« ForrigeFortsett »
lence—of confining the daring and digressive genius of poetry within the forms and limits of a regular drama, and, at the same time, of imparting its warm and vivifying spirit to the practical proportion and necessary details of a complete theatrical action. The subject is badly chosen, as the story gives no scope to the peculiar and commanding graces of Byron's genius, but runs continually counter to the master-piece of his fancy. The story is extremely improbable, though derived from authentic sources. It is, indeed, but another «Venice Preserved,» continually recalling, though certainly very far from eclipsing, the memory of Otway's chef-d'oeuvre. The opening of the fourth act is doubtless the most poetical and brilliantly written scene in the play—though it is a soliloquy.
The whole of the tragedy of Sardanapalus occupies but a few hours, and the unchanged scene is the royal palace; yet it owes its interest, such as it is, more to incident of action than to intensity of pathos. To crowd so many, such important, and such eventful incidents into the space of a few hours is a far more presumptuous demand upon our credulity, than to shift the scene from India to Europe, or to interpose years between the first and the fifth act. The author, in his delineation of the Assyrian king, has deviated from historical record; the stain of his follies, for here they are scarcely more; being almost obliterated by his graces, his talents, his heroism, and his kindness, which are mellowed into each other so as to produce general harinony, contrasted only by the faults which serve but to show them off with the requisite shade. The love and firmness of Myrrha forms a beautiful portrait.
The historical tragedy of the Two Foscari is all over tragic, a «wilderness of woe, » without one smiling spot to cheer the universal gloom.
Cain is a mystery in a double sense,—in its dramatic nature and its reasoning nature. Lord Byron may be called a giant with reference to the powers he has displayed in this production, for no where has he shown more, if so much, imagination, boldness of character, subtilty of reasoning, or energy of dialogue : but he chose a subject, and a mode of treating that subject, which could do no good, and might do much and most lamentable evil. We shall not enter into a particular account of this «mystery,” which however has beauties detached from its revolting features.
Of the rest of Byron's dramatic attempts, by whatever name they are designated, I can only add, that, however desirous of bearing testimony to his talents as a poet, I am not of those indiscriminating worshippers
who bow the knee to their idol of poetical idolatry on every occasion, and I am free to confess my opinion, that, although they unquestionably contain much fine poetry, they do not add much to his reputation. But
Peace to his shade! and sacred be his fame!
CHILDE HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE.
L'univers est une espèce de livre, dont on n'a lu que la première page quand on n'a vu que son pays. J'en ai feuilleté un assez grand nombre, que j'ai trouvées également mauvaises. Cet examen ne m'a point été infructueux. Je haïssais ma patrie. Toutes les impertinences des peuples divers, parmi lesquels j'ai vécu, m'ont réconcilié avec elle. Quand je n'aurais tiré d'autre bénéfice de mes voyages que celui-là, je n'en regretterais ni les frais ni les fatigues.