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Max. Tis wondrous strange! But, good Placidius, say,
Plac In a lone tent, all hung with black, I saw
Char. Speak without fear; what did the visi on shew;
Plac. A curtain drawn presented to our view
Act I. Sc. I.
Even Maximin himself occasionally talks in strains as truly poetical as he is at other times tumid and fantastical. "Max. This love, that never could my youth engage, Peeps out his coward head to dare my age. Where hast thou been thus long, thou sleeping form, That wak'st like drowsy seaman in a storm? A sullen hour thou chusest for thy birth: My love shoots up in tempests, as the earth Is stirr'd and loosen'd in ablust'ring wind, (Whose blasts to waiting flowers her womb unbind.")
Act III. Sc. I. O si sic omnia!
We will present the reader with a description of the same passion, by another character; it is less striking and original than the one just quoted, but its merits will perhaps be more generally felt and acknowledged.
"Love various minds does variously inspire:
He stirs, in gentle natures, gentle fire,
Like that of incense on the altars laid:
But raging flames tempestuous souls invade.
A fire which every windy passion blows;
With pride it mounts, and with revenge it glows."
Act II. Se. I.
The ensuing lines shew Dryden's minuteness, as well as accuracy of observation, of which these plays furnish so many instances; sometimes shewn in images of exquisite beauty, at others in allusions entirely unpoetical.
"As some faint pilgrim standing on the shore,
So I at once
Both heav'nly faith, and human fear obey;
The " Indian Emperor" is like the rest of the rhyming plays as a whole, feverish, tedious, and undramatic; its versification has been much admired; there is the same lavish profusion of words and images as in all the others, with quite as much of the unnatural, but less of the outrageous fustian which rages so fiercely in the rants of Almanzor and Aurengzebe. We can select passages from it of the greatest beauty.
The following is as exquisite as any thing of the same kind in Pope, with more melody and a greater variety of numbers.
"Arise ye subtle spirits that can spy,
Act II. Sc. I.
Dryden is peculiarly happy in his descriptions of repose.
** All things arehush'd, as Nature's self lay dead,
The mountains seem to nod their drowsy head,
The little birds in dreams their songs repeat,
And sleeping flowers beneath the night-dew sweat;
Ev'n lust and envy sleep, yet love denies
Rest to my soul, aud slumber to my eyes.
Three days I promis'd to attend my doom,
And two long days and nights are yet to come;
'Tis sure the noise of a tumultuous fight, [Noise within.
They break the truce, and sally out by night.
Act II. Sc. II.
We consider the following beautiful lines a practical proof of the total absurdity of composing a drama in rhyme; the excellent description of the appearance of the ships to one who had never seen a vessel of the kind before, becomes scarcely less than ludicrous, merely in consequence of the sing-song dialogue into which it is moulded.
"Guy. I went, in order, Sir, to your command,
To view the utmost limits of the land:
To that sea-shore where no more world is found,
But foaming billows breaking on the ground,
Where, for awhile, my eyes no object met
But distant skies that in the ocean set:
And low-hung clouds that dipt themselves in rain,
To shake their fleeces on the Earth again.
At last, as far as I could cast my eyes
Upon the sea, somewhat methought did rise
Like bluish mists, which still appearing more,
Took dreadful shapes, and mov'd towards the shore.
Mont. What forms did these new wonders represent?
The object I could first distinctly view
Was tall straight trees which on the waters flew,
Wings on their sides instead of leaves did grow,
Which gather'd all the breath the winds could blow:
And at their roots grew floating palaces,
Whose out-blow'd bellies cut the yielding seas.
Mont. What divine monsters, O ye gods, were these,
That float in air, and fly upon the seas!
Came they alive or dead upon the shore?
Guy. Alas! they liv'd too sure, I heard them roar:
All turn'd their sides, and to each other spoke,
Act I. Scene II.
In this play there are some very sweet, couplets occurring, isolated amidst oceans of tedious rhyme, which it may be worth while to extract. The calm and equable feeling of delight which two or three lines of melodious numbers spread over the mind of the lover of poetry, must be our excuse for gleaning so narrowly. Such are lines like the following: .
"Amidst our arms as quiet you shall be,
As halcyons brooding on a winter's sea."
"Where far from noise,
The peaceful power that governs love repairs,
To feast upon soft vows and silent pray'rs."
"I watch'd the early glories of her eyes
As men for day-break watch the eastern skies."
"In tears your beauteous daughter drowns her sight,
The play concludes with these tender verses; they are addressed to Cortez.
"Guy. Think me not proudly rude, if I forsake
Alib. Of all your goodness leaves to our dispose,
Absence alone can make our sorrows less: i
And not to see what we can ne'er redress.
Guy. Northward, beyond the mountains we will go,
VOL I. PART I. X
There love and freedom we'll in peace enjoy;
We come now to the dramas in blank verse. It would be absurd in us to dwell upon the plots and scenes of plays which we have asserted possess neither interest as dramas, nor beauty as poems; and we mention " Cleomenes" more particularly to shew, rather what he has failed to do than what lie has actually done ; the subject on the first view appears one which a master's hand might have moulded to some purpose. A Spartan king, with all the characteristics of his nation—his bosom glowing with national pride and generous indignation —rough and uninformed in the gentler courtesies of life, and loathing an existence unadorned with freedom—in short, a Spartan, such a one as we may imagine in the purer times of the commonwealth, is reduced to dance attendance on the court of an effeminate Egyptian—to be elbowed by eunuchs, minions, and parasites, in a soil and a clime whose very air, one would think, would scarce suffice a Spartan soul to breathe in. But of the advantages of this contrast Dryden has either not chosen, or been unable to avail himself.
There are, as in the other plays, some noble passages in "Cleomenes." Take the two following as fine applications of the objects of nature to the purposes of poetry.
"Dispatch him, as the source of all your fears.
Observe the mounting billows of the main,
Blown by the winds into a raging storm:
Brush off those winds, and the high waves return
Into their quiet first created calm;
Such is the rage of busy blust'ring crowds,
Fomented by th' ambition of the great;
Cut off the causes, and th' effect will cease;
And all the moving madness fall to peace."
"There's the riddle of her love.
Act IV. Sc. I.
There is considerable power in the scene between Ccenus and Cleomenes, when the former arrives to tell the news of the capture of Sparta.