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though in the eleven that are still remain- of all the seeming inequality of style, which ing, there is much more than could be puts Plutarch in a rage. These censures cau wished.

never be just upon a poet, whose style has alPlutarch censures him in the second plare for ways been allowed to be perfectly Attic, and o. playing upon words; and against this charge an Atticism which made them extremely deFrischlinus defends him with less skill. It is lightful to the lovers of the Athenian taste. impossible to exemplify this in French. But Plutarch, perhaps, rather means to blame the after all, this part is so little, that it deserved chorusses of which the language is sometimes not so severe a reprehension, especially since elevated, sometimes burlesque, always very amongst those sayings, there are some so mis- poetical, and therefore in appearance not suitable chievously malignant, that they became prover- to comedy. But the chorus which had been bial, at least by the sting of their malice, if not borrowed from tragedy, was then all the fashion, by the delicacy of their wit. One example will particularly for pieces of satire, and Aristobe sufficient : speaking of the tax-gatherers, or phanes admitted them like the other poets of the excisemen of Athens, he crushes them at the old, and perhaps of the middle comedy; once by observing, non quod essent Tapeseed sed whereas Menander suppressed them, not so dessed. The word lamiæ signified walking spi- much in compliance with his own judgment, as rits, which, according to the vulgar notion, de- in obedience to the public edicts. It is not, voured men; this makes the spirit of the sar- therefore, this mixture of tragic and comic that casm against the tax-gatherers. This cannot be will place Aristophanes below Menander. rendered in our language ; but if any thing as The fifth charge is, that he kept no distinction good had been said in France on the like occa- of character ; that, for example, he makes wosion, it would have lasted too long, and like men speak like orators, and orators like slaves; many other sayings amongst us been too well re- but it appears by the characters which he ridiceived. The best is, that Plutarch himself con- cules, that this objection falls of itself It is fesses that it was extremely applauded.

sufficient to say, that a poet who painted, not The third charge is, a mixture of tragic and imaginary characters, but real persons, men well comic style. This accusation is certainly true; known, citizens whom he called by their names, Aristophanes often gets into the buskin; but we and showed in dresses like their own, and masks must examine upon what occasion. He does resembling their faces, whom he branded in the not take upon him the character of a tragic sight of a whole city, extremely baughty and writer ; but, baring remarked that his trick of full of derision ; it is sufficient to say, that such parody was always well received by a people a poet could never be supposed to miss his charwho liked to laugh at that for which they had acters. The applause, which his licentiousness been just weeping, he is eternally using the produced, is too good a justification ; besides, if same craft; and there is scarcely any tragedy or he had not succeeded, he exposed himself to the striking passages known by memory by the fate of Eupolis, who in a comedy called “ The Athenians which he does not turn into merri- Drowned Man," having imprudently pulled to ment, by throwing over it a dress of ridicule and pieces particular persons more powerful than burlesque, which is done sometimes by changing bimself, was laid hold of, and drowned more or transposing the words, and sometimes by an effectually than those he had drowned upon the unexpected application of the whole sentence. open stage. These are the shreds of tragedy, in which he ar- The condemnation of the poignancy of Aris rays the comic muse, to make her still more comic. tophanes, as having too much acrimony, is better Cratinus had before done the same thing; and founded. Such was the turn of a species of we know that he made a coinedy called “ Ulys- comedy, in which all licentiousness was allowed: ses,” to burlesque Homer and his Odyssey; in a nation which made every thing a subject of which shows, that the wits and poets are, with laughter, in its jealousy of immoderate liberty, respect to one another, much the same at all and its enmity to all appearance of rule and times, and that it was at Athens as here, I superiority; for the genius of independency nawill prove this system by facts, particularly with turally produces a kind of satire more keen and respect to the merriment of Aristophanes upon delicate, as may be easily observed in most of qur three celebrated tragedians. This being the inhabitants of islands. If we do not say the case, the mingled style of Aristophanes will, with Longinus, that a popular government perbaps, not deserve so much censure as Plus kindles eloquence, and that a lawful monarchy tarch has vented. We have no need of the Tra- stifles it; at least it is easy to discover by the vesty of Virgil, nor the parodies of our own event, that eloquence in different government time, nor of the Lutrin of Boileau, to show us takes a different appearance. In republics it is that this medley may have its merit upon parti- more sprightly and violent, and in monarchies cular occasions.

more insinuating and soft. The same thing The same may be said in general of his ob- may be said of ridicule; it follows the cast o scurity, his meanness, and his high flights, and I genius, as genius follows that of government Thus the republican raillery, particularly of the I like that of Socrates, takes possession of the age which we are now considering, must have mind. The mind is the freest part of man, and been rougher than that of the age which follow the most tender of its liberties; possessions, life, ed it, for the same reason that Horace is more and reputation, may be in another's power, but delicate, and Lucilius more pointed. A dish of opinion is always independent. If any man can satire was always a delicious treat to human obtain that gentle influence, by which he ingramalignity, but that dish was differently season- tiates himself with the understanding, and ed, as the manners were polished more or less. makes a sect in a commonwealth, his followers By polished manners, I mean that good-breed will sacrifice themselves for him, and nobody ing, that art of reserve and self restraint, which will be pardoned that dares to attack bim justly is the consequence of dependence. If one were or unjustly, because that truth, real or imaginto determine the preference due to one of those ary, which he maintained, is now become an kinds of pleasantry of which both have their idol. Time will do nothing for the extinction value, there would not need a moment's hesita- of this hatred; it will be propagated from ago tion, every voice would join in favour of the to age ; and there is no hope that Aristophanes softer, yet without contempt of that which is will ever be treated with tenderness by the disrough. Menander will, therefore, be preferred, ciples of Plato, who made Socrates his hero. but Aristophanes will not be despised, especially Every body else may, perhaps, confess, that since he was the first who quitted that wild | Aristophanes, though in one instance a bad practice of satirizing at liberty right or wrong, man, may nevertheless be a good poet ; but dinand by a comedy of another cast made way for tinctions, like these, will not be admitted by the manner of Menander, more agreeable yet, prejudice and passion, and one or other dictates and less dangerous. There is yet another dis- all characters, wbether good or bad. tinction to be made between the acrimony of the As I add my own reasons, such as they are, one, and the softness of the other; the works of for or against Aristophanes, to those of Frischthe one are acrimonious, and of the other soft, linus his defender, I must not omit one thing because the one exhibited personal, and the other which he has forgot, and which, perhaps, withgeneral characters; which leaves us still at lib- ont taking in the rest, put Plutarch out of erty to examine, if these different designs might humour, which is that perpetual farce which not be executed with equal delicacy.

goes through all the comedies of Aristophanes, We sball know this by a view of the particu- like the character of Harlequin on the Italian lars ; in this place we say only that the reigning theatre. What kind of personages are clouds, taste or the love of striking likenesses, might frogs, wasps, and birds ? Plutarch, used to a justify Aristophanes for having turned, as Plu- comic stage of a very different appearance, must tarch says, art into malignity, simplicity into have thought them strange things; and yet brutality, merriment into farce, and amour into stranger must they appear to us who have a impudence; if in any age a poet could be ex- newer kind of comedy, with which the Greeks cused for painting public folly and vice in their were unacquainted. This is what our poet nay true colours.

be charged with, and what may be proved beThere is a motive of interest at the bottom yond refutation. This charge comprises all the which disposed Elian, Plutarch, and many rest, and against this I shall not pretend to jusothers, to condemn this poet without appeal. tify him. It would be of no use to say, that Socrates, who is said to have been destroyed by Aristophanes wrote for an age that required a poetical attack, at the instigation of two shows which filled the eye, and grotesque paiutwretches,* has too many friends among good | ings in satirical performances; that the crowds men, to bave pardon granted for so horrid a of spectators, which sometimes neglected Cracrime. This has filled them with an implacable tinus to throng Aristophanes, obliged him more hatred against Aristophanes, which is mingled and more to comply with the ruling taste, lest with the spirit of philosophy, a spirit, wherever he should lose the public favour by pictures it comes, more dangerous than any other. A more delicate and less striking; that, in a state, common enemy will confess some good qualities where it was considered as policy to lay oren in his adversary; but a philosopher, made par- every thing that had the appearance of ambition, tial by philosophy, is never at rest till he has singularity, or knavery, comedy was become a totally destroyed him who has hurt the most haranguer, a reformer, and a public counsellor, tender part of his heart; that is, has disturbed from whom the people learned to take care of him in his adherence to some character, which, their most valuable interests; and that this

comedy, in the attempt to lead and please the

people, claimed a right to the strongest touches It is not certain, that Aristophanes did

of eloquence, and had likewise the power of the death of Socrates ; but, however, he is certainly personal painting peculiar to herself. All these criminal for having, in “ The Clouds,” accused him reasons, and many others, would disappear i10publicly of impiety.

mediately, and my mouth would be stoj prd sich

procure

a single word, with which every body would exemption from this accusation. Nobody will agree: my antagenist would tell me that such an dare to say of Herodotus or Thucydides, of Liaye was to be pitied, and passing on from age to vius or Tacitus, that which has been said without age, till he came to our own, he would conclude scruple of Homer and the ancient poets. The flatly, that we are the only possessors of common reason is, that history takes the nearest way to sense; a determination with which the French its purpose, and gives the characters and pracare too much reproached, and which overthrows tices of nations, be they what they will; it has all the prejudice in favour of antiquity. At the no dependance upon its subject, and offers no sight of so many happy touches, which one can- thing to examination, but the art of the narrative. not help admiring in Aristophanes, a man

A history of China well written, would please might, perhaps, be inclined to lament that such a Frenchman as well as one of France. It is a genius was thrown into an age of fools: but otherwise with mere works of genius, they dewhat age has been without them? And have pend upon their subjects, and consequently upon not we ourselves reason to fear, lest posterity the characters and practices of the times in which should judge of Moliere and his age, as we judge they were written; this at least is the light in of Aristophanes ? Menander altered the taste, which they are beheld. This rule of judgment and was applauded in Athens, but it was after is not equitable; for, as I have said over and Athens was changed. Terence imitated him at over, all the orators and poets are painters, and Rome, and obtained the preference over Plautus, merely painters. They exhibit nature as it is though Cæsar called him but a demi-Menander, before them, influenced by the accidents of edubecause he appears to want that spirit and viva- cation, which, without changing it entirely, yet city which be calls the vis comica. We are now give it, in different ages and climates, a different weary of the manner of Menander and Terence, appearance; but we make their success depend and leave them for Moliere, who appears like a in a great degree upon their subject, that is, upon new star in a new course. Who can answer, circumstances which we measure by the circumthat in such an interval of time as has passed be- stances of our own days. According to this pretween these four writers there will not arise judice, oratory depends more upon its subject another author, or another taste, that may bring than history, and poetry yet more than oratory. Moliere, in his turn, into neglect ? Without go- Our times, therefore, show more regard to Heing further, our neighbours, the English, think rodotus and Suetonius, than to Demosthenes he wants force and fire. Whether they are right, and Cicero, and more to all these than to Homer or not, is another question ; all that I mean to or Virgil. Of this prejudice, there are regular advance is, that we are to fix it as a conclusion, gradations; and to come back to the point wbich that comic authors must grow obsolete with the we have left, we show, for the same impercepti. modes of life, if we admit any one age, or any ble reason, less regard to tragic poets than to one climate, for the sovereign rule of taste. But others. The reason is, that the subjects of their let us talk with more exactness, and endeavour paintings are more examined than the art. Thus by an exact analysis to find out what there is in comparing the “ Achilles” and “Hippolytus" comedy, whether of Aristophanes and Plautus, of Euripides, with those of Racine, we drive of Menander and Terence, of Moliere and his them off the stage, without considering that Rarivals, which is never obsolete, and must please cine's heroes will be driven off, in a future age, all ages and all nations.

if the same rule of judgment be followed, and

one time be measured by anotber. Remarkable difference between the state of Co- Yet tragedy having the passions for its object, medy and other works of genius, with regard to is not wholly exposed to the caprice of our taste, their duration.

which would make our own manners the rule of

human kind; for the passions of Grecian heroes XI. I now speak particularly of comedy; for are often dressed in external modes of appearwe must observe that between that and other ance that disgust us, yet they break through the works of literature, especially tragedy, there is veil when they are strongly marked, as we canan essential difference, which the enemies of an- not deny them to be in Eschylus, Sophocles, and tiquity will not understand, and which I shall | Euripides. The essence then gets the better of endeavour palpably to show.

the circumstance. The passions of Greece and All works show the age in which they are pro- France do not so much differ by the particular duced : they carry its stamp upon them; the characters of particular ages, as they agree manners of the times are impressed by indelible by the participations of that which belongs to marks. If it be allowed, that the best of past the same passion in all ages. Our three tratimes were rude in comparison with ours, the gic poets will, therefore, get clear by suffering cause of the ancients is decided against them; only a little ridicule, which falls directly upon and the want of politeness, with which their their times; but these times and themselves will works are charged in our days, must be gener-be well recompensed by the admiration which ally confessed. History alone seems to clalm their art will irresistibly enforce.

Comedy is in a more lamentable situation ; for, , is a common understanding in all times and not only its object is the ridiculous, which, though places, which is never obsolete; but that there is in reality always the same, is so dependant on another kind of beauty, such as we are now treat. custom, as to change its appearance with time, ing, which depends upon times and places, and and with place; but the art of a comic writer is therefore changeable. Such is the imperfecis, to lay hold of that species of the ridiculous tion of every thing below, that one mode of which will catch the spectators of the present beauty is never found without a mixture of the bour, without regard to futurity. But though other, and from these two blended together recomedy bas attained its end, and diverted the sults what is called the taste of an age. I am pit, for which it was written; if it goes down to now speaking of an age sprightly and polite, an posterity, it is in a new world, where it is no age which leaves works for a long time behind longer known; it becomes there quite a foreigner, it, an age which is imitated or criticised when because there are no longer the same originals, revolutions have thrown it out of sight. por the same species of the ridiculous, nor the Upon this incontestable principle, which supsame spectators, but a set of merciless readers, poses a beauty universal and absolute, and a who complain that they are tired with it, though beauty likewise relative and particular, which it once filled Athens, Rome, or Paris, with mer- are mingled through one work in very different riment. This position is general, and comprises proportions, it is easy to give an account of the all poets and all ages. To say all at once, contrary judgments passed on Aristophanes. If comedy is the slave of its subject, and of the ! we consider him only with respect to the beaureigning taste; tragedy is not subject to the ties, which, though they do not please us, desame degree of slavery, because the ends of the lighted the Athenians, we shall condemn him at two species of poetry are different. For this once, though even this sort of beauty may somereason, if we suppose that in all ages, there are times have its original in universal beauty car. critics who measure every thing by the same ried to extravagance. Instead of commending rule, it will follow, that if the comedy of Aris- him for being able to give merriment to the most tophanes become obsolete, that of Menander refined nation of those days, we shall proceed to likewise, after having delighted Athens, and re- place that people, with all their atticism, in the vived again at Rome, at last suffered by the rank of savages, whom we take upon us to deforce of time. The Muse of Moliere has almost grade, because they have no other qualifications made both of them forgotten, and would still be but innocence and plain understanding. But walking the stage, if the desire of povelty did have not we likewise, amidst our more polished not in time make us weary of that which we manners, beauties merely fashionable, which have too frequently admired.

make part of our writings as of the writings of Those who have endeavoured to render their former times; beauties of which our self-love judgment independent upon manners and cus- now makes us fond, but which, perhaps, will toms, and of such men there have been always disgust our grandsons ? Let us be more equi. some, have not judged so severely either of times, table, let us leave this relative beauty to its real or of writers; they have discovered that a cer- value more or less in every age: or if we must tain resemblance runs through all polished ages, pass judgment upon it, let us say that these which are alike in essential things, and differ touches in Aristophanes, Menander, and Moonly in external manners, which, if we except liere, were well struck off in their own time; religion, are things of indifference ; that wher- but that, comparing them with true beauty, ever there is genius, politeness, liberty, or plen- that part of Aristophanes was a colouring too ty, there prevails an exact and delicate taste, strong, that of Menander was too weak, and which, however hard to be expressed, is felt by that of Moliere was a peculiar varnish formed those that were born to feel it; that Athens, the of one and the other, which, without being an inventress of all the arts, the mother first of the imitation, is itself inimitable, yet depending Roman and then of general taste, did not con- upon time, which will efface it by degrees, as sist of stupid savages; that the Athenian and our notions, which are every day changing, Augustan ages have always been considered as shall receive a sensible alteration. Much of this times that enjoyed a particular privilege of ex. has already happened since the time of Moliere, cellence, though we may distinguish the good who, if he was now to come again, must take a authors from the bad, as in our own days, yet new road. we ought to suspend the vehemence of criticism, With respect to unalterable beauties, of which and proceed with caution and timidity before comedy admits much fewer than tragedy, when we pass sentence upon times and writers, whose they are the subject of our consideration, we good taste has been universally applauded. must not too easily set Aristophanes and Plautus This obvious consideration has disposed them to below Menander and Terence. We may propause; they have endeavoured to discover the perly hesitate with Boileau, whether we shall original of taste, and bave found that there is prefer the French comedy to the Greek and not only a stable and immutable beauty, as there Latin. Let us only give, like him, the great rule for pleasing in all ages, and the key by which as that of the aspic or viper; but whose bursts all the difficulties in passing judgment may be of malice, and sallies of wit, often give a blow opened. This rule and this key are nothing else where it is not expected. The Muse of Terence, but the ultimate design of the comedy.

and consequently of Menander, is an artless and

unpainted beauty, of easy gayety, whose features Etudiez la cour, et connoissez la ville: L'ane et l'autre est toujours en modéles fertile.

are rather delicate than striking, rather soft C'est par-là que Moliere illustrant ses écrits

than strong, rather plain and modest than great Peut-être de son art eût remporté le prix. and haughty, but always perfectly natural. Si moins ami du peuple on ses doctes peintures Il n'eût point fait souvent grimacer ses figures, Ce n'est pas un portrait, une image semblable : Quitté pour le bouffon l'agréable et le fin,

C'est un fils, un amant, un père véritable. Et sans bonte a Terence allié Tabarin.

The Muse of Moliere is not always plainly In truth, Aristophanes and Plautus united dressed, but takes airs of quality, and rises above buffoonery and delicacy in a greater degree than her original condition, so as to attire herself Moliere ; and for this they may be blamed. gracefully in magnificent apparel. In her manThat which then pleased at Athens, and at ners sbe mingles elegance with foolery, force Rome, was a transitory beauty, which had not with delicacy, and grandeur, or even baughtisufficient foundation in truth, and therefore the ness, with plainness and modesty. If sometaste changed. But if we condemn those ages times, to please the people, she gives a loose to for this, what age shall we spare? Let us refer farce, it is only the gay folly of a moment, from every thing to permanent and universal taste, which she immediately returns, and which lasts and we shall find in Aristophanes at least as no longer than a slight intoxication. The first much to commend as censure.

might he painted encircled with little satyrs,

some grossly foolish, the others delicate, but all Tragedy more uniform than Comedy.

extremely licentious and malignant; monkeys XII. But before we go on to his works, it always ready to laugh in your face, and to point may be allowed to make some reflections upon out to indiscriminate ridicule, the good and the tragedy and comedy. Tragedy, though different bad. The second may be shown encircled with according to the difference of times and writers, geniuses full of softness and of candour, taught is uniform in its nature, being founded upon to please by nature alone, and whose honeyed the passions, which never change. With comedy dialect is so much the more insinuating as there it is otherwise. Whatever difference there is is no temptation to distrust it. The last must between Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; be accompanied with the delicate laughter of the between Corneille and Racine ; between the court, and that of the city somewhat more French and the Greeks, it will not be found coarse, and neither the one nor the other can be sufficient to constitute more than one species of separated from her. The Muse of Aristophanes tragedy.

and of Plautus can never be denied the honour The works of those great masters are, in some of sprightliness, animation, and invention; nor respects, like the sea-nymphs, of whom Ovid that of Menander and Terence the praise of says, “ That their faces were not the same, yet nature and of delicacy; to that of Moliere must so much alike that they might be known to be be allowed the happy secret of uniting all the sisters."

piquancy of the former, with a peculiar art

which they did not know. Of these three sorts Facies non omnibus una, Nec diversa tamen, qualem decet esse sororum,

of merit, let us show to each the justice that is

due. Let us in each separate the pure and the The reason is, that the same passions give true from the false gold, without approving or action and animation to them all. With respect condemning either the one or the other in the to the comedies of Aristophanes and Plautus, gross. If we must pronounce in general upon Menander and Terence, Moliere and his imi- the taste of their writings, we must indisputably tators," if we compare them one with another, allow that Menander, Tertnce, and Moliere, we shall find something of a family likeness, will give most pleasure to a decent audience, but much less strongly marked, on account of and consequently that they approach nearer to the different appearance which ridicule and the true beauty, and have less mixture of beaupleasantry take from the different manners of ties purely relative, than Plautus and Aris every age. They will not pass for sisters, but tophanes. for very

distant relations. The Muse of Aris- If we distinguish comedy by its subjects, we tophanes and Plautus, to speak of her with jus- shall find three sorts among the Greeks, and as tice, is a bacchanal at least, whose malignant many among the Latins, all differently dressed; tongue is dipped in gall, or in poison dangerous if we distinguish it by ages and authors, we

shall again find three sorts; and we shall find

three sorts a third time if we regard more close• Buicau, Art, Poet. chant. 3.

ly the subject. As the ultimate and general

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