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"One-half the pleasure there is in this world Seems, unto me, evolved and spun through pain."
"An idol kissed away by its adorers."
"O Prince of flatterers, but Beggar of doctors,
And striven to cauterize to satisfaction
"Prompt' is the word upon the tongue of time, From day to day on echoing through the years, That glide away into eternity, Whispering the same unceasing syllable." "Here's lad's love, and the flower which even death Cannot unscent, the all-transcending rose."
"Some weak, luckless wretches ever seem
These are, however, spots on the sun, flies in the amber, and blemishes in the diamond, that by contrast beautify the rest.
It is difficult to give a synopsis of this "Divine Tragedy." A wheel or two gives no adequate idea of the adaptation, purpose, and design of a complicated machine. A circumscribed view of a landscape may reveal no beauty; but when the babbling brook, singing river, towering mountain, sequestered glen, and wooded vale burst upon the vision, the beholder is lost in admiration of the whole. Thus it is in the efforts of the dramatist. A few sentences culled at random give no sure index to the scheme, plot, and general completeness of the whole. In "Saul," we have a close adhesion to the sacred text. Demons, evil and good spirits are introduced, but these are only impersonations of passions, desires, and emotions, and are not essential to the recital. The poet begins with the history of Saul, as He digiven in I. Samuel, chap. x. vides the whole into three dramas. The first commences with the anointing of the Hebrew king by Samuel, at Ramah, and ends with the expulsion of the evil spirit by David's witching music. The second finds David hospitably received at Gibeah; and describes the overthrow of the Philistines at Elah, Saul's jealousy of David's growing popularity, and his marriage to Michal. The third describes the hair-breadth escapes of David; the vindictive pursuits of Saul; the incantations of the Witch of Endor, and the tragic scenes connected with Gilboah. At one time we have a drama, in colloquy; at another we find the epic, in a description of persons, places, and things, in the
third person; anon comes the lyric, forcible and melodious. Saul has a good and bad spirit accompanying him. The former is called Zoe, and the latter is called Malzah. The latter is photographed with great distinctness and fidelity, to the assumed nature of a demon. The reviewer in the North British mentioned above, says of this dramatis persona, that he is "depicted with an imaginative veracity which, we do not exaggerate in saying, has not been equalled in our language by any but the creator of Caliban and Ariel."
Saul is in Gibeah chafing under home. restraint, after being anointed king. He compares himself to "a taper that is left to burn to waste within an empty house." The hour of action is at hand. Jabesh-Gilead is besieged by Nahash, and seems doomed to fall. Saul is urged by messengers to rush to the rescue. He eagerly obeys the call to battle against "that foul whelp of Twilight, Nahash," and in Jehovah's name appeals thus:
With the descending spectres of the killed.
Out like a tongue upon the silent gulf;
At midnight, of the salt flood's foaming surf-
In spite of halting lines, the description is matchless, subtle, and overpowering. We see that fearful and surging host of the lost, hiving perforce toward the plague-house, driven by avenging wrath. Take another scene, as vivid as a panorama. Jonathan and his armour-bearer are dealing out deadly blows among the Philistines, on the summit of Michmash, where tumult, discord, and confusion reign, to their utter discomfiture. A sentinel in the Hebrew camp hears the uproar, and sees the confusion from his vantage ground, and inquires:
"What do I hear, as if the earth on sudden Roared like the ocean, and the clang of arms Coming from Michmash?
Behold the whole Philistine garrison
Come tumbling like a torrent on the field.
What meaneth this? Arms glance along like light. ning!
Helmets and shields, and heads and bodies bare,
And ever and anon some gashed head sinks,
Rumbles as if 'twere one enormous grave,
The darkened world at its expiry seems;
The steel is fiercelier plied; they wield their blades
This quotation is decidedly Homeric in its imagery and its martial strains. We perceive at once the volcanic surgings of the red-hot waves of human passion, and hear the multitudinous voices of maddened and armed men in the whirlwind of battle.
Zaph is leader of the spirits of evil. He orders Malzah to take possession of Saul, and fill him with demoniac passions. Bad as Malzah is, the work is distasteful to him. As Saul feels his influence, and in despair and irony calls out—
"Ah, shake me, thing; shake me again, Like an old thorn i' the blast,"
we see this is not "a labour of love" to Malzah, and when his work is done, like a liberated school-boy he sings :
"Motley fancies spin
Like cobwebs on the yellow air;
With a morbid wail Saul turns on the doctor, who would give him consolation, and stingingly says:
David is brought into the presence of the king by his medical attendant, and harps the air full of wondrous melody. Such an atmosphere the demons cannot breathe in, for Saul feels the uneasiness of his tormentor as the magic strains fall upon his ear:
"Still more; still more; I feel the demon move Amidst the gloomy branches of my breast,
"There was a time when sleep
Was wont to approach me with her soundless feet,
Whom I have taken prisoner in my wars,
out the whole poem. Loose expressions,
Sleeps soundly; and he who hath sold himself to prosaic sentences, inapt allegory, crippled
Although his cabin rock beneath the gale,
There is a stern resolve in Saul's mind, when he is imperatively commanded "to trample out the living fire of Amalek." The prophet must be obeyed, and if so, the sooner the distasteful work is done the better.
"Now let me tighten every cruel sinew,
And gird the whole up in unfeeling hardness,
May choke itself to stillness. I am as
A few sentences have a great similarity to those of our best classic authors. The following we have seen somewhere, almost verbatim :
antithesis, incomplete and weak figures of speech are "few and far between.' The experience of years, between the issue of to the mind, but it has bestowed a balance the two poems, has not given additional force of power, to regulate the proper relations of the intellect, the imagination, and the aesthetic taste. In other words, the work of art, as a whole, is more proportional and complete than "Saul." The Scripture narrative is strictly adhered to throughout. The first stanzas give a key to the whole, and are full of sweet and sad music :
""Twas in the olden days of Israel,
When from her people rose up mighty men
The agonizing Jephthah supplicates Heaven to absolve him from the fearful vow. words and beautiful imagery are faultless. The warrior stands horror-stricken and paralyzed at the thoughts of the certain fate of his beloved daughter. Can there be no vicarious oblation; no other propitiation ?
"Choose Tabor for thine altar; I will pile
The hill-wolf howling on the neighbouring height,
We feel loath to end these quotations, for our ardent desire is to interest the reader in Canadian literature, such as any people might be proud of. What enthusiasm would have been aroused in the United States or