« PreviousContinue »
Were a monument to be raised to the most cele- rejoices in bearing him above the clouds, and in hrated of English poets, like that which antiquity has transporting him towards those regions of glory, already erected to Homer in Scio aud Smyrna , the where in a circle already are assembled, half visible, inspired pencil of Retzsch should indicate the plan, those sublime bards Homer, AEschylus, Ossian, etc. and the apotheosis which precedes his allegorical The book open on the knees of the poet contains work should figure as its pediment.
the celestial fruits of his sacred inspiration. Two The eagle with extended wings, the two divi- noble and benignant muses, in the air and on either nities which accompany it and may be said to side of him, sustain above his head the crown of impersonify the Thames and the Avon, rivers of Eng- mortality; one of them surrounded with floating land, similar to the Meander and Ilissus; the con- draperies, represents the melancholy Melpomene. templative attitude of the poet and the genii near The tragic mask that covers half her forehead, renhim, call to mind that beautiful composition which ders the expression of her downcast eyes more ornaments a precious curiosity, in the cabinet of grave and solemn; she bears the sword with which antiquities, belonging to the king of Naples, and in Hamlet she plays so terrible a part. The other, formerly perhaps among the bas-reliefs of a cele- light and gay, has thrown back her comic maski brated temple.
the pastoral crook announces the laughing Thalia, The eagle, with which the german artist has de- and characterises her rustic origin. In fine, the signed the symbol of the apotheosis, supports the two genii , emblematic perhaps of fame, in being throne and the feet of the poet ; its eyes are turn- attached to the supporters of his throne, complete ed towards him with affection, and express how the symbolic group. light the burthen is that it supports , how much it
It would have been a glorious triumph for the artists profiting of his brother's sleep, pours into his ear if the 17 designs composing this collection could the poisonous juice of hen-bane, which, according to have been given without explanations, and if in the received belief in those times of ignorance, each of them the feeling, which is extended through mortal, and he places at the same time his daring the whole of the subject, could have been readily hand upon the royal crown. The scene is not taking discovered; but this difficulty is too great entirely to place in an orchard, according to the poet, but overcome. However the affixed plate must perhaps under the portico of a gothic building, through be considered as an expressive and ingenious intro- the opening of which the trees of the garden may be duction to the forth-coming, since the fratricide perceived. This slight variation from the text has and the manner in which the murder was perpe- allowed the artist to surround his group with emtrated form its subject.
blematic objects which heighten the general effect. . It is worthy of remark that when Retzsch con- For instance, the form and decoration of the seat, ceived the first outline of this sketch, he had not on which the monarch overcome by sleep has pla
the picturesque work that Thurston had con- ced bis crown, is not without a meaning : in giving secrated to the genius of Shakspeare, and which had it the feet of a lion for its support and the head of been engraved on wood by the accomplished an angel as an ornament, the artist had in view Thompson; and yet the two artists were inspired the idea of representing, strength and mildness, by the same subject , but with this difference, that virtues upon which the power and the might of Thurston has given it in a manner purely symboli- all kingdoms are sustained. The entrance of the cal, and Retzsch in his illustration has put all the gothic arch presents us with a singular object, it allegory into the accessories.
is the face of an old man, whose beard and long The secret murder appears before our eyes as hairs fall negligently upon his breast. The sunken the ghost relates it to Hamlet. Claudius, perfidiously I eyes of his austere face are fixed upon the action
which the murderer is committing, implying, accor- pair of scales which weigh the actions of the dead, ding to the idea of the artist, that walls, as the an- and the penetrating eye of justice which adorns the cient proverb says, have eyes as well as ears, and, bosom of the goddess are conclusive; the serpent therefore, that the most secret crime can never that she treads under her feet, calls to mind the ultimately escape punishment. The imposing statue words of the ghost : of the inflexible Nemesis, placed in a niche behind,
« The serpent that did sting thy father's life: confirms the truth of this idea , whilst her attribu
Now wears his crown. » the sword lifted over the murderer, the