« AnteriorContinuar »
With aught officious aid would bring to quell it.
Ay, for a kingdom's.
I understand you, now.
And blame me?
NoLet me but fire the pile, and share it with you. Myr. That duty's mine. Pan.
Sar. Too many far have heralded Me to the dust, already. Get thee hence; Enrich thee.
And live wretched!
Sar. Thy vow: 'tis sacred and irrevocable. Pan. Since it is so, farewell. Sar. Search well my chamber, Feel no remorse at bearing off the gold; Remember, what you leave you leave the slaves Who slew me: and when you have borne away All safe off to your boats, blow one long blast Upon the trumpet as you quit the palace. The river's brink is too remote, its stream Too loud at present to permit the echo To reach distinctly from its banks. Then fly,And as you sail, turn back; but still keep on Your way along the Euphrates: if you reach The land of Paphlagonia, where the queen Is safe with my three sons in Cotta's court, Say what you saw at parting, and request That she remember what I said at one Parting more mournful still.
Pan. That royal hand! Let me then once more press it to my lips; And these poor soldiers who throng round you, and Would fain die with you!
[The Soldiers and PANIA throng round him, kissing his hand and the hem of his robe. Sar. My best! my last friends! Let's not unman each other-part at once: All farewells should be sudden, when for ever, Else they make an eternity of moments, And clog the last sad sands of life with tears. Hence, and be happy: trust me, I am not Now to be pitied; or far more for what Is past than present; - for the future, 'tis In the hands of the deities, if such There be I shall know soon. Farewell - - Farewell. [Exeunt PANIA and Soldiers.
Myr. These men were honest: it is comfort still That our last looks should be on loving faces.
Sar. And lovely ones, my beautiful!—but hear me !
If at this moment,-for we now are on
Myr. Shall I light One of the torches which lie heap'd beneath The ever-burning lamp that burns without, Before Baal's shrine, in the adjoining hall? Sar. Do so. Is that thy answer? Myr.
Thou shalt see.
As ye bequeath'd it, this bright part of it,
Of arms, and records, monuments, and spoils,
To you in that absorbing element,
And then a mount of ashes, but a light
To lesson ages, rebel nations, and
A people's records, and a hero's acts;
Is for the excellent Beleses.
The one Is a mere soldier, a mere tool, a kind Of human sword in a friend's hand; the other Is master-mover of his warlike puppet: But I dismiss them from my mind. - - Yet My Myrrha! dost thou truly follow me, Freely and fearlessly?
"And what is there "An Indian widow dares for custom, which A Greek girl dare not do for love?"— MS.]
2 [These lines are in bad taste enough, from the jingle between kings and kine, down to the absurdity of believing that Sardanapalus at such a moment would be likely to discuss a point of antiquarian curiosity. But they involve also an anachronism, inasmuch as, whatever date be assigned to the erection of the earlier pyramids, there can be no reason for apprehending that, at the fall of Nineveh, and while the kingdom and hierarchy of Egypt subsisted in their full splendour, the destination of those immense fabrics could have been a matter of doubt to any who might inquire concerning them. Herodotus, three hundred years later, may have been misinformed of these points; but, when Sardanapalus lived, the erection of pyramids must, in all probability, have not been still of unfrequent occurrence, and the nature of their contents no subject of mistake or mystery.. - HEBER.]
3 [Here an anonymous critic suspects Lord Byron of having read old Fuller, who says, in his quaint way, "the pyramids, doting with age, have forgotten the names of their founders."]
[In" Sardanapalas" Lord Byron has been far more for. tunate than in the" Doge of Venice," inasmuch as his subject is one eminently adapted not only to tragedy in general, but to that peculiar kind of tragedy which Lord Byron is anxious to recommend. The history of the last of the Assyrian kings is at once sufficiently well known to awaken that previous interest which belongs to illustrious names and early associations; and sufficiently remote and obscure to admit of any modification of incident or character which a poet may find convenient. All that we know of Nineveh and its sovereigns is majestic, indistinct, and mysterious. We read of an extensive and civilised monarchy erected in the ages immediately succeeding the deluge, and existing in full might and majesty while the shores of Greece and Italy were unoccupied, except by roving savages. We read of an empire whose influence extended from Samarcand to Troy, and from the mountains of Judah to those of Caucasus, subverted, after a continuance of thirteen hundred years, and a dynasty of thirty generations, in an almost incredibly short space of time, less by the revolt of two provinces than by the anger of Heaven and the predicted fury of natural and inanimate agents. And the influence which both the conquests and the misfortunes of Assyria appear to have exerted over the fates of the people for whom, of all others in ancient history, our strongest teelings are (from religious motives) interested, throws a sort of sacred pomp over the greatness and the crimes of the descendants of Nimrod, and a reverence which no other equally remote portion of profane history is likely to obtain with us. At the same time, all which we know is so brief, so general, and so disjointed, that we have few of those preconceived notions of the persons and facts represented which in classical dramas, if servilely followed, destroy the interest, and if rashly departed from offend the prejudices, of the reader or the auditor. An outline is given of the most majestic kind; but it is an outline only, which the poet may fill
Be for their monarch, or their ox-god Apis: So much for monuments that have forgotten Their very record 13
ACT V. SCENE I.
Was for thee, my last thoughts, save one, were of thee!
Sar. Myr. Sar.
[The trumpet of PANIA sounds without.
I loved thee well, my own, my fathers' land,
Now, Myrrha !
Art thou ready?
[MYRRHA fires the pile. Myr. 'Tis fired! I come. [As MYRRHA Springs forward to throw herself into the flames, the Curtain falls. ✦
up at pleasure; and in ascribing, as Lord Byron has done for the sake of his favourite unities, the destruction of the Assyrian empire to the treason of one night, instead of the war of several years, he has neither shocked our better knowledge, nor incurred any conspicuous improbability.... Still, however, the developement of Sardanapalus's character is incidental only to the plot of Lord Byron's drama, and though the unities have contined his picture within far narrower limits than he might otherwise have thought advisable, the character is admirably sketched; nor is there any one of the portraits of this great master which gives us a more favourable opinion of his talents, his force of conception, his delicacy and vigour of touch, or the richness and harmony of his colouring. He had, indeed, no unfavourable groundwork, even in the few hints supplied by the ancient historians, as to the conduct and history of the last and most unfortunate of the line of Belus. Though accused (whether truly or falsely). by his triumphant enemies, of the most revolting vices, and an effeminacy even beyond what might be expected from the last dregs of Asiatic despotism, we find Sardanapalus, when roused by the approach of danger, conducting his armies with a courage, a skill, and, for some time at least, with a success not inferior to those of his most warlike ancestors. We find him retaining to the last the fidelity of his most trusted servants, his nearest kindred, and no small propor tion of his hardiest subjects. We see him providing for the safety of his wife, his children, and his capital city, with all the calmness and prudence of an experienced captain. We see him at length subdued, not by man, but by Heaven and the elements, and seeking his death with a mixture of heroism and ferocity which little accords with our notions of a weak or utterly degraded character. And even the strange story, variously told, and without further explanation scarcely intelligible, which represents him as building (or fortifying) two cities in a single day, and then deforming his exploits with an indecent image and inscription, would seem to imply a mixture of energy with his folly not impossible, perhaps, to the madness of absolute power, and which may lead us to impute his fall less to weakness than to an injudicious and ostentatious contempt of the opinions and prejudices of man. kind. Such a character, luxurious, energetic, misanthro. pical, affords, beyond a doubt, no common advantages to the work of poetic delineation; and it is precisely the character which Lord Byron most delights to draw, and which he has succeeded best in drawing. - HEDER.
I remember Lord Byron's mentioning, that the story of Sardanapalus had been working in his brain for seven years before he commenced it. TRELAWNEY.
The following is an extract from The Life of Dr. Parr: "In the course of the evening the Doctor cried out Have you read Sardanapalus? Yes, Sir?'-Right; and you could n't sleep a wink after it?'No.'-Right, rightnow don't say a word more about it to-night. The memory of that fine poem seemed to act like a spell of horrible fascination upon him."]
The Two Foscari:
AN HISTORICAL TRAGEDY.'
The father softens, but the governor's resolved. - CRITIC.
FRANCIS FOSCARI, Doge of Venice.
"The Two Foscari" was composed at Ravenna, between the 11th of June and the 10th of July, 1821, and published with Sardanapalus "in the following December. "The Venetian story," writes Lord Byron to Mr. Murray, "is strictly historical. I am much mortified that Gifford don't take to my new dramas. To be sure, they are as opposite to the English drama as one thing can be to another; but I have a notion that, if understood, they will, in time, find favour (though not on the stage) with the reader. The simplicity of plot is intentional, and the avoidance of rant also, as also the compression of the speeches in the more severe situations. What I seek to show in the Foscaris' is the suppressed passions rather than the rant of the present day. For that matterNay, if thou 'lt mouth, I'll rant as well as thou—'
Lor. The hour's past-fix'd yesterday For the resumption of his trial.-Let us Rejoin our colleagues in the council, and Urge his recall.
Nay, let him profit by A few brief minutes for his tortured limbs ; He was o'erwrought by the Question yesterday, And may die under it if now repeated.
Bar. I yield not to you in love of justice, Or hate of the ambitious Foscari, Father and son, and all their noxious race; But the poor wretch has suffer'd beyond nature's Most stoical endurance.
We shall see.
Lor. When they are Extinct, you may say this. —Let's in to council. Bar. Yet pause-the number of our colleagues
is not Complete yet; two are wanting ere we can Proceed.
Lor. And the chief judge, the Dǝge?
from an unconquerable longing after his own country. Now, the only way to have made this sentiment palatable, the practicable foundation of stupendous sufferings, would have been, to have presented him to the audience, wearing out his heart in exile, and forming his resolution to return, at a distance from his country, or hovering, in excruciating suspense, within sight of its borders. We might then have caught some glimpse of the nature of his motives, and of so extraordinary a character. But as this would have been contrary to one of the unities, we first meet with him led from "the Question," and afterwards taken back to it in the Ducal Palace, or clinging to the dungeon-walls of his native city, and expiring from his dread of leaving them; and therefore feel more wonder than sympathy, when we are told, that these agonising consequences have resulted, not from guilt or disaster, but merely from the intensity of his love for his country. - JEFFREY.]
3 [The character of Loredano is well conceived and truly tragic. The deep and settled principle of hatred which animates him, and which impels him to the commission of the most atrocious cruelties, may seem, at first, unnatural and overstrained. But not only is it historically true; but, when the cause of that hatred (the supposed murder of his father and uncles), and when the atrocious maxims of Italian revenge, and that habitual contempt of all the milder feelings are taken into consideration which constituted the glory of a Venetian patriot, we may conceive how such a principle might be not only avowed but exulted in by a Venetian who regarded the house of Foscari as, at once, the enemies of his family and his country. HEBER.]
It begins to work, then. Bar. The work is half your own. Lor. And should be all mineMy father and my uncle are no more. Bar. I have read their epitaph, which says they died By poison. I
The brothers sicken'd shortly: he is sovereign.
Bar. A wretched one.
Bar. What solid proofs ?
When princes set themselves
What should they be who make
Of the first, as shall make the second needless.
Bar. But you will move by law?
Which he would leave us.
By all the laws
Bur. They are such in this Our state as render retribution easier Than 'mongst remoter nations. Is it true That you have written in your books of commerce, (The wealthy practice of our highest nobles) "Doge Foscari, my debtor for the deaths Of Marco and Pietro Loredano,
My sire and uncle ? "
It is written thus. Bar. And will you leave it unerased? Lor.
Bar. And how?
[Two Senators pass over the stage, as in their way to "the Hall of the Council of Ten." Lor. You see the number is complete. Follow me. [Exit LOREDANO. Bar. (solus). Follow thee! I have follow'd long? Thy path of desolation, as the wave Sweeps after that before it, alike whelming The wreck that creaks to the wild winds, and wretch Who shrieks within its riven ribs, as gush The waters through them; but this son and sire Might move the elements to pause, and yet Must I on hardily like them-Oh! would I could as blindly and remorselessly!Lo, where he comes !-Be still, my heart! they are
["Veneno sublatus." The tomb is in the church of Santa Elena.]
[Loredano is accompanied, upon all emergencies, by a senator called Barbarigo-a sort of confidant or chorus who comes for no end that we can discover, but to twit him with conscientious cavils and objections, and then to se
Enter Guards, with young FOSCARI as prisoner, &c.
Signor, take time. Jac. Fos.
I thank thee, friend, I'm feeble; But thou may'st stand reproved.
I'll stand the hazard. Jac. Fos. That 's kind: - I meet some pity, but no
mercy; This is the first. Guard.
And might be last, did they
Who rule behold us.
[does: Bar. (advancing to the Guard). There is one who Yet fear not; I will neither be thy judge Nor thy accuser: though the hour is past, Wait their last summons- -I am of "the Ten," And waiting for that summons, sanction you Even by my presence: when the last call sounds, We'll in together.-Look well to the prisoner! [Ah!
Jac. Fos. What voice is that?-'Tis Barbarigo's! Our house's foe, and one of my few judges.
Bar. To balance such a foe, if such there be, Thy father sits amongst thy judges.
Jac. Fos. He judges. Bar. Then deem not the laws too harsh Which yield so much indulgence to a sire As to allow his voice in such high matter As the state's safety Jac. Fos. And his son's. I'm faint; Let me approach, I pray you, for a breath Of air, yon window which o'erlooks the waters.
Jac. Fos. Limbs! how often have they borne me Bounding o'er yon blue tide, as I have skimm'd The gondola along in childish race,
And, masqued as a young gondolier, amidst
Raced for our pleasure, in the pride of strength;
cond him by his personal countenance and authority. — JEFFREY.]
[Loredano is the only personage above mediocrity. The remaining characters are all unnatural, or feeble. Barbarigo is as tame and insignificant a confidant as ever swept after the train of his principal over the Parisian stage. — HEBER.]
The waves as they arose, and prouder still
Guard. Be a man now: there never was more need
Guard. I see the colour comes Back to your cheek: Heaven send you strength to bear What more may be imposed! I dread to think on't. Jac. Fos. They will not banish me again ?—No-no. Let them wring on; I am strong yet.
And the rack will be spared you.
Jac. Fos. The soil!-Oh no, it is the seed of the
Enter an Officer.
Offi. Bring in the prisoner!
You! you are he
As you please, signor;
[This speech of Jacopo from the window, while describing the amusements of his youth, is written with a full feeling of the objects which it paints. -HEBER.]
And the hero himself, what is he? If there ever existed in nature a case so extraordinary as that of a man who gravely preferred tortures and a dungeon at home, to a temporary residence in a beautiful island and a fine climate, at the distance of three days' sail, it is what few can be made to believe, and still fewer to sympathise with; and which is, therefore, no very promising subject for dramatic representation. For ourselves, we have little doubt that Foscari wrote the fatal letter with the view, which was imputed to him by his accusers, of obtaining an honourable recall from banishment, through foreign influence; and that the colour which, when detected, he endeavoured to give to the transaction,
With his wonted aspect.
Jac. Fos. So does the earth, and sky, the blue of ocean,
The brightness of our city, and her domes,
Its merry hum of nations pierces here,
[Exeunt JACOPO FOSCARI, Officer, &c. Enter MEMMO and another Senator. Mem. He's gone-we are too late:"the Ten Will sit for any length of time to day?
Sen. They say the prisoner is most obdurate,
Of yon terrific chamber are as hidden
And that is much; the secrets
Sen. Save the wonted rumours, Which-like the tales of spectres, that are rife Near ruin'd buildings-never have been proved, Nor wholly disbelieved: men know as little Of the state's real acts as of the grave's Unfathom'd mysteries.
Mem. But with length of time We gain a step in knowledge, and I look Forward to be one day of the decemvirs. Sen. Or Doge ?
I leave it; though born noble, my ambition Is limited: I'd rather be an unit
Why, no; not if I can avoid it. Sen. 'Tis the first station of the state, and may Be lawfully desired, and lawfully Attain'd by noble aspirants.
was the evasion of a drowning man, who is reduced to catch at straws and shadows. But, if Lord Byron chose to assume this alleged motive of his conduct as the real one, it behoved him, at least, to set before our eyes the intolerable separation from a beloved country, the lingering home-sickness, the gradual alienation of intellect, and the fruitless hope that his enemies had at length relented, which were necessary to produce a conduct so contrary to all usual principles of action as that which again consigned him to the racks and dungeons of his own country. He should have shown him to us, first, taking leave of Venice, a condemned and banished man; next pining in Candia; next tampering with the agents of government; by which time, and not till then, we should have been prepared to listen with patience to his complaints, and to witness his sufferings with interest as well as horror. HEBER.]