Imagens das páginas

Euripides. It may be hoped that, with his edition of the Athenian poet, a new epoch begins for the estimation of him by classical as well as English readers. Mr Paley evidently regards Euripides in a very similar light to that taken of him by Ben Jonson—that "he is sometimes peccant, as he is most times perfect."





Where on the JEgean shore a city stands,
Built nobly, pure the air and light the soil,
Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts
And eloquence, native to famous wits
Or hospitable."—Par. Regained.

The greater poets of all times and countries, no less than historians and philosophers, admit of being contemplated under a twofold aspect—literary and historical. Under the former, we may mark how they acted upon their age; under the latter, how far they reflected it. Of the form and spirit of their generation, they are the representatives to later ages—throwing light on its history, on the state of its language and cultivation, and in return receiving light from those sources. Euripides was no exception to this general law: he materially affected the time he lived in; he derived from the circumstances in which his lot was cast many of the features that distinguish him from A. c. vol. xii. A

^Eschylus and Sophocles. As a citizen, he differed from them almost as widely as if he had not been born in their days; and still more widely did he stand apart from them in the practice and theory of dramatic composition. Accordingly, a few remarks on Athens in the time of Euripides may not be an inappropriate prelude to an account of his life and writings.

The Athens in which the boyhood of Euripides was spent was little more than an ordinary town, the capital of a district about the size of an average English county. Pisistratus and his sons had begun to adorn the city with some temples, and at least erected a portion of the Dionysiac theatre ; but it is doubtful whether this commencement, or anticipation of the structures of Pericles, was not either destroyed or seriously injured by the Persian invader. Before that calamity had aroused the spirit of her citizens, Athens was indeed little more than a cluster of villages surrounded by a common wall. A wooden rampart was the only defence of the citadel. No fortifications connected the city with its harbours, two of which were still open roads. Even the Pisistratids appear not to have ventured on building for themselves stately mansions, or to have called in the art of painters or sculptors to adorn Athens itself. They did.not possess the funds that Cimon and Pericles commanded for great public works. They presided over a jealous people by force of arms, and dreaded provoking it by offensive displays either of wealth or power. Not until the democracy was satisfied with its representatives, and proud of its land and its capital, was it possible to

« AnteriorContinuar »