« ÎnapoiContinuați »
JEAN RACINE, French dramatist, was born at La Ferté-Milon, Ile-de-France, in 1639; died at Paris in 1699. He studied at Beauvais, Port-Royal, and the college of Harcourt. He became very popular at the court of Louis XIV, and received a pension in 1660, on account of an ode celebrating the King's marriage. Among his masterpieces are "Andromaque," Britannicus," Iphigénie en Aulide," "Esther" and "Athalie." His prose, vigorous and elaborately polished, was of as high an order as his poetry.
THE DEATH OF PHÆDRA
Phad. My moments are few. Listen to me, Theseus. It was I who looked with profane eyes upon your chaste and virtuous son. Heaven put a fatal passion into my bosom; the hateful none carried out its plans. Fearing lest Hippolytus should reveal to you my love, which filled his mind with horror, she, the traitress, abusing my weakness, hastened first to accuse him. She is punished. Flying from my anger, she has found under the waves a fate more merciful than she deserves. My life should before this have been cut short by the sword; but that would have left a stain upon his slandered virtue. That you might know my remorse, I have chosen to die a slower way. I have infused into my burning veins a poison which Medea brought to Athens. The venom has touched my heart, and thrown there an unknown chill. Already I see, as through a cloud, the heavens and the husband whom my presence insults. And death in withdrawing the light from my eyes, gives back all its purity to the day which they polluted.
CHARLES READE, born in Oxfordshire, England, 1814; died 1884. He was graduated at Oxford and then studied law. But literature was his destined vocation. In 1852 he published his first story, "Peg Woffington," which won him favorable public attention. He was a prolific author, and a long list of books stand to his credit. His best book is "The Cloister and the Hearth," 66 'Hard Cash " and "Put Yourself in His Place" were written to effect needed reforms. Both created a great sensation and accomplished their purpose.
TWO SCOTTISH FISHWOMEN
(From "Christie Johnstone")
AUNDERS," said Lord Ibsden, "do you know what Dr. Aberford means by the lower classes?"
Perfectly, my lord."
"Are there any about here ?"
"I am sorry to say that they are everywhere, my lord."
"Get me some."
Out went Saunders, with his usual graceful empressement, but with an internal shrug of the shoulders. He was absent an hour and a half; he then returned with a double expression on his facepride at his success in diving to the very bottom of society, and contempt for what he had fished up thence. He approached his lord mysteriously, and
said, sotto voce, but impressively, "This is low enough, my lord." Then he glided back, and ushered in, with polite disdain, two lovelier women than he had ever opened a door to in the whole course of his perfumed existence.
On their heads they wore caps of Dutch or Flemish origin, with a broad lace border, stiffened and arched over the forehead, about three inches high, leaving the brow and cheeks uncovered. They had cotton jackets on, bright red and yellow, mixed in the patterns, confined at the waist by the apronstrings but bob-tailed at the waist; short woolen petticoats with broad vertical stripes, red and white, most vivid in color; white worsted stockings, and neat though high-quartered shoes. Under their jackets they wore a thick, spotted cotton handkerchief, about one inch of which was visible round the lower part of the throat. Of their petticoats the outer one was kilted, or gathered up toward the front, and the second, of the same color, hung in the usual way.
Of these young women, one had an olive complexion, with the red blood mantling under it. and black hair and gloriously black eyebrows. The other was fair, with a massive but shapely throat, as white as milk; glossy brown hair, the loose threads of which glittered like gold; and a blue eye which, being contrasted with dark eyebrows and eyelashes, took the luminous effect peculiar to that rare beauty. Their short petticoats revealed a neat ankle and a leg with a noble swell; for nature, when she is in earnest, builds beauty on the lines of the ancient sculptors and poets, not of modern poetasters, who, with their airy-like sylphs and their smoke-like verses, fight for want of flesh in women and want of fact in poetry as parallel beauties. These women had a grand corporeal trait; they had never known a corset! So they were straight as javelins; they
could lift their hands above their heads-actually! Their supple persons moved as nature intended; every gesture was ease, grace and freedom. What with their own radiance, and the snowy brightness and cleanliness of their costume, they came like meteors into the apartment.
Lord Ibsden, rising gently from his seat, with the same quiet politeness with which he would have received two princes of the blood, said, "How do you do?" and smiled a welcome.
"Fine; hoow's yoursel?" answered the dark lass, whose name was Jean Carnie, and whose voice was not so sweet as her face. "What'n lord are ye?" continued she. "Are ye a juke? I wad like fine to hae a crack wi' a juke."
Saunders, who knew himself the cause of the question, replied, sotto voce, "His lordship is a viscount." "I dinna ken't," was Jean's remark; "but it has a bonny soond.”
"What mair would ye hae ?" said the fair beauty, whose name was Christie Johnstone. Then appealing to his lordship as the likeliest to know, she added: "Nobeelity is just a soond itsel, I'm tauld."
The viscount, finding himself expected to say something on a topic he had not much attended to, answered dryly: "We must ask the republicans; they are the people that give their minds to such subjects."
"And yon man," asked Jean Carnie, "is he a lord, too?"
"I am his lordship's servant,” replied Saunders gravely, not without a secret misgiving whether fate had been just.
"Na, na!" replied she, not to be imposed upon. "Ye are statelier and prooder than this one!"
"I will explain," said his master. "Saunders knows his value; a servant like Saunders is rarer than an idle viscount."
THE FLIGHT TO THE WOOD
(From "The Cloister and the Hearth ")
HE courage, like the talent, of common men runs in a narrow groove. Take them but an inch out of that, and they are done. Martin's courage was perfect as far as it went. He had met and baffled many dangers in the course of his rude life, and these familiar dangers he could face with Spartan fortitude, almost with indifference; but he had never been hunted by a bloodhound: nor had he ever seen that brute's unerring instinct baffled by human cunning. Here, then, a sense of the supernatural combined with novelty to unsteel his heart. After going a few steps, he leaned on his bow, and energy and hope oozed out of him. Gerard, to whom the danger appeared slight in proportion as it was distant, urged him to flight.
What avails it?" said Martin, sadly; "if we get clear of the wood, we shall die cheap; here, hard by, I know a place where we may die dear."
Alas, good Martin,” cried Gerard, "despair not so quickly; there must be some way to escape."
"O Martin!" cried Margaret, "what if we were to part company? Gerard's life alone is forfeit. Is there no way to draw the pursuit on us twain, and let him go safe?"
Girl, you know not the blood-hound's nature. He is not on this man's track or that; he is on the track of blood. My life on't they have taken him to where Ghysbrecht fell, and from the dead man's blood to the man that shed it that cursed hound will lead them, though Gerard should run through an army, or swim the Meuse." And again he leaned upon his bow, and his head sank.
The hound's mellow voice rang through the wood.