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Is worthy of Admetus. I descend Ador'd like her before? Yet this is slie, To the dim shadowy regions of the dead The cold of heart, th' ungrateful, who hath A guest more honour'd.
left Her husband and her infants! This is she,
O my deserted children ! who at once Alc. In thy presence here
Bereaves you of your parents. Again I utter the tremendous vow,
dlc. Woe is me! Now more than half fulfilled. I feel, I I hear the bitter and reproachful cries know
Of my despairing lord. With life's last Its dread effects. Through all my burn
powers, ing veins
Oh ! let me strive to soothe him still. ApTh' insatiate fever revels. Doubt is o'er.
proach, The Monarch of the Dead hath heard-he My handmaids, raise me, and support iny calls,
steps He summons me away-and thou art sav'd, To the distracted mourner. Bear me hence, O my Admetus !
That he may hear and see me.
Adm. Is it thou ? In the opening of the third act, Als And do I see thee still ? and com’st thou cestis enters, with her son Eumeles, To comfort me, Alcestis ? Must I hear
thus and her daughter, to complete the sa
Thy dying accents thus? Alas! return crifice by dying at the feet of Proser- To thy sad couch, return ! 'tis meet for me pine's statue. The following scene There by thy side for ever to remain. cnsues between her and Admetus. Alc. For me thy care is vain. Though
mect for thee Alc. Here, O my faithful hanılmaids ! Adm. O voice! O looks of death! are at the feet
these, are these Of Proserpine's dread image spread my Thus darkly shrouded with mortality couch,
The eyes that were the sunbeains and the For 1 myself e'en now must offer here
life The victim she requires. And you, mean. Of my fond soul ? Alas ! how faint a ray while,
Falls from their faded orbs, so brilliant My children! seek your sire. Behold him there,
Upon my drooping brow! How heavily Sad, silent, and alone. But through his with what a weight of death thy languid veins
voice Health's genial current flows once more, as Sinks on my heart ! too faithful far, too free
fond, As in his brightest days : and he shall live, Alcestis! thou art dying-and for me! Shall live for you. Go, hang upon his neck,
Alcestis! and thy feeble hand supports And with your innocent encircling arms With its last power, supports my sinking Twine round him fondly.
head, Eum. Can it be indeed,
E'en cow, while death is on thec! Oh! Father, lov'd father! that we see thee thus
the touch Restored ? What joy is ours !
Rekindles tenfold frenzy in my heart, Adm. There is no joy !
I rush, I fly impetuous to the shrine, Speak not of joy! away, away! my grief The image of yon ruthless Deity, Is wild and desperate ; cling to me no Impatient for her prey. Before thy deatli, more !
There, there, I too, self-sacrificed, will fall. · I know not of affection, and I feel No more a father.
Vain is each obstaclc.-In vain the gods Eum. Oh! what words are these? The sclves would check my fury-I am Are we no more thy children? Are we not
lord Thine own ? Sweet sister ! twine around Of my own days--and thus I swearhis neck
Alc. Yes! swear More close ; he must return the fond em Admetus ! for thy children to sustain brace.
The load of life. All other impious vows, Adm. O children ! O my children! to Which thou, a rebel to the sovereign will
Of those who rule on lugh, might'st dare Your innocent words and kisses are as
to form darts,
Within thy breast; thy lip, by them enThat pierce it to the quick. I can no more chained, Sustain the bitter conflict. Every sound Would vainly seek to utter. See'st thou Of your soft accents but too well recals
not, The voice which was the music of my life. It is from them the inspiration flows, Alcestis ! my Alcestis !- was she not Which in my language breathes ? They Of all her sex the flower ? Was woman e'er
lend me power,
They bid me through thy strengthened
Chorus of Admetus. soul transfuse
'Tis not enough, oh! no! High courage, noble constancy. Submit, Bow down to them tlıy spirit
. Be thou To hide the scene of anguish from his eyes ;
Still must our silent band
Around him watchful stand,
And on the mourner ceaseless care bestow, treme
That his ear catch not grief's funereal cries. To which I now approach, from whom but thee
Yet, yet hope is not dead.
Oft when all joy is filed,
Who on its care in pious hope repose. The chorusses with which this tra Then to the blessed skies gedy is interspersed are distinguished Let our submissive prayers in chorus rise. for their melody and classic beauty. Pray! bow the knee, and pray! The following translation will give our What other task have mortals, born to readers a faint idea of the one by tears, which the third act is concluded. Whom fate controls, with adamantine Alc. My children ! all is finished. Now O ruler of the spheres ! farewell !
Jove! Jove! enthron'd immortally on To thy fond care, O Pheres! I commit
high, My widow'd Lord, forsake him not.
Our supplication hear ! Eum. Alas!
Nor plunge in bitterest woes, Sweet mother! wilt thou leave us ? from
Him, who nor footstep moves, nor lifts his thy side
eye, Are we for ever parted ?
But as a child, which only knows Phe. Tears forbid
Its father to revere. All utterance of our woes. Bereft of sense, More lifeless than the dying victim, see The desolate Admetus. Farther yet, LETTERS ON DRAMATIC POETRY, AND Still farther let us bear him from the sight MORE PARTICULARLY ON THE COMOf his Alcestis.
PARISON OF THE ANCIENT AND Alc. O my handmaids ! still
MR EDITOR, Her struggling voice! that last keen pang The following remarks, thrown tois near.
gether many years ago, rather hastily Peace, mourners, peace !
and unconnectedly, seem to me to Be hushid, be silent, in this hour of dread ! contain some principles which have Our criez would but increase
scarcely been attended to, and which The sufferer's pangs ; let tears unheard be yet, I flatter myself, are not quite unshed,
deserving of attention. I am emboldCease, voice of weeping, cease ! ened to send you them very much Sustain, O friend !
as they were originally written. Upon thy faithful breast,
There are some questions relative to The head that sinks, with mortal pain op- dramatic poetry, which have never
been very accurately examined. To And thou, assistance lend
begin with the time which a drama To close the languid eye,
may be supposed to occupy;-it has Still beautiful, in life's last agony.
been recommended by the critics that Alas ! how long a strife!
this should not exceed the space of a What anguish struggles in the parting day. In strict propriety, a day is too breath,
long a time, if the reason of the limiEre yet immortal life
tation be, that the spectator shall be Be won by death! Death ! death! thy work complete !
fully satisfied of the probability that
those occurrences of which he is 3 Let thy sad hour be fieet, Speed, in thy mercy, the releasing sigh ! witness, may have actually taken No more keen pangs impart
place in the time during which they To her, the high in heart,
have been presented to him. It is, Th' ador'd Alcestis, worthy ne'er to dic. however, imagined, that if the story
be interesting, the spectator can be exceed as little as possible the actual beguiled into the belief that one day period of the representation. In an inhas passed over his head since he en- teresting scene, perhaps, some hours tered the theatre,-and it would re- may be supposed to have passed away quire very great artifice in the poet, without any very bad effect,--at the or, indeed, would rather be quite im same time, there must be attention possible, on many occasions, to reduce paid, that no very distinct marks of the series of events into a shorter pe- the time should betray the deception; riod. Perhaps some such rule as this it would be improper, for instance, in might be necessary in the ancient drae the course of the same scene, to speak ma,-in the course of which the stage of the sun rising and the sun setting. was never allowed to be empty,_and Some time may be allowed to pass bethe attention of the spectator was, ac tween the shifting of the scenes, but cordingly, always brought back to the it would be proper, perhaps, to susconsideration of the time in which the pend the action, and make in fact a performance took place. There would greater number of acts whenever any have been something, indeed, ex- considerable portion of time is retremely absurd, had the Chorus been quired to be slurred over on these ocsupposed to walk, and moralize, and casions. When there is an entire sing from one end of the stage to ano- suspension of the action, I do not see ther for the course of a year together, any bounds which I should put to the and even Shakespeare, I suppose, if licence of the poet in this particular. he had had a chorus to manage, would Every act then seems to stand, as far not have been inconsiderate enough to as time is concerned, in the place of a lead them such a dance.
distinct drama, and the poet inay take According to the system of the mo- it up at any point at which the chain of dern drama, greater licence in this the fable will permit him. particular may, I imagine, be safely It is quite impracticable in a motaken, and, if an ancient audience dern drama to observe the strict unity with a chorus constantly in their eyes, of time, if our system of dividing the could be seduced into the belief, that play into acts be retained, which supa few hours occupied the space of a poses both a suspension of the action day,-I see no reason why we, before itself, and of the time, consequently, whom the action is so frequently sus- which the chain of events occupies. pended entirely, should not be led in- It is possible in our drama to preserve to a much greater delusion. The fact strictly the unity of place, but that is, that the time of a drama is never is very useless, if the other cannot at all attended to, unless the poet be preserved. When the course of chooses to point it out by some cir- the action, as in the ancient drama, cumstances which naturally call the was never suspended, it was absoluteattention of his audience to this ob- ly impossible to shift the scene. ject,--and if he will make the di- What would have been more absurd, visions of time in the course of one than, while the stage was never unocday very striking and prominent, the cupied, -to have madle any such alabsurdity of the supposition that they teration? When we see an actor on have been accomplished in the short the stage, we suppose that he cannot period which is occupied in the re- get into any other place than that in presentation of a drama, will strike which he is, unless he chooses to go the spectator as completely, as if a to it,----50 that it would be perfectly much longer time were expressed. If absurd to change the scene in his prehe will place a clock in the view of sence. The utmost licence as to place, the audience, he must regulate his fa- therefore, must be allowed in the moble accordingly. The chorus was a dern drama, since the only reason why kind of clock, and, accordingly, while none was allowed in the ancient was it was fashionable, it was necessary to the impossibility of the thing. It is confine the time of the dramatic ac- strange enough, however, that some tion within very narrow bo ds. modern dramatists are extremely scruSince the clock has been removed, the pulous as to this unity, while their spectator is left in all that inattention adherence to the common practice of to the course of time which is natu- dividing the play into acts obliges ral to him. Through the course of them, in a certain degree, to deviate every act, indeed, the poet ought to from the other. They are, in this
way, frequently led into very unnatu- ages bound to our hearts by the strong ral situations; and, by crowding every ties of humanity, and made in some event into one place, they make the sort to participate in the reality of our same scene very unusually fertile in own existence when all at once you striking occurrences. Dennis ridicules break the talisman, and the fairy pawith some effect this particular in Mr laces crumble about our heads. The Addison's Cato, all the events of which, forms which we had begun to consithough of a very different kind, take der as brothers and fellow-creatures place in a large hall in Cato's house, vanish from our eyes; the strong curand matters of the most secret and rent of our affections is at once vioimportant nature are transacted in a lently stopped ; and, after doing us all place in which they were exposed to this injury, you leave us to solace ourevery accidental or designing intrud- selves with the scraping and fiddling er. Any farther question concerning of the orchestra. It is in vain that these unities will involve the discus- you would afterwards make us amends sion, whether the system of the an- by raising once more the works you cient or the modern drama be the have destroyed; we no longer give up more perfect.
our minds to your delusions; or, if I know the sticklers for antiquity we do, it is only that we may again will at once endeavour to put an end meet with a similar return. Such are to the dispute, by maintaining that the disadvantages of suspending the there is a gross absurdity in adopting course of the action by the modern inany other system than that which pre- vention of acts. We call it modern, vails in the ancient drama. They because, though, in the ancient drawill say, that, “to suspend the action ma, the business of the play did not after it has begun, is totally inconsis- always proceed with equal impetuotent with the dramatic effect, and that sity, and the songs and reflections of it is nothing else than to recal the the chorus gave the spectators full opminds of the spectators from the dream portunity to look back on the inteof reality into which they have been resting occurrences which had passed, brought, and to give them occasion a- and to form awful conjectures congain and again to recollect that the cerning what should follow; though whole representation is merely ficti- this kind of remission in the action tious. It is the tenet of some phi- very properly was admitted, yet cerlosophers, that the whole scene of tainly it was never entirely allowed to creation is a mere picture which be suspended. The name acts was beguiles our senses ; but, be it so or applied to the intermediate dialogue no, certainly the great Author of the parts between the songs of the chorus, drama of Nature at no time suspends and, as the moderns have thought fit that agency by which the notions of to retain these merely, and to throw real existence are impressed upon our out the chorus altogether, while, at minds; and although, at times, in a the same time, they suspend the aephilosophical humour, we may turn tion entirely, which the chorus only our eyes aside, and endeavour to be had the effect of making a little less lieve that all is delusion and decep- impetuous, they have materially altertion, yet the enchanted scene is ever ed the dramatic system. If they will before us, and cons
nstantly intrudes it- not allow any chorus, they ought, at self on our perceptions.
least, to adopt the spirit of the ancient Now, it will be maintained, that drama rather than the form; and, if “ the dramatist ought, in a similar they think it fit to put away the oiles manner, to carry on the impressions which divided, and yet connected, the which he has begun; and that it is acts together, they ought to have no but a bungling kind of creation to separation of acts at all. But it is give birth merely to a series of de- plain that the dramatic system of the tached dreams, from which we are moderns is founded on a misapprelienevery moment awaking. You begin sion of the ancient plan, and they have to interest us in certain events, and to forgot the rule of Horace, that the make us look with impatience for their chorus should always bear a character catastrophe. We have seen certain in the drama, --a rule which is exemcharacters, and our sympathies have plified in the best of the compositions been strongly called out, and we have for the ancient stage. They seem to begun to have those fictitious person- have conceived, as some of the infe
rior dramatists of antiquity appear to greater tendency to destroy the effect have done, that the chorus, in fact, of the representation, than if it were formed no part of the dramatis pero suspended altogether. By the latter sonæ ; and we fancy they imagined means, the mind, to be sure, does reit was a very fine improvement to cover entirely from the dream with take them off the stage where they which it was fascinated, but it is quite seemed to fill up an unnecessary por- in the humour for yielding instantly tion of room, and to embarrass the per. again to the spell when it is renewed. formers, and they, no doubt, looked By the former method it is prevented upon it as sufficiently good treatment from recovering entirely, but yet it for them if they put them in an orches- must begin to doubt, and be kept in tra below, with fiddles in their hands, a disagreeable state, betwixt sleeping with which they might amuse theme and waking; for let the ancient critics, selves and their audience during the and Horace among the rest, say what division of the acts. We suppose our they please, I think it evident that refined moderns conceived, that the the chorus must have occupied in the usage of retaining the chorus on the eyes of the spectators a situation somestage was one of the barbarities which what different from the actual perstuck to the ancient drama from its formers in the drama. Take them at first appearance in Thespis's cart, in the best, there is still a want of intewhich actors and musicians would be rest, and an indifference in their chaobliged to huddle together the best racter, which is not at all suitable to way they could; and they thought the spectators of such scenes as they certainly that it would be quite as be are witnesses to. The observation of coming to paint the cheeks of their the most violent cruelties, and the actors with the lees of wine, because most unheard of misfortunes, has no the strolling company of Thespis had other effect upon them, than to prodone so, as to allow the chorus or mu duce some exclamations of grief at the sicians to retain their place on the most, and generally nothing more stage. From some such mistaken no than some moral reflections. They tion it was, that the ancient chorus are represented, indeed, in general, as was converted into a set of fiddlers, people of no power, and who are una and that the modern drama is chop- able, by any effort, to change the torped and divided into so many detach- rent of fortune, yet it would be naed bits and corners.
tural sometimes for them, in the vioI am so much of a modern, how. lence of sympathy, to make some such ever, I confess, that I have no very attempt; or allowing them to act progreat taste for the ancient chorus con- perly, yet we have no satisfaction in sidered in their active capacity, and seeing persons introduced who are so though a finer entertainment might insignificant in point of action. I be substituted in their place than our must therefore think that a kind of modern orchestras, yet it appears to torpor is thrown over the whole play, me, that the fine specimens of Lyric by the use of a chorus; that the poetry which they have left behind want of emotion which they display them, are what recommend them on many occasions is communicated chiefly to our admiration. Take the to the spectator, and through the odes out of the Greek dramas, and whole course of the exhibition, from string them together, and they will the equivocal character which they no doubt make a fine collection of hold in his eyes, he must often be odes, but the excellence of their ef- kept in a state ot' doubt as to the rea, fect in their native dramas, even I lity of the whole representation. mean when they relate sufficiently to But besides this effect, which I conthe subject of the drama, is to me by ceive to be a general one, it appears no means very apparent. For inde- to me that the chorus has a tendency pendent of the unnatural effect of to circumscribe very much the limits singing when people are expected to of the drama. Lay it down as a rule speak, (an observation which has oft- of art, that every play must have a en been applied to the modern opera,) chorus, who are to remain on the independently of this, I cannot help stage from the beginning to the end, thinking, that the insertion of long how many scenes of secret passion pieces of poetry into the midst of ani- must be withdrawn entirely from remated and natural dialogue, had a presentation ! Not to mention those