صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

ness

We will not think of her victims! Sorrowful their histories, undeserved their fates ! Names in the list of her jealous enmities, which have the sweet echo of a sad poetry round them, such as the south wind brings in the latter autumn days! They tell of fallen greatness, of beauty dead, and a gentle life departed ;-they tell of bright days and sunny skies, hours when all was joy and glory ;--and now a chill cold mist, a fiery storm, a blasting tempest-wind, ruin and desolation, alone remain upon the flowers! The noble Heracles, so giant-souled and child-like as he was; doing such grand work, so unconscious of his worth,--and his patient mother, the chaste Alcmena—the hapless Io with her stinging mad

Semele, so cruelly and so falsely wooed to her own destruction -the brave Trojans, against whom such direst woe was worked, in revenge for the fatal judgment of the god-like Paris-Athamas and Ino—and more than these-we will not remember them! we will veil them, as the painter veiled his sacrificing father ;-we will not look

upon

their grief ! She would have been a strict disciplinarian, our Olympian queen, had she presided over an earthly court, where she met with none of aught approaching equal rank !—and stern would have been her judgments on all of youthful frailty, on all of passion, love, and weakness ! Not Tudor Bess would have visited an unallowed love more sternly ;—not a Spanish King would have maintained a stricter code of courtly etiquette ! We can fancy her young Maids of Honour, glancing down, so shyly and demurely as she passed ; or some, with a pretty assumption of profound innocence, looking full into the glorious face, whose anger they so dreaded, openeyed and frank, as if they had never thought even of the forbidden, while-pretty rogues !--their lips still pouted, and their cheeks still flushed, with—no matter what! And woe to the unfortunate, gentlemen-at-arms, or page, or well-born serf, among them all, who happened to appear untimely appointed. As. La chère mère would say, she would be “ down like the day of judgment” upon them !-as if she bore her husband's thunder-bolts, to scatter destruction and dismay at will.

We cannot pass over that passage in the Iliad, where Hera borrows the love-inspiring girdle of Aphrodite to subdue the heart her

anger had no power to control. Of all the pictures of this divine poem, none equals, in gorgeous beauty, that scene of her robing. Even in Pope's translation, or rather paraphrase, it is most beautiful"; though the original, naturally, gives it with more strength. Its extreme simplicity and delicacy, yet its glowing gorgeousness, make it altogether a wonderful piece of poetic painting. It is like the completed Parthenon, of the chaste Ionic style, yet all its parts dazzling with gorgeous colours, and gleaming with burnished gold. It united simplicity and elaborate beauty -a union which few can effect, and which none of ancient, or modern times, blended so harmoniously as the Hellenes. The whole scene is in such admirable keeping !-there is no patching together of incongruous parts—no painting of green skies and blue fields ; but all is in harmony, from the first line, where she enters her palace, built by Hephaistos, with such “ skill divine,” to that when the son of Chronos sleeps among the flowers which earth has outpoured upon his breast. Many and beautiful as are the scenes in this most exquisite poem, none excel this, and few can be said to equal it.

The wholeness of Hera's character throughout all her mythes, is eminently well preserved. She is the most Grecian, and the most life-like of all the Olympians ; so thoroughly natural, too, in her jealousy, her imperiousness, her woman's craft to gain her end, her pitilessness for the frailer fair, her indignation as the neglected wife, her severity towards her rivals. Athene and Artemis claim high rank for beauty and perfectness, but they do not so thoroughly embody an entire and living character, as our own majestic Hera. They are slightly more mystic and intellectual; they are not so palpable, not so fleshly-Trovoapkos—as the sister-spouse.

Yet Artemis-or Diana, as men will barbarise her full, open, splendid name-if not considered in any of her more mysterious impersonations, but simply as the virgin huntress-Goddess, has a sweet and evident character. Pure as snow, chaste, spotless, and not all unloving—for we cannot part with that exquisite legend, which gives her the boy Endymion, with his love-awakened eyes, to be her beauteous flower on the heights of Ida—she stands before us in marked contrast to the haughty queen of heaven. We will not consider her as the Ephesian Goddess, with her swart face, and mystic emblems ; nor as the Orthic deity, at whose shrine the blood of the brave Laconian boys flowed freely forth ; nor as the mysterious moon-goddess, Selene, that pale, evanescent form, which fades away into the obscurity of night as we look ; nor as the Hecate of the under-world, or hypochthonian, deities. We will not ask whether she be the same as Isis-whether she be

an Arkite emblem-but we will take her simply as she was worshipped in Arcadia, as the strong vigorous maiden of the chase.

We can hear her ringing laugh, as she speeds away upon the track of the fleet stag; we can see her bright eyes glance out from the thick wood, in all the clearness of health and purity; we can touch the firm flesh, the rosy cheek, the open and smiling lips, and hear the echo of the light foot, as she bounds over the Taygetan hills—the wind blowing round her form, and stirring the short kirtle braced up so high above her knees. More brave and beautiful than all her companions is she : the tallest, the most vigorous, the most energetic ; and glad, and loving the homage paid her—a homage rendered with such respect ! She, too, is severe toward the frail ; but not from woman's jealousy, simply from offended modesty. The fates of Acteon and Callisto attest her reverence for a chaste and virgin life ; the slain children of Niobe avenge her insulted pride as a goddess daughter; while all they who die young are said to die by her arrows. A beautiful idea ! one of many! Oh, how rich were the Greeks in beauty of all kinds ! Like dew-drops in the morning they clustered round each flower of thought ; like diamonds in the mine they illumined the very darkness, till it glowed with varied light ; like a rainbow in the sky they spanned the wide earth,— things born of the sun and the cloud-a golden band of harmónious blending ; like a galaxy of fair young maids, they bound man's life to love these beautiful creations of the Hellene ! Hail to the men who could stamp their age with such immortal glory! Hail to the men who could sculpture out the Parthenon, and enshrine the Athene—who could frame the divine Iliad, and embody the Aphrodite of Cnidos! They are not to be forgotten, like the mean things of earth ; they are not to be unloved, like the base ! Love them well !-aye, love them well! They were the Gods of their day! Let us reverence all the Gods !

Keeping aloof from men and gods, see our “ golden-shafted Artemis,” in her beautiful seclusion—shy and timid with all her boldness,- timid from ignorance of love. Without any of a woman's passion, with all a woman's delicacy, without any of a child's fondness, and with all its innocence, Artemis is the type of a young mountain maid, over whose dwelling sorrow has never brooded, in whose heart love has never been awakened. Little can we picture her with mincing steps, and the free, yet scornful bearing of a London ball-room !-little of the artificial, the false,

NO. XXXVIII.- VOL. VII.

[ocr errors]

or the constrained belonged to her. Our Virgin Goddess as little taught her clear eyes the bold looks of the London belles, as she enclosed her beautiful body in their abominations of stays, and pads, and tightened girths, or whirled in the arms of every mustachioed coxcomb who offered, through the strict embrace of the polka and the waltz. Nature is her home; the woods, encompassed by the boundless sky, her domed halls ; the fountains are her mirrors ; and the birds and flowers her companions through the night and day. The Gods themseves must honour her! Zeus rises to receive her, and Apollo takes the game she bears upon his own divine shoulders ; Hermes. frees her of her golden bow and quiver ; the very Goddesses love and reverence her -the sweet virgin-daughter of the lovely-ankled Leto! Even in Hellas, where a life of keen and voluptuous sensation left scarce room for any altar to cold chaste virtue--even there was woman's modesty respected to the utmost, and a Goddess decreed to its further idealisation.

Honour to the Greeks,-glory to their memory! Oh, keep one little spot still sacred to them! Let not the music which they sang be mute for ever! It is good, it is wise, to turn back from all this present glare to the cool shades where the Gods are worshipped-where Pheidias worked and Plato taught. Let us not forget the benefits we owe them ; let us not be ingrates to our fathers! Even on this day-aye, and on all succeeding days, IIellas has left the impress of her influence ; even among the Christians the Gods of Greece yet hold their place!

THE NEW DANCE OF DEATH.

A SCENE FOR LEGISLATORS.

BY R. H. HORNE.

This extraordinary performance-extraordinary from its originality of attitudes, gesticulations, and figures ; from the great numbers by whom it was performed, and from the reality of the delightful horrors which distinguished the principal group—this matchless dance “ came off,” or rather was " turned off' Monday (January 10th), not only on the stage in front of New

on

gate, but on the pavement and flag-stones of the whole street and its vicinity. It attracted a far greater concourse of spectators than any new polka, quadrille, or pas seul of the inventive genius of Mons. Jullien, attributable, no doubt, to the incomparable superiority of the excitement, and to its extreme cheapness. The admissions to the pit were gratuitous, and the “ standings ” and 66 stalls

were to be had upon stools, baskets, boxes, trussle-planks, and apple-barrows, at the small charge of a penny and twopence a-head, according to the value of the position and degree of elevation above the heads of the happy crowd on the “ free list.”

The principal artiste upon this memorable occasion—the “star”. of the scene-was a certain Thomas Sale, a fellow condemned by nature to make no figure of any kind in society, or only a figure of the most vulgar and worthless kind ; but condemned by an intelligent code of laws, in consequence of his having committed an atrocious murder, to be exalted into a position of attractiveness and exciting interest, scarcely equalled by the most popular public exhibitions of genius and intellect upon any stage whatever. As for the play itself, one feels at a loss how to classify it. When Polonius speaks of “the best of actors in the world,” he seems disposed to exhaust the subject of their unlimited capabilities. He says, they could play "tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoralcomical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical”. but none of these, not even the last, would serve as an appropriate designation of the hideous mixture of bloody reality and brutał burlesque which distinguished the scene of the murder-farce wo are now recording.

The anxiety to obtain a good view of the gallows-stage at the moment the star of murder was swung off for his frightful dance in the air, was excessive ; and it displayed itself in violent sidelong pushes, and crushings onwards, mingled with oaths and execrations, and now and then a short-lived fight. “ Those,” says the reporter of the Globe, “who formed that part of the crowd which was not immediately surrounding the scaffold, being generally unable to see over the heads of those in front of them, kept jumping off the ground incessantly, to catch a glimpse at the scene on the gallows. This incessant jumping gave the crowd an appearance like that of a tribe of savages dancing a death-dance, and utterly prevented those who were engaged in it from feeling anything of the impressiveness which should attach to exhibitions of the kind. Arrangements existed in the crowd in the shape of

« السابقةمتابعة »