Page images

the piece, its terrific solution. A striking image of human wisdom, which loses itself in vague, unprofitable generalities, 'without enlightening or guiding the mortal who is endowed with it!' There is an improbability in the plot, on which Mr. Dale has made no remark. Laius, king of Thebes, having been informed by an oracle, that his wife Jocasta should become the mother of a son who should prove his murderer, enjoined her to destroy her infant as soon as it should be born. The queen, from maternal tenderness, refused to execute the mandate to its full extent, but delivered her child to a slave with a charge to expose it on the mountains, who, in obedience to her directions, bored its feet, and suspended it by the heels from a tree in the forests of Mount Citharon. Here it was found by a shepherd of Polybus, king of Corinth, who untied the child, and presented it to his master. The king and queen of Corinth being childless, adopt it, give it the name of Edipus in allusion to the holes in his feet, and bring him up with the utmost care and tenderness as their son and the heir to the throne of Corinth. Now it is assuredly very singular, that Edipus should never have heard of the circumstances attending the death of Laius, and that the marks in his feet, or even his name, should not have suggested some suspicions to Jocasta, that he was her son. But this is an improbability which does not in the slightest degree (such are the powers of the poet) interfere with the general integrity of his design. Probably, he himself saw and disdained to remove it, intent upon the final and general effect of the drama, which such petty incongruities could not in the least impede.

Potter's translation of this play may be commended for its general excellence, and for the elegance and beauty in the choral parts, which pervade his whole version. But we required a more literal transcript of Sophocles; and this, we think, is the general merit of Mr. Dale. We fear, however, that although he adheres in many instances, (not in all,) with more fidelity to the Greek in the chorusses, than his predecessor, he does not uniformly sustain an equal elevation of poetry. We insert the first monostrophies in the Edipus Tyrannus from Mr. Dale's work.



Sweet-breathing voice of Jove, what fateful word
Bring'st thou to Thebes from Delphi's golden shrine ?
Troubled in soul, I quake with awe divine!

O Paan, Power of healing, most adored
In Delos' hallowed isle, THOU wak'st my fear!
What dread decree, remote or near,

ba on

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Shall thy prophetic voice proclaim?
Say, child of golden Hope, imperishable Fame!


'Daughter of Jove, immortal Pallas! hear
The suppliant vows that first to thee are paid;
Thy sister Dian next, earth-ruling maid,

Who 'mid the forum her proud throne doth rear;
And the far-darting Phoebus! Mighty Three!
Appear-avert our misery!

If from our Thebes her former woe

Your guardian-care dispelled, O come to aid us now!

Alas! unnumbered ills we bear;
Dismay and anguish reign

Through all our state; and wisdom's care
Strives, 'mid dejection and despair,

To bring relief in vain.

Nor ripen now the fruits of earth,
Nor mothers, in th' untimely birth,
The struggling throes sustain.
Swift as the wild bird's rapid flight,

Or flames that flash through circling night,des
Unnumbered spectres sink, a joyless train,

To the dark shores of Pluto's dreary reign.


Thus doth th' unpeopled city sigh,
Wide o'er whose pavements spread
The lifeless heaps unheeded lie,
Ungraced with pious obsequy,
Or tear in pity shed.

Matrons and wives, a mournful band,
Suppliant around the altars stand;

With groans of piercing dread,
Their votive strains to heaven ascend,
And sighs with louder pæans blend.

phut Bright daughter of the Mightiest! fair-eyed Maid,

Rise in thy might, and send thy people aid!


This ruthless power, who, raging round,
Clad in no panoply of war,
Inflicts a deeper, deadlier wound-

O drive him from our land afar
In backward flight, or where the wave
Hides Amphitrite's trackless cave;
Or where the restless whirlwinds roar
On Thracia's bleak and barbarous shore.

If aught survives the baleful night,
'Tis blasted by the morning-light.

Oh Thou, who roll'st red lightnings in thine ire,
Smite with thy vengeful bolt the foe, Eternal Sire!

And from thy bright and golden bow
Speed the keen shafts, Lycæan King!
The shafts that ever strike the foe,
These in thy people's succour wing;
Thou, Dian, lift thy beams of light
On us, as on Lyceum's height;
Thee too, with golden mitre crowned,
Whose name exalts thy Thebes renowned;

Thee, Bacchus, flushed with wine's deep hue,
Whose path th'infuriate Nymphs pursue;

On thee I call; be thy red torches driven

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

To crush this fatal Pest, this Power abhorred in heaven.' Vol. I. pp. 22-25. This is as literal as possible;-too literal, perhaps, to be highly poetic. But we think that the circling' or round' throne dedicated to Diana in the forum, ought to have been substituted for the general and unmeaning epithet of proud.' • 2 κυκλοιντ ̓ ἀγορᾶς

[ocr errors]

Θρόνον εὐκλεα θασσεις.

Where Edipus imprecates a curse on all who should harbour the murderer of Laius, we regret that Mr. Dale rejects the emendation of Brunck, γενοιτο μη – ξυνειδότος ; for (Edipus was bound by the laws of Grecian hospitality to protect him, had he sought his palace for an asylum. But the response of the oracle takes the case out of the general rule; and of such consequence is it to discover the murderer of Laius, that the wretch is declared to be not intitled to hospitality. The meaning of the passage as altered by Brunck, is, I invoke the same curse on him, even if he be resident in my own family.' We are therefore disposed to read ξυνειδότος for οννενδοτος. In another chorus, Ta μeσoμñara yãs would have been more poetically, had it been more literally rendered. Delphi, where the shrine stood, was supposed by the ancients to be the umbilicum or navel of the earth; and the same expression occurs frequently in Euripides. Milton uses it literally in Comus, In the navel of this wood.' The Iambics of the dialogue are well rendered by Mr. Dale. The unutterable anguish which is conveyed in the strophe beginning I σxót véos μov, after Edipus has inflicted blindness on himself, has been well rendered by Potter, but with too frequent departures from the text of So

[ocr errors]

phocles. It is correctly and elegantly done by Mr. Dale. Milton had this fine apostrophe before his eyes in Samson Agonistes.

[ocr errors]


Ed. O thou dense cloud

Of black and baleful darkness, deepening round,
Boundless, eternal, and by hope uncheered!

Oh wretch, wretch, wretch! How piercing is the sting
Of frenzy, and the memory of the past!

Ch. No marvel if, in agonies like thine,
Redoubled ills inflict a double wound.


Ed. What! thou, my friend,

Thou only firm and faithful, who art still
Regardful of the blind?-O misery!

Though all is dark around me, still I hear,

I know thy friendly accents through my darkness.
Ch. O wildly-daring, how couldst thou endure
To mangle thus thine eyes,-what god impelled thee?

Ed. 'Twas Phoebus, Phoebus, O my friends, alone

Who wrought my doom of woe,

My hopeless agony ;—

But this dark deed no hand, save mine, hath dared.
Yet what were sight to me,

For whom all Nature wears one hue of blackness?'

Vol. I. pp. 89, 90.

But one passage has been misunderstood by Mr. Dale, viz.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

Edipus is not expressing what he actually feels at the moment he speaks. He recurs to what he felt when he put out his eyes, and to the anguish by which he was impelled to that deed of despair. What goading phrensy, and at the same time (apa) sad recollection of my calamities, came upon me, when I did the deed!' It is an unavailing repentance for his temerity. He alludes to it again, and, addressing the chorus,


Ως μέν παδ ̓ ἐκ ὧδ' ες αρις' εἰργασμένα

Μη μ' εκδίδασε με το διο

If void of wisdom I have done this deed,
Spare now reproof.'.

He alludes to his rashness in blinding himself again in Edipus Coloneus. We must extract a part of the just and sensible criticism of the Translator on the latter tragedy.

It constitutes,' says Mr. Dale, a most satisfactory and appropriate sequel to the "Edipus Tyrannus," inasmuch as it supplies that moral effect, in which its precursor is unquestionably deficient. To behold an individual, like dipus, suffering on account of crimes into which he had been unconsciously betrayed by the very means which he had taken to avoid them, is a painful, if not an unnatural spectacle; and we derive little or no instruction from the calamities of one, who is punished rather from the caprice of the gods, than for actual and deliberate transgression. But when we contemplate the same individual,, as in the succeeding drama, enduring with patient resignation the unmerited anger of the deities, and looking only to a future state of existence for deliverance and repose, we are admonished in the most forcible manner, that, as it is the first duty of man to avoid the perpetration of crime, so the most acceptable expiation of guilt, is a meck and unrepining submission to its penalty.*

It may also be added, that if, according to the trite proverb, example be the most impressive and useful mode of instruction, then is this drama more than commonly instructive. For the characters which it delineates are of universal occurrence. If there are few monarchs, on whom it can devolve to imitate the dignified magnanimity of Theseus, there are many sufferers, who may practise the resignation of Edipus, and many daughters, who may emulate the piety of Antigone. In reference to the last-mentioned character, indeed, we may unhesitatingly affirm, that in no one uninspired composition is there presented a more natural and affecting delineation of filial virtue, than is here depicted in the daughter of Edipus.

But though the softer emotions-love, and tenderness, and pity— are the predominant characteristics of this tragedy, the poet, in his management of the catastrophe, has soared to the loftiest elevation of grandeur and sublimity. As the life of Edipus had been extraordinary and eventful, so was his death to be awful and mysterious. He had not lived, neither could he die, like an ordinary mortal. He bore a "charmed life;" a life exempted, as it were, from the common assaults of mortality, and only to be terminated by some signal and unprecedented interposition of Divinity. Such is indeed the "dignus vindice nodus," which sanctions supernatural interference. Accordingly, the earth convulsed and trembling, the appalling and incessant thunder, the glare of lightning, and the howling of the storm, the solemn intervals of silence, in which the voice of some invisible messenger is heard to murmur from beneath a summons to the devoted monarch, the consternation even of the resolute and

*It is not quite clear, whether the Translator is here speaking in the character of a heathen, or in his own person; but we cannot for a moment suppose that the Rev. Mr. Dale has become converted to the theology of Sophocles.

« PreviousContinue »