صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

an bonourable regard to what they believed to be the interests of the country; and although we cannot quite go the length, with Mr. M'Culloch, of affirming “ that while they are obliged to pay their notes on demand, nothing is to be apprehended from their proceedings,” we doubt whether much more is required than that government should take care never again to place them in that anomalous and unfair situation, in which they have stood when the national interests were at variance with those of the establishment, to give us as effectual a security against such dangers as is to be found in


other arrangement. We should not, if we had more room, think it worth while to enter upon the American constitutional questions which occupy the conclusion of Mr. Gallatin's work. They generally concern the powers of congress, and are, therefore, foreign to the interest of our readers. But they have one feature peculiar to the federal form of the United States, which deserves to be noticed, as curiously illustrative of the history of currency. It is argued that the consequences of the past system which have occurred were not only disastrous, but positively unconstitutional. One of the fundamental provisions of the constitution directs, that all imposts shall be uniform throughout the nation ; and that they shall be levied on the population of each state by the rule therein prescribed. Now, owing to the separate independence of the several states, the depreciation of their different currencies was at all points of variation during the suspension. In New England that crisis never took place,-in the middle states it was universal. The consequence of this must have been, of course, that the fixed payments to the government were, at Baltimore, as much as the discount, or 25 per cent., less than in Massachusetts, where they were at par; and there was an unquestionable violation, in spirit, of this condition of the constitution in favour of the former, so long as it continued.

In conclusion, we shall only hope that we have done enough to recommend this pamphlet, and the great value of its contents, to the notice and attention of English readers; but we cannot leave it without once more repeating our opinion, that at this moment it bears a peculiar interest for all who have any concern in the great questions relating to the subject of which it treats, now practically at issue in this country (and we know not whom we could except from such a designation), since it offers no ordinary measure of sound and authentic information, in a department of knowledge where errors are so serious and yet so rife, and where, therefore, it is doubly desirable that every man who is induced to think, should also be induced to seek and prize it.


Art. XI. - Morgenländische Dichtungen. Von A. Oehlenschläger.

1. Die Fischerstochter. 2. Die Drillingsbrüder von Damask. (Oriental Dramas. By A. Oehlenschläger. 1. The Fisher's Daughter. 2. The Three Twin Brothers of Damascus.) 2 Bände. Leipzig, Brockhaus,

1831. OEHLENSCHLAGER's earliest inspiration was derived from the East. He used to sit and pore over its wonders in the deserted royal apartments at Friedrichsberg, forgetting the cold and loneliness of a Danish winter in the country, amidst the sunny scenery of the Arabian Nights, and peopling the empty halls about him with an airy crowd of caliphs, cadis, princes, porters, slaves, magicians, genii and spirits, " white, black and grey, with all their trumpery," with all the splendours, and spells, and visions of the gorgeous East. His Aladdin, written with the first enthusiasm of youth, was the earliest effort from wbich his future fame might be predicted; and now, though past the meridian of life, he again revisits, apparently with the same delight, the haunts of his childhood, and once more places before us, on the same stage, the dramatis persone of our youth, Haroun Alraschid, Giafar, Mesrour, the Old Man of the Sea, the Genie in the Casket-all those creatures so associated with the remembrance of our school days.

“ The tide of time flows back for him,

The forward-flowing tide of time,
And many a sheeny summer morn

Adown the Tigris he is borne,
By Bagdat's shrines of freited gold,
High-walled gardens, green and old :-

True Mussulman is he, and sworn!” Oehlenschläger certainly adapts himself with great tact, and with a very respectable command of eastern expression and allusion, to the manner of the Arabian Nights. It is, however, a disadvantage inseparable from the attempt to dramatize these remarkable fictions, that the moment they are divested of the naïveté of mere narrative, and reduced to action and dialogue, much of the peculiar charm which they possess evaporates. When a story begins in plain prose, in the old conventional way—“There was a king and a queen"-we are prepared for anything; we surrender ourselves quietly up to the laws of fairy land, and are prepared to swallow a Rok's egg without wincing, and see a genius of some fifty cubits high crammed quietly into an iron cannister of eighteen inches by twelve. But all this, which in the old legendary form passes by without much notice, softened as it is by the hazy atmosphere of fairy land, looks startling enough when brought prominently forward in the glare of the stage lamps, and discussed in sober dialogue in blank verse. Then we begin to "think it not honesty to have it so set down:" the

contrast between the levity and absurdity of the incidents, and the gravity and artificial character of the medium through which they are conveyed, becomes ludicrous, and, except as a mere vehicle for scenery and decoration, the piece ceases to interest any but mere children.

Little, therefore, we think, is in general to be gained by dramatising an eastern story. In the hands of one who, like Wieland, knows how to preserve the simplicity of the original, while he interweaves with it the graces of versification, it may possibly be improved rather than injured by a poetical bearbeitung ; but in action, we suspect, all its peculiarities must evaporate. The only way in which a dramatic version of such a tale can be rendered interesting, is by employing it as a framework setting for scattered gems of poetry; or by selecting from the rich field which the evervarying incidents and scenery of oriental fiction afford, and giving way to the full flow of inspiration in a lyrical form. Such was the case in Aladdin, which, though sufficiently oriental in its character, owed its fame almost entirely to the brilliant and touching poetry scattered over its scenes, which reflected far more the feelings of the dramatist than tbat of the characters. In these later productions, we think Oehlenschläger has been less successful, precisely because he has too studiously excluded from bis pages those lyrical bursts which so often captivated or moved the reader in Aladdin, and has laboured too much to give a rapid dramatic march and regular progression to incidents whose very essence it is to set all regularity at defiance. In both of these new pieces the plot advances more continuously; there is even more studious observation of eastern manners and usages than in his former work: but we must be allowed to think far less of poetry, far less of that enthusiasm, without which such a subject falls cold and lifeless upon the reader.

The first, the Fisher's Daughter, is a kind of gallery of recollections from the Arabian Nights. It embodies ingeniously enough, and works up into one tale, many of their leading scenes and actors. The main plot, if plot it can be called, is the story of the fisherman's (Sandib) daughter Amine, who is sold by her father (seduced by wine and a purse of sequins) to a slave merchant, and becomes the bride of the young sultan Agib, who had gained her affectious in the disguise of a gardener's assistant. The happiness of the young pair is, however, soon disturbed by the machinations of the fairy Floristane, herself in love with Agib, who by her magic arts disturbs the reason of Amine, persuades her that her beloved Agib is a monster, and induces her, like Titania, to nistake a loathsome Moorish fanatic for the object of her affection. Agib, worked up to frenzy by her insane attachment, sacrifices the Moor to bis wrath, but is forthwith changed by Amine (who with this very view had been endowed with supernatural powers by the revengeful fairy) into a being half man, half marble—in fact, our old acquaintance, the King of the Black Islands. Then follow, as in the Arabian tale, the scenes of the fisherman (the father of Amine) with the silly Genie of the Casket; the magic fishes, blue, green, red and yellow, uplifting their “sweet voices” from the frying-pan; the journey of the sultan to the mountain lake from which the mysterious fishes had been taken; and the final


loosing of the spell wbicb bound the unfortunate sultan and bis subjects. With this too are interwoven the adventure with the infernal old man of the sea, whose legs we think we still feel clinging round our throats; the decapitation of the physician Douban; and the death of the tyrant by whose orders be is executed, in consequence of turning over the poisoned leaves of the physician's magic volume. This last incident, it must be confessed, has no very direct bearing upon the plot. Neither do we much admire the introduction of a self-conceited pompous European traveller, who is present amidst these strange scenes, but persists in thinking that the terrible adventure of the talking fishes, and such like, are mere feats of jugglery, played off by the polite sultan for his amusement. This breaks unpleasantly the Asiatic character of the piece; while the satire, which seems to be insinuated under the character of the European, bas nothing in itself so pointed as to recommend it. We have already said that we regretted in these dramas the absence of lyrical passages; the more so, as the few that are introduced are among the most interesting in these volumes. With difficulty we have been able to pitch on oue or two, to show that Oehlenschläger retains his old flow and tenderness as well as bomeliness of style. In the first act, wben Sandib, restored to his senses, recollects that he has sold bis daughter, he rushes to the shore of the Red Sea, on the brink of which his cottage stands, and in the first movement of despair, throws the accursed sequins, which he looks upon as the price of blood, into the

Meantime his starving children in the cottage awaken, and cry for food. The Fairy of the Sea rises from the waters, and sings

« O fair lies the fisher's cottage,

Close by the ruddy sea
The grass, the palm, the fountain,

They make it fair to see.
The stranger gazes on it

Wistfully o'er the foam,
And thinks that here for ages

Sweet peace must have made her home.
“ But could he look within it,

And want and sorrow see-
The father's grief and mourning-

Where would its beauty be?
Hark to the children weeping-

Each rears his little head,
From short and uneasy sleeping,

And wails, but in vain, for bread.
“ But soft, through the open lattice,

I'll drop this melon nigh,
And here on the rock beside me,

This coin of gold shall lie.
This shall the little Lolo

Find when he seeks for shells;
God leaves not the house forsaken

Where guiltless childhood dwells.

« Another still shall greet thee,

Sure as the month shall end ;
The fairy will not fail thee,

She is the infant's friend :
I love my little Lolo,

Who plays upon my strand;
A foretaste of my bounties

I lay within his hand." Our next extract shall be from Amine's soliloquy in the second act, when she begins to feel, but scarcely dares to acknowledge to berself, her affection for Agib, the prince who had gained her love in the disguise of the gardener.

“A wood beyond the garden.-AMINE (alone).
« 0, lovely art thou, Nature, in thy works:

On every stem the diadem of spring;
In every bud a little angel lurks

Each leaf is fluttering like an elfin-wing !
How strange, how wonderful, my present mood :

Now first, methinks, the charms of spring I see;
Till now I only knew and loved the good-

The beautiful was all a blank to me. (Pauses.)
" Yet no—the children !—those were fairer flowers

Than these that open to the fresh'ning morn:
How gaily by their side slid by the hours

They withered not !—they bore no treacherous thorn. (Sighs.)
Ah me!-All that I loved and lost before

Seems here anew to live and bloom once more.
“But late, and in my bosom passion slept,

Unfelt as in the egg the embryo bird :
Forth from his shell the wanton now has crept,

And my poor heart with joy and pain is stirred.
I ask for Agib: when he comes, the blood

Comes flushing to my face with tell-tale flow:
I know not yet if he be true and good;
That he is fair, alas !—too well

I know.
“ I feel entranced; these overshadowing trees

The balmy murmurs of the zephyrs shake.
Here let me lay me down, and dream at ease

Of him I dare not think of while awake.
The earliest bed was still the grassy ground;

The earliest chamber was the forest hoar;
And the brook lulls me with the self-same sound

It sang to Eve in Paradise of yore." The groundwork of the second of these dramas, the “ Three Twin Brothers of Damascus," is the well known Fabliau of Les Trois Bossusa tale which in one shape or other has been imitated in the literature of most European nations. In Oehlenschläger's edition, however, the tbree brothers are not hunchbacks, though their resemblance to each other externally is so great as to render it impossible to distinguish them. Of this piece we have only time to say, that though it has little claims to poetry, it possesses very considerable humour; that the incidents are natural and well imagined, and the characters well discrimi

« السابقةمتابعة »