Imatges de pàgina

Most erring accusations : hear me, then,
In silence. Thou hast said that in my breast
No pity dwells; and in that hard belief
Hast scrupled not to call me · heart of stone'-
The cruellest of maidens; and with words
Like these, hast sought to move me to compassion.
Dost know, or dost forget, that should I yield
What thou call'st pity-cruel to myself
The lot I earn'd would be the flaming pile-
A death of shame before assembled crowds,-
Honour and life, alike in ashes sunk?
Nor could thine aid avail, nor thou escape
My father's vengeful ire. Be thou, then, judge,
If 'twere not miscallid pity which drew down
A fate like this on both devoted heads ?
Less cruel were the kindness that would reach
To dying lips some fatal draught, desired
In fond delirium's ravings ; while few drops
Of wholesome bitter might achieve the cure !
Canst doubt I feel compassion? What else bade me-
Ev'n now, fly to thy rescue from the flood ?
Me pity prompts to aid, not to destroy ;
Such pity I dare feel, and it is thine !
But what thou fondly, idly dar'st to crave
Is folly, for 'tis unattainable.
Nor God nor man can grant th' unhallow'd boon;
God has giv'n man a guardian in his honour,
And Shelomith's will ne'er betray its trust!
If thou lovest truly, love in me, my faith
Worthy a monarch's daughter! Love my fame,-
My life itself !- If wise as well as loving,
Be calm ; for if thou’rt so, I shall know peace.
Flee to some distant shore--live happy there;
Dream not of death-harbour no thought of guilt-
What is't to be a man, but to forswear
Life's sweetest draught if guilt be in the cup ?
O! be advis'd, be calm ; weed from thine heart
Unhallow'd erring passion !-Go,-adieu !
Enjoy thyself_live happy! Fare thee well !"

The dialogue, which continues in the same strain, is protracted by mutual reluctance to separate; and the avowed weakness of what ought to have been the stronger party; while it is only when she has at length torn herself from her lover, that the heroic female victim to honour and duty gives vent to the long suppressed feelings of nature.

Shelo. (alone). Oh, Shallum, Shallum! didst thou know

how faints
My soul within me, 'twould be thine to grant,
Not sue for pity! Sure amid the stars,

In fatal signs, my destinies were traced !
Had I but callid the humblest of earth's sons
My sires, less deep had been the fall which now
Lays the king's daughter low 1-O my lov'd Shallum !
Is it not better thus to weep for thee,
Than thou should'st pine for me? O, cruel stars !
Wherefore divide what love so fondly joins ?
O blind and wayward love! why seek to join
What fate hath ever parted ?-O, my Shallum!
Forgive, if she whom thou hast worshipp'd thus,
Feign'd enmity to hide a breaking heart,
Broken for love of thee !-Forgive, if words
Of studied coldness veil'd the flame within !-
If stone to thee a breast too soft appeared
Which durst not yield to pity !-All the while
Mine ears were tortured with thy moving plaint-
My breast gave back thy sighs ; and with thy tears,

Fast as they fell, my life-blood well’d away !" Thus mourns the unhappy Shelomith, atoning by secret despair for the semblance of exterior composure. Adah now comes to interrupt her solitary complainings, and to weave the web of deep-laid treachery, by which she hopes to ruin Shelomith, and having done so, to supplant her in the affections of Shallum. Her first step towards the former object is an accusation of the betrothed Siphah of being actuated by interest and ambition alone in his pursuit of the princess, while he in reality prefers her hand-maiden, Bathsheba, by whom, however, his love is rejected and scorned. Adah's drift in this is to awaken to revenge the woman's pride of Shelomith against Siphah, but only to recoil on her own devoted head.

By a tissue of successful machinations, the princess is persuaded to send her handmaiden to Adah, with directions to speak and act implicitly as she shall dictate ; the natural consequence of the revelation to the King, by her, of Siphah's infidelity seeming to the unsuspicious Shelomith the probable breaking off of her marriage with him, and her union with a worthier object. Adah, however, having provided a poisoned garment, tutors the ignorant damsel into a belief that it is designed by her mistress as a fatal present to her hated spouse ; and having previously given secret information to that effect, both to the King and Siphah, the supposed bridal gift is subjected in their presence to a test, which too clearly proves its deadly nature.

The rest of the story may be best given in the antique Hebrew phraseology, retained throughout the original “Argument” of the piece.

“ Then did the King command that Shelomith should be brought forth to be burned in the market-place; and lo! the pile was already set on fire. Then came Shallum in haste, and said unto the King,

On me, O King! be the blame; thou and thy daughter are guiltless. Lay, then, thine hand on me, O King! and let Shelomith go free. But Shelomith again said, “ Not so, O my father ! why shouldest thou bring on thine head the innocent blood ? It is I only who have sinned, and wherefore should Shallum perish, and his blood be required at thine hand.' And while they thus strove, Shallum answered, Of a truth, thy servant is guilty respecting the matter of the tower, which I shunned not to approach. See! here is mine handywork which I wot pot whom promised to recompense.' Now Shallum had found written behind the doors of the tower these words : Whosoever thou art who canst attain unto this spot, be it mine to reward thine handywork,'

" And the King was sore afraid, and said unto Shallum, Of what tower speakest thou, my son, and of what handywork? See that thou conceal pothing from me of what hath befallen thee.' And Shallum answered, and said, “Surely I have transgressed in that I passed one day by the mountain Oz, and gazed up at the tower Ain, and saw that the garden on the top thereof was beautiful to look upon; but lo! the tower had no door, and the garden no way; and I sought hither and thither, and beheld a cave, and at the farther end thereof an entrance to the tower. And I went in thereunto, and opened the folding doors thereof, and it was written behind them as thy servant hath said.'

"And the King hasted, and fell on his neck, and embraced him, and wept, and called for Shelomith his daughter, and cried, 'Up, up, Shelomith! up, and fear nothing ! for lo! thy deliverance is accomplished, and thy joy is at hand.

“And great fear fell on Siphah, and he made confession how he had found the doors open, and another had been in the tower before him. And the King gave commandment to loose the chains wherewith Shelomith and Shallum had been bound, and the people saw it and were glad. And they made a great feast in the palace, and the King gave Shallum his daughter Shelomith to wife, and he found favour in his eyes, and became unto him as his son, and sat on the throne of bis kingdom, and was exalted over all the children of Kedem."

So runs this truly Hebrew winding up: the consonance in expression of which, with Scriptural narration, (under other circumstances always more or less offensive to right taste and feeling,) here only attests the common origin of both, and the unalterable genius of the most unique of languages. That it should ever, as in the poetical parts of the piece, have bent to the ordinary dramatic forms of speech in use among other nations, seems irreconcileable with its distinctive peculiarities. But how much of this may be due to the transfusion of its unquestionably poetical imagery and sentiment, through two, at least, living languages, it does not become a third translator, whose version must thus necessarily be the “ shadow of a shade," presumptuously to decide.

That, even as such, it has the claim of novelty, at least, on the British reader, will probably form its chief recommendation; though the specimens given will prove that in the staple commodity of all dramatic poetry, viz. sentiment and passion-the Jew of the eighteenth century was, at all events, on a level with the other writers of the age.

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The saying has been very often repeated, that “captive Greece conquered her conqueror :” though shorn of political power and importance, she exercised great influence upon the intellectual character of her proud and haughty conqueror. She had become degenerate in literature as in power; sophistical declaimers abounded, and true eloquence was supplanted by gaudy ornament; the severe simplicity of her early taste was gone, and the last echo of her song had ceased in Bion and Moschus; yet the works of her writers were eagerly studied at Rome. The most distinguished Romans sought instructions from Grecian masters, and were careful students of Grecian eloquence and poetry. Such a course of training was not likely to produce a Roman national literature. At all events, a long time must have elapsed before a previously rude and ill-informed people, who had delighted in the field, the crowded resorts of business, and the conflicts of opposing parties, rather than in the study could digest and methodize their new knowledge. Until this was done, the native genius had no room for expansion : it would at first raise its head as a weak and delicate scion, needing careful culture, gentle showers, and sunny influences to bring it forward. Of Roman Poetry in particular, we hear nothing before the influence of the Greek became felt; and their first notion of the literary treasures of Greece was afforded to them when Livius Andronicus, a Greek slave, first attempted a Latin version of the Odyssey, and also of several dramatic works. · Schlegel has distinguished well between that imitation which must necessarily take place when the literature of a polished and intellectual people is transferred to a nation of comparative mental rudeness, but which allows the native genius and individuality of the people to be preserved,—which keeps a model in view, but does not measure and copy it slavishly; and imitation so complete as almost to paralyze the mind, and lay a dead weight on fancy and invention. In the latter case, defects as well as beauties are copied, and artifice is needful to conduct to an inferior degree of those results, which, under a different mould of national character, are either produced spontaneously, or without the appearance of labour. That the imitation of Grecian writers did, to a great extent, check the freedom of Roman genius, cannot be doubted. They neglected a rich mive of home tradition and legend; they wooed to the banks of the Tiber shapes whose proper homes were in the Grecian dells and mountains, and consecrated forests. While to the Greeks these had appeared flushed with beauty and beaming with expression, to the Roman eye they were much more misty and dim, and gave not token by their looks that they liked the foreign soil to which they were summoned.

Yet there is one circumstance which stamps a peculiar feature even on those Roman works which owe their origin most directly to Grecian prototypes,-the one redeeming feature which gives them nationality. They added one element to the spolia opima carried off from Greece, which, though it could not neutralize the imitation, was of so prevailing a character, was so kindred to every heart, that it gave dignity to each

thought, word, and action. That idea was of Rome as the mistress of the world and centre of power—the moving force which even the asperities of pature could not resist-throned in high supremacy over the nations—wonderful in her ancient manners and laws, in her unrivalled dominion. “It is this spirit which breathes from the lips of every Roman, and stamps a character of independent grandeur and dignity even on his most slavish imitations of the Greeks—it is the idea of the solitary grandeur of their country which alike animates them all; and, like the unseen spirit of life, illuminates the whole body of their writings."

From the character of the Romans, their tendency to business and action, it is easy to see that (though in all things imitators) some departments of writing were more adapted to their genius than others. These they carried, in refinement, beyond the point in which they had received them. History was the theme of Rome's fortunes and glory; talent cultivated it with success. Next to arms, oratory was the passport to distinction, and was of course thoroughly studied. Into these two departments they entered with heart and soul; but philosophy was never naturalized among them; they succeeded only in poetry of a peculiar kind; in tragedy they absolutely failed. The Roman literature may, in fact, be viewed as a continuation of the Grecian,-with no inconsiderable deterioration and falling off. Both form one line, weakening as it is prolonged. Doubtless the Romans may have possessed fine germs, which would in time have fructified under favourable circumstances; but they fell short of the due cultivation of their powers, and the higher faculties were uncultivated. They confined themselves to borrowing, or, at most, improving-treading in the beaten path and turning not aside, though the deviation might have disclosed rich and beautiful prospects. Before they had leisure to do this, they were oppressed by despotism and political turmoil; and as the canker ate the vitals of the state, literature rapidly sunk.

The influx of Grecian literature withdrew the attention of the Romans from the recorded incidents of their early history. They abjured the records of their ancestors' real or supposed achievements in attempts to naturalize the literature of their preceptors. These legends were embodied in songs which were recited at festal entertainments. It has been conjectured that there also existed a species of heroic poems which related the early Roman history. All which—contributing as they did to the supposed magnitude of the Roman name—were completely thrown into the shade by the creations of Grecian genius.

With the exception of the Fabula Atellanæ, the Romans produced nothing original in the dramatic art. Their comedy was borrowed. And, as the Roman materials for poetry were unquestionably taken from the Greeks, let us see whether the tragic materials were such as could be effectively transferred. For this they must have recourse to mythology. The heroic fable was regarded as the natural and befitting storehouse; it wore the appearance, and was seen in the uncertain light of antiquity. In the Greek mythology national and local traditions were interwoven. These were revered as an appendix to religion, and a prologue to history; they were ever before the people in ceremonies and monuments. This mythology, by its varied treatment in the

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