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phrases which were either obsolete or of his own poetical coinage; and unluckily, these have never been satisfactorily explained by lexicographers. If he had been seen through a clearer medium, we will hazard our opinion, that pomp and sound would not have been considered as his chief attributes; -that his characters would be found to be strongly marked and well sustained, and their manners and sentiments, though invested with the highest tragic dignity, true to the noble simplicity of the heroic age. His style, not considered merely as his mode of composition, but as his mode of conception, is grand, severe, occasionally harsh. He wants the proportions, the grace, and perhaps the harmony of Sophocles; but he is not vague, diffuse, and effeminate like Euripides; nor do his details, like those of the latter poet, ever destroy the majesty and uniformity of the whole.
Eschylus was the creator of tragedy, which, contrary to the usual analogy of the other arts, seems, in Greece, to have had no infancy, but to have leaped from his genius, as Minerva from the head of Jupiter. In his hands, it received all the splendour which the decorations of the theatre and all the pomp and circumstance' of music and dancing could bestow. He himself, we are informed, did not disdain to take a part in his own tragedies. He was the first poet who introduced a regular and developed dialogue. He finishes his characters with a few simple but vigorous strokes, and his plots are of the easiest solution imaginable. Terror is his predominant passion. He does not appear so much at home with human beings as with gods. He gives them a lofty and preternatural language, suitable to their natures; and to this characteristic of his drama, are perhaps owing the sudden transitions, the long chain of epithets, and, in the lyric passages, the heterogeneous confusion of epithets, for which it is remarkable. He is full also of moral sentences, but they are always well-timed and appropriate they do not, like those of Euripides, 'proceed with a sort of pedantic gravity from the mouths of servants and insignificant personages, but are always befitting the dignity of the speaker. In ease and perspicuity, he may be contrasted with Sophocles: the reader has no difficulties to encounter beyond words of rare occurrence. His numbers flow
most harmoniously, and the rich vein of poetry which pervades his scenes, amply atones for a few turgid expressions. In the following observations on his great rival, we are, with a few exceptions, disposed to coincide with Mr. Dale.
The improvements introduced by Sophocles into the drama, consisted principally in the superior dexterity with which he formed the
plots of his tragedies, and the relation which he made the Chorus bear to the main action of the piece. The plots of Eschylus were extremely rude and inartificial; often at war with nature, and some times scarcely reconcileable with possibility. Sophocles studied nature. If he was not so conversant as his predecessor with the imagi nary world; if he did not invest with such superhuman attributes the heroes whom a superstitious veneration had exalted into gods; at least he approached nearer to the true standard of mortality, and raised his characters to that precise elevation, where they would neither be too lofty to excite sympathy, nor so familiar as to incur contempt. He never violates probability to produce effect; and if his heroes are less imposing and sublime, they are, at the same time, more interesting and natural than those of Eschylus. The part, also, which he causes the Chorus to sustain in the action, imparts a peculiar finish to the piece. In short, whoever would contemplate the Greek drama in the meridian of its perfection, must contemplate it in the tragedies of Sophocles.
For, whatever be the merits of Euripides, (who was born about fourteen years after Sophocles, and commenced his theatrical career at the early age of eighteen,) however high be his reputation for pathos and purity of moral sentiment, he can hardly be said to have contributed, in any degree, towards the perfection of the drama. His method of opening his plays by a species of Prologue, in which one of the principal characters tells the audience what may be very proper for them to know, but is not quite so proper for him or her to communicate, cannot be called an improvement; in fact, generally speaking, nothing can be more unnatural and extravagant. His plots are sometimes even more barren and improbable than those of schylus; his catastrophe occasionally feeble, and not seldom ridiculous. He is, it must be acknowledged, full of solemn and sententious maxims, but even these are frequently introduced in so awkward a manner, that their effect is materially invalidated, if not totally lost; while, by Sophocles, though of rarer occurrence, they are invariably displayed to the greatest advantage. Euripides interrupts the progress of his action for the sole purpose of obtruding a prolix and unseasonable moral dissertation. Sophocles, with better judgement and more striking effect, deduces the moral from the event. In short, respecting the rival merits of these three great poets, we can hardly venture to differ from Aristophanes, who, in compliance with the common sentiment of the people, assigned the first place to Eschylus, the second to Sophocles, and the last to Euripides; though we may, perhaps, be pardoned for suggesting a doubt whether Eschylus would have been considered the greatest, had he not been the first.' pp. xiv-xvii.
Is not the doubt just suggested by Mr. Dale unworthy of a scholar who has learned to class with clearness and precision the different characteristics of the great masters? There is undoubtedly more grace, more of a subdued majesty, more pathos in Sophocles; but, in the wild, irregular flights of a
great and creative genius, the consenting voice of all critics, and of those who can feel and judge better than critics, places him below the Father of Greek Tragedy.
Sophocles attained an advanced age for the greater part of his life, he was contemporary with Eschylus and Euripides, the latter of whom he survived. In his early youth, he disputed the prize with the former. He was of a wealthy and respected family, a native of the most enlightened country of Greece, was endowed with personal beauty and every mental accomplishment, and a length of years was granted to him, far exceeding the usual bounds of mortality. All that can administer to human enjoyment, the sweets of early fame, the honours which embellished his declining years, domestic love, the respect of his fellow citizens, such are the singular distinctions which mark the personal history of the poet of Colonos. His first tragedy was represented in the twenty-fifth year of his age, and his reputation continued to increase till his ninetieth. Some of his latest works are among the best. The Edipus at Colonos was the production of his advanced age, and he died, we are told, while in the act of finishing one of his tragedies; like the old swan of Apollo, breathing his last sigh into his song. The fabulous tradition, that the sack of Athens was suspended to afford the Athenians a day for celebrating his obsequies, is at least a testimony to the unbounded veneration paid to his character.
The plays of Sophocles are more elaborated than those of Eschylus. Besides curtailing the lyrical parts by reducing the chorus to a due proportion relative to the dialogue, he introduced a more polished rhythm, and gave more personages to his drama. In one respect, unlike Eschylus, his religious feeling seems to have excluded Divine personages from his drama. But his human characters have a more dignified port, a more heroic and noble bearing than belongs to humanity. They are grand, but ideal sketches of our nature. 10 011
If Sophocles composed, as we are told, no fewer than one hundred and thirty tragedies, time has made unusual havoc with his works, for seven only remain to us; but, according to the concurring voice of antiquity, they would appear to be those which were the most admired; as, for instance, the Antigone, the two Edipus's, and the Electra. What is more, they have been preserved in their original purity. Brunck, indeed, has taken a few injudicious liberties with his text, but, upon the whole, he has been alike uninjured by the hand of time, and unmutilated by conjectural critics. It would be difficult, out of six of his pieces, (for the Trachini is probably the work of another tragedian,) to determine which is
the best. The Edipus Tyrannus is admirable for the steady and regular development of its plot: a series of irresistible causes leads to a dreadful but anticipated catastrophe, which we look for from the beginning with a sort of troubled expectation. The Philoctetes is remarkable for truth of character. Three heroes are placed in admirable contrast to each other; and such is the simple but perfect structure of the drama, that these persons are nearly all its agents. Yet they speak and act from feelings and motives so truly natural, that no dramatic composition inspires a deeper interest. Indeed, each individual piece of Sophocles has a peculiar excellence. Antigone is a beautiful sketch of a woman who unites the courage of a hero with the softness and meekness of feminine virtue. But the Edipus at Colonos has a certain character of unaffected pathos and moral grandeur which in some respects renders it superior to them all.
Mr. Dale begins with the Edipus Tyrannus, judiciously, we think, but contrary to the common order. His prefatory remarks on this play are equally just and elegant, and it were an injustice to the Translator not to give a short extract from them.
Indeed, when we consider the admirable dexterity which is - evinced in the mechanism of the piece, the mutual consistency and harmonious combination of its parts, the gradual and progressive development of the various circumstances which unite to elicit the catastrophe, it must be acknowledged that this tragedy is absolutely perfect. Not an incident occurs, however trivial in appearance, which does not conduce to some appropriate and important end; not a character is introduced which does not sustain some part of vital and essential interest in the grand business of the drama, The poet never loses sight of the end in the prosecution of the means. If a momentary hope be excited, it tends but to deepen the impending and inevitable despair; if a ray of light dart rapidly athwart the gloom, it only displays, in all its horror, the approaching "blackness of darkness." The denunciations of Edipus against the criminal, so worded from the first as to apply peculiarly to himself; the ambiguous response brought by Creon from the oracle of Delphi; the reluctant compliance of Tiresias with the first summons of the monarch, as though he were constrained by some mighty and mysterious agency, which he vainly struggled to control; his subsequent vehemence of prophetic indignation; the profane and arrogant exultation which bursts from Jocasta on the apparent confutation of the oracle by the death of Polybus; the faint solitary hope, to which the shuddering monarch clings in that pause of agonising suspense, while he is awaiting the arrival of the Theban slave; the resistless and overwhelming conviction which flashes upon his soul at the clear, unequivocal testimony of this last fatal witness; all these circum
stances are successively described in a manner so lively and natural, that the interest never languishes for an instant. We are prepossessed from the first in favour of the unhappy prince; we feel with him and for him; we are continually agitated between hope and fear; and, though we know from the beginning that the catastrophe is inevitable, we are scarcely less startled and surprised by the appalling discovery, than if it had been totally unexpected and unforeseen.
Another point in which the poet has displayed his consummate acquaintance with the nicest refinement of his art, is the delineation of the character of (Edipus. Had this devoted monarch been repre sented altogether without blemish, we might have pitied his sorrows, but we could not have sympathised with them: had he been portrayed as an utterly abandoned criminal, we could neither have sympathised with him nor pitied him. We feel, comparatively, but little interest in characters which rise far above, or sink greatly below, the common level of mankind; the former excite our indifference,-the latter our disgust. But Edipus, unlike the heroes of modern tragedy, neither sins like a demon, nor suffers like a god. He is in all things a perfectly human character, a being of like passions with ourselves, not free from faults, yet (6 more sinned against than sinning,"-not wholly undeserving of censure, yet far more unfortunate than culpable. Such is man. Mentem mortalia tangunt.
We cannot, however, forbear to record our dissent from one eulogy of Sophocles, which, notwithstanding, has been pronounced by no mean authority. "Never," it has been said, "was there a tale more affecting than that of Edipus, and never was it told more pathetically than by Sophocles." In the former part of this panegyric we cannot acquiesce; on the contrary, we consider the tale, on which the drama is founded, as altogether repugnant and revolting to the best and finest feelings of our nature; and in no one instance is the genius of Sophocles so transcendently triumphant, as in the consummate address with which he has treated a subject calculated, in less powerful hands, to awaken only the strongest emotions of horror, indignation, and disgust. But the master-spirit of the great poet has tempered the revolting details of his plot with so much pure human feeling, such pathetic and redeeming benevolence, that our sympathy is never for an instant checked by abhorrence, or superseded by disgust. We forget the crimes of Edipus in his misfortunes; nor do we so much regard the murderer, the parricide, the TO WATρOS QμÓOTOpos, as the dethroned monarch,-the blind, self-devoted, and despairing outcast,-the affectionate and miserable father, who, though his children survive, is yet worse than childless, for they only survive to misery, and of that misery he is the cause.' Vol. I. pp. 6-10.
Schlegel imagined that he had discovered a concealed sense in this noble tragedy, This Edipus,' says he, 'who has divined the enigma proposed by the Sphynx upon the general destiny of mankind, is the unfortunate being to whom his own destiny remains inexplicable, till it receives, at the end of