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Lay hush'd, broke out in clamorous ecstasies ;
Yet, in that moment, while the uplifted cups
Foam'd with the choicest product of the sun,
And welcome thundered from a thousand throats,
My doom was seal'd. From the hearth’s vacant space,
In the dark chamber where my mother lay,
Faint with the sense of pain-bought happiness,
Came forth, in heart-appalling tone, these words,
Of me, the nursling_Wo unto the babe !
Against the life which now begins shall life
Lighted from thence be armed, and both, soon quench’d,
End this great line in sorrow !!?
This prophecy forms, so far as Ion is concerned, the destiny of
the play, as will soon be seen. Adrastus goes on to say that
persecuted and oppressed in his father's palace, accused, more-
over, of the murder of his brother, he fled to the mountains and
through the waves for relief from the evils that surrounded him,
but in vain.
" Ion.-Yet succour came to thee?
“ Adrastus.-A blessed one!
Which the strange magic of thy voice revives,
And thus unlocks' my soul. My rapid steps
Were in a wood-encircled valley stayed
By the bright vision of a maid, whose face
Most lovely more than loveliness reveald,
In touch of patient grief, which dearer seem'd
Than happiness to spirit sear'd like mine.
With feeble hands she strove to lay in earth
The body of her aged sire, whose death
Left her alone. · I aided her sad work,
And soon two lonely ones by holy rites
Became one happy being: Days, weeks, months,
In streamlike unity flow'd silent by us
In our delightful nest. My father's spies-
Slaves, whom my nod should have consign'd to stripes
Or the swift falchion-track'd our sylvan home
Just as my bosom knew its second joy,
And, spite of fortune, I embrac'd a son.
“ Ion.- Urged by thy trembling parents to avert
That dreadful prophecy?!
Adrastus. Fools! did they deem
Its worst accomplishment could match the ill
Which they wrought on me? It had left unharm’d
A thousand ecstasies of passion'd years,
Which, tasted once, live ever, and disdain
Fate's iron grapple! Could I now behold
That son with knife uplifted at my heart,
A moment ere my life-blood followed it,
I would embrace him with my dying eyes,
And pardon destiny! While jocund smiles
Wreathed on the infant's face, as if sweet spirits
Suggested pleasant fancies to its soul,
The ruffians broke upon us; seized the child;
Dash'd through the thicket to the beetling rock
'Neath which the deep wave eddies : I stood still
As stricken into stone: I heard him cry,
Press'd by the rudeness of the murderer's gripe,
Severer ill upfearing—then the plash
Of waters that shall cover him for ever;
And could not stir to save him!
6 Ton.— And the mother-
Adr.—She spake no word, but clasped me in her arms,
And lay her down to die. A lingering gaze
Of love she fix'd on memnone other loved,
And so pass'd hence. By Jupiter, her look! ·
Her dying patience glimmers in thy face!
She lives again! She looks upon me now!
There's magic in 't. Bear with me,I am childish.
Enter Crythes and Guards.]
“ Adr.–Why art thou here?
Crythes.--- The dial points the hour. " Adr.–Dost thou not see that horrid purpose pass'd ? Hast thou no heart—no sense?
Crythes.—Scarce half an hour
Hath flown since the command on which I wait.
“ Adr.-Scarce half an hour !-years-years have roll’d since
Begone! remove that pageantry of death-
It blasts my sight—and hearken! Touch a hair
Of this brave youth, or look on him as now
With thy cold headsman's eye, and yonder band
Shall not expect a fearful show in vain.
Hence without word.”
[Exit Crythes.] The king at length meets the sages in consequence of the entreaties of Ion, but relents not at the assembly from his high unalterable resolution, still to “pledge his great defiance to despair.” Before the assembly breaks up, however, the answer of the Delphic oracle, which had just been received, is announced to him:
Argos ne'er shall find release
Till her monarch's race shall cease.” The king repels the authority of the response with indignation, and returns to the palace. The. Argive youths, and among them Ion, repair to a neighbouring grove and cast lots for the office of saving their country by his destruction:
“ Phocion.—The name! Why dost thou pause? " Ctes.-Tis Ion !
" Ion.--Well I knew it would be mine!" We cannot help adding here the speech of the youth after the high duty has been imposed upon him—it is worthy of Greece, and breathes the truest spirit of the ancient sublime: “[lon approaches the altar, and, lifting up the knife, speaks.]
“Ye eldest gods,
Who in no statues of exactest form
Are palpable; who shun the azure heights
Of beautiful Olympus, and the sound
Of ever-young Apollo's minstrelsy;
Yet, mindful of the empire which ye held
Over dim Chaos, keep revengeful watch
On falling nations, and on kingly lines
About to sink for ever; ye, who shed
Into the passions of earth's giant brood
And their fierce usages the sense of justice ;
Who clothe the faded battlements of tyranny
With blackness as a funeral pall, and breathe
Through the proud halls of time-embolden'd guilt
Portents of ruin, hear me!- In your presence,
For now I feel ye nigh, I dedicate
This arm to the destruction of the king
And of his race! O keep me pitiless ;
Expel all human weakness from my frame,
That this keen weapon shake not when his heart
Should feel its point; and if he has a child
Whose blood is needful to the sacrifice
My country asks, harden my soul to shed it!--
Was not that thunder ?" After Ion departs upon his errand to the palace, the fact of his descent from Adrastus, which the reader has already guessed, is communicated to Medon, the high priest, from a person (one of those who had been commissioned to destroy him) accidentally in Argos, and who is there seized with the mortal pestilence. Ion is however already in the king's apartment and but a faint hope is left that Medon may reach
it by a private passage in season to prevent the parricide. The dialogue between Ion and Adrastus is very dignified and affecting, but it requires all the sternness of Grecian virtue to reconcile us to the apparent obduracy of the young patriot. He is however resolved, but at the moment when his arm is uplifted to strike, Medon rushes in, exclaiming:
“Ion, forbear! Behold thy son, Adrastus ! [Ion stands for a moment stupified with horror, drops the knife, and
falls senseless on the ground:]
“ Adrastus.—What strange words'
Are these which call my senses from the death.
They were composed to welcome ? Son!’ris false-
I had but one-and the deep wave rolls o'er him!
“Med.-That wave received, instead of the fair nursling,
One of the slaves who bore him from thy sight
In wicked haste to slay ;-I'll give thee proofs.
“ Adr.-Great Jove, I thank thee !-raise him gently-proofs !
Are there not here the lineaments of her
Who made me happy once—the voice, now still,
That bade the long-seal'a fount of love gush out,
While with a prince's constancy he came
To lay his noble life down; and the sure,
The dreadful proof, that he whose guileless brow
Is instinct with her spirit, stood above me,
Arm'd for the traitor's deed ?—It is my child !
[Ion, reviving, sinks on one knee before Adrastus.]
“ Ion.-Father !"
The reprieve is but momentary, Ctesiphon and the other con-
spirators succeed in accomplishing the sacrifice, and Adrastus
lays down his life for the relief of Argos. "The closing inter-
view between the father-
“A man who has embraced
His child for the first time since infancy,
And presently must part with him for ever”. and the son, is indescribably touching
Ion of course succeeds to the vacant crown, and is fully mindful of the one. great duty the inheritance brings with it. He strives not wholly to banish from his heart its tender emotions and old associations. He recalls the image of Clemanthe though he fain would not see her, and when, on repairing to the temple to perform the necessary rites before his coronation, he meets her there, he puts on a tone of distance to save her gentle nature from the shock that is to follow. Dark and cold,” says he,
“Stretches the path, which, when I wear the crown,
I needs must enter:--the great gods forbid
That thou shouldst follow in it!
“ Clemanthe.-0 unkind !
And shall we never see each other?
“ Ion. [After a pause.] Yes!
I have ask'd that dreadful question of the hills
That look eternal; of the flowing streams
That lucid flow for ever; of the stars,
*Amid whose fields of azure my raised spirit
Hath trod in glory : all were dumb; but now,
While I thus gaze upon thy living face,
I feel the love that kindles through its beauty
Can never wholly perish ;-we shall meet
Again, Clemanthe !"
True to the tenderness of woman's nature, however, she clings
to him to the last, and believes any thing rather than that her
love has been unworthily bestowed.
Clemanthe.— The last embrace!
Then he has cast me off!—No, 'is not so;
Some mournful secret of his fate divides us :
I'll struggle to bear that, and snatch a comfort
From seeing him uplifted. I will look
Upon him in his throne; Minerva's shrine
Will shelter me from vulgar gaze; I'll hasten
And feast my sad eyes with his greatness there!"
The last scene finds the youthful king surrounded by his
guards and courtiers in the great square of Argos to assist at
the ceremony of enthronement. He enters upon the duties of the occasion with unwonted solemnity, distributes offices, awards punishment, and confers honours. At length, approaching the altar, he solemnly and finally devotes himself for the welfare of his country, and after the manner of his country makes himself immortal.”., Mr. Sergeant Talfourd must speak the rest in his own pure and beautiful language.
" Ion.—Gracious gods!
In whose mild service my 'glad youth was spent,
Look on me now ;-and if there is a power,
As at this solemn time I feel there is,
Beyond ye, that hath breathed through all your shapes
The spirit of the beautiful that lives
In earth and heaven ;-to ye I offer up:
This conscious being, full of life and love
For my dear country's welfare. Let this blow
End all her sorrows !"
[Stabs himself, and falls. Ctesiphon rushes to support him.]
Ctesiphon, thou art
Avenged, and wilt forgive me.
Ctesiphon.—Thou hast pluck'd
The poor disguise of hatred from my soul,
And made me feel how shallow is the wish
Of vengeance. Could I die to save thee !
Clemanthe rushes forward.
“ Clemanthe.-Hold !
Let me support him-stand away-indeed
I have best right, although ye know it not,
To cling to him in death.
“ Ion. This is a joy
I did not hope for—this is sweet indeed.-
Bend thine eyes on me!
" Clemanthe.-And for this it was
Thou wouldst have wean'd me from thee! Couldst thou think
I would be so divorced ?
“ Ion.—Thou art right, Clemanthe,-
It was a shallow and an idle thought!
'Tis past; no show of coldness frets us now;
No vain disguise, my love. Yet thou wilt think
On that which when I feign'd I truly said —
Wilt thou not, sweet one?
Clemanthe. I will treasure all.
“ Irus.-I bring you glorious tidings-Ha ! no joy
Can enter here.
“ Ion.— Yes,is it as I hope?
" Irus.- The pestilence abates.
"Ion.-[springs upon his feet.] Do ye not hear?
Why shout ye not ?—ye are strong-think not of me;
Hearken! the curse my ancestry had spread
O'er Argos is dispelld-Agenor, give
This gentle youth his freedom, who hath brought
Sweet tidings that I shall not die in vain--
VOL. XXI.-NO, 41.