« PreviousContinue »
is made the point of interest. Philip's jealousy of his son, irritated by the Princess Eboli, from motives of feminine pique, induces him to order poison to be administered to the Queen, and the veins of the Prince to be opened. Their innocence is discovered after their doom is become irrevocable. This whole piece is in the worst style of Spanish tragedy, full of the chivalrous and extravagant in sentiment and incident, and worthier of Corneille than Otway, The soliloquy which opens the fifth act is perhaps the best speech in the play,
Schiller has chosen to concentrate our attention, on interests of a higher order than the fortunes of a sentimental passion, or the relentings of an unkind father. By connecting with the existence of Don Carlos the eventual freedom of opinion in a vast empire, and the liberties of the Netherlands, he has given an importance to the action of his drama which had hitherto seldom been attained even in the epopea. All his characters have a colossal dignity, proportioned to the grandeur of the in, terests which they involve. It is truly an heroic drama, an assemblage of no common men. Other dramatic writers, in treating the conspiracy of Venice, or the death of Charles I, had been content to seek in family distress and individual suffering for the more prominent touches of pathos, which wers to affect their auditors : but with Schiller the sacrifice of a long imbosomed love, and the hazard of an exalted friendship, I heart-probing as they are, were to form but secondary and subordinate sources of interest, and to be ornaments only of the majestic march of an event, of which the catastrophe makes every friend to mankind shudder.
Of the characters in this play, the newest, the most peculiar, and the most heroic, is that of the Marquis Posa : the boast if not the glory of the author. It is a fine attempt to delineate the enthusiast of human emancipation, the patriot of the world, the disinterested friend of mankind. Conscious of the talent and the will to bless, this great man is described as pursuing with undeviating resolution the sacred end of improving the condition of his countrymen, by removing every barrier to freedom of sentiment, and by favouring every institution that may be beneficent to the people. In his very boyhood, the inherent ascendancy of his worth had attracted the friendship of Don Carlos : but his philanthropy, more powerful than any individual affection, never forgets in his young companion the future sovereign, but studiously engtaves on the mind of the Prince his own pure idea of the highest practicable happiness of a nation. Conscious, from the beginning, of his natural
* See Briefe über Don Carlos.
superiority, Posa is the reluctant friend ; and when at length won to the acknowlegement of esteem by the generosity of Carlos, he thinks of making a return only in public services : • This debt will I repay when thou art king. Consulted by the Prince about the interests of his passion, Posa no longer recognises his Carlos, the pupil of his tuition, the mirror of his plans, the right-hand of his intentions :
** Marquis. In these words I do not trace my Carlos ; I do not trace the noble youth, who, in the general corruption, alone remain'd untainted; who stood erect and firm amidst the giddiness of Europe, and pushi'd boldly from his lips the hemlock draught of Popery, with which for nearly twice ten centuries the world had been intoxicated! Is this lie, who freed insulted humanity from the gripe of priestcraft, from dissembled kingly sanctity, and from the zealot fury of a superstitious nation ?
• Carlos. Speakest thou of me? Mistaken man! I, too, once pictured to myself a Carlos, in whose cheek the
very name of freedom kindled a ready flame. But he's no more! - The Carlos, whom thou scest, is not the same, who bade thee adieu at Alcala. Nor, he whose youthful boldness whisper'd him, that Spain beneath his sway might emulate the paradise of God. Oh! vain, indeed, were such ideas !-Yet they were lovely—but the dream is Aed!
Marquis. The dream, Prince! And was it but a dream?" He is alarmed rather for the expected benefactor of his countrymen, than for the suffering friend ; and when he has heard the confession of this dangerous passion for the wife of Philip, he seems rather intent on increasing by means of it his influence over the Prince, than on weaning him from so preposterous a pursuit. This facility is almost unnatural; particularly as the Marquis does not appear to be in possession of sufficient grounds for believing that the Queen would assist him in the best possible direction of the passions of Carlos; and as his self-command and judgment so habitually outweigh the inclinations of his affection, that, when the Prince asks
What could force thee from my heart, if woman could not? Posa calmly answers, • I could myself. This superiority to his friendship, this exclusive value for those qualities of Carlos which are the concern of the world, thus again breaks out:
• Oli! what ideas must I now resign! Yes, once-once it was otherwise. Once thy heart was warm and bounteous ; it could em. brace a world. But that is past, 'tis swallowed up in one poor selfish passion, and all thy feelings are extinct. No tear hast thou for the unhappy fate of a whole suffering people. No, not a tear. o Carlos, how poor, how beggarly art thou become, by loving no one but thyself!'
* We quote from the translation printed for Miller.
The republican spirit of Posa becomes more than ever apa parent in the
fine scene of the third act, in which he is introduced at court, and assails the monarch's ear with the novel language of courageous and enthusiastic virtue.
In the subsequent interviews with the Queen, with Don Carlos, and with the King, Posa evidently shews himself capable of trampling with ruthless despotism on the safety even of his friend, if the great interests of humanity were in his apprehension to require the sacrifice. This is not a pleasing trait in his character: but it is a trait very common in those men, who have attained a disinterested love of specific reformations. Such persons are often found to hazard their own lives, and those of others, for the chance of realize ing the speculations of their philanthropy. Where persona! advancement or personal reputation is the object of public conduct, a thousand personal considerations influence and restrain the actions : but where the attainment of some useful innovation is itself the ruling principle, the importance of individuals is of very different weight in the balance. Imaginations again, which are familiar with sublime schemes and lofty ideas of human perfection, are thereby predisposed to recur to roman. tic and heroic remedies in difficulty. These exalted characters more often seek to cut than to untie the Gordian knot of obstacle, which obstructs their speedy conquest of the terrestrial paradise which they have projected. Their impatience of delay is proportioned to the beauty, and their impatience of contradiction is proportioned to the deliberation, with which their plans have been shapen. It is at least in some such way that we must endeavour to account for the desperate conduct of Posa in arresting the Prince; and especially in drawing a dagger against the Princess Eboli.
A woman's life (says he) against the destiny of Spain! This blow, O God, I'll justify before thy judgment-seat.' The enthusiast only reasons thus. When, after some reflection, he calls out ''Twould be as cowardly as barbarous, this is less from moral taste or from any qualni of conscience, than because he has discovered that • there is another way. He would not haye hesitated about accomplishing his end at any price.
This rash but fine fanaticism of Posa breaks out in all its lustre through the glowing and harrowing dialogue with the Queen; when he finds that he has missed his aim, and can only bequeath a farewell counsel to the friend of his hopes :
• Mirrouis. I have yet one thing to communicate to him. In your hands I deposit it. My lot was such as few possess. I loved a monarch's son. In that one object ny heart embraced the world. I form'd in Carlue' soul a paradise for millions. O lovely thought!
But it has pleas'd eternal Wisdom to call me from my beauteous work-Rodrigo soon will be no more : and all the rights of friend. ship will be transferr’d to love. Here, therefore, here, upon this holy altar, upon the heart of his dear sovereign, do I place my last bequest. Here let him find it, when I am no more. (He turns away -bis voice chonked with grief.)
• Queen. These are the accents of a dying man—They surely flow only from agitated feelings—Yet, if they have indeed a meaning
Marquis. (Having endeavoured to collect bimself, continues in a firmer tone. )-Oh! tell him to be mindful of the oath, which in our young enthusiatic days we swore, when on the high altar we broke betwixt us the consecrated wafer. I have accomplish'd mine, lave remain'd faithful, even to death-Let him remember his· Queen. To death!-Marquis
. O bid him realise the vision—the glowing vision which friendship pictur’d of a perfect state. Bid bin with a daring hand essay to sculpture the yet unshapen marble. Bid him attempt it, though he fail-For centuries shall pass, ere Providence again will seat upon a throne a prince like him--will animate again a favour'd son with such a godlike spirit. Bid him, in manhood, cherish those virtuous dreams of youth. Let not the canker of boasted policy corrode the blossom of this heavenly flower: nor let the wisdom of the dust contend against the inspiration of the Almighty.
Queen. How, Marquis! whither tend these words?
Marquis. Tell him, that I lay upon his soul the happiness of mil. lions ; that dying, I demand it of hiin—and I am well entitled to demand it. I might have risen like the god of day, and beam'd new morning light upon this empire. Philip had open'd to me all his heart He call’d me son. He bade me bear his seal---and Alva's power was no more. ( He stops, and looks for a few moments at the Queen, in silence.) You weep-Oh! these are tears of joy-- But it is past; the glorious prospect's past I yielded it to Carlos. Sudden and awful was the resolution. One of us must perish ; and I will be shat one.
Seek to know no more.' In this last speech, again, we find that Posa had deliberated about sacrificing Carlos altogether:-about immediately accomplishing, by means of Philip, many of his useful ends ;- and that he had dismissed this idea, not so much out of friendship to Carlos, as because he considered that the surer course was to rely on the Prince. He almost doubts the allowableness of his delay. "Woe to us both if I have chosen wrong - if I have opposed the will of Providence in yielding to him the throne.' When, therefore, at last, Posa thinks that he has obtained, by the sacrifice of his own life, the independence of Don Carlos and his departure for the Netherlands, he acquires the selfsufficient exultation of a martyr. Careless of reputation, his last act has been to charge himself with an exceptionable passion for the Queen. His last commands to Carlos are :
< Reserve thyself for Flanders. Upon thy life depends the fate of nations. My duty is to die for thee.' It is not the Orestes offering his own life to save that of his friend : but the phi. lanthrope, who claims the survival of that individual to whom circumstances intrust the highest powers of utility. It is ever the enthusiast conscious of the immeasurable value of his lofty views, and desirous of dying for them in such circumstances as may most contribute to secure the trust of their realization. It is not Pythias marching to execution for Damon; it is Lycurgus, after having exacted the oath to keep sacred his laws until his return, burying himself in the sea at a distance from Sparta, in order to impress their lasting obligation
Of the other characters, none seem to require analysis ; because none are liable to misconception. Don Carlos, Philip, Alva, even Lerma, and the Grand Inquisitor, are each in their way masterly drawings. The female characters, as is usual with Schiller, are less successful; especially the Princess Eboli, whose episodical love for Carlos occupies a displeasing extent. In the first half of the piece, the reader is not enough prepared for an interest so wholly of the political kind, as that which ultimately absorbs every other.
In our opinion, considering the elevated cast of this tragedy, the blank verse of the original has been unwisely exchanged for prose. The translators of Fiesco have preserved, we think, in a greater degree, the peculiarities of the original and the taste of the soil, than is accomplished in the more polished, more English, more free, and more castrated work of the rival translator.
This tragedy was first published at a time when a leader of the British opposition appeared to enjoy the friendship of the heir apparent; and it was supposed, on the continent, to contain many portraits from the life.
Tay Art. VI. Rasselas, Prince d'Abissinie. Roman traduit de l'Anglois
de Dr. Johnson. Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, a Novel, translated from the English of Johnson, by the Comte de Fouchecour. 12mo. PP. 317. With Plates. 45. Boards. Lackington. 1798. T he language of France is probably ill-adapted for transla
tion. It wants plasticity, and cannot easily adopt the idioms, the metres, or the bolder turns of phrase, in use among other nations. There is less variety of style in French than in any cultivated language. Homer, Tasso, Ossian*, all assume the same form as the Telemaque of Fenelon, and the Incas
* If the reader should scruple to admit the name of Ossian, he is welcome to make use of that of Macpherson,