« AnteriorContinuar »
gregated to watch the fortunes of the tragedy on its opening night; and Mr. Leigh Hunt has pictured the dazzling coup d'ạil of the theatre, where, “ever and aye, hands, stung with tear-thrilled eyes, snapping the silence, * burst in crashing thunders” — and where the proud, gladhearted dramatist might, amid thick-clustered intellectual bevies,
- see bis high compeers, Wordsworth and Landor-see the piled array, The many-visaged heart, looking one way,
Come to drink beauteous truth at eyes and ears. Of “ Ion" we may say, as its author has said of the “ Ion " of Euripides, that the simplicity and reverence inherent in the mind of its hero are no less distinct and lovely than the picture of the scenery with which he is surrounded. His feelings of humble gratitude to the power which has protected him-his virtue unspotted from the world--and his cleaving to the sacred seclusion which has enwrapped him from childhood, are beautifully drawn. The picture seems sky-tinctured, of an ethereal purity of colouring.t Ion's
- life hath flowed
Alone are mirror'd. Love is the germ of his mild nature, and hitherto the love of others hath made bis life one cloudless holiday. But a curse smites the city-pestilence stalks there by noonday, and its arrows fly by night, and there is not a house in which there's not one dead
'ev do ó trupbopos Deos
Ernyas elavvel, docuos éxOlotos, todu. And with this crisis in the history of Argos opens a crisis in the nature of lon-his soul responding mysteriously to the public affliction, and conscious of strange connexion with it: his bearing becomes altered; his smile, gracious as ever, wears unwonted sorrow in its sweetness ; “his form appears dilated; in those eyes where pleasure danced, a thoughtful sadness dwells ; stern purpose knits the forehead, which till now knew not the passing wrinkle of a care." All this is touchingly and tenderly brought out; and indeed the whole tragedy is touching and tender. Beautiful passages, feelingly thoughtful, and in a dulcet strain of rhythmical expression, enrich its scenes. But that it has massive power, as some allege, or that it is an outburst of ardent genius, or that it is true, first and last, to the spirit of the ancient Greek drama, and is indeed the one solitary and peerless specimen in modern times of that wondrous composition—when we hear this sort of thing dogmatically reiterated, we are stolidly infidel. The very atmosphere of Attica, is it ?we cannot "swallow” it, then. Byron tells us how John Keats
without Greek Contrived to talk about the gods of late,
Much as they might have been supposed to speak. The author of “ Ion," with Greek, has made his Argives talk as the real “old folks” may be supposed not to have talked. Medon and Agenor,
* All this, by the way, is rather difficult to construe, Mr. Hunt. | Tragic Poets of Greece.
Edip. Tyr. 27--8 Sept.-VOL. XCIX. NO. CCCXCIII.
Ion and Irus, are a whit too good to be true, and a little too metrical,
O unkind !
Again, Clemanthe! Witness, too, his description of love triumphing over death in the plague-blighted homes of Argos, and his appeal from Adrastus the ruthless tyrant to Adrastus the sportive child, and his compact with his old playmate Phocion, when the latter would ante-date the coming sacrifice. The framework of the tragedy is not, perhaps, very artfully constructed, nor the exigencies of stage effect carefully studied, nor the subordinate actors individualised in any memorable degree : but, on the whole, “ Ion” is surely a fine play, and a moving-a thing of beauty, and therefore a joy for ever. Or if “ for ever” will not stand as a logical sequent to such an æsthetic and Keatsian antecedent--if literary immortality be too infinite a conclusion to deduce from such a premise-let us at least give the will, which is penes nos, for the deed, which is not; and take up our parabole, and say, in easternly devoutness, O Ion, live for ever! and may thy shadow never be less !
" The Athenian Captive” is thought by some, in the face of that stubborn thing, fact, to be a better acting play than “ Ion." It is generally allowed to be inferior in poetry and style. Passages and lines there are,
* Bases of Belief. By Edward Miall, M.P. P. 41-2.
however, of strength and beauty-more than most barristers could find brains and time to insert in the product of a Christmas vacation. The description of Ismene's death recals that of Lady Randolph in Home's now unacted drama : the lines that tell how the frenzied queen, at the cave's mouth,
Toss'd her arms
As if she clasp'd a vision'd infant there-
Listen! I was pluck'd From the small pressure of an only babe ;and her destiny is wrought out with highly impressive art, “as fits a matron of heroic line"-her majestic form lost finally in clouds and mystery, departed like Edipus, where none may follow or inquire. Thoas declaims with glowing rhetoric, and plays the high-sould warrior almost grandly-cleaving in captivity to “ the loveliness, the might, the hope of Athens”-one that is “foe to Corinth-not a traitor, nor one to league with treason"—whose bearing and speech under the pressure of thraldom are shaped, “ with a difference,” after those of the Miltonic Agonistes.“Glencoe” is more peremptorily repudiated, as a Highland tragedy, by North Britishers, than the “Athenian Captive” and “Ion,” as Greek tragedies, by Hellenising Southrons. Lord Jeffrey permitted it to be inscribed to him, but his countrymen protest against the stage massacre, as “murder most foul and most unnatural,” committed on their unapproachable territory; so perilous is it to meddle with the national property of a people characterised, according to Elia, by such “Imperfect Sympathies” with the rationale of homage ab extrà. Thus, one Edinburgh critic—Professor Aytoun, was it not ?-was spokesman for a phalanx of others, all armed to the teeth, when he declared that a more lamentable failure than this attempt to found a tragedy on the woful massacre of Glencoe_"a grosser jumble of nonsense about ancestry and chieftainship"-was never perpetrated. As though even in Glencoe's ashes lived their wonted fires, nemo me impunè lacesset being practically synonymous with noli me tangere-for “off at a tangent" of the tenderest quality flies the genus irritabile, and “take that, you pock-pudding !” (illustrated by the administration of a “conker") is the reward of any such “ordeal by touch.” We fear that bad this particular tragedy been a stage triumph, it would have been “ damned" with something else than “faint praise,” across the Tweed. But even sturdy Cis-Tweedites are constrained to own that “ Glencoe" is flat and feeble, and that no mountain breeze freshens it, no mountain cataract chants a wild obligato to the stern theme, no swelling pibrochutters its wail, no heather-legged son of somebody shows us where we are, to the oblivion of an accomplished Londoner in his study, inspired by Macready as model of Celtic heroism, and content with the stage of the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, as a tolerable approximation to the romantic fastness of the Macdonalds.
Thus, by public judgment, both from the closet and from the playhouse, Sir Thomas Talfourd's second dramatic venture was pronounced a decline from the first, and still more decidedly the third from the second. He is said to have now " on the stocks” another tragedy, which we hope to greet as an emphatic reaction from this scale of descents. May it take precedence as unquestioned of the existing trilogy, as Mr. Justice on the bench does of Mr. Serjeant at the bar.
In his “ Vacation Rambles” we find the hearty glee of a fagged counsel at escaping from work, not indeed to take his ease at his inn, but to bustle about guiltless of horsehair coronal and defiant of common law-steaming from Havre to Rouen, whizzing along the St. Germain Railway, playing the gourmand at Meurice's, and the critic at the Parisian theatres and the galleries of the Louvre, pilgrimising to Geneva and the AlpsMont Blanc reminding him, as he saw it, of “ nothing so much in nature or art as a gigantic twelfth-cake, which a scapegrace of Titan's enormous brood,' or ' younger Saturn,' had cut out and slashed with wild irregularity." His frank expression of so upsentimental a thought, is one characteristic of this book of rambles ; another is, the zest with which he so frequently records his appreciation of creature-comforts—such as the “we sat down to an excellent breakfast," on " a large cold roast fowl, broiled ham, eggs, excellent coffee, and a bottle of good Rhenish,” followed “about two o'clock” by an “admirably dressed little dinner,” made up of “ a thin beefsteak, thoroughly broiled (or fried, as the case might be), with a sauce of parsley and butter, and a cold cream-chicken-salad, &c., &c.," “ accompanied by a bottle of Asmanshauser wine.” Even in the family bivouac at the Grands Mulets, we are conducted through the details of the dinner, joyously protracted “ till it merged in supper” — though the Head of the Family feelingly says, “ I regret to confess that I could not eat much myself; but I looked with a pleasure akin to that with which the French king watched the breakfast of Quentin Durward, on the activity of my younger friends” — who with Homeric intensity tore asunder the devoted chickens, and left the bones there, to be matter of speculation to aspiring geologists and scientific associations in future ages.
The “ Life and Letters of Charles Lamb," and the “ Final Memorials," are household treasures. Exception may be taken to occasional passages -but the net result is delightful, as every memorial of Elia must be that “ cordial old man," whose lot it was to
- leave behind him, freed from griefs and years,
Far worthier things than tears.*
Unequalled lot below!
* Addressed by Mr. Landor to 6 The Sister of Elia”-whom, mourning, he would fain comfort with the reminder—" yet awhile ! again shall Elia's smile refresh thy heart, where heart can ache no more."
A MONTH AT VICHY. “ WHERE shall we go this autumn ?" we hear some hypochondriacal head of a family say; “ I am tired of Baden. Homburg did me no good. The emperor has given up his intended visit to the Eaux Bonnes and Bagnerre. Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa are gone by !” “ Try Vichy," we answer ; " the efficacy of its waters, the picturesque and sanitary advantages of the site, and its resources as a water-drinking and bathing-place, are far from generally known in this country, and are still less generally appreciated.”
Vichy and its neighbourhood constitute a real basin of mineral waters. There are at Vichy itself no less than seven different springs--all effervescing with an excess of carbonic acid, all more or less thermal and alkaline, and all more or less ferruginous and tonic at the same time. The medical qualities of these springs vary much with one another, but they are all exceedingly comprehensive. They contain an average of from 4 to 5 grains (4.98 14 to 5.3240) of carbonate of soda to the quart, besides smaller proportions of carbonates of lime and magnesia, some common salt and sulphate of soda, and sufficient iron to tone down the whole. Hence the importance of these waters, more especially the spring of the Celestins, to the dyspeptic, the rheumatic, the gouty, and the calculous. Let such by all means try the waters of Auvergne, if only for one season. They will not repent the experiment.
A pleasanter spot than Vichy can scarcely be imagined. The town itself is, like Boulogue, composed of two distinct parts : one with great old houses and narrow, irregular streets, its long dark roofs overtopped by an old feudal tower : the other, of modern construction, light and airy, with straight, wide streets, handsome and commodious public edifices, and hotels that rival in convenience and splendour the best in the valley of the Rhine, the whole backed by a handsome park, a gift of Napoleon, made from the backwoods of Lithuania. Vichy stands on the banks of the river Allier, a tributary to the Loire-la jolie rivière d'Allier, as Madame de Sevigné justly designated it—close to its junction with the smaller Sichon, and not far from the old town of Cusset, celebrated in the religious wars of France.
And Vichy itself, standing as it does in advance of Auvergne, its bridge being the key to the central highlands of France, is a site not void of historical importance. It was first fortified by Louis XI., Duke of Bourbon, about 1410; but of its three gates every vestige has disappeared, and of its seven towers only one remains. That one has some chance of stability, not because the tricolored flag waves from its summit, but because it supports the municipal clock. Vichy was besieged by Charles VII. in 1440, during the civil wars called De la Praguerie, because the then prevalent heresy was an offset of the Hussite movement at Prague. Considering discretion the better part of valour, the Vichites surrendered without striking a blow, only bargaining that they should neither be pillaged nor murdered. The town was destined to suffer again from religious dissensions. In 1568 the Protestants took the city, and broke down the bridge on their way to the plains of Cognac, renowned for stronger waters than those of Vichy, and where they