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the Greek poets in Italy under the celebrated scholar MUSURUS, early in the 16th century, gave translations in French verse of the Electra of Sophocles and the Hecuba of Euripides. Several other translations from the Greek drama quickly followed. But the first who introduced any thing approaching to regular tragedy on the stage was Jodelle. His Cleopatra, the earliest tragedy in the language, was acted with prodigious applause at the palace of Rheims, in 1552, before Henry II. and a splendid court. The Queen of Egypt was represented by the poet himself, then only 20 years of age, and the other characters by the nobles of the court. Jodelle is regarded as the inventor of the tragic art in France. He was celebrated in his life-time as “a famous child of the Muses," and figured in "the poetic pleiad" of his contemporary and friend Ronsard.
The extent to which the dramatic genius of Jodelle was honoured by the poets of his day, and the influence which the Greek drama had already gained in France, may be collected from a curious circumstance related in the obscure memoirs of the time: An assemblage of scholars and poets, among whom was Jodelle himself, being attracted to Arcueil by the celebration of the Carnival, in 1552, took occasion, in the spirit of the season, to celebrate the recent triumph of their companion, after the manner of the Greeks. They raised a temple to Bacchus; dithyrambics were composed and sung, in imitation of the ancient festivals of the god. A goat, decked out in due form with fillets and flowers, was produced for sacrifice at the altar. But the priests of the Muse, in their pagan enthusiasm, were humane; and the votive goat, after merely the semblance of a bloody offering, was dismissed with life and liberty. They were themselves much nearer being made the victims of their own sacrifice. The clergy raised a persecuting cry of impiety and idolatry against the performers of this harmless masquerade.
The French would consign to eternal ridicule the man who suggested the revival of the Cleopatra of Jodelle. But such a play, and of such a date, in the English language, would throw our dramatic virtuosos into an ecstasy. They who can dicover truth, force, simplicity, freedom, in the rude language, gross manners, and capricious extravagance of an uncultivated age, and who mistake its figurative appetite of giant coarseness and capaciousness for power of imagination, would place Jodelle, were he English, among the satellites of Shakspeare. The following lines may be given as a specimen of his manner. The scene is historical. It is that in which Seleucus charges Cleopatra, in the presence of Octavius Cæsar, with secreting part of her treasure. Cleopatra, boxing and kicking him, says,
Ah, faux meurdrier! ah, faux traistre! arrache
Que plust aux dieux que ce fust la cervelle!
(Octavien à Cleopatre.)
O quelle grinsant courage!
Mais rien n'est plus furieux que la rage
D'un cœur de femme. Hé bien! quoi! Cleopatre,
Shakspeare's play on the same subject was written near half a century after that of Jodelle; and between the genius displayed in the one and in the other the distance is immense. The memorable description of Cleopatra sailing down the Cydnus, and some passages of sublimity and pathos, as the drama assumes the tone and cast of adversity, are made for the admiration of mankind. But there is a close and lamentable resemblance between the two Cleopatras. The scene just cited is in exact colouring and keeping with that in which Shakspeare's Cleopatra, striking the messenger, says—
Horrible villain! or I'll spurn thine eyes,
Thou shalt be whipped with wire, and stewed in brine,
that other scene, in which she swears
Ah! false villain, false traitor, I'll tear the hair off thy cruel head. Would the gods it were thy brain I dashed out.
(Seleucus to Octavius.) Oh! mighty Cæsar, do hold her back.
(Cleopatra to Seleucus.)
See the fruits of all my bounty. Ah! the grief I suffer gives to my languid heart such force, that methinks I could beat thy bones to powder with my fists, and tread on thee till thy loins burst beneath my feet.
Oh! what a devilish (teeth-gnashing) spirit! but nothing is so furious as the heart of an enraged woman.-(To Cleopatra) Eh! how! Cleopatra, han't you yet had your stomach full of beating him?-(To Seleucus) Begone, begone, my friend.
"By Isis, I will give thee bloody teeth,
that scene of deplorable buffoonery between Cleopatra, on the eve of suicide, and the clown, who brings her the aspic; and but too many other passages, which are read with pain and humiliation, by all who regard the glory of the English stage, and admire Shakspeare with discernment.
Jodelle, who was familiar with the Greek poets, copied their regularity and simplicity of plot; but so inartificially, that it makes his play only the more flat and tedious. It opens with the ghost of Antony complaining that the gods, envious of his glory, had made him the slave of love for his ruin; and announcing, that Cleopatra, by his command, conveyed to her in
dream, was to slay herself that day at his tomb. The queen next appears, surrounded by her female attendants, and occupied with this dream. She devotes herself to death, in obedience to the command of her lover's ghost, to avoid being chained to the triumphal car of his victorious rival. The following verses, in which she vows the sacrifice of her life, possess considerable force.
*Que plutost cette terre au fond de ses entrailles
Et que la peur de mort entre dans mon oreille.
There is, in imitation of the Greeks, a chorus of Alexandrian women, who descant upon the vanity of human affairs; the glory and the fall of Troy; the wrongs and sorrows of Medea; the beauty of the rose, which endures but for a day; and, finally, the disastrous loves of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. He wrote several other pieces, among which "The Passion of Dido," dramatized from Virgil, is the most endurable; all, however, exhibiting glimpses of great natural talent, in the midst of rudeness, negligence, and haste. "The composition of a tragedy," says La Mothe," never cost him above ten mornings." He died at an early age, miserable and neglected, after having been the delight of two sovereigns-one among many examples of the ingratitude of kings, and of the sensibility and weakness of the poetic character under disappointment. In the extreme of poverty and sickness, he reminds (in vain) Charles
Sooner may this earth engulf me in its bowels, sooner may the torturing pincers of the avenging sisters, that spread horror over the infernal lake, tear my vitals, than I counsel me to this, or let the fear of death find passage through
IX. of inhuman memory, that " he who makes use of the lamp should at least supply it with oil"-" Qui se sert de la lampe, au moins de l'huile y met." But what seems to have broken his heart was the failure of a grand spectacle, founded on the Argonautic expedition, which he undertook to have represented under his own immediate direction at court. He had employed, in the preparation of it, all the resources of his skill, which was remarkable, in architecture and scenic painting. But on the eventful day, the performers, musicians, scene-shifters-all conspired, by their blunders, to ruin his hopes. "Where," says he, "I had ordered two rocks, I beheld advancing two bells" (au lieu de deux rochers que j'avais commandés, je vis arriver deux clochers). The following beautiful stanza is from a Funeral Ode on his wretched end, written by one of his friends :
*Jodelle est mort de pauvreté.
HORACE, BOOK III. ODE XIII.
FOUNT of Blandusia, glassy spring,
Of scatter'd flowers and sweetest wine!
A kid to-morrow shall be thine,
Whose budding horns threat love and war-
Thee not the dog-star's fiery ray
Jodelle hath had his death-stroke from poverty. Poverty hath had power over the treasure of France. O God! how cruel. Heaven gave Jodelle a spirit other than human-France denied him a morsel of bread, so much was she a cruel mother.
[This closely literal version can give to the mere English reader no idea of the simplicity, tenderness, and turn of phrase, in the original.]
"GOD made the country, and man made the town:" I wonder in which of the two divisions Cowper would have placed Richmond. Every Londoner would laugh at the rustic that should call it town; and yet it is no more like the country, the real, untrimmed, genuine country, than a garden is like a field. I do not say this in disparagement. Richmond is nature in a court dress, but still nature-aye, and very lovely nature too; gay, and happy, and elegant, as one of Charles the Second's beauties, and with as little to remind us of the penalty of the original Adam, of labour, or poverty, or grief, or crime. Since no place on the globe is quite exempt from their influence, I suppose that care and vice may exist even there; they are, however, well hidden: the inhabitants may find them, or they may find the inhabitants; but to the casual visiter Richmond appears a sort of fairy-land-a piece of the old Arcadia, a holiday-spot for ladies and gentlemen, where they lead a happy out-of-door life, like the gay folks in Watteau's pictures, and have nothing to do with the work-a-day world. The principal ingredient in this powerful charm is the river, the beautiful river, for the hill seems to me overrated. The prospect is too woody, too leafy, too green. There is a monotony of vegetation, a heaviness. The view was finer as I first saw it in February, when the bare branches admitted frequent glimpses of houses and villages, and the colouring was left to the fancy, than when I last beheld it, all pomp and garniture, " in the leafy month of June." Canova said it only wanted crags; I rather incline to the old American criticism, and think that it wants clearing. But the river, the beautiful river, there is no overrating that. Brimming to its very banks of meadow or garden, clear, pure, and calm as the bright summer sky which smiles down into its bosom. How gracefully it glides through the bridge, and how the boats become it! and how pretty those boats are, from the light green pleasure vessel, with its white awning and its gay freight of beaux and belles, to the heavy steam boat, which comes walloping along with a regular mechanical motion, rumpling the waters, and leaving a track of tiny waves on their glassy surface. Certainly the Thames is the pleasantest highway in his Majesty's dominions. The happiest hours I ever passed in my life were spent on its bosom one sweet June morning, when the light clouds seemed following and folding the sun in a thousand veils of shadowy alabaster, and the soft air was loaded with fragrance from gardens which were one flush of roses and honeysuckles. I shall never forget that morning. How delightful it was to glide along through those beautiful scenes with those dear companions, sunk in that silence of deep enjoyment which