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one of the parties, by the counsel of his second, expresses himself, his cravat smelling horribly of gunpowder, perfectly satisfied. His wounded dignity has been dressed with saltpetre, charcoal, and lead—the last of which has gone by him like the idle wind—and he returns to his lares “ a wiser and a sounder man." But who knows what imminent danger he has escaped ? The bullet may have whistled within a hair'sbreadth of his whisker, it may have “ shot madly” by his heart--nay, more, the mortal ball, by some strange forgetfulness on the part of the second, may not have been deposited in the pistol ; nevertheless, no man can question the propriety of the satisfaction, and the quarrel dies an honourable death. How different the result when gentlemen measured swords! The rapier was a cruel, uncompromising weapon; it would have blood. Ay, it may be urged, but then the slightest scratch would serve. Very true, we answer; but, in the heat and deadly enmity of a thrust, who shall insure the length and depth of the scratch? It may not be
so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door," but sufficient for all mortal purposes. With swords there must be blood; let the seconds be the most pacific, the most prudent of men, let them go out with the very best and most humane intentions, they must place the naked, pointed weapons in the hands of the combatants--they cannot, by any accident, clap buttons to the steel. Now, the pistol permits a generous alternative. To return to our combatants.
Neatskin stands holding his sword as though he held a viper by the tail. The Baron von Boots, all Mars in his sanguinary visage, prepares him for the onset. He takes off his coat, and Neatskin shudders at the cool determination of his antagonist: did he mean to butcher him ? Having carefully laid his coat upon the grass, the Baron next unbuttons his waistcoat, coolly whistling the while.
“ You will excuse me,” cried Baron von Boots, bowing to Neatskin and his second,“ but dis is always my way ;” and, as he spoke, the Baron laid his waistcoat on his upper garment, Neatskin almost groaning at the preparation : but when the Baron proceeded to take the silver-washed shirt-buttons from his wrists, and having placed them in the left-hand pocket of the only part of his dress he had determined to keep upon him, began to pull his shirt over his head, Neatskin fairly burst into tears! All his old friendship, all his latent regard for the Baron Valhallah von Boots arose within him; he cast away the hated sword, the murderous steel drawn to be warmed within the heart's-blood of his friend, and, rushing to Von Boots, flung his arms around him!
“What, de devil !- mein Gott !-get out !—what dis?” exclaimed the Baron, astonished at the accolade, and blinded, muffled by his best cambric, ignorant of the person who embraced him. “ What dis? get out!” again roared the Baron.
“No, no !” cried Neatskin; “ I feel it is impossible--I cannot take your life-I cannot imbrue my hands in the blood of a man whom I love, respect, and honour. Dear Von Boots-"
“ Neatskin,” cried the Baron, grinning with a contemptuous surprise-“What--what is all dis ?”
“ Put on your coat,” answered Neatskin, incapable for the time of further speech -“ put-put on your coat.”
The Baron Von Boots, with a significant, self-satisfied look, adjusted his under garment, replaced his wrist-buttons, put on his waistcoat,
and, thrusting his second arm into his coat, placidly observed to Neatskin—" Den, Sir, I am to understand dat you give up de vidow ?"
“ I cannot be your assassin, dear Von Boots," answered Neatskin.
The Baron, however, was, in some matters, a man of precision ; therefore, unsatisfied with the vague assurance of Neatskin's friendship and humanity, Von Boots repeated the question touching Mrs. Agatha Mouser. “ There are ten thousand widows,” said Neatskin,
« but how many real friends ? My dear Boots, win her and wear her.'
The Baron was about to embrace the generous Neatskin, when he paused to survey the person of his late opponent's second, who, astounded, scandalised at what he called the meanness of his principal, muttered certain epithets, such as adventurer,” vagabond,” tard of Odin,” and other names, which the Baron, in his humility, conceived to be applied to himself. However, that he might act without precipitancy, he begged to inquire of the gentleman if he, the Baron von Boots, was the subject of his soliloquy? The second ingenuously answered yes; and declared himself quite prepared to maintain the truth of every disjointed syllable. The Baron bowed an equal readiness to dispute it; and Neatskin, that an affair in which his dear Von Boots was so vitally concerned might come to instant issue, avowed himself willing to second even the Baron's antagonist. The offer was coldly accepted, the late second, but now principal, observing that Neatskin “would do as well as a better;" and, the preliminaries quickly arranged, behold the parties thrusting fiercely at each other. The Baron was an accomplished swordsman; by every rule of the art, he ought to have finished or disarmed his opponent in a trice, but luck, mere vulgar luck, so often in this world of chance steps in and wins the stake that deepest calculation long has played for. Luck, then, aided perhaps by youth, directed the arm of the Baron's antagonist, for, after a few passes, Valhallah von Boots lay upon the grass, bleeding like the dying gladiator.
“ Are you hurt ?” asked Neatskin, very unnecessarily, of the wounded man; who evidently thought so, fór, shaking his head, he made no answer.
“Very serious,” said one of the surgeons in a low voice, and the other nodded ominously.
“And seconds are principals !” exclaimed Neatskin, in the tone of a man who has suddenly discovered a most unpleasant truth; and without waiting to take leave of his moribund friend, he ran with his brother second to the coach that had conveyed some of the party to the ground, and, jumping into it, swore to make the fortune of the coachman if for once he would drive like fifty furies. The Baron's antagonist, following the vehicle, supplicated to be taken in.
“Come, come,” cried one of the surgeons, minutely examining the wound, “ it's not so bad. You'll live and have the widow yet.”
“ She has de gold," said the Baron von Boots, with a sickly smile. “ Heaps of it," said Esculapius.
“And 1-1,” cried the Baron, with exceeding satisfaction—“I have,” and his wound poured out the evidence, “ I have de blood.”
THE DRAMA OF ITALY.-NO. II.
LA CLEMENZA DI TITO.
There is a mysterious impulse in human sympathy, a latent magnetism in the human soul, which often refuses its response to the suffering that shakes the strong man's reason, yet vibrates keenly and tenderly to the image of patient endurance which comes before us under circumstances less obtrusive. So delicate, indeed, is this chord, that the loudest blast from Fame's trumpet will not affect it, though its cadence of exquisite harmony is called forth, as often as some breath of unaspiring, or, it may be, self-sacrificing virtue, touches the string. The truth of this axiom is demonstrated by the fact that we often witness with indifference the sorrows which belong exclusively to the hero or the patriot, whereas the misfortunes which overtake the man, considered as a friend, a brother, or a son, immediately awaken our sympathies; and hence it is, that while the glorious deeds which the mighty ones of the earth have performed, receive from us the tribute of, it may be, a passing admiration, the lowliest and least important trait of feeling--the faintest gleam of that influence to which we are all subject—that touch of nature which makes the whole world our kin, never fails to excite our most active interest, which, if it go no further, impels us to take the stricken heart to our own, and shed over it the tears of our softest and most generous compassion, Hence, too, the picture of human greatness is never so attractive as when the pencil of adversity has coloured it; for there is a magic in the touch of natural sorrow which sheds over virtue a light which the utmost degree of prosperity cannot lend to it. Accordingly, it was the favourite axiom of a noble mind, destined by its own career to illustrate the truth of the proposition, that there is “no trait of what is great, or good, or pure, or beautiful in nature, but has its origin or its end in sadness.” This is very sad ; but we are afraid that there is too much of reality in it, for misfortune is often to virtue what darkness is to the stars—the medium through which alone its glory is made manifest to our senses.
We have been led into these reflections by a reperusal of the piece, towards the management of which we are now going to draw the reader's attention, as illustrating the views which, in a former paper, we ventured to take of the peculiar merits of Metastasio considered as a dramatist. We are quite ready to admit that the subject of the “ Clemenza di Tito" is about as fortunate as the writer could have chosen ; for there is not, perhaps, in all history, a character which takes our interest more absolutely captive than that of Titus Vespasian. Noble, and generous, and upright—the hero whose wise and virtuous course might have adorned the brightest annals of Christianity,—the Pagan instrument chosen by Jehovah to accomplish his vengeance upon Sion, whom an uninterrupted success could not render giddy, who caused mercy and justice to advance side by side with victory,—the conqueror who could declare even while his arms triumphed, “ The God of the Jews fights against them, therefore do I prosper;"—such a man sacrificing every private feeling-his hopes of domestic peace for which he was so eminently fitted—his affections that were as ardent as they were gentle and pure--his just indignation-all the passions, in short, which
usually hold sway in the human heart-on the altar of principle-offers to us a portraiture of high and holy excellence, which we shall scarcely find equalled even in the records of a purer faith. Metastasio himself, with all his powers, can do little to enhance the beauty of that perfect sketch with which history supplies us; because the virtues which caused Titus to be described by his contemporaries as the delight of mankind, seem to stand on an elevation to which Poetry herself, strong as is her pinion, cannot reach. Such, however, is the hero of which the dramatist has made choice, under circumstances, too, of no common kind; and the results have been, that, so long as the Italian language endures, the clemency of Titus, and the genius of him who has recorded it, will go down together to posterity as worthy the one of the other. There is a tradition on record, that Henrietta of England engaged Corneille and Racine separately to dramatise the earlier history of Titus; and that in this source originated the piece, in which his disastrous love for Berenice is pourtrayed. It seems to us that both dramatists have utterly failed to convey an impression of the desolate grandeur, the self-sacrificing fixedness of soul with which our poet has invested the character of his hero. Corneille has not succeeded in throwing even an ordinary interest around him, and the weak vacillation and passionless policy of Racine's hero resemble more the facility of an unfaithful heart, than the strong selfdevoted
energy of endurance which characterises the Titus of Roman story. We can scarcely recognise such a man in the forsworn lover of Berenice, swayed by every opposite influence that reaches him, shrinking from the trial which his fainting virtue had assumed, and finally cowering before the passionate dignity of a forsaken woman. We almost fail to identify the Roman fortitude of the suffering hero who plucked the tempting mischief from his breast, and froze up the current of his soul from mortal eyes, till it well nigh overwhelmed his solitude. We draw the curtain from the niche of a saint, and, lo! a living and most ordinary mortal claims our adoration.
There is a calm elegance of language--a heartless disregard of sentiment in the drama of Berenice, which is much more in keeping with the cold polish of the French author than with the elevation of soul that belonged to the Titus of history. In the lyrical drama of “ La Clemenza di Tito,” such discrepancy is spared us. The conception of the poet meets every demand which the most exalted appreciation of the hero's character can impose on it. We feel that the soul of Metastasio is capable of comprehending the virtue which he describes, and that his taste is fitted to bestow upon it the impalpable drapery which it is the province of poesy to fling around the naked form with which history supplies us. Nothing, indeed, could be sweeter, even in
its exquisite sadness--- nothing more classic or poetical-nothing more majestic in its simplicity than the Tito of Metastasio : it is the absolute impersonation of our favourite ideal—the living and breathing reality of our most beloved phantom. There is about him the illimitable magnanimity—the devotion of self and all its interests to the one object of the patriot—the ethereal tenderness, and, above all, the sublime desolation of solitude with which the imagination loves to invest the son of Vespasian, and which the history of his fate permits us to realise.
The character of Titus, magnificent as it is, could not be described so advantageously, were there not gathered round him a group, each
member of which may supply a contrast to the greatness which shines forth in him alone. It has been the poet's object thus to arrange his figures; but he has scarcely accomplished it. The truth is, that whenever the genius of Metastasio is turned to the delineation of crime, there is a short-coming in his conception--a contradiction of nature in his details-which prove him to be, as we have binted elsewhere, the poet of imagination rather than of life and truth. The portrait of Vitellia, in particular, strikes us as being altogether at variance with the reality of female turpitude; there is nothing even in history to bear it out; and we look upon it accordingly as a fantastic creation of a mind too little conversant with the darker shades of the human heart to deal with them otherwise than awkwardly. Vitellia is a distorted and unnatural delineation of that most distorted and unnatural production of nature, an ambitious woman. Ambitious, not for the sake, nor in the cause of her affections—not even for the gratification of that terrible appetite, a woman's vengeance-but ambitious from the selfish and masculine thirst for name and power and wealth-and ready to sacrifice for the attainment of these every feeling which we are accustomed to find paramount in a woman's breast.
Daughter to the Emperor Vitellius, and deprived of the honours of the purple by the accession of Vespasian, Metastasio's heroine lives for one purpose only-namely, to recover the high honour from which she has fallen. The virtues of Titus, and the general admiration which they inspire, render the title of Empress, an object which she believes attainable without any sacrifice of her person, or any necessity to overthrow the reigning dynasty. Accordingly she suffers the blind selfishness which she dignifies with the name of affection, to mingle with her plans of worldly aggrandisement, and it is not until the passion of the Emperor for Berenice has been revealed, that the bitter tide of malice flows out, and disappointed ambition turns every purpose of her soul to vengeance. These are the circumstances which precede the opening of the drama : its first scene introduces to us the haughty enemy of Titus conferring with Sextus, his bosom-friend, and her declared and favoured lover-pouring into his infatuated ear her hatred and her treason, and mingling the rankest poison of crime and treachery with every word of tenderness with which she drugs his soul. Here again the poet's art is at fault; the heart revolts at the worthlessness of Tito's friend, and throbs indignantly at the imbecile and earth-born mind whose faith is overthrown by a passion so debased.
While we listen to the details of the conspiracy which barters the life of Titus for the love of Vitellia, every feeling in our nature takes arms against the discrepancies that are forced upon our attention. How is it possible to conceive that such a heart as that of Titus could hold fellowship with one so base-how can we credit that this base heart can be the home of a passion so strong as that which shakes the soul of Sextus? The force of its love and the weakness of its friendship create so strange a contradiction in his character, that we are once more thrown back upon our conclusion that the poet knows not how to hold the balance of human wickedness. Yet Sextus, after all, were he not raised into importance by the friendship of Titus, would be viewed with no stronger feeling than indignant, and it may be compassionate contempt. There is something so monstrous and degrading in the subver