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Portioned with many years, who night and day
Prays to the gods to bring thee home alive;
And have compassion on thy boy, O prince! -
Think, should he live, poor child, forlorn of thee,
By unkind guardians of kind care deprived,
What wrong thy death will do to him and me:
Nothing have I to look to any more,

When thou art gone. Thy spear laid waste my home;

My mother too and father, Fate withal

Brought low, in the dark house of death to dwell.

What home then shall I find instead of thee

What wealth? My life hangs utterly on thee.

The Philoctetes' is the last of our series, till some fortunate chance, in Egypt or elsewhere, restores to us another of these masterpieces. We know it to have been composed very late in the poet's life, perhaps the very last of his works; and yet, though it shows everywhere the influence of his great rival Euripides, in this remarkable play there is no evidence of any decadence, of any weakening of Sophocles's genius, though some critics pretend to see it. The habit of asserting subjective opinions upon such points is so universal in Germany that it is necessary to cite examples of their worth. Some trivial fact is generally at the basis of these theories; because the 'Philoctetes' is now accepted as late, the Edipus at Colonus,' long criticized as the dying song of the old man, is now attributed to a far earlier period, and is called the product of the poet's strongest maturity. It was formerly the last sweet echo of his waning powers.

At all events, the 'Philoctetes' is a very remarkable and distinctive specimen of the work of Sophocles. It is essentially a character play, in which the action of the gods only comes in to thwart and spoil a plot made great by human suffering and human constancy; and yet though a character play, it is the solitary example we have, among the extant remains of the poet, in which there is no woman brought on the stage. Ingenious people may here find, if they like, a mute antagonism to, a recoil from, the habit of Euripides, who never draws a great man, but sets all the sympathies of the audience upon the grandeur of his heroines. In the play now before us, the principal character is ennobled partly by his long and miserable suffering, partly by his strong will and determination that he will in no way yield to his enemies, or help them in their designs.

He had been abandoned at Lemnos by the sons of Atreus and by Ulysses, on their way to Troy, because of his loathsome wound and his constant and wearisome lamentations. Now they find through an oracle that after ten years' war and waste of life, the city cannot be

taken unless the wounded hero of his own accord accompanies them, bringing with him the famous bow and arrow of Heracles, which he possesses. The plots of Ulysses to obtain this result, and their repeated failure, till Heracles actually descends from heaven and commands Philoctetes to change his resolve.- these are moments of the play. The appearance of Heracles as a deus ex machina is however a mere appendix, thrown in to satisfy the requirements of the popular legend which held that the hero did go to Troy, and so cause the oracles to be positively accomplished.

Ulysses, the principal agent, though not the chief actor in the play, sets in motion those subtle plots which to the Greek were perfectly lawful and even admirable, while to us they savor of meanness and fraud. He suborns the young and gallant Neoptolemus to land at the island, and pretend that he too had been summoned to Troy and then insulted by the leaders of the host; that he is therefore on his way home in anger and disgust. This leads to sympathetic discourse with Philoctetes, who entreats Neoptolemus to bring him home, and intrusts him with the precious bow and arrows when seized with one of his paroxysms which ends in a deep sleep. The chorus of sailors, who as usual represent the mean side of Greek character, propose that now Neoptolemus should decamp with the bow and arrows. The fact that the hero's own presence and consent were necessary is kept in the background; and the first difficulty arises from the loyal nature of Neoptolemus, who has misgivings from the beginning, and has been persuaded too easily to adopt the crooked policy of Ulysses, but who will not now desert his suffering friend, and who will not take him on board by fraud. So when he discloses his real intentions to Philoctetes, he meets with a storm of protest, of adjuration and appeal from the outcast hero, but not a sign of submission. Ulysses, who comes in, threatens force; he proposes to carry off the bow and leave the wretched man helpless and defenseless on the island; he makes all preparations for departure: when Neoptolemus tries the only remaining argument. He returns conscience-smitten with the bow and arrows and restores them to their owner, in spite of the anxious protest of Ulysses, who knows that his own life now hangs upon a thread. But Neoptolemus holds. the hand that would draw the bow and slay his enemy, and appeals on the ground of friendship and of generosity to Philoctetes now to yield and return with him as ally to Troy. But here he meets with an equally stubborn resistance; and, vanquished by the vanquished man, he has submitted, and is going to bring Philoctetes to his home at Trachis, when the divine command of Heracles prevents this violation of the current story, and the conflict is ended by the submission of Philoctetes.

Such is the skeleton of the drama; but this skeleton is enriched by the accessories which a true poet adds to his argument. The picturesque features of the lonely island, the voice of nature which threatened and which solaced the lonely man, the birds and beasts that were his companions and his prey,- these are ever present to the hero in his lamentations and his prayers. No doubt the poet knew well this island, which was, like Imbros, a peculiar property of the Athenians for a great part of its history. It lies not far from the Trojan coast, surrounded by splendid historic lands: the giant Samothrace, the still more gigantic Athos, from whose peak I have looked upon Lemnos and thought of the many legends that cluster about that rugged island. And now, after long centuries of cultivation, centuries of piracy and of misgovernment have reduced it again to the very condition described by Sophocles: lonely uplands, windy hills, waste and thicket replacing the labors of men.

It is remarkable that the rival plays on the subject those of Eschylus and Euripides - did not make the island an absolute wilderness. The chorus, instead of representing the sailors who came with Neoptolemus, as it is in Sophocles's play, did visit him; and one of them, Actor, appeared as his friend. These facts we owe to an interesting little oration of Dio Chrysostom, who compares the three plays then extant and known to him.

But I will not extend this commentary unduly. Those who desire to appreciate Sophocles must not attempt to do so at second hand, through this essay or through any modern translation; they must learn Greek, and read him in the original: for no version in any European language can give any notion of the strength, the grace, the suppleness of his dialogue. Not that he was absolutely without faults in style. He himself, in a curious sentence reported by Plutarch, says that he had three styles: first, the grand eloquence of Eschylus, which he had shaken off early; then the harsh and artificial style of his next epoch,- features well known to us in contemporary writers, such as Thucydides; lastly he had adopted the style which was best for painting character, and therefore the fittest for his purpose. We can still trace some of the harshness of which he speaks in the earlier extant plays. The opening speech in the 'Antigone,' for example, is contorted and difficult in style, and is by no means exceptional in this quality. Some of the choral odes seem to us to use constructions which we can hardly call Greek; and if it be urged that in these cases corruption of the text has altered the poet's words, it must have been a very early corruption, and such is not likely unless the original was really obscure. We know also from the great number of strange words cited from his lost plays by early grammarians that his vocabulary must have been not easy and

natural, like that of Euripides, but artificial and recondite. This love of erudite words seems to have been as strong in Sophocles as it was in Shakespeare.

But if he was licentious in his vocabulary and sometimes daring in his syntax, no great poet was ever more conservative in his art. It is to us an ever-recurring source of wonder, how a great poet, born in a particular generation, writing for a special public, hampered by all the conventionalities of his age, nevertheless not only rises above all these transitory circumstances and seizes the great and permanent features of human nature, but even frequently turns his shackles into a new source of beauty. Some of the greatest felicities in poetry have been the direct result of the curbs of metre or of rhyme. Nothing has more evidently determined the beauties of Greek or mediæval sculpture than its position as the handmaid of architecture. There are many more such instances, but none more signal than that supplied by the work of Sophocles.

Nothing can be imagined more artificial than the Greek stage, nothing upon that stage more artificial than tragedy as determined by his predecessors. The subjects to be treated were limited to the Greek legends; legends familiar to the audience, and not admitting of any great liberties in treatment. The actors were padded out and masked, so that all delicate acting was impossible, and slow declamation was the law of the stage. The importance of the chorus and its traditional primacy in the earliest plays determined the musical character of Greek tragedy; which may best be compared to a modern oratorio, acted on the stage. Thus the poet must not only write dramatic verse, he must be a lyric poet; nay more, we are told that he must compose the music for his odes. Even these set pieces, like our musical interludes, were not enough for the requirements of the drama: there were lyrical monodies, or dialogues between the actor and the chorus, which required in the actor in early days the poet himself - proficiency in singing. It was in fact the "music-drama » of Wagner, out-Wagnered. All these conditions were satisfied by Sophocles in his day. But what marks his world-position is this: though the music is lost; though the stage as he knew it is gone forever; though nothing remains to us but the text, in metres which had their musical accompaniments and which do not speak easily to modern ears,- still these plays, stripped of all the accessories which made them splendid in their day of performance, transcribed with ignorance and defaced by time, the widowed and forlorn remnant of a bygone age and an extinct society, move every modern heart; stimulate every modern poet; stand forth in their imperishable majesty, like the ruined Parthenon, unapproachable in their essential perfection.

What an age was this, when the builders of the Parthenon and the authors of tragedy met and discussed the principles of their art! The lofty Pericles was there, the genial Herodotus, the brilliant Aristophanes, the homely Socrates, all contributing to form an atmosphere in which no poor or unreal art could last for a day. But artificial they all were, except Socrates; though the artifice was only the vehicle for great ideas, for the deepest nature, for the loftiest ideals. Hence the changes of custom, and even of traditions, have not marred the eternal greatness of Sophocles's tragedies. Sufferers such as Ajax, Philoctetes, dipus, will ever command the deepest human pity; martyrs such as Antigone, the purest admiration. To paraphrase the words of Aristotle, Sophocles purifies the affections of pity and awe in the hearts of his audience by representing to them ideal men and women suffering huge misfortunes; broken it may be on the wheel of fortune, but not vanquished, because their heroic will is invincible.

This is the great moral lesson which the poet has taught the world; and it constitutes his first and greatest claim to rank among the stars of the first magnitude in the literature of nations. In theology he was a conservative; he did not venture, like Euripides, to quarrel with the current myths and to question the morality of the current creeds. But even as every sound modern moralist holds that in this world, the ideal of life and conduct is far higher than the average specimens we meet in ordinary society, so Sophocles was convinced that there was a Divine morality, a Divine justice, far higher and purer than the lives and characters of the several gods as represented in Homer and the Epic Cycle. While therefore he does not alter the hard features of the Greek gods, or justify their jealousy and vindictiveness, he frequently asserts a very different and a far higher government of the world.

Such being the highest feature in the poet's philosophy, we may place next to it his admirable knowledge and portraiture of human character. The gallery of his heroes and heroines is like the gallery of a great painter's works, which gives us impressive and imperishable types. He takes but little care about his villains: his tyrants were not drawn from life, and his only erring queen - Clytemnestra -is not very interesting when we compare her to the Clytemnestra of Eschylus. But his heroines are as great as those of Euripides; his heroes are far greater; and his whole stage is more human than that of Eschylus.

Apart from the matter is the style; and in artistic work the style or form is of equal if not of greater importance. It is through style that any writer or age of writers becomes a model, or an ideal, for succeeding generations to pursue. But as I am debarred in this

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