« ПретходнаНастави »
TO THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUS",
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.
In vain your guiltlefs laurels stood
War, horrid war, your thoughtful Walks invades,
a Altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buckingham, at whofe defire these two Chorus's were compofed to supply as many wanting in his play. They were fet many years afterward by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckingham-house.
VER. 3. Where heav'nly vifions Plato fir'd, And Epicurus lay infpir'd!] The propriety of thefe lines arifes 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 perfuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Caffius, as being followers of different fects of philofophy.. WARTON.
Oh heav'n-born fifters! fource of art!
When Athens finks by fates unjust,
Till fome new Tyrant lifts his purple hand,
VER. 12. Moral Truth, and myftic Song !] The conftruction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sifters; or does he address himself. to the Mufes, mentioned in the preceding line, and fo make Moral Truth and Myftic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? as Hefiod begins his poem.
Dr. Warburton's propofed correction is not confiftent with either conftruction, when he fays, the poet had expressed himself better had he faid Moral Truth in Myftic Song. Moral Truth, a fingle perfon, can neither be the Heaven-born Sifters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.
Ye Gods! what juftice rules the ball?
Still, when the luft of tyrant pow'r fucceeds,
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 reafons for preferring Horace to Pindar as a lyric poet. Marmontel in his Poetic oppofes him. WARTON.
THESE chorufes are elegant and harmonious; but are they not chargeable with the fault, which Ariftotle 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 είναι τα ὁλ8, 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 philofopher, the practice of Sophocles. Whereas these reflections 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 fufficiently appropriated, do not rife from the fubject and occafion, and might be inferted with equal propriety in twenty other tragedies. This remark of Ariftotle, though he does not himfelf produce any examples, may be verified from the following, among many others. In the Phoenicians of Euripides, they fing a long
and very beautiful, but ill-placed, hymn to Mars; I fpeak of that which bigins fo nobly, ver. 793, σε Ὦ πολύμοχθος Αρης,
"O direful Mars! why art thou ftill delighted with blood and with death, and why an enemy to the feafts of Bacchus ?" And a ftill more glaring inftance may be brought from the end of the third act of the Troades, in which the ftory of Ganymede is introduced not very artificially. To these may be added that exquifite ode in praise of Apollo, defcriptive of his birth and victories, which we find in the Iphigenia in Tauris.
On the other hand, the choruses of Sophocles never defert the fubject of each particular drama, and all their fentiments and re flections are drawn from the fituation of the principal perfonage of the fable. Nay, Sophocles hath artfully found a method of making those poetical defcriptions, with which the chorufes of the ancients abound, carry on the chief defign 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 exhaufted the ftrength and fpirits 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 exquifite 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 fuddenly exclaims,
σε Τις σε, τεκνον,”
"From which, O my fon, of the immortal gods, didft thou fpring? Was it fome nymph, a favourite of Pan, that haunts the mountains; or fome 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,
σε Θεος ναιων επ' ακρων ορέων,” ver. 1118.
a god who dwells on the tops of the mountains, beget you, on any of the nymphs that poffefs Helicon, with whom he frequently fports?"
But what shall we fay to the ftrong objections lately made by fome very able and learned critics to the ufe of the chorus at all?
The critics I have in view, are Metaftafio, Twining, Pye, Colman, and Johnson; who have brought forward fuch powerful arguments against this fo 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 fo earnestly and ele gantly urged on the fubject. WARTON.