[blocks in formation]

To the Editor of the Melange.

genius of their countrymen; and, as it

cannot be supposed, that a people, I send you the enclosed Essay, which, I hope, will be thought interesting to some

rude and uncultivated, shall be able to of your readers.

admire and appreciate the finer touches I am, &c. of poetical genius, will endeavour to


produce that gaiety and mirth, which

alone, they know, will be acceptable ON THE

to their audiences. The subjects, ANCIENT THEATRE.

likewise, upon which they exercise The history of Grecian and Roman their talents, will be such as are familiterature cannot but be interesting liar to their hearers; for, it is not to to every man of letters, when it is be expected, that the multitude, igconsidered, that from them have we norant as they must be, can feel the derived almost every thing of excel- force of their representations of scenes lence in the politer studies. To me, or objects, of which they know nohowever, the history of the dramatic thing. art bas always appeared to possess a Hence we find, that the first efforts double portion of the interest, which of the dramatic Muse, both in Greece is attached to all such inquiries ; when and Rome, consisted in comic

repreit is remembered, that to it, we are sentations of the prominent characters, indebted for the glory of our nation. and popular vices, which were pecu

When a nation is, just as it were, liarly characteristic of their age and emerging from barbarism, and the nation. But to a rude audience, sapeople, after having provided for their tire can have no charms, unless pointwants, a task formerly of great diffi- ed and personal—mere general deculty, find themselves at leisure for clamation must be dull and unmeaninstruction amusement, there ing. To promote, therefore, the will probably arise men, who will interest of the spectators, these ancient make it their profession to gratify dramatists resorted to the custom of their desires, and depend for their introducing, by name, any of the citiliving upon the pleasure of the mul- zens, whose characters were obnoxtitude. "To secure the necessary fa- ious, or ludicrous, that the hearers vour, these primitive artists will adapt might be able to see and feel the their ainusements to the character and force of their invective. Among the


elegant and polished states of Greece, s may be supposed, in the manner of this practice was grädaally abolished; those comic songs of our own country; and comedy rose to its true level, to every verse of which, are suband became a satire, without person- joined some ludierous remark in prose. ality, upon the prominent vices, and From this rude and artless state, unnatural characters of the world. the dramatic poetry was reseued and In Rome, however--a more rude and adorned by the genius of Eschylus, vigorous people--it was long before the first Grecian tragedian ; and the the nation of warriors had either ge- feeble and faint charms of the rustic nius or taste, to renounce their errors amusements were lost in the greater

- not till a poet, more polished than splendour which attended the introthe rest of his countrymen, introduc- duction of the finished and polished ed the improvements with which the invention of the regular drama. Its Greeks had elevated and adorned their author trusted not to satire or comic tragedy. -- The rude verses, however, representation for success in interest-which had 'amused their ancestors, ing and pleasing his audience ; but were not allowed by the Romans to struck into a new path, and terrified perish and be forgotten. But some or melted their hearts, with pictures of their earlier poets, following out of horror or of woe. He was suc the example of their predecessors, im- ceeded by Sophocles and Evripides, proved and fashioned them into re- who brought this art into the highest gular satire-a species of poetry al- state of perfection it ever attained ways amusing, and often useful. while cultivated by the ancients. The

Stage scenery was, in those early rules for regulating the conduct of the agest as barbarous as the poetry. It pieces were introduced and establish

is recorded, that one of the first Gre- ed, and these extended also to come. cian dramatists used a waggon, or dy. Architecture, likewise, was cal. cart, in place of a theatre ; and we led in to the aid and advancement of are informed, by a Roman poet, that, her sister art, and added to its charms, in the primitive times of his own by embellishing, with beautiful sculpcountry, the men of the common- ture, the theatres of Greece. wealth, placed upon seats of turf, and We have neither any intention, nor shaded with branches, gazed with indeed are we capable of tracing the delight upon the scenes before them. successive steps, by which the ancient Though this may be fiction, or the dramatic poetry arose to that height; mere heightenings of poetry, we are at which it stood in the days of its yet certain, that the theatres in early glory: we shall endeavour, however," ages were but temporary buildings, to point out a few of its peculiar charcomposed of wood, and easily destroy-acteristics. ed. The manner of acting was of the It has been a question of dispute, sáme primitive character. One, or at whether the ancient tragedies were least a very few actors appeared on the divided into acts: at least, whether scenes-their faces besmeared with that was not a comparatively late in wine lees, and calculated, in the words vention. This we pretend not to of another poet;" to frighten the rustic determine. It seems, however, to be child on the breast of its mother, and more certain, that these were not ada intermixed with the songs of a chorus, mitted into comedy till a late period. which stood by. The satirical effusions Be this as it may, it is evident that we have mentioned, something, it such divisions are entirely arbitrary.


[ocr errors]

We can conceive no reason, unless to duced into the theatre for the purpose is afford a little ease to the audience, of expressing the conteinptibleness s for introducing pauses of any length of the character: represented and, 's into a regularly continued action, such perhaps, for the lightness and grace s as Grecian and Roman plays peculiarly which it added to the dancers. The s were. The only effect which such a Cothurnus was a high heeled boot, :I proceeding can have, is by diverting by which the actors were often raised :v the attention, and interrupting the ac- to the height of half a foot or more in tion, to make the audience lose sight above their natural level; some says i of the connexiou, and consequently of for the purpose of representing the the interest of the plot. Notwith- gigantic size, to which tradition had 11 standing this, this division was con- elevated the first inhabitants of the sidered necessary by the ancients; world—but more probably, to prer' ) as Horace informs us, that a play serve some porportion between the it should neither have less nor more ihan height of the theatres and the actors, a five acts. Their critics have farther and prevent them from seeming to the noticed, that there ought to be four eye of the spectator, who was at & distinct stages in a play; and these, great distance from where they stood, indeed, seem to be founded in na- to be dwindled away into insignifiture ;st, where the characters are cance. The Persona, or mask, which introduced ; 2d, where the plot be had been substituted in the place of comes more busy, and begins to de- the painting of the ancient actors, velope ; 3d, where it comes to its was a covering for the face, with an height; and last, where the catastrophe opening at the mouth-where, if I. is disclosed.

mistake not, was sometimes, fixed a The particular manner in which piece of brass, to raise the voice of the actors were dressed, differed ac- the speaker, to a fuller and more. : cording to the country in which commanding tone, and enable him to the scene was laid. There were, extend it to the uttermost bounds of however, particular equipments, which their immense theatres. always formed part of the furniture

To be continued. ", i to'li, of the ancient theatres. These were the Tebiæe, the Cothurnus, and Soc- ČAPE OF GOOD HOPE. cuss the Persona and the Chorus.

Music, Slave Dances, fo-Concluded. I The Tebiæe, or pipes, are now little The numerous slaves, of various nations," capable of explanation. In general, at the Cape, are not behindhand in their it may be said, that they were used fondness for, and no less enthusiastic ad-, for the amusement of the audience, mirers of, music, It rouses all their ener during the discontinuance, or perhaps but they do not betray any of the genius

gies, and awakens the most lively passions, during the continuance, of the acting. of the Hottentot. Their songs are conOf// the rest, however, we possess fined to the compass of three or four notes, more means of forming a correct idea. which are eternally reiterated in a low The Cothurnus and Soccus were co- plaintive voice, that would scarcely pass verings, for the feet ; the latter, used for a musical effusion, and certainly not at first, only by women, and the more countenance and gesture put it beyond &

for an expression of gaiety, did not the effeminate of the other sex, was intro-1 doubt.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Eii? Ci 0.1

Art. Poet. 189.

As the pro

Their instruments are of the rudest con- is not known among them; probably a struction. A hollow piece of wood, with week of toil may have exhausted that two strings of catgut, or two thin bits of springiness. If these dances be, as is usual steel, not unlike a tuning-fork, which, with must savage nations, meant to display being struck with the finger, and put into or excite that sensibility which mutually a vibratory motion, emit a low twang, com- attaches the sexes, the choice of attitude pared with which the music of a hurd;- and gesture to convey this expression, is gurdy, or a Jew's harp, would be a per- certainly most singular. The amusement, fect Apollonicon. Yet, simple as these however, is continued with unremitting efforts are, and remote from the science ardour and profuse perspiration, without of an itinerant bagriper, upon these rude the aid of tea or small beer until sun-set, sons of nature they produce as powerful when a civil officer in attendance gives the emotions as the strains of a Linley or a signal for retiring, and the parties quietly Cramer, upon the more refined inliabitants disperse to their respective homes, of Europe. A week of unremitting toil, Without entering into the long-debated and the tyranny of an unfeeling master, question, how far the colony at large would are all forgot in the tumultuous delight of be benefited by the total abolition of sla. the Sunday-dance to these simple instru- very, I cannot say that the condition of the iments,

slaves at the Cape struck me as being peThis is the only indulgence and relaxa- culiarly miserable. It is as inuch the inţion which is permitted to the slave. It is, terest of the master to keep his slave in therefore, eagerly anticipated, and prose- good condition, as his horse. cuted with proportional ardour, when the perty is valuable, they invariably have the inoment of enjoyment arrives. After di- best medical attendance in sickness, and vine service, they assemble in a plain in such comforts as are necessary in that situthe suburbs of the town; the dance is be-ation. Though their toil is incessant, and gun to the instruments I have before de- their indulgences much fewer than those scribed, accompanied with a few notes of of a European labourer, they have not in the voice, at times rising into the wildest general the appearance of being overshirieks, and then subsiding into a low worked; for they are early inured to handquerulous sound, while the irregular beat- ship and spare-living. If they are sunk ing of a log of wood, hollowed and covered below the level of their fellow-creatures, at one end, with an undressed sheep's skin, we may perhaps argue, that they cannot be in imitation of a drum, adds to the noise, supposed sensible to the pain of degradaand increases at once the wildness and ani- tion, when they have never enjoyed a more mation of the scene. Men and women, elevated state; or to feel the want of liberty, young and old, join promiscuously in it; when they have not known, or ever aspired but there is no prescribed order, no arrange- to the character of free-men. ment of partners, or visible attention to the In fuct, only suppose the sensibilities of females ;-all seem engrossed by some his nature deadened, and the difference in powerful emotion, which at times breaks the condition of the slave and white labourer out into wild 'exclamation, but at other is hardly perceptible. The portion of both times imparts an air of profound abstrac- is a life of unremitting toil, servitude, an! ,tion.

dependance; and if we reflect, that the The general dance at times gives way, slave has no apprehension of want;-that whilst some individual steps forth, and he has no harrassing solicitude on the score performs a pas seul with abundance of of providing for his offspring ;-but is al. grimace, and action, interspersed with so- ways sure of a subsistence, which the other liloquy, the meaning of which it is impos equally toils for in the sweat of his bror, sible for a stranger to discover, but it is and oftentimes in torturing uncertainty, listened to with rapturous exclamation by the ballance will be still more equal. the rest of the party. This dancing is cer- This, however, is not admitting a right in tainly not an exhibition of grace and ele- any human being to fit his victim, by gance; it is not even a display of that vi- early and continued degradation, for weargour which the elasticity and buoyancy of ing his chains; a slight extension of such youth may produce. The spirit which ac- a privilege migh justify the Eastern despot tuated Goldsmith's pair,

in furnishing his seraglio with its mutilain - That simply sought renown,

attendants. In a moral point of view, the By holding out to tire cach other down,' the consequences of slavery are more striking. It is necessary that the slave should and continued intercourse with a class of be depressed in the scale of human beings beings so degraded and demoralized ?by ignorance; for knowledge would awaken Much of the laxity in morals, and that the energies of the soul, and tell them general tone of levity observable among the they are men ;' but that a large portion of upper orders of society, may be traced to our fellow-creatures, whose menial offices this source; and while slavery exists in its and occupations are precisely similar to present form and extent, it seems in vain those of our own countrymen, should be to hope for any thing like virtuous princidevoted to superstition, and debarred froin ple and morality amongst the lower orders al moral improvement, is a singular fea- of society. ture in the state of servitude. Why a Instances of criel treatment, are, I bepopulation of blacks are to be shut out lieve, rare, especially since the great infrom the light and advantage of Christi. crease of English in the colony. Ilowever, anity, detached from the common chain of it must be confessed, that a notion univerhuman beings*, -why they are not to know sally prevails, that slaves are not to be the social ties of kindred, to solace them- treated with hindness; and perhaps, a sayselves, like the other wretched ones of the ing, that is said to pass current in the French world, by the anticipation of future happi- West India islands, will serve withi tolerahess, is a mystery I cannot explain. If ble accuracy to express the general opinion slavery be incompatible with such things here, viz, in its present ameliorated state, it is indeed a bad cause.

Battre un negre, c'est le nourrir.' When the Spaniards first became ac- The politics of Europe are not a subject quainted with the natives of America, we of much interest, or a topic of frequent are told that they looked upon them as ani- discussion, amongst the inhabitants of the inals of an inferior order, and it was with Cape. The newspapers are irregular in difficulty that they could be persuaded that their arrivals ; indeed, they depend almost they belonged to the human species. It entirely upon the captuns of ships, for such required the authority of a Papal bull to as they may casually have provided themcounteract this opinion, and to convince | selves with, and appear to be well reconciled them that the Americans were capable of to the privation, The general listlessness the functions, and entitled to the privileges and inactivity of mind that prevails upon of humanity. Though that age of dark- all subjects unconnected with the shop, ness has passed away, one would imagine betrays itself in nothing more visibly than that this preposterousopinion still prevailed in this. in Southern Africa.

There is a miserable weekly gazette pubThis practice is contrary to the invaria- lished under the immediate superintendance ble rule observed in the Spanish, Portu- of the government, containing little else gese, and French colonies, by which every but mercantile advertisements, with, now master is compelled to procure religious and then, a few garbled extracts from the instruction for his slaves; and this seems London papers. to be according to the true spirit of Christi- The only printing press in the colony is anity. Indeed, the diffusion of Christian- that which furnishes forth this choice pubity lias unhappily been made a plea for this lication, and is the property of government. odious traffic.

It is of course a subject of complaint, that The slaves are by far the most numerous another press should be prohibited. That class of domestic servants at the Cape, and such prohibition does exist, or has ever the women are invariably used as the nurses been called for, I think extremely doubtful. and companions of the young children of Beyond the few individuals connected with the family. The influence of these per- the government, it would be difficult to sons upon the young mind is well under- find any one capable of editing a journal, stood, and occasions the strictest scrutiny and still less easy to find public spirit to into character in our own country.

"Tliere cannot surely be a then must be the pernicious effect of early doubt that the dissemination of useful in

What support one.

* A slave, as such, is not permitted to become a Christian at the Cape. Of this $"cred calling, his debased situation is supposed to render him unworthy, llence he can never marry.

« ElőzőTovább »