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CHORUS OF YOUTHS AND VIRGINS.*
ОH Tyrant Love! hast thou possest
The prudent, learn'd, and virtuous breast?
And Arts but soften us to feel thy flame.
Love, soft intruder, enters here,
But ent'ring learns to be sincere.
Why, Virtue, dost thou blame desire,
Which Nature has imprest,
Love's purer flames the Gods approve;
* Some of Dryden's short lyrical odes and songs are wonderfully harmonious; and not sufficiently noticed; particularly in King Arthur, Act III.
"O Sight! the mother of Desire," &c.
also of the Syrens in Act IV: and the Incantations in the Third Act of Edipus, put in the mouth of Tiresias;
"Chuse the darkest part o' th' grove,
Such as ghosts at noon-day love," &c.
Nor must his first ode for St. Cecilia's Day be forgotten, in which are passages almost equal to any of the second: especially its
Brutus for absent Portia sighs,
Chaste as cold Cynthia's virgin light,
Productive as the Sun.
Oh source of ev'ry social tye,
United wish, and mutual joy!
What various joys on one attend,
As son, as father, brother, husband, friend?
His heart now melts, now leaps, now burns,
With reverence, hope, and love.
opening, and the second stanza that describes Tubal and his brethren.
Ver. 31. Or meets] Recalling to our minds that pathetic stroke in Lucretius;
"dulces occurrant oscula nati
Præripere, et tacitâ pectus dulcedine tangunt."
Lib. iii. 909.
Hence guilty joys, distastes, surmises,
Fires that scorch; yet dare not shine. 40
Purest love's unwasting treasure,
Days of ease, and nights of pleasure,
Sacred Hymen! these are thine.*
* These two choruses are enough to shew us his great talents for this species of poetry, and to make us lament he did not prosecute his purpose in executing some plans he had chalked out; but the character of the managers of play-houses at that time, was what (he said) soon determined him to lay aside all thoughts of that nature. Warburton.
These choruses are elegant and harmonious; but are they not chargeable with the fault, which Aristotle imputes to many of Euripides, that they are foreign and adventitious to the subject, and contribute nothing towards the advancement of the main action? Whereas the chorus ought,
Μοριον είναι τε όλε, και συναγωνίζεσθαι.”
to be a part or member of the one whole, co-operate with, and help to accelerate the intended event; as is constantly, adds the philosopher, the practice of Sophocles. Whereas these reflections of Pope on the baneful influences of war, on the arts and learning, and on the universal power of love, seem to be too general, are not sufficiently appropriated, do not rise from the subject and occasion, and might be inserted with equal propriety in twenty other tragedies. This remark of Aristotle, though he does not himself produce any examples, may be verified from the following, among many others. In the Phoenicians of Euripides, they sing a long and very beautiful, but ill-placed, hymn to Mars; I speak of that which begins so nobly, ver. 793,
« Ω πολύμοχθος Αρης,
"O direful Mars! why art thou still delighted with blood and with death, and why an enemy to the feasts of Bacchus?" And a still
more glaring instance may be brought from the end of the third act of the Troades, in which the story of Ganymede is introduced not very artificially. To these may be added that exquisite ode in praise of Apollo, descriptive of his birth and victories, which we find in the Iphigenia in Tauris.
On the other hand, the choruses of Sophocles never desert the subject of each particular drama, and all their sentiments and reflections are drawn from the situation of the principal personage of the fable. Nay, Sophocles hath artfully found a method of making those poetical descriptions, with which the choruses of the ancients abound, carry on the chief design of the piece; and has by these means accomplished what is a great difficulty in writing tragedy, united poetry with propriety.
In the Philoctetes the chorus takes a natural occasion, at verse 694, to give a minute and moving picture of the solitary life of that unfortunate hero; and when afterwards, at verse 855, pain has totally exhausted the strength and spirits of Philoctetes, and it is necessary for the plot of the tragedy that he should fall asleep, it is then that the chorus breaks out into an exquisite ode to Sleep. As in the Antigone, with equal beauty and decorum in an address to the God of Love, at verse 791 of that play. And thus lastly, when the birth of Edipus is doubtful, and his parents unknown, the chorus suddenly exclaims,
66 Τις σε, τεκνοι,”
"From which, O my son, of the immortal gods, didst thou spring? Was it some nymph, a favourite of Pan, that haunts the mountains; or some daughter of Apollo; for this god loves the remote rocks and caverns, who bore you? Or was it Mercury who reigns in Cyllene, or did Bacchus,
66 Θεος ναιων επι ακρων ορέων,” ver. 1118.
a god who dwells on the tops of the mountains, beget you, on any of the nymphs that possess Helicon, with whom he frequently sports?"
But what shall we say to the strong objections lately made by some very able and learned critics to the use of the chorus at all? The critics I have in view, are Metastasio, Twining, Pye, Colman, and Johnson; who have brought forward such powerful arguments against this so important a part of the ancient drama, as to shake our conviction of its utility and propriety, founded on what Hurd, Mason, and Brumoy, have so earnestly and elegantly urged on the subject. Warton.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL.*
VITAL spark of heavenly flame
Hark! they whisper; Angels say,
What is this absorbs me quite ?
Steals my senses, shuts my sight?
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?
The world recedes; it disappears;
Heaven opens on my eyes; my ears
With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy Victory?
O Death! where is thy Sting?
*This Ode was written in imitation of the famous Sonnet of Hadrian to his departing soul; but as much superior in sense and sublimity to its original, as the Christian religion is to the Pagan.