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Christ, that gentleman with the long beard!" We looked eagerly, as after royalty in all its glory, and beheld passing on the other side a tall, graceful, majestic figure in rough attire, with flowing dark hair and beard, a sweet and sad expression, and an air of grave gentleness and dignity. This was the Joseph Mair, who enacts the part of Christ. Macready is said to have begun to be Richard the Third at three o'clock in the afternoon, after which time it was dangerous to approach him; but this untutored peasant must have been absorbed in the spirit of his part for months, so perfect did his whole appearance answer to the ideals of Titian and Rubens. His fellows spoke to him with more of reverence than they showed each other, and his dignity, though it had nothing of assumption about it, was very real and imposing. At six o'clock the next morning he was seen at the early mass, preparing himself for the religious duties of the day by fasting and prayer.
Others have doubtless described and re-described that singular theatre, with its roof of blue sky and its background of green hills and rocky crags, its streets and its houses, with their projecting balconies wherein some of the scenes of the drama were enacted. We had read many such accounts, we had even seen the theatre, and looked at the pictures of the actors in their wonderful costumes; but when, after the distant boom of cannon, and the few solemn bars of the overture, that beautiful procession of the chorus in their brilliant robes of many colors came gliding upon the stage in the full blaze of the bright summer sunshine, it was impossible to repress a cry of delight. There they stood, the brightrobed figures, with their floating hair and exquisite sweep of drapery, worn with consummate ease and grace, the streets of Jerusalem stretching away behind them, the golden butterflies fluttering about their heads, the sunshine lighting up their hair and casting sharp, clean-cut shadows at their feet, the fresh summer breeze rippling the folds of their sweeping robes; there they stood,
and sang that quaint and touching music while the tableaux came and went behind them, and we waited for the real action to begin. For the Passion-Play is performed thus: the chorus sing an explanation of the tableaux (which are from the Old Testament), and describe their relation to the events of the New, and then comes that scene from the life of Christ of which they are supposed to be the antetypes, beginning with his entry into Jerusalem. The scene was intensely real as the multitude entered, strewing palm-branches and shouting hosannas, and throwing down their garments before that tall, pale figure in amaranthine robes, who comes slowly down the street riding upon an ass. There was nothing to recall one from the illusion of the piece. The dresses, so perfect and so simple; the acting, so earnest, so natural, so devotional; the hundreds of people thronging the wide streets of that immense stage; the utter absorption of every one in the play, not even the merest supernumerary appearing to remember for one moment that he was acting, and before an audience; the air, the breeze, the sunshine, all the influences of soul and sense combined, transported one nineteen centuries back into the past. And then the charm of that beautiful tall figure, with its slow and quiet majesty of grace, the draping of the crimson and purple robes over the absolutely perfect form, the thrilling tones of the pathetic voice uttering the well-known words which we have all heard from babyhood, was all-entrancing. We saw the scene in the temple, where the tall form of the Christ towered above the scattering and dispersed throng of money-changers, as the doves flew high in air from their overturned cages. We saw the scene at Bethany, where the beautiful Virgin-Mother, draped in the traditional blue and red, took such a tender and pathetic leave of her departing son, while Martha, Mary, and the young St. John, with his pleading eyes, surrounded and consoled her. We saw the high-priests and rabbis plotting together against the life of Christ, and had something too much
of their long-winded deliberations. The character of Judas is one of the most elaborate in the play, and was superbly interpreted. He is portrayed not as the gross and vulgar villain that one would fancy the uncultured minds of these poor peasants could alone depict, but as one possessed by the demon of greed, who betrays his Master reluctantly, led away by his overpowering passions, but betrays him, as he thinks, only to temporary disgrace, never doubting but that Christ's miraculous power will bring him out in safety from the hands of his enemies. The overwhelming remorse and agony of Judas when he finds that Christ really is to die, his frantic appeals to the Sanhedrim to reverse the sentence, his final dashing of the blood-money into their scornful and contemptuous faces, his weary roaming up and down, driven on by the stings of a tortured conscience, his wild ravings over his sin, and last of all his frenzied leap into the other world, were portrayed with a fire, an intellectual vigor, a subtlety of conception and finish of execution that left nothing to be desired. We no longer wondered that the King of Bavaria sent his best actors here to learn their business.
Then came the preparations for the Last Supper, and then that solemn festival itself. As the scene developed, the ideal of Leonardo da Vinci was more than realized. A quiet sadness dominated all the scene, so gravely, calmly, pathetically represented. As the low strains of a solemn hymn sung by invisible voices stole upon the ear, Christ laid aside his mantle, and girding himself with a towel, proceeded to wash the disciples' feet. A graceful youth held the silver ewer, and assisted at the humble work. It would be impossible to describe the exquisite and sacred beauty of the picture. Never for one instant through the long eight hours of the whole play was there an awkward or ungracious pose or motion on the part of any of the actors; every attitude and movement, especially of the Christ, was the very perfection of unstudied grace and beauty. One lovely
picture melted into another, and above and through all was the vivifying spirit of religious earnestness, that prevented all criticism or even eulogy, in the overmastering presence of the sacred scenes so perfectly portrayed. And when the touching rite was at an end, when Judas had rushed out to do quickly that which he had to do, when the sweet and melancholy figure that ruled the scene had administered to each disciple the bread and wine with his own hands, and the weeping friends were gathering into little sorrowing knots around him, once more that voice of thrilling pathos broke the silence with the words of tender comfort from the fourteenth chapter of John, which have consoled so many breaking hearts. It is quite impossible to represent in my poor words the wonderful nature of this scene; but it was one that will live in the imagination and hallow the haunted memory of all who had the happiness to see it.
Before this you will have had all the details of the piece, but I cannot refrain from mentioning one or two of the chief events that followed; the denial of Peter, for instance, surrounded by the rough soldiers around the fire, and the look of pitiful sadness from the silent figure led past him to be tortured. And when we beheld the same figure, stripped of the amaranthine robes, and seated on a stool among the scoffing soldiers, who pressed a crown of thorns upon the brow, thrust a reed into the fettered hands, and threw a scarlet mantle round the shrinking shoulders, what a picture that was! An unearthly beauty seemed to invest the drooping head and perfectly moulded form, thrown into such wonderful relief by the sweeping folds of the red cloak and the shadowed background. Then we saw the same silent figure led from one tribunal to another, tossed from Annas to Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod to Pilate again, still, though mocked, buffeted, scourged, and bleeding, preserving that wonderful ascendency over all the
Finally we beheld once more, as the curtain drew up, the quiet streets of
Jerusalem, and in the distance on the left, the Virgin and St. John with a little knot of followers come slowly into view. As they draw near, a terrible procession from the other side comes toward them. A ruthless, eager mob, a troop of Roman soldiers, cold and cruel, a knot of executioners, brutal even to look upon, full of a savage delight in their horrid work, and in the midst of all this seething sea of fierce and angry passions, once more that silent figure, bowed almost to the earth under the weight of the heavy cross. All the details of the Bible narrative are rigidly adhered to, the only unscriptural incident being the introduction of St. Veronica—a gracious figure, who gives her handkerchief to the needs of the sufferer she meets and pities. But there was no miraculous imprint brought forth, as indeed there was no attempt at the introduction of any miracle, except the resurrection, in the play itself.
The sad procession disappeared, and once more into the empty streets came the chorus, this time draped in black, and singing a funeral dirge. As its solemn strains proceeded, the blows of a hammer were heard behind the scenes, consummating the terrible tragedy whose last act we were now to behold. The curtain of the inner theatre (the middle stage) was raised, and there, in the midst of the crowd we had just witnessed, hung the two thieves on either side. The figure of the Christ was stretched upon the central cross lying on the ground, while the executioners nailed the inscription over his head, and then it was raised into an upright position. It was a terrible piece of realism. The nails seem actually to pierce the blood-stained hands and feet; there is only a bit of slanting wood under the latter, which are crossed, and no discoverable support any where else. The beautiful limbs are flecked with great drops of blood, the chest heaves with anguish, and the body droops lower and lower as the strength seems to ebb from the failing muscles. It is a cruel sight, harrowing enough to see for a moment, then to be mercifully
withdrawn; but the dreadful suffering goes on for over a .quarter of an hour, before they begin the slow work of release. All the incidents related in the Bible are enacted; the brutal executioners divide the garments, and cast their lots, and, most dreadful of all, one of the soldiers pierces Christ's side with a sharp spear, and the red blood springs from the wound with a sickening reality. At last the soldiers, the mob, the executioners are all gone, and the pale, blood-stained figure is gently and reverently taken down by some of the disciples, and carried to the tomb. Then follow the resurrection, the appearance in the garden, and the ascension, and the long drama is at an end.
I have purposely waited two or three days before writing this account, lest the excitement of the time and place should have misled me. But with every day that lapses the impression grows and deepens. The choruses are too long sometimes, and weary one; the action is often unnecessarily spun out, the deliberations of the rabbis tedious, and it is often difficult to catch the words; for in an open-air theatre holding six thousand people it is no easy task to speak; while the tableaux accompanying each Scene are frequently far-fetched and childish, sometimes absurd. Then the seats are narrow, hard, and uncomfortable; and eight hours, even with an hour's rest in the middle, is a long stretch for the attention. But when one reflects that this marvel of beauty, as far as acting, color, and grouping go, is the production of untutored peasants in a remote village of Bavaria-that not only one actor, but each and all were equally well fitted to their parts in looks and action-that this perfect adaptation was as remarkable as the universal grace of movement-and that this again was only to be equalled by the exquisite brilliancy of coloring and artistic arrangement of all the groups-the Passionspiel of Ober-Ammergau becomes indeed a miracle-play. Not one of all the five hundred people concerned in it, down to the veriest babies that added their charm to the tableaux, but was
utterly and entirely absorbed in the spirit of the scene; never by a single look was the presence of an audience acknowledged. The one motive swayed the scene that invests the angular works of the pre-Raphaelites with such an absorbing charm-that strange power that we feel lurking beneath the quaint awkwardness, the grotesque color, the spirit of earnestness that in all ages has ruled the souls of men. That a great deal of artistic feeling is inherent in this race of peasants, no one that has seen their exquisite specimens of wood-carving can doubt; and to this training they probably owe their talent for grouping, and their love of color. But only a strong religious feeling could carry them through the rest-a simple faith, a sincere conviction, an absolute unconsciousness of self, and a devout adherence to the Scripture they endeavor to portray.
Some Munich painters, in their artistic pride, were endeavoring to persuade the village-priest who superintends the play, that it would be much more effective if the Virgin swooned at the foot of the cross, instead of standing, as she does, with clasped hands, her eyes fixed on the Christ. "Gentlemen," said the curé, "the Scripture says she stood at the foot of the cross. That is enough." And certainly no dramatic swoon could have been half so touching as the sight of that beautiful girlish figure, with the face of exquisite purity and holiness, standing there so absorbed in her love and her sorrow. And no theatrical sobs and groans could match the still agony of that face as it bent over the dead face upon her lap, while Joseph and the rest prepared the body for the tomb.
And with these most inadequate words I am forced to close.
TO A FALSE MISTRESSE.
[WITH DRYED LEAVES.]
"Mulier cupido quod dicit amanti
In vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua."
SEE in these witherd Leaves my Love's emblemme,
Time's changes gave bothe life and dethe to them;
And thou hast plaied Time's parte unto my love.
The Spring and thou were kindlie, and did beare
Then Summer came, and thou didst warmer beame;
And perfumd kisses, aire, and cooling streame;
And neyther dreamd of death. And yet at lengthe
And yet at lengthe came Automn to the Leaves;
And thy false change did take awaie Love's breathe. O happyer Trees than man whome Fate bereaves ! Ye cannot mourne after youre lov'd ones' deathe.
"Fur allen Freuden auf Erden
NOTHING more than music marks the difference between human nature and brute nature; and nothing, perhaps, more than the voice marks the growth of culture and civilization. It is a curious illustrative fact that dogs in a wild state never bark; they howl and growl, but the bark seems to be too near an articulation for their untutored throats. Gardiner, in his "Music of Nature,” refers to the dogs left by Columbus in America: when the great discoverer returned, he found they had forgotten how to bark; relapsed into their primitive inarticulate condition; and Gardiner considers the bark of a dog to be an "effort to speak which he derives from his associating with man." The ease and certainty with which intelligent dogs acquire the comprehension of words, is familiar to every lover of that noble animal. The human voice is even more sensitive than the canine to the effects of refinement and civilization. A lady once remarked that she knew any scholar or man of letters the moment he spoke at her front door by a certain indefinable quality of voice, which she never or rarely detected in others. Gardiner remarks that we may regard the models of physical beauty as the shape and character of organs best adapted to produce lovely sound. "The thick lips of the African, or the spare lips of the Gentoo, are neither of them so well adapted for perfect execution as those of European fashion; the one mumbles, the other lisps." The same writer mentions the peculiarities of tone that pertain to different climates. Under the serene and gold sky of warm and favored climates, the mouth is naturally opened wide, and the language will abound in
open and sonorous vowels, like the Italian or Spanish. But where frost and cold winds suggest the prudence of keeping the mouth closed as much as possible, the generous tone is found wanting, and gutturals arise from the habit of speaking in the throat, as in German and other northern languages. This idea, however, must not be pushed too far. The Swedish language does not possess, certainly, the liquid mobility of the Italian; but as we listened to it on one occasion, it seemed to possess so much grace and sweetness that it might well afford some rugged consonants for the sake of strength, thus uniting the sonorous softness of the south with the dignity and power of the north. When we expressed our ad miration to the Swede whose musical articulation was so charming, he assured us that the language was considered by many musicians as the best in the world for song. It would be a most interesting but very profound task for philological learning, to make an analysis of all languages, barbarous and cultured, and of the same tongue in different stages, upon strict euphonic principles and with reference to musical adaptability, so as to show by scientific induction the kind of tone appropriate to the different stages of human growth and to the physical environment of races.
The attachment of peoples to their national songs and music, especially if it be a rich store, is a familiar fact. The attachment grows with the people's growth; and after a milder type has replaced the sturdy, but perhaps truculent, songs of the ancient fatherland, these are still treasured for their historic interest as well as for a wild