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garnishing of buffoonery mixed up with them, made the treat be exquisitely relished by every class of Athenians: The plan of the Knights is even more straight-forward and unailored! than that of the Acharnians; but it is a play of a much higher order in every other point. - The professed chjeci,' says Mr Mitchell, “ of this singular composition is the overthrow of that powerful demagogue, whom the author had professed in his Acharnians (Act II.) that it was his intention at some future day" to cut into shoe-leather ;” and his assistants on the occasion are the very persons, for whose service the exploit was to take place,-the rich proprietors, who among the Athenians constituted the class of Horsemen or Knights. For this purpose Athens. is here represented as a house : Demus (a personification of the whole Athenian people) is the master of it; Nicias and Demosthenes (the General not the Ora. tor), names too familiar to the reader of history to need explanation, are his slaves; and Cleon is his confidential servant and slave-driver. The levelling disposition of the Athenians could not have been presented with a more agreeable picture. If the dramatis persona are few, the plot of the piece is still more meagre; it consists merely of a series of humiliating pictures of Cleon, and a succession of proofs to Demus, that this favourite servant is wholly unworthy of the trust and confidence reposed in him. The manners are strictly confined to Athens, and might almost be thought to belong to a people who imagined with the Indian, that his own little valley comprehended the whole world ; and that the sun rose on one side of it, only to set again on the other.'
Mr Mitchell justly ascribes great value to this comedy as ' an historical document, giving a strong, full, and faithful pic
ture of the most singular people that ever existed.' Yet we cannot but observe that he dwells, both in his argument and notes, with too much satisfaction upon the darker shades of the portrait. He seems to lose all sight of moderation, and absolutely run riot in his unsparing abuse of republicanism and popular orators. We would just beg leave to accompany him in his triumph, like the slave of the Roman chariot, and whisper in his ear • THOU also art a man ;—with all your national par• tiality you must confess that Demus and your own John Bull
have somewhat more than an exterior resemblance.' Demus indeed has no wife to read him lectures on the indispensable
duty of cuckoldom,' but he has the knavish servant, the false ally, the traitorous friend, and all the wantonness of humour, wildness of caprice, and depth of gullibility, that distinguish the famous representative of the English national character. We cannot be supposed to entertain much affection for a people who could suffer Miltiades to die in prison, and Themistoclos in exile; but aversion may be pushed to the limits of injustice. How are we to expect any candour from a writer who begins his work by making the Cato-street Conspiracy * a grave, and doubtless in his opinion a powerful, argument, for taking that exclusive view of politics which he at the same time acknowledges should be carefully avoided : + who eulogizes Dante for his very doubtful equity, to say no worse of it, in condemning Brutus and Cassius, with Judas Iscariot betwixt them, to a place which Julius Cæsar or Augustus had a much better claim to occupy: † and who can express his cordial concurrence with that most violent and groundless dogma of Xenophon, that • any one, not immediately in the rank of the people, who pre« fers living in a democratical rather than in an oligarchical • government, must be a villain by anticipation, and acts upon • the consciousness, that it is easier to be a bad man and to o escape detection in a state where the government is in the • hands of the many, than it is in a state where the govern• ment is in the hands of the few?' || What will Mr Mitchell say to Montaigne, whose honest opinion that a man ought to o be contented with that form of government, and those funda• mental constitutions of it, which he received from his ances«tors, and under which himself was born,' gives him a right to be heard on this question,--and who nevertheless freely confesses, that if he could have chosen his place of birth, it should have been under the republic of Venice,--a government approaching much nearer to the democracy of Athens, than to the odious oligarchy, or monarchy, or whatever else we must term it, of Xenophon's favourite Lacedæmon? Mitford appears to be the great master of political wisdom, whom Mr Mitchell has chosen to follow: and our readers must be pretty generally aware of what respect is due to the prejudices of an historian who makes heroes of the cold-blooded Darius, the cruel Xerxes, and almost of the frantic Cambyses, while he can bestow an elaborate frigidity upon his account of Marathon, and toil to deepen every stain upon the patriotic virtues of Demosthenes. We say this without meaning in the least to detract from the praises he deserves for the great care and attention he has employce in the compilation of his history; but the student will be bitterly disappointed who expects to find it rich either in impartial views or liberal opinions.
* Preface, p. xii.
† Ibid. I The great Devil's mouth, as Dryden calls it ; see the Inferno, Canto XXXIV. and Mitchell's Preface, p. xii.
| Mr Mitchell seems so fond of this sentiment that he quotes it twice ; see his Prelim. Discourse, p. cxliii. and Translation, p. 293,
Without, however, being hurried away in our feelings by any glosses or remarks of commentator or translator, we must consider the Knights an everlasting monument of the power, patriotism, and skill of Aristophanes. • Cleon appears to have been in his imagination as the centre of a circle, into which all that society exhibits of the mean and the ridiculous, all that folly contains of the weak and the imbecile, and all that vice displays of the odia ous and disgusting, was, as a matter of course, to be drawn. * That good humour, which, in spite of the opposite opinion generally entertained of him, formed, I think, a conspicuous part of the character of Aristophanes, displays itself here but rarely :-he had set his all upon a cast, and the danger he was running evidently sits heavy upon his mind. His Chorus, who are generally to his plays what the female faces have been observed to be to the pieces of Hogarth, a means of keeping the acrimonious feelings within the limits of legitimately pleasureable sensation, here assume a ferocity of character--the poet has written their parts with gall, and armed their hands with a dagger. The German critics, whose feelings are as correct as their learning is profound, have observed the difference between the Knights of Aristophanes and his other plays. It is a struggle for life and death, says Wieland : it is a true dramatic philippic, says Schlegel.'
In attacking Cleon so continually upon the point where he secmed least assailable, viz, the affair at Pylus, the poet has shown that deep knowledge of the people collectively, which forms the most considerable feature in his literary character.' . It was politic to nauseate the audience with a continual recitation of the only event upon which any real notion of his capacity could be grounded. The peasant who signed the vote for the banishment of Aristeides, had no other reason for it but that he was tired of hearing him continually styled the Just.' .
Mr Mitchell has risen with his author. The translation of the Knights is much superior to that of the other play. Even the Iambic dialogue, though still generally heavy, is very brisk in one or two passages. We shall give a specimen or two. The following is from Scene I. in which Nicias and Demosthenes, habited as slaves, are debating on some means of overreaching Cleon. Demosthenes calls for a flask of wine to stimulate his ingenuity : Nic. • A flask! thy soul is ever in thy cups :
What thoughts can habit in a toper's brain ?
* This is representing the character of Cleon in this play as too ideal, too generic. The fact is, that Cleon seems actually to have combined in himself, all the detestable qualities enumerated in the
Dem. Harkye, thou trifling, bubbling water-drinker,
Who darest speak treason thus against good liquor!
Upon a trim device.
I'll lay me down,-let but the generous fumes
Such trim devices!'The next, from the last scene of the play, gives a spirited sketch of the young political coxcombs of Athens.—Demus is recounting to Agoracritus the Sausage-seller, who has succeeded to his favour in the place of the degraded Cleon, his projected reformations in the state: Dem. “ I'll have no speeches in the Agora
From those whose chins have not yet budded.
Look out another school of oratory.
For ever haunting the perfumer's shops,
And-stap my vitals-lay them in a moment.'.
phrase maker Hath ta'en thy very senses-split my wind-pipe !' We must return to the first Act to give the scene between the Knights or Chorus, the Sausage-seller, who is to contend against Cleon for the mastery in impudence, and Cleon himself. Mr Mitchell has translated it with amazing fire and vi
gour. Nothing can be better than the burst of double trochaics, in which the Knights commence their attack : *
CHORUS. • Stripes and torment, whips and scourges, for the toll-collecting
knave! Knighthood wounded, troops confounded, chastisement and ven
geance crave. Taxes sinking, tributes shrinking, mark his appetite for plunder; At his craw and rav'ning maw dykes and whirlpools fail for wonder ! Explanation and evasion—covert art and close deceitFraudful funning, force and cunning, who with him in these com
pete ? He can cheat and eke repeat twenty times his felon feat, All before yon blessed sun has quench'd his lamp of glowing heat. Then to him— pursue him-strike, shiver, and hew him ; Confound him and pound him, and storm all around him'--&c.
Cleon trembles at so furious an assault, and calls for aid upon his favourites and abettors, the dicasts of the courts, under a curious combination of characters. It is a combination which we had not expected to see imitated by any assembly of the present day: but as Claudio says, " Oh! what men dare do! what men may • do! what men daily do! not knowing what they do!'t
Cl. • Judges, jurymen, and pleaders, you whose soul is in your fee; You that in a three-piec'd obol, father, mother, brother see ; You, whose food I'm still providing, straining voice through right and
wrongMark and see-Conspiracy drives and buffets me along!
Chor. 'Tis with reason—'tis in season—'tis as you yourself have done: Thou fang, thou claw-thou gulph, thou maw! yielding partage fair
to none. Where's the officer at audit but has felt your cursed gripe? Squeez’dand tried with nice discernment, whether yet the wretch be ripe. Like the men our figs who gather, you are skilful to discern, Which is green and which is ripe, and which is just upon the turn. Is there one well-purs'd among us, lamb-like in heart and life, Link'd and wedded to retirement, hating bus'ness, hating strife? Soon your greedy eye's upon him—when his mind is least at home, Room and place --- from farthest Thrace, at your bidding he must come. Foot and hand are straight upon him-neck and shoulder in your grip, To the ground anon he's thrown, and you smite him on the hip. Cl. (fawning.) Ill from you comes this irruption, you for whom
my cares provide, To reward old deeds of valour, stone and monumental pride.
* The want of some English metre similar to the trochaic and anapæstic metres in Greek, formed one great deficiency in all former translations of this poet. Mr M. has entirely supplied this defect.
f Much Ado about Nothing, Act iv. sc. 1.