilizing, without plunging into profound reveries like Hamlet, without experiencing the diseased weariness of Werther, without cursing society like Chatterton. Their deaths are the explosions of despair, not the conclusions of a philosophic debate. They have been impatient at grief, and in a moment of anguish they have cast away life.
had loved tenderly. Philoctetes in pain | madness of passion, without any mixture of howls like a wild beast, because he is in philosophy. This second species is the one agony and feels no shame in expressing it; most treated by ancient poets. Phædra, but these shrieks have not softened his soul: he is still the same stern, implacable, terrible Philoctetes. The Romans, in their dread of becoming effeminate, became marble. They despised death, they despised pain. The gladiator was trained to be wounded, without a muscle indicating that the wound was painful; he was taught to look at impending death without a change of countenance. To be above pain was thought manly. They did not see that instead of being above humanity, in this they sunk miserably below it. You receive a blow, and you do not wince; so does a stone. You are face to face with death, and you have no regrets, you despise life; then are you unworthy of life. In Homer, not only the heroes, but the very gods express their pain, and the wounded Mars goes howling off the field. If it is a condition of our organization that we feel pain, it is only affectation to suppress the expression. Could silence stifle pain it were desirable; but to stifle the cry is not to stifle the feeling; and to have a feeling and pretend In the tragedies of Seneca no one kills himnot to have it, is not being above, but be- self without asserting a philosophical right; low humanity. If you despise pain why to die in a moment of despair would be unnot also pleasure? and if both, wherein worthy and unwise; a man must know that are you superior to the vegetable? The he is at liberty to kill himself if he pleases. same sensibility which causes pain, produces also pleasure; to be free from either is not to be human.
But death has quickly cured them of that hate of life! How gladly would they reappear on earth, once more to enjoy the light of day, even at the expense of suffering those evils which they believed insupportable!
Quam vellent æthere in alto
Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores!
Edipus discusses this point with his daughter. I have resigned the empire of Thebes, but not the empire of myself. I have power over my own life and death;
.. jus vitæ ac necis
No one can interdict my death.
viewed poetically; but there is one light in