Page images

superiority, Posa is the reluctant friend ; and when at length won to the acknowlegement of esteem by the generosity of Carlos, he thinks of making a return only in public services : « This debt will I repay when thou art king.' Consulted by the Prince about the interests of his passion, Posa no longer recognises his Carlos, the pupil of his tuition, the mirror of his plans, the right-hand of his intentions :

** Marquis. In these words I do not trace my Carlos ; I do not trace the noble youth, who, in the general corruption, alone remain'd untainted; who stood erect and firm amidst the giddiness of Europe, and push'd boldly from his lips the hemlock draught of Popery, with which for nearly twice ten centuries the world had been intoxicated! Is this he, who freed insulted humanity from the gripe of priestcraft, from dissembled kingly sanctity, and from the zealot fury of a super$titious nation ?

Carlos. Speakest thou of me? Mistaken man! I, too, once pictured to myself a Carlos, in whose check the very name of freedom kindled a ready fame. But he's no more !—The Carlos, whom thou seest, is not the same, who bade thee adieu at Alcala. Nor, he whose youthful boldness whisper'd him, that Spain beneath his sway might emulate the paradise of God. Oh! vain, indeed, were such ideas !—Yet they were lovely—but the dream is fled!

Marquis. The dream, Prince! And was it but a dream ?'

He is alarmed rather for the expected benefactor of his countrymen, than for the suffering friend; and when he has heard the confession of this dangerous passion for the wife of Philip, he seems rather intent on increasing by means of it his influence over the Prince, than on weaning him from so preposterous a pursuit. This facility is almost unnatural; particularly as the Marquis does not appear to be in possession of sufficient grounds for believing that the Queen would assist him in the best possible direction of the passions of Carlos; and as his self-command and judgment so habitually outweigh the inclinations of his affection, that, when the Prince asks • What could force thee from my heart, if woman could not ?" Posa calmly answers, 'I could myself.' This superiority to his friendship, this exclusive value for those qualities of Carlos which are the concern of the world, thus again breaks out:

• Oh! what ideas must I now resign! Yes, once-once it was otherwise. Once thy heart was warm and bounteous; it could embrace a world. But that is past, 'tis swallowed up in one poor bellish passion, and all thy feelings are extinct. No tear hast thou for the unhappy fate of a whole suffering people. No, not a tear. O Carlos, how poor, how beggarly art thou become, by loving no one but thyself!'

[ocr errors]

* We quote from the translation printed for Miller.


The republican spirit of Posa becomes more than ever apparent in the very fine scene of the third act, in which he is introduced at court, and assails the monarch's ear with the novel language of courageous and enthusiastic virtue.

In the subsequent interviews with the Queen, with Den Carlos, and with the King, losa evidently sher's himself capable of trampling with ruthless despotism on the safety even of his friend, if the great interests of humanity were in his apprehension to require the sacrifice. This is not a pleasing trait in his character: but it is a trait very common in those men, wbo have attained a disinterested love of specific reformations. Such persons are often found to hazard their own lives, and those of others, for the chance of realiz. ing the speculations of their philanthropy. Where personal advancement or personal reputation is the object of public conduct, a thousand personal considerations influence and restrain the actions : but where the attainment of some useful innovation is itself the ruling principle, the importance of individuals is of very different weight in the balance. Imaginations again, which are familiar with sublime schemes and lofty ideas of human perfection, are thereby predisposed to recur to roman. tic and heroic remedies in difficulty: Thcsc exalted characters niore often seek to cut than to untie the Gordian knot of obstacle, which obstructs their speedy conquest of the terrestrial paradise which they have projected. Their impatience of delay is proportioned to the beauty, and their impatience of contradiction is proportioned to the deliberation, with which their plans have been shapen. It is at least in some such way that we must endeavour to account for the desperate conduct of Posa in arresting the Prince; and especially in drawing a dagger against the Princess Eboli. • A woman's lise (says he) agajust the destiny of Spain! This blow, O God, I'll justify before thy judgment-seat.' The enthusiast only reasons thus. When, after some reflection, he calls out "Twould be as cowardiy as barbarous, this is less from moral taste or from any quem of conscience, than because he has discovered that • there is another way. Ile would not have hesitated about accomplisting liis end at any price.

This rasio but fine fanaticism of Posa breaks out in all its Bosire ihrough the glowing and harrowing dialogue with the Oveen; when he finds that he has missed his aim, and can enly bequeath a farewell counsel to the friend of his hopes:

MIcrouris. I have yet one thing to communicate to him. In your hazrls. I diposit it. My lot was such as few possess. I loved a ronarchi- 500. In that one object my heart embraced the world. tornid in Calos' soul a paradise for millions, lovely thought !


But it has pleas'd eternal Wisdom to call me from my beauteous work-Rodrigo soon will be no more ; and all the rights of friendship will be transferr'd to love. Here, therefore, here, upon this holy altar, upon the heart of his dear sovereign, do I place my last bequest. Here let him find it, when I am no more. (Ile turns away -his voice choaked cvith grief.)

Queen. These are the accents of a dying man-They surely flow only from agitated feelings-Yet, if they have indeed a meaning

Marquis. (Having endeavoured to collect bimself, continues in a former tone.)-Oh! tell hiin to be mindful of the oath, which in our young enthusiatic days we swore,' when on the high altar we broke betwixt us the consecrated wafer. I have accomplish'd mine, lave remain'd faithful, even to death-Let him remember his

· Queen. To death !Marquis. O bid him realise the vision—the glowing vision which friendship pictur'd of a perfect state. Bid him with a daring hard essay to sculpture the yet unshapen marble. Bid him attempt it, though he fail-For centuries shall pass, ere Providence again will seat upon a throne a prince like him—will animate again a favour'd son with such a godlike spirit. Bid him, in manhood, cherish those virtuous dreams of youth. · Let not the canker of boasted policy corrode the blossom of this heavenly flower: nor let the wisdom of the dust contend against the inspiration of the Almighty.

Queen. Huw, Marquis! whither tend these words?

Marquis. Tell him, that I lay upon his soul the happiness of millions; that dying, I demand it of him—and I am well entitled to demand it. I might have risen like the god of day, and beam'd new morning light upon this empire. Philip had open'd to me all his heart - He call'd me son. He bade me bear his sealand Alva's power was no more. ( He stops, and looks for a few moments at the Queen, in silence.) You weep-Oh! these are tears of joy-- But it is past; the glorious prospect's past, I yielded it to Carlos. Susiden and awful was the resolution. One of us must perish ; and I will be that one.

Seek to know no more.' In this last speech, again, we find that Posa had deliberated about sacrificing Carlos altogether:-about immediately accomplishing, by means of Philip, many of his useful ends ;- and that he had dismissed this idea, not so much out of friendship to Carlos, as because he considered that the surer course was to rely on the Prince. He almost doubts the allowableness of his delay. Woe to us both if I have chosen wrong - if I have opposed the will of Providence in yielding to him the throne.' When, therefore, at last, Posa thinks that he has obtained, by the sacrifice of his own life, the independence of Don Carlos and his departure for the Netherlands, he acquires the selfsufficient exultation of a martyr. Careless of reputation, his last act has been to charge himself with an exceptionable passion for the Queen. His last commands to Carlos are: serve thyself for Flanders. Upon thy life depends the fate of



nations. My duty is to die for thee. It is not the Orestes offering his own life to save that of his friend : but the philanthrope, who claims the survival of that individual to whom circumstances intrust the highest powers of utility. It is ever the enthusiast conscious of the immeasurable value of his lofty views, and desirous of dying for them in such circumstances as may most contribute to secure the trust of their realization. It is not Pythias marching to execution for Damon; it is Lycurgus, after having exacted the oath to keep sacred his laws until his return, burying himself in the sea at a distance from Sparta, in order to impress their lasting obligation.

Of the other characters, none seem to require analysis ; because none are liable to misconception. Don Carlos, Philip, Alva, even Lerma, and the Grand Inquisitor, are each in their way masterly drawings. The female characters, as is usual with Schiller, are less successful; especially the Princess Eboli, whose episodical love for Carlos occupies a displeasing extent. In the first half of the piece, the reader is not enough prepared for an interest so wholly of the political kind, as that which ultimately absorbs every other.

In our opinion, considering the elevated cast of this tragedy, the blank verse of the original has been unwisely exchanged for prose. The translators of Fiesco have preserved, we think, in a greater degree, the peculiarities of the original and the taste of the soil, than is accomplished in the more polished, more English, more free, and more castrated work of the rival translator.

This tragedy was first published at a time when a leader of the British opposition appeared to enjoy the friendship of the heir apparent; and it was supposed, on the continent, to contaip many portraits from the life.

ART. VI. Rassela:, Prince d'Alissinie. Roman traduit de P Anglois

de Dr. Jobirsort. Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, a Novel, translated from the English of Johnson, by the Comte de Fouchecour, 12mo. Pp. 317. With Plates.

45. Boards. Lackington. 1798. The language of France is probably ill-adapted for transla

It wants plasticity, and cannot casily adopt the itions, the weises, or the bolder turns of phrase, in use among orher nations. There is less variety of style in French tran in any cultivated language. Homer, Tasso, Ossian*, all assume the same form as she Telemaque of Fenelon, and the Lucas

* If the reader should scruple to admit the name of Ossian, he is welcome to make use of that of Macpherson.

of Marmontel. This usual dress is however well-suited to the Rasselas of Johnson ; which was originally composed in stimulant and impressive prose, in an eloquent and almost orie ental vein of narrative, in a gorgeous and pompous diction, with a formal rhythm of arrangement, and a swelling solemnity of period. Its phrases strut in the trappings of metaphor, and pronounce every sentiment with oracular significance. It prefers grandeur to propriety, and resembles the colossal garden in which its hero is confined, where elephants repose beneath centennial palms, and the massy gates of entrance are unfolded only by an engine. It has accordingly been not unsuccessfully rendered by the Comte de Fouchecour, as an extract will convince the reader; although we doubt the perpetual purity of his dialect, and fancy that we can detect some latent anglicisms.

Un jour Rasselas qui se croyoit seul, ayant fixé les yeux sur des chérres qui broutoient parmi les rochers, compara leur condition avec la sienne.

En quoi, dit-il, les hommes différent-ils donc du reste des animaux ? toutes les bêtes qui errent à mes cotés ont les mêmes besoins corporels que moimême. Ont-elles faim ? elles sont au milieu des pâturages : ont-elles soif? elles boivent l'eau d'un clair ruisseau. Leur faim et leur soif sont-elles appaisées ? elles sont satisfaites et dorment en paix. Le besoin se fait-il sentir de nouveau à leur réveil? elles se repaissent encore et se reposent. Comme elles, j'ai faim et soif ; mais quand j'ai et mangé, je n'ai pas repos. Je leur ressemble par mes besoins, mais je ne suis pas comme

des satisfait, quand je suis rassasić. Les heures qui s'écoulent entre mesrepos sont scmés d'ennuis et de tristesse. Alors je désire de nouveau d'érouver la faim, pour donner une nouvelle activité à mon attention. Lo oiseaux becquetent les grains de bled dans les champs, et vite ils s'envoler au milieu des bois, ou ils se perchent sur les branches des arbres et paroisent heureux. Ils passent toute leur vie à moduler les mêmes airs, e toujouw avec la même apparence de satisfaction. Il est vrai que je puis aussi me procurer des concerts ; mais les chants qui me plaisoient le plus hier, n canugen! Qujourdbui, et me déplairont encore d'avantage demain. Il me semble que j' prouve toutes les sensations de plaisir dont mon élre est carable, et cependant je ne me trouve pas heureux. Certes il y a dans l'humme quelque seas caché, pour qui ce séjour n'a point de jouissance ; ou quelques désirs distingués des sens qui doivent être satisfaits, avant qu'il puise gokter le bonheur.

A ces mots il leva la tête; et voyant la une qui commencoit à paroitre, il retourna vers le palais. En passant à travers les champs, et n'appercevant autour de lui que des animaux ; vous êtes heureux, leur dit-il, et ne devez pas m'envier la promenade, que je fais au milieu de vous chargé des poids de mes ennuis ; et moi je n'envie point non plus votre felicité, car elle x'est pas celle de l'homme. J'ai bien des misères dont vous êtes offrancbis. Si je n'ai pas de peines actuelles, j'en éprouve la crainte. Je frissonne au souvenir des maux passés, ainsi qu'à l'idée de ceux qui me sont réservés. Súrement la Providence toujours juste a toujours équitable, compense les souffrances de la vie par de certaines jouissances.

Le Prince en revenant s'amusoit pur ces oiservations, en les prononçant d'une voix plaintive, mais d'un air c:pendant qui laissoit entrevoir la


« PreviousContinue »