Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of all the Greeks. The dark colouring of the representations, the truth of the sentiments, the terrible obscurity of the oracles, the deep expressions of despair, bestow on this piece an interest which a difference of religion and manners cannot destroy. Voltaire, in his 19th year, had the noble audacity to seize on a subject on which the genius of Corneille had failed, and he had the good fortune to be successful. The Electra of Sophocles interests us by making us shudder; it presents to us an horrible parricide, which ancient fanaticism transformed into an act of piety. With what simple and affecting beauties does the scene between the two sisters, who are going to strew gifts on the grave of their father, abound! With what art does the poet strive to render Clytemnestra odious, that he may weaken the horror which the crime of her children must excite! Two French poets, Crebillon and Voltaire, have brought this subject on their stage: the one has possessed himself of the masculine and energetic beauties of the Grecian poet, but not of his happy simplicity; the other, less nervous perhaps, has been able to approach nearer to the ancient stage. In Philoctetus, the theatre is filled, the attention captivated, by only three actors. How eloquent are the complaints of the unfortunate hero! But the genius of Sophocles revives in one of the fine episodes of Telemachus. The Antigonus is the only piece of this great tragic author, in which love plays a part: it adds to the interest of the subject, without diminishing the unity of action; and what action can be more simple than that of pious women, who brave a tyrant, that they may perform the funeral rites to their brother! Sophocles had not the grief of surviving his genius, although he survived the affection of his children; and his Œdipus at CoGREECE.] SOPÍIOCLES.

Ion nus was the finest revenge he could take on his ungrateful sonsi e

. , e . ¡ . . .. i

Tel Sophocle à cent ans charmait encor Athènes,
Tel bouillonnait cncor son vieux sang dans ses veines.

. ..; СОВМЕ1Ц.Е.

The distinguishing character of this great tragedian is majesty and simplicity; he has, in this respect, the advantage over Euripides, who is superior to him in the pathos of sentiment, and the language of the passions: the one seems to take onJy nature for his guide; the other employs the resources of art: the first appears not to have proposed to himself a moral aim; the second strives at once to please and to instruct. Sophocles has derived every thing from studying man; Euripides has consulted the books and lectures of the philosophers: the first was formed to pour tray kings, with the haughtiness and pride of despotism; the second, by the character of his eloquence, seemed to approach nearer to the republican genius. Sophocles always makes judgment subservient to reason; Euripides sometimes makes judgment and taste yield to imagination. Both were treated with injustice, did not entirely enjoy their glory, and left to posterity the care of appreciating the extent of their merit.

The ancient poets have greatly praised Sophocles, and his eulogium is to be found in their verses oftener than that of Euripides, whether it be because they think him more perfect, or because the state in which he found the dramatic art, caused him to be considered as a second founder of it. Longinus, one of the most celebrated Grecian critics, does not decide between these two great masters of the stage; he represents Euripides as very happy in his choice of grand images; but adds, that Sophocles is not interior to him, as may be seen by his description or'CEdipus dying, by that of Achilles showing himself on his tomb, at the moment when the Creeks are ready to weigh anchor. In this latter piece, he prefers Simonides to him.

A taste for literature did not absorb the activity of Sophocles: he was an intrepid warrior, but more of a soldier than an officer. Peiicles only beheld in him a brave man, who knows how to face death, and not a man capable of ably leading on others: he was his colleague in the magistracy; but the poet has left behind him an unsullied reputation, while the general appears to have justly deserved reproach.

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »