« PředchozíPokračovat »
325.--THE MODERN DRAMATIC POETS.
[In the preceding volumes we have given scenes from some of the great dramatic writers who were contemporary with Shakespere—from Massinger, Webster, Ben Jonson, Dekker, Beaumont and Fletcher, and others. The golden age of the English Drama did not last for more than sixty years. After an interval in which the Stage, in common with many other of the graces and refinements of life, was proscribed by a misdirected though sincere zeal, the Restoration gave us a degenerate and corrupt drama-false in its principles of Art, debasing in its gross licentiousness. The Augustan age, as it used to be called, brought its brilliant Comedy, in which Wit went hand in hand with Profligacy-meretricious sisters--and its feeble Tragedy, which rested its claims upon its dissimilarity to Shakespere. From Cato to Irene we had no serious drama that was not essentially based upon French models -declamation taking the place of passion, and monotonous correctness substituted for poetical fervor. In our own times, and in a great degree by living authors, the imitation of the old drama, or, to speak more correctly, the knowledge of the principles upon which the old dramatists worked, has given us a dramatic literature which will not, we venture to think, be forgotten by coming generations. We cannot therefore, with any sense of justice, close this Series of 'Half-Hours from the best Authors' without some notice, however imperfect, of the dramatic poetry of the nineteenth century, represented, as it so adequately is, in the works of Joanna Baillie, Landor, Coleridge, Byron, Milman, Knowles, Bulwer Lytton, Hunt, Talfourd, and Taylor.]
JOANNA BAILLIE. (Miss Baillie's 'Series of plays to delineate the stronger passions of the Mind' was the first great attempt to cast off the frigid conventionalities that had long encumbered all modern dramatic poetry. Here was a woman of genius working upon a bold theory. The notion of making the conduct of a drama wholly rest upon the development of one intense master passion appears to us a mistake. Passions, as they exist in actual life, and as they are portrayed by the greatest poetical revealers of man's nature, are complicated and modified by the antagonism of motives and circumstances. Othello is not simply jealous-Macbeth not merely ambitious. It is to this cause that we may perhaps attribute the circumstance that one only, we believe, of Joanna Baillie's Plays has been acted, although they were written for the stage, as VOL. IV.
every drama must be that has a dramatic vitality. But, whatever may be the defects of their scenic construction, they are, in many respects, models of strong and earnest dialogue, rejecting all cumbrous ornament, and really poetical through its unaffected simplicity. This was a revolution in dramatic composition. It is half a century since these · Plays on the Passions' were published. Their authoress has seen many changes in literary reputation; but none in which she has not been recognized with the honors which very few can permanently win and wear.)
De Monfort, from which the following scene is extracted, is founded upon the passion of hatred. De Monfort has fostered, from early years, a hatred of Rezenvelt-a hatred which he feels to be unjust and at variance with his own better nature. His noble sister, Jane de Monfort, thus struggles to expel the demon which torments and finally destroys him:
De Mon. No more, my sister, urge me not again ;
Jane. What! must I, like a distant humble friend,
De Mon. Ah, Jane, forbear! I cannot e'en to thee.
Jane. Then fie upon it! fie upon it, Monfort !
De Mon. So would I now-but ask of this no more.
Jane. Then secret let it be; I urge no farther.
And brave the storm together-
De Mon. Oh, Jane! thou dost constrain me with thy love Would I could tell it thee!
Jane. Thou shalt not tell me. Nay, I'll stop mine ears, Nor from the yearnings of affection wring What shrinks from utt'rance. Let it pass, my brother. I'll stay by thee; I'll cheer thee, comfort thee; Pursue with thee the study of some art, Or nobler science, that compels the mind To steady thought progressive, driving forth All floating, wild, unhappy fantasies; Till thou, with brow unloaded, smilest again ; Like one who, from dark visions of the night, When th' active soul within its lifeless cell Holds its own world, with dreadful fancy press'd Of some dire, terrible, or murd'rous deed. Wakes to the dawning morn, and blesses heaven.
De Mon. It will not pass away ; 'twill haunt me still.
Jane. Ah! say not so; for I will haunt thee too,
Thou most gen'rous woman !
Jane. What say'st thou, Monfort ? Oh ! what words are these?
By the affection thou did'st ever bear me ;
Ha! wilt thou not?
LANDOR. [In the collected edition of his works Mr. Landor says. “None of these poems of a dramatic form were offered to the stage, being no better than Imaginary Conversations in metre.” An author knows best what he can accomplish; but there are few modern productions in which the real dramatic spirit is more developed than in 'Count Julian.' There are exuberances of language lingerings in the primrose paths of verse when the business of the scene should go right onward. But the whole conception of Julian's character is magnificent—the lover of his country, who has laid it at the feet of an invader in the hour of passionate revenge. The agony of his remorse, which no ingratitude of the Moorish conqueror can add to, and no kindness can assuage: has been rarely surpassed.]
Muza. Away with him.
Slaves! not before I lift
Surely the guests and ministers of heaven
Muza. Yes, they shall shudder ; but will that, henceforth. Molest my privacy, or shake my power ?
Julian. Guilt hath pavilions, but no privacy.
Muza. Where now are thine? Will they not curse the day That
gave thee birth, and hiss thy funeral !
Julian. Many, nor those alone of tenderer mould,
upon our name.