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and the reader easily believes, to hell.—The three corpses keep possession of the stage.
All the absurdity of this plot does not of right belong to M. Hugo ; that is to say, that, exaggerated as we may deem such a very nice sense of honour, it is not unnatural, and, if we may believe old chronicles, was not unusual in Spain, where similar absurdities form the plot of some of their best plays. “ La Estrella di Seviglia,” of Lopes de Vega, where a man kills the brother of his mistress, and almost drives himself and her mad by so doing, simply because the King commands the deed, is, to our apprehensions, far more fantastical ; yet the play is an immense favourite in Spain, and the plot is there considered a very rational plot.
Some of the writing in “ Hernani” would positively be poetry, if it were not French; and we think M. Hugo always exceedingly happy in the expression of tenderness and passion. We subjoin some passages, which we quote from Lord Francis Egerton's translation ; which has the advantage of resembling its original in an unusual degree. The following, spoken by old Don Ruy to Donna Sol, is graceful and touching.
“When, as I muse my garden glades along,
Some shepherd youth disturbs me with his song,
Whose sound from the green fields can reach my bowers,
Thus I apostrophize my crumbling towers;
• My ducal dungeon-keep, my loop-hole wall,
My woods, my harvests, I would give ye all;
Would give the fields my swarm of vassals tills,
Would give my flocks upon a thousand hills,-
Would give the ancestors, who watch intent,
Chiding my slowness, for a son's descent
Among them, and expect him even now,-
For that same peasant's hut and youthful brow.
For round that brow, unscored by age's lines,
The dark locks cluster, and beneath it shines
An eye like thine ; and thou may'st well behold,
And say, “That man is young, and this is old.'
Thus to myself I speak, and speak it true;
All, to be young, and fair, and gay as you,
All would I give. I dream !-1 young and gay,
Who to the tomb am doomed to lead the way!
“ Donna Sol.- Who knows?
“Don Ruy.-Yet trust not that the youthful tribe
Can feel the constant love their words describe.
Let but a lady listen and believe,
They laugh to see her die, or live to grieve,
These birds of amorous note and gaudy wing
Can moult their passions like their plumes in spring;
The old, whose notes are tuneless, hues less bright,
Are steadier to their nest and in their flight.
Time on our furrowed brow the graver's part
May play; he writes no wrinkles on the heart.
Give to the old the mercy which they need, -
The heart is always young enough to bleed.
With all a bridegroom's love, a father's pride,
I love thee, and a hundred ways beside.
I love thee as we love the flowers, the skies,
Earth's breathing perfumes, heaven's enchanting dyes ;
And when thy step, so graceful yet so free,
The aspect of that stainless brow, I
That heaven seems opening as I gaze on thee.
“ Donna Sol.-Alas!
“ Don Ruy.—And mark; the reasoning world approves,
When towards an honored grave an old man moves,
If woman deign his useless age to tend,
And smooth his progress to his journey's end.
It is an angel's task, and thou shalt be
That angel, in a woman's furm, to me.”
The old nobleman's rebuke of Hernani and the King is spirited:-
“What business brings you here, young cavaliers ?
Men like the Cid, the knights of by-gone years,
Rode out the battle of the weak to wage,
Protecting beauty, and revering age.
Their armour sat on them, strong men as true,
Much lighter than your velvets sit on you.
Not in a lady's room by stealth they koelt;
In church, by day, they spoke the love they felt.
They kept their houses' honour bright from rust,
They told no secret, and betrayed no trust;
And if a wife they wanted, bold and gay,
With lance, or axe, or sword point, and by day,
Bravely they won and wore her. As for those
Who walk the streets when honest men repose,
With eyes turned to the ground, and in night's shade,
The rights of trusting husbands to invade;
I say the Cid would force such knaves as these
To beg the city's pardon on their knees.
And with the flat of his all conquering blade
Their rank usurped, and scutcheon would dlegrade.
Thus would the men of former days, I say,
Treat the degenerate minions of to-day.”
The opening of the fifth act, as the revel closes, and Hernani and
Donna Sol are left alone, is beautiful :-
“ Donna Sol.-Dearest! at length they leave us. By yon moon, It should be late.
“ Hernani.—And can it come too soon, The hour that frees us from the listening crowd, To breathe our sighs, so long suppressed, aloud ?
· Donna Sol. The noise disturbed me. Must we not confess, Rejoicing stuns the sense of happiness?
“ Hernani.- Tis true; for happiness is kin to rest,
And writes its lessons slowly on the breast.
When busy pleasure strews its path with flowers,
Or breaks the silence of its quiet bowers,
It flies; and if it sinile, its smile appears
Far less allied to laughter than to tears.
Why should I bear in mind
The tattered garments that I leave behind ?
In mourning to my palace I repair,
An angel of the Lord awaits me there.
I bid the fallen column's shaft aspire ;
On my ancestral hearth I light its fire;
I ope its casements to the wind, which sports
'Mid the rank herbage of its grass grown courts ;
I weed that herbage from the creviced stone,
And seat my house's honor on its throne;
My King restores me to each ancient right,
My seat in council, and my crest in fight.
Come, then, in blushing beauty, come, my bride,
Lay the sad memory of the past aside;
That past is all unsaid, unseen, undone ;
I start afresh, a glorious course to run.
I know not if 'tis madness fires my breast,-
I love you,-1 possess you,--and am blest!
“ Donna Sol.- One little moment to indulge the sight
With the rich beauty of the summer night.
The harp is silent, and the torch is dim, -
Night and ourselves together to the brim
The cup of our felicity is filled,
Each sound is mute, each harsh sensation stilled.
Dost thou not think, that, e'en while nature sleeps,
Some power its amorous vigils o'er us keeps ?
No cloud in heaven ;-while all around repose,
Come taste with me the fragrance of the rose,
Which loads the night air with its musky breath,
While all around is still as nature's death.
E'en as you spoke,—and gentle words were those
Spoken by you,—the silver moon uprose;
How that mysterious union of her ray,
With your impassioned accents, made its way
Straight to my heart! I could have wished to die
In that pale moonlight, and while thou wert by.
Hernani.- Thy words are music, and thy strain of love borrowed from the choir of heaven above.
" Donna Sol.-Night is too silent, darkness too profound.
Oh for a star to shine, a voice to sound, -
To raise some sudden strain of music now,
Suited to night!
" Hernani.--Capricious girll your vow
Was poured for silence, and to be released
From the thronged tumult of the marriage-feast.
“Donna Sol.-Yes ; but a bird to carol in the field,
A nightingale, in moss and shade concealed, -
A distant flute,- for music's stream can roll
To soothe the heart and harmonize the soul,
O!'t would be bliss to listen !
(Sound of a horn in the distance.") We now come to M. Hugo's next dramatic production, Marion de Lorme; and here his moral atmosphere is enveloped in a much thicker mist than before, and we lose sight, in a pitiable manner, of the real bearings and relation of things.
Marion de Lorme, the noted courtesan of Louis the Thirteenth's reign, one of the earliest specimens of that tribe of profligate women, whose beauty, talent, and exceeding impudence gave them so much influence in the licentious times that followed the regency of Anne of Austria, is the personage selected by M. Hugo for his heroine.
Having fallen in love with a young man, whom she has met by accident, and who is ignorant of her character, she leaves Paris in disguise, and takes up her residence at Blois, where her lower resides.
For a while their intercourse is happy. Didier, her lover, himself an enthusiastic and noble creature, believes her to be all that his idolatrous affection pictures her; and she, loving for the first time a virtuous nature, is filled at once with adoration and respect for him, horror of her former life, and fear lest he should discover her real name and situation.
We will let him give his own account of himself; and through our most prosaic translation, which has no earthly pretension but that of being literally literal, the reader will perceive that M. Hugo has invested his hero with much of the unaccountable gloom and despondency, the bile, in short, (for we presume, as there is no other assignable cause, it must be that,) of the Byron school :
“ Didier.-Hearken to me, Mary.
My name is Didier, I have never known
Father or mother; naked I was left
An infant on the threshold of a church.
An old and low-born woman, in whose soul
Some pity lived, took me, and tended me.
She was my mother ;-gave me Christian nurture,
And, dying, left me all her worldly heritage,
A yearly stipend of nine hundred livres,
On which I live. Alone, at twenty years,
Life seemed both sad and bitter. I went travelling
And grew acquainted with my fellow men.
And some of them I hated, more despised,
For on that sullied glass, the human face,
I read but pain, and pride and misery;
So that I sit me down, youthful in years
But old in spirit; of this life as weary,
As they should be who are about to leave it.
I struck 'gainst all things, all things wounded me;
The world seemed bad to me, and men yet worse.
Thus was I living, gloomy, poor, and lonely,
When first I saw you and felt comforted.
And yet I do not know you ;-in the street
One night in Paris I beheld you first;
Then once or twice I met you, and still always
Your looks were gentle, and your speech most kind.
I feared to love you, and I fled ; strange destiny !
Again you meet me here,--my guardian angel !
At length, worn out with love and doubt, I spake,
you with favour heard.-Yours is my heart,
yours my life; what
Is there on earth the man or thing you hate?
Have you a wish my soul can buy for you?
Oh! do you need one prompt to give his life
Joyfully for you;-whose heart's blood poured out
Were richly paid, but by one smile of yours ?
Oh! speak, command, dearest, for here am I !
“ Marion (smiling.)-You're strange, and yet I love you thus.
“ Didier.-You love me!
Beware, nor with light lips utter that word.
You love me!-know you what it is to love
With love that is the life-blood in one's veins,
The vital air we breathe, a love long smothered,
Smouldering in silence, kindling, burning, blazing,
And purifying in its growth the soul.
A love, that from the heart eats every passion
But its sole self;—love without hope, or limit,
Deep love, that will outlive all happiness ;
Speak, speak, is such the love you bear me?
“ Didier.-Oh! but you do not know how I love you !
The day that first I saw you, the dark world
Grew shining, and your eyes lighted my gloom.
Since then all things have changed ; to me you are
Some bright and unknown creature from the skies.
This irksome life, 'gainst which my heart rebelled,
Seems almost fair and pleasant; for, alas !