Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

His armis, illâ quoque tutus in Aula.-Juv. Sat. iv.

CLEOMENES.

THERE has been occasion to remark, that Dryden seldom avails himself of national peculiarities, or national costume, in sketching his dramatic personages; the present tragedy forms, however, a remarkable exception to this general observation. Cleomenes, the last of the Spartans, is designed, not only as a hero, but as a Lacedemonian; and is a just picture of that extraordinary race nf men, whose virtues were comprized in patriotism, and whose whole passions centered in a thirst for military glory. This character Dryden has drawn with admirable spirit and precision. It was indeed peculiarly suited to his genius; for, although sometimes deficient in the pathos and natural expression of violent passion, by which Otway, and even Southerne, could affect the passions of an audience, he never fails in expressing, in the most noble language, the sentiments of that stoical philosophy, which considers sufferings rather as subjects of moral reflection, than of natural feeling. Yet, lest a character so invulnerable to the shafts of adversity, so much the totus teres atque rotundus of the poet, should fail to interest the audience, (for we seldom pity those who shew no symptoms of feeling their own sorrows,) Dryden has softened the character of his Spartan hero by the infuence of those chaste and tender domestic affections, which thrive best in bosoms rendered by nature or philosophy inaccessible to selfish feeling. The haughty and unbending spirit, the love of war, and thirst of honour proper to the Lacedemonian, and inculcated by the whole train of his education, complete the character of Cleomenes. The same spirit, which animates the father, is finely represented as descending upon the

Cleonidas is a model of a Spartan youth; and every slight expression which he uses, tends to bring out that celebrated character. The idea of this spirited boy seems to be taken from the excellent character of Hengo, in the “Bonduca” of Beaumont and Fletcher; whom Cleonidas resembles in the manner of his death, and in his previous sufferings by hunger, as well as in his premature courage, and emulation of his father's military glory. * The

son.

* The whole passage is so very tine, that I think I may venture to extract it from this beautiful and forgotten tragedy. Caratach ant wife and mother of Cleomenes seem to be sketched after those of Coriolanus : the former exhibiting a mild and gentle disposition; the latter, the high-souled magnanimity of a Spartan matron. Of the other characters, little need be said. Ptolemy is a silly tyrant, Sosibius a wily minister, and Cleanthes a friend and confident; such as tyrants, ministers, and confidents in tragedies usually are. Judging from his first appearance, the author seems to

Hengo, the uncle and nephew, are besieged on a rock by the Romans, and reduced to extremity by hunger. They are decoyed by some food, hung on a rock by the centurion Judas.

CARATACH and HENGO on the rock.
Caratach. Courage, my boy! I have found meat: Look, Hengo,
Look where some blessed Briton, to preserve thee,
Was hung a little food and drink; cheer up, boy,
Do not forsake ine now!

Hengo. Oh uncle, uncle,
I feel I cannot stay long; yet I'll fetch it,
To keep your noble life. Uncle, I'm heart-whole,
And would live.

Car. Thou shalt, long, I hope.
Hengo. But my head, uncle !
Methinks the rock goes round.

Enter, below, Macer and Judas, Romans.
Macer. Mark them well, Judas.
Judas. Peace, as you love your life.

Hengo. Do not you hear
The noise of bells?

Car. Of bells, boy? 'tis thy faney;
Alas, thy body's full of wind!

Hengo. Methinks, sir,
They ring a strange sad knell, a preparation
To some near funeral of state.- Nay, weep not,
Mine own sweet uncle; you will kill me sooner.
Car. Oh, my poor

chicken! Hengo. Fie, faint-hearted uncle ! Come, tie me in your belt, and let me down.

Çar. I'll go myself, hoy.

Hengo. No, as you love me, uncle;
I will not eat it, if I do not fetch it;
The danger only I desire : pray tie me.

Car. I will, and all my care hang o'er thee ! Come, child, My valiant child.

Hengo. Let me down apace, uncle ;
And you shall see how, like a daw, I'll whip it
From all their policies; for 'tis most certain

[ocr errors]

have intended Pantheus as a character somewhat in contrast to that of Cleomenes; but he soon tires of the task of discrimination, and Pantheus sinks into a mere assistant. Cassandra is not sketched with any peculiar care; her snares are of a nature not very perilous to Spartan virtue, for her manners are too openly licentious. Such, however, as are fond of tracing the ideas of poets to those who have written before them, may consider Cas

A Roman train ; and you must hold me sure too;
You'll spoil all else. When I have brought it, uncle,
We'll be as merry-
Car. Go, in the name of heaven, boy:-

[Lets him down. Hengo. Quick, quick, good uncle! I have it-Ob!

[Judas shoots Hengo. Car. 'What ailest thou? Hengo. Oh, my best uncle, I am slain !

Car. I see you,
And heaven direct

my
hand.

[He kills Judas with a stone.

Destruction
Go with thy coward soul!-How dost thou, boy?
Oh villain, pocky villain !

Hengo. Oh, uncle, uncle,
Oh how it pricks me! Am I preserved for this ?
Extremely pricks me.

Car. Coward, rascal coward !
Dogs eat thy flesh!

Hengo. Oh, I bleed hard ! I faint too; out upon't,
How sick I am !-the lean rogue, uncle!

Car. Look, boy;
I've laid him sure enough.

Hengo. Have you knocked his brains out?
Car. I warrant thee, for stirring more; cheer up,

child.
Menyo. Hold my sides hard; stop, stop; oh, wretched fortune,
Must we part thus ? Still I grow sicker, uncle.

Car. Heaveu look upon this noble child !

Hengo. I once hoped
I should have lived to have met these bloody Romans
At ny sword's point, to have revenged my father,
To have beaten them. Oh hold me hard—but, uncle

Car. Thou shalt live still, I hope, boy. Shall I draw it?

Hengo. You draw away my soul, then. I would live
A little longer ; spare me, heavens! but only
To thank you for your tender love. Good uncle,
Good noble uncle, weep not.

Car. Oh my chicken,
My dear boy, what shall I lose !

Hengo. Why, a child
That must have died however; had this 'scaped me,
Fever or famine. I was born to die, sir.

« PreviousContinue »