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sounding words, and dazzled his audience with splendid and daring imagery:
The play of the Persæ . has claimis upon the attention of pos. terity, of a different nature from the other remains of Æschylus; and his brethren of the tragic art. The rest of these beautiful compositions consist of stories drawn from the Grecian mythology, or from the early traditional accounts of the heroic age, which are interspersed with mythological fables. The plot of the Perse, if it can be called a plot, relates to the glo. rious 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 narrative 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:
Είτα διδάξας Πέρσας, μετά ταύτ' επιθυμεϊν εξεδίδαξα
Νικάν αεί τους αντιπάλες, κοσμήσας έργον άρισον. The time and circumstances of the performance are ingerila busly made out in Mr. Blomfield's preface.
The battle of Salaniis was fought in the first year of the 75th Olympiad (480 years B.C.). Two years after, when Themistocles was Choregus, "a play upon the subject was introduced, probably in compliment to the hero of the
day, by Phrynichus, à tragedian, almost twenty years senior to Æschylus. This performance, 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 im. portant improvements in the art, was roused to emulate or surpass this production. Accordingly a few years after (Olympi 76, 4.), he represented the Persæ, the idea of which was bora rowed from the production of his rival. The play of Phry nichus took its name from the Chorus, whom Mr. Blomfield conjectures to have been the wives of the Phænicians, who were
beheaded VOL. IV. JULY, 1815.
beheaded by the order of Xerxes after the battle of Salamis,
and the dire forebodings of their ininds. This is done in anapæsts, 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, ihe queen mother, Atossa, comes into the council chamber, to communicate some alarming dreams which she has bad, and which too plainly relate to the disasters of Xerxes's armament. The Chorus, though the tendency of these dreams is sufficienily 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 10 her prayers, and particularly to propitiate the shade of her late hus. band 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? whether its warriors be bowmen? who is the ruler of its forces ? 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 less .calamitous retreat through Thrace. This part of tlie play is remarkable, not only for its grandeur and high colouring, but for, the perspicuity and beauty of the narrative. After an appropriate dilty' 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 summons, and enquires why they have disturbed his deep repose, and what lias 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 bis questions. He, Guiding that 'he is likely to get little inforination from them, addresses his
queries to the queen,' and learns from her the late events, of which nc tidings or suspicion had, it seems, reached the lower regions. It sova however appears, that though the royal shado
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 Platææ; and tells them that these misfortunes are the punishment of the impiety of the Persians, who bad burnt 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 Atheniaus merry at the discomfiture of their boasting 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.
οι οί, που δε σοι Φαρνούχο,
In the rude simplicity of this plot, it is easy to observe prominent faults; but they are more than redeemed by the un. common 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 drainag had been accurately detined: 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 filleen in the time of Æschylus. 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
ably treated by Mr. B., that we must present it to the reader is his own words:
“ Sed quoniam Chori mentio injecta 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: nèque enim quinquaginta Furiæ plus terroris incussissent quam quindecim;:quum spectaculi horror non tam e nunnero Chori quam ex apparatu penderet. Hunc autem terrificum fuisse liquet, tam ex ipsius Poetæ descriptione, quam ex Pausaniæ loco I. p. 20. ed. Αld. πρώτος δέ σφισιν (ταϊς Ευμενίσιν) Αισχύλο- δράκοντας εποίησεν όμου ταϊς εν τη κεφαλή θριξίν. Valle autem dubito an in moddicis, quibus Æschylus instraverat pulpita tignis, locus esset quinquaginta Furiis. Quinetiam tantum abest ut quinquaginta simul in scenam prodiisse putem, ut certum mihi videatur, ne quindecim quidem, sed tres tantum, in orchestra constitisse. Neque enim credibile est Æschylum in patriæ superstiosæ mythologia tam audacter innovasse, ut numerum dearum, quas Athenienses summa cum religione colerent, ex tribus ad quinquaginta augeret: vere enim observavit Salmasius in Epistola de Herode Infanticida p. 36. deorum personas non fingi a poetis, sed accipi. Eodem pertinet Aristotelis observatio de tragicis και των γενομένων ονομάτων αντέχονται τους γαρ παρειλημμένους μύθος μύει» ούκ έσι. Τernas autem fuisse Eumenidas, vel pueris notissimum est; ternas tantum poetas aguovisse, loça, quæ sequuntur, evincunt. Eurip. Orest. 1664.
Ενθένδε τ' έλθαν την Αθηναίων πόλιν,
Ευμενίσι τρισσαϊς. .
“ Siiniles caussæ faciunt ut putem in Cạbiris et Phorcisin eundem fuisse Chori numerum, nempe terrarium; quem etiam in Heliasin forte ex tribus, certe non pluribus quam septem constitisse opinor, Danai quidem filiæ, quæ in Supplicibus Chori partes sustinent, quinquaginta erant (v. 316.) sed parum verisimile est istum numerum simul in pulpitis stetisse. Quænam igitur mea sit sententia de Chori constitutione, ex præmissis colligi potest, nempe in Æschyli ævo certam legem, quæ numerum ejus definiret, nullam exstitisse ; quod etiam ex natura rerum credibile fit, si recentis
We shall extract the account given in the glossary of two ad. jectives wahegos and auéve, which appear not only learned,
tragædiæ conditionem spectamus, quam primus ipse Æschylus ex humo sustulerat, modicoque instruxerat apparatu.” Pref. xix.
A part of Mr. Blomfield's Preface relates to the residence of Æschylus at Syracuse, whither he went after the performance of those three noble tragedies which have survived, the Agamemnon, Chocplori, anti Eumenides ; he exposes some prevalent errors respecting this part of the life of the poet. Leaving, however those inatters, which do not immediately concern the Persæ, we shall proceed to notice a few interesting remarks, taken almost at raudoin from his notes upon the tragedy.
In v.21, the name 'Aplapépras is changed into 'Aplappens to suit the anapæstic measure. For the same reason we have in »v. 29, 31, 'Agiejibaghs and Oagaudžuns, each à double spondee, though they are subsequently used in the lambics with their pe. nultimates short. Mr. Blomfield remarks,“ Æschylus hæc 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 say, ing 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 all become us to imitate, in speaking of mountains in the Highlands, or promontories of the Archipelago. V. 41. αφροδιαίτων δ' έπεται Λυδών
όχλΘ., οίτ' επίπαν ήπειρογενές
κατέχεσιν έθν. Mr. B. conceives, thạt 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 kiadred and natural allies the Athenians.
In the same way, we presume a Russian poet, celebrating the disconfiture of Buonaparte's expedition to Moscow, would carefully avoid enumerating the Prussian or Austrian forces who accompanied it.
@, but much more satisfactory than any explanation of their usages which can be found elsewhere. W. 61. ους χέρι πάσα χθών 'Ασιάτις
θρέψασα, πόθω ξένεθαι μάλερώ 11.2 62. Mansgós: Ardens" xmufixos, mapas suxese Schol. et Hesych. jais solisin