Page images
PDF
EPUB

· mans have attained, and also of that sort of moral quality which they value as genius.

“ You are aware, that in our own language we possess, in the Doctor Faustus of Marlowe, a tragedy on the same subject,--and that Lord Byron's Manfred is partly also similar in conception, but more elegantly imagined than either. Vulgarly speaking, the story is that of an accomplished man selling himself to the devil,philosophically, it is but a dramatic version of such a character applying his attainments without any restraint of moral or religious principle. Of the three dramas, I prefer Byron's ; at the same time, I admit, that there are passages, in the Doctor Faustus, more impassioned, and passages also, even like his Lordship’s peculiar style, more effective than any thing in Manfred. The horror of Faustus towards the catastrophe transcends all exhibitions of despair, that dramatic genius has yet attempted; for, though the Promethean fortitude of Manfred belongs to the highest class of the sublime, it is still but a sustaining effort. It wants the vehemence necessary to make us sensible that the moral strength is really that stupendous energy which the poet has endeavoured to embody. The catastrophe of the Faust of Goethe, compared with either, is a failure. The interest depends not on the hero, but on the despair of a poor girl whom he had seduced, and he is carried away by the devil, without exciting one sentiment of horror for his fate. The general conception of the whole piece is also inferior to Marlowe’s tragedy, and not for a moment to be compared with the hinted horrors of the NOBLE poet's

R'S WIPE

[ocr errors]

257

[ocr errors]

WIU

- -

ter apply

of moral Michael."

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

, more e

of that were
niue mystery. It is not, however, my intention to insti-
con tute any very strict comparison. Indeed, I have
Job but alluded to the two English works, as affording a
R-proof of the difference between our national taste

and that of the Germans,—now I will proceed more

closely with the Faust. Vulgal pc ished matt

“ The general character of the play may be dee scribed, as formed on the plan of the old moralities

and mysteries. It opens with this song in heaven,

by the three archangels, Raphael, Gabriel, and amas, Is

. RAPHAEL. uit, that “The sun his ancient hymn of wonder

Is pouring out to kindred spheres, his Lones. And still pursues, with march of thunder, hing in L His preappointed course of years. Is the is

Thy visage gives thy angels power,

Though none its dazzling rays withstand,
And bright, as in their natal hour,
Creation's dazzling realms expand.

GABRIEL. :
And still the earth’s enduring motion

* Revolves with uncomputed speed,
And o'er the chequer'd earth and ocean

Darkness and light by turns succeed.
The billowy waste of seas is boiling

From deep primeval rocks below,
Yet on their destined march are toiling

The rocks that stand, the waves that flow.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

198 to a suste

[ocr errors]

essary a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

MICHAEL.
“ The whirlwind and the storm are raging

From sea to land, from land to main ;
And adverse elements engaging,

The trembling universe enchain.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The lightnings of the dread destroyer

Precede his thunders through the air ;
Yet, at the nod of their employer,

The servants of his wrath forbear.

CHORUS
“ Thy visage gives thy angels power,

Though none its dazzling rays withstand,
And bright, as in their natal hour,

Creation's dazzling realms expand.” 66 Then follows a personal conference between the Almighty and Mephistopheles, alias the Devil, of which the idea is taken from the book of Job. Lord Francis has omitted to translate this scene, and, I doubt not, judiciously ; but I should remark to you a true touch of German taste in it. Mephistopheles receives permission to exercise his powers upon Faust, as of old upon Job, and in the end of the play he carries off Faust; thus the author hideously makes the Almighty consenting to the destruction of Faust for the gratification of the Devil. How much finer, and more elevated, and more poetical too, is the Hebrew idea, of making Job withstand . the temptation ! How much more awful the conception of Marlowe, in making Doctor Faustus surrender his spirit, so ennobled by knowledge, for mere sensual enjoyments ! But the glory of conceiving the splendidly-endowed Manfred, struggling with the condemnations of remorse, the sequel, if I may so speak, to the enjoyment obtained by the guilty compact, raises Byron, in this instance, as much above both Goethe and Marlowe as the lesson conveyed in Job excels them all. The subject, however, is not

[ocr errors]

exhausted. Job was tried but by afflictions, the temptations of St Anthony, in the hands of a truthpoet, would furnish a richer topic than either.

*** After the colloquy in heaven, the scene opens with Faust in his study: he has exhausted science and art; his curiosity is still hungry, and he is dabbling in magic. All this is very prettily conceived, but it is feebly expressed. A spirit in the end appears, for no purpose earthly. This is a dramatic error,-no character should be introduced in a play that is not required to the futherance of the plot. The spirit having vanished, Wagner, the secretary to Faust, comes in and interrupts his spell, and a very weak and prosing conversation ensues, intended to be satirical, but the shafts are clumsy and ineffec

tual. Wagner, too, is of little use in the piece,1 when he has retired, Faust, however, delivers him

self of a soliloquy, which possesses very considerable poetical merit. He is speaking of the interruption produced by Wagner, and of the spirit which had appeared.”

“ Strange that when reason totters hope is firm.

Each slight encouragement renews our toil,
We grub for treasures in the mouldy soil,
And bless our fortune when we find a worm.
Was this the place for such a voice to sound,
When the dark powers of nature swarm’d around?
And yet for once poor wretch, whom nature ranks
Meanest of all her children, take my thanks.
Despair had seized me,--you have burst the chain,
And given my dazzled sense its powers again.
The vision seem'd of such gigantic guise,
My frame was lessen'd to a pigmy's size.

I image of the Godhead, who but now

Almost had bask'd in truth's eternal sun,

For whom the reign of light had just begun,
While mortal mists were clearing from my brow;
Already borne beyond the cherub's flight,
Piercing the dark, undazzled by the bright,
A word of thunder, shrinking up my soul,
Has hurl'd it backward as it near'd the goal.

“ Likeness to thee my clay may not inherit;
I could attract thee hither, haughty spirit;
And yet to hold thee here had not the power.
That instant that you own’d my call,

I felt so little, yet so great,
You hurld me back, you bad me fall,

Plumb down to man's uncertain state.
Who tells me what I should eschew?

What impulse I may best obey? Whether we suffer, or we do,

We clog existence on its way.

“ What though when fancy's daring wing was young,
Forth into boundless space at once it sprung;
A shorter course 'tis now content to run,
When its wreck'd joys have perish'd one by one.
Care in the deep heart builds its nest,
And coils him there a rankling pest:
With joy assumes his torturing task,
Like other stabbers, not without a mask ;
As wife or child, or other kindred blood,
Poison or steel, he shows, or fire or flood.
We weep for what we never lost,
And fly imagined ill, as though our path it oross’d.

“ I am not like the gods. Know that I must, Most like the worm, slow wallowing through the dust,

« PreviousContinue »