« AnteriorContinuar »
vigorous cast of character, and that beauty of conception, with which preceding writers had so luxuriantly embellished it. Yet occasionally the choicest specimens of literary talent shed a Justre over its career. Murphy, Macklin, and Sheridan, followed the writers last quoted, and still hold possession of the stage, by the fidelity of their portraitures to nature, and the classic wit which designate their productions. Tobin, Maturin, Knowles, and a Bird, with others of acknowledged powers, bring us to our times, and are apt illustrations of our position, that the intellectual influence of the drama is, under every circumstance, most powerful.
It is indeed to be lamented, by every true lover of the drama, that while society is undergoing a rapid increase in knowledge and refinement, the stage, so far as mental qualities are concerned, is retrograding * Inexplicable dumb-show and noise' have too frequently usurped the place once so advantageously held by the brightest emanations of human genius. Managers are too frequently charged with this deterioration of the drama's legitimate province. It should, however, be remembered, that
"The drama's laws the drama's patrons give;' and while the conductors of theatres are made to feel that worst of theatrical evils, a beggarly account of empty boxes,' attendant on the representations of the sterling drama, they are surely justifiable in calling to their aid melo-drama, spectacle, and buffoonery, if such exhibitions are more in accordance with the taste of the age. Yet even these innovations on the legitimate drama have not been without their influence on the taste of society. The attention now paid to scenic embellishment — the correct and splendid costume the costly decorations of our modern drama --- all, imperceptibly, perhaps, but in a degree no less certain, — aid in forming and improving the taste of the present play-going community.
Having thus rapidly sketched the rise and progress of the drama, and endeavoured to establish the position that its intellectual influence on society has been extensive, we shall now attempt to analyze the causes which produce this influence, and shall also hazard a proof of its moral tendency.
The chief excellence of dramatic composition consists in its portraying, with truth and propriety, the manners and passions of mankind. No other composition, (we speak of the acted drama,) can raise those strong emotions, which are elicited by this mirror of nature,' faithfully depicting the human passions — their gradual development, and their direful effects, when suffered to become preponderant. No other means so distinctly convey to us ideas and things, as dramatic representations. We behold ourselves, as it were, embodied in the mimic scene before us, and find our thoughts and actions — nay, the very springs of thought and action — brought palpably to our sight. For the cultivation of taste, the acted drama presents facilities of no ordinary character. The sister arts are generally so harmoniously blended in these representations, that we have in them at one grasp
very essence of the arts. Music, adapted to, or assisting poetry of the highest order, spreads its glowing and soul-subduing influence over our best feelings and affections, while painting illustrates and realizes the vivid conceptions which her magic sisters havecreated. Who,' it may here be asked, can listen to the powerful language — the discriminative excellence — the inimitable personification of character - and the poetical beauties, contained in our best dramatic authors, and not feel a growing expansion of intellect - a progressive improvement in knowledge?'
Its power over society is so extensive, that all governments of a despotic character have dreaded its influence, unless rendered by them the engine to propagate their doctrines, or perpetuate their power. We need but refer to the rigid supervision which surrounds the acted drama, in all monarchical countries, at present, to establish the fact of its importance.
Its utility in civilized society, may also be advocated, on political grounds. In all populous cities, where commerce and industry are furnishing the means of obtaining wealth and consequent indulgence in luxury, the minds of the rich may become too absorbed in their wealth and enjoyments, and the laboring portion of community may grow dissatisfied at viewing their relative position in society, or revel in gross dissipation. What means can more effectually correct the laxity of one class, or calm the angry feelings of the other, than dramatic representations? It is recorded of Cardinal Borremeo, that upon assuming the archbishopric of Milan, he denounced theatrical amusements, closed the theatres, and banished the actors. What was the result? The people, deprived of their favorite entertainments, and thereby thrown upon their resources for recreation, rushed into the commission of the most flagrant crimes, and a total depravity of character ensued. The cardinal became sensible that the multitude must have their recreations. He restored to them their theatres, and dramatic amusements — and again society assumed a healthful tone. Somewhat similar effects may be remarked, during the extinction of theatres in the time of Cromweli. Anarchy, fanaticism, and gloomy prejudices, characterize the features of society during that period - equally detrimental to the interests of true religion as the commission of crimes which have not its name for a palliative and excuse.
Of the moral influence of the drama, and its reverse tendency, much has been written. We may safely hazard the assertion, that its moral influence is tenable, when it is under judicious regulation.
Blair has pronounced tragedy to be a high and distinguished species of composition, which in its general tendency is favorable to virtue.' He quotes also the opinion of Aristotle, who declares : Tragedy is intended to purge our passions, by the means of pity and terror, in other words, to improve and correct our lives. That such might be its effects, few unprejudiced minds will deny. In our rapid historical sketch of the drama, we have seen it the scourge of vice, folly, and profligacy, — the inciter to, and rewarder of, patriotism, courage, and virtue, — and such might still be the influence of a well-governed stage.
The best specimens of dramatic composition invariably represent virtue in favorable colors, — enriched with every beauty which sentiment and feeling can bestow. Vice is portrayed in all the hideous aspects which it is its peculiar characteristic to assume. We have exhibited before us the latent springs which prompt the wretched slave
of passion and malignity to barter his eternal hopes for horror and despair. We view the gradual development of crime, - we shudder at the final close of the guilty career, we rejoice at the triumph of virtue: and all the kindly feelings of our nature are aroused to a renewed energy of action by the glowing scenes we have beheld.
If satire be the object of the drama, how powerfully can it wield the pointed shaft! Embodying the follies it aims to correct, they are reflected with such unerring accuracy, that the most obtuse mind cannot fail to recognise the picture. In accomplishing these varied powers of drama, the whole range of created matter was within its grasp.
The boundless beauties of nature have been seized upon to aid its decoration, and increase its effects, the highest efforts of poetic talent have upheld its glory, and enriched its stores, by their splendid genius, and their laurel'd fame.
These we conceive to be the broad grounds upon which the moral and intellectual influence of the drama may be advocated.
Its perversion to unworthy ends we are not champion enough to defend; but we do conscientiously believe with Chesterfield, that a well-governed stage is an ornament to society, an encourager of wit and learning, -- and a school of virtue and refinement.'
How calm he looks!- upon that high, clear brow
THE LAPSE OF YEARS.
COME to thy native village, - for 'tis sweet,
See'st thou yon clamorous band,
Seek'st thou thy playmates? There are hoary men,
How silently the autumn's falling leaves
Yet the sheaf
The day of duty is the day of joy,
Yon lowly roof,
for thou hast been
To Nature's best affections and to God.
L. H. A CHAPTER ON SHARKING.
WHEREIN THE AUTHOR SETS FORTH HOW HE WENT FASTER AND FARTHER THAN RE ANTICIPATED, AND
RETURNED SAFELY, NOTWITHSTANDING.
Of all the bright sands in Time's changing kaleidoscope, the brightest are those which mark the school-boy's vacation. These are your true diamonds, evanescent indeed, yet rife with the light of joyousness; and when they have passed away forever, the memory of their loveliness lingers like a heavenly twilight upon the mind, gilding the obscurations of after years, and fading at last only with our sublunary being. These are the golden sands, to which, in the schoolboy's valuation, the treasures of Ophir are as the dust of the balance. How doth he gloat upon their pleasant sheen, as it gleams out from the nebulous horoscope! How doth his full heart sink within him, as he surveys the mass of leaden and drossy moments which must be numbered ere the transit of these brighter hours! How impatiently doth he chide their lingering fall, which realize to his
hope deferred the chronicling of an eternity! With what an itching palm doth he long to shake the sluggish glass, and hasten the snail-paced advent of his emancipation! And when at last the aurea atas has dawned upon his expectancy, how sparkle his champaigne spirits, as he springs away, exultingly, as an uncaged bird, from the task and the task-master of his cloistered youth! Dust shall gather for a season upon his forsaken tomes the spider shall hang his deserted chamber with her filmy tapestry — the voice of the cricket shall echo mournfully from the cheerless hearth — and loneliness inhabit the haunts of the departed. Farewell, unerring Euclid! Far different lines and angles are now traced by thy unwilling disciple, not on the dog-eared margent, nor on the dinted black-board, — but on the sunny waters of brook or bay, where he muses pleasantly by mossy rock or green-wood tree, or heaves passively to the gentle motion of the rocking skiff. His tangent now is the lithesome bamboo, his sine the buoyant dobber, that taketh the gauge of bite or nibble. Farewell, Mæonian bard, and Mantuan, fare-thee-well! Your recreant worshipper now woos fairer Helens and Lavinias than those embalmed in your gorgeous cerements. Farewell, star-scaling Newton! With thy reluctant votary, other orbs with their softer attractions are in the ascendant, which perchance were never recked of in thy baccalaureate philosophy. The levity of vacation doth wag the head at thy sublimer gravity. Vacation ! charm of all charms the chief ! Sweet poësie of time! - word from some blessed sphere to care unknown! Vacation ! — bright cynosure of boyhood's laughing eye and El Dorado of its eager hopes — the Mecca of its pilgrim dreams - the term-time theme of every truant thought, — the synonym of all it prizes most, unbounded freedom and unfettered mirth!
But to my story, which, however piscatory, is nevertheless substantially true, and well worthy a better narrator.
It was during the last vacation of my third college year, that I found myself rusticating at the paternal residence of my chum and class-mate Ned Ashton. We were accustomed to spend these delightful holidays alternately at our respective homes. Though Ned was several years my senior, there existed the closest intimacy between us; and as we