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neither of them could possibly find favour with a person whose genius had a truly dramatic character. We should as soon expect an orntor to compose a speech altogether unfit to be spoken. A drama is not merely a dialogue, but an action; and necessarily supposes that something is to pass before the eyes of assembled spectators. Whatever is peculiar to its written part, should derive its peculiarity from this consideration to style should be an accompaniment to action, and stould be calculated to excite the emotions, and keep alive the attention, of gazing multitudes. If an author does not bear this continuitily in his mind, and does not write in the ideal presence of an eager and diversified assemblage, he may to a port perhaps, but assuredly he will never be a dramatist. Is Lord Byron really does not wish to impregnate his elaborate scencs with the living part of the drama — if he has no hankering aster stage-effect – if he is not haunted with the visible presentinent of the persons he has created – if, in setting down a vehement invective, he does not fancy the tone in which Mr. Kean would deliver it, and anticipate the long applauses of the pit, then he may be sure that neither his feelings nor his i. are in unison with the stage at all. Why, then, should he affect the form, without the power of tragedy ? Didactic reasoning and eloquent description will not compensate, in a play, for a dearth of dramatic spirit and invention: and, besides, sterling sense and poetry, as such, ought to stand by themselves, without the unneaning mockery of a dramatis persona. As to Lord Byron pretending to set up the unities at this time of day, as “the law of literature throughout the world," it is mere caprice and contradiction. He is ever man was, is a late to himself—“a chartered libertine ; – and now, when he is tired of this unbridled license, be wants to do penance within the unities : English dramatic o soars above the unities, just as the imagination does. e only pretence for insisting on them is, that we suppose the stage itself to be, actually and really, the very spot on which a given action is performed , and, if so, this space cannot be removed to another. Iłut the supposition is manifestly quite contrary to truth and experience." – Edin. It cu. vol. xxxvi.
The reader may be pleased to compare the above with the following passage from Dr. Johnson : —
“Whether Shakspeare knew the unities, and rejected them by design, or deviated from them . happy ignorance, it is, I think. impossible to decide and useless to inquire. We may reason any suppose, that when he rose to notice, he did not want the counsels and admonitions of scholars and critics; and that he at last deliberately persisted in a practice which he might have begun by chance. As nothing is essential to the table but unity of action, and as the unities of time and place arise evidently trom false assurnptions, and, by circumscribing the extent of the drama, lessen its variety, I cannot think it much to be lamented that they were not known by him, or not observed - nor. is such another poet could arise, should I very vehemently reproach him. that his first act passed at Venice, and his next in Cyprus. Such violations of rules merely positive become the comprehensive genius of Shakspeare, and such censures are suitable to the minute and siender criticism of Voltaire:
– "Non usque aden permiscuit imis Longus surnina dies, ut non, si voce Metelli Scrvcntur leges, malint a Caesare tolli.”
Salemenes (solus). He hath wrong'd his queen, but still he is her lord;
He hath wrong'd my sister, still he is ny brothcr;
Yet, when I speak thus slightly of dramatic rules, I cannot but recollect how much wit and learning may be produced against me ; before such authorities I am afraid to stand, not that I think the present question one of those that are to be decided by mere authority, but because it is to be suspected, that these precepts have not been so easily received, but for far better reasons than I have yet been able to find. The result of my inquiries, in which i. would be ludicrous to boast of impartiality, is, that the unities of time and place are not essential to a just drama; that though they may sometimes conduce to pleasure, they are always to be sacrificed to the nobler beauties of variety and instruction ; and that a play written with nice observation of critical rules, is to be contemplated as an elaborate curiosity, as the product of superfluous and ostentatious art, by which is shown rather what is possible than what is necessary. He that without diminution of any other excellence shall preserve all the unities unbroken, deserves the like applause with the architect, who shall dis. all the orders of architecture in a citadel, without any deduction from its strength ; but the principal beauty of a citadel is to exclude the enemy; and the greatest graces of a play are to copy nature and instruct life.” – Preface to Shakspeare.] 1 In this tragedy it has been my intention to follow the account of Diodorus Siculus; reducing it, however, to such draumatic regularity as I best could, and trying to approach the unities. } therefore suppose the rebellion to explode and succeed in one day by a sudden conspiracy, instead of the long war of the history.
* [Sardanapalus is, beyond all doubt, a work of great beauty and power; and though the heroine has many traits in common with the Medoras and Gulnares of Lord Byron's undramatic poetry, the hero must be allowed to be a new character in his hands. He has, indeed, the scorn of war, and glory, and priestcraft, and regular morality, which distinguishes the rest of his lordship's favourites; but he has no misanthropy, and very little pride — and may be regarded, on the whole, as one of the most truly good-humoured, amiable, and respectable voluptuaries to whom we have ever been presented. In this conception of his character, the author has very wisely followed nature and fancy rather than history. His Sardanapalus is not an effeminate, worn-out debauchee, with shattered nerves and exhausted senses, the slave of indolence and vicious habits; but a sanguine votary of pleasure, a princely epicure, indulging, revelling in boundless luxury while he cali, but with a soul so inured to voluptuousness, so saturated with delights, that pain and danger, when they come uncalled for, give him neither concern nor dread : and he goes forth from the banquet to the battle, as to a dance or measure, attired by the Graces, and with youth, joy, and love for his guides. He dallies with Bellona as bridegroom—for his sport and pastime ; and the spear or fan, the shield or shining mirror, become his hands equally well. He enjoys life, in short, and triumphs in death ; and whether in prosperous or adverse circumstances, his soul smiles out superior to evil. – JEffney. The Sardanapalus of Lord Byron is ..". nearly such a erson as the Sardanapalus of history may be supposed to ave been. Young, thoughtless, spoiled by flattery and unbounded self-indulgence, but with a temper naturally amiable, and abilities of a superior order, he ailects to undervalue the
Steep'd, but not drown'd, in deep voluptuousness.
sanguinary renown of his ancestors as an excuse for inattention to the most necessary duties of his rank , and flatters himself, while he is indulging his own sloth, that he is making his people happy. Yet, even in his fondness for pleasure, there lurks a love of contradiction. Of the whole picture, selfishness is the prevailing teature – selfishness admirably drawn indeed; apologised for by every palliating circumstance of education and habit, and clothed in the brightest colours of which it is susceptible from youth, talents, and placability. But it is selfishness still ; and we should have been tempted to quarrel with the art which made vice and frivolity thus amiable, if Lord Byron had not at the same time pointed out with much skill the bitterness and weariness of spirit which inevitably wait on such a character; and if he had not given a fine contrast to the picture in the accompanying portraits of Salemenes and of Myrrha. – Bishop Hebek.]
* [Salemenes is the direct opposite to selfishness; and the character, though slightly sketched, displays little less ability than that of Sardanapalus. He is a stern, loyal, plain-spoken soldier and subject ; clear-sighted, just and honourable in his ultimate views, though not more punctilious about the means of obtaining them than might be expected from a respectable o: ancient Nineveh, or a respectable vizier of the modern Turkish empire. To his king, in spite of personal neglect and family injuries, he is, throughout, pertinaciously attached and punctiliously faithful. To the king's rebels he is inclined to be severe, bloody, and even treacherous; an imperfection, however, in his character, to want which would, in his situation, be almost unnatural, and which is skilfully introduced as a contrast to the instinctive perception of virtue and honour which flashes out from the indolence of his master. Of the satrap, however, the faults as well as the virtues are alike the offspring of disinterested loyalty and patriotism. It is for his country and king that he is patient of injury; for them he is valiant ; for them cruel. He has no anbition of personal power, no thirst of individual fame. In battle and in victory, “Assyria 1" is his only war-cry. When he sends off
Enter SARDANAPAlus effeminately dressed, his Head
the queen and princes, he is less anxious for his nephews and sister than for the preservation of the line of Nimrod; and, in his last moments, it is the supposed flight of his sovereign which alone distresses and overcomes him. – HEBER.]
* “The Ionian name had been still more comprehensive, having included the Achaians and the Boeotians, who, together with those to whom it was afterwards confined, would make nearly the whole of the Greek nation ; and among the orientals it was always the general name for the Greeks.” – MITFord's Greece, vol. i. p. 199.
* [The chief charm and vivifying angel of the piece is Myrrha, the Greek slave of Sardanapalus — a beautiful, heroic, devoted, and etherial being – in love with the generous and infatuated monarch – ashamed of loving a barbarian — and using all her influence over him to ennoble as well as to adorn his existence, and to arm him against the terrors of his close. Her voluptuousness is that of the heart — her heroism of the affections. If the part she takes in the dialogue be sometimes too subdued and submissive for the lofty daring of her character, it is still such as might become a Greek slave — a lovely Ionian girl, in whom the love of liberty and the scorn of death were tempered by the consciousness of what she regarded as a degrading passion, and an inward sense of fitness and decorum with reference to her condition. – Jeff Rex.]
* [Myrrha is a female Salemenes, in whom, with admirable skill, attachment to the individual Sardanapalus is substituted for the gallant soldier's loyalty to the descendant of kings: and whose energy of expostulation, no less than the natural high tone of her talents, her courage, and her Grecian pride, is softened into a subdued and winning tenderness by the constant and painful recollection of her abasement as a slave in the royal harem; and still more by the lowliness of perfect womanly love in the presence of and towards the object of her passion. No character can be drawn more natural than hers; few ever have been drawn more touching and amiable. Of course she is not, nor could be, a Jewish or a Christian heroine : but she is a model of Grecian piety and nobility of spirit, and she is one whom a purer faith would have raised to the level of a Rebecca or a Miriam. – HEBER.]
Thy own sweet will shall be the only barrier
Myr. Great king, Thou didst not say so. Sur. But thou lookedst it:
I know each glance of those Ionic eyes, 2
The worst acts of one energetic master,
Sar. What's that ?
Sal. To thce an unknown word.
Sur. Yet speak it; I love to learn.
Sar. Not know the word :
Never was word yet rung so in my ears—
Sal. A king.
Sar. And what Am I then 2
Sal. In their eyes a nothing; but
In mine a man who might be something still.
Sar. The railing drunkards : why, what would
they have 2
Have they not peace and plenty 2
Sal. Of the first
Sar. Whose then is the crime, But the false satraps, who provide no better 2
Sal. And somewhat in the monarch who ne'er looks Beyond his palace walls, or if he stirs Beyond them, 'tis but to some mountain palace, Till summer heats wear down. O glorious Baal I Who built up this vast empire, and wert made A god, or at the least shinest like a god Through the long centuries of thy renown, This, thy presumed descendant, ne'er beheld As king the kingdoms thou didst leave as hero, Won with thy blood, and toil, and time, and peril : For what? to furnish imposts for a revel, Or multiplied extortions for a minion.
Sar. I understand thee — thou wouldst have me go
Forth as a conqueror. By all the stars Which may be his, and might be mine, if I
Sul. Wherefore not ? But here, here in this goblet is his title
Sar. 'T is most true. And how return'd 2 For the victorious mischiefs he had done.
Sal. Why, like a man—a hero; baffled, but Had it not been for this, he would have been
Sar. And how many A sort of semi-glorious human monstcr.
Sul. Our annals say not. Humanise thee; my surly, chiding brother,
Sar. Then I will say for them — Pledge me to the Greek god?
Sal. All warlike spirits have not the same fate. The young, makes weariness forget his toil,
Sar. I sway them— Sal. Wilt thou resume a revel at this hour? She but subdued them. Sur. And if I did, 't were better than a trophy,
Sul. It may be ere long Being bought without a tear. But that is not That they will need her sword more than your My present purpose: since thou wilt not pledge me,
sceptre. Continue what thou pleasest.
Sar. There was a certain Bacchus, was there not? (To the Cupbearer.) Boy, retire. I've heard my Greek girls speak of such—they say [Erit Cupbearer. He was a god, that is, a Grecian god, Sal. I would but have recall'd thee from thy dream: An idol foreign to Assyria's worship, Better by me awaken'd than rebellion. Who conquer'd this same golden realm of Ind Sar. Who should rebel ? or why? what cause 2 Thou prat'st of, where Semiramis was vanquish'd. pretext 2
Sal. I have heard of such a man; and thou per- I am the lawful king, descended from
ceiv'st A race of kings who knew no predecessors.
That he is deem'd a god for what he did. What have I done to thee, or to the people,
Sar. And in his godship I will honour him — That thou shouldst rail, or they rise up against me? Not much as man. What, ho! my cupbearer Sal. Of what thou hast done to me, I speak not
Sal. What means the king 2 Sar. But
Thou think'st that I have wrong'd the queen: is 't not so 2
Sal. Think / Thou hast wrong'd her 3
Sar. Patience, prince, and hear me.
Sul. I pray thee, change the theme: my blood
Complaint, and Salemenes' sister seeks not
has more in his eye the case of a sinful Christian that has
but one wife, and a sly business or so which she and her kin
do not approve of than a bearded Oriental, like Sardanapalus,
#. * hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. – oCG.
Sar. And why not her brother ? Sal. I only echo thee the voice of empires, Which he who long neglects not long will govern. Sar. The ungrateful and ungracious slaves 1 they murmur Because I have not shed their blood, nor led them • To dry in the desert's dust by myriads, Or whiten with their bones the banks of Ganges; Nor decimated them with savage laws, Nor sweated them to build up pyramids, Or Babylonian walls. Sal. Yet these are trophies More worthy of a people and their prince Than songs, and lutes, and feasts, and concubines, And lavish'd treasures, and contemned virtues. Sar. Or for my trophies I have founded cities: There's Tarsus and Anchialus, both built In one day — what could that blood-loving beldame, My martial grandam, chaste Semiramis, Do more, except destroy them 7 Sal. 'T is most truc ; I own thy merit in those founded cities, Built for a whim, recorded with a verse Which shames both them and thee to coming ages. Sar. Shame me ! by Baal, the cities, though well built, Are not more goodly than the verse ! Say what Thou wilt 'gainst me, my mode of life or rule, But nothing 'gainst the truth of that brief record. Why, those few lines contain the history Of all things human : hear—“Sardanapalus, The king, and son of Anacyndaraxes, In one day built Anchialus and Tarsus. Eat, drink, and love; the rest's not worth a fillip." I Sal. A worthy moral, and a wise inscription, For a king to put up before his subjects Sar. Oh, thou wouldst have me doubtless set up edicts— “Obey the king—contribute to his treasure— Recruit his phalanx—spill your blood at bidding— Fall down and worship, or get up and toil.” Or thus – “Sardanapalus on this spot Slew fifty thousand of his enemies. These are their sepulchres, and this his trophy.” I leave such things to conquerors; enough For me, if I can make my subjects feel The weight of human misery less, and glide Ungroaning to the tomb: I take no license Which I deny to them. We all are men. Sal. Thy sires have been revered as gods— Sur. In dust And death, where they are neither gods nor men.
! “For this expedition he took only a small chosen body of the phalanx, but all his light troops. In the first day's march he reached Anchialus, a town said to have been founded by the king of Assyria, Sardanapalus. The fortifications, in their magnitude and extent, still in Arriau's time, bore the character of greatness, which the Assyrians appear singularly to have affected in works of the kind. A monument representing Sardanapalus was found there, warranted by an inscription in Assyrian characters, of course in the old Assyrian language, which the Greeks, whether well or ill, interpreted thus: " Sardanapalus, son of Anacyndaraxes, in one day founded Anchialus and Tarsus. Eat, drink, play: all other human joys are not worth a fillip.’ Supposing this version nearly exact (for Arrian says it was not quite so), whether the purpose has not been to invite to civil order a people disposed to turbulence, rather than to recommend immoderate luxury, may perhaps reasonably be questioned. What, indeed, could be the object of a king of Assyria in sounding such towns in a country so distant from his capital, and so divided from it by an immense extent of sandy deserts and lofty mountains, and, still more, how the inhabitants could be
Talk not of such to me ! the worms are gods;
Sal. Alas !
Sar. What dost dread 2
Sal. Thou art guarded by thy foes: in a few hours The tempest may break out which overwhelms thee, And thine and mine; and in another day What is shall be the past of Belus' race.
Sar. What must we dread 7
Sul. Ambitious treachery, Which has environ'd thee with snares; but yet There is resource: empower me with thy signet To quell the machinations, and I lay The heads of thy chief foes before thy feet.
Sar. The heads—how many 7
Sal. Must I stay to number When even thine own's in peril 2 Let me go; Give me thy signet—trust me with the rest.
Sar. I will trust no man with unlimited lives. When we take those from others, we nor know What we have taken, nor the thing we give.
Sal. Wouldst thou not take their lives who seek
for thine 2
Sar. That's a hard question—But I answer, Yes. Cannot the thing be done without 2 Who are they Whom thou suspectest ? — Let them be arrested.
Sul. I would thou wouldst not ask me; the next
Will send my answer through thy babbling troop
Sar. Name it.
Sal. That thou this night forbear the banquet In the pavilion over the Euphrates.
Sar. Forbear the banquet | Not for all the plotters That ever shook a kingdom | Let them come, And do their worst: I shall not blench for them; Nor rise the sooner; nor forbear the goblet;
at once in circumstances to abandon themselves to the intemperate joys, which their prince has been supposed to have recommended, is not obvious: but it may deserve observation that, in that line of coast, the southern of Lesser Asia, ruins of cities, evidently of an age after Alexander, yet barely named in history, at this day astonish the adventurous traveller by their magnificence and elegance. Amid the desolation which, under a singularly barbarian government, has for so many centuries been daily spreading in the finest countries of the globe, whether more from soil and climate, or from opportunities for commerce, extraordinary means must have been found for communitics to flourish Éco. ; whence it may seem that the measures of Sardanapalus were directed by iuster views than have been commonly ascribed to him : but that monarch having been the last of a dynasty, ended by a revolution, obloquy on his memory would ... of course from the policy of his successors and their partisans. The inconsistency of traditions concerning Sardanapalus is striking in ou'. account of him.” – MITFond's Greece, vol. x. p. 31 i.