Imágenes de páginas

kneels to receive, the child to give the blow; but by a pow. erful working of nature, the son falls into the embraces of his mother, wholly disarmed. They rise together, and Hamlet, unable to execute his purpose, rushes away, exclaiming, “ The wife has killed her husband, and my father, it is true; but the mother must not be murdered by the son.”

The fate of this unhappy princess is, with more natural justice, consigned, by the Austrian bard, to the hand of her lover, the guilty Clodius, who, failing in the attempt to destroy Hamlet, is himself stabbed by that prince, and the piece concludes with Hamlet's resolution to prefer life to death for the sake of virtue and the good of his subjects.




ÆSCHYLUS. Æschylus, an Athenan tragic poet, was born in the village of Eleusis, cotemporary with Pindar, in the sixty-ninth Olympiad, according to the old scholiast, but as Mr. Stanley, in his most accurate edition of this author, makes out, by dili. gent computation, and his collection out of Mr. Seldon's Marmora Arundetiana, in the sixty-third : the son of Euphorion, and brother of Cynegyrus and Aminias, who signalised themselves in the battle of Marathon, and the sea. fight of Salamis, in which our poet also was present. Of sixty-six dramas which he wrote, (being victor in thirteen,) and five satires, we have extant only seven tragedies : his Prometheus Vinctus, his Septem Duces contra Thebas, Agamemnon, Perse, Eumenides, Chophori, Supplices. But though he was victor thirteen times, yet it is said, he took it so to heart to be vanquished by Sophocles, then a young man, that he left his country, and betook himself to Hiero, king of Sicily, where he made his tragedy, Ætna ; so called from the city of that name, which Hiero was then building; so named from the mountain. Others say, it was because he was vanquished by Simonides, in his elegiac verse, upon the slain at Marathon. After he had been resident at Gela three years, he died of a fracture of the skull, caused by an eagle's letting fall a shell-fish out of his claw upon his bald head, which seerns to have been portended by the Oracle, which, being consulted upon the manner of his

death, answered, 'Oupávioy oè Béros XotAXTAVēI, this happened in the sixty-ninth year of his age, according to Stanley.

He is mentioned by Horace as the first that beautified and adorned the stage.

Next Æschylus the different persons plac'd,
And with a better masque his players grac'd :
Upon a theatre his verse express'd,
And show'd his hero with a buskin dress'd.

Boileau's Art of Poetry, p. 33. Rimer says, that at Athens (they tell us the tragedies of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, were enrolled with their laws, and made a part of their statute-book. Rim. Short View of Tragedy, p. 158.

Dryden tells us, that the poet Æschylus was held in the same veneration by the Athenians of after ages as Shakspeare is with us; and Longinus has judged in favour of him, that he had a noble boldness of expression, and that his imaginations were lofty and heroic; but, on the other side, Quintilian affirms, that he was daring to extravagance. It is certain, says Dryden, that he affected pompous words, and that his sense too often was obscured by figures; but, notwithstanding these imperfections, the value of his writings after his decease was such, that his countrymen or. dained an equal reward to those poets who could alter his plays to be acted on the theatre, with those whose produce tions were wholly new, and of their own.

Æschylus wrote nothing in cold blood, but was always in a rapture, and in fury with his audience: the inspiration was still upon him, he was ever tearing it upon the tripos; or (to run off as madly as he does from one similitude to another) he was always at high flood of passion, even in the dead ebb, and lowest water-mark of the scene. Dryd. Pref. to Troilus and Cressida.

Rapin remarks, that Æschylus had scarce any principle for manners, and for the decencies; his fables are too simple, the contrivance wretched, the expression obscure and intricate; one can scarce understand any thing of his tragedy of Agamemnon. But because he believed that the secret of the theatre is to speak pompously, he bestowed all his art on the words, without any regard to the thoughts. Quintilian says, that he is sublime and lofty to extravagance. Indeed, says

Rapin, he neyer, speaks in cold blood, and says the most indifferent things in a tragic huff: likewise, in the images that he draws, the colours are too glaring, and the strokes too gross. He who writes his life relates, that in one of the choruses of his tragedy of the Eumenides, he so horribly frightened the audience that the spectacle made the children swoon, and the women with child miscarry. To conclude, his enthusiasm, it seems, never left him, he is so exalted, and so liltle natural, Rap. Reflect. on Aristotle's Book of Poesie, .. part 2, sec. Xxii.

Borrichius observes, that Æschylus was very full of his metaphors, which indeed deserve our praise; but yet he says, they had been much more commendable, if he had not broke off so abruptly in them.

He also takes notice, that his epithets are for the most part bold and daring, and too much savouring of his former profession, that of a soldier. Borrich. Dissert, de Poetis, p. 29.

The author of the Journal des Scavans says, that Æschylus is a poet so hard to be understood, that even Salmasius, who was an excellent critic, and whose chief delight lay in clearing the difficult places of the most abstruse authors, was mightily puzzled and perplexed at the difficulties he met - with in Æschylus: which gave him occasion, in one of his

books, to say, that this poet is more obscure than the scrip ture itself

The same author of the Journal observes, that Æschylus, 'in his style, flies so very high, and uses such lofty expres. sions, that Monsieur le Fevre, in his abridgment of the lives of the Greek poets, affirms this to be the only reason of his having the reputation of a drunkard; as if his discourse seemed rather to proceed from the fumes of wine than from solid reason. But to conclude, our author tells us, there are very fine and curious things to be found in this poet, and that among all the ancient tragic poets the Greeks had the greatest value for him. Gallio's Jour. des Scav. du 2 Mars, 1665.

Ælian, in his Various History, relates, that Æschylus, being accused for some impiety in one of his plays, was condemned to be stoned. Whereupon his younger brother, Aminias, shewing his arm without a hand, which he had lost in the battle at Salamis, did so far influence the judges, that

in a grateful memory of his good services, they presently ordered Æschylus to be dismissed. Ælian, lib. 5, cap. xix.

ANACREON. Anacreon was born in Teos, a place in the middle of Ionia. He flourished in the sixty-first and sixty-second Olympiad, as Eusebius and Suidas affirm. He was one of the nine lyrics; and both in his writings and whole manner of life a merry Greek, wanton and amorous. He was very intimate with Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos; whom he also celebrates in his verses. Though aged, he fell in love with Bathyllus, a young boy, of whose hard-heartedness he complains. He wrote in the lonic dialect.

Several of his poems are yet extant, most whereof consist of drunken catches, billets doux, &c.;

Monsieur Bayle says, that Sappho and Anacreon are so very much alike in their humours, and their way of writing, that it is somewhat difficult to distinguish the one from the other. " 'Tis pity," says he,“ that they were not cotemporaries : for if they had, they ought to have been husband and wife, that so the world might have seen the effect of two such amorous and delicate souls.” Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, Nov. 1684.

Julius Scaliger had so high a value for this poet, that he tells us, he thought Anacreon's verses sweeter than the best Indian sugar. Lib. I, cap. 44. Poëtices.

Ælian, in his Various History, tells us, that Hipparchus, eldest son of Pisistratus, and the wisest of all the Athenians, did so highly esteem Anacreon, that he sent a galley of fifty pars to him, with the most obliging letters in the world, to invite him to Athens. Lib. 8, cap. 2.

Gerardus Johannes Vossius, in his Institutionum Poeticarum, lib. 3, page 78, assures us, that Anacreon passed amongst the Greeks for one of the greatest masters, both in the art of complaisance, and in the softness of expression.

Mademoiselle le Fevre, in the Preface to her curious edition of Anacreon, says, that his beauty, and chiefest excellency lay in imitating Nature, and in following reason; that he presented not to the mind, any images but such as were noble and natural; and that he always took great care to avoid the points, which were introduced in the latter times, contrary to the practice of all the best ancient poets,

Athenæus, that famous ancient critic, in his Dipnophist, remarks, that, notwithstanding the beauty of Ana. Creon's verse, yet every body could not relish him, for that his odes were no other than drunken catches; and that at the same time he commended drunkenness, he would often be so very obscene, that he was not to be endured by the virtuous part of mankind

He further adds, that Anacreon had one humour very ria diculous, which was, that if by great chance it happened, he was sober at the time he composed his verses, yet, though there was no occasion for it, he would be sure to feign him self drunk.

Rapin' tells us, that Anacreon's Odes are flowers, beauties, and perpetual graces; and that it is so familiar to him to write what is natural and to the life, he traving an air so'delicate, so easy, and so graceful, that among all the Ancients there is nothing comparable to the method' he took, nor to that kind of writing he followed. Rap, Reflex. on Aristotle's Treat. of Poesie, Part 2, séc. XXX.

Anacreon, in the eighty-fifth year of his age; was choaked with a grape stone. Which gave occasion to Abraham Cowtey, to exercise his wit in the following lines :

And whilst I do thưs discover
Th' ingredients of a happy lover,
'Tis, my Anacreon, for thy sake,
I of the grape no mention inake.
Til my Anacreon by thee fell,
Cursed plant, I lov'd'thee well;
And 'twas oft my wántod use
To dip my arrows in thy juice.. .
Cursed plant, 'tis true I see,
The old report that goes of thee,
That with giant's Mood the earth,
Stain'd and poison'd, gave thee birth,
And now thou wreak'st thy ancient spite
On men in whom the gods delight.

Cowley's Elegy upon Anacreon.

APPOLLONIUS RHODIUS. He was Callimachus' scholar, although Alexandria was his country, yét he was called Rhodius, after he came from Alexandria to Rhode, and lived there a long time in great honour. Some tell us, that he succeeded Eratosthenes as library-keeper at Alexandria, in the reign of Ptolemy Evergetés.

« AnteriorContinuar »