Page images

A sullen bull; then plunging deep their hands
Into the foaming gore, with oaths invok'd
Mars, and Enyo, and blood-thirsting terror.

Sometimes, indeed, the thoughts of this author are too gross, rough, and unpolished; yet Euripides himself, spurred on too fast by emulation, ventures even to the brink of like


[ocr errors]

too violent to yield to his proposal in words, but assent
in a manner that at once displays the art of the poet,
gives the reader a terrible idea of the fallen angels, and
imprints a dread and horror on the mind.

He spake, and to confirm his words, out flew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty Cherubim: the sudden blaze
Far round illumin'd hell; highly they rag'd
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arms
Clash'd on their sounding shields the din of war,

Hurling defiance tow'rd the vault of heav'n.
How vehemently does the fury of Northumberland exert
itself in Shakespeare, when he hears of the death of his
son Hotspur. The rage and distraction of the surviv-
ing Father shews how important the Son was in his opis
nion. Nothing must be, now he is not: nature itself
must fall with Percy. His grief renders him frantie,
his anger desperate.

Let heav'n kiss earth! now let not nature's hand
Keep the wild flood confin'd: let order die,
And let this world no longer be a stage
To feed contention in a ling’ring act:
But let one spirit of the first-born Cain
Reign in all bosoms, that each heart being set
On bloody courses, the rude scene may end,
And darkness be the burier of the dead.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

imperfections. In Æschylus the palace of
Lycurgus is surprisingly affected by the sud-
den appearance of Bacchus:
The frantic dome and roaring roofs convuls'd,
Reel to and fro', instinct with rage

divine. Euripides has the same thought, but he has turned it with much more softness and propriety:

The vocal mount in agitation shakes 5,
And echoes back the Bacchanalian cries.

[ocr errors]


* Tollius is of opinion, that Longinus blames neither the thought of Euripides nor Æschylus, but only the word Ben Xeva, which, he says, has not so much sweetness, nor raises so nice an idea, as the word oop EAN ZEUEI. Dr. Pearce thinks Æschylus is censured for making the palace instinct with Bacchanalian fury, to which Euripides has given a softer and sweeter turn, by making the mountain only reflect the cries of the Bacchanals.

There is a daring image, with an expression of a harsh sound, on account of its antiquity, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, which may parallel that of Æschylus :

She foul blasphemous speeches forth did cast,
And bitter curses horrible to tell;
That e'en the temple wherein she was plac'd,
Did quake to hear, and nigh asunder brast.
Milton shews a greater boldness of fiction than either
Euripides or Æschylus, and tempers it with the utmost
propriety, when at Adam's eating the forbidden fruit,
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again

pangs, and nature gave a second groan;
Sky low'rd, and mutt'ring thunder, some sad drops
Wept, at compleating of the mortal sin.
1 2



Sophocles has succeeded nobly in his Images, when he describes his Oedipus in all the agonies of approaching death, and burying himself in the midst of a prodigious tempest; when he gives us a sight of the R apparition of Achilles upon his tomb, at the departure of the Greeks from Troy. But I know not whether any one has described that ap


6. The tragedy of Sophocles, where this apparition is described, is entirely lost. Dr. Pearce observes, tha there is an unhappy imitation of it in the beginning of Seneca's Troades; and another in Ovid. Metam, lib. xiii. 441. neat without spirit, and elegant without grandeur.

Ghosts are very frequent in English tragedies; but ghosts, as well as fairies, seem to be the peculiar province of Shakespeare. In such circles none but he could move with dignity. That in Hamlet is introduced with the utmost solemnity, awful throughout, and majestic. At the appearance of Banquo in Macbeth (Act. 3.

. Sc. 5.) the Images are set off in the strongest expression, and strike the imagination with high degrees of horror, which is supported with surprising art through the whole scene.

There is a fine touch of this nature in Job iv. 13. “In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep

sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trem“ bling, which made all my bones to shake: Then a “ spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood

up. It stood still, but I could not discern the form “ thereof: an image_before mine eyes—silence—and “ I heard a voice,--Shall mortal man be more just than “ God?" &c. &c.


[ocr errors]


parition more divinely than 7 Simonides. To quote all these instances at large would be endless.

To return: Images in poetry are pushed to a fabulous excess, quite surpassing the bounds of probability ; whereas in oratory, their beauty consists in the most exact propriety and nicest truth: and sublime excursions are absurd and impertinent, when mingled with fiction and fable, where fancy sallies out into direct impossibilities. Yet to excesses like these, our able orators (kind heaven make them really such!) are very much addicted. With the tragedians, they behold the tormenting furies, and with all their sagacity never find out, that when Orestes exclaims*, Loose me, thou fury, let me go, torment’ress: Close you embrace, to plunge me headlong down Into th' abyss of Tartarus the Image had seized his fancy, because the mad fit was upon him, and he was actually raving.

" Simonides the Ceian was a celebrated poet. Cicero de Orat. l. 2. declares him the inventor of artificial memory: and Quinctilian, l. x. c. 1. gives him this commendation as a poet: “His excellency lay in moving “compassion, so that some prefer him in this particu, 66 lar before all other writers.". * Euripid. Orest. v. 264.


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]




What then is the true use of Images in Oratory? They are capable, in abundance of cases, to add both nerves and passion to our speeches. For if the Images be skilfully blended with the proofs and descriptions, they not only persuade, but subdue an audience.

any one, says a great orator*, should “ hear a sudden out-cry before the tribunal, “ whilst another brings the news that the pri“ son is burst open and the captives escaped,

no man, either young or old, would be of 'so abject a spirit as to deny his utmost assist

But if amongst this hurry and con“ fusion another should arrive, and cry out, " This is the Author of these disorders--the “ miserable accused, unjudged, and unsen“ tenced, would perish on the spot."

So Hyperides, when he was accused of passing an illegal decree, for giving liberty to slaves, after the defeat of Cheronea ;

was not an orator," said he, “ that made this " decree, but the battle of Charonea." At the same time that he exhibits proofs of his legal proceedings, he intermixes an Image of the battle, and by that stroke of art, quite passes the bounds of mere persuasion. It is natural to us to hearken always to that which * Demosth. Orat. contra Timocr. non procul à fine.

66 It

« PreviousContinue »