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history, full as it is of high associations, lasting sympathies, singular opinions, remarkable events, and great men, has not been a favorite and peculiar walk of the dramatic muse. Where is there a more eventful page in the book of heroes and kingdoms, than that which records the life of David, or a more splendid one, than that on which is emblazoned the reign of Solomon? And with regard to the people, who were governed by these great princes, where, we would ask, is there, or has there been a nation, who have stood forth in so high relief from the rest of the world, as the posterity of Israel ? The single circumstance, that they alone worshipped the one great Creator, to the exclusion of all the gods of all other lands, is enough to confer on them an extraordinary preeminence, and a strongly distinctive character. They were proud, it is true, stiffnecked, restless, rebellious and ungrateful-but they were separate. No wonder that they called their city the Holy City ; crime and pollution, after moving in pompous procession, and under the names of religion and piety, through every other city of the earth, found the gates of Jerusalem shut fast against their mockeries. No wonder that the temple was a perpetual boast, and that the persection of beauty and glory was supposed to shine from its outward walls, and reside among its pillars and its porticos; the name of Jehovah, and his name only, was pronounced in worship there, and imparted a sublimity and majesty to the place, before which the architectural piles of Ephesus and Athens dwindled down into senseless masses of stone. Then there was that strange, mysterious brotherhood, the prophets; companions of kings, favorites and embassadors of Heaven; who denounced against the peculiar people curses and wrath, or promised the fulness of blessing; and who poured forth their prophecies, whether of mercy or woe, in strains of poetry which have never been surpassed in loftiness and beauty, if they have ever been equalled, by the genius of man.
In this remarkable light the ancient Israelites must appear, even to those who regard them merely as one of the nations of the earth, possessing no claims on their attention but such as are derived from national peculiarity. Additional claims are made, and far stronger sympathies are excited by this singular race, in the view of those who receive the dispensation by Moses as a part of their own religion, and see in their spiritual Prince and Saviour, a descendant of the house of David. To them the literature of Judah is sacred, the sayings of the prophets are oracles, and Palestine is a land of pilgrimage. The wilderness in which the tribes roamed for forty years; the mount from whose top their prophet received the law; and every inch of that country, which came to them by promise, are to all Christians holy ground, and not to be trod upon, unless the feet are bare.
There is another association, and a melancholy one, which belongs to the land of Judea. Where are its once favored inhabitants? Where are the ancient people of God ? They have given place to the barbarian and the infidel; their descendants are scattered among the gentiles, though still, as ever, remaining distinct from them; the hills are all the same, Jordan flows on as before, the very wells at which the patriarchs quenched their thirst are recognised and named by religious curiosity, but the children of the soil are far away, and a Jew is an alien in the land of his fathers.
The cedars wave on Lebanon,
But Judah's statelier maids are gone! These are all circumstances of no ordinary character; such indeed as can be matched in interest by no other human history. They are all under the dominion of poetry, and only wait to be swayed, that their power may be adequately felt.
Among the most successful trials, which have been attempted in this way, we venture to rank the dramatic poem before us. The event, which our countryman has chosen for the main action of his piece, is the rebellion of Absalom. But neither Absalom, nor his father, nor Abithophel, is his chief character, nor yet Hadad, prince of Damascus, but-start not, uninitiated reader-it is Lucifer himself, under the form, or rather animating the corpse of Hadad, who is the visible instigator of the mischief, and hero of the scene, mixing with the other characters in all their conversations as a man, and appearing as a man, though to be sure a wild and strange one, to the
end. For so bold a conception as this, we could have pardoned a much weaker execution of it, than has really been effected. But Mr Hillhouse's temerity stops not here. He has not only made the devil his hero, but, according to established usage,
he has made his hero in love. Think of that ; the devil in love ! none of your inferior spirits, or fallen angels of low degree ; but the arch fiend himself, desperately in love with a granddaughter of David! This, as we barely state it, appears altogether ludicrous; but in the poet's conduct of it, there is nothing ludicrous, and hardly anything which is revolting. If it had been announced at the first, as was the custom in the ancient Mysteries, that "here comes the devil incarnate, in the shape of prince Hadad, and here comes the lady Tamar, of whom he is enamoured,' our ideas of propriety would perhaps have received an irrecoverable shock; but the secret is so well kept from us in the introductory scenes, it is so gradually unfolded, or rather hinted at, in the course of the poem, and the principal character is sustained with so much dignity, that none but a serious impression is left upon the mind of the reader, and the dialogues between Hadad, or Lucifer, and the daughter of Absalom, are the most solemn and tender in the work. The general outline of the fiend is that of Milton's Satan; and it is only when we have finished the perusal of Mr Hillhouse's drama, that we are permitted to reflect how hazardous an undertaking it was, to bring forward this same lofty, solitary being, who warred with the Almighty, and preferred to reign in hell rather than serve in heaven, to bring forward this one into the Jewish court, and occupy him with an earthly love.
But let us relate the story. Those who have not read it, will desire the recital; and those who have, will make no objection to their memory being refreshed by the repetition.
The first scene introduces to us Hadad, who is a hostage in Jerusalem, conferring with Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, and endeavoring, though with little direct success, to make him renounce his allegiance to David, who is represented as the usurper of a throne, which belonged of right to the descendant of Saul. Then follows a dialogue between Hadad and Absalom, in which the jealousy of the latter is successfully inflamed against his younger brother Solomon. This conference is interrupted by the prophet Nathan, at whose appearance Hadad precipitately withdraws; and here the first suspicion is awakened with regard to that person's character.
Nath. Why doth that Syrian shun me? Always thus
The same distrust is expressed in the succeeding scene by the seer to King David, joined with the counsel that the suit of Hadad for Absalom's daughter Tamar, should be rejected. The king, however, does not readily admit his advice, and especially resuses to suspect the designs and fidelity of Absalom, against whose policy Nathan also warns him.
The third scene is the beautiful one between Hadad and Tamar; which has been so often quoted, that we shall forbear transferring it to our pages. In the course of it, the seeming prince attempts, with alluring words, to instil into the mind of the loving and confiding princess, doubts of the goodness of Jehovah, and a preference for the voluptuous rites of heathen worship. But the maiden is steadfast in her faith and purity.
Repulsed in one quarter, we find the tempter busy in another, laying snares for the virtue of the youthful Solomon. The introduction to this scene is a beautiful description of Jerusalem, before which Hadad is standing alone.
Had. 'Tis so ;-the hoary Harper sings aright;
Wave their dark beauty round the Tower of David.
Resplendent with a thousand golden bucklers,
Meanwhile Absalom is continually worked upon by the arts of the indefatigable seducer, till his affections are completely alienated from his father, and he plots against his crown. At the house of Obil, a creature of Hadad's, we have a meeting of the conspirators, three of whom, Ahithophel, Manasses, and Malchiah, are members of the royal council. Couriers come in, from various parts of the country, with accounts of so favorable an aspect, that the morrow is fixed on for the day of unmasked rebellion.
The fourth act opens with a scene on the top of Mount Olivet, which is crowded with fugitives from Jerusalem. King David, driven from his throne by his unnatural son, is worshipping among his household; while Joab, Benaiah, and other chieftains, marshal the multitude. We will extract a part of the scene for our readers, principally because the fierce and impetuous character of Joab is so well preserved in it.
• Ben. Go bid yon loiterers hasten over Kedron, If they would march with us.
Joab. Let them abide ;-
[Addressing a Soldier stationed in a tree above him.] Soldier. Nothing, my lord, but people from the city Hurrying this way.
Joab. Look not on them, fool ; fix
Soldier. I do, my lord.