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with the course of events, which call out his mighty energies and display him in his most godlike attributes, at the very moment when he falls under the power of an overwhelming destiny. It is plain that the conception of fate rests on the same foundation as modern predestination. The problem of reconciling fate and freewill, was the same as that started in later times of harmonizing the foreknowledge of an omniscient Being, with voluntary, and therefore responsible moral action. It is not clear that the ancients conceived of fate as wholly consistent with human freedom. It seems likely that their views, in this respect, were not very well defined. They certainly represent man sometimes in the light of a victim to a destiny which he can neither foresee nor overcome, - and this is a source of unmitigated terror. But yet, as conscious freedom is inborn in the human soul, we cannot easily represent to ourselves a human will wholly fettered by an all-controlling destiny. The (Edipus Tyrannus is the most thorough display of the power of fate within the whole circle of ancient tragedy. But if we look at the drama from a point of view from which it may very properly be considered, we shall see a striking parallel of action between the doings of freewill, and the train of events laid by inexorable fate. The doom of the principal personages in it, is twice foretold. Laius is warned that he is to die by the hand of his own son, and so is left free to choose whatever mode he will of escape. Edipus is forewarned that he will slay his father and marry his mother; his horror at the thought of such crimes, leads him to take what he supposes the shortest way of preventing their fulfilment. And yet the father and son, while acting out their own freewill, bring about the very catastrophe, they were both doing their best to escape. Laius exposes Edipus to death ; the infant is saved, and grows to manhood, ignorant of his parentage. When the oracle reveals to Edipus the horrible destiny that awaits him, he turns bis hasty footsteps from Corinth, meets his father, and the issue of that meeting is bis father's death. Journeying on, he comes to Thebes, saves the city from destruction, and marries the widowed queen, bis own mother. While he is king, a pestilence sweeps over the Theban people, because the blood of Laius is yet unavenged. The decrees which he proclaims, and the imprecations which he utters against the murderer, fall at last with desolating power upon his own head. Thus we are made to feel the terrors' of an inscrutable destiny, which no human effort can change; but at the same time we see that the tremendous catastrophe is wrought out by a series of actions flowing from the spontaneous agency of free human will.

These preliminary considerations are necessary to a just view of Antigone; a play in which several important points of ancient feeling and character are beautifully illustrated. In the Edipus at Colonos, the involuntary parricide has expiated his crimes, if crimes they may be called, by a solemn and mysterious death. But the evil destiny of the house of Labdacus, still clings to his unhappy offspring. The two sons agree to reigni alternate years, but discord springs up, and the occupant of the throne refuses to yield to the just claims of his brother. His brother flies to Argos, and marches thence upon Thebes with a warlike host of allies. The invading army is defeated, and the two brothers are slain by each other's hands. At this point in the evil destinies of the house of Labdacus, the action of the Antigone commences; but before we proceed to consider it, we venture to quote a striking passage from one of the choral songs, in allusion to the wiseries of that ill-fated'

race.

Happy, whose life is free from taste of ill ;
For when a house is whelm'd by heavenly wrath,
Wo never fails, but steals from age to age,
As when the billow urged by Thracian blasts,
And roll'd above the sea-swept erebus,
Heaves up the dark, and tempest-driven sand
From the abysses underneath the sea,
And the lash'd shores re-echo with the sound,
The olden woes of Labdacus I see,
Falling anew on his devoted house ;
Nor his doom'd race, their fatal birth can flee;

God smites them down, and they shall rise no more." The ground-ivork of the Antigone, may be explained in a' few words. After the defeat of the Argive host and the mutual slaughter of the brothers, Creon, king of Thebes, honors the body of Eteocles with funeral rites, but forbids, under penalty of death, the burial of Polynices, the leader of the invading army. Antigone, their heroic sister, and the betrothed bride of Creon's son, resolves to brave the tyrant's power, by bestowing funeral honors on her fallen brother. She tries to persuade Ismene to join her in this pious duty,

but being unable to overcome her timid sister's fears, sternly braces her spirit to the solitary task. She fulfils her

purpose, and is at last discovered. She boldly acknowledges the deed, and offers a noble justification, but is condemned to be buried alive. Hæmon, her betrothed husband, endeavors earnestly, but in vain, to soften his father's cruel temper, and kills himself in despair before the lifeless body of Antigone. Creon now feels the bitter consequences of following his own lawless will, and trampling under foot the laws of heaven. His haughty spirit is stricken to the earth, under the heaviest blows of domestic calamity. This is an important part of the moral.

To feel the whole force of the motives under which Antigone acted, we must bear in mind that the ancients regarded the loss of funeral honors, as the last and heaviest of misfortunes, and to perform the rites of burial with just solemnities, was the most sacred duty the living owed to the dead. The spirit of the unhappy man, whose body lay deprived of sepulture, went down unhonored to the shades, and was doomed to wander restless and moaning, until some pitying hand scattered over the corpse the burial dust, and poured the sanctifying libation. Hence the tyrant chose this punishment as the most forcible expression of his anger, and the most fearsul form of vengeance. Hence it became an imperious dictate of natural law with Antigone, to bury her brother. The struggle then lay between the fear of offending against the will of heaven, and the principles of everlasting duty, and the obligation to obey the edicts of human power. The end and moral of the whole matter, is the triumph of virtue over human weakness, and of strong principle over the crushing weight of despotic will.

The character of Antigone is one of the noblest conceptions of antiquity. In the delineation of it, the poet shows an exalted view of the relations of domestic life, and a profound knowledge of the human heart. As a daughter, she appears in a beautiful light, through all the tragic scenes of the Edipus, at Colonos; wandering with her blind and gray-haired father, and bearing without a murmur, the utmost ills of exile and want. With the same elements of a tender, firm, and lofty character, she appears again, in the poem which bears her name, under other strongly agitating influences, but still true to the integrity of her nature. She has a duty to perform, in obedience to the voice of conscience, and she follows it out, with an unfaltering purpose, to its terrible consequences. She

49

VOL. XLII.

No. 91.

dying song

blends the softest affections of the woman, with sacred principles and unshaken honor. She is the betrothed bride of Hæmon, loving and beloved ; but while a binding duty is unperformed, she allows no softer sentiment to gain the mastery over her soul. By the strength of inborn virtue, she holds in abeyance the mightiest feelings of the heart, until the struggle is over, and her doom is sealed. But then the tenderness of her nature, which had before shone out in partial glimpses, sweeps over her spirit like a tide of many waters. The vision of lost happiness, — of wedded and maternal love, now never to be enjoyed, - passes before her, and forms a beautiful contrast to her former lofty bearing, in the sweetest strains of her last

The poet allows the sentiment of love to enter into and give a coloring to the character, but with consummate taste, keeps it subordinate to the high moral purpose she is destined to accomplish ; yet when that purpose is accomplished, the strong feelings of the heart resume their sway, and in the last moments of life, temper down the stern sublimity of her character to all the softness of a woman's nature. The exquisite propriety of this change of tone, is one of the happiest strokes of the art of Sophocles.

The following scene is almost literally translated. Antigone is brought before Creon, having been discovered, while performing funeral rites over her brother's body.

Creon. Thce, thee, of earthward bending look, I ask; Dost thou confess, or dost deny the deed ?

Antigone. I do confess it; I deny it not.

Creon. Thou mayest betake thyself where'er thou wilt, *
Free from all peril of this heavy charge.
But thout — tell briefly, nor with many words,
If thou didst know it had been heralded,
That none should bury Polynices's scorse.

Antigone. I knew,- how not ? — for 't was proclaim'd to all.
Creon. How didst thou dare then to trangress the law ?

Antigone. It was not Jove that utter'd this decree,
Nor Justice, dwelling with the gods below,
Who did ordain these burial rites for man.
Nor did I think thy will possess'd such power,
That thou, a mortal, couldst o’errule the laws,
Unwritten and immovable, of God.

* To the guard.

+ To Antigone.

For they are not of now or yesterday,
But ever live, and none knows their beginning;
Nor would I, through the fear of human pride,
For breaking them, be punish'd by the gods.
For I knew well that I must die ; how not?
Without thy loud proclaim; and if before
My time I die, - I think it gain to die;
For how can one, whose life is circled round
With woes like mine, not think it gain to die?
A doom like this stirs up no grief in me;
But had I left my mother's child to lie
Unhonor'd and unburied on the plain,
Aye, that were grief; — I feel no grief for this.
And if so doing, I am thought a fool,
He is the fool, who dares to think me so."

The other characters in Antigone are drawn with much more care and completeness than those of the Alcestis. Ismene is a distinct, individual personage, with some traits of exquisite beauty. She is weak and irresolute at the moment of trial; but when the action is over, and her sister is going to her doom, she boldly determines to share her fate. Creon, the tyrant, is vigorously drawn and represents in a strong light, the effects of despotic power, and self-willed temper on the character of man.

We conclude this notice, by again expressing our satisfaction at the appearance of these works. They are not only bonorable to the taste and talent of Mr. Woolsey, but will bring reputation to the classical scholarship of our country. Among all the books of this kind, prepared either at home or in England, for students and private readers, we are not acquainted with any, which are equal to these in variety of merit. Trollope's Pentalogia, does not bear the slightest comparison with them, in copiousness, elegance, or value of the commentary. The series of Tragedies for schools and colleges, published by Valpy, and edited by Major and Brasse, are useful books on the whole ; but the notes are mostly dry verbal discussions, often showing a curiosa felicitas in misunderstanding the poetical spirit of the passages attempted to be illustrated. We are glad to learn that Professor Woolsey is at work on two more tragedies, the Prometheus Bound and the Electra. When these shall have been published, the lovers of classical literature will be provided with a series of the master-pieces of the

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