Puslapio vaizdai

of which we have been speaking. Hope that is to say, faith in the future-is the nourishment of the soul. Man, in order to live, has need of the future; otherwise he would despair and die. The value of children, and what causes them to be reckoned among the blessings of God, is that they are the future of every family, and keep alive that idea which nourishes the soul. Children represent to us the future, and that under the most smiling and gracious aspect. In this consists their irresistible charm; and it is that which throws around their little heads a halo of happiness and joy which is reflected upon the countenances of parents, which cheers their hearts, and gives to the poorest and most wretched the strength to live and labor. Blessed then be infancy, which removes sadness and chases away the demon! Blessed be that by which the idea and the sentiment of the future are kept alive in the bosom of families, as indispensable to man as the light and the air which he breathes.

In the three books addressed to Stagyra, St. Chrysostom examines what is the species of melancholy which possesses him; and these reflections are especially applicable to our own times, for the melancholy of Stagyra. is only the effect of the disorder and effeminacy of the soul; a capacious sorrow, which it is often more difficult to cure than a real malady, because there is no error that can withstand the truth.

St. Chrysostom does not neglect to compare the imaginary sufferings of Stagyra with the real sufferings of the poor and diseased. 66 Go," says he, "to the prison, or to the entrance of the public baths: see those wretches who have neither house nor home, chilled with cold, shivering from hunger and misery, with pale and faded cheeks, their teeth chattering, and even having scarcely strength enough to speak, or to stretch out their hands; and yet you have the folly to call yourself wretched." And when by this contrast he severely rebuked the imaginary sufferings of Stagyra, he analyzes this sadness in such a manner as to make us doubt if what we read comes from a Father of the fourth century, or a moralist of our own times.

"The best way to get rid of this sadness is not to love it." A profound thought, the justness of which we are now willing to acknowledge. How many heroes are there in our romances, and even in the world, who love their sadness, which they call by the fine name of melancholy, and which

they fondly cherish in their hearts. We should hate those false chagrins which disgust and torment us, but which cling to our passions by a thousand living fibres, which we have scarcely the strength to break. “There are men,” said St. Chrysostom, "who love the itchings of their own wounds. And how can we hope but that the soul, consumed by this wound, which is unceasingly irritating it, should not at last succumb? How can we be surprised if all these emotions which it cherishes and excites against itself, which this vulture which it creates for itself to tear its own bowels, should not end by exhausting whatever strength and life may remain ?"

What shall we then say to those things? If God has made man's heart capable of sadness, can it be a crime? Christian morality does not commit the folly of condemning the sentiments which it finds in the human soul; it does not wish to suppress them, it only wishes to regulate them. Created by our Maker, it is good if we know how to employ it. "God has put sadness in the heart," says St. Chrysostom, "not to be employed without reason and to our prejudice, not to consume and destroy us, but to bring to our service its benefits and consolations. We ought to be sad, not when we suffer, but when we do wrong. Unfortunately, man has changed the order and reversed the time. It is when we do wrong that we cast off our sadness; and when we suffer that we become grieved, and wish to rid ourselves of life." In no moralist can we find a more profound analysis of the human heart than is contained in this sentence.

The thoughts on the sadness and suicide of Stagyra lead us naturally, according to the succession of times and ideas, from the suicides of the antique stage and philosophy to the suicides of the dramas and romances,—from Ajax and Cato to Werter and Chatterton.



THE ancient French drama, a faithful disciple of the Greek drama, has painted the suicide of passion rather than the suicide of reflection. Phædra learns that Theseus is living; despairing then of having confessed to Hippolytus her incestuous love, she resolves to die. All her reasons for committing this fatal act, are derived from the shame which she feels for the crime of which she is guilty,—from the dread of meeting her husband in her remorse:

I know my perfidy.
Enone, and I am not one of those shameless women
Who, enjoying in crime a tranquil peace,
Know how to assume a visage which never blushes.
I know my madness, I remember it all:

It seems to me that already these walls, these arches,
Are about to speak, and, ready to accuse me,
Await my husband to disabuse him.

Let me die! May death deliver me from such horrors!
Is it so great a misfortune to cease to live?
Death brings no terror to the wretched.

Act iii. scene 3.

These two last verses are the only general maxims which Phædra expresses in dying, if indeed we may call them by that name: for they are rather the particular sentiments and impulses of passion which take the form of a general maxim, without changing their nature. The heroines of Racine, who, like Phædra, have recourse to suicide,Monimene in Mithridates, Atalida in Bajazet, recur to it also in moments of violent passion. Suicide is not for them

a premeditated and deliberate act, it is caused by despair; the counsels of philosophy go for nothing, and they do not trouble themselves in the least to know if there is any glory in killing one's self. We must go to the theatre of Voltaire to find this idea, cherished by antique stoicism, that suicide is a sign of courage. Not that the heroines of Voltaire kill themselves to do honor only to philosophy, it is passion which urges them to the commission of suicide; but they are not afflicted to have the air to do from the motives of philosophy, what they really do from passion. They also commend their conduct, they justify it; in short they change as much as they are able into doctrinal suicide, the desperate and violent suicide of the ancient drama. The characters of the drama of Voltaire, are certainly more dramatic and more animated than those of the plays of Seneca; but they have also the pretension to be philosophers, and it is that which spoils them. Hear Idamé in the Orphan of China, when she proposes to Zamti, her husband, to kill himself, in order to escape the tyranny of Gengis-Khan:

Hear me :

we know only how to die by the order of a king?
The bulls fall in sacrifice upon the altars;
Trembling criminals are dragged to punishment;
Magnanimous mortals dispose of their own fate:
Why await death at the hands of a master?
Was man then born to be so dependent?

Let us imitate the firmness of our haughty neighbors,
They maintain the rights of human nature,

They live free among themselves, and die when they please;
An insult suffices to make them throw away their lives,

And they dread infamy more than annihilation.
The brave Japanese does not wait until into the coffin
An insolent despot should plunge him in a moment:
We have taught these brave islanders;

Let us learn of them the necessary virtues :
Let us learn to die like them.

Zamti. I applaud you, and I believe,
That extreme misfortune is above the laws.

Act v. scene 5.

Idamé and Zamti are no longer only two married people who wish to die together, they are two philosophers, who enter into a discussion with regard to the rights which a man

has to dispose of his life. Idamé does not look only to the glory of conjugal fidelity, she wishes to be a free thinker and a great character. She is wrong: the Theatre is much better adapted to the grand passions than to great characters. Suicide, as it has been represented on the French stage in Corneille and in Racine, or in Voltaire, proceeds from the suicides which we find in the ancient poetry and philosophy,from the suicides of Dido and Ajax, or Cato and Brutus; but it does not resemble the thoughtful and melancholy suicide of the literature of our own days. This kind of suicide has for its ancestors, the Stagyra of St. Chrysostom, and in modern. times, the Hamlet of Shakspeare.

The just celebrity of the soliloquy of Hamlet, meditating upon the choice between life and death, has contributed much in our opinion, to render the representation of suicide respectable on the stage, and in our romances.

There is in English literature a singular taste, which we may call the taste for death. What is profound and mysterious in the idea of death; what is vague and uncertain in the terrors which surround it; what is horrible and even repulsive in the features which characterize it;—all seem to have an attraction for the English genius. This love for death, it is singular to observe in the heroes of Shakspeare. It is not only Hamlet whose melancholy and gloomy mind loves to familiarize itself with this idea. When about to drink the stupefying potion which will make her pass for dead, and so enable her to be rid of the husband whom she refuses to marry, the young and beautiful Juliet does not only think of Romeo who will come to seek her and deliver her from the tomb; she does not only think of her love; she dwells with horror upon those funereal vaults under which she is about to descend, to those abodes which are full of the bones and spectres of the dead; her imagination becomes familiar with all the visions which can terrify her in this abode of horror, if she should wake up before the time when Romeo would come to deliver her; she even describes the delirium which will perhaps take possession of her senses, and how she will go to profane in her tomb the bones of her ancestors:

"If I live, is it not very like

The horrible conceit of death and night,
Together with the terror of the place:
As in a vault, an ancient receptacle,

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