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We believe it is generally acknowledged that military men make, for the most part, but indifferent poets. There is too little sentiment, and too much matter of fact, in the use of the sword and the musket, to induce a half-pay captain to exchange his jack-boots for the cothurnus, or a field-marshall to turn sonnetteer. In short, Mars and Apollo, though both very respectable gentlemen in their way, are shrewdly suspected of entertaining nothing less than a very marked and decided aversion to each other. You may peer through your best telescope for a month together into the sky, before you see them walking arm in arm, or playing at skittles, or smoking a friendly cigar in each other's company. It must be this animosity of the heavenly powers, pervading and influencing the minds of earthlings, which places poetry much in the same relation to gunpowder that fire bears to water. Sure soldiers would scribble like the rest of the world, if they could! One can hardly believe that men should fear critics when so accustomed to reviews, or dread being cut up when their own profession is to cut down. Yet it is certain that they very rarely do scribble. Their writing is done with a steel pen and red ink: all the impression they make is external. Moreover, they have too strong an antipathy to the pure element, to drink more than a very few sips of the Castalian spring; and too great practice in horsemanship, to feel either pleasure or novelty in soaring on the back of Pegasus. Most of them, indeed, like mounting a step or two,—but that is only in the army, and not up the side of Parnassus. And though several ensigns in love have been known to write verses with a very fair approximation to metre, and tolerably intelligible in some parts; yet, generally speaking, a poetical soldier is about as seldom seen as a musical sailor, or a literary dust
But Æschylus—the warrior-poet Æschylus, is a signal exception to our rule.
He certainly did write some sublime poetry; but he as certainly wrote no small quantity of unintelligible, bombastic, unmeaning, unmitigated trash ! Alas, that valuable lives should be sacrificed in the truly vain task of restoring such a corrupt medley of mysteries as an Æschylean chorus! If Æschylus had not been a military man, which, we maintain, sufficiently accounts for his poetical delinquencies, we should certainly have taken him for an opium-eater. We have often wondered how such a sensible man as Parson Adams could have found so much entertainment in perusing his manuscript of Æschylus for months and years together: yet there are higher dignitaries of the church than country curates, who have found both entertainment and advantage in the same pursuit: for it is not too much to assert, that Æschylus has raised two of his worshippers to the episcopal bench,—some will perhaps say by corrupt influence.
Much of Æschylus' most worthless trash is made to sound respectable, or at least bearable, by dressing it up in finer language than the original at all deserves. Take the following specimen, which is not a
chorus ; and let the reader of Æschylus learn how to translate his author in future from our faithful version. We protest we give no parody, but a literal translation, with a spice of the burlesque to render it palatable.
ORESTES. O father, who most vulgarly wast burked,
Grant to my prayer possession of thy house ! ELECTRA. And I, papa, would add this one request
To fly when I have punched Egisthus' head!
And savoury cutlets will be fried for you,
don't, the deuce a bit you'll get ! ELECTRA. And when I'm married, dear papa, I'll bring
Such charming mugs of swig from out the house
To pour upon your honoured sepulchre.
feel sore at these reproaches, now? ELECTRA. Don't you pop up your dear old head once more? ORESTES. Either send justice to assist your friends,
Or make them catch it well that murdered you
If, conquered, you would crow o'er them again!
This brace of chickens squatting on your tomb;
will be rash,
To ask how mother came to send this swig,
Conceive what means this most absurd concern :
So people say :--but tell us, there's a dear.
I ought to know a thing or two about it!
And made her send these funeral offerings.
And we for missus lit again the glims,
He'd drink forgiveness to his murderess. Surely to pronounce this poetry, must argue a perverted judgment indeed! Dark - minded hero of Marathon! Man of ghosts, and dreams, and murders, and tortures, and horrors ! Why thus combine the ludicrous with the disgusting, the unintelligible with the nonsensical, and harass us poor unhappy Grecules with so much of what (if you had your deserts) would be unanimously condemned as “Bosh."
Or all the thoughts that pass the soul,
A weary lot is mine;
But one small part is thine.
But I do think on thee :
Not one kind thought on me.
As mine long since has flown;
Such hopeless love alone.
When lovers sing of bleeding hearts,
If ever at a window nigh
While thus your words your deeds belie,
THE EMIGRANT'S FAREWELL.
When I go to the land of the stranger,
And leave the green hills of my home,
Or heed where the alien may roam ?
With tears to my memory given;
But who gives my welcome at even ? Then why flee my country?_The dwelling
Where a fever'd hand clasps her damp brow, In lone desolation is telling
The cause of my wandering now.
While I am afar on the sea :
The wind sighs in answer to me.
And denies even bread on her shore ; 'Tis this lights the hectic that burns me,
This harrows my heart to its core. Farewell ! for the night breeze is swelling
Our sails, as thou sink'st in the wave, O my Country! no longer a dwelling,
Except for the tyrant and slave.