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pered and agonized by the attempt to gratify public taste by conforming to any artificial standard. Moreover, "Miriam " is designed to illustrate a state of things in which all Christians feel a deep and permanent interest. The early history of our religion, and the struggles and sufferings to which its first advocates were exposed, have already and long since made for themselves a place in the affections and enthusiasm of the Christian community. Finally, the work before us has much intrinsic merit.
The principal idea of the poem is the struggle between love and faith, or between the affections and conscience, and the triumph of the latter. Miriam, a Christian, brings herself to cast off her Pagan lover, Paulus, to whom she is tenderly attached, and
"offer up a sacrifice
Of life's best hopes to the One Living God."
- p. 19. The characters introduced are an aged Christian, Thraseno; his two children, Miriam and Euphas; Piso, a persecutor of the new sect; Paulus his son, the lover of Miriam; and several Christians.
The Scene is laid at Rome, in the infancy of the new faith, when, to use the words of the preface to the poem, "Christianity was struggling, almost for life, under the persecution of triumphant Heathenism.”
The plot of the poem, as far as there is plot, is this. The aged father of Miriam, the same night she bids farewell to her lover, is surprised together with his friends, while attending in. secret the obsequies of one of their sect, and is in the power of Piso, a revengeful enemy of the Christians, who was formerly the unsuccessful rival of Thraseno for the love of the mother of Miriam, and who now recognises, in the features and voice of Miriam and her brother, a resemblance to the fair being whom he in his youth had loved and lost. This interlacing of circumstances gives occasion for the play of various passions, and for the introduction of many interesting
The poem is divided into three parts, or scenes. introduces us to the conversation between Thraseno and his children. Miriam begs to be excused from accompanying them to the secret meeting, and they leave her. Then commences the interview between the lovers in which she com
municates to Paulus her altered feelings, and her resolution to give him up. They are interrupted by the entrance of Euphas, who relates the seizure of their father and his friends. Then appear "armed Christians," who secure Paulus as a hostage for the safety of the Christian prisoners. A great deal is thus thrown together, which might have been kept distinct. Indeed the first Scene comprises nearly one half of the whole poem. And there is some occasion for the question being asked, whether this unbroken continuity of dialogue might not have been avoided, and whether the poem would not have gained thereby in action, spirit, and effect. Our author has, however, in her preface, furnished in part her own defence. She tells us that "it never formed any part of her plan to attempt a regular tragedy." The poem before us must therefore be judged of as a sketch, and as such, it certainly gives us a high idea of what might have been accomplished, had the author enlarged her plan. As it is, the merit of the work seems to us to consist, not so much in striking delineations of character, or masterly exhibitions of passion, as in a beautiful exhibition of the single idea of Duty struggling with Inclination. It is the story, in a dramatic form,
"Of her whose warring love and faith have dug
Her own untimely grave'- have worn away
Her hopes, her nerves, her life, with secret waste."— p. 107. The following extract is given from the scene between the lovers, after Miriam had communicated to Paulus her intention of giving him up.
Maiden! by all my perish'd hopes,
By the o'erwhelming passion of my soul,
When first I spake to thee of love — and thought
I will not yield thee thus! In open day,
Before my father's eyes and bearing too
Bann'd though I be by all her priests and gods; -
Aye! sayst thou so, my Paulus? thou art bold,
Meet bridal will it be
the slow red fire-perchance the den
Of hungry lions, gnashing with white teeth
In savage glee at sight of thy young bride,
Their destin'd prey! for well thou know'st that these
To the scorn'd sect, whose lofty faith my soul
Holds fast through torments worse than aught that these
Drive me not mad! - Nay-nay- I have not done;
No more, my Paulus! it is vain.
Why should we thus unnerve our souls with dreams,
Our destiny is fix'd! the hour is come!
And wilt thou that a frail and trembling girl
It will probably be felt by some readers that the Christianity displayed in this poem is tinged at times with an illiberal and exclusive spirit, which contrasts too harshly with the otherwise amiable and tender spirit of Miriam.
"Union for us is none, in yonder sky;
This savors more of the dogmatist than of the affectionate friend, and more resembles the tone of school theology than of that Christian charity, which at least "hopeth all things." It is rather singular, too, that sentiments such as we have noticed, growing out of a too strict construction of Christian principles, should be united in the same work, with others which evince great freedom in interpreting the Christian rules. The idea, for example, of securing Paulus as a hostage and threatening his life, in case Thraseno and his company were not set at liberty by a certain time, is, to say the least, on the borders of that ground which the early Christian would have allowed himself to occupy. As for those who keep watch over Paulus, they seem to be as familiar with the trick of war and the law of revenge, as were Napoleon's old guard.
In the first Scene, after Euphas had informed Miriam of the seizure of the aged Thraseno, armed Christians are represented as approaching, and Miriam, in her anxiety for her lover, urges him to fly in the following words:
They come with vengeance on their lurid brows
pp. 36, 37.
We notice also a greater fondness for the words proud and pride than is consistent with good taste or Christian sentiment. Near the commencement of the poem, when Miriam's father and brother are endeavoring to persuade her to accompany them to the secret meeting of their sect, Euphas says, in explanation of the object of the meeting:
Know'st thou last night the long-tried Stephen went
Are bidden to the humble burial,
Shrouded in night, of him whose name might well
Have graced a nation's proudest chronicles." - p. 8.
Now Stephen was probably a just and pious man, like his great prototype the martyr. And we cannot see that such a
man's name has much to do with the proudest chronicles of a nation. The proudest chronicles of nations are usually filled with the names of heroes, statesmen, great captains, illustrious sages not with the names of simple-hearted, good men. And surely the Christian can very well afford to let these things be as the world's habit has fixed them.
We should not think it just to institute a comparison between two poems so dissimilar as the one before us, and the Tragedy of Ion, which has lately excited so much attention. Still there are points of resemblance which we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of adverting to. The coincidence that struck us particularly, while reading these two poems, is in the way the writers manage and represent the Tyrants they introduce. Adrastus, king of Argos, and Piso, the patrician persecutor of the Christians, are both tyrants, each in his way. Both had been hardened by familiarity with scenes of blood; and both were recalled to their humanity, and the paralyzed sensibilities of their souls were revived by the same means. Each was reminded of his early love, and reminded too by a person who was in fact intimately connected with the object of that love. Each sees before him the image, and hears the tones of her who had melted his youthful soul, and who had, after a brief interval of enjoyment, been forcibly withdrawn, and left his heart to grow cold and hard and selfish and cruel. The power of association to restore our youthful life, to open again the sealed fountain of affection, and to conjure up the spirits of better and happier days, is beautifully illustrated in both of the poems. The way in which this is managed in Miriam is, we think, peculiarly striking and felicitous. Piso had already in his conversation with Euphas, intimated something concerning the effect produced by his presence.
“Boy! there is that
Within thy pensive eye I cannot meet,
But as soon as Euphas mentioned the love that existed between Paulus and Miriam, Piso, in a violent paroxysm of rage, cries out:
"Where is the sorceress? I fain would see
The beauty that hath witch'd Rome's noblest youth.