Friedrich Schiller.

The works of Frederick Schiller, translated from the German (Volume 3) online

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other : — the result is a failure to arrive at either. One to whom nature has
given a true sensibility, but denied the plastic imaginative power, will be a
faithful painter of the real ; he will adapt casual appearances, but nevei catch
the spirit of Nature. He will only reproduce to us the matter of the world,
which, not being our own work, the product of our creative spirit, can never
have the beneficent operation of Art, of which the essence is freedom. Serious,
indeed, but unpleasing, is the cast of thought with which such an artist and
poet dismisses us ; — we feel ourselves painfuUy thrust back into the narrow
sphere of reality by means of the very art which ought to have emancipated
us. On the other hana, a writer, endowed \\-ith a lively- fancy, but destitute
of warmth and individuality of feeling, will not concern himself in the least
about truth ; he will sport with the stuff of the world, and endeavour tc
surprise by whimsical combinations ; and as his whole performance is no-
thing but foam and glitter, he will, it is true, engage the a'.tention for a time,
but build up and confim nothing in the understanding. His playfulness is,
like the gravity 'A the other, thoroughly unpoetical. To string together at



ox THE USE OF THE CHORUS IN TRAGEDY 441

will fantastical imsiges, is not to travel into the realm of the ideal ; and tlie
imitative reproduction of the actual cannot be called the representation of na-
ture. Both requisites stand so little in contradiction to each other that
thej' are rather one and the same thing ; that Art is only true insomuch as italto-
;:Pther forsakes the actual, and becomes purely ideal. Nature herself is an
idea of the mind, and is never presented to the senses. She lies under the
veil of appearances, but is herself never apparent. To the art of the ideal
aione is lent, or rather, absolutely given, the privilege to grasp the spirit of
the Ail, and bind it in a corporeal form.

Yet, in truth, even Art cannot present it to the senses, but by means of her
creative power to the imaginative faculty alone ; and it is thus that she becomes
more true than all reality, and more real than all experience. It follows
from these premises that the artist can use no single element taken from
reality as he finds it — that his work must be ideal in aU its parts, if it be
designed to have, as it were, an intrinsic reality, and to harmonize with
nature.

What is true of Art and Poetry, in the abstract, holds good as to their
various kinds ; and we may apply what has been advanced to the subject of
tr^edy. In this department, it is still necessary to controvert the ordinary
notion of the natural, with which poetry is altogether incompatible. A
certain ideality has been allowed ic 'tainting, though, I fear, on grounds
rither conventional than intrinsic; but in dramatic works what is desired
IS illusion, which, if it could be accomplished by means of the actual,
would be, at best, a paltry deception. All the externals of a theatrical re-
presentation are opposed to this notion ; all is merely a sj-mbol of the real.
The day itself in a theatre is an artificial one ; the metrical dialogue is itself
ideal : yet the conduct of the play must forsooth be real, and the general effect
sacrificed to a part. Thus the French, who have utterly misconceived the
spirit of the ancients, adopted on their stage the unities of time and place in
the most common and empirical sense ; as though there were any place but
the bare ideal one, or any other time than the mere sequence of the in-
cidents.

By the introduction of a metrical dialogue an important progress has been
made towards the poetical Tragedy. A few lyrical dramas have been success-
ful on the stage, and Poetry, by its own living energy, has triumphed over
prevailing prejudices. But so long as these erroneous views are entertained
little has been done — for it is not enough barely to tolerate as apoetic licence that
which, is in truth, the essence of all poetry. The introduction of the Chorus
would be the last and decisive step; and if it only served this end, namely, to
declare open <ind honourable warfare against naturalism in art, it would be
for us a living wall which Tragedy had drawn aroxmd herself, to guard her
from contact with the world of reality, and maintain her own ideal soil, her
poetical freedom.

It is weU known that the Greek tragedy had its origin in the Chorus ;
and though, in process of time, it became independent, still it may be said that
poetically, and in spirit, the Chorus was the source of its existence, and
that without these persevering supporters and witnesses of the ir>-
cident a totally different order of poetry would have grown out of the
dnima. The abolition of the Chorus, and the debasement of this sensibly
powerful organ into the characterless substitute of a confidant, is, by uo



442 ON THE USE OF THE CHOKUS IN TtlAGEDT.

means, such an improvement in tragedy as the French, and their imitators,
would have it supposed to be.

The old Tragedy, which at first only concerned itself with gods, heroes
and kings, introduced the Chorus as an essential accompaniment. The poets
fonnd it in nature, and for that reason employed it. It grew out of the
poetical aspect of real life. In the new Tragedy it becomes an organ of art
which aids in making the poetry prominent. The modem poet no longer
finds the Chorus in nature ; he must needs create and introduce it poetically;
that is, he must resolve on such an adaptation of his story as will admit of its
retrocession to those primitive times, and to that simple form of life.

The Chorus thus renders more substantial service to the modern drama-
tist than to the old poet — and for this reason, that it transforms the common-
place actual world into the old poetical one ; that it enables nim to dispense
with all that is repugnant to poetry, and conducts him back to the most sim-
ple, original, and genuine motives of action. The palaces of kings are in these
days closed — courts of justice have been transferred from the gates of cities
to the interior of buildings ; writing has narrowed the province of speech :
the people itself — the sensibly living mass — when it does not operate as brute
force, has become a part of the civil polity, and thereby an abstract idea in
our minds ; the deities have returned within the bosoms of mankind. The
poet must reopen the palaces — he nyist place courts of justice beneath
the canopy of heaven — restore the gods, reproduce every extreme which the
artiftoial frame of actual life has abolished — throw asideevery factitious influence
on the mind or condition of man which impedes the manifestation of his inward
nature and primitive character, as the statuary rejects modem costume : — and
of all external circumstances adopts nothing but what is palpable in the
highest of fonns — that of humanity.

But precisely as the painter throws around his figures draperies of ample
volume, to fill up the space of his picture richly and gracefully, to arrange its
several parts in harmonious masses, to give due play to colour, which cliamis
and refreshes the eye — and at once to envelop human forms in a spiritual
veil, and make them visible — so the tragic poet inlays and entwines his
rigidly contracted plot and the strong outlines of his characters with a tissue
of lyrical magnificence, in which, as in flowing robes of purple, they move
freely and nobly, with a sustained dignity and exalted repose.

In a higher organization, the material, or the elementary, need not be
visible ; the chemical colour vanishes in the finer tints of the imaginative one.
The material, however, has its peculiar effect, and may be included in an
artistical composition. But it must deserve its place by animation, fulness
and harmony, and give value to the ideal tonus which it surrounds, insteaa
of stifling them by its weight.

In respect of the pictorial art, this is obvious to ordinary apprehension, yet in
poetry likewise, and in the tragical kind, which is our immediate subject,
the same doctrine holds good. Whatever fascinates the senses alone, is
mere matter, and the rude element of a work of art : — if it take the lead it
will inevitably destroy the poetical — which lies at the exact medium between
the ideal and the sensible. But man is so constituted that he is ever im-
patient to pass from what is fanciful to what is common ; and reflection must,
therefore, have its place even in tragedy. But to merit this place it must, by
means of delivery, recover what it wants in actual life ; for if the two elemeuts



ON THE USE OF THE rnORUS IK TRAGEDY 4'l£

of poetry, the ideal and the sensible, do not operate with an inward n atuality,
they must at least act as allies — or poetry is out of the question. If the
balance be not intrinsically perfect, the equipoise crin only be maintained by
an agitation of both scales.

This is what the Chorus effects in tragedy. It is, in itself, not an indi
vidual but a general conception ; yet it is represented by a palpable bodv
which appeals to the senses with an imposing grandeur. It forsakes the
contracted sphere of the incidents to dilate itself over the past and the future,
over distant times and nations, and general humanity, to deduce the
grand results of life, and pronounce the lessons of wisdom. But all this it
does with the full power of fancy — with a bold lyrical freedom which as-
cends, as with godlike step, to the topmost height of worldly things ; and it
eflfects it in conjunction with the whole sensible influence of melody and
ihythm, in tones and movements.

The Chorus thus exercises a purifj-ing influence on tragic poetrj, 'nso-
much as it keeps reflection apart from the incidents, and by this separation
arms it with a poetical ^^gou^ ; as the painter, by means of a rich drapery, changes
the ordinary poverty of costume into a charm and an ornament.

But as the painter finds himself obliged to strengthen the tone of colour of
the living subject, in order to counterbalance the material influences — so the
lyrical effusions of the Chorus impose upon the poet the necessity of a pro-
portionate elevation of his general diction. It is the Chorus alone which
entitles the poet to employ this fulness of tone, which at once charms the
senses, pervades the spirit and expands the mind. This one giant form on
his canvas obliges him to moimt all his figures on the cothurnus, and thus im-
part a tragical grandeur to his picture. If the Chorus be taken away, the
diction of the tragedy must generally be lowered, or v. hat is now great and
majestic wiU appear forced and overstrained. The old Chorus introduced
into the French tragedy would present it in all its poverty, and reduce it to
nothing ; yet, ■n-ithout doubt, the same accompaniment would impart to Shak-
Bpere's tragedy its true significance.

As the Chorus gives life to the language — so also it gives repose to the
action ; but it is that beautiful and lofty repose which is the characteristic of
a true work of art. For the mind of the spectator ought to maintain its
freedom through the most impassioned scenes ; it should not be the mere
prey of impressions, but calmly and severely detach itself from the emo-
tions which it suffers. The commonplace objection made to the Chorus, that
it disturbs the illusion, and blunts the edge of the feelings, is what constitutes
its highest recommendation ; for it is this blind force of the affections which
the true artist deprecates — this illusion is what he disdains to excite. If the
strokes which Tragedy inflicts on our bosoms followed without respite — the
passion would overpower the action. We should mix ourselves up with the
subject matter, and no longer stand above it. It is by holding asunder the
different parts, and stepping between the passions with its composing views,
that the Chorus restores to us our freedom, which would else be lost in the
tempest. The characters of the drama need this intennission in order to
collect themselves ; for they are no real beings who obey the impulse of the
moment, and merely represent individuals — but ideal persons and representa-
tives of their species, who enunciate the deep things of Humanity.

Thus much on my attempt to revive the old Chorus on the tragic stage.



444 ON IHE USE OF THE CHORUS IX TRAGEDY

It is true hat choruses are not unknown to modern tragedy ; but the Ch jru"!
of the Greek drama, as I have employed it — the Chorus, as a single ideal per-
son, furthering and accompanying the whole plot — is of an entirely distinct
character ; and when, in discussion on the Greek tragedy, I hear mention
made of choruses, I generally suspect the speaker's ignorance of his subject.
In my view the Chorus has never been reproduced since the decline of the
old tragedy.

I have divided it into two parts, and represented it in contest with itself ;
out this occurs where it acts as a real person, and as an unthinking multi-
tude. As Chorus and an ideal person it is always one and entire. I have
also several times dispensed with its presence on the stage. For this liberty I
nave the example of Jischylus, the creator of tragedy, and Sophocles, the
yreatest master of his art.

Another licence it may be more difficult to excuse. I have blended to-
gether the Christian Religion and the Pagan Mythology, and introduced
recollections of the Moorish superstition. But the scene of the drama is
Messina — where these three religions either exercised a living influence, or
appealed to the senses in monumental remains. Besides, I consider it a pri-
vilege of poetry to deal with different religions as a collective whole, in which
every thing that bears an individual character, and expresses a peculiar mode
of feeling, has its place. Religion itself, the idea of a Divine Tower, lies
under the veil of all religions ; and it must be permitted to the poet to
reprt'scut it in the form which appears the most appropriate to hie subject.



DRAMATIS PERSONS.

IsabeTjLA, Princess of Messina. Messengers.

Don Manuel \ i . g . The Elders of Messina, mute.

Don C^SAR j *' "' 1n% Cuorvs, consisting of the Fol'

Beatrice. lowers of the two Princes.
Diego, an ancient Servant.



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA.



Scene I.

A spacious hall, supported on columns, with entrances on both
sides ; at the back of the stage a large folding-door leading to
a chapel.
Donna Isabella, in mourning ; the Eldees of Messina.

IbAB. . Forth from my silent chamber's deep recesses,
Grey Fathers of the State, unwillingly
I come ; and, shrinking from your gaze, uplift
The veil that shades my widowed brows : — the light
And glory of my days is fled for ever !
And best in solitude and kindred gloom
To hide these sable weeds, this grief-worn frame.
Beseems the mourner's heart. A mighty voice
Inexorable — duty's stern command.

Calls me to life again.

Not twice the moon
Has filled her orb, since to the tomb ye bore
My princely spouse, your city's lord, whose arm
Against a world of envious foes around
Hurled fierce defiance ! Still his spirit lives
In his heroic sons, their country's pride : —
Ye marked how sweetly from their childhood's bloom
They gi'ew in joyous j^romise to the years
Of manhood's strength ; — yet in their secret hearts.
From some mysterious root accurs'd, upspruug
Unmitigable deadly hate, that spurned
All kindred ties, all youthful fond affections,
Still rijjening with theii" thoughtful age ; — not mine
The sweet accord of family bliss ; tlio' each
Awoke a mother's raptm-e ; each alike
Smiled at my nourishing breast ! for me alone
Yet lives one mutual thought, of children's lovo,



i46 THE BRIDE OF MESSINA.

In these tempestuous souls dissevered else
By mortal strife and thirst of fierce revenge.

While yet their father reigned, his stern control
Tamed their hot spirits, and with iron yoke
To awful justice bowed their stubborn will :
Obedient to his voice, to outward seeming
They calmed their wrathful mood, nor in array
Ere me*, of hostile arms ; — yet unappeased
Sat brooding malice in their bosoms' depths ; —
They little reck of hidden springs, whose power
Can quell the torrent's fury : — Scarce their sire
In death had closed his eyes, when, as the spark,
That long in smoulderiug embers sullen lay.
Shoots forth a towering flame ; — so unconfined
Burst the wild storm of brothers' hate, triumphant
O'er nature's holiest bands. Ye saw, my friends,
Your country's bleeding wounds, when princely strife
Woke discord's maddening fires, and ranged her sons
In mutual deadly conflict ; — all around
Was heard the clash of arms, the din of carnage,
And e'en these halls were stained with kindred gore.

Torn was the state with civil rage, this heart
With pangs that mothers feel ; alas, unmindful
Of aught but public woes, and pitiless,
You sought my widow's chamber — there with taunts
And fierce reproaches for your country's ills
From that polluted spring of brother's hate
Derived, invoked a parent's warning voice,
And threatening told of people's discontent
And princes' crimes ! " 111 fated land ! now wastesl
By thy unnatui'al sons, ere long the prey
Of foeman's sword ! Oh haste," you cried, " and end
This strife ! bring peace again, or soon Messina
Shall bow to other lords." Your stern decree
Prevailed ; this heart, with all a mother's anguish
O'erlaboured, owned the weight of public cares.
I flew, and at my children's feet distracted
A suppliant lay ; till to my prayers and tears
The voice of nature answered in their breasts !

Here in the palace of their sires, unarmed,
In peaceful guise Messina shall behold



THE BEIDE OP MESSINA. 447

The long inveterate foes ; — this is the day !
E'en now I wait the messenger that brings
The tidings of my sons' approach : be ready
To give your princes joyful welcome home
With reverence siich as vassals may beseem.
Bethink ye to fulfil yoiu" subject duties,
And leave to better wisdom weightier cares.
Dire was their strife to them, and to the State
Fruitful (jf ills ; yet, in this happy bond
Of peace united, know that they are mighty
To stand against a world in arms, nor less
Enforce their sovereign will — against yourselves.

[TJie Elders retire in silence; she beckons to an
old attendant who remains.

Isabella. Diego !

Diego. Honoured mistress !

IsAB. . Old faithful servant, thou true heart, come near me ;
Sharer of all a mother's woes, be thine
The sweet communion of her joys : — my treasure
Shrined in thy heart, my dear and holy secret,
Shall pierce the envious veil, and shine triumphant
To cheerful day ; too long by harsh decrees,
Silent and overpowered, affection yet
Shall utterance find in Nature's tones of rapture !
And this unprisoned heart leap to the embrace
Of all it holds most dear, returned to glad
My desolate halls ; —

So bend thy aged steps
To the old cloistered Sanctuary that guards
The darling of my soul, whose innocence
To thy true love — (sweet pledge of happier days I)
Trusting I gave, and asked from fortune's storm
A resting place and shrine : O in this hour
Of bliss, the dear reward of all thy cares.
Give to my longing arms my child again !

[Trumpets are heard in the distance.
Haste ! be thy footsteps winged with joy — I hear
The trumpet's blast, that tells in warlike accents,
My sons arc near : —

[Exit Diego, Music is heard in an opposite direction,
and becomes gradually louder.



448 tHE BRIDE OF MUSSINA.

Messina is awake!
Hark ! liow the stream of tongues hoarse murmurJug
Rolls on the breeze, — 'tis they ! my mother's heart
Feels theu' approach, and beats with mighty throes
Responsive to the loud resounding march !
They come I they come ! my children ! oh, mv childreTi I

[Exit.
The Chords enters.

Jt consists of two semichoruses which enter at the same tivie
from opposite sides, and after inurching round tJie stage
range themselves in rows, each on the side by which it en-
tered. One semichorus consists of young knights, the othei
of older ones, each has its jyeculiar costume and ensigns.
When the two choruses stand opposite to each other, the
march ceases, and the two leaders speak*.

First Chorus (Cajetan)

T greet ye, glittering halls

Of olden time !
Cradle of kings ! Hail ! lordlv roof.

In pillared majesty sublime !

Sheathed be the sword .'
In chains before the portal lies
The fiend with tresses snake-entwined,

Fell Discord! — Gently tread the inviolate floor'

Peace to this royal dome !
Thus by the Furies' brood we swore.
And all the dark avenging Deities !

Second Chorus (Bohemund).

I rage ! I burn ! and scarce refrain

To lift the glittering steel on high,
For lo ! the Gorgon-visaged train

Of the detested foeman nigh : —
Shall I my swelling heart control ? —

To parley deign— or still in mortal strife
The tumult of my soul ?

• The first chorus consists of Cajetan, Berengar, Manfred, Tristin, ami
eight followers of Don Manuel. The second of Bohemund, Roger, Hipi«'l\ te,
and r.ine others of the party of Don Caesar.



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA. 4-^9

Dire Sister, guardian of the spot, to thee

Awe-struck I bend the knee,

I^or dare ynth. arms profane thy deep tranquillity !

First Chorus (Cajetan)

Welcome the peaceful strain !
Together we adore the guardian power
Of these august abodes ! —

Sacred the hour
To kindred brotherly ties
And reverend holy sympathies ; —
Our hearts the genial charm shall own,
And melt awhile at friendship's soothing tone : —

But when in yonder plain
We meet — then peace away !
Come gleaming arms, and battle's deadly fray !

The whole Chords.

But when in yonder plain

We meet — tlien peace away !

Come gleaming arms, and battle's deadly fray !

First Chorus (Beeengar).

I hate thee not — nor call thee foe.

My brother ! this our native earth.

The land that gave our fathers birth : —

Of chiefs behest the slave decreed.

The vassal draws the sword at need,

For chieftain's rage we strike the blow,

For stranger lords our kindred blood must flow.

Second Chorus (Bohemund).

Hate fires their souls — we ask not why ;—

At honour's call to fight and die,

Boast of the true and brave !

Unworthy of a soldier's name

Who bums not for his chieftain's fame 1

The whole Chorus.

Unworthy of a soldier's name

Who burns not for his chieftain's fame I



OG



450 THE BRIDE OF MESSINA

One of the Chorus (Berengar).
Thus spoke within my bosom's core

The thought — as hitherward I strayed;
And pensive 'mid the waving store,

I mused, of Autumn's yellow glade : —
These gifts of Nature's bounteous reign, — ■
The teeming earth, and golden grain,
Yon elms, among whose leaves entwine
The tendrils of the clustering vine ; —
Gay children of our sunny clime, —
Eegion of Spring's eternal prime ! —
Each chaiTQ should woo to love and joy,
No cares the dream of bliss annoy.
And Pleasure through life's summer day
Speed every laughing Hoiu- away.
VVe rage in blood, — O dire disgi'ace !
For this usurping, alien race ;
From some far distant land they came.
Beyond the sun's departing flame.
And owned upon our friendly shore
Tie welcome of our sires of yore.
Alas ! their sons in thraldom pine,
The vassals of this stranger line.

A second (Manfred).

Yes ! pleased, on our land, from his azure way,

The Sun ever smiles with unclouded ray.

But never, fair isle, shall thy sons repose

'Mid the sweets which the faithless waves enclose.

On their bosom they wafted the corsair bold.

With his dreaded barks to our coast of old.

For thee was thy dower of beauty vain,

'Twas the treasure that lured the spoiler's train

Oh, ne'er from these smiling vales shall rise

A sword for our vanquished liberties ;

'Tis not where the laughing Ceres reigns.

And the jocund lord of the flowery plains : —

Where the iron lies hid in the mountain cave.

Is the cradle of Empire — the home of the brave !

\The folding-doors at the back of the stage ar^
thrown open. Donna Isabella appears between
hei sons, Don Manuel and Don C^sar.



THE BRIDE OF MESSINA. 451

Both Choruses (Cajetan).
Lift high the notes of praise !

Behold ! -where like the awakening Sim,
She comes, and frona her queenly brow
Shoots glad-inspiring raj'S.
Mistress, we bend to thee !

First Chorus.

Fair is the moon amid the stariy quire
That twinkle o'er the sky,
Shining in silvery mild tranquillity ; —

The mother with her sons more fair!
See ! blooming at her side,

She leads the youthful royal pair ;

With gentle grace, and soft maternal pi'ide,
Attempering sweet their manly fire.



Online LibraryFriedrich SchillerThe works of Frederick Schiller, translated from the German (Volume 3) → online text (page 29 of 37)