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to insert a verse of Euripides into the text of Holy Scripture, 1 Cor. xv. 33. ; and Paræus, commenting on the Revelation, divides the whole book as a tragedy, into acts distinguished each by a chorus of heavenly harpings and song be
Heretofore men in highest dignity have laboured not a little to be thought able to compose a tragedy. Of that honour Dionysius the elder was no less ambitious, than before of his attaining to the tyranny. Augustus Cæsar also had begun his Ajax, but unable to please his own judgment with what he had begun, left it unfinished. Seneca, the philosopher, is by some thought the author of those tragedies (at least the best of them) that go under that name. Gregory Nazianzen, a father of the church, thought it not unbeseeming the sanctity of his person to write a tragedy, which is entitled Christ suffering. This is mentioned to vindicate tragedy from the small esteem, or rather infamy, which in the account of many it undergoes at this day with other common interludes ; happening, through the poet's errour of intermixing comic stuff with tragic sadness and gravity; or introducing trivial and vulgar persons, which by all judicious hath been counted absurd; and brought in without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people. And though ancient tragedy use no prologue, yet using sometimes, in case of self-defence, or explanation, that which Martial calls an epistle ; in behalf of this tragedy coming forth after the ancient manner, much different from what among us
passes for best, thus much before-hand may be epistled ; that Chorus is here introduced after the Greek manner, not ancient only but modern, and still in use among the Italians. In the modelling therefore of this poem, with good reason, the ancients and Italians are rather followed as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse used in the Chorus is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epode, which were a kind of stanzas framed only for the music, then used with the Chorus that sung; not essential to the poem, and therefore not material ; or, being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be called Allæostropha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended) is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produced beyond the fifth act. Of the style and uniformity, and that commonly called the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such economy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with versimilitude and decorum; they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with Æschylus, Sophocles, and Eu. ripides, the three tragic poets unequalled yet by any, and the best rule to all who endeavour to write tragedy The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and cnds, is according to ancient rule, and best example, within the space of twenty-four hours.
The Argument. Samson, made captive, blind, and now in the
prison at Gaza, there to labour as in a common workhouse, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labour, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigh, somewhat retired, there to sit a while and bemoan his condition. Where he happens at length to be visited by certain friends and equals of his tribe, which makes the Chorus, who seek to comfort him what they can; then by his old father Manoah, who endeavours the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure his liberty by ransom ; lastly, that this feast was proclaimed by the Phi. listines as a day of thanksgiving for their deliverance from the hands of Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistine lords for Samson's redemption ; who in the mean while is visited by other persons; and lastly by a public officer to require his coming to the feast before the lords and people, to play or show his strength in their presence; he at first refuses, dismissing the public officer with absolute de nial to come ; at length, persuaded inwardly that this was from God, he yields to go along with him, who came now the second time with great threatenings to fetch him: the Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son's deliverance: in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and afterward more distinctly, relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.
The Scene before the Prison in Gaza.
Samson, [Attendant leading him.]
From restless thoughts, that, like a deadly swarm Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone, But rush upon me thronging, and present Times past, what once I was, and what am now. O, wherefore was my birth from Heaven foretold Twice by an angel, who at last in sight Of both my parents all in flames ascended From off the altar, where an offering burn'd, As in a fiery column charioting His God-like presence, and from some great act Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race ? Why was my breeding order'd and prescrib'd As of a person separate to God, Design'd for great exploits ; if I must die Betray'd, captív'd, and both my eyes put out, Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze; To grind in brazen fetters under task strength, With this Heaven-gifted strength ? O glorious Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd Lower than bond-slave ! Promise was that I Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver ; Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves, Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke : Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt Divine prediction ; what if all foretold Had been fulfill'd but through mine own default, Whom have I to complain of but myself? Who this high gift of strength committed to me, In what part lodg'd, how easily bereft me, Under the seal of silence could not keep, But weakly to a woman must reveal it,