« PreviousContinue »
same enmity which dictated a war with Great Britain in the early period of our national existence, now threatens to annihilate that existence in the pursuit of a policy not only absurd in theory, but in practice advantageous to our enemy and ruinous to ourselves. The various points of distinction which mark the federal and democratick administrations, would swell this paper to a greater bulk, than we can now suffer it to attain. We have not forgotten the judiciary, the impressment of seamen, the rule of 1756, the purchase of Louisiana, nor the influence of Virginia. But as those topicks will early call our attention, and as this address is principally to announce our political creed, we shall not discuss them at the present moment. The difference, However, which distinguishes one administration from the other is mainly this, the federal was a practical and the democratick is a theoretick system of policy. Under the benign influence of the first we were a prosperous and a happy people ; our commerce flourished, our industry was successful, our character was respected, and our rights maintained ; under the pestiferous shade of theory and dignified retirement, negotiation has been so long protracted by ridiculous impediments, that commerce is destroyed, industry is inert and insensible, the national character is disgraced, and under the pretence of maintaining secondary rights, our very existence seems fast approaching to its decisive termination.
To oppose such doctrines will be a principal object in this paper ; we call therefore on the satirists of the times to lend us their torches to light the wretches, which disgrace our national annals, to the verge of everlasting night; and their thongs to whip them into the infamy they merit.
INTRODUCTION TO POETRY.
This department, in every literary journal in the United States, has always been meagre of original stamina or support, particularly as respects satirical effusions. And as we shall have in view, the censure of the ridicuious, as well as the approbation of the dignified, we shall frequently have recourse to foreign store houses for weapons to overthrow the adversaries of good sense. We therefore offer our readers an account of a German drama, of some celebrity; which from the taste in which it is conducted, will give as fair a specimen of our intentions in the Poetical Department, as the most laboured exposition of our own could possibly afford. We call on our poetical friends for similar and congenial attempts, to scourge the absurd taste which prevails in the poetry of the times,
Nathan the Wise, a dramatick poem, is a genuine German drama, written without any imitation of French or English, and admirably calculated to elucidate the native and peculiar taste of that ingenious people. They have borrowed so much of late from both these quarters, that it may reasonably be doubted, whether a relish for their own original and appropriate literature be altogether so common in this country as is usually imagined. This book, we think, will afford a very useful test for determining that important problem, and will enable the reader immediately to ascertain whether he has hitherto admired the true German genius itself, or only its imitation of French and English. A traveller may very erroneously suppose that he relishes German cookery, when he gormandizes on fricandeau of plumpudding at Vienna; but if he take delight in sour krout and wild-bear venison, he may rest assured that he is under no mistake as to the proficiency he has made, and that he has completely reconciled himself to the national taste of his entertainers. The work before us is as genvine sour krout as ever perfumed a feast in Westphalia.
The story, in point of absurdity, we think, is fairly entitled to bear away the palm from the celebrated German play in the poetry of the Aotijacobin : the moral is no less comfortable ; and the diction, though not altogether so lofty, is, upon the whole, entitled to equal admiration. · The scene is laid in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades; and the story turns chiefly upon the adventures of a young Templar, who had been made captive by the armies of the celebrated Saladin. This monarch, who is represented as a pattern of mildness and generosity, chuses to amuse himself one morning by seeing the heads of twenty persons struck off by his chief executioner, and witnesses the operation upon nineteen of them with singular complacency and satisfaction. Being struck, however, with a sort of resemblance which the twentieth seemed to bear to a favourite brother, who had disappeared many years before, he directs his life to be spared, and allows him to roam at large, in a starving condition, through all the streets of Jerusalem. In one of his evening rambles, this youth perceives the house of Nathan the Jew to be on fire; and gallantly going to the assistance of the city firemen, is the means of saving the Jew's daughter from the flames. The young Israelite very naturally falls in love with her preserver ; but he, having a bad opinion of the whole nation, keeps out of the
way of her gratitude, till Nathan finds him out, and wins the affection of this Christian champion in a moment, by assuring him that he is not a Jew, but only a sort of Deist, who has acquired a habit of going to the synagogue without meaning any thing. The Templar protests that he is himself of the very same faith ; and, after vowing eternal riendship, he goes home with him and falls furiously in love with he daughter.
In the mean time, Saladin sends for the Jew to lend him money, and to ask him which of the three religions is the best, the Christian, Jewish, or Mahometan. The learned Rabbi answers, that they are all very good in their way; but that it is impossible to say, till the day of judgment, which is the best : and then gratifying his royal pupil with heaps of gold, he leaves him enchanted with his wisdom and munificence. The Templar, without considering his vow of celibacy, now becomes very urgent to marry the daughter of Nathan; and some accidental obstacles being thrown in the way, it turns out, Ist, that this - fair creature is not the Jew's daughter, but the daughter of a Christian Knight, who had confided her to his charge ; 2d, that the gallant Templar is the son of the Saracen, prince who had dis. appeared from Saladin's court, and, wandering into Europe, had been seized with the eaprice of becoming a Knight Templar, and
fighting against his own beloved brother, under which character he had chosen, however inconsistently, to marry a German lady, and beget this young hero ; and, 3d, that the same illustrious convert was also the father of the Jew's reputed daughter, and consequently, that these young lovers stand to each other in the relation of brother and sister. The most edifying part of the story is, that this discovery pro: duces no sort of upeasiness or disturbance to the parties concerned ; on the contrary, the young people seem quite delighted with the occurrence; and the author leaves them embracing their uncle the Sultan, in a paroxysm of filial and paternal affection. Such is the fable of Nathan the Wise.
We shall quote a line or two representing the doctrines of the author, which recommend as an antidote to religious intolerance, an absolute indifference or infidelity. When the Templar is reproaching, the Jew with the prejudices and superstitions of his nation, he answers,
Despise my nation-
That hast thou.
To have mistaken thee a single instant. P. 104.
-nor were this time
Across the tangled maze of human life.
Temp. So solemn that! and yet if in the stead
It would sound true p. 170. The creed of the Sultan appears, from a variety of passages, to be equally liberal and accommodating.
The diction and composition of this piece are not, as we have already observed, altogether so magnificent or ambitious as those of the modern German theatre. It aims rather at a great simplicity and aptness. The dialogue is the most familiar and natural imaginable, and the metaphors and figures which are introduced the most humble and homely. There is a vein of innocent jocularity which runs through the whole drama ; and the Sultan and his ministers gibe and play upon each other, in the very same style of infantine raillery and impatience, which prevails between the young Jewess and her governante. The personages are all very quick and snappish, withal, without ever subjecting themselves to the agitations of the greater passions ; and the author has contrived most ingeniously to produce a drama, which has all the levity of comedy, without its wit or vivacity, and all the extrat. agance of tragedy, without its passion or poetry.
The translator, we think, has done great justice to his original ; except that his partiality for the German idiom has induced him to stick to it occasionally, to the manifest prejudice of his English : his notions of metrical harmony are probably borrowed from the same source.
The following is part of the first dialogue that passes between the lovers. “ Recha. Where have you been? where you perhaps ought
Temp. Up-how d'ye call the mountain ?
Temp. What ! If the spot may yet be seen where Moses
No, no, not that.
That I have seen, quite the reverese obtains." p. 128-29. The following soliloquy of the wise Nathan, when the Sultan leaves him to ponder on his query about the three religions, is in a loftier style, and is in the best and most sententious manner of the author.
“ Nath. I came prepar'd with cash—he asks truth. Truth?
p. 145--46. We suspect our readers have enough now; yet there are many choice phrases and images to be called. Nathan, reproving pride, says,
“ The iron pot would with a silver prong,
Be lifted from the fire.” The fair Recha comparing the truth of Christianity to weeds sown in her mind, says,
« Yet I must acknowledge
That makes me giddy—that half suffocates me.” And her handmaid, observing the agitation of her lover, observes with much elegance,
“ Something passes in bim.
It boils but it must not boil over. Leave him The same personage conceiving Nathan to be somewhat severe in his sarcasms, replies to him with great spirit, by first saying, “ Hit off," and then exclaiming, “ you are on the bite.” We suspect, however, that we are indebted to the taste of the translator for the dignity of these two repartees.
There is one other phrase to which he seems particularly partial, and which has a very singular effect on his composition. He can by no chance be prevailed upon to use the verb “ to find," without coupling it with the particle “ up ;" thus, he says,
“ We'll find thee up a staff;">go find me up the Jew;"-"Will no one find me the