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What horrid sights! how glare their bloody eyes! How twisting snakes curl round their venom'd heads!
can touch such incidents with happy dexterity, and paint such images of consternation, will infallibly work upon the minds of others.
This is what Longinus commends in Euripides ; and here it must be added, that no poet in this branch of writing can enter into a parallel with Shakespeare.
When Macbeth is preparing for the murder of Duncan, his imagination is big with the attempt, and is quite upon the rack. Within, his soul is dismayed with the horror of so black an enterprize ; and every thing, without, looks dismal and affrighting. His eyes rebel against his reason, and make him start at images that have no reality.
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
He then endeavours to summon his reason to his aid, and convince himself that it is mere chimera ; but in vain, the terror stamped on his imagination will not be shaken off.
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw-
I see thee still,
The delusion is described in so skilful a manner, that the audience cannot but share the consternation, and start at the visionary dagger.
In deadly wrath the hissing monsters rise, Forward they spring, dart out, and leap around
me*. And again, Alas!-she'll kill me!--whither shall I fyt?
The poet here actually saw the furies with the eyes of his imagination, and has com
The genius of the poet will appear more surprising, if we consider how the horror is continually worked up, by the method in which the perpetration of the murder is represented. The contrast between Macbeth and his wife is justly characterised, by the hard-hearted villany of the one, and the qualms of remorse in the other. The least noise, the very sound of their own voices, is shocking and frightful to both:
Which gives the stern'st good-night-he is about itAnd again, immediately after,
-Alack! I am afraid they have awak'd, And 'tis not done: th' attempt, and not the deed, Confounds us—Hark!—I laid their daggers ready, He could not miss them
The best way to commend it, as it deserves, would be to quote the whole scene. The fact is represented in the same affecting horror as would rise in the mind at sight of the actual commission. Every single image seems reality, and alarms the soul. They seize the whole attention, stiffen and benumb the sense, the very blood curdles and runs cold, through the strongest abhorrence and detestation of the crime.
* Euripid. Orest. ver. 255.
pelled his audience to see what he beheld
Lash'd by his tail his heaving sides incite
The foregoing assertion is evident from
where Sol delivers the reins of
but cautious shun the Lybian air; That hot unmoisten'd region of the sky Will drop thy chariot.--
And * Iliad. v. ver. 170.
* This passage, in all probability, is taken from a tra-
Zonarumque trium contentus fine, polumque
And a little after,
a Thence let the Pleiads point thy wary course. Thus spoke the god.. Th’ impatient youth with
haste Hac sit iter: manifesta rotæ vestigia cernes. Utque ferant æquos & cælum & terra calores, Nec preme, nec summum molire per æthera currum. Altius egressus, cælestia tecta cremabis; Inferius terras: medio tutissimus ibis. Drive 'em not on directly through the skies, But where the Zodiac's winding circle lies, Along the midmost Zone ; but sally forth, Nor to the distant South, nor stormy North, The horses hoofs a beaten track will show: But neither mount too high, nor sink too low; That no new fires or heav'n, or earth infest; Keep the mid-way, the middle way is best.
The Sublimity which Ovid here borrowed from Euripides, he has diminished, almost vitiated, by flourishes. A sublimer image can no where be found than in the song of Deborah, after Sisera's defeat (Judges, v. 28-), where the vain-glorious boasts of Sisera's mother, when expecting his return, and, as she was confident, his victorious return, are described:
« The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and “ cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long “ in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? “ Her wise ladies answered her ; yea, she returned an“swer to herself: Have they not sped? have they not “ divided the prey, to every man a damsel or two? to “ Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers co“ lours of needle-work, of divers colours of needle“ work on both sides, meet for the necks of them that “ take the spoil:-DR. PEARCE.
Snatches the reins, and vaults into the seat.
riot here! Who would not say, that the soul of the poet mounted the chariot along with the rider, that it shared as well in danger as in rapidity of fight with the horses? For, had he not been hurried on with equal ardour through all this ethereal course, he could never have conceived so grand an image of it. There are some parallel Images in his 3 Cassandra.
Ye martial Trojans, &c. Æschylus has made bold attempts in noble and truly heroic Images ; as, in one of his tragedies, the seven commanders against Thebes, without betraying the least sign of pity or regret, bind themselves by oath not to survive Eteocles: * The seven, a warlike leader each in chief, Stood round; ando'er the brazen shield they slew
3 The Cassandra of Euripides is now entirely lost.
The following Image in Milton is great and dreadful. The fallen angels, fired by the speech of their leader, are