Imagens das páginas
PDF

upon the phantoms of imagination, they discover them to have been mere shadows, formed by ignorance. The thunderbolts of Jove, forged in Cimmerian caves; the cestus of Venus, woven by hands of the attracting Graces, cease to terrify and allure. Echo, from an amorous nymph, fades, into voice, and nothing more; the very threads of Iris's scarf are untwisted; all the poet's spells are broken, his charms dissolved: deserted on his own enchanted ground, he takes refuge in the groves of philosophy; but there his divinities evaporate in allegory, in which mystic and insubstantial state they do but weakly assist his operations. By aslociating his muse with philosophy, he hopes she may establish with the learned the worship she won from the ignorant; so makes her quit the old traditional fable, from whence she derived her sirst authority and power, to follow airy hypothesis, and chimerical systems. Allegory, the daughter of fable, is admired by the fastidious wit, and abstruse scholar, when her mother begins to be treated as superannuated, foolish, and doating; but however well she may please and amuse, not being worshipped as divine, me does not awe and terrify like sacred mythology, nor ever can establish the same searful devotion, nor assume such arbitrary power over the mind. Her person is not adapted to the stage, nor her qualities to the business and end of dramatic representation. L'Abbe Ju Bos has judiciously distinguished the reasons why allegory is not sit for the drama. What the critic investigated by art and study, the wisdom of nature unfolded to our unlettered poet, or he would not have resisted the prevalent fashion of his allegorizing age; especially as Spenser's Fairy Queen was the admired work of the times.

Allegorical beings, performing acts of chivalry, sell in with the taste of an age that affected abstruse learning, romantic valour, and high-flown gallantry. Prince Arthur the Britijh Hercules, was brought from ancient ballads and romances, to be allegorized into

Vol. II. C the the knight of magnanimity, at the court os Gloriana. His knights followed him thither, in the fame moralized garb, and even the questynge beast received no Jess honour and improvement from the allegorizing art of Spencer, as has been shewn by a critic of great learning, ingenuity, and taste, in his Observations on the Fairy Queen.

Our sirst theatrical entertainments, after we emerged from gross barbarism, were of the allegorical kind. The Christmas carol, and carnival shews, the pious pastimes of our holy-days, were turned into pagean- , tries and masques, all symbolical and allegorical.— Our stage rose from hymns to the virgin, and encomiums on the patriarchs and faints: as the Grecian tragedies from the hymns to Bacchus. Our early poets added narration and action to this kind of pfalmody, as Æschylus had done to the song of the goat. Much more rapid indeed was the progress of the Grecian stage towards persection.—Philosophy, poetry, eloquence, all the sine arts, were in their meridian glory, when the drama sirst began to dawn at Athens, and gloriously it shone forth, illuminated by every kind of intellectual light.

S. in the dark shades of Gothic barbarism, had no resources but in the very phantoms that walked the night of ignorance and superstition: or in touching the latent passions of civil rage and discord; sure to please best his sierce and barbarous audience, when he raised the bloody ghost, or reared the warlike standard. His choice of these subjects was judicious, if we consider the times in which he lived; his management of them so masterly, that he will be admired in all times.

In the fame age, Ben. "Johnson, more proud of his learning than consident of his genius, was desirous to give a metaphysical air to his compositions. ' He composed many pieces of the allegorical kind, established on the Grecian mythology, and rendered his play-house a perfect paatheoa.—S, disdained these quaint devices; an admirable judge of human nature, with a capacity most extensive, and an invention mo4 happy, he contented himself with giving dramatic manners to history, sublimity and its appropriated powers and charms to.siction; and in both these arts he is unequalled.—The Catiline and Sejanus of Johnson are cold, crude, heavy pieces ; turgid where they should be great; bombast where they should be sublime; the sentiments extravagant ; the manners exaggerated; and the whole undramatically conducted by long senatorial speeches, and flat plagiarisms from Tacitus and Sal/u/f. Such of this author's pieces as he boasts to be grounded on antiquity and solid learning, and to lay hold on removed mysteries*, have neither the majesty of S's serious fables, nor the pleasing sportfulness and poetical imagination of his fairy tales.— And indeed if we compare our countryman, in this respect, not only with the moderns, but the most admired writers of antiquity, we shall not sind him inserior to them." The Tempest.

The reader will sind some attempts, on this head, in the Introduction to Hamlet and Macbeth. See also the close of this admirable play—The Tempest.

* Prologue to the Masque of Queens..

[blocks in formation]
[graphic]

A C T I. S C E N E II.

Miranda's Companion.

Mir. O, I have fuffer'd
With those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her,
DasiVd all to pieces. O the cry did knock
Against my very heart! Poor fouls! they perish'd.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have funk the sea within the earth, or e're,
It fliould the good ship so have swallow'd, and
The fraighting souls within her.

Pro. Wipe thou thine eyes, have comfort,
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch'd
The very virtue (i) of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So sasely order'd, that there is no soul (2)
No not so much perdition as an hair,
Betid to any creature in the vessel,
Which thou heard'st cry, which thou faw'st sink.

An

(1) The very 'virtue.'] i. e. the most efficacious part; the energetic quality; in a like sense we say, " the virtue of a plant is in the extract." J.

(2) There is no foul.] i. e. no foul lost. The sentence is broken and interrupted, by the zeal of the speaker, who hurries to a fuller manner of expressing the matter in hand. "Such interrupted sentences," St. observes justly, " are not uncommon to S.: he sometimes begins a sentence, and

before An usurping Substitute compared to Ivy.

That (3) now he was
The ivy which, had hid my princely trunk,
And suck'd my verdure outon't.

Confidence betrayed.

My trust / Like a good parent, did beget of him A falsehood, in its contrary as great As my trust was; which had, indeed, no limit; A considence fans bound. He being thus lorded Not only with what my revenue yielded, But what my power might else exact, like one (4) Who having, unto truth, by telling of it, Made such a sinner of his memory To credit his own lie,—he did believe He was indeed the duke.

Infant Innocence*'

Mir. Alack! what trouble Was I then to you I

Pros.

before he concludes it, entirely changes the construction, because another more forcible occurs. As this change frequently happens m conversation, it may be sufsered to pals unceniured in the language of the stage." See ASis, c. xxvii. v. 22—34.

(3) That, &c] See Much ado about Nothing, Act 3. Sc. i.

(4) Like one, &c] W. reads thus,

Like one,

Who having unto truth, by telling oft,
Made, &c.

The construction as it stands, is rather irregular: lie however appears to be the substantive to which it refers.

Telling of /'/, i. e. bis own lie.

« AnteriorContinuar »