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"As not to be mindful of God, "is a stain to reputation, and a "guilt in the foul; so, O respect"able man, is it a slur to skill, "and a disgrace to the judgment "of any one who has any skill and "judgment, not to reverence you, "in whose hand lies conceale.) the "idea of a new nature! Hence <f the difficulty of the out-lines (in ". which painting (hews its utmost "art and delicacy) to you is so "easy, that in the extremities of "the bodies you exhibit the ut"most extent of the art: though "perfection herein be- what the "art itself owns impracticable; "for the extremity (as yon know) "ought to surround itself, then "be finished in such a manner, '* that, expressing what it does, not "shew, it may give to understand "what they, who-can rather judge '.* than admire, may expect to fee «• performed in the chapel. Now "I, who either by praise or abuse, «« have employed myself on the «' greater part of the merits and "demerits of others, that I may "not reduce to mere nothing my "insignificancy, do pay you my "respects; nor should I presume "thus far, had not my name, "which has reached the ear of "every prince, greatly diminished "its original unworthiness: and *' it becomes me to respect you "very highly; for, if there be "many monarchs in the world, "there is but one Michael Angelo. "What a" wonder, that nature "cannot place any thing at such '' a height but your skill can reach "it, nor stamp on its works that w majesty whw;h resides in your
"chissel and burin! so that ho "who fees you is very easy about "not having seen Phidias, Appclles, "and Vitruvius, whose geauises "were only the shadow of yours. "But I look upon it as a happy "circumstance for Parrhafius, and "the other painters of antiquity, "that time has not allowed their "works to be seen in our days; «« and, therefore, as I give credit "to the records of the ancients, I "must defer giving you that palm «* which they would confer on, » you, were they to judge with, ct our eyes, declaring you the only "sculptor, the only painter, and « the only, architect. But, it be"ing so, why not content "yourself" "with the glory you have' already "acquired? Ought you not to rest "satisfied in having surpassed o"thers , in other performances? "But I perceive you intend, that "the End of the World, which "you are at present painting, "shall exceed its beginning, which "you have already painted; so "that, your performances, being "outdone, by themselves, you shew "yourself superior to your own» self.
"Farther, who would not dread "employing his pencil on such "a tremendous subject? I see, , «« amidst the multitude, Anti"chrjst with a visage which- none "but you could have imagined; "I see the countenances of the liv"ing convulsed with terror: in "the sun, moon, and stars, I see "the symptoms of approaching "extinction: I fee fire, air, and "water expire: I see effete Nature "apart, her contracted posture the "emblem of her decreptitude: I « see Time, withered and trem«f bling, sitting on a dry stump of
ft a tree, as being come to its pet* riod: and while I perceive every "one shuddering at the claagor of ''"the angels trumpets, I fee Life fj and Death labouring with dread"ful opposition: I fee the former •' straining every nerve to raise up "the dead, and the latter no less "eager in destroying the living: '' I fee Hope conducting the hand "of the blessed, and Defoair at *' the head of the guilt}-: I fee the "clouds fulged with rays issuing "fronj the heavenly 'fires, on f* which Christ fits environed with f glories and terrors amidst his «*. blessed hosts: I fee his counte-' *'' nance, which, emitting coTrusA cations of a benign and' terrible . .«' light, fills the virtuous with joyi' «* and the profligate with terror: '} in the'mean time, I also fee the •* ministers of the abyss with rt. frightful countenances, insulting A such as Cxsar and Alexander, ** pointing to the glory of martyrs ^ and faints; to ovefeeme ata't ** self being quite a different thing «* froia competing the world: I "fee _ Fainc with Her crowns "and palms tr<>dden Under foot, '* and (he herself lying among the «* wheels of her shattered car: »'< lastly, I sec the final sentence ifA suing from the divine mouth: 1 "see it like two arrows, one of "salvation, the other of damna. '« tion, rapidlv (lying downwards "in its vindictive wrath, darting rt on the elemental machine, and, '* with loud claps of thunder, "striking creation to ruins: I see '' the lights of paradise, and the "furnaces of the abyss, staring ft amidst the palpable darkness "which involves the etherial ex"pan fe. So that the thoughts i( raised iri me by the imagery of
"the destruction attending the M "day, intimate to me, f If thoo "fearest and tremblest thus whilst "Only beholding Buonarooti's "works, how wSt thou shudder "and feat when tboa shalt fee "the Omnipotent Being himself "sit in judgment?"
"But do yon think, Sir, that "though I have made a vow never "to see Rome again, my strong "desire of seeing sach a picture "will not break that vow? Yes, "sooner than thus affront your in. "comparable skill, I wiD give the "lye to my resolution; and I bej "your kind approbation of my "desire to celebrate your taknts.
'* Veniee, the 19th of
Comparison between The Persians,« Tragedy,- by Esehylns, and Hamlet; from n)t ingenious Effiayhriely published, on the Writing! and Ge~ nius si/^Shakespear.
IT has been just now observed, that Shakespear has an advantage- over the Greek poets, in the stiore solemn, gloomy, and mysterious air of his national superstitions; but this avails him only with critics of deep penetration and true taste, and with whom sentiment has more sway than authority. The learned have received the popular tales of Greece from their poets; ours are derived to' them from the illiterate vulgar. The phantom of Darius, in the tragedy of the Persians, evoked by ancient rites, is beheld with reverence by the scholar, and endured by the 'bel esprit. To these\ the ghost of Hamlet is an object ot
tontempt or ridicule. Let us candidly examine these royal shades, as exhibited to us by those' great masters in the art of exciting pity and terror, Æschylus and bhakefpear; and impartially decide which poet throws most of the sublime into the preternatural character; and, also, which has the art to render it most efficient in the drama. This enquiry may be more interesting, as the French wits have often mentioned Hamlet's ghost as an instance of the barbarism of our theatre. The Persians, of Æschylus, is certainly one of the most august spectacles that ever was represented pn a theatre; nobly imagined, happily sustained, regularly conducted, deeply interesting to the Athenian people, and favourable to their great scheme of resisting the power of the Persian monarch. It would be ibsurd to depreciate this excellent piece, or to bring into a general comparison with it, a drama of so different a kind as the tragedy of Hamlet. But it is surely allowable to compare the Persian phantom with the Danish ghost; and to examine, whether, any thing -but prejudice, in favour of the ancients, protects, the superstitious circumstances relative to the one, from the ridicule with which those accompanying the other are treated. Atossa, the widow of Darius, relates to the sages of the Persian council, a dream and an omen; they advise her to consult the shade of her dead lord, upon what is to be done • in the unfortunate situation of Xerxes just defeated by the Greeks.. In the third act she enters •ffering to the rnanes a libation composed of milk, honey, wine, oij, &c. up$n this paries i&¥*
from his tomb. Let the vrits, who are so smart on our ghost's disappearing at the cock's crowing, explain why, in reason, a ghost in Persia, or in Greece, should be 1 more fond of milk and honeyt than averse, in Denmark, to the crowing of a cock. Each poet adopted, in his work, the superstition relative to his subject; and! the poet who do^s so, understands his business much better than the critic, who, in judging of that work, refuses it his attention. The , phantom of Darius comes forth in his regal robes to Atossa and the Satraps in council, who, in . the eastern manner, pay their silent adorations to their emperor. His quality of ghost does not appear to make any impression upoa them; and the Satraps so exactly preserve the characters of courtiers, that they do not venture t<» tell him the true state of the affairs* of his kingdom, and its recent disgraces: finding he capnot gCJ any information from them, he fddresses himself to Atossa, who does not break forth with that passion and tenderness one should suppose she would do on the sight of her long lost husband; but very calmly informs him, after some flatjery on the constant prosperity of hi? reign, of the calamitous state of Persia under Xerxes, who has been stimulated by his courtiers to make war upon Greece. The phantom, who was to appear ignorant of what was past, that the Athenian ear might be soothed and flattered with the detail of their victory at Salamis, is allowed, for the fame reason, such prescienpe as .to forejell their future triumph at Platea. Whatever else he adds by way of council or reproof, either iu itself, dr in the mode of delivering it, is nothing more than might be expected from any old counsellor of state. Dari'js gives his advice to the old men, to enjoy whatever they can. because riches are of no use in th-1. grave. As this touches the matt absurd and ridiculous foible in human nature, the increase of a greedy and solicitous desire of wealth, as the period of enjoyment of it becomes more precarious and short, the admonition has something of a comic and satirical turn, Unbecoming the solemn character of the speaker, and the sad exigency upon which he was called. The intervention of this præternarural being gives nothing of the marvellous or the sublime to the piece, nor adds to, or is connected with its interests. The supernatural, divested of the augnft and the terrible, make but a poor'figure in any species of poetry; useless and unconnected with the fable, it wants propriety in dramatic poetry. Shakespeare had so just a taste, that he never introduced any preternatural character on the stage that did not assist in the_ conduct of the drama. Indeed he had such a prodigious force of talents, he could make every being his fancy created subservient to his designs. The uncouth, ungainly monster, Caliban, is so subject to his genius, as to assist in bringing things to the proposed end and perfection. And the slight fairies, <weai masters (hough they be, even in their wanton gambols, and idle sports, perform great tasks by hit so potent art.
But to return to the intended ■ comparison between the Grecian sliade and the Danish ghost. The .first propriety in the conduct of this
kind of machinery, seems to be/ fhat the preternatural person be intimately connected with the fable,; that he increase the interest* add to the solemnity of it, and that his efficiency, in briflging on the catastrophe, be in some measure adequate to the violence done to the ordinary course of things in his visible interposition. These are points peculiarly important in dramatic poetry, as has been before observed. To these ends it is necessary this being should be acknowledged and revered by the national superstition, and every operation that devclopes the attributes, which the vulgar opinion, or nurse's legend, taught us to ascribe to him, will augment our pleasure; whether we give the reins to imagina. tion, and, as spectators, wilunglj yield ourselves up to pleasing delusion, or, as critics, examine the merit of the composition. I hope it is not difficult to shew, that in all these capital points our author has excelled. At the solemn midnight hoar, Horatio and Marcellus, the school-fellows of young Hamlet, come to the centinels upon guard, excited by a report that the ghost of their late monarch had some preceding nights appeared to them. Horatio, not being of the credulous vulgar, gives little credit to the story, but bids Bernardo proceed in his relation.
Last night of all, When yon fame star, that's westward from the pole, Had made his course t'illume that
part of heav'n, Where now it burns, Marcellus and
myself, The bell then beating one——
Hew Here enters the ghost, after you are thus prepared. There is some, thing solemn and sublime in thus regulating the walking of the spirit, by the course of the star: it intimates a connection and corre. spondence between things beyond Our ken, and above the vijlble diur. aal sphere. Horatio is affected with that kind of fear which such an appearance would naturally excite. H» trembles and turns pale. When the violence of the motion subsides, he reflects, that probably this supernatural event portends somedanger lurking in the state. This suggestion gives importance to the phenomenon, and engages our attention. Horatio's relation of the king's combat with the Norwegans, and of the forces the young Fortinbrass is assembling in order to attack Denmark, seems to point out from what quarter the apprehended peril is to arise. Such appearances, fays he, preceded the rail of mighty Julius, and the ruin of the great commonwealth; and he adds, such have often been the omens of disasters in our own state. There is great art in this conduct. The true cause of the royal Dane's discontent could not be guested at: it was a secret which could be only revealed by himself. In the mean time, it was necessary to captivate our attention, by demonstrating, that the poet was not going to exhibit such idle and frivolous gambols as ghosts are by the vulgar often represented to perform. The historical testimony, that, antecedent to the death of Csesart
i' The graves stood t;enantless, and the sheeted dead
« Did squeak and gibber in th« "Roman streets,
gives credibility and importance to this phænomenon. Horatio's address to the ghost is brief and pertinent, and the whole purport of it agreeable to the vulgar conception of these matters.
Horatio. Stay, illusion! If thou hast any sound, or use ofvoice> Speak to me.
If there be any good thing to be done, That may to thee do ease, and grace
to me, Speak to me.
If thou art privy to thy country's fate, Which happily foreknowing may
avoid, Oh speak!
Or, if thou hast uphoarded in thy HSr Extorted treasore in the womb of
earth, 4 . •
For which, they say, you spirits oft.
walk in death, Speak of it.
Its vanishing at the. crowing of the cock1 is another circumstance of the established superstition.
Young Hamlet's indignation at, his mother's hastyv and incestuous marriage, his sorrow for his father's death, his character of that prince, prepare the spectator to sympathize with his wrongs and sufferings. The son, as is natural, with much more vehement emotiqn than Ho-^ ratio did, addresses his father's shade. Hamlet's terror, his astonishment, his vehement desire te know the cause of this visitation, are irresistibly communicated t? the spectator by the following specciu
Ham t. Et.