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Another scene which I was called to witness, was of an entirely different character. Late in the night, amid the severe beating of a summer's tempest, an urgent request came, that I would go and visit a dying man. I followed my conductor to a remote part of the suburbs, through the darkness and rain, till we reached the house. As I ascended the staircase, I heard the sounds of distress, and as I entered the room, the scene was truly terrifying. A stout, iron-framed man, was grappling with the cholera, while the attacks of the disease seemed like the heavy blows of some tremendous engine, under which the massy walls of the castle tremble from their foundation. The spasmodic action, severe in proportion to the muscular power of the victim, was wrenching every sinew to torture, and extorting from the sufferer cries of heart-rending anguish. But his mental distress was still more acute. Taken down in the midst of health and strength, he saw himself crowded to the very verge of life. In few hours he knew that he must plunge into the yawning abyss; another sun he must never behold. Before the darkness of that night had fled, his unprepared soul must be in the presence of his neglected and insulted God. At one moment, the relentless wrench of the spasm extorted a piercing shriek or groan, the next, as if a sense of bodily pain was drowned by distress of mind, he would break out with a voice of despairing misery, "God be merciful to me a sinner.” This alternation of his mind, formed a combination harrowing to the soul of every spectator. I approached, and attempted to direct his distracted mind to the only source of a sinner's hope. He tried to listen and lie calmly, amid the heavings of the tempest of pain. But agitated and incoherent, he would one moment speak in palliation of his sins and allude to his good deeds, and then, as stung by conscience, would again cry out in bitterness of soul, “God be merciful to me a sinner." Alas, with a mind agitated by fear, a body racked with pain, and the confusion of attendants and medicines, how could the mind think or act in turning to God. I left him, and in a few hours he breathed his last.
But some of the most painful scenes were witnessed at the cholera hospital. This was a long low building, hastily erected in the outskirts of the city, for such of the poor as could not elsewhere be relieved. Many of the scenes here were too loathsome almost to excite pity, and one could not but turn away in disgust and horror. This was particularly the case in the earlier stages of the pestilence, when the building was crowded and the arrangements necessarily imperfect. VOL. X.
One morning after breakfast, though my own frame was enfeebled by constant exertion, yet called by professional duty, I was compelled to visit this hospital. As I approached, a number of coffins, or rather boxes made of boards unplaned and mis-shafen, lay about the door, some empty, some containing a corpse hastily thrust in, with part of the clothes or perhaps a discolored hand or leg protruding. Near by, lay a corpse just dead, brought from the inside, and laid out of the door with the face merely covered with the cloth. As I entered, the long low room was occupied by beds, placed against the wall on each side, leaving a space or alley down through the centre. But actual inspection alone, can convey any idea of the varied scenes of human suffering which met my eye. On my right lay a corpse; he had that moment breathed his last ; his unclosed eyes glared horribly upon me, and the flies with loathsome appetite, were filling his mouth and covering his whole person. In the next bed I heard a feeble wail, touching the heart, even before the meaning of the words reached the ear. It was the wail of one in the last stages of distress begging help. I arfroached the sufferer, and found that it was one of the patients imploring water: “Water, Water," were the only words he could utter. But this, in accordance with the strict injunctions of the physician, the nurses were obliged to refuse, while the sufferer at times, as his strength allowed, raised his piteous cry to every one that passed that way, “Water, Water." I spoke kindly to him, and tried to make him see the necessity of compliance with the physician's directions. He looked at me incredulously, and only reseated his cry, "Water, Water." Though seemingly barbarous, I was compelled to turn away and leave him to his fate.
Suddenly my attention was attracted by some words ssoken rather harshly, and going up to ascertain the cause, I found one of the nurses standing by the side of a female patient with a bottle in her hand, and from the tenor of her reproaches I ascertained, that hot water having been put to her feet, she had contrived to get at it with her hand, extract the cork, and relieve her thirst. Being discovered, she had thus caused the altercation which had attracted my notice.
I next turned to a bed, on which lay a man apparently near his end. At his head stood a woman, evidently his wife, neither sobbing nor groaning; but with a mute expression of anguish and despair, which might have melted a heart of stone. Now she gazed on the features of her expiring husband, and then turned to a group of little children standing around the bed. I approached her and endeavored to introduce conversation. She shook her head in token of not understanding me. Others came around, -one spoke in French, another in Irish, another in Gaelic ; but she understood not. As well as could be ascertained, it was a Welsh family just arrived, on their way to join some of their countrymen. The father and husband was taken sick, and here forlorn, miserable and poor, they were shut out from the kind tones of sympathy and pity. We could only look upon them with pity and turn away saddened.
I soon diseovered the young man whom I came to see. On inquiry, I found that he was without friends, had come to this country alone, had been here but a few days, was taken sick, and brought here to die friendless and alone. I sat with the poor fellow, comforting him, and directing him to the Savior of sinners. He was deeply grateful for my attention, and hoped to recover. He died ihe next day.
One morning I had been obtaining some medicine for a poor man, when I learned the following fact. In that same house, three had died the day before. At night one of the inmates came home from his labor, damning the people for being sick; declaring with an oath, that he did not believe in any God, and was not afraid of the disease. That very night, almost as soon as the words were uttered, vomiting and spasms seized the miserable wretch, and he was taken to the hospital to die.
But to narrate all the scenes which a professional man was called to pass through, would fill volumes. These may serve as specimens. But no one, except the man who has seen it, can conceive the horrors of the pestilence in a crowded city. To sit in your dining room and see a dozen funerals pass, in the moderate interval of sitting at table ; to hear even in the wakeful hours of night, the slow rumbling of the death-cart; to be constantly in the midst of wretchedness beyond relief; to see faces distorted and discolored ; to hear the groans of the sick, the cries and tears of the widow and the orphan; to reflect as you lie down at night, that the morning's sun may find you writhing with the cholera, or actually in the grave,-are dreadful. They are scenes to which the mind recurs, as to some terrific dream. Yet such were the scenes amid which the writer lived, during the memorable summer of 1832."
ART. X.-TALFOURD's Ion.
Ion ; a Tragedy, in Five Acts. By THOMAS Noon TALFOURD.
Third Edition. New York: George Dearborn & Co. Gold street. 1837.
This tragedy of Ion has already been more than a year before the public in the United States, and has passed through several editions: many of our readers are, no doubt, familiar with it, and it has been called to a high place in modern literature by the general voice. It might seem, therefore, that in now noticing it we offer a dish of dried fruits, instead of the fresh products of the season: but the truth is, that the admiration expressed for this play, just as we allow it to have been, seems to us to have been rather indiscriminate; and we therefore wish to look at it as critics, somewhat in detail, rather than to select a few brilliant passages, and varnish them over with general praise. We may also profitably examine the merits of Ion, in a moral point of view, as setting up a standard of character, and giving a lesson of action to the public mind.
We shall begin our remarks with the story of the play, partly in order to give an idea of its main features to those who have not read it, and to refresh the memory of those who have; and partly also in order to lay a foundation for our own subsequent remarks : At the birth of Adrastus, eldest son of the king of Argos, a divine curse was pronounced upon him, that his life should be attempted by one born of him, and that by his own and his offspring's death the royal line should be extinguished. The curse began to do its work upon him by the horror which he aroused in every breast: a younger brother stole away
the affections of the family; and when that brother died by a fall from a precipice, Adrastus was suspected, though without evidence, of procuring his death. Already shut out from the sympathy of those who should love him, and thus left a prey to wild passions, to hatred and pride, he forsook his home, and sought to cool the fever of his heart amid the solitudes of nature. Here he found what home should have given,-answered love. A maiden left alone by her father's death becomes his wife, and brings him a son. Just at this time, the spies of the Argive king break in upon the new joy of Adrastus, and wishing to prevent the fulfillment of the oracle, snatch away the child, with a view to destroy it. Adrastus supposed it slain, and saw the only being that loved him die of grief in his arms. He returned
to reign in due time at Argos with a tyrant's soul in his breast; a heart seemingly obdurate; a love for sensuality, and a dark spirit of cruelty :-he is, in short, passion, kindled by want of sympathy, and desperately drowning thought by momentary expedients.
All this is but a preface to the play, and is gathered from the confession which he makes, as we shall see, to Ion :-before his subjects he stands as a furious tyrant, and every redeeming trait, every palliation, is unknown to them. Meanwhile the slow but sure oracle takes another step, and a plague lays waste the state. The king, after sending a messenger to consult the oracle at Delphi as to its cause, thinking that his time of destruction had come, gives himself up to desperate revelry, and denies audience to his sages on pain of death. The principal sages have taken refuge from the plague in the temple of Apollo. There is in the temple a very lovely and remarkable youth called Ion, whom the priest had rescued from death when an exposed infant, and in whom are displayed the highest qualities belonging to noble birth. He visits the plague-stricken, comforts the dying, and of late seems, even in his more dilated form, much more in his reflecting melancholy, to be filled with some great idea. The sages meet on the platform of the temple, and consult whether they shall not essay once more to persuade the king to come forth from his revelry, and take such measures with them as the crisis in the city requires. Ion persuades them to send him upon the embassy to the king, instead of risking their own lives, and the argument which wins their consent, is that “high promptings, which could never rise spontaneous in his nature, bid him plead for the mission.” The sages acknowledge his call, and put him into their place. We are the more minute in describing the result of this scene, because the action afterwards depends upon it, and our judgment of the whole plot must be affected by what is thought of the motives, that determine the conduct of the actors here.
Before Ion goes forth upon his errand, he has an interview with the daughter of the priest : having lived together from infancy, the young pair loved each other without declaring it, and without lon's suspecting the strength of the maiden's feeling. But now, when Ion is making ready to meet probable death, the confession bursts from Clemanthe's lips. He receives it with deep joy, yet at a moment when the high call of duty swallows up other thoughts.
In the next act, Ion is found in the palace court, demanding audience of the tyrant, who allows him entrance only on pain