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accepts the office of arbitrator offered her by both parties : Apollo and the Furies argue against one another in short speeches : Minerva takes the votes, which come forth equal in number, by which she declares Orestes to be acquitted and absolved from his
He offers up a prayer of thanksgiving, and then quits the stage; while the Furies, indignant at their defeat, complain of the insolence of these younger deities, who thus openly violated the majesty of those of the old Titanian race. Pallas however after a time pacifies them, and the play ends with a solemn procession of men, women, and children, bearing torches, and clothed with purple garments, to conduct the Furies on their way to the nether world.
In our last article, on the Choephorce, we quoted some lines of that play, containing Apollo's injunctions to Orestes to retaliate on his father's murderer, and an awful series of punishments, which he was to inherit in case of disobedience. Had not the Eumenides been preserved, the first lines of the prediction
ούτοι προδώσει Λοξίου μεγασθενής
χρησμός would seem strangely at variance with the conclusion of the drama, where Orestes is represented as suffering under the årn of his mother's blood. Here however we find the fulfilment of the prophecy : Orestes urges in his defence
και τώνδε κοινή Λοξίας επαίτιος
so that the åráotwp dóuwv, which had for so many years occasioned a series of retributive murders in the family of Pelops, was now set at rest for ever. Hence in this play the principle of Destiny is less visible, and becomes incorporated and united with the other great object Æschylus had in view,—the defence of the ancient Areopagitic court against the encroachments of Pericles and Ephialtes. Yet even had this secondary object not existed, it was absolutely necessary that there should be a piece written, which should contain the fulfilment of the prophecies of Apollo, and show in what way the curse was to be expiated.
Besides this, however, a deeper and allegorical meaning seems to be intended here: we can easily recognize, in the character of Pallas, personified Reason; while the Furies may be considered as the passions of the mind, acting in opposition to Apollo the young and bright god, the fit image of the nobler and more refined part of man. When Reason's powerful cooperation is added to the innate mind, so as to illuminate every part of it, we see the man Orestes swayed by its impulse, and freed for ever from the bonds of an hereditary curse, namely the power of Passion, which the unassisted strength of man fails to overcome. Of course we must not p:ess this allegory; but what has been said will suffice to show how much deeper meaning is often conveyed in the poetry of Æschylus, than that which strikes us at the first perusal.
In pursuing the second object we have before spoken of, it must be evident, even to the most cursory reader, what a powerful appeal to the feelings of an Athenian audience the representation of the Eumenides must have been. Nurtured as they were in a deep veneration for everything which bore the stamp of religion, and peculiarly fitted by nature to appreciate and enjoy the connection of religion and poetry, we can easily conceive what effects the grand and solemn poetry of Æschylus must have caused. Yet whatever ebullition the performance of the Oresteia may have occasioned, its effects were certainly transient, and the Areopagus, in the expressive words of Aristotle, was mutilated, and many of its ancient rights curtailed and abolished, Yet as a stage-oration it can hardly be surpassed; and indeed the only play we can put into competition with it in this respect is the Knights of Aristophanes. It must however be taken into consideration, that, in the latter, the abuse of Cleon is the sole object; whereas Æschylus was obliged to incorporate his political sentiments with a previously existing legend.
Our space forbids us to extend these remarks much farther, nor indeed is it in any way necessary. Our chief object has been to show that Æschylus is somewhat more than he appears at first sight, and that those who really have the courage to face boldly the difficulties, arising from the corrupted state of our present text, will be amply repaid for their labour. One thing at least it is fair to demand from those who condemn Æschylus as a bombastic and obscure writer, namely, whether they have done their best to understand him. To few poets will the words of Pindar better apply than to Æschylus
πολλά μοι υπ' αγκώ-
χατίζει. . Olymp. II. 149–154. That he is guilty occasionally of bombast, we do not pretend to deny; but the same charge may be advanced against Pindar: yet he who should set down the glorious odes of the poet of Thebes as turgid pedantry on such grounds as these would assuredly do no honour to his understanding. Yet we find Athenians of the next generation to the heroes cf Marathon and Salamis accusing him of the same fault,* and we can hardly wonder if, at this remote period, he is too generally undervalued.
* Arist. Ran. 1056.
[Extract from a MS. entitled “The Loves of the Poets."]
THE IMPRISONMENT AND LAMENT OF
TASSO AT FERRARA.
'Twas where Ferrara's moated dungeon frowned
Responsive to his broken spirit's moan,
His was no common mind; for kings had deigned
The moon was up: the maniac's midnight screams
All-reckless of her father's dastard scorn,
Visions of woe, the lyre that bore a part