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be but little creditable to American philosophy. Some writers have thought it wonderful that a few thousand cubit feet of soft earth and loam should have been piled up by our Indians over their dead! We have not even an illustrated work, giving accurate descriptions of their utensils, arms and fabrics, ancient and modern. We look in vain for their collected oral traditions and fictitious creations. We do not understand their mythology, and consequently are in the dark as to the true sources of their hopes and fears. In fine, we have but an imperfect knowledge of all that relates to their leading mental and moral peculiarities and characteristics. Enough has been said, and written about the
, mere external man-his looks and dress—bis mode of living and his means of locomotion. But if we may be allowed the term, we know next to nothing of the philosophy of the Indian mind.
But we must not divert the purpose of our present notice into a new channel, albeit, we feel that the topic is one, so far as relates to their hieroglyphics, inseparable from the subject. It is impossible, that we should understandingly, or even willingly, admit the literary evidence brought forward at Copenhagen on this head, without first examining the hieroglyphics of our own tribes. Nor do we suppose from present impressions, that such an examination will militate against the general facts of these early discoveries of the country. The prominent points of doubt is with us, whethier either the Indians or the Scandinavians ever recorded any facts connected with these discoveries on the banks of the Cohannet, and whether the country, at that remote era, was inhabited by the Esquimaux or the Algic race. Other topics of deep interest are connected with these. The whole subject is one of the highest literary interest, and one to which, we think, the research and acumen of the country, both individual and associated, is strongly invited. We have merely introduced the topic, and may again advert to it.
PostSCRIPT. Since the foregoing Article was prepared, the writer has received the following Note from Mr. Gallatin, respecting the use of the letters V and L in the Eskimau language.
“Dear Sir,—The letter L occurs in every Eskimau dialect of which I have any knowledge. Thus, heaven or sky is : Greenland, Killak ; Hudson's Bay, Keiluk ; Kadik Island, Keliok; Kotzebue's Sound, Keilyak ; Asiatic Tshuktchi, Kuilak.
“ I am not so certain about the V, which I find used only by Egede or Crantz (not distinguished from each other in my collections) for the Greenland dialect. In their conjugations I find “ We (plural and dual) wash them," pron.
pron ermikp-a uvut and ermikp-a uvut. plural.
dual. In the Mithridates, the same letter V, is repeatedly used in examples of the Greenland and Labrador dialects, principally (as it appears to me) but not exclusively, in the pronominal terminations food debtors
a prophet-art thou ? piksau-tivnik,-akeetsor-tivut,-profetiv-vit?
“ By comparing these, with the pronouns of the other Eskimau dialects, I suspect that 00 or Ware, in these, used instead of V. But the difference may arise from that, [the difference) in the mother tongue, or in the delicacy of the ear, of those who have supplied us with either verbal and pronominal forms, or vocabularies.
ALBERT GALLATIN. New York, Feb. 22, 1839."
THE DRAMA OF ANCIENT GREECE. A BRIEF VIEW OF irs
History, STRUCTURE, REPRESENTATION, AND MORAL
By Rev. John Proudfit, lato Professor of the Latin Language and Literature, University of
the City of New York.
Poetry was the earliest form in which thought was embodied. In the infancy of the species as of the individual, the imagination predominated and clothed all the productions of the mind in those glowing images and that musical rhythm which constitute, at once, the essence and the form of poetry. History, philosophy, and even religion did not reject ihe dress with which the imagination invested them. The moral precepts of Pythagoras, the natural history of Empedocles were preserved in the form of poetry, and, among the Hebrews, the most sublime truths of religion, as well as the principal events of their national history, were preserved in the incomparable lyrics of
Moses and of David. The three principal classes of poetic diction, in which originated all the different species of poetry, are the epic, the lyric, and the dramatic-of which, the epic has been termed the poetry of narrative, the lyric, the poetry of song, and the dramatic, the poetry of action. " Each of these classes of poetry in its most complete form, became appropriated, among the Greeks, to particular tribes. The epic was formed and cultivated among the Ionics, the lyric, among the Dorics and Æolics, and lastly, the dramatic among the Attics. Hence, it arose, that each of these classes, in language, metre and adaptation to music and song, united the characters, and, more or less of the dialect of the tribe in which it was chiefly cultivated, to the peculiarities of its own nature.”
The most ancient of these forms is generally allowed to have been the epic, as narrative is one of the first and simplest efforts of the mind. In relation to Greek poetry it undoubtedly was the precursor and source of the rest ;—the lyric, having, in Greece, to a great extent, derived its poetical language and forms from the epic, and the dramatic being an amplification of the lyric. For the basis of the drama was the chorus, which was essentially lyric, and the scenes were superadded, as a means of varying the exhibitions, by Thespis, in the age of Solon.
In a universal history of poetry, however, the drama, might, we are inclined to think, claim the priority. The book of Job is probably the oldest preserved production of the human mind, and it evidently belongs to this class. Herder has styled it 'an epic representation of human nature;' but with all deference for so high an authority, we would rather entitle it, a dramatic representation of human nature. What essential feature of the drama does it not possess ? From the third chapter it is interlocutory to the conclusion. The introductory narration forms the prologue, and the concluding, the exode to the whole ;—while the striking correspondence between the “ beautiful elegies” (or as they might, with equal propriety, be termed, beautiful odes,) which occasionally relieve the dialogue, and the chorus of Greek tragedy, completes the resemblance. Take, for example, the following, which, had it formed one of the choral odes of a Greek tragedy, would have been applauded as an unrivalled specimen of tragic beauty : “Man that is born of a woman, is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh up as a flower, and is cut down, He fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not."
The book of Job, viewed as a drama, contains, it is true, but little action ;-quite as much, however, as the Prometheus Vinctus of Æschylus, during the whole episode of which the sufferer remains bound and motionless, while the visits of the Oceanides, Oceanus, lo and Mercury, form the only vicissitudes of the piece, the wbole dialogue of which consists of their respective consolations or reproaches with the replies of Prometheus. In fact, several of the best Greek tragedies contain but a single incident—and the art and power of those great masters is
principally displayed in substituting the vicissitude and progress of thought and passion for that of external incident.
The three varieties of dramatic composition among the ancient Greeks were tragedy, comedy, and satyrs. of these the earliest was comedy, though brought to its perfection at a later period than tragedy. In describing its origin, we shall, at the same time, describe the common origin of all the forms of the drama. The dramatic art “ took its birth in the bosom of tumultuous pleasures and the extravagancies of intoxication. In the festivals of Bacchus hymns were sung which were the offspring of the true or feigned ecstasies of a poetical delirium. These hymns while they described the fabulous conquests of Bacchus, gradually became imitative-and, in the contests of the Pythian games, the players on the Aute who entered into competition, were enjoined by an express law to represent successively the circumstances which preceded, accompanied and followed the victory of Apollo over Typhon.”* In this early
. stage of the art, Susarion, and shortly after, Thespis appeared'; the former enacting his rude and disconnected comedies on a kind of stage, the latter, making the first attempts at tragic representation on a cart
Dicitur et plaustris vexisse poëmata Thespis. Such was the basis of the drama. Its first materials were the wild effusions of the intoxicated votaries of Bacchus ;—and as it took its rise in connection with the festivals of Bacchus, it retained this connection throughout the subsequent ages of Grecian history. In this rude state, it was tolerated only in the country ; being excluded from the city, alike by the taste and the laws ;-to the former of which its rustic coarseness was offensive, while by the latter, its unbounded license was condemned as injurious to the public morals.
After a long infancy, this species of the drama presented itself in a new and highly improved form in Sicily. Instead of a succession of scenes, without connection or tendency, the philosopher Epicharmus introduced an action, all the parts of which had a dependence on each other, and conducted his subject, without wandering from it, through a just extent, to a determinate end. Comedy was soon after introduced to the Athenians, and was received by that lively and ingenious, but licentious people, “ with the same transports which they would have testified at the news of a victory." Though an exotic, its rapid development soon proved how congenial was the soil to which it had been transplanted, and that Attic genius and taste were alike requisite to execute and appreciate it in its highest perfection. It soon became an object of attention and competition to the poets of Athens, and some of them speedily attained a distinction in it which threw into the shade all previous attempts. Such were, among the more ancient, Magnes, Cratinus, Crates, Pherecrates, Eupolis and Aristophanes ; all of whom flourished in the age of Pericles.
But in its moral character and tendency, comedy never underwent any material improvement. Divested of its grossness, that it might adapt itself to the advanced and polished condition of Athenian society, it was rendered the more dangerous by this refinement. It soon became idolized by a population, equally distinguished by its vivacity and licentiousness ; and, attracting all classes to its representation, its corrupting influence was the more extensive and irresistible. The comic writers of Athens were regarded by all wise and good men as the pests of society. This remark, indeed, is not to be received without limitation. Sometimes, undoubtedly, the lash of satire was inflicted on the vices and follies of the time; on the insolent pride and vulgar ostentation of those who had suddenly risen to fortune and power. In a community like that of Athens, where all things were under the immediate and unchecked control of the capricious multitude, whose favors were much oftener won by popular arts and concessions than by real merit, yet whose vivacity rendered them willing to bear the keenest rebuke, provided it only excited their mirth while it exposed their follies, the political influence of comedy was doubtless wholesome and necessary. The comedians attacked the powerful demagogues of their day with astonishing intrepidity, and their wit and ridicule were often irresistible, where wisdom and eloquence would