« VorigeDoorgaan »
There is nothing, therefore, to be wondered at or to be explained, respecting our dramatic genius. With the exception of Byron-no living poet acknowledged to possess first-rate powers-Has attempted the dramaand yet they have all eminently succeeded. We say eminently-for Basil, Remorse, the City of the Plague, and the Fall of Jerusalem, affect the mind as strongly as any other modern poetry whatever ; and yet none of them seem to be equal to what the genius of their respective authors might produce. Had all cur great poets tried the drama, and failed in it or had our inferior poets all tried it, and written mere stuff-then there would have been something puzzling in the case, and we should certainly have called on the Schlegels to explain it But, as it is, it so happens that only one poet, deemed great, has written dramas, and very good ones; and several other poets, not deemed great, have also written dramas, and very good ones; and from these premises it does certainly not seem a very lawful deduction, that the present age is unaccountably deficient in dramatic genius.
But the procession of the Misses Molly has past by-and we again look upon men. Now men do not come forward at the Cockney cry. Who demanded Childe Harold? Who were mutinous for Marmion? Who asked for the Scotch Novels, and they came? Who ordered Wordsworth to write his exquisite Lyrical Ballads, and they were written? Their own souls instigated these men to their work. God created these poets-and they were true to their nature. Cockneys also have been created, and they are true to theirs. But it was reserved to the spirit of atheism of an age, to talk of a Cockney writing a tragedy. When the mind ceases to believe in a Providence, it can believe in any thing else; but the pious soul feels that while to dream, even in sleep, that a Cockney had written a successful tragedy, would be repugnant to reason; certainly a more successful comedy could not be imagined, than the utter destruction of Cockaigne and all its inhabitants. An earthquake, or a shower of lava, would be too complimentary to the Cockneys; but what would you think of a shower of soot from a multitude of foul chimneys, and the smell of gas from exploded pipes? Something might
be made of the idea.
The truth is, that, every now and then, some senseless clamour or another, is set up about the state of li- When Byron published his drama terature, and for a time prevails. the Doge-these authors of success"Give us dramas," is now all the ery. ful tragedies, forscoth, and all their At first it was only the cry of the Cockney cronies of the daily or weekly Cockneys; and, indeed, none but press, declared that his Lordship hed Cockneys have bestirred themselves at no dramatic genius-that he never for the cry. But the voice of the town is got himself. They had themselves not the voice of the country. Prigs shewn that it is easy for a man to forwill be preaching and nothing but get himself, and yet be no dramatic conceit cometh out of Cockaigne. What genius. But the truth is, that these an emasculated band of dramatists mongrel and doggrel drivellers have an have deployed upon our boards! A instinctive abhorrence of a true poet; pale-faced, sallow set, like the Misses and they all ran out like so many curs of some Cockney boarding-school, ta- baying at the feet of the Pegasus on king a constitutional walk, to get rid which Byron rode. One kick was of their habits of eating lime out of enough for one critic. What could the wall. Shiel, Howard, Payne, Mol- they know or feel of Manfred, since ly Procter, Virginia Knowles, and that they never saw Kean in that charac
Irish gentleman, who conceived "The ter?-They cannot conceive a drama
acts. My conscience-but there is a
storm-clouds for a
Alps, with Milesian for you with a vengeance! lamps, and an orchestra of cataracts. per as they go! The tear is in every side, and little back-parlour incest, How prettily the sentimentalists sim- and the eulogists of homely, and fireeye, and the drop at every nose! Pray what could they imagine of the unse who is that smock-faced eunuch, min- duceable spirit of the spotless Angiocing his way in the procession?"The lina, happy in the guardian affection of her father's noble friend?-When Elliston, ignorant of what one gentle
author of THE SUCCESSFUL TRAGEDY!!!" We can no more.
lan owes to another, or driven by stuidity to forget it, brought the Doge n the stage, how crowed the Bantam ocks of Cockaigne to see it damned! 'he hen-like cackle of the chickenearted tragedian was heard in pit and allery, and folly shook its bells on he alleged failure of a great genius, a what he had never attempted.
But Manfred and the Doge are not. ead; while all that small fry have isappeared in the mud, and are dried p like so many tadpoles in a ditch, nder the summer drowth.
"Lord Byron," quoth Mr Leigh Hunt," has about as much dramatic enius as OURSELVES!!" He might s well have said, "Lucretia had bout as much chastity as my own heoine in Rimini ;" or, "Sir Philip ydney was about as much of the genleman as myself!"
Now, gentle reader, the hints you ave been perusing about dramatic geius and so forth, were jotted down y us as materials for an introduction o a critique on Lord Byron's new voume. But unluckily for us, and for ur Magazine, Mr Murray has pubished on a most absurd day of the nonth, and we must go to press withut his Lordship. Accordingly, we ave not taken the trouble of writing a egular introduction to a critique which s not to exist; but have merely strung a few thoughts together, of which the reader may make the most he can, though at the same time we are confident that they are extremely shrewd and judicious.
However, though we have not Lord Byron's volume, we have another in hand, which comforts us, in some degree, under the disappointment, and from which we think some extracts may be given, not equal certainly to the best things that may be to be found in the "Mystery," but far above mediocrity, and decisive of this author being a man of talents and of genius; his name is David Lyndsay, and that is all we know of him, except that he once or twice sent us some dramatic sketches for this Magazine.
We write, therefore, now, as indeed always, without fear or favour; and the extracts will speak for themselves. If we were not the most incorruptible of critics, we do not very well know how we should manage with literary men in general. There is scarcely an author of any merit, in any departVOL. X.
ment, who is not a contributor to our Work; but that circumstance has no influence on our judgment; and when a clever contributor writes a bad book, we tell him so without any scruple, not doubting that he will write a good one the next time. At first we gave offence by our candour; and indeed neither Mr Brougham nor Sir James Macintosh have written in this Magazine for some years; but they were so much accustomed to praise themselves in the Edinburgh Review, that our strict justice was not found by them to be palatable-so that they write now, we believe, almost exclusively in that Work, and its illustrious coadjutor, the Morning Chronicle.
The " Dramas of the Ancient World" are not arranged in chronological order, and are entitled, "The Deluge, the Plague of Darkness, the Last Plague, Rizpah, Sardanapalus, the Destiny of Cain, the Death of Cain, and the Nereid's Love."
"The Destiny of Cain," and "The Death of Cain," are, as it were, two parts of one dramatic poem. It opens with a scene in the country at sunrise, where a band of youths and maidens are assembled to watch the great luminary, and to hail its appearance with gratulatory hymns.While these innocent and happy beings are engaged in poetical responses, an alarm is given, and
"A YOUTH enters hastily.
Break off! break off Your sacred ceremonies, holy songs; Descend this mountain, for a stranger step Pollutes its holiness!-A giant form Of demon grandeur doth ascend its steep, With threatening gestures, and with rolling
He hath admitted Death into our world, And his fell arm hath now become the sceptre
Of that grim lord of darkness !-Now he
To curse us with his presence, and to
From our dear hills new victims !-Hence, away!
Hear him not, see him not!-Earth's children, fly
Th' abhorred of his mother;-she who
And groans beneath his tread, th' unnatural son,
The horror-struck, the wand'rer !-Hark!
Shakes, while I pause upon her breast.-
Not here my place of refuge!"
The next scene opens on the coast, and the time is evening; so that the imagination has to feel that Cain had all day long been driven onwards in his frantic career, and from an inland region had reached the sea. Jared, a Patriarch, and his sons and daughters, have just finished their day's la bour, and are about to retire to the well-earned banquet of the night,when the bloody sign that flames the murderer appears, and concealing upon his
doth bear pollution.-Shun it! brow, he entreats permission to rest a while in these fields of peace.
It is Cain the Murderer, and the hymning troop disperse in horror and consternation. Cain, whose doom it is to wander forever over the earth, and to find no rest on its bosom, which quakes and shudders as soon as he pauses in his flight, breaks forth into the following passionate exclamation: "Lonely and sad, one victim. I will on, Pursue, destroy ;-I will walk o'er this earth,
And leave the track of footsteps dyed in
I will sweep off all living from her face,
Fled from my horror-breathing sight, and sought
The bosom of her father.-What is there
What if I spare these gaudy sons of joy,
Blot out remembrance, and softer thoughts
Live with the wanderer Cain. Come, ab-
Wretches, return! provoke me not to tear
Where ye lie crouching! Trust not my fierce hands;
They that spared not a brother, will not pause
To dash your dainty forms against the rocks,
Spoiling the symmetry of those light limbs, And leaving them a bleeding lump of clay, 'Like his who-horrible remembrance, die! Let me a moment rest-one moment stay In these soft groves untortur'd !-Hark! the roar
Of the denying thunder, and the earth
Cain then gives a long and some
Could not behold their fall. But the broad sea!
Than yon devouring wave!
Wilt thou forsake
what heavy narration of all the feel- Oh go not, husband. Man is far less wild ings, and their causes, that at last led him to the murder of Abel. Mr Lyndsay is not so powerful here as he might have been, which we regret, as the subject was a fine one; and failure here awoke a suspicion in us that he was not equal to situations of high and terrible passion; but in some other passages which we shall quote, he redeems himself nobly.
Jared, at the conclusion of Cain's confession, commands the wanderer to leave these happy vales; and Cain's fury being roused by the Patriarch's cruelty, he leaps upon him, and is in the act of rending him to death, when Azura, his long-lost wife, who he thought had forsaken him, but who has been following, in love and sorrow, his haunted flight, rushes on between them, and calms the tempest of her husband's miserable soul. Jared alarms the country; and Cain, who knows that he bears a charmed life, espies a huge tree floating on the sea, and taking Azura in his arms, commits himself to the waves. The conclusion of the first part of the poem, or the "Destiny of Cain," is, though bordering on extravagance, not without sublimity.
Thy husband, for he goes? The elements
I love thee; for, of all of nature's works,
The signal for my flight! and see, where
I weep and pray no longer. Thou hast done
Thy bitterest vengeance. Now, I may defy
Thy lifted arm. Again, so heavily,
During this soliloquy, his son, Irad, wearied of his father's ferocious tyranny, steals upon him, and flings a javelin at his heart. Cain starts up, and a fearful colloquy of recrimination enmurderous son. Irad curses him away sues between the wanderer and his from the city; and while Cain's soul is black with hellish rage, Azazel, one of the fallen angels, rises up before him, to tempt him to deliver up his soul to hell by promise of power over the elements. There is much poetry in this scene, but also much exaggeration; and Azazel is by far. too wordy an orator for an angel; he occasionally renow and then of Dr Chalmers. A few minds us of Dr Hall of Leicester, and strong touches would have produced more effect on Cain than all that pompous and elaborate declamation. Cain resists the tempter, and rushes out, exclaiming,
How his words
Pour overwhelming on my sinking soul, Like cataracts grown mad!—I will not hear!
While reason yet is left ine, let me fly!
Sink at the last! I have no hope, and may
Spare thy unhallow'd triumph!—Smile
The race is still to win !-Oh that thou