Puslapio vaizdai

She has not those touching tears in favor of her son:

But there remains to me a son; you will one day know,
Madam, how far our love for a son will carry us.

Permit me to conceal him on some desert isle;
Of the cares of a mother, you may be assured,
And my son will learn only to weep with me.

Act iii. scene 4.

The Andromache of Euripides, opposes insult to insult; she reproaches the daughter of Helen with wanting those virtues which make the honor of wives; and upon this subject, she makes a curious apology for the domestic manners of the East, as opposed to those of the West:

"It is not my fascinations which cause you to be hated by your husband; but your not knowing how to make your intercourse with him agreeable. The true philter is not beauty; it is the virtues, which are pleasing to husbands. You are always speaking in extravagant praise of the grandeur of Lacedemon, and contemptuously of Scyros; you are making a display of your riches among the poor; Menelaus is, in your eyes, greater than Achilles; it is this which renders you odious to your husband. A woman, even if she were united to a wicked husband, should endeavor to please him, and not arrogantly to contend with him. If you had for a husband, some king of Thrace, where the same man, by turns, shares his bed with a number of women, would you then have killed them all? .... O dear Hector, if Venus inspired you with some desires, I loved, on your account, the women whom you loved; I have even, often offered my breast to the children whom another mother has given you, in order to remove from your abode the bitterness of family quarrels. And it is thus that I gained by my sweetness the heart of my husband."

Such are the differences between the ancient and the modern Andromache; differences which it is well to observe, because the modern Andromache is one of the most curious examples of the manner in which Racine composed his characters, mingling with infinite art in his conceptions, the associations of antiquity, with the inspiration of modern ideas. We hear all those poetic names of Troy, Priam and Hector, those sad invocations to the beloved shores of Asia:

No; you do not hope any more, to see us again,
Ye sacred walls, which cannot defend my Hector.
Act i. scene 4.

Hear the recital of

This cruel night,
Which was for a whole people an eternal night.

Act iii. scene 8.

Is it not the Andromache of Homer and Virgil that we hear? Is it not antiquity transported, as if by enchantment, upon the French Stage? But if, setting aside for a moment these great names, you study the character of Andromache, this dignity, and this purity, which she has preserved in the bosom of slavery, this fidelity to the memory of Hector, this peril of Astyanax, which was sufficient to excite the fears of a mother, but which she could command, when she wished to exercise the power of her beauty; the respectful love of Pyrrhus, the secret struggle between Hermione and Andromache, these stirrings of the passions, these emotions of the heart, these bursts of anger, these jealousies, which Racine has transferred from the world to the stage; you soon recognize this delicate and lively sensibility, which is one of the characteristics of modern society and literature; we recognize these passions, at once profound and subtle, which are developed under the influence, apparently different, of the religious scruples of Christian morality, and the conversations of the sentimental gallantry of the Hotel Rambouillet; we recognize especially the youth of Racine, whom we can imagine we can see, going from the grave and serious studies of Port Royal, full of the recollections of antiquity, but also moved and inspired by the passions which he felt in his soul, and painting Andromache, Pyrrhus and Hermione, still less perhaps with the traits which he discovered in Homer or in Virgil, than with those which he found in his own heart.



THE character of Andromache is the purest and most touching expression of maternal love; but it does not express all the energy of this love. Maternal tenderness cannot express a more sweet and penetrating language, but it may become more passionate and violent; it cannot inspire more pity, but it can inspire more terror. That is the difference between Andromache and Merope.

Euripides, among the ancients, and among the moderns, Torelli, Maffei, and Alfieri in Italy, and Voltaire in France, have made this character the subject of their respective dramas. We will briefly notice the expression which these different poets have given to maternal love.

The mythologist, Hygin, has preserved the argument of the tragedy of Euripides. The subject is simple and affecting. Polyphon has killed Chresphon, king of Messenia, has massacred his sons, and married his widow, Merope. Telephon alone, of the sons of Chresphon, has escaped from the massacre. Merope has committed him, while yet an infant, to the care of an inhabitant of Elis. But when afterwards he felt himself become strong and brave, Telephon comes to Messenum and announces to Polyphon, that he has killed the son of Merope. The tyrant receives him with joy. Merope, who has been informed of the arrival of a stranger, who has come to receive of Polyphon his reward for a murder, commences to tremble for the life of her son; and very soon af ter, the old man whom she employed as a messenger in Elis, coming to announce to her that he has not been able to find Telephon, she no longer doubts of her misfortune. She goes in search of Telephon, whom she finds sleeping in the palace, and throws herself upon him with her dagger in her hand to

avenge her son, when the old man advancing, recognizes Telephon, and checks Merope. Telephon does not delay to kill the tyrant, and to recover the throne of his father.

Such is the subject of the tragedy of Euripides, which is interesting without being complicated.

In the sixteenth century, in 1595, Count Torelli, who, like many Italian writers of that century, mingled business with letters, and who was an ambassador and poet, has, in his Merope, taken the argument of Euripides in all its simplicity, and it is that which has made him so successful. His piece is, (if we may be permitted to borrow a phrase from architecture,) a rebuilding of the tragedy of Euripides; not that he has attempted to put together the fragments of the Merope of Euripides; he has done better: he permitted himself to be inspired with the subject of the antique tragedy, without occupying himself with the fifty or sixty verses of Euripides, scattered here and there, and which were not even collected in the sixteenth century; and as he had a love for the antique literature, and as the Italian genius is the offspring of the Greek, there are, we dare say, many scenes of the tragedy of Torelli which seem to have been taken from Euripides. Telephon has truly the simplicity and grandeur of the personages of the antique tragedy, when returning to Messenum, poor, unknown, persecuted, but full of joy and confidence, he salutes this country so much longed for:

"O, Country! Dear and beloved Country! My eyes, so long deprived of seeing you, can at length feast themselves upon your beauty! Here is the asylum where I was brought up; here is the land which the invincible Hercules, my ancestor, has given to his descendants, and from which I have been unjustly banished! Sacred temple! which my father has so long perfumed with incense; Altar! watered by him with the blood of so many victims, I entreat you come to my assistance, and to request heaven to permit my hands to fulfil my revenge! Hall of my ancestors! magnificence of my fathers! whence comes it that in seeing you, I am both happy and sad? It is here that I was born the son of one of your kings, and yet the injustice of fate has torn me from your bosom; I have lost my father and my country, and so many dear and faithful subjects; there is now only Nessus to recognize me, Nessus alone whom I would wish to find; but I do not dare to ask any one, for the palace of the tyrant

is full of suspicions: the walls, the windows, the doors, have eyes and ears to spy out my steps and to report my words."* He very soon relates to the tyrant that he himself has killed Telephon the son of Merope; and at this news, Polyphon, full of joy, and no longer wanting confidence in the stranger, makes him his guest and his friend. Telephon then wanders about freely in the palace of his fathers, and arrives in the centre where stands the marble throne of Chresphon. He reposes with a mixture of respect and joy upon this paternal seat; for Apollo predicted to him that he would find the end of his misfortunes, when he would be seated upon the throne of his father; and full of the hopes and recollections which this throne revives in him: "It is then here," he exclaims, "that after so great and such long misfortunes, I must find rest. How sweetly my limbs re

* O cara amata patria, io gli occhi pasco
Lungamente digiuni

Della tua dolce e sì bramata vista!
Questo è pur il bel nido,

Ov'io sì dolcemente fui nodrito:
Quest'è la terra pur, ch'Ercole invitto,
Mio gran progenitore, a goder diede
Col valor acquistata a' suoi nepoti,
Ch'or così ingiustamente m'è intercetta.
Augusti, e sacri tempii, ch'onorati
Foste dal padre mio d'arabi odori,
Are, che di vermiglio sangue asperse
Foste da tante vittime, impetrate

Dal cielo a un pio d'un empio omai vendetta!
Larghe piazze, e palazzi,

Contesti di diversi e puri marmi,

Lasso me, ch'ora il rivedervi insieme

Mi diletta e m'attrista. Io pur qui nacqui

D'un vostro caro re, principe vostro ;

E pur dal vostro grembo iniqua sorte
Mi svelse, e perdei padre e regno insieme,
Nè di tanti sì cari e sì fedeli,

Che soggetti mi fur fedeli e cari,
Un sol mi riconosce: Nesso solo,
Vorrei Nesso trovar; ma non ardisco
Dimandarne ad alcuno; chè le case
De' tiranni son piene di sospetto;
Parlano le pareti e le finestre,
Par ch'abbiano le porte occhi et orecchie
Per ispiar, per riportar mai sempre.

[Edit. de Vérone, 1723, p. 356.]

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