Puslapio vaizdai

this earth. . . . Come here, come; it is there that Mercury and the Goddess of Hell conduct me. .." He thus walks with a firm and steady step; and while he is going, the chorus, prostrate at the foot of the altar of the Furies, sings this funeral hymn:

"O invisible Goddess! and you, O Pluto, sovereign of eternal night, if I may presume to address to you my prayers, I beg you to permit this old man, by a peaceable death, quietly to repose in the bosom of the Styx, in this region of the dead, where all is ingulfed."

During the chanting of this funeral hymn, far from profane eyes, is the denouement of the destiny of Edipus; for the end of the mystery is concealed in the bosom of the gods. All that can be known is, "that this blind man, who walked without a guide, has reached the borders of the gulf, of which the brazen-groundworks are attached to the earth; he stops at the place where the road branches in many directions, near a deep crater, where stand the monuments of friendship which Theseus and Pirithous formerly pledged to each other, in descending to the infernal regions. He takes off the garments which cover him; and calling his daughters, he orders them to bring him some pure water for his libations. Both of them hasten to the hill of Ceres, which they see hard by, and execute the orders of their father. They bathe him, and clothe him with 'new garments, according to the prescribed rites. Scarcely has he tasted the sweetness of the services which they render him; scarcely have all his orders been complied with, than Jupiter causes a subterraneous roll of thunder. His two daughters shudder in hearing it, and falling at the knees of their father, with their eyes in tears, they beat their breasts and utter long groans. Edipus, on his part, has no sooner heard this dreadful noise, than extending his arms over his daughters: 'O my children,' says he, 'you have no longer a father! all is consummated. . . .' At these words the father and his children, embracing each other, sob and weep together. Finally, their tears being calmed, and silence succeeding to their cries, a voice is suddenly heard: it calls Edipus. Terror seizes us, and our hair stands erect on our heads. But the voice of the god still thundered: Edipus! Edipus! who stops you? Let us proceed. You are slow.' Scarcely has Edipus recognized the voice of the god, than touching his two daugh


ters with his trembling hands: My children,' says he, 'you must leave this place, and not request to see and hear what is forbidden you. Go! Retire! Let Theseus alone remain: he alone must be witness of what is about to happen. . . .' At this command, we retire; and his daughters follow us, groaning, and shedding tears. But at some steps hence, we turn around: Edipus had disappeared; and Theseus, with his hand over his forehead, hid his eyes, as if struck with terror at the sight of some horrible spectacle. Very soon after we have seen him prostrate himself, and worship, at the same time, both the earth, and Olympus, where the gods reside. Theseus, alone, among mortals, can henceforth say in what manner Edipus has perished."

This is a terrible and majestic scene; and, in order that nothing may be wanting to the beauty of this mysterious death, we remark that the filial piety of Antigone and Ismene accompanies Edipus to the borders of the grave, and that their tears follow him after his death: for there is no beautiful death for fathers except that of being lamented by their children. "My father," exclaims Antigone, who regrets this father whom she nourished and guided, "my father, in my misfortune, I found pleasure in bestowing my cares upon you for misfortunes have also their charm."

The death of Lear is more melancholy and painful than that of Edipus. It is Lear's fault, if he has trusted to the perfidious flatteries of Regan and Goneril, and has disinherited the devoted Cordelia. He has already been punished, by the ingratitude of the daughters whom he has crowned; he will be more cruelly punished, by the death of Cordelia: for the chastisement of this father, who is not able to discern the devoted and silent tenderness of his daughter, is the incapacity to enjoy it, when he has at last discovered it. This last stroke of fate, this last effect of his faults, overwhelms the desolate old man. He had, with difficulty, recovered his reason, owing to the touching care of his beloved daughter; in losing his daughter, he relapses into madness; but now, madness exhausts the remainder of his strength, and his life escapes, in an agony of grief and delirium, striving, in vain, to recognize the living who surround him, the faithful Kent, the devoted Edgar, the Duke of Albany, but only recognizing the dead, who were still more closely pressing around him. Cordelia, whom he holds dead in his arms, Cordelia, "with

her voice ever soft, gentle, and low," this voice which had driven from his ear the importunate tingling of madness; his daughters, Regan and Goneril, "had fore-done themselves, and desperately were dead;" and the poor fool, who had never quitted him, is also dead.

No, no, no, life!

O see, see-and my poor fool is hanged.
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou, no breath at all? Thou'lt come no more!
Never, never, never, never, never--

Pray you, undo this button. Thank you, sir.

Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there-

and he himself falls down dead!

This is certainly a horrible and melancholy death. Let us come now to the death of Father Goriot. He is stricken with apoplexy. A violent dispute between his two daughters, the news of the disaster of their fortunes, the idea of their future misery, have created an excitement, which terminated in a fit of apoplexy. In the agony of death, the old man, acknowledging the ingratitude of his daughters, sometimes rebukes them, with anger and curses, and then, repenting of it, he prays heaven not to punish them; for it is he who has been the cause of all the evil, it is he who has spoiled them by his indulgence and kindness. This agony is melancholy and touching. What is wanting, then, to render him truly pathetic; and how comes it that the tears which we are disposed to shed over the death of this abandoned father, are restrained by an indescribable feeling of involuntary repugnance? As he has lived by instinct, Goriot dies the same; and what the author seems to wish to show us in this agony, is not the last struggle of the soul, but the last effort of an instinct which is about to be exhausted. In this idea, he introduces, from time to time, near the bed of the ill man, a young medical student, a great advocate of phrenological doctrines, who curiously notes the progress of the serum in the brain. If Father Goriot at first becomes, for a moment, overcome by illness, he soon recovers his speech, and calls his daughters to his death-bed; if he makes use of words, full of anger and grief, which affect us, the author takes care to explain, that the lobe of the brain, which responds to the paternal instinct, has, by a kind of native energy, resisted the invasion of the serum: it is there that life takes refuge, the


last triumph of this paternal instinct, which has controlled all the thoughts and all the actions of Father Goriot. It is this which restrains our pity, or rather, it is this which counteracts it. In seeing this father abandoned by his daughters, and who blesses them, in spite of their abandonment, we are inclined to think of the inexhaustible indulgence of the paternal heart, which is, in that respect, the image of the Divine heart; but the idea of instinct checks us, and, in spite of ourselves, we think of the dog, which dies licking the hand of the very master who has killed him.


Lear is still half crazy when he dies; but see how, at this last moment, reason controls madness, as the heart of man recovers itself, and as madness is effaced at the approach of death; for Shakspeare wishes that we should witness the death of a man, and not that of a madman; the agony of a father who has recognized his daughter, and has lost her at the same time, and not that of a poor madman, who is taken from the hospital to the grave. Shakspeare well knows that it is only on this condition that the death of Lear will affect Edipus dies with a dignity almost divine; Lear, although crazy, dies with all the dignity of a man. This manly dignity is wanting in the death of Father Goriot. Sophocles and Shakspeare have both removed from the death of their heroes all the circumstances of material death. They have spiritualized it as much as they were able; Sophocles has made it divine; Shakspeare took care to purify it from the mixture of madness, both being persuaded that, in the death of a man, there is nothing touching but what is truly human, that is to say, the departure and adieu of the soul. The modern romancer, on the contrary, has taken care to materialize death as much as he could, not only by the aid of the melancholy details which mark the dissolution of the body, but what is still more material, in showing, in Father Goriot, the last convulsions of expiring instinct. He has, if we may so speak, taken away the soul from man; but, at the same time, and as if by way of punishment, he has detracted from the interest of his romance.




THERE is a trait in the paternal character for which we would reproach ourselves not to notice, especially after having pointed out the sickly sentimentality of Father Goriot: we mean this feeling of forgiveness which a father always entertains for the faults of his children. Although this sentiment be natural to man, it has not, until recently, been represented upon the stage. The heroes of the ancient Greek drama did not even pardon their sons; Orestes did not spare his mother; and Edipus is inexorable to the prayers of Polynice. A justice as inexorable as vengeance, reigned in the Greek drama, as it did in the old Greek mythology. Neither defeat, captivity nor suffering, deprived the unfortunate of their zeal for justice, or their thirst for revenge. In Eschylus, Prometheus, enchained on Caucasus, refused to pardon Jupiter the injury which he received. "We must injure those who injure us," said he: and he prefers rather to be taken captive and tortured, than to renounce the power and the right which he has to avenge himself.

In antiquity, the Achilles of Homer is the only hero who permits himself to be moved by the tears of his enemy. He only restores to Priam, it is true, the body of his son; yet, this scene of pity is, in ancient literature, a scene apart; and there, as elsewhere, Homer has not only preceded Greek literature and civilization, but he has also anticipated and directed their progress in what they contain most pure and refined; he seems to have wished in his Achilles, who is the model of a hero such as he has conceived him, to show the

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