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intrepid Theseus, all these tend to produce a scene, which, for loftiness of conception and magnificence of execution, is not excelled by any relic of the Grecian drama, even in the compositions of the wild and terrific Eschylus.' pp. 104-106.
The characteristic qualities of Eschylus and Sophocles are no where more distinguishable than in this pathetic composition. Both the Edipus at Colonos, and the Eumenides of the respective writers, had the same patriotic end in view; that of celebrating Athens as the sacred abode of justice and humanity, where human crimes, expiated by human sufferings, obtained pardon from the gods. In none of his dramas is the religious feeling of Sophocles more remarkably displayed. The gods have now admitted the innocence of Edipus, driven into his career of involuntary guilt by that destiny to which even the gods were made to yield; and the unmerited misfortunes of his life are at length to be recompensed by the glory of his death. Hence, a soft religious calm is breathed around us, as soon as we approach the awful precincts of the consecrated grove of the venerable sisters. Edipus at last finds repose, and that repose is mystically intimated in the solemn image of the hallowed ground. He is not stung with the upbraidings of guilt, for his deeds were involuntary, the stern, irreversible edicts of Fate; and he closes his eyes in serenity and peace in the very place from which the guilty hurried away with affright,-a place dedicated to those whom it was impious to name, and at whose shrine no eye durst gaze. In the Eumenides of Eschylus, Pallas is a majestic type of Athens,-of her moral culture, her equity, her intellectual wisdom, her gentleness and humanity. The poet endeavours to display the blessings with which Athens was crowned, to shew that misfortune found there a peaceful asylum, and that within her sacred walls, even the Furies themselves were softened to acts of gentleness and pity. But, the better to produce this effect, he begins by making our blood freeze with terror, and exhibits the direful sisters breathing vengeance and malediction to man. In the Edipus at Colonos, on the contrary, the Furies are withdrawn from human sight; their very image is kept studiously at a distance; their names are not once pronounced. But this obscurity,' remarks Schlegel, as it respects the daughters of Night, the dark and shadowy tints in which their awful powers are pre'sented to us, create a secret horror in which the senses have no part. The sacred grove of the Eumenides, which the pencil of the poet has clad with the smiling verdure of a Grecian spring, enhances the melancholy charm of the fiction; and if I wished to portray the poesy of Sophocles
under one of its own emblems, I should represent it as the 'grove consecrated to the dark Goddess of Destiny, but at the same time embellished by the vine, the olive-tree, and the laurel, and echoing with the delightful song of the nightin'gale.'
The poetic diction in which Mr. Dale has endeavoured to give the English reader an idea of this tragedy, is grave, flowing, and elegant; and the enchanting chorus beginning
• Εὔίπε, ξένε, τᾶσθε χορας”
has suffered no injury in his hands. It is the most beautiful and most harmonious of the choral odes of Sophocles.
Well did Fate thy wanderings lead,
Here the nightingale is dwelling;
Here her plaintive notes are swelling;
Screened from wintry whirlwinds rushing;
The sportive Bacchus joys to revel or to rove.
This line is chargeable with indistinctness, and does not, we apprehend, sufficiently point out the Furies, the yaλan be, to whom the Narcissus is sacred. Mr. Dale has followed the Scholiast, but it is not clear, that Sophocles had the Furies in view, for the flower was also sacred to Ceres and Proserpine.
Here dance the Muses; and the Queen of Love
Oft guides her golden car through this enchanting grove.
What nor Asia's rich domain,
Through its thousand vales can boast,-
Guards her own loved olive too.'
Vol. I. pp. 147-149.
The Electra is introduced with some elegant prefatory remarks.
Every reader of the ancient Greek drama must be forcibly struck with the narrowness of the range within which the great Tragic writers appear to have been confined, as to the selection of their subjects. The misfortunes of the families of dipus and of Atreus, with a few other legends of the same stamp, supplied, in a great measure, that scanty fountain, out of which all were contented to draw. Thus, on the same basis are founded the Electra of Sophocles, the Chöephora of Eschylus, and the Electra of Euripides. Yet it may reasonably be doubted whether, in the present instance at least, this similarity of subject should not be attributed rather to a spirit of rivalry than a deficiency of materials. It is palpably evident, that Euripides intends to ridicule the manner in which Eschylus has managed the discovery of Orestes by his sister Electra; and, consequently, that his drama must have been produced subsequently to that of his great predecessor. We may, therefore, pronounce, without much hesitation, that the Chöephora of Eschylus appeared first of the three, the Electra of Sophocles next, and the Electra of Euripides last.
To decide between the merits of the two former compositions would be a task not less invidious than difficult. If the Chöephora of Eschylus is possessed of more striking beauties, the Electra of Sophocles has fewer and less glaring defects. If Eschylus rises into a sublimity which is never equalled by Sophocles, as in the relation of Clytemnestra's dream at the tomb of Agamemnon, neither does Sophocles degenerate into absurd and inconsistent puerilities, as in the recognition of Orestes by his sister, by reason of the exact correspondence of their footsteps. In the one there is a strange mix
ture of grandeur with meanness, elegance with coarseness, beauty with deformity-the other is uniformly polished, dignified, and
The point on which all the ancient dramatists have, most strikingly failed, is the delineation of the female character. Whether in deference to the popular opinion respecting the sex, or in subservience to their own personal prejudices, it is not easy to decide; but the fact is certain, that, with the exception of our author's Antigone, there are few, if any, of the softer sex, among the dramatic charac ters of the ancients, who are entitled to our unqualified approbation. The Electra of Sophocles is a haughty, high-spirited woman, impressed, according to the erroneous morality of that age, with a full persuasion that it was her solemn and imperative duty to avenge her father's death by shedding the blood of her mother, by whom he had been treacherously murdered. For such vindictive and implacable resentment, our modern ladies will not-nor is it desirable that they should-make any allowance. In all other respects, as a sister and a friend, her character is calculated to excite an interest;-at least, so long as she is unfortunate, and until she becomes guilty.
The gradual development of incidents in this drama is admirably managed; indeed, it is here that Sophocles invariably excels. Orestes, after an absence of some years, revisits his native land, for the purpose of avenging the murder of his father, Agamemnon, accompa nied by an attendant, who is the adviser and instigator of the deed. After feasting his eyes with the view of his much-loved country
"Dulces reminiscitur Argos"—
the old man consults with him on the most politic mode of com. mencing operations. Though he hears the mourning accents of Electra, and longs to embrace her, yet he acquiesces in the prudent direction of his aged counsellor, and first obeys the command of Phoebus, in presenting offerings at his father's tomb. The remorseless hatred and shameless effrontery of Clytemnestra, the politic servility of Chrysothemis, the dauntless intrepidity of Electra, and the generous sympathy of the Chorus, beautifully diversify the scene, and sustain the interest till tidings arrive that Orestes is no more. The manner in which this intelligence is received, is exquisitely characteristic of the different parties: Electra refuses all consolation, and, on the entrance of Orestes himself, disguised as the bearer of his own ashes, a scene ensues, which, for deep and pathetic interest, has no superior in the whole circle of tragic poetry. Taking the urn in her hands, Electra apostrophises her departed brother in terms of such tender lamentation, that Orestes can refrain no longer, but, impelled by the resistless impulse of nature, discovers himself to his sister. Nothing can be more finely imagined or more skilfully executed than this abrupt transition from the depth of misery and despair to the transports of affection and triumph. The exuberant joy of Electra, which cannot be restrained, but breaks forth even amidst the most important consultations, is infinitely more pleasing and natural than the cool composure with which she receives her returning brother,
in the dramas both of Eschylus and Euripides. Vol. II. pp. 279-, 282.
Mr. Dale judiciously declines the comparison of the Electra of Sophocles with the Chöephora of Eschylus. The latter tragedy is evidently a part of a trilogy, or a drama of which the story is told in three successive tragedies. Of these, the first is the Agamemnon, whose fate had been pre-ordained and brought on by a concatenation of necessary events. The principal character of the piece is a woman, who surrenders herself to a guilty passion; and its conclusion is the unsatisfactory triumph of tyranny and crime. In the Chöephora, the action is partly ordained by Apollo, himself impelled by the resistless decrees of Destiny, and partly influenced by natural sentiments, the thirst of vengeance which agitates Orestes, and his fraternal affection for the unhappy Electra. When he has killed his mother, the conflict between two affections of equal force in his bosom begins; and as this dreadful struggle does not terminate with the drama, it must have left on the minds of the auditors a too painful impression. It is obvious, therefore, that the Poet did not intend that the drama should end there. It is in the Eumenides, that he gives. the finishing stroke to it. All the interest created by the events which precede it, are in this tragedy concentrated. Orestes is now the mere instrument of fate: Pallas is the principal agent. The conflicting impulses of contradictory duties being too severe a trial for man, the question is carried by Eschylus before the equitable tribunal of the gods. If that great Poet was, as Cicero tells us, of the school of Pythagoras, it is not impossible that this noble play may contain the symbolical sense attributed to it by Schlegel. The ancient mythology was for the most part symbolical, but not allegorical; -two things widely distinct. Allegory is a pure fiction, in which imaginary beings personify and represent certain abstract ideas; whereas the symbol represents the idea by a sensible object. The Titans, according to the German critic, designate the primitive energies of the physical and moral world, still hidden in mysterious darkness. The new gods are the emblems of those physical or moral truths, of which we have acquired a clear perception. The former approximate to Chaos, the latter belong to a world already organized. The Furies represent the terrors of a guilty conscience. In vain does Orestes appeal to the powerful motives which impelled him;—the cry of blood still pursues him. Apollo, the god whose natural attributes are youth, and that animated hatred of crime incident to youth, Apollo decrees the retribution of the crime; Pallas