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sounding words, and dazzled his audience with splendid and
The play of the Persae has claims upon the attention of posterity, of a different nature from the other remains of AEschylus, and his brethren of the tragic art. The rest of these beautiful
compositions consist of stories drawn from the Grecian my
thology, or from the early traditional accounts of the heroic age, which are interspersed with mythological fables. The plot of the Persae, if it can be called a plot, relates to the glorious and successful struggle made by the small states of Greece against the innumerable forces of the Persian monarchy; a part of history which, in our childhood, used to produce delight and exultation, and the importance of which in the affairs of mankind we become more and more sensible of, as we reflect upon the consequences of events. This tragedy contains what appears to be the most faithful marrative that has reached our times of the great and decisive battle of Salamis, written within a short time after the event, by an eye-witness and a principal actor in that triumphant achievement. It represents the feelings at Athens respecting the mighty events of that time, and the opinions entertained by the Greeks of the characters of
their enemies. The professed object of Æschylus, in writing
this play, was to encourage the martial spirit of his countrymen by a dramatic display of their most glorious exploits. In the Frogs of Aristophanes, he is made to say:
busly made out in Mr. Blomfield's preface. The battle of Salamis was fought in the first year of the 75th
Olympiad (480 years B.C.). Two years after, when Themis
tocles was Choregus, a play upon the subject was introduced, probably in compliment to the hero of the day, by Phrynichus,
a tragedian, almost twenty years senior to Æschylus. This per
formance, so flattering to the feelings of the victors, received the
prize, and appears, from the frequent mention of it, to have excited much interest: the ambition of Æschylus, who was
already the rival of Phrynichus, and had introduced most important improvements in the art, was roused to emulate or surpass this production. Accordingly a few years after (Olymp, 76, 4), he represented the Persae, the idea of which was borrowed from the production of his rival. The play of Phrynichus took its name from the Chorus, whom Mr. Blomfield conjectures to have been the wives of the Phoenicians, who were - ~ * . beheaded
beheaded by the order of Xerxes after the battle of Salamis, according to the narrative of Herodotus VIII. 90. It was opened by an eunuch, who was employed in spreading the seats for the Persian counsellors. Æschylus, with much more propriety, opens with the Chaus of Persian nobles, who composed the council of regency in the absence of the monarch : they give a lively account of the forces and the leaders who had accompanied Xerxes in his ill-fated expedition, and express their uneasiness at not having heard any news of his success, and the dire forebodings of their minds. This is done in anapaests, which in this play and in the supplices, supply the place of the prologue. Their Excellencies then sing a very elegant song in a regular and pleasing lyric measure; after which, just as they are preparing for further deliberation, the queen mother, Atossa, comes into the council chamber, to communicate some alarming dreams which she has had, and which too plainly relate to the disasters of Xerxes's armament. The Chorus, though the tendency of these dreams is sufficiently clear, are too sanguine in their hopes, or too much of courtiers, to terrify the dowager with interpreting them, and so recommend her to fall to her prayers, and particularly to propitiate the shade of her late husband Darius. To this she assents, but first indulges herself in asking the Chorus some questions, such as, where Athens is situated whether it be strong in population, or in riches 2 whether its warriors be bowmen? who is the ruler of its forces f questions important and natural enough, but which a modern audience would wonder that the queen had never thought of asking before. This conversation is interrupted by the coming of the Persian messenger, who brings the disastrous tidings of the defeat and total overthrow of the mighty armament. Atossa, when she can recover her speech, extracts from him by degrees. a detailed account of the battle of Salamis, and the no jo.
mitous retreat through Thrace. This part of the play is remarkable, not only for its grandeur and high colouring, but for.
the perspicuity and beauty of the narrative. After an appro
priate ditty sung by the Chorus, Atossa proposes to them to
invoke the spirit of Darius, while she assists with her libations. The shade of the hoary monarch obeys the summous, and enquires why they have disturbed his deep repose, and what has
befallen the Persian state. The statesmen, however, are so
much awe-struck at the majestic apparition of their former lord, as to be unable to answer his questions. He, filiding that
he is likely to get little information from them, addresses his "
queries to the queen, and learns from her the late events, of which no tidings or suspicion had, it seems, reached the lower regions. It soon however appears, that though the royal *
- - had
had no previous knowledge of this expedition to Greece, he is accurately acquainted with what is to ensue, and foretells them of the destruction of the army which was left in Greece, at the battle of Plataeae; and tells them that these misfortunes are the punishment of the impiety of the Persians, who had burut and destroyed the temples and altars of the Grecian Gods. He then returns to the regions of darkness, having first impaired the sublimity of the scene, by advising the queen to go and meet her son Xerxes, with a handsome change of apparel, as he would shortly make his appearance in a very tattered condition. This particular, as well as the whole scene which ensues upon the return of the king, was evidently intended to make the Athenians merry at the discomfiture of theirboasting invaders. For the same purpose the Chorus is made to enquire after a number of the Persian chiefs, whose hard sounding and barbarous names would raise a laugh among the audience; such as, v. 258. - . . . . .
of ot, mos. 3s go bagyotox6",
'Aglipazgöös r &yo.96s; o
wros. 33 2svowns &vaš, •
# Aixas& sórdrag,
Kzi Madiseas, 'Agrspoons to
In the rude simplicity of this plot, it is easy to observe prominent faults; but they are more than redeemed by the uncommon beauties of the composition. And it is to be observed, that it was written in the very beginning of the art, before the limits of the grave and ludicrous dramas had been accurately defined: we have the testimony of antiquity, that Æschylus was the first author of the serious and legitimate tragedy. As to the slight intermixture of the ludicrous in this play, our countrymen are too devoted admirers of Shakespeare to think severely of that defect, if, considering the subject and time
of representation, it can be called a defect at all. " Mr. Blomfield in his preface, p. xix, gives a most ingenious and learned argument to prove the fallacy of the ordinary account of the number of the tragic Chorus having been limited to fifteen in the time of AEschylus. The story was of itself suspicious from the manifestly erroneous story of fifty furies with horrible masks, which made the women miscarry with fright, &c. That the Chorus of the Eumenides consisted not of fifty, but of three, appears as well from the play itself as from the coucurrence of the poetic mythology. But this question is so * * * * E 2 - : ably
Mr. B., that we must present it to the reäder in
** Sed quoniam Chori mentio. imjecta est, lectorem aliquantulum morabor, dum meam de hac quæstione sententiam paucis declarem. Totum illud commentum de terrore spectatoribus injecto, et de lege ista occasione lata, rejiciendum puto: neque enim quinquaginta Furiæ plus terroris incussissent quam, quindecim ; quum spectaculi horror non tam e nunmero Chori quam ex
apparatu penderet. Hunc autem terrificum fuisse liquet, tam ex
tragedie conditionem spectamus, quam primus ipse AEschylus ex humo sustulerat, modicoque instruxerat apparatu.” Pref. xix.
* * * * * A part of Mr. Blomfield's Preface relates to the residence of Eschylus at Syracuse, whither he went after the performance of those three noble tragedies which have survived, the Agao memnon, Chocphori, and Eumenides; he exposes some prevalent errors respecting this part of the life of the poet. Leaving, however those natters, which do not immediately concern the Persae, we shall proceed to notice a few interesting remarks, taken almost at raudom from his notes upon the tragedy. ' ' ' ' ' In v. 21, the name 'Aglaopyns is changed into Aflaq'pěvns to suit the anapaestic measure. For the same reason we have in yv. 29, 31, 'Agist,Coghs and Pagoyè4xos, each a double spondee, though they are subsequently used in the Iambics with their per multimates short. Mr. Blomfield remarks, “ . Hoschylus haic Persarum nomina partim finxit, partim ad versuum modulum immutavit.” It is so much the fashion of modern poetry to amuse the ears of the readers with lists of well-sounding names, that if this licence be once assumed by our poets, there is no saying to what an extent it may be carried; and we give notice, that we shall protest against it accordingly. The Athenians might take liberties with the names of their vanquished enemies, which it would ill become us to imitate, in speaking of mountains in the
Mr. B. conceives, that by this obscure expression, the poet intended to designate the Ionian states, whom he no where names. as composing part of the Persian armament, and who had unwillingly followed in the expedition which was to annihilate
their kindred and natural allies the Athenians. In the same
way, we presume a Russian poet, celebrating the discomfiture of Buonaparte's expedition to Moscow, would carefully avoid
enumerating the Prussian or Austrian forces who accompanied
We shall extract the account £o in the glossary of two ad
jectives p.2×egos and Kvæveo, w hich appear not ônly learned, but much more satisfactory than any explanation of their usages which can be found elsewhere.