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is ably abstracted from the original Spanish, and communicates much important and interesting information respecting the personal and official character of that powerful chief. The travels of Marco Polo are also distinctly described. The valuable details furnished by Oderic of Portenau, are pointed out as the probable text of Sir John Mandeville's portentous exaggerations; and the exquisite inventions of the illustrious knight himself are fairly exhibited. The earlier travellers in the East have, assuredly, been sufficiently lavish of questionable embellishment, although their extravagances appear, in the main, to have resulted from honest credulity, rather than from interested, humorous, or ostentatious knavery. But our dashing countryman hesitates at nothing; he appropriates to his own use the discoveries of others, and re-issues them in such a form as to render them the 'coinage of his own pure • brain.' Thus, if previous adventurers had spoken vaguely, and from report, of a Christian monarch reigning in the central regions of Asia, Mandeville seizes at once upon Prester John, makes personal acquaintance with him, and actually sees him seated upon the throne of India, surpassing in splendour • all other sovereigns, and entertaining at his table twelve • archbishops, and two hundred and twenty bishops.' Not a few of his predecessors had heard of pigmy nations; but it was reserved for the fortunate knight of St. Albans, to travel through their country, and to be welcomed to those fairy confines by the dances and gambols of that light-heeled race. It was his peculiar hap, moreover, while others had only heard of such things, to verify from actual observation the fact, that there were in existence men whose stature reached the height of twenty-four feet.

• Equally fatal to our author's credit are his attempts to improve upon and enlarge the wonders related by others. Oderic mentions the sea of sand,'- no unapt image of those deserts of moving sand which cover a great extent of the east of Persia. This is not enough for Mandeville, unless the sea of sand have a river of rocks, which, after traversing a great extent of country, discharges itself into it. He is not ashamed to add, that this sea contains fishes greater in number, and more exquisite in quality, than are found in any one composed of the watery element. It happened, unluckily too for Sir John, that the geographical notices in these early narratives are too vague and desultory to give any distinct idea of the relative positions of the different countries. It was inconsistent, however, with his high pretensions to learning and wisdom, not to treat the subject with greater precision; and, in attempting to do so, he has fallen into the most unheard-of blunders, such as could by no possibility have been committed by a real traveller. It needs only be mentioned, that he describes India as situated fifty days' journey to the east of Cambalu (Pekin), and thereupon enters upon a long lamentation on its distance and difficulty of approach, compared with China I say nothing of his long narrative, borrowed from the romances of chivalry, respecting the exploits of Duke Oger the Dane, nor of the account of them which he saw painted on the walls of the palace at Java.'

Of all those early adventurers whose enterprising spirit led them in quest of fame and fortune to the shores of Asia, the most celebrated is that • liar of the first magnitude,' Ferdinand Mendes Pinto. From the imputed excess of falsehood and exaggeration, he has, however, been long since exculpated. Subsequent discoveries have confirmed his statements, and much of his narrative is of a kind which no man was likely to give gratuitously, since it places him in a very unenviable situation as an accomplice in unprincipled and ferocious transactions The leading circumstances of his career are told with great spirit by Mr. Murray. The various' general travels' and voyages made at different periods, both to the interior and to the coasts of Asia, are ably analysed and abridged throughout the remainder of the first volume; while the second and third are occupied with descriptions of the leading natu• ral divisions of Asia, and the travels performed through • each.'

As it would not be practicable to compress within our limits even an abstract of these three volumes of close analysis, we have preferred giving a more extended view of a particular portion of the general inquiry; and our readers will be fully competent, from the specimens we have cited, to form their own estimate of the Editor's style and abilities. Though the volumes have evidently been hastily written, and exhibit much carelessness in the composition, the materials are well selected, and the narrative is always interesting. Mr. Murray is never dull ; he writes with ease and vivacity; and he possesses in perfection the art of unravelling a complicated detail, and of enlivening a heavy story, by the seasonable introduction of judicious criticism, or of shrewd and sarcastic comment.

Art. III. 1. The Agamemnon of Æschylus. A Tragedy. Trans

lated from the Greek. By Hugh Stuart Boyd. 8vo. pp. x. 78.

London. 1823. 2. The Agamemnon of Æschylus. Translated by John Symmons, Esq. A.M.

8vo. pp. xxviii. 156. Price 8s. London. 1824. THE literature of a nation is intimately connected with its

religion. This is particularly the case with poetry, of which the example furnished in the ancient Jewish Scriptures will not fail to occur to our readers. Nor is that a solitary instance of the relation which we have assumed as an established one, though the proof of it is more obvious in this instance than in most other cases, the books of the Hebrews being the most ancient in existence: the finest productions of the Grecian poets exhibit the same connexion. From the Dithyrambic hymns which were sung in the religious festivals of the Athenians, proceeded some of the most finished compositions of antiquity, which have immortalised the names of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

To trace up to Homer the philosophy and the poetry of the times succeeding the age in which he is represented as having flourished, is one of those bold hypotheses with which sometimes men of genius amuse themselves and surprise others. One of these adventurous writers maintains, that there was no more left for Tragedy to do after Homer, than to erect a stage, and draw his dialogues and characters into scenes.

But Tragedy, notwithstanding all this preparation of materials, was late in contriving her exhibitions, and instead of presenting

; her imitations in the completeness of forms finished from prepared designs, she associated her first conceptions with the rude customs of a people who delighted in religious celebrations, and produced a spectacle, in which the Dithyrambic hymns, sung by a chorus, were occasionally suspended, while a single actor addressed his threnodic narrative to the multitude. Previously to the improvements introduced by Æschylus, the inventions of Phrynicus had advanced the dignity of the tragic muse : he exhibited at Athens, the taking of Miletus; and we learn the excitement which it produced in the auditors, from the fine which was imposed upon the author, and the edict which forbade its repetition. This was, probably, an exhibition in which the actor described the disasters of a captured city, in diction and manner highly pathetic, and in which the odes sung by the chorus corresponded to the narrative. The same poet furnished other productions of a dramatic character, one of which was exhibited under the patronage of Themistocles, who was at the charge of providing the persons who engaged in the representation with all the requisite accompaniments; an office which was denoted by the appellation of Choragus, and which the highest personages of the state, and frequently the state itself, sustained.

But to Æschylus the honour of founding the kind of representation which was so important an object to the Athenians in the most flourishing state of their city, has been generally attributed ; and he is accordingly distinguished as the Father

of Tragedy.' He introduced the dialogue, and thus gave to the subjects which he represented, their true form and colour. After this invention, there remained but little to be done by succeeding poets as to the essential attributes of Tragedy. They might introduce more than two speakers into the dialogue; but, without the violation of nature, they must have continued to limit their interlocutors generally to that number; and the addition of a third speaker in some cases, was the only improvement which the dialogue could receive. In scenic decoration, the pomp and circumstance which gratify the senses might, in succeeding times, be increased in splendour, as Athens advanced in refinement; and the poets who fourished in a more polished age, might excel in the correctness and beauty of their diction; but Tragedy in the hands of Æschylus was nearly perfected. Selecting from the ancient fables which circulated in Greece, the most grave and interesting stories, he put forward the personages of the old mythology, and the beroes of antiquity, to awe and to instruct the spectators of the magnificent shows which he exhibited. Pity and terror, which Aristotle has assigned as the instruments of purifying the heart from the passions which disorder it, had ample scope for excitement in the awful subjects of his dramas. To a genius original and sublime, Æschylus has indisputable claim : he has the power of exciting and directing the strongest emotions of the heart. The exuberance of his imagination answered all the demands which the most varied delineation of character, and the most striking description of circumstances, could require to make them interesting and effective. Delighting in the highest regions of poetry, and familiar with all the elements of splendid and majestic imagery, he employs verse as the vehicle of sentiments intrinsically noble and exalted; and such are the energy and felicity of his thoughts, that sometimes, without the ornaments of diction, they produce an effect which the sublimest images could not surpass. He has great beauties as well as sublimities, and can please as well as surprise Affording as he does so many points of contrast when compared with the other great tragedians, Sophocles and Euripides, the comparison is in favour of the superior loftiness of his genius and the originality of his inventive powers.

If he awakens fewer of our sympathies by scenes of tender and melting pathus, it would be unjust to conclude from this circumstance, that he was incapable of painting the most pathetic sorrows. The versatility of his genius needs not to be proved; and in the few compositions which afford the only means of forming an estimate of his powers, he has shewn how nicely he could touch the tenderest passions and Vol. XXIII. N.S.


direct the gentlest affections of the heart. He chose, however, subjects to which the daring spirit that controlled him, could give the characteristics of grandeur and the potency of the fiercer passions; and as a master of the sublime, he has obtained the admiration of all who are qualified to judge of poetic excellence.

The moral of Æschylus has been pronounced admirable by one of the most critical and accomplished of scholars. What point, he asks, of moral discipline have the Tragic writers of Greece left untouched, or unadorned? What duty of life, what principle of political economy, what motive or precept for the government of the passions, what commendation of virtue is there, which they have not treated of with fulness, variety, and learuing ?* If too much should seem to be attributed to the Greek Tragedians in these interrogatories of the learned prelate, it will be proper to remark, that the writers to whom he refers, are not to be estimated by the standard of Christian obligation. The inspirations of genius are not the illuminations of Divine wisdom. It is a question, however, which it would not be superfluous to consider, Whether the Tragedians of Athens were not, in the character of instructors, a benefit to the community; whether the moral condition of that extraordinary people would not have been more degraded if their Tragic poets had been interdicted. We apprehend that, how bad soever the state of any people, as to public morals, may have been, it might have been still worse; and we are inclined to rank among the preventive checks of deeper turpitude in Athens at least, the influence of the Tragedians. That they favoured virtue in many cases directly and strongly, cannot be doubted; and if, in other cases, the virtuous tendency of their productions is not so direct, they appear to have been solicitous to avoid offences contra bonos mores, against the decorums of life.

The Chorus, which was an inseparable part of the Greek Tragedy, as it was the original basis of it, to which the dialogue wąs subsequently added, and which primarily related to religious celebrations, constantly retained its moral character. ' Ille bonis faveatque.' It took part with the virtuous, subdued and soothed the passions, bestowed its praises upon temperance, maintained the sanctity of the laws, was the encomiast of tranquillity and order, was inviolable in fidelity, and supplicated the gods to abase the proud oppressor, and to vindicate and raise the op

* Vide Lowth, De Sacra Poesi Heb. præl. 1.

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