Obrázky stránek
[blocks in formation]

Hear! hear our prayer!

Daughter of Heaven!-Dread Maid! Darimba! hear!
Gora. See, I have slain thee a swift-footed roe!
From the strong bow loosing mine air-wing'd shaft!
Let its blood please thee, Goddess !-It is thine !-
Send blessing upon field, and forest stored!-
Give to do justly, to fight happily,

That love us, well to love, to hate that hate!

Make us rich! make us strong!-Great Queen !-Darimba !
Hear me !

Chorus. Hear us! Darimba!-Hear! Darimba!

Gora. The victim on the bloody altar-stone
Quivers and dies!-So end thy foes, Darimba!
Thy foes so end, and ours!—It is Medea,
The princely daughter of wide Colchis' king,
Whose voice re-echoes in thine high abodes.
Hear, Goddess, hear!-and what I asked fulfil.
Chorus. (Striking Cymbals and Timbrels).
Darimba! Goddess! hear!-Hear! hear! Darimba!
Med. Therewith enough!—The victim offer'd is ;
And a slow business ended.-Now have ready
Arrow and stiff-drawn bow; set the dogs forward,

And with the alarums of our loud-voiced chase

Let the green forest clamour near and far!

The sun doth mount!-Out! out!-And she amongst us,
Who runs the fleetest, who the lightest bounds,
Shall be the Queen o' the day.

-Thou here, Peritta? &c.

Medea, aware that the damsel, so named, (who had lately, by giving way to the weakness of love, and against a positive formal promise not to desert her mistress, intending, at least, to marry, incurred her displeasure, and been, in consequence, forbidden her presence,) has transgressed the prohibition, bitterly upbraids her falsehood, and dismisses her with great scorn to the lowly duties she has chosen in the poor and "smoky" cabin of her lover. The incident is given to display her character, and present haughty freedom from feelings which will fatally overrule her will and life. A Colchian, now entering, announces, that a ship, manned with strangers, has touched their coast. The Princess refers him to her father, Aietes, who, upon hearing the tidings, comes out immediately after from his palace.

Not one of all the characters is more forcibly and entirely conceived, or more successfully drawn, than this old barbarian king.-Without law-inflamed instantaneously with the pros pect of plunder-artful, false, coura geous in his person, whilst suspicious of men, mistrustful even of events, he is timid in his expectations and pur

poses,-strongly loving his children, yet wayward and harsh in his humour and conduct towards them-as a king, challenging compliance with his will, yet dishonouring his state, and not seeming to know that he does so, by the frank avowal of unkingly fearseager in his hate of a stranger, to whom he feels no tie-superstitious, but, under the impulse of his passion, impious. He discloses, although in doubt, to his daughter, his quickly taken resolution to possess himself of the "gold, treasures, wealthy spoil," which the vessel bears; then desires from her counsel and aid, versed as she is in her mother's arts to draw from herbs and stones potions that bind the will and fetter the strength, able to summon spirits, and conjure the moon. Whilst he is in anger at her wilful slowness in her part, a second Colchian brings him the request of the strangers for an audience, which may result in a friendly covenant. The result he foresees, and now distinctly requires of his daughter a drink known to him as within her skill, infusing irresistible sleep, which she, having first asked "for what use," and received no answer, but the command repeated, goes out to prepare.

The strangers prove to be Phryxus, the well-known importer of the Fleece into Colchis-here, indeed, accomplishing the adventure, with aid but of the wings of a ship, not, as in the pure fable, on the back of a flying ram, and the companions of his voyage, driven by storm of the past night upon the Colchian coast. Of the noblest Grecian blood, (thus he relates of himself to Aietes,) Jove-descended, but a fugitive from his father's house, and from envy and hate of the second marriage-bed, seeking his fortune among strangers, he came, his father's spies dodging his flight, to Del phos. In the Temple, in which he stood in the light of the evening sun, weary with the burden of his way, and with gazing on the rich wonders of the place, statues and offerings-he had sunk down in sleep. In his dreams appeared the figure of a man, surrounded with light, in naked strength, bearing in his right hand a club, with bushy beard and hair, and on his shoulders a golden ram's fleece, the very "PERONTO," in a word, whom we saw lately, and whom, for the scene does not change, we still see, guarding from his altar the Colchian shores. This illustrious personage graciously inclined himself towards the sleeper, and smiling, bade him "take with him Victory and Revenge," and, unfastening the Fleece from his shoulders, tendered it to him. Awaking at this instant, he perceived standing before him, amidst the glitter of morning sunshine, the same Form in marble, mantled with even such a Golden Fleece, and, on examination, the name "Colchis," graven on the pedestal, an ancient offering, though, it appears afterwards, not directly from the country, of the Statue of this Deity. Boldly construing the vision, or what was but the wonted fairy-work of fancy and the senses blending their play into a human dream-too small wellhead of the stream of ineffable calamity and acting his interpretationhe took off the Fleece from the shoulders of the God, and, lifting it as a banner on his spear, hastened through the temple gates, through the midst of his father's pursuers awaiting him without, the priests and the people all suddenly awe-struck, and yielding him open way to the sea. It seems his vessel and comrades lay expecting him there, for he embarked, he tells us, forthwith,

[ocr errors]

and, with the Fleece flying high," a golden streamer" from his mast-head, stemmed the raging flood under wrathful skies, to Colchis.

[ocr errors]

This story, cast in good classical form, graced with something of a voluble and picturesque Greek eloquence, and very apt to the impressible and unwary speaker, is liable to this censure, that it supposes no deeper origin than the chance-illusion of sleep, to an Act, namely, this earliest Abreption of this famous Fleece, that carried consequences which to Greek thought involved heavenly leading and peculiar dispensations of wrath, first, an expedition of heroes and demigods for its recovery, and, finally, the overthrow of princely houses. The story little avails the young adventurer who relates it; for it moves in the breast of his royal auditor no singular favour to himself, who is self-convicted, unless a God gave his dream, of double sacrilegeno belief, anxiously solicited, in the protection of Peronto-no misgiving of the murderous purposes, touching himself and his companions, which had found their way into the heart of Aietes, with the intelligence of their arrival. The strangers are all killed, off the stage, at the King's table; and their leader, Phryxus, who, on noticing as his friends dropped one by one into strange sleep, the ominous looks, whispers, and gestures of the attendants, has quitted the house in alarm, is slain by the King's own hand, at the foot of his God's Altar.

The Barbarian has flattered himself, that from this slaughter and spoliation of unoffending strangers, he has removed all criminality and all violation of hospitable right, when, by having neither offered nor refused Phryxus his house's shelter and welcome, he had entangled his victim into inviting himself. But the unfortunate Greek, in the instant of his fate, re-annexes, if one may so speak, to the act this much inseparable guilt, by placing in the hands, and therewith in the custody, of the for one moment incautious Aietes, his property, the Fleece; thus constituting him, it appears, his Host. The poet's private faith as to the efficacy of one or the other remarkable manoeuvre, is not, indeed, as he does not speak in his own person, easily put past doubt. Yet, that he does not judge the last to have been wholly unsuccessful, and if so, then neither

and every turn almost of his drama's varying fable, to what the reader, no doubt, will own to be now enough weighted with blood and retributionthe Golden Fleece.

wholly unrequired, we might seem left to guess, from the ingenious, if we should not almost say excessive pains which he ever afterwards takes to attach the mischiefs successively arising,


The Second Part renews the history, after an interval, apparently, of years. Medea, stricken, if this can be said, with remorse of her father's crime, (in which, however in a degree minister ing to it, the poet does not consider her as participating,) bowed with agony of the deed-still more, perhaps, with the terrific foresight which haunts her of its consequences-the vision glaring in the prophetess's soul, and refusing to be dispelled, of wrath disturbed out of darkness, inexorable, inexpia ble-has fled from human commerce, and shut up in an old desolate tower amongst woods, there mixing past and future in her ceaseless miserable dream, she broods over woe. Hither, by night, Aietes, with his son Absyr tus, now first introduced, comes, seek ing her counsel and succour; for the Revengers, the ARGONAUTS, claiming the spoils of the murdered Phryxus, and above all, the splendid and fatal Fleece, are on his land. Absyrtus, whose innocence of extreme youth, joined with the aspirations of dawning heroism, and with much manly tenderness of filial and brotherly af fection, is very happily thought and depicted, leads, with the sprightly pride of a boy, making their way through the thicket with his newly given sword. The old King follows, full of irritation and apprehensions, incensed by the approach of his enemies, trembling at once with belief of their power, and with reflections that rise and are not to be kept down on the cause of their coming, and seeing listeners or spectres, in stones and trees. After some words which explain the posture of affairs, Medea's altered temper, and her manner of life made available by her, it appears, for the prosecution of her magical studies, Absyrtus, at the King's bidding, summons her to descend. She hesitates, till compelled by her father's will and

voice, which, either from an habitual irresistible ascendancy, parental and kingly, held by him over her-or from the sense of duty, she does not disobey. She bears a torch, which the king, whom light offends, desires her to extinguish. He then asks, by what leave, forsaking the protection of the paternal roof, and holding fellowship but with the desert and her own wild mood, she has refused compliance with a message from him, calling her to him. Her answer is in a strain, meant, doubtless, as more deeply tinged with imagination, to be the expression of a mind acting upon itself in long solitude, with vehement and extraordinary thought. It well expresses, though perhaps too apparently in the forms of a later and different age of thought, one distinguishing constitu ent in our author's invention of his heroine's character-boldly assigned and well applied, for the most part, to support the interest of his poem-and not often much taken out of its dramatic propriety-the Moral Sensibility with which he has endowed herand to which, if the reader will add passion measureless in depth and force

self-reliance indestructible-and an understanding in comprehensiveness, insight, and clearness, of the highest order he will possess the outline of Grillparzer's Medea. Need we observe to him, that the impressions which she appears here as suffering, the consternation, from retrospect and prospect, fallen upon her spirit, evidenced indubitably in the manner we have described, and seeking utterance in her words, all tell in tragic effect, far be yond the moment of the drama in which they are made present to sight and hearing, that the gloom thus loaded upon its opening scenes, passes not along with these from the spectator's heart.

Medea (speaks.) Hear if thou canst, and if thou dar'st, be wroth!O that I might be silent, ever silent!

Thine house is hateful to me—I am fill'd


With shuddering, being near thee. When thy hand
Fell on the stranger, shielded of the Gods,
The Guest, and took his wealth-into thine House
It brought a spark, that glimmering lives, and lives
Unquenchable, though thou didst on it pour
The upwellings of the holy fountain, pouredst
Rivers and sea, the innumerable streams,

And the salt flood's limitless-depthless waters all—

Unhappy! what hast thou done?
A fire from thee goes forth, and wraps around
The pillars of thine House, that crashing falls,
Burying all.

Deem'st thou that I

Aietes. Hast thou sought in the stars?
Had power?-An hundred times have I look'd up
To the glittering signs on the broad heaven of night,
And all the hundred times mine eye return'd,
Fear-vanquish'd, to the earth, and uninform'd.
The skies to me have seem'd an unroll'd book,
And MURDER therein written, thousand fold-
In adamantine letters writ-Revenge,

On its black ground. But look not thither Thou!
Oh! not of yonder bright immortal fires,

Not the betokenings of mute nature ask,

Nor voice, through the god's quivering temple peal'd.
Observe in the still brook those wandering stars,
That under thy dark brows gleam loweringly,
The tokens which the deed hath left on thee,
The god who in thy silent bosom speaks
For they can give thee oracle and sign,
Clearer and more assured far than my poor art,
From what is, and hath been, and is to be!

On being told that Greeks are come, and with what intent, Medea exclaims," Woe! the stroke has fallen!" Upon much solicitation, conceiving the emergency to be out of hope, she consents to use her Art, first, in learning if it be permitted her to afford assistance to her father and her country, and should it appear so, in giving it: On condition, however, that, this need answered, she shall return for ever to her solitude. They enter the tower, in which the preparations for her consulting the invisible powers are immediately to be made, and pre

sently afterwards Jason, and Milo, another Argonaut, come upon the stage.

They have left their companionssuffering, it seems, or in danger of doing so, from hunger,-with the ships, and are in quest of food and intelligence. They are led by the voices, but, on coming before the tower, find no one. Light is visible, however, in it, and Jason resolves to enter. They converse on their enterprise, of which Milo believes the purpose to be desperate, and regrets it was undertaken. He goes on.

Milo. Well! right if thou hadst led me any whither,
Only not to this God-forsaken land!
Comes a man elsewhere into peril, good!

"Tis but-Out Sword! and Courage, on !—But here,
In this foul region's dank and sullen air,
Rust to the spirit clings as to our swords.
You hear the surges, one incessant roar;
The pines that murmur, and the blasts that rave;
Scarce through the grisly covert sees the Sun
Of air-hung mist, and uncouth matted boughs.
Nothing, all round, of men, no hut, no trace,

It makes the heart seem empty, hollow, starved,
Till one grows half-affrighted with himself.
I, who, a boy, in admiration heard,

When men told of a thing called Fear-almost
I turn ghost-seer here. Each blasted trunk
Looks like a giant to me'; and a light

Appears a walking man of fire.-'Tis strange!
What is indifferent elsewhere, here seems frightful;
And what is elsewhere hideous, common here.
'Tis not an hour ago, I saw i' the wood
A Bear, perhaps the hugest I have seen;
It was to me almost as I should stroke
The shaggy monster with familiar hand,
An 'twere some fawning Fondling at my foot,
So small and insignificant it shew'd,

To the grim lowering world of which it was.
-Thou hear'st me not!

Jason (who has been observing the tower.) 'Tis so-I'll enter.

Jason. I' the tower there.


Milo. Art thou raving ?—(Seizing his arm.) Hear me, Jason!
Jason (disengaging himself, and unsheathing his sword.)

I will-and who shall stay me?-See, my sword:

My help with foes, and inconvenient friends.

Here the first human traces have I found,
And I will in. With menace of my sword
One of this building's dwellers I enforce
To follow with me, and to lead our band
Securely from the circuit of this wood,
Where hunger, and the ambush of the foe,
Strike them much surer, than me danger here.
Say not! It is resolved!-Return thou to them-
Hearten our band. I bring them speedy rescue.
Milo. Think!

It is thought!

Jason, in reconnoitring the antique structure, has remarked an opening in the dilapidated wall, by which he proposes to enter, using the good offices of the sea, that flows deep beneath, to reach it. Much against the will and reason of his elder and more circumspect, though perfectly tried and intrepid friend, he now leaps in from the cliff on which they stand, and swims to it.

It lets him into vaulted and secret chambers, dedicated, it seems, by the secluded Princess, to religious or magical rites, or what at once are both, and which her attendants have just been disposing for her use. He conceals himself behind a Statue, till she, entering soon after, has proceeded far enough in her invocation to make her known to him in the character of a Sorceress, when he leaps out upon her, his sword being still drawn in his hand, and, in the darkness of the place, unintentionally wounds her. On holding up to her face the single

lamp which she carried, but had presently set down, he is surprised at her beauty. His discourse, heard by her silent and motionless, discovers the sudden passion which has touched him, and enforces the similar impression made by the unexpected, adventurous appearance of the young and fiery warrior on her-till the sound of arms, of approaching feet, and thereupon the entrance of Absyrtus, with a number of followers, who have found their way, we do not well know how -for the king and his son came unattended and secretly to the solitary tower-break it off. There is now

some clashing of swords; and Jason fights his way through-but not till Medea, by opposing her brother's first assault upon him, has made it appear to the so far successful intruder that his safety is not indifferent to her.This ends the first Act.

The two which follow, are taken up with effecting such changes in the position and relations of the divers

« PředchozíPokračovat »