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The two plays of Metastasio which are most dear to me are his “Regulus” and his “ Titus.” Both these deal with the ancient Roman world. Both show us the old Roman spirit, not perhaps as it was, but, at least, as we are most pleased to fancy it. In both there is a stately dignity and grandeur which is worthy of the heroic themes chosen by the poet. In the “Regulus” we find Attilia, the daughter of the captive Regulus, waiting before the doors of the Consul Manlius to urge him to renewed efforts to save her father. Manlius appears and asks the reason of her presence. I quote from Hoole's translation, which, with all its faults, is a fine piece of work, and the only rendering of Metastasio in English.

Wherefore am I come?
Ah! say how long to every nation's wonder,
To Rome's disgrace, has Regulus to languish
In ignominious bonds ? swift pass the days,
The years are heaped on years, and none remember
He lives in servitude. What crime of his
Has merited from Romans to incur
Such base forgetfulness? Perhaps the love
With which he prized his country's good before
His children and himself? His great, his just,
His uncorrupted heart? Perhaps his rank
Of high estate, his noble poverty?
And is there one who breathes this common air
Can Regulus forget? What part of Rome
Speaks not of him? The public ways? Through these
He passed in triumph once. The forum ? There
He gave us wholesome laws. The walls where now
The senate meet ? His counsels there full oft
Have planned the public safety. Enter now
The temples, Manlius; mount the capitol ;
And say who decked them with such foreign trophies,
Sicilian, Punic, Tarentinian spoils ;
These very Lictors that precede thee now,
That Consul's purple robe ; these, these, were once
Beheld with Regulus—and now he's left
To die in bonds, and nothing more remains
To speak his virtues but Attilia's tears
Here shed and shed in vain !--Alas! my father!

Ungrateful citizens ! ungrateful Rome ! Manlius, uncertain whether it consorts with the dignity of Rome to make any effort to exchange or ransom Regulus, leaves Attilia in despair, from which she is suddenly roused by Barce, a captive Carthaginian lady, who informs her that an ambassador has arrived from Carthage bringing with him Regulus himself. But the joy which Attilia and her brother Publius feel in returning to their father is suddenly shattered when Regulus, in full presence of the Conscript Fathers, advises them to reject the Carthaginian terms, and to send him back to certain death. Manlius argues against this counsel, urges how ungrateful it would appear in Rome to suffer so good a citizen to die in such a way. Regulus replies :

Would Rome be grateful to me, Regulus
Shall point the way to show her gratitude.
These rude barbarians, fathers, dar’d to think
My soul so base that abject fear of death
Might send me here with purpose to betray you.
This thought alone exceeds the sharpest pangs
That tyrants can inflict-revenge me, fathers-
I was a Roman once-arm, arm, with speed,
And from their temples snatch the imprisoned eagles,
Nor sheathe your weapons till this rival power
Be crushed for ever! Let me when returned
Even in the face of my tormentors read
The dread of your resentment; gladly then
I perish ; in my latest hour to see
How Afric trembles at the Roman name.

In vain does Manlius argue with the high-spirited Roman; in vain do his children, Attilia and Publius, urge him with all the arguments that filial love can inspire ; in vain does Licinius, Tribune of the people and lover of Attilia, employ all his eloquence; in vain does Amilcar himself, the Carthaginian envoy, advise him to remain. To each and all Regulus makes the same stately reply, dwelling on the duties of a Roman citizen and the glory of the Roman name :

Our country is a whole
Of which we form the part. 'Tis criminal
In one that bears the name of citizen
To weigh his private weal distinct from hers.
By him is nothing to be wished or shunned
But what may harm or benefit that country
To which he owes his all. Whene'er he toils
Or sheds his blood to serve her, from himself
He nothing gives, but only renders back
What he from her received. She gave him bi
And nourishment ; she reared his infant years
To ripened manhood ; with her laws protects
From home-bred spoilers ; with her arms defends
From foreign insults ; she on him bestows
Name, rank, and honours; she rewards his merits
And vindicates his wrongs ; a tender mother,
She labours to procure him all the happiness
Which earth can yield. But blessings such as these

'Tis true must have their claims, and who rejects them
Must give up every title to the advantage
Of law and social compact ; let him seek
The inhospitable woods, there feed contented
On scanty acorns in some sordid stye,
And at his will enjoy a life of freedom.

The very people rise in the streets to prevent Regulus returning to the Carthaginian ships, but the unbending Roman refuses to accept his freedom, compels them to allow him to accompany Amilcar. His farewell speech to the Romans is one of the finest in the play :

Romans, farewell! And let our parting now
Be worthy of us. Thanks to heaven! I leave you,
And leave you Romans. Ah ! Preserve unsullied
That mighty name, and be the arbiters
Of human kind till all the world become
By your example Romans. Guardian gods
That watch this happy land; protecting powers
Of great Æneas' offspring! I entrust
To you this race of heroes. Still defend
This soil, these dwellings, these paternal walls;
O! grant that glory, valour, constancy,
Justice, and truth, may ever here reside ;
And should some evil star with adverse beams
E’er threat the capitol, see, mighty gods,
See Regulus-let Regulus alone
Be made your victim, and the wrath of heaven
Be all consumed on my devoted head ;
Let Rome unhurt-But why those tears

Farewell !

The play of “Titus” is scarcely less impressive. The whole purpose of the play is to exhibit the nobility of the nature of Titus Vespasian as it is described by one of the characters :

Take from ourselves a friend from Rome, a father !
Look through the records of antiquity,
You seek in vain his equal ; can your mind
Paint one more generous or merciful?
Speak to him of rewards, his treasures seem
Too poor to answer merit ; speak of punishment,
His goodness finds excuse for every crime ;
He these forgives for inexperienced youth,
And those for hoary age ; in some he spares
The unsullied fame of an illustrious house;
And pities others for their abject state.
He measures not his life by length of years
But acts of goodness done ; and thinks the day
Is lost that has not made some subject happy,

This is the key note of the play, as unbending Roman virtue was the key-note of“Regulus.” To love, to danger, the Titus of Metastasio shows the same calm immobility, the same unyielding determination to do what is right regardless of himself, which might well be the philosopher's ideal, and which certainly history cannot claim for the true Titus. His speeches all breathe the most exalted sentiments :

Oh, if Justice should exert
Her utmost rigour, soon the earth would prove
A lonely waste. - Where shall we find the man
Within whose breast no guilt, no little frailty,
Has ever lurk’d? Let us but view ourselves.
Believe me, seldom has a judge been known
Free from that crime for which he dooms the offender.

At a time when a terrible plot against his life has been discovered, his impulse is turned, not to revenge but to regret the ingratitude of Rome :

Who more could sacrifice to others' good
Than I have done? Yet all suffices not
To gain the public love ; there are who hate me,
Who seek to pluck the laurel from my brow,
The laurel dearly earned with toil and danger,
And these can find associates even in Rome;
By Rome

Titus hated ; Mighty gods !
Who have laboured all my days for her ;
Have for her greatness shed my dearest blood ;
Hlave borne in distant climes the parching heat
Of burning Nile, or Ister's freezing cold;
I, who ne'er harboured in my mind a thought
But for her glory; midst my own repose
Still watched her good ; who cruel to myself,
To please her rooted up my first affection
And stifled in my breast the only flame
My heart could ever cherish !-O my country!
Forgetful subjects ! O ungrateful Rome !

When friend after friend seems to be faithless and treacherous, he muses upon the misfortunes of the great :

How wretched is the lot of him who reigns !
We're still denied the benefits of life
The meanest men enjoy. Amidst the woods
See the poor cottager whose rustic limbs
Are clad in rude attire, whose straw-built hut
But ill resists the inclemencies of heaven,
Sleeps undisturbed the livelong night and leads
His days in quiet ; little are his wants ;
He knows who love or hate him ; to the forest

Or distant hills alone accompanied
Fearless he goes and sees each honest heart
In every face he meets—but we midst all
Our envied pomp must ever live in doubt ;
While hope and fear before our presence still
Dress up the features foreign to the heart.
O could I once have thought to feel this stroke
From faithless friendship !

The unvarying goodness of Titus may, perhaps, sometimes seem a little aggravating, and the unalterable and inflexible heroism of Regulus at times wears an air of pomposity. But there is something so noble about the two plays that we can well forgive any slight overaccentuation of the characteristics of the principal figures. As we read, we are in the old Roman world again, that old Roman world as seen by an Eighteenth-century poet, no doubt, but still with no little of that antique grandeur and simplicity which we have been led to associate with the Roman name. Metastasio's Rome is certainly not the old Rome of Pietro Cossa. There is little or no attempt on the dramatist's part to recreate history. The figures of his plays are types of particular virtues rather than studies of varied human character. The Adrian of his “Adrian in Syria” is little more than an amorous Titus. In "Aetius” the character of the Roman Emperor Valentinian is scarcely more varied. The same monotony of treatment runs through all these Roman plays, which invariably present groups of persons engaged in complicated love affairs, and revolving round some central figure of supreme nobility. The heroes bear Roman names, and fine speeches about Rome flow readily from their lips, but the dramatist is at no pains to attempt anything like historical treatment. In the plays of Pietro Cossa the Roman emperors stand out vivid and terrible as if they had stepped from a page of Tacitus or Suetonius. In the plays of Metastasio they are courtly gentlemen possessed of the virtues which are invariably attributed to princes, and always ready to act in the noblest manner. But if his Romans are not very Roman, how yet more unGrecian are his Greeks! The Jason of his “Hypsipyle" is much more unlike the Grecian leader of the Argonauts than is Mr. William Morris's “ Jason." The Dido is essentially a fine lady of the last century, and his Themistocles is only one degree more Greek than the courtly periwigged heroes of Racine.

In the "Achilles in Scyros," however, we have a Grecian scene that is not all uninformed by a Grecian spirit. The eighteenth-century dramatist has introduced the fair Deidamia to hold Achilles at Scyros in the chains of love ; for this there are Hellenists enough ready to

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