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lus, Sophocles, and Euripides, might successfully be adapted to the English stage, with their magnificent choruses.
Perhaps I ought to add an apology for the bold employment of supernatural agencies. Believing, with Goethe and Coleridge, that the principle of awe or terror is a necessary ingredient in the loftier forms of tragedy, I could not dispense with it; the example of other tragedians, likewise, prompted me to appal, if not to please.
The public will now decide whether this tragedy of “Socrates” is at all worthy of the subject. I have sought to soar to the highest sphere of the drama, for my motto is, “ aut Cesar aut nullus.”
This motto, however, I wish not to monopolizeI would have all dramatic authors take it to themselves, and write their best, for the sake of the best. For such authors, I cherish an emulation, rather than a rivalry. If rivalry it must be called, let it be the generous rivalry of brethren, each striving by noble means to accomplish noble ends. Fellow labourers in dramatic literature should rather assist, than obstruct each other's progress.
It is because I cherish this sentiment, that I have eulogized many portions of the plays of Knowles, Talfourd, Bulwer, Stephens, Horne, Heraud, Tomlins, and other eminent dramatists. All of them have great-very great merits; and the censure that some critics have past on them, is, in my opinion, equally unjust and ungenerous. Those who best know the difficulties which dramatic authors labour under, will be ready to make most allowance for their works. It is no easy thing to interest the public by any literary effort; and those who succeed in rescuing the people from apathy and indifference, should be pardoned for the venial errors to which all men are liable.
In this play of “ Socrates" I have endeavoured to condense most of the principal facts and reflections that occur in the memoirs that Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, and Cicero have left concerning him. Those who may wish to examine further into the history of this extraordinary man, may consult Brucker and Stanley's “History of Philosophy Charpentier's “Life of Socrates,” translated into English by CooperWigger's “Life of Socrates"-Balzac's “ Socrates Chrétienne"—the treatises written on the Religion of Socrates-and the Demon of Socrates. There are also several dramas on the death of Socrates, some of which are worthy of attention.
I know not whether • Socrates” will be considered a good acting tragedy; but as it was my special effort that it should be so, I have studiously avoided the display of learning, and endeavoured to be simple and familiar, even to a fault.
I hope that I shall not be severely satirized for this objectiveness, The necessity of things compelled me to it, and that necessity is of divine institution. From Deity himself we learn the proverb, “ars est celare artem.” The occult metaphysics of creation he reveals not ; but he reveals the creation itself--resplendent, beautiful. Ars est celare artem. The metaphysician or the philosopher who would succeed in the nineteenth century, must not be a theoretic, but a practical man. He must keep the subtle elaborations of abstract trains of thought altogether to himself; he must exhibit only their result, and that in the most palpable imagery. How many a man of genius has
been ruined for want of this power of realizing his dreams-of investing them with the language of plain common sense of bringing them home to men's bosoms and business, and assimilating them to the practicabilities of life as it is.
No other means of success is left open to an author-he must stoop to conquer. · Cicero was obliged to recollect that he was not speaking to the scholars of the Academy, but to the dregs of Romulus; and I have likewise to remember that I am not writing to the Doctors of the University, but to the hoi polloi of cockneyism.
There is one point more which requires a remark. The French tragedians have declared that a tragedy should maintain a uniformly dignified and majestic style of expression. I don't agree with their dictum; I would rather trust to the example of Shakspere in his Hamlet, and mingle the sublime with the beautiful, the beautiful with the ridiculous. If in this respect I have erred, I have erred on principle and system, for I have studiously emulated those rapid transitions and vivid contrasts which form Shakspere's most marked characteristics. In thus steering from the grave to the gay, and from the lively to the severe, we also imitate nature, which places in immediate juxta position the august and the familiar, the terrible and the absurd. Such is my defence against the charge of incongruity to which I have voluntarily exposed myself. I know not why Tragedy may not smile amid her tears, and why she may not be allowed to play the fool on occasion, as well as those who act, and those who listen to her.
To the critics of the press I have only to express my thanks for their past courtesies. As I have personally always endeavoured to speak as kindly as conscience allowed of my literary brethren, and have protested against the vehement recriminations which so often spoil good fellowship, it is probable enough I may share the usual fate of pacificators, which is not the most dainty. Still some of the critics may yet survive, who judge rather by rules of art, than by impulses of passion. To such I would say—“ If they find the play of Socrates' better than its competitors, let them praise it better-if worse, let them abuse it worse."
CRITJAS. Genius OR DEMON OF SOCRATES.
WITCH Bor Br.
SCENE I.- Athens.
SOCRATES. Who speaks?
Who but your old friend, Chærephon ?. -Prithee descend from transcendental flights Among ethereal essences, and listen To one of the common herd of men, whom you So heartily despise.
Thank you, noble sage,
Then tell it me,
To the point, then, at once;Who, think you, is the wisest of the Greeks? You have taught noble scholars,—and sage sophists Of the chiefest name.
Nay, Cherephon, thy question Is quite beyond my scope'tis not in mortal To answer surely; to the Gods alone Belong such mysteries. If you'd know aright, Haste to the Oracle at Delphi, and Consult Apollo's prophetess.
I will; 'Tis not a very arduous imposition For a truth-searcher ;-tell me, my dear Socrates, What think ye of the state of Athens ?-People Who deem themselves Solons in politics Tell me strange tales.
In faith, good Cherephon,
You argue ill
Till we meet again.
Now, sweet Sophocles !
That I would ;
I see how it is ; Your hot ambition has been surfeitedAnd your rich hopes wherewith you decked yourself, Have been so richly crowned—you are oppressed With the weight of your honours ! Athens owes to thee Her Parthenon and palaces! To thee, Our mightiest bow themselves! Thy ageNay, do not blush ; believe me by the Gods, I swear! the age of Pericles will be, By thronged posterity, in future centuries Most honoured.
Ah ! dear friend, it may be honoured, But not for Pericles. I'm sick at heart;