With blushing roses and the clustering vine;
Thus will thy lasting leaves, with beauties hung
Prove grateful emblems of the lays he sung;
Whose soul exalted like a god of wit
Among the muses and the graces writ.

The tragedy of “Edipus Tyrannus,” exhibits the dramatic powers of Sophocles, to as great advantage as any other of his works that have reached us. It is founded upon the story of the murder of Laius, king of Thebes, by his son Edipus, and the subsequent marriage of Edipus with his own mother Jocasta, the fruitful sources of many and dire calamities to him and his unhappy family. When the play opens, all Thebes is in commotion, in consequence of a dreadful pestilence which was laying waste the land; people of all ranks are thronging to the temple of Jupiter, and supplicating at his altar the favor of the Deity. Edipus is informed by Creon, who has just returned from Delphi, that the cause of the pestilence is the murderer of Laius, and that before it ceases, he must be discovered and driven from the country. Edipus, alive to the miseries of the people, determines to use every means to discover the murderer. By the advice of Creon, he sends for a blind and aged prophet named Tiresius, whowas looked on as one to whom all futurity was known:

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as among the gods
All knowing Phoebus, so to mortal men
Doth sage Tiresias, in foreknowledge sure

Shine forth preeminent Tiresias being brought before Edipus, hesitates to declare what he knows, and says,

You know not what you ask; I'll not unveil
Your niseries to you. I will not make
Myself and thee unhappy.

Still urged, he reluctantly declares that. Edipus himself is the murderer,

The guilty cause of all the city's woes.

And adds that he is

in shameful bonds united With those he loves, unconscious of his guilt Is yet most guilty.

This declaration of Tiresias, excites the rage of Edipus, and causes a quarrel between him and Creon, who he believes has induced the prophet thus to speak, in order that the commission of the crime being fixed on him, Creon may succeed to the crown. The character of Edipus is drawn with a masterly hand, and we cannot but feel deeply interested for him in his various and trying afflictions. The scene between Edipus and Jocasta, when he informs her of the declaration of Tiresias, is one of peculiar and striking interest.

Creon says

That I did murder Laius.

spake he this
As knowing it himself, or from another?

Ed. He had suborned that evil working priest;
And sharpens every tongue against his king.

Joc. Let not a fear perplex thee, Edipus;
Mortals know nothing of futurity,
And these prophetic seers are all impostors;
I'll prove it to thee; know then, Laius once,
Not from Apollo, but his priests, received
An oracle which said, it was decreed
He should be slain by his own son, the offspring
Of Laius and Jocasta; yet he fell
By strangers; murder’d, so fame reports,
By robbers in the place where three roads meet:
A son was born, but ere three days had past
The infant's feet were bored; a servant took
And left him on the pathless mountain's top
To perish there; thus Phæbus ne'er decreed
That he should kill his father, or that Laius,
Which much he fear'd, should by his son be slain.

This speech of Jocasta, instead of removing the fears of Edipus, tends to confirm them; the time, the place, the description of the person of Laius, and the subsequent introduction of the shepherd, to whom Edipus was delivered when an infant, cause him to break forth in the following pathetic language:

Ome! at length the mystery 's unravelled
'T is plain; 't is clear; my fate is all determin'd:
Those are my parents who should not have been
Allied to me; she is my wife, e'en she
Whom nature had forbidden me to wed;
I have slain him who gave me life, and now
Of thee, O light! I take my last farewell;
For Edipus shall ne'er bebold thee more.

The death of Jocasta by her own hand, is thus described:

the queen

her own;

Divine Jocasta 's dead.
Cho. Jocasta dead! say by what hand?

And what 's more dreadful, none saw the deed.
What I myself beheld you all shall hear:
Inflam'd with rage, soon as she reach'd the palace,
Instant retiring to the nuptial bed,
She shut the door, then rav'd and tore her hair,
Call'd out on Laius dead, and bade him think
On that unhappy son who murder'd him,
And stain'd his bed: then turning her sad eyes
Upon the guilty couch, she curs’d the place
Where she had borne a husband from her husband,
And children from her child; what follow'd then
I know not, by the cries of Edipus
Prevented, for on him our eyes were fix'd

We might produce many more extracts from this tragedy, of peculiar beauty, but enough has been given for our purpose. Throughout this drama, the author seems to have had in view, to impress upon the mind, that whatever is decreed by Divine Providence, must inevitably come to pass, notwithstanding every human means may be employed to counteract its designs; and he concludes with the following sentiment:

Let mortals hence be taught to look beyond
The present time, nor dare to say, a man
Is happy, till the last decisive hour
Shall close his life without the taste of wo.

Euripides was born at Salamis, the day on which the army of Xerxes was defeated by the Greeks. He was the pupil of Socrates, the celebrated philosopher, but being more attached to poetry than philosophy, he left the groves of the academy and the banks of the Illyssus, and entered the temple of the muses, where he offered his devotions to Melpomene. When engaged in the composition of his tragedies, he frequently retired from the noise and bustle of the busy world, to a dreary and solitary cave in the neighborhood of Salamis. He is represented to have been proud, haughty, self-assuming and fund' of contention. When requested by the audience to strike 'out some offensive lines in one of his plays, he came forward on the stage and told them, that he came to instruct them, not to receive instruction.

Between Euripides and Sophocles, a bitter enmity, it is said, subsisted, which originated with the former, on account of his extreme jealousy of the talents and rising fame of the latter. This enmity led Aristophanes to introduce them both in some of his comedies, in which he ridiculed them with success and humor. The following judgment, with regard to these two dramatic writers, has been pronounced by a learned and judicious critic. “Euripides is esteemed more tender than Sophocles, and he is fuller of moral sentiments. But in the conduct of his plays, he is more incorrect and negligent; his expositions, or openings of the subject, are made in a less artful manner, and the songs of his chorus, though remarkably poetical, have, commonly, less connexion with the main subject, than those of Sophocles. Both Euripides and Sophocles are elegant and beautiful in their style; just for the most part, in their thoughts, they speak with the voice of nature; and, making allowance for the difference of ancient and modern ideas, in the midst of all their simplicity, they are both touching and interesting. "*

Aristophanes, in his comedy of the “Frogs," introduces Æschylus and Euripides as contending for precminence among the departed spirits; the contest is continued for some time, but is at length so managed, as to be decided in favor of the former. Æschylus is evidently the favorite of the poet, and he next ranks Sophocles, as appears from the following speech of Æschylus to Pluto:

do thou to Sophocles
Consign my seat, to keep possession of it,
In case I should not again return; for be
Doubtless, comes nearest me in tragic powers.

And again, in a scene between Xanthias and Æachus, the latter being asked why Sophocles did not put in his claim for the first rank in tragedy, replies:

not he, by Jove!
When hither he came down, he instantly
Embraced Æschylus, shook him by the hand,
And in his favor gave up all pretensions.

The few tragedies of Euripides now extant, have been trans

Blair's Lectures, p. 471.

lated into English by Potter. From his tragedy of “Iphigenia in Aulis,” we will make a few extracts, for the purpose of showing something of the genius and style of the author, so far as they can be exhibited in a translation, affording, at the same time, an opportunity of comparing the style and manner of the three great tragic poets of Greece. This tragedy is founded upon the sacrifice of the daughter by Agamemnon, to appease the wrath of Diana, whom he had offended; the oracle having declared, that the Grecian fleet would not be permitted to reach the Trojan coast, unless this sacrifice was offered. Agamemnon had been prevailed upon to send to Argos for his daughter, under pretence of giving her in marriage to Achilles; but afterwards repenting his determination, and feeling a return of that natural affection which prompts a parent to protect his offspring, he endeavors to prevent her coming; his schemes, however, are detected by the vigilance of his brother Menelaus, and disappointment ensues. Iphigenia and her mother Clytemnestra, arrive at Aulis, but instead of being united to Achilles, the former learns that her innocent blood is to be shed upon the altar of Diana.

The play opens with a dialogue between Agamemnon and an attendant, whom he determines to despatch to Argos with a let: ter to Clytemnestra, in which he says:

Whate'er my former letter gave in charge,
Daughter of Leda, this I write to thee,
That to Eubæa's winding bay thou send not
Thy daughter, nor to Aulis rising high
Above the waves; for to some other time
The nuptials of thy virgin daughter we defer.

The messenger is detected by Menelaus, and the letter wrested from his hands. Menelaus reproaches Agamemnon for his "secret baseness :"

when thou cam'st to Aulis, with the troops
Of Greece in arms, to nothing didst thou sink,
Astonish'd at thy fortune, by the gods
Denied a gale to swell thy sails. The Greeks
Required thee to dismiss the ships, nor toil
In vain at Aulis; how dejected then
Thy visage, thy confusion then how great
Not to command the thousand ships, and fill
The fields of Priam with embattled hosts?
Me then thou didst address; what shall I do,
Or what expedient find, of this command.

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