Ion (Talfourd)

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Ion; a Tragedy  (1835) 
by Thomas Noon Talfourd

Third edition, 1836

Notice, instead of Dedication[edit]

In offering this attempt at dramatic composition to the public at large, I should not intrude a single remark if I were not reminded of an irreparable loss by the necessity of omitting a Dedication to one whose name should have graced its opening page. The two Editions which have been privately circulated were inscribed to my venerable and indulgent friend, Dr. Valpy, upon whose long life of kindness Death has since set the final seal. When I ventured to claim for it his protection, I well knew that I might rely upon that charity which lavished its bounties upon every effort of his pupils, for tenderness to its faults, and for generous praise of any merits which the eye of friendship might detect or create. There was also a propriety in seeking this association for a work which was prompted by love of those remains of antique beauty which he had taught me to know and to revere; which assumed that form of poetry in which he had chiefly delighted; and which, although meditated in broken hours, and at long intervals, had always mingled with the recollections of those happy days, when he first awakened within me the sense of classical grace, and of those after-seasons, when the exquisite representations of Greek Tragedy, which he superintended, made its images vital. He is gone to his rest, full of years and honours; and I cannot receive from him that sanction which he cordially gave me when I presented this Drama to my friends, now that I submit it to the judgment of a wider and an impartial circle. Death, which harmonizes the pictures of human character, found little in his to spiritualize or to soften; but if it has not enhanced the feeling of his excellences in the minds of those who felt their influence, it has enabled them to express that feeling without the semblance of flattery. It has left them free, not only to expatiate on those well-directed labours which have facilitated the access of the young to the elements of sound learning; on the solemn and persuasive tone of his pulpit eloquence; on the steadiness of his attachment to principles adopted with caution, expressed with moderation, yet maintained without a sigh at the cost of the emoluments and honours to which they were obstacles; but also to revert to that remarkable kindness of disposition which was the secret but active law of his moral being. His nature was not ameliorated, nor even characterized, but wholly moulded of Christian love to a degree of entireness of which there are few examples. He had no sense of injury but as something to be forgiven. The liberal allowance which he extended to all human frailties grew more active when they affected his own interests, and interfered with his own hopes; so that, however he might reprobate evil at a distance, as soon as it came within his sphere, he desired only to overcome it by good. Envy, Hatred, and Malice, were to him mere names—like the figures of a speech in a schoolboy's theme, or the giants in a fairy tale—phantoms which never touched him with a sense of reality. His guileless simplicity of heart was not preserved in learned seclusion, or by a constant watchfulness over the development of youthful powers, (for he found time to mingle frequently in the blameless gaieties and the stirring business of life,) but by the happy constitution of his own nature, which passion could rarely disturb, and evil had no power to stain. His system of education was animated by a portion of his own spirit: it was framed to enkindle and to quicken the best affections, and to render emulation itself subservient to the generous friendships which it promoted. His charity, in its comprehensiveness, resembled nothing less than the imagination of the greatest of our poets, embracing every thing human; shedding its light upon the just and the unjust; detecting "the soul of goodness in things evil," and stealing rigidity from virtue; bringing into gentle relief those truths which are of aspect the most benign, and those suggestions and hopes which are most full of consolation; and attaching itself, in all the various departments of life, to individuals whose childhood it had fostered; in whose merits its own images were multiplied; or whose errors and sorrows supplied the materials of its most quick and genial action. The hold which the Reading-schoolboy had upon it could not be forfeited, not even "by slights, the worst of injuries;" and when broken in fortune, deserted by relatives, and frowned on by the world, he had only to seek the hospitable roof of his old master—"claim kindred there, and have his claims allow'd." By the spirit of cordiality which breathed there, all party-differences were melted away, or, if perceived at all, served only to render tolerance more vivid; and when he who had presided there for fifty years left the scene of his generous labours as a permanent abode, it was to diffuse the serenity of a good conscience and the warmth of unchilled affections through the homes of children who were made proud as well as happy by his presence. Such was he to the last, amidst the infirmities which accidents rather than age had accumulated around him;—the gentlest of monitors, and the most considerate of sufferers—until he was withdrawn from those whose minds he had nurtured; one of whom, who has most cause for gratitude, pays this humble tribute to his memory.

T. N. T.

London, 26th May, 1836.


  • Adrastus, King of Argos.
  • Medon, High Priest of the Temple of Apollo at Argos.
  • Crythes, Captain of the Royal Guard.
  • Phocion, son of Medon.
  • Ctesiphon and Cassander, noble Argive youths.
  • Ion, a foundling youth protected by Medon.
  • Agenor, Cleon, and Timocles, sages of Argos.
  • Irus, a boy, slave of Agenor.
  • Clemanthe, Medon's daughter.
  • Abra, attendant on Clemanthe.



The Time of the Action is comprised in one day and night, and the following morning.