Puslapio vaizdai
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“Go you to Pisa Florence is my place –

Leave me to tell her of the rectitude,

I, from the first, told Pisa, knowing it.” A new temptation! Braccio, imagining that Luria would consult his safety, instantly transfers the command to Puccio, who has too much soldier's honor left to take it:

“I want men,

Their hearts as well as hands — and where's a heart

That's not with Luria - ?” What will Luria do ? Braccio has gone to Florence, and Husain and the lady are left to ply him with their eager recommendations of a course that is at once revenge and safety. At last, the Moor emerges from this web of intrigue; he sees the guile, but he finds in it no argument for his own dishonor. The Christian Moor :

“I ruin Florence, – teach her friends mistrust,

Confirm her enemies in harsh belief, -
And when she finds one day, as she must find,
The strange mistake, and how my heart was hers,
Shall it console me, that my Florentines
Walk with a sadder step, a graver face,
Who took me with such frankness, praised me so,

At the glad outset?” Read this soliloquy of Luria, when the heart needs thoughts of placid forgiveness, and some man's nobleness to illustrate the idea of duty. But he takes the poison, more deadly than the virulent souls of his intriguers, who return at last to lay the love and devotion of Florence at his feet, and to hang their heads in shameful recollections. Is Braccio remorseful, or does he adroitly accommodate himself to the one generous moment of the Republic, as he says —

Speak, Luria! Here begins your true career,
Look up to it! All now is possible,
The glory and the grandeur of each dream, —
And every prophecy shall be fulfilled,
Save one... (nay, now, your word must come at last,)

- That you would punish Florence ! Hus. (pointing to Luria's dead body.) That is done !” Such is the bald outline of a plot, clothed in thought and poetry, and alive with generous sentiments. The verse often has an elevated repose, in harmony with the impressive thought; and the style is not so involved as in some of the other plays.

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The eye and sense gratefully acknowledge its breathing-places. It is transparent, finished, and has all the ease and rhythm of a self-collected woman. In a literary point of view, it is one of Mr. Browning's most finely-balanced productions ; and it gives us, as all symmetrical things do, the impression of a reserve of

power. But in the expression of Luria's character there appears to us a defect: it is a diminished form of the self-consciousness already alluded to. Here is the radical difference between the men and women of Mr. Browning and of Shakspeare, with the exception of Guendolen, Mildred, perhaps Pippa and Colombe, Valence, and Tresham. The introvertive faculty is not duly fused and tempered with the keen perception of nature and the spontaneous fancy. It is a defect in Luria, that he does not always forget himself; he speculates upon his own artlessness. He is not content with being the contrast to European intricacy and duplicity, but must tell us that he is so. We sometimes hear it said, that the present century is distinguished for its self-consciousness: this is true of the literary and speculative circles. People are continually “ pulling up their beans, to see how they grow.” But art must continue to represent the single-mindedness of nature. People in trouble still act in a very unsophisticated manner. A bankrupt, or the victim of a conspiracy, must have a highly finished education, to take pleasure in watching the throbbing of his own exasperated nerves. Luria talks so well about his Arab instincts that we doubt the purity of his breed ; sometimes, we must confess, he has appeared to us like Mr. Browning in a tableau. Take the following as a specimen; bearing in mind, too, that the poison works in him while he speaks ; Djabal might have said it:

“And inasmuch as Feeling, the East's gift,
Is quick and transient, — comes, and, lo, is gone,
While Northern Thought is slow and durable,
Oh, what a mission was reserved for me,
Who, born with a perception of the power
And use of the North's thought for us of the East,
Should have stayed there and turned it to account,
Giving Thought's character and permanence
To the too transitory Feelings there, -

Writing God's messages in mortal words!” Now Mr. Browning is able to throw into dramatic conditions a Moor with precisely such a mission, but such a Moor would never say a word about it. Mr. Browning has a rare and delicate appreciation of mental varieties, and this lends great power to his descriptive pen; but this knowledge may subserve the delineation of character only when it does not remind us of its function.

At first, it would seem that Luria could not do any thing more natural than to take poison. Yet this is our greatest objection to the character. "In some Moors it would be timely and appropriate, but in Luria it is an imitation: and, moreover, it vitiates, in our estimation, the impression which Mr. Browning endeavored to create, by showing us just such a Moor in just such circumstances. It is a common thing to consult the requisitions of the stage, and kill off the heroes, that the curtain may descend over a clean piece of work, and the spectators be left to pity, but at their convenience to forget. The hero is often by nature a candidate for suicide, in which case we cannot quarrel with his consistency; but whenever we get hold of a man capable of greater things, we demand that he shall not be sacrificed to stage effect. Mr. Browning has made Luria too great for his own catastrophe. His suicide, then, is a lamentable deference to the traditional requisitions of the fifth act, which mars the nobility in all the other four. Luria commits suicide. It is a bêtise worthy of “the nephew of my uncle,” when his forthcoming coup d'état shall fail. Inheriting this cross of the Gallic cock, Luria should have left a note upon his dressing-table, saying much, among other things, of “unappreciated merit,” “ unjust suspicions, that make life loathsome," " tired of being misunderstood,” with a request to seek out his aged mother, somewhere in the Orient, and make over his effects to her. For, seriously, a man upon whose lips so many noble sayings are at home, whose life is a sacrifice to Duty, that fills the soul and masters every sense, like the sight of some great pageant, who towers above the coldness and selfishness of those mean-natured Florentines, like the eternal pyramids of his own favorite imagery, should have supported his character to the end of the drama, as only such a soul could have done, undroopingly. Was he, after all, such a vulgar hero? — 50 small a man, to drown in a phial of Eastern tincture, where the play leaves him ; in his life so Christian, in his death a cockney crossed in love? He should have borne his last great disappointment, as he had borne his previous successes, simply trusting in his sense of right,thus gaining one more victory, harder than any over Pisan or

Lucchese, over mortified pride and sharp ingratitude. Then he would have been, from first to last, the glorious Moor, the symbol of a Duty that is quite Christian, united with an endurance of life such as only a pagan so Christian can maintain. A cockney Moor might have killed himself, and welcome ; but not this son of the morning, who despises revenge, the “brutelike punishment of bad by worse.” When a Moor speaks thus, we have a right to ask him, Is suicide nobler than revenge ? If a refusal to punish ingratitude were followed by a consent to live and bear it, would there not be true pathos in the sight or imagination of the subsequent fortunes of such a spirit? What should Luria have done after uttering such words as these ?

“There, my own orb! He sinks from out the sky!
Why, there! a whole day has he blessed the land,
My land, our Florence,- all about, the hills,
The fields and gardens, vineyards, olive-grounds,
All have been blest, — and yet we Florentines,
With minds intent upon our battle here,
Found that he rose too soon, or else too late,
Gave us no vantage, or gave Pisa more,-
And so we wronged him! Does he turn in ire
To burn the earth, that cannot understand ?
Or drop out quietly, and leave the sky,

His task once ended? Night wipes blame away.” He should have passed serenely from the scene of his unrequited glories, carrying our imaginations captive in the train of his true triumph ; graced too, in his return to the East, with all our drooping sorrows and wild surmises. There might we see him sit on the ruins of cities, dashing away the hot tears, and swallowing down the sobs that rise at the bidding of his indignant memories. We should follow him, as he sought, with every fibre of his character more firmly knit by the cruel trial, the early oasis, the only green spot left in the waste of his disappointment, where the dusk forms would crowd around the true hero, bringing him “fresh instinct to translate them into law.” Perhaps, too, “in Vishnu-land, what Avatar ?" But wherever he led the captive hearts, as he left the ungracious stage of Florence, they would gaze upon a fate more pathetic and ennobling than a hundred deaths.

And so should every such tragedy conclude, if the hero's previous life can afford the requisite guarantees to the imagination. But what does the great Luria, in the play? He takes a small phial from his

breast-pocket, shakes it well before taking the contents, as all the strength has settled, mutters to himself,

“Strange! This is all I brought from my own land

To help me." Strange, indeed; we had, throughout the play, been under the impression that he had brought his own will with him, bis own untainted conscience and mild simplicity, his own noble indifference to every fate less than reproach, to help him. He uncorks, we say, this phial, decants the virulent treacle and water — with what an air the stars of every season extinguish themselves !— lives through the whole of the fifth act, doubtless with much nausea and “ sinking of the lower abdomen," and dies just as Florence repents, and sends to him, bidding him live for his reward. There is a spurious pathos in such a catastrophe. It is indeed bitter to think that the noble Moor did not live to accept the repentance of the selfish city, and to enjoy the complete vindication of his character. But he did not foresee the result; and the effect of the character is marred precisely at the spot where he seeks in oblivion an unmanly refuge for his wounded feelings. So do all the heroes turn the last scene into comedy; they fall upon their swords, or take physic bought at an apothecary's. When shall we learn that the true pathos of a drama's close resides in the continuation, by the spectator's imagination, of the hero's suffering, of the long regrets, of the slow transformation of the poison into nutriment and life? Luria's character is spoiled, merely that every body may exclaim, when justification comes too late for him, “ What a pity !” That may be very sad, but it is not truly tragic. The consistency of the character is ruined, and its total effect seriously damaged, for the sake of an unhappy accident; and because it is not a custom of the fifth act to leave the heroes alive, suffering with the imagination. If the play was really written to develop the great-heartedness of a man whose idea of life is Duty, and whose whole demeanor has shown that he can afford to be misunderstood not without luxuries of feeling far exceeding his deserved reward, either Florence should not have repented, or Luria should have departed unwitting of the tardy justice. Then Florence would have been indeed punished, for Luria’s contempt would have remained alive. Any thing, rather than another craven suicide!

There remain to be quoted a few lines, showing the fine art and feeling that have been lavished on this play. Luria delays

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