Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

TWO CHORUS'S

TO THE TRAGÉDY OF BRUTUS':

CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.

STROPHE I.

YE

E shades, where sacred truth is fought;

Groves, where immortal Sages taught :
Where heav'nly visions Plato fir'd,
And Epicurus lay inspir'd!
In vain your guiltless laurels stood

5
Unspotted long with human blood.
War, horrid war, your thoughtful Walks invades,
And steel now glitters in the Muses” shades.

Oh

NOTES.

· Altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these two Chorus’s were composed to supply as many wanting in his play. They were set many years afterward by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckingham-house.

Pope, Ver. 3. Where heav’nly visions Plato fir’d, And Epicurus lay inspir'd!] The propriety of these lines arises from hence, that Brutus, one of the Heroes of this play, was of the Old Academy; and Caffius, the other, was an Epicurean.

WARBURTON. I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Cassius, as being followers of different sects of philosophy.

WARTON, ANTISTROPHE I.

10

Oh heav'n-born fisters! source of art!
Who charm the sense, or mend the heart 3
Who lead fair Virtue's train along,
Moral Truth, and mystic Song!
To what new clime, what distant sky,
Forsaken, friendless, shall ye fly?

ye

bless the bleak Atlantic shore ? Or bid the furious Gaul be rude no more?

Say, will

15

STROPHE II.

When Athens sinks by fates unjust,
When wild Barbarians fpurn her duft ;
Perhaps ev'n Britain's utmost shore
Shall cease to blush with stranger's gore,
See Arts her savage fons controul,

And Athens rising near the pole!
Till some new Tyrant lifts his purple hand,
And civil madness tears them from the land.

Ye NOTES. Ver. 12. Moral Truth, and myslic Song ! ] The construction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sisters; or does he address himself to the Muses, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Mystic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? as Hesiod begins his poem.

Dr. Warburton's proposed correction is not consistent with either construction, when he says, the poet had expressed himself better had he said Moral Truth in Myftic Song. Moral Truth, a single person, can neither be the Heaven-born Sisters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.

WARTON.

[ocr errors]

25

ANTISTROPHE II.
Ye Gods! what justice rules the ball ?
Freedom and Arts together fall ;
Fools grant whate'er Ambition craves,
And men, once ignorant, are slaves.
Oh curs'd effects of civil hate,

In ev'ry age, in ev'ry state!
Still, when the lust of tyrant pow'r succeeds,
Some Athens perishes, fome Tully bleeds.

30

NOTE9.

VER. 32. Some Athens]

This ode is of the kind which M. D'Alembert, judging like a mathematician, prefers to odes that abound with imagery and figures, namely, what he calls the Didactic ode ; and then proceeds to give reasons for preferring Horace to Pindar as a lyric poet. Marmontel in his Poetic opposes him.

WÁRTON.

[ocr errors]

These choruses are elegant and harmonious; but are they not chargeable with the fault, which Aristotle imputes to many of Euripides, that they are foreign and adventitious to the subject, and contribute nothing towards the advancement of the main action? Whereas the chorus ought,

Μοριον ειναι το ελά, και συναγωνίζεσθαι, to be a part or member of the one whole, co-operate with, and help to accelerate the intended event; as is constantly, adds the philosopher, the practice of Sophocles. Whereas these refle&tions of Pope on the baneful influences of war, on the arts and learning, and on the universal power of love, seem to be too general, are not sufficiently appropriated, do not rise from the subject and occafion, and might be inserted with equal propriety in twenty other tragedies. This remark of Aristotle, though he does not limfelf produce any examples, may be verified from the following, among In the Phænicians of Euripides, they fing a long

and

many others.

and very beautiful, but ill placed, hymn to Mars ; I speak of that which bigins fo 'nobly, ver. 793, «« Ω πολυμοχθος Αρης,

" “O direful Mars ! why art thou still delighted with blood and with death, and why an enemy to the feasts of Bacchus ?” And a ftill more glaring instance may be brought from the end of the third act of the Troades, in which the story of Ganymede is introduced not very artificially. To these may be added that exquisite ode in praise of Apollo, descriptive of his birth and victories, which we find in the Iphigenia in Tauris.

On the other hand, the choruses of Sophocles never desert the subject of each particular drama, and all their sentiments and re. flections are drawn from the situation of the principal personage of the fable. Nay, Sophocles hath artfully found a method of making those poetical descriptions, with which the choruses of the ancients abound, carry on the chief design of the piece; and has by these means accomplished what is a great difficulty in writing tragedy, united poetry with propriety.

In the Philoctetes the chorus takes a natural occasion, at verse 694, to give a minute and moving picture of the folitary life of that unfortunate hero; and when afterwards, at verse 855, pain has totally exhausted the strength and spirits of Philoctetes, and it is necessary for the plot of the tragedy that he should fall asleep, it is then that the chorus breaks out into an exquisite ode to Sleep. As in the Antigone, with equal beauty and decorum in an address to the God of Love, at verse 791 of that play. And thus lastly, when the birth of Edipus is doubtful, and his parents unknown, the chorus suddenly exclaims,

σε Τις σε, τεκνοι,” “ From which, O my fon, of the immortal gods, didst thou spring? Was it some nymph, a favourite of Pan, that haunts the mountains; or some daughter of Apollo; for this god loves the reniote rocks and caverns, who bore you? Or was it Mercury who reigns in Cyllene, or did Bacchus, ο Θεος ναιων επ' ακρων ορέων,

ver. T118. a god who dwells on the tops of the mountains, þeget you, on any of the nymphs that possess Helicon, with whom he fre. quently {ports?"

But what shall we say to the strong objections lately made by some very

able and learned critics to the use of the chorus at all? TOL. I.

The

N

The critics I have in view, are Metaftafio, Twining, Pye, Colman, and Johnson ; who have brought forward such powerful arguments against this so important a part of the ancient drama, as to shake our conviction of its utility and propriety, founded on what Hurd, Mafon, and Brumoy, have so carnestly and elce gantly urged on the subject.

WARTON.

« EdellinenJatka »