Puslapio vaizdai

succeed better than those which are complicated. Paternal selfishness is therefore introduced on the stage only in the advanced state of literature, when the simple sentiments, having been exhausted, authors are forced to search in the recesses of the human heart for the subtle and strange feelings which excite curiosity. They commence with representing paternal love in its most tender and devoted traits, as well as in what it possesses of elevation and firmness; they conclude by painting it in its jealous and selfish features. They begin with Don Diego, the old Horace and the Geronte in The Liar; they end with Dupuis and Triboulet.




ART has two modes of elevating its character, viz. prosperity and adversity; and of these the latter we think is the most efficacious, since it addresses itself to the feeling of pity, which is in the heart of man a more powerful source of admiration, and is not so easily exhausted. In Don Diego and the old Horace, the paternal character becomes venerable by the respect and obedience which their sons entertain for them; but in the Edipus, and in King Lear, this sacred character seems to become elevated, sustained by the indignation which is excited by the ingratitude of their children.

To the characters of Edipus and King Lear, those ancient victims of filial ingratitude, we will compare the personage of one of our modern romances, Father Goriot abandoned by his daughters. This comparison will not only be advantageous to our literary studies; for the manner in which each age conceived of this character of an outraged father shows also, if we are not mistaken, the idea which it entertained of a family, and of the force of the obligations which bind the father and his children.

Like Edipus, King Lear is cast off by his children; but there are, in the manner in which Sophocles and Shakspeare describe their misfortunes, differences which it is curious to observe; differences entirely of a literary nature, which partake of the form of the ancient and modern drama-for the moral intention is the same in both; the two poets have the same idea of the sacredness of paternal authority, and of the inevitable vengeance which is attached to ungrateful children.

From his birth to his death the destiny of Edipus is

mysterious. Devoted to misfortune in his mother's womb, exposed at his birth upon Mount Citharon, saved by the anger of the gods, the murderer of his father, the husband of his mother, the brother of his children, tearing out his eyes with his own hands, as unworthy to see the day when his crimes or his calamities have been revealed to him, banished from Thebes by his sons, and having his daughter, Antigone, as his only guide and support; it is at Colonna, near Athens, in a forest consecrated to the Furies, that he comes, according to the oracle of Apollo, to seek his death and burial. But, before dying, he must fulfil upon his sons the vengeance of the gods, as his sons, in banishing him, had accomplished upon him.

Every thing in Edipus reveals the sacredness of the paternal character. It is for having killed their father that Eteocles and Polynice have perished miserably. A terrible connection of successive expiations, which avenge justice by crime itself; for ancient fatality is not as capricious or unjust as it at first seems: it has for its agents chance and evil, but it has justice for its end; having for its instruments unbridled passions, it avenges murder by murder, and punishes crime by crime; but justice hovers over these human passions, and directs them, in spite of themselves, to the mysterious object which it pursues.

In the Edipus Colonaus there is another idea, full also of mystery, because it adds still more to the grandeur of the character of Edipus. As soon as these expiations have been accomplished as soon as the outrage offered to paternal majesty has been avenged by the death of Edipus and his sons, whom the anger of the gods had pursued, the tomb of this same Edipus will become, for the land that will possess it, a pledge of grandeur and power. Such is the efficacy which is attached to the expiation and the propitiatory victim: living, they strike him without mercy in the name of God-for it represents the offence which his death must do away with; and, dead, they revere him as the symbol of restored justice. Edipus is a victim of this kind; and what shows that the mysterious benediction which is attached to the tomb of Edipus is not a tradition which is peculiar to it, is that it is the same with the tomb of Orestes, this other type of the ancient fatality, and which is, like Edipus, only an emblem of justice re-established by crime. The oracle of Apollo had

predicted to the Lacedemonians that they would be weak and conquered as long as the ashes of Orestes did not repose at Sparta.*

We do not find, in Œdipus, an individual who is master of his actions: Edipus is the instrument of the gods, and all his actions have a divine stamp. Other fathers, in a similar situation with Edipus, might have been moved to pity by the entreaties of a son prostrate at their feet. Edipus is inflexible, for he represents the justice of the gods. In vain Polynice conjures him to pardon him; in vain Antigone unites her prayers to those of her brother; Edipus refuses even to reply to him, the paternal voice would be profaned in speaking to an ungrateful son. Between Edipus and his sons there are no more ties; ingratitude has broken them all. Edipus finally replies to Polynice, but it is only to curse him; and these words, full of anger and revenge, he would not have accorded to his sons, if the old men of Colonna had not, in the name of Theseus, entreated him to reply to Polynice. Then Edipus, as Theseus is his guest, yields to his respect for hospitality for hospitality is also a law which comes from the gods, and, being the minister of the justice of the gods, Edipus must respect it. But he does not change, on that account, the sentence which he ought to pronounce; and what is remarkable, the chorus of the old men of Colonna do not ask it of him, so much does the inflexibility of vengeance control all minds!

"Believe me, citizens, believe me, if it were not for Theseus, the sovereign of this country, who has sent him to me, requesting me to answer him, he would never have heard the sound of my voice. Let him hear, then, the words which he deserves: they will not bless and rejoice his life :

"It is you, wretch, who, in Thebes, when you possessed the throne and the sceptre which your brother now possesses, yourself drove away your father; you, who banished him

*The Lacedemonians had been continually unfortunate in their first war against the Tegeates; but, in the time of Croesus, and under the reign of Alexandride and Ariston at Sparta, they acquired the superiority by means which I may relate. As they always had been beaten by the Tegeates, they sent to demand of the oracle at Delphi what god they must propitiate in order to get the advantage over their enemies. The Pythoness replied, that they would conquer if they brought home the bones of Orestes, the son of Agamemnon.-HERODO TUS, b. i. ch. 67.

from his country; you, who made him wear these miserable rags with which you weep to see me clothed, now that you are exiled and unfortunate as me! But these evils I will no longer lament; I will preserve them in preserving in my heart, while I live, the memory of your parricide; for it is you who have reduced me to this miserable condition; it is you who cast me off, and compelled me to wander from place to place, begging the bread of charity from the hands of the stranger. In a word, if I had not these two daughters, who administer to my necessities, I should have died, and by your crime. They are my guardians and nurses; they made themselves men, to suffer with me: you, you are not my sons! . . . No, you shall not overthrow the ramparts of Thebes, which you are hastening to beseige; but your brother and yourself, drowned in each other's blood, shall perish under its walls. These are the imprecations which I call down upon you, and which I still invoke, to teach you to respect those from whom you have obtained your life, and not to despise your father, because he is blind. . . Begone; I deny and forswear you; begone, then, execrable son, and take my curses with you. May you never recover your country, nor even return to Argos, your place of exile! May you perish by a brother's hand; and may your brother, at the same time, perish by yours! May hell, which I invoke, hell, the author of the misfortunes of our family, receive you into its horrible abodes! I invoke against you the Furies, who preside in these regions; I invoke the god Mars, who has insinuated into the heart of your brother and yourself this implacable hatred against me. You have heard me; go and tell to the Thebans, and to your faithful allies, the vows which Edipus has made upon his sons."

Ducis has also made an Edipus Colonaus; but Ducis, a poet of the eighteenth century, has not given to his dipus the implacable firmness of the antique Edipus. The Edipus of Ducis is a Christian dipus; he is, moreover, we may say, such a father as the eighteenth century loved to represent on the stage: the tender father, and even a little lachry


The Edipus of Ducis at first resists, like the Edipus of Sophocles, the entreaties of Polynice; he even curses him, and, in this malediction, the verses of Ducis are often translated, or what is better, inspired of Sophocles:

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