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A LYRICAL DRAMA.
ΜΑΝΤΣ ΕΙΜ' ΕΣΘΛΩΝ ΑΓΩΝΩΝ.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY PRINCE ALEXANDER MAVROCORDATO,
THE DRAMA OF HELLAS
IS INSCRIBED AS AN IMPERFECT TOKEN OF THE ADMIRATION, SYMPATHY, AND FRIENDSHIP OF PISA, November 1, 1821.
THE poem of Hellas, written at the suggestion of the events of the moment, is a mere improvise, and derives its interest (should it be found to possess any) solely from the intense sympathy which the Author feels with the cause he would celebrate.
age have been performed by the Greeks-that they have gained more than one naval victory, and that their defeat in Wallachia was signalized by circumstances of heroism more glorious even than victory.
The apathy of the rulers of the civilized world, to the astonishing circumstances of the descendants of that nation to which they owe their civilizationThe subject in its present state is insusceptible of rising as it were from the ashes of their ruin, is somebeing treated otherwise than lyrically, and if I have thing perfectly inexplicable to a mere spectator of called this poem a drama from the circumstance of the shows of this mortal scene. We are all Greeks its being composed in dialogue, the license is not Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have greater than that which has been assumed by other their root in Greece. But for Greece-Rome the poets, who have called their productions epics, only instructor, the conqueror, or the metropolis of our anbecause they have been divided into twelve or twenty-cestors, would have spread no illumination with her four books.
The Perse of Eschylus afforded me the first model of my conception, although the decision of the glorious contest now waging in Greece being yet suspended, forbids a catastrophe parallel to the return of Xerxes and the desolation of the Persians. I have, therefore, contented myself with exhibiting a series of lyric pictures, and with having wrought upon the curtain of futurity, which falls upon the unfinished scene, such figures of indistinct and visionary delineation as suggest the final triumph of the Greek cause as a portion of the cause of civilization and social improvement.
arms, and we might still have been savages and idolaters; or, what is worse, might have arrived at such a stagnant and miserable state of social institution as China and Japan possess.
The human form and the human mind attained to a perfection in Greece which has impressed its image on those faultless productions whose very fragments are the despair of modern art, and has propagated impulses which cannot cease, through a thousand channels of manifest or imperceptible operation, to ennoble and delight mankind until the extinction of the race.
The modern Greek is the descendant of those The drama (if drama it must be called) is, however, glorious beings whom the imagination almost refuses so inartificial that I doubt whether, if recited on the to figure to itself as belonging to our kind; and he Thespian wagon to an Athenian village at the Diony- inherits much of their sensibility, their rapidity of siaca, it would have obtained the prize of the goat. conception, their enthusiasm, and their courage. If I shall bear with equanimity any punishment greater in many instances he is degraded by moral and politi than the loss of such a reward which the Aristarchical slavery to the practice of the basest vices it enof the hour may think fit to inflict.
The only goat-song which I have yet attempted has, I confess, in spite of the unfavorable nature of the subject, received a greater and a more valuable portion of applause than I expected, or than it deserved.
genders, and that below the level of ordinary degra dation; let us reflect that the corruption of the best produces the worst, and that habits which subsist only in relation to a peculiar state of social institution may be expected to cease, as soon as that relation is dissolved. In fact, the Greeks, since the adCommon fame is the only authority which I can mirable novel of "Anastatius" could have been a allege for the details which form the basis of the poem, faithful picture of their manners, have undergone most and I must trespass upon the forgiveness of my read- important changes. The flower of their youth, reers for the display of newspaper erudition to which turning to their country from the universities of Italy, I have been reduced. Undoubtedly, until the con- Germany and France, have communicated to their clusion of the war, it will be impossible to obtain fellow-citizens the latest results of that social peran account of it sufficiently authentic for historical fection of which their ancestors were the original materials; but poets have their privilege, and it is source. The university of Chios contained before unquestionable that actions of the most exalted cour- the breaking out of the revolution eight hundred
students, and among them several Germans and Americans. The munificence and energy of many of the Greek princes and merchants, directed to the renovation of their country with a spirit and a wisdom which has few examples, is above all praise.
The English permit their own oppressors to act according to their natural sympathy with the Turkish tyrant, and to brand upon their name the indelible blot of an alliance with the enemies of domestic happiness, of Christianity and civilization.
Russia desires to possess, not to liberate Greece; and is contented to see the Turks, its natural enemies, and the Greeks, its intended slaves, enfeeble The each other, until one or both fall into its net. wise and generous policy of England would have consisted in establishing the independence of Greece and in maintaining it both against Russia and the Turk-but when was the oppressor generous or just?
The Spanish Peninsula is already free. France is tranquil in the enjoyment of a partial exemption from the abuses which its unnatural and feeble government is vainly attempting to revive. The seed of blood and misery has been sown in Italy, and a more vigorous race is arising to go forth to the harvest. The world waits only the news of a revolution of Germany, to see the tyrants who have pinnacled themselves on its supineness precipitated into the ruin from which they shall never arise. Well do these destroyers of mankind know their enemy, when they impute the insurrection in Greece to the same spirit before which they tremble throughout the rest of Europe; and that enemy well knows the power and cunning of its opponents, and watches the moment of their approaching weakness and inevitable division, to wrest the bloody sceptres from their grasp.
Its unwearied wings could fan
It lived; and lit from land to land
From the West swift Freedom came,
Against the course of Heaven and doom
A second sun array'd in flame;
In the mountain cedar's hair,
Of her wings through the wild air,
And in the naked lightnings
Of truth they purge their dazzled eyes.
Let the beautiful and the brave
With the gifts of gladness Greece did thy cradle strew.
With the tears of sadness
Greece did thy shroud bedew.
With an orphan's affection
She follow'd thy bier through time;
And at thy resurrection Reappeareth, like thou, sublime!
If Heaven should resume thee,
If Hell should entomb thee;
To Hell shall her high hearts bend.
*Milan was the centre of the resistance of the Lombard
league against the Austrian tyrant. Frederic Barbarossa burnt the city to the ground, but liberty lived in its ashes, and it rose like an exhalation from its ruin.-See Sis. MONDI's "Histoires des Républiques Italiennes," a book which has done much towards awakening the Italians to an imitation of their great ancestors.
The times do cast strange shadows
On those who watch and who must rule their course, Lest they, being first in peril as in glory,
Be whelm'd in the fierce ebb:-and these are of them. Thrice has a gloomy vision haunted me
As thus from sleep into the troubled day;
It shakes me as the tempest shakes the sea,
Leaving no figure upon memory's glass.
Would that no matter. Thou didst say thou knewest A Jew, whose spirit is a chronicle
Of strange and secret and forgotten things.
I bade thee summon him:-'tis said his tribe
The Jew of whom I spake is old.-so old
To the winter wind:-but from his eye looks forth
Over those strong and secret things and thoughts Which others fear and know not.
I would talk
With this old Jew.
Thy will is even now
Made known to him, where he dwells in a sea-cavern 'Mid the Demonesi, less accessible
Than thou or God! He who would question him
Through the soft twilight to the Bosphorus:
The Jew appears. Few dare, and few who dare,
Evil, doubtless.; like all human sounds. Let me converse with spirits.
That shout again!~
This Jew whom thou hast summon'd
And Death's dark chasm hurrying to and fro, Clothe their unceasing flight
In the brief dust and light Gather'd around their chariots as they go. New shapes they still may weave, New Gods, new laws receive; Bright or dim are they, as the robes they last On Death's bare ribs had cast.
A power from the unknown God;
The thorns of death and shame.
Which the orient planet animates with light;
Like blood-hounds mild and tame,
Nor prey'd until their lord had taken flight. The moon of Mahomet
Arose, and it shall set:
While blazon'd as on Heaven's immortal noon The cross leads generations on.
Swift as the radiant shapes of sleep
From one whose dreams are paradise, Fly when the fond wretch wakes to weep, And day peers forth with her blank eyes! So fleet, so faint, so fair,
The powers of earth and air
Fled from the folding-star of Bethlehem:
Apollo, Pan, and Love,
And even Olympian Jove
Grew weak, for killing Truth had glared on them Our hills, and seas, and streams,
Dispeopled of their dreams,
Their waters turn'd to blood, their dew to tears,
Wail'd for the golden years.
Enter MAHMUD, HASSAN, DAOOD, and others.
Will be here- More gold? our ancestors bought gold with victory And shall I sell it for defeat?
[Exeunt severally. or less exalted existence, according to the degree of perfection
Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
From creation to decay,
Sparkling, bursting, borne away;
• The popular notions of Christianity are represented in this chorus as true in their relation to the worship they superseded, and that which in all probability they will supersede, without considering their merits in a relation more universal. The first stanza contrasts the immortality of the living and thinking beings which inhabit the planets, and, to use a common and inadequate phrase, clothe themselves in matter, with the transience of the noblest manifestations of the external world.
The concluding verse indicates a progressive state of more
which every distinct intelligence may have attained. Let it not be supposed that I mean to dogmatize upon a subject concerning which all men are equally ignorant, or that I think the Gordian knot of the origin of evil can be disentangled by that or any similar assertions. The received hypothesis of a Being resembling men in the moral attributes of his nature, having called us out of non-existence, and after inflicting on us the misery of the commission of error, should superadd that of the punishment and the privations consequent upon it, still would remain inexplicable and incredible. That there is a true solution of the riddle, and that in our present state that solution is unattainable by us, are propositions which may be regarded as equally certain; meanwhile, as it is the province of the poet to attach himself to those ideas which exalt and ennoble humanity, let him be permitted to have conjectured the condition of that futurity towards which we are all impelled by an inextinguishable thirst for immortality. Until better arguments can be produced than sophisms which disgrace the cause, this desire itself must remain the strongest and the only presumption that eter nity is the inheritance of every thinking being.
Whose shrieks and spasms and tears they may enjoy? If night is mute, yet the returning sun
No infidel children to impale on spears?
No hoary priests after that patriarch*
Who bent the curse against his country's heart, Which clove his own at last? Go! bid them kill: Blood is the seed of gold.
It has been sown,
And yet the harvest to the sickle-men Is as a grain to each.
Then, take this signet: Unlock the seventh chamber, in which lie The treasures of victorious Solyman. An empire's spoils stored for a day of ruinO spirit of my sires! is it not come? The prey-birds and the wolves are gorged and sleep, But these, who spread their feast on the red earth, Hunger for gold, which fills not.-See them fed; Then lead them to the rivers of fresh death.
Oh! miserable dawn, after a night
When the orient moon of Islam roll'd in triumph
The lamp of our dominion still rides high;
Throng, like full clouds at the Sirocco's cry,
The Greek Patriarch, after having been compelled to fulminate an anathema against the insurgents, was put to death by the Turks.
Fortunately the Greeks have been taught that they cannot buy security by degradation, and the Turks, though equally cruel, are less cunning than the smooth-faced tyrants of Europe. As to the anathema, his Holiness might as well have thrown his mitre at Mount Athos, for any effect that it produced. The chiefs of the Greeks are almost all men of comprehension and
enlightened views on religion and politics.
Kindles the voices of the morning birds;
To stoop upon the victor-for she fears
Our forts defy assaults; ten thousand cannon
Swift in wide troops the Tartar chivalry
We have one God, one King, one Hope, one Law
Proud words, when deeds come short, are seasonable
Which leads the rear of the departing day,