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TO THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUS.
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.
Groves, where immortal Sages taught;
Unspotted long with human blood,
NOTES, · Altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buckingham, at whofe 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 perforried at Buckingham-house. P.
VER. 3. Where heav'nly visions Plato fir’d, And Epicurus lay infpir'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.
- W. I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Caffius, as being followers of different fects of philosophy.
Forsaken, friendless, shall ye fly?
And Athens rising near the pole!
NOTES. Ver. 12. Moral Truth, and mystic 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 Mufes, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Myftic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? As Hefiod 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 Mystic 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.
The metre is unskilfully broken by the want of a fyllable in this line.
In ev'ry age, in ev'ry staté!
Where the muses haunt,
When brutal force
: Pleasures of Imagination, B. ii. p. 663. 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.
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,
not vertalife of the Iphes of Southal theirincipal prethod
and contribute nothing towards the advancement of the main action? Whereas the chorụs ought,
“ Mogrov EIVOLO T8 , ran ouvayunlaodai," 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 reflections of Pope on the baneful influences of war, on the arts and learning, and on the univerfal power of love, seem to be too general, are not sufficiently appropriated, do not rise from the subject and occafion, and might be inferted with equal propriety in twenty other tragedies. This remark of Aristotle, though he does not himself produce any examples, may be verified from the following, among many others. In the Phænicians of Euripides, they fing a long and very beautiful, but ill placed, hymn to Mars ; I speak of that which begins so nobly, ver. 793,
" 12 monopoge dos Agnso “O direful Mars! why art thou still delighted with blood and with death, and why an enemy to the feasts of Bacchus ?” And a still 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 reflections 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 solitary life of that unfortunate hero ; and when afterwards, at verse 855, pain has totally exhausted the ftrength 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 seep. As in the Antigone, with equal beauty and decorum in an address to the God of Love, at verfe 791 of that play. And thus laftly, when the birth of Edipus is doubtful, and his parents unknown, the chorus suddenly exclaims,
66 Tos os, TEXVOV," “ From which, O my son, of the immortal gods, didst thou spring? Was it some nymph, a favourite of Pan, that haunts the
of the those posund, carr.ccomplisha ith propricatural
mountains; or some daughter of Apollo; for this god loves the remote rocks and caverns, who bore you? Or was it Mercury who reigns in Cyllene, or did Bacchus,
“ Ogos verwv et' axqwr opewr,' ver. 1118. a god who dwells on the tops of the mountains, beget you, on any of 'the nymphs, that possess Helicon, with whom he frequently sports ?”
But what shall we say to the strong obje&ions lately made by fome very able and learned critics to the use of the chorus at all?' The critics I have in view, are Metastasio, 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, Mason, and Brumoy, have fo earnestly and elegantly urged on the subject.