« PreviousContinue »
Japh. They are gone! They have disappear'd
amidst the roar of the forsaken world; and never more, Whether they live, or die with all earth's life, Now near its last, can aught restore Anah unto these eyes. (1)
Chorus of Mortals.
Oh son of Noah! mercy on thy kind !
let this child embark !
But thought it joy
Why was he born ?
My unwean'd son-
So massy, vast, yet green in their old age,
They meet the seas,
Fly, son of Noah, fly! and take thine ease
Then to Jehovah raise
Thy song of praise !
Who die in the Lord !
Yet, as his word,
Be the decree adored! He gave me life-he taketh but
The breath which is his own: And though these eyes should be for ever shut,
Nor longer this weak voice before his throne Be heard in supplicating tone,
Still blessed be the Lord,
For what is past,
From first to last
The vast known and immeasurable unknown.
Blaspheme and groan? No; let me die, as I have lived, in faith, Nor quiver, though the universe may quake!
Chorus of Mortals.
Chorus of Mortals.
Shall prayer ascend,
But as we know the worst,
To make a world for lorture.-Lo! they come, The loathsome waters, in their rage! And with their roar make wholesome nature dumb!
The forest's trees (coeval with the hour When Paradise upsprung,
Ere Eve gave Adam knowledge for her dower, Or Adam his first hymn of slavery sung),
Where shall we fly?
Not to the mountains high; For now their torrents rush, with double roar,
To meet the ocean, which, advancing still, Already grasps each drowning hill, Nor leaves an unsearch'd cave.
Enter a Woman.
Woman. Oh, save me, save!
My father and my father's tent,
The pleasant trees, that o'er our noonday bent And sent forth evening songs from sweetest birds, The little rivulet which freshen'd all
Our pastures green,
No more are to be seen.
I turn'd to bless the spot,
(1) “The despair of the mortal lovers for the loss of their morta mistresses is well and pathetically expressed.” Jeffrey.
And now they are not!-
Japh. To die! in youth to die;
Am thus condemn'd to weep above in vain.
many are overtaken by the waves, the Chorus
(1) “This poem, or rather first part of a poem, for so it is slated of men as manifestly to belong to a higher and uncorrupled state to be, carries with it the peculiar impress of the writer's genius of being. In like manner, his Paradise is formed of the universal It displays great vigour, and even a severity of style, throughout; | productions of nature-the flowers, the fruits, the trees, the which is another proof, if proof were needed, that elevation of waters, the cool breezes, the soft and sunny slopes, the majestic writing is to be oblained only by a rigid regard to simplicity. bills that skirt the scene; yes the whole is of an earlier, a more may be perused without shocking the feelings of the sensitive, prolific, a more luxuriant vegetation : il fully comes up to our or furnishing an object for the discriminating morality of any notion of what the earth might have been before it was 'cursed Lord Chancellor. Lord Byron has evidently endeavoured 10 of its Creator.' This is the more remarkable, as Millou himself sustain the interest of this poem, by depicting natural but deep- sometimes destroys, or at least mars, the general effect of his drawn thoughts, in all their freshness and intensity, with as little picture, by the introduction of incongruous thoughts or images. fictitious aid as possible. Nothing is circumlocutory: there is no It has, not without justice, been said, that sometimes going about and about to enter at length upon his object, but he im
• God the Father turns a school divine;' petuously rushes into it at once. All over the poem there is a gloom cast suitable to the subject : an ominous fearful hue, like that which and it is impossible, now and then, not lo regret the intrusion of Poussin has sung over his inim lable picture of the Deluge. We the religious controversies of modern days. The poet's passions see much evil, but we dread more. All is out of earthly keeping, are, on occasions, too strong for his imagination, drag him down as the events of the time are out of the course of nature. Man's to earth, and, for the sake of some ill-limed allusion to some of wickedness, the perturbed creation, frar-struck mortals, demons those circumstances which had taken possession of his mighty passing to and fro in the earth, an overshadowing solemnity, and mind, he runs the hazard of breaking the solemn enchantment unearthly loves, form together the malerials. That it has faulls with which he has spell-bound our captive senses. Perhaps, of is obvious: prosaic passages, and too much tedious soliloquising : later writers, Lord Byron alone has caught the true lone, in his but there is the vigour and force of Byron to fling into the scale short drama called Ileaven and Earth. Here, not withstanding against these: there is much of the sublime in description, and that we cannot but admit the great and manifold delinquencies the beautiful in poetry. Prejudice, or ignorance, or both, may against correct laste, parlicularly some persectly ludicrous mecondemn it; but while true poetical feeling exists amongst us, it trical whimsies, yet all is in keeping-all is strange, poetic, will be pronounced not unworthy of its distinguished author."-oriental; the lyric abruplness, the prodigal accumulation of Campbell.
images in one part, and the rude simplicity in others-above all, " According to that vague and mysterious conceplion of gran- the general tone of description as to natural objects, and of landeur which religious or poetic minds associate with the antedi- guage and feeling in the scarcely mortal beings which come forth luvian ages of the world, there were giants in those days:'the upon the scene, seem to throw us upward into the age of men face of nature, the animal and vegetable productions, the sta- before their lives were shortened to the narrow span of threeture, the longevity, the passions of men, were of a vast and score years and len, and when all that walked the earth were not majestic growth, unknown in the later and more feeble days of born of woman."- Milman.
cor ordinary world. Hence, from a poet who throws himsell “From the Loves of the Angels,' we lurn lo a 'strain of higher back into those times, we make the unreasonable demand, that mood;" with feelings much like those which would arise on he should keep the scenes and persons whom he introduces to leaving the contemplation of a “Holy Family' by Carlo Dolce, lo
our notice sufficiently allied to our common sympathies to excite behold the Last Judgmen:' of Michel Angelo. The mystery of our interest ; while, at the same time, they must appear as almost Heaven and Earth is conceived in the best style of the greales, belonging to another earth, and a different race of beings. We masters of poetry and painting. It is not unworthy of Dante, imperiously require that degree of reality, without which no and of the mighty artise to whom we have alluded. As a picture poetry can become lastingly popular : yet that reality must be of the last deluge, it is incomparably grand and awful. The far removed from all our ordinary notions; the region visited by characters, 100, are invested with great dignity and grace. No
angels must be formed of the same elements, yet possess a totally thing can be more imposing and fascinating than the haughty, distinct character from that which we inhabit: the sons and and imperious, and passionate beauty of the daughter of Cain; daughters of men, who enjoyed familiar intercourse with a higher nor any thing more venerable than the mild but inflexible dig. race of beings, while we are to feel for them as akin to ourselves, nity of the patriarch Noah. We trust that no one will be found must partake in some degree of the unearthly nature of their with feelings so obtuse, with taste so perverted, or with malignity celestial visitants. To this at once real and unreal world, among so undisguised, as to mar the beauties of pictures like these, by ubis human yet at the same time almost preterhuman race, we imputing to their author the cool profession of those sentimeros must be transported by the imagination of the poet; and the which he exhibits as exlorled from perishing mortals, in their slightest incongruity, the most insignificant vulgarism, or mo- jast instants of despair and death. Such a poem as this, if read dernism, or even loo great similarity to the ordinary fealures of aright, is calculated, by its lofty passion and sublime conceptions, nature, breaks the charm at once, and destroys the character of lo exalt the mind and to purify the heart beyond the power of the picture, as a faithful representation of the primeval earth, many a sober homily. It will remain an imperishable monument and the mighty race which palure bore while yet in her prime of of the transcendent talents of its author; whom it has raised, in youth. Among all the wonderful excellencies of Millon, nothing our estimation, to a higher pitch of pre-eminence than he ever surpasses the pure and undisturbed idealism with which he has before attained.” M. Mag drawn our first parents, so completely human as to excite our most ardent sympathies, yet so far distinct from the common race
AN HISTORICAL TRAGEDY. (1)
TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS GOETHE
PRESUMES TO OFFER THE HOMAGE OF A LITERARY VASSAL TO HIS LIEGE LORD,
THE UNWORTHY PRODUCTION WHICH THE AUTHOR VENTURES TO INSCRIBE TO HIM IS ENTITLED
“ SARDANAPALUS.” (2)
they are to stand for nothing, I shall say nothing.
For the historical foundation of the following
compositions, the reader is referred to the Notes. In publishing the following Tragedies(3) I have The Author has in one instance attempled to precnly to repeat, that they were not composed with serve, and in the other to approach, the “unities;" the most remote view to the stage. On the attempt conceiving that with any very distant departure made by the Managers in a former instance, the from them there may be poetry, but can be no drama. public opinion has been already expressed. With He is aware of the unpopularity of this notion in regard to my own private feelings, as it seems that present English literature; but it is not a system of
(1) On the original MS. Lord Byron has written :-"Mem. thought or nothing but Asiatic history. My object has been to Ravenna, May 27, 1821.–1 began this drama on the 13th of Ja- dramatise like the Greeks (a modest phrase), striking passages of nuary, 1821; and continued the two first acts, very slowly and by history and mythology. You will find all this very unlike intervals. The three last acts were written since the 14th of Shakspeare; and so much the better in one sense, for I look upon May, 1821 (this present month); that is to say, in a fortnight." him to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary The following are extracts from Lord B.'s diary and letters :- of writers. It has been my object to be as simple and severe as
“January 13, 1821. Sketched the outline and Dram. Pers. of Allieri, and I have broken down the poetry as nearly as I could an intended tragedy of Sardanapalus, which I have for some to common language. The hardship is thal, in these times, one time meditated. Took the names from Diodorus Siculus (I know cau neither speak of kings nor queens without suspicion of pothe history of Sardanapalus, and have known it since I was twelve litics or personalities. I intended neither.” years old), and read over a passage in the ninth volume of Mit- "July 22. Print away, and publish. I think they must own ford's Greece, where he rather vindicates the memory of this that I have more styles than one. Sardanapalus is, however, last of the Assyrians. Carried Teresa the Italian translation of almost a comic character: but for that matter, so is Richard the Grillparzer's Sappho. She quarrelled with me, because I said Third. Mind the unities, which are my great object of research. that love was not the loftiest theme for a tragedy; and having I am glad Gifford likes it: as for the million, you see I have carethe advantage of her native language, and natural female elo- fully consulted any thing but the taste of the day for extravagant quence, she overcaine my fewer arguments. I believe she was coups-de-theatre." right. I must put more love into Sardanapalus than I in- Sardanapalus was published in December, 1821, and was retended."
ceived with very great approbation.'-E. “May 28. I have completed four acts. I have made Sarda- (2) “Well knowing myself and my labours, in my old age, I napalus brave (though voluptuous, as history represents him), could not but reflect with gratitude and diffidence on the expres and also as amiable as my poor powers could render him. I have sions contained in this dedication, nor interpret them but as the strictly preserved all the unities hitherto, and mean to continue generous tribute of a superior genius, no less original in the them in the fifth, is possible; but not for the stage."
choice than inexhaustible in the materials of his subjects." Goethe. “May 30. By this post I send you the tragedy. You will re--E. mark that the unities are all strictly preserved. The scene (3) Sardanapalus originally appeared in the same volume with passes in the same hall always: the lime, a summer's nigbt, about The Foscari and Cain.-E. nine hours or less; though it begins before sunset, and ends after sunrise It is not for the stage, any more than the other was * The following is an extract from The Life of Dr. Parr ia" la intended for it; and I shall take better care this time that they the course of the evening the Doctor cried oul - Have you read
Sardanapalus ?'- Yes, Sir, - Right; and you couldn't sleep a wink don't get hold on'l.”
after it?'— No.'.-Right, right-now dun'i say a word more about "July 14. I trust that Sardanapalus will not be mistaken for it to-night. --The memory of that fine poem seemed to act like a a political play: which was so far from my intention, that I spell os horrible fascination upon bim.
his own, being merely an opinion which, not very Where he has failed, the failure is in the architect, long ago, was the law of literature throughout the and not in the art. (1) world and is still so in the more civilised parts ofit.
But “nous avons changé tout cela,” and are, reaping the advantages of the change. The writer
ADVERTISEMENT. is far from conceiving that any thing he can adduce by personal precept or example can at all approach his regular, or even irregular, predecessors : he is In this tragedy it has been my intention to follow merely giving a reason why he preferred the more the account of Diodorus Siculus; (2) reducing it, regular formation of a structure, however feeble, however, to such dramatic regularily as I best could, 1o an entire abandonment of all rules whatsoever. and trying to approach the unities. I therefore sup
(1) "In this preface," says Mr. Jeffrey) “ Lord Byron renews lations of rules merely positive become the comprehensive genius his protest against looking upon any of his plays as having been of Shakspeare, and such censures are suitable to the minute and composed • with the most remote view to the stage;' and, at the slender criticism of Voltaire:same time, testifies in behalf of the unities, as essential to the
-- Non usque adeo permiscuit imis existence of the drama-according to what was, lill lately, the
Longus summa dies, ut non, si voce Metelli law of literature throughout the world, and is still so in the more
Serventur leges, malinl a Cæsare tolli.' civilised parts of it.' We do not think these opinions very con- Yet, when I speak thus slightly of dramatic rules, I cannot but sistent; and we think that neither of them could possibly find recollect how much wit and learning may be produced against favour with a person whose genius had a truly dramatic character. me: before such authorities I am afraid to stand, not that I think We should as soon expect an orator to compose a specch allo- the present question one of those that are to be decided by mere gelber undit to be spoken. A drama is not merely a dialogue, authority, but because it is to be suspected, that these precepts but an action; and necessarily supposes that something is to have not been so easily received, but for far better reasons than
pass before the eyes of assembled spectators. Whatever is pe- I have yet been able to find. The result of my inquiries, in which culiar to its written part should derive ils peculiarity from this it would be ludicrous to boast of impartiality, is, that the unities consideration. Ils siyle should be an accompaniment to action, or lime and place are not essential to a juist drama; that though
and should be calculated 10 escite the emotions, and keep alive they may sonetimes conduco to pleasure, they are always to be saibe allention of gazing multitudes. If an author docs nol bear criliced to the nobler beauties of variety and instruction; and that this continually in his mind, and does not write in the ideal pre- a play written with nice observation of critical rules is to be consence of an eager and diversilied assemblage, le may be a poet templated as an elaborate curiosily, as the product of superfluous perhaps, but assuredly he will never be a dramatist. If Lord and ostentatious art, by which is shown ratber what is possible Byron really does not wish lo impregnate his elaborate scenes than what is necessary. He that, without diminution of any other with the living part of the drama-if he has no hankering after excellence, shall preserve all the unities unbroken, deserves the stage effect, if he is not haunted with the visible presentiment like applause with the architect, who shall display all the orders of the persons belias created, s, in selling down a vehement in- or architecture in a citadel without any deduction from ils reclive, be does not fancy the lone in which Mr. Kean would strength: but the principal beauty of a ritadel is 10 exclude the deliver it, and anticipate the long applauses of the pit, then he enemy; and the greatest graces of a play are lo copy nature and may be sure that neither his feelings nor his genius are in unison in-truct life." Preface to Shakspeare.-1. with the stage at all. Why, then, should he aspect the form (2) “This prince surpassed all his predecessors in effeminacy,
without the power of tragedy? Didactic reasoning and eloquent luxury, and cowardice. lle never went out of his palace, but description will not compensate, in a play, for a dearth of dra- spent all his time among a company of women, dressed and matic spirit and invention : and, besides, sterling sense and poetry, painted like them, and employed like them at the distafl. He
as such, ought to stand by themselves, without the unmeaning placed all his happiness and glory in the possession of immense mockery of a dramalis persona. As to Lord Byron pretending treasures, in fcasting and rioling, and indulying himself in all the
Lo set up the unities, al Muis time of day, as the law of literature most infamous and criminal pleasures. He ordered two verses throughout the world,' il is mere caprice and contradiction. He, to be put upon his tomb, signilying that he carried away with him
if ever man was, is a law to himself-a chartered libertine;' all he had eaten, and all the pleasures he had enjoyed, but left -and now, when he is tired of this unbridled license, he wants to
everything else behind liim:do penance within the unities! Englislı dramatic poetry soars above
Kriv' i7w 655' 1;9:109 29.2 8:66,457, 1. per' épuro; the unities, just as the imagination does. The only prelence for insisting on them is, that we suppose the stage itself to be, ac
Τέρπυ’ έπαθον, τα δε πολλά και όλβια πάντα. λέλειπται-tually and really, the very spot on which a given action is per
an epilaph, says Aristotle, fil for a hoy. Arbaces, governor of formed; and, if so, linis space cannot be removed 10 anotier. Bus Media biaving found means to get into the palace, and having with the supposition is manifestly quile contrary to truth and capes his own eyes seen Sardanapalus in the midst of his infamous serience."-Edin. Rev vol. xxxvi.
raglio, enraged al such a spectacle, and not able to endure that The reader may be pleased lo compare lic above with the fol- so many brave men should be subject to a prince more soft and lowing passage from Dr. Jolinson :
etteminate than the women themselves, iminediately formed ä " Whether Shakspeare knew the unities, and rejected them by conspiracy against him. Beleses, governor of Babylon, and design, or deviated from them by happy ignorance, it is, I think, severa others, entered into il. On the first rumour of this revoll, impossible to decide, aud useless to inquire. We may reasonably the hing liid hinisell in the inmost part of his palace. Being suppose, that when he rose to notice, he did not want the counsels afterwards obliged to take the field with some forces which be
and admonitions of scholars and critics; and that he al last deli- had assembled, he at first gained three successive victories over berately persisted in a practice which he might have begun by the enemy, but was afterwards overcome, and pursued to lle chance. As nothing is essential to the fable but unity of action gales of Nineveh ; wherein he shut himself, in hopes the rebels and as the unities of time and place arise evidently from false as- would never be able to take a cily so well fortified, and stored sumptions, and, by circumscribing the extent of the drama, with provisions for a considerable time. The siege proved, inlessen its variely, I cannot think it much lo be lamented that they deed, or very grcal length. It had been declared by an ancient were not known by him, or not observed : nor, if such another oracle that Ninever could never be taken, unless the river became
poet could arise, should í very vehemently reproach him, tbal an enemy to the city. These words buoyed up Sardanapalus, his first act passed at Venice, and his next in Cyprus. Such vio- because he looked upon the thing as impossible. But when he saw
pose the rebellion to explode and succeed in one He must not perish thus. I will not see
Sink in the earth, and thirteen hundred years
He must be roused. In his effeminate heart
There is a careless courage which corruption
Repress'd by circumstance, but not destroy'd-
Steep'd, but not drown'd in deep voluptuousness. SARDANAPALUS, King of Nineveh and Assyria, etc. If born a peasant, he had been a man ARBACES, the Mede who aspired to the Throne.
To have reach'd an empire: lo an empire born, Beleses, a Chaldean and Soothsayer.
He will bequeath none; nothing but a name, SALEMENES, the King's Brother-in-law.
Which his sons will not prize in heritage :ALTADA, an Assyrian Officer of the Palace.
Yet, not all lost, even yet he may redeem PANIA.
His sloth and shame, by only being that ZAMES.
Which he should be, as easily as the thing SFERO.
He should not be and is. Were it less toil
To sway bis nations than consume his life ?
To head an army than to rule a harem ?
He sweats in palling pleasures, dulls his soul,(1) ZARINA, the Queen. MYRRHA, an Ionian female Slave, and the Fa- And saps his goodly strength, in toils which yield
not vourite of SARDANAPALUS.
Health like the chase, nor glory like the warWomen composing the Harem of SARDANAPALUS, He must be roused. Alas! there is no sound
Guards, Attendants, Chaldean Priels, Medes, [Sound of soft music heard from within. etc.
To rouse him, short of thunder. Hark! the lute, Scene-a Hall in the Royal Palace of Nineveh.
The lyre, the timbrel; the lascivious tinklings
Of women, and of beings less than women,
Must chime in to the echo of his revel:
Lolls crown'd with roses, and his diadem
Lies negligently by, to be caught up
By the first manly hand which dares to snatch it.
Lo, where they come! already I perceive
The reeking odours of the perfumed trains,
And see the bright gems of the glittering girls, (2)
fash but still he is her lord;
Along the gallery, and amidst the damsels, He hath wrong'd my sister, still he is my brother ;
As femininely garb’d, and scarce less female, He hath wrong’d his people, still he is their sove- The grandson of Semiramis, the man-queen
He comes! Shall I await him ? yes, and front him, And I must be his friend as well as subject:
And tell him what all good men tell each other, that the Tigris, by a violent inundation, had thrown down twenty diction. Or the whole picture, selfishness is the prevailing seature stadia (two miles and a hall) of the city wall, and by that means -sellishness admirably drawn, indeed; apologised for by every opened a passage to the enemy, he understood the meaning of palliating circumstance or education and habit, and clothed in the the oracle, and thought himself lost. He resolved, however, to brightest colours of which it is susceplible, from youth, talents, die in such a manner as, according to his opinion, should cover and placability. But it is selfishness still; and we should have the infamy of his scandalous and effeminate life. He ordered a been templed to quarrel with the art which made vice and frivolily pile of wood to be made in his palace, and setting fire to it, burol thus amiable, if Lord Byron had not at the same time pointed out, himself
, his eunuchs, his women, and his treasures.”—Diod. Sic. with much skill, the bilierness and weariness of spirit which inevi1. ii. p. 109.
tably wait on such a character; and if he had not given a fine con“The Sardanapalus of Lord Byron is pretty nearly such a person as the Sardanapalus of history may be supposed to have and of Myrrha." Heber,
trast to the picture in the accompanying portraits of Salemenes been. Young, thoughtless, spoiled by flattery and unbounded self-indulgence, but with a lemper naturally amiable, and abi
(1) In the MS. lities of a superior order, he affects to undervalue the sanguinary “ He sweals in dreary dull'd effeminacy."-E. renown of his ancestors, as an excuse for inattention to the most necessary duties of his rank; and flalters himself, while he is
(2) In the MS.indulging his own sloth, that he is making bis people happy. Yet, " And see the gewgaws of the glittering girls."-E. even in his fondness for pleasure, there lurks a love of contra