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can be believed to pass in three hours. The mind revolts from evident falsehood, and fiction loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality." But the same sagacious critic truly denies that any representation is mistaken for reality; that any dramatic fable in its materiality was ever credible, or, for a single moment was ever credited." To this reasoning we perfectly assent, and where a tragedy is not written for representation, as from appearances we may presume to be the case in this instance, it possesses additional cogency. But the objection is of another sort, where the time in which the drama itself supposes the events to have happened, is such as can by no possible effort of imagination be made to square with their accomplishment. The piece before us has aimed at satisfying what is called the unity of time, by a violent compression of the incidents of the story into the compass of a day, in contempt of history and probability.
The great fault that we find with this poem is simply this,― that it is not poetry. It is only in name any thing but the dullest prose. To pick out passages for the purpose of verifying this remark, can be to us no agreeable task; and if we produce one or two for our own justification, we will not do it without freely and cheerfully acknowledging that the poetical character of this writer is so deservedly high as to afford the great expence which his reputation has incurred by the volume before us. It is not a little singular that Lord Byron, who has, if we mistake not, expressed all due contempt for that absurd ambition of simplicity which has sunk poetry below the standard of conversation, should, on this occasion, have retrograded into the flattest province of prose, and outstripped all competition in the race of deteriority. We have always, indeed, been presumptuous enough to doubt the correctness of his lordship's poetical ear. He is deficient in delicacy of perception, and fineness of Some conceit about varying the cadence, and dissipating the monotony of blank verse, has induced him so to fritter and torment it, so to break up its continuity, by the interruptions and subdivisions of the dialogue, that if, metrically and mechanically speaking, it may be denominated verse, it is absolutely devoid of all pretensions to rhythm, or that stately modulation which belongs to the proper structure of this solemn measure. His lordship has a singular predilection for a pronoun, or other familiar monosyllable, at the end of his line; and particularly the capital I is so frequently found in that place, that it seems as if its columnal shape recommended it as a proper terminus. Take a specimen, which we find on a casual opening of the book. An affray takes place between Salamenes and Arbaces in the palace, and in the monarch's presence.
In my very palace!
What hinders me from cleaving you in twain, s
Sire, your justice.
Strike! So the blow's repeated
Sard. (raising the sword). How?
"Upon yon traitor-whom you spare a moment,
I trust, for torture-I'm content.
Prince, you forget yourself. Upon what warrant ?
Sal. Yes! and let the king confirm it.
Sard. I parted not from this for such a purpose.
Employ'd it for the best. Pronounce in person.
I was your representative.
[Arbaces and Salemenes return their swords to the scabbards. Sal. Mine's sheathed: I pray you sheath not yours
'Tis the sole scept e left you now with safety.
Sard. A heavy one; the hilt, too, hurts my hand.
(Toa Guard.) Here, fellow, take thy weapon back. Well, sirs, What doth this mean?
The prince must answer that.
Sal. Truth upon my part, treason upon theirs.
What does the reader think of the above lines, as exhibiting the dialogue of men with their swords drawn upon each other? Again we open the book at hazard, and we find the respectable Salamenes thus describing the retreat of Semiramis from India: Wherefore not?
Sard. 'Tis most true. And how return'd?
Not vanquish'd. With but twenty guards, she made
The dialogue between two conspirators, high in office, against the greatest potentate of the earth, till it is interrupted on the sudden by an unexpected message from the king, proceeds in the following manner. Arbaces has been expectorating some indignant nothings about a soldier's honour; and then observes of Sardanapalus,
"Arb. Methought he look'd like Nimrod as he spoke, Even as the proud imperial statue stands
Looking the monarch of the kings around it,
And sways, while they but ornament, the temple.
Arb. No-but it had been better to have died
Oh, the souls of some men
Thou wouldst digest what some call treason, and
'Twixt thee and Salemenes, thou art turn'd
An hour ago, who dared to term me such
I must forgive you, even as he forgave us―
Bel. No-the queen liked no sharers of the kingdom,
Bel. And humbly?
I must serve him truly—————
No, sir, proudly-being honest.
I shall be nearer thrones than you to heaven;
Right and wrong, which I lack for my direction,
Have you finish'd?
Bel. And would, perhaps, betray as well
As quit me?
That's a sacerdotal thought,
And not a soldier's.
Be it what you will
Truce with these wranglings, and but hear me.
Arb. But this is fill'd.
Thrones hold but one.
With worse than vacancy
A despised monarch. Look to it, Arbaces:
Arb. Your servant!
Depart, and not to bear your answer.
Well, sir, we will accompany you hence.
Pan. I will retire to marshal forth the guard
Your leisure, so that it the hour exceed not." (P. 64-68.)
This poet has a most merciless habit of cutting in twain the sense by the division of his lines. Thus the preposition frequently ends a line, the next beginning with the noun it governs;
of the palace. The behaviour of the father on this occasion was preternaturally severe, not, as it should seem, from want of paternal affection, but from an inflexible spirit of patriotic devotion. When the son threw himself upon his knees, and stretched out his dislocated hands towards his father, to solicit his mediation with the senate, the stern, but unhappy parent, is represented to have answered, "No, my son; respect your sentence, and obey without a murmur." At which words he separated himself from the youth, who was forthwith re-embarked for Candia. Some time after this decree, the real author of the assassination was discovered; but, before any reparation of the injury could be made to the sufferer, he fell a victim to the rigours of incarceration.
The author of these calamities, by which the house of Foscari was overwhelmed, was James Loredan, the descendant of a family, between which, and that of Foscari, there had long existed an unappeasable hostility. The father and uncle of James Loredan, the constant opposers of Francis Foscari, had suddenly died, and their departure happening at a time when their measures had become extremely embarrassing to the old Doge, a suspicion very injurious to his character was endeavoured to be raised by his enemies, and easily found place in the irritated and revengeful mind of James Loredan. He is said to have put down the Doge as his debtor on one side of his ledger, leaving the opposite page blank, for the insertion of the different items of retaliation, until the account of injury should be balanced between them. After the last banishment of his son, the father's mind seems to have been for some time shaken by his misfortunes. His indisposition and absence from the Council gave James Loredan an opportunity of carrying into effect his plans for his deposition; and, after a series of practices and intrigues, he succeeded in persuading the Council to depose the Doge by a formal decree, after some attempts had in vain been made to induce him to make a voluntary resignation. Thus, after having held the sovereignty thirty years, and after having lived through the inhuman usage of his son, which has been recounted, the poor old Doge was dismissed from the palace. It is related that the unhappy old man supported himself with his wonted courage 'till the bell of St. Mark announced to Venice the appointment of his successor. At this afflicting sound his heart gave way; he retired to his chamber, and died on the ensuing morning.
Such is the story of the Two Foscari, as we find it in the extract furnished by Lord Byron in his appendix to his tragedy, from the history of the Republic of Venice, by P. Daru of the French Academy; and of which he has added, in the same place, another account from the history of the Italian Republics