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sex? Would you have me forget his Phædras and Sthenobaas? No: if ever I suffer any lines of that woman-hater, or his imitators, to be sung in my presence, may I sell herbs * like his mother, and wear rags like his Telephus.f
ALC. Then, sweet Chariclea, since you have silenced Speusippus, you shall sing yourself.
CHA. What shall I sing?
CHA. Then I will sing an Ionian hymn; which is chanted every spring at the
feast of Venus, near An Ionian. Miletus. I used to sing it hymn.
in my own country when I was a child; and-ah, Alcibiades!
ALO. Dear Chariclea, you shall sing something else. This distresses you.
CHA. No: hand me the lyre :matter. You will hear the song to disadvantage. But if it were sung as I have heard it sung :-if this were a beautiful morning in spring, and if we were standing in a woody promontory, with the sea, and the white sails, and the blue Cyclades beneath us,--and the portico of a temple peering through the trees on a hugh peak above our heads, and thousands of people, with myrtles in their hands, thronging up the winding path, their gay dresses and garlands disappearing and emerging by turns as they passed round the angle of the rock, then, perhaps
Alc. Now, by Venus herself, sweet lady, where you are we shall lack neither sun, nor flowers, nor spring, nor temple, nor goddess.
Venus, unto love and mirth :
Bloom like thine is on the earth;
And the murmurs of the sea,
Speak of youth, and hope, and thee.
Thou hast taught to lovers' eyes,
Glowing cheeks and stifled sighs;
By the follies and the wiles,
Happy tears and mournful smiles;
The hero of one of the lost plays of Euripiles, who appears to have been brought upon the stage in the garb of a beggar. See Aristophanes, Acharn, 430, and in other places.
Come with music floating o'er thee;
Come with violets springing round;
All their golden zones unbound,
Now, with slender fingers fair,
The long curls of rose-crowned hair.". Alc. Sweetly sung; but mournfully, Chariclea ; for which I would chide you, but that I am sad myself. More wine there. I wish to all the gods that I had fairly sailed from Athens.
CHA. And from me, Alcibiades ?
Alc. Yes, from you, dear lady. The days which immediately
Parting. precede separation are the most melancholy of our lives.
CHA, Except those which immediately follow it.
Alo. No; when I cease to see you, other objects may compel my attention ; but can I be near you without thinking how lovely you are, and how soon I must leave you!
Hip. Ay; travelling soon puts such thoughts out of men's heads
CAL. A battle is the best remedy for them.
CHA, A battle, I should think, might supply their place with others as unpleasant.
Cal. No. The preparations are rather disagreeable to a novice. But as soon as the fighting begins, by Jupiter, it is a noble Travelling and
fighting. time ;-men tramping, shields clashing,--spears breaking,-and the poean roaring louder than all.
CHA. But what if you are killed ?
CAL. What indeed? You must ask Speusippus that question. He is a philosopher.
ALC. Yes, and the greatest of philosophers, if he can answer it.
SPE. Pythagoras is of opinion —
Hip. Pythagoras stole that and all his other opinions from Asia and Egypt. The transmigration of the soul and the vegetable diet are derived from India. I met a Brachman in Sogdiana
CAL. All nonsense!
ALC. I think that, if doctrine be true, your spirit will be transfused into one of the doves who carry* ambrosia to the gods or verses
dove. to the mistresses of poets. Do you remember Anacreon's lines? How should you like such an office ?
• Homer's Odyssey, xii. 63.
SPE. But there must be an intervalo a year between the purification and ths initiation.
ALC. We will suppose all that.
SPE. And nine days of rigid mortification of the senses.
ALC. We will suppose that too. I am sure it was supposed, with as little reaso, when I was initiated.
SPE. But you were sworn to secrecy.
Alc. You a sophist, and talk of oaths! You a pupil of Euripides, and forget his maxims? "My lips have sworn it; but my mind is free.**
SFE. But, Alcibiades
Alc. What! Are you afraid of Ceres and Proserpine?
SPE. No-but-but-I--that is I-bat it is best to be safe-I mean-Suppose there should be something in it.
Alo. Now, by Mercury, I shall die with laughing. 0 Speusippus, Spensippus! Go back to your old father. Dig vineyards, and judge causes, and be a respectable citizen. But never, while you live, again dream of being a philosopher. Spe. Nay. I was only
ALO. A pupil of Gorgias and Melesigenes afraid of Tartarus? In what region of the infernal world do
Dread of you expect your domicile
Tartarus. to be fixed ? Shall you roll a stone like Sisyphus ? Hard exercise, Speusippus !
Spe. In the name of all the godsAlc. Or shall you sit starred and thirsty in the midst of fruit and wine like Tantalus ? Poor fellow? I think I see your face as you are springing up to the branches and missing your aim. Oh Bacchus! Oh Mercury!
Alo. Or perhaps you will be food for a vulture, like the huge fellow who was rude to Latona.
Alc. Never fear, Minos will not be so cruel. Your eloquence will triumph over all accusations, The furies
Eloquence will skulk away like disap- triumphant. pointed sycophants. Only address the judges of hell in the speech which you were prevented from speaking last assembly. “When I consider"—is
See Euripides ; Hippolytus, 60s. For the jesuitical morality of this line Enripides is bitterly attacked by the comie poet.
CHA. If I were to be your dove, Alcibiades, and you would treat me as Anacreon treated his, and let me nestle in your breast and drink from your cup, I would submit even to carry your loveletters to other ladies.
CAL. What, in the name of Jupiter, is the use of all these speculations about death? Socrates once* lectured me upon it the best part of a day. I have hated the sight of him erer since. Such things may suit an old sophist when he is fasting; but in the midst of wine and music
Hip, I differ from you. The enlightened Egyptians bring skeletons into their
banquets, in order to Skeletons at banquets.
remind their guests to
make the most of their life while they have it.
CAL. I want neither skeleton nor sophist to teach me that lesson. More wine, I pray you, and less wisdom. If you must believe something which you never can know, why not be contented with the long stories about the other world which are told us when we are initiated at the † Eleusinian mysteries ?
CHA. And what are those stories?
CHA. No; my mother was a Lydian, a barbarian; and therefore
Alc. I understand. Now the curse of Venus on the fools who made so hateful a law! Speusippus, does not your friend Euripides I say “The land where thon art prosperous is thy
country"? Surely we ought to say to every lady “The land where thou art pretty is thy
country." Besides, to exclude foreign beauties from
the chorus of the initiated Eleusinian mysteries.
in the Elysian fields is less
cruel to them than to ourselves. Chariclea, you shall be initiated.
• See the close of Plato's Gorgias.
+ The scene which follows is founded upon history, Thucydides tells us, in his sixth book, that about this time Alcibiades was suspected of having assisted a mock celebration of these famous mysteries. It was the opinion of the vulgar among the Athenians that extraordinary privileges were granted in the other world to all who had been initiated.
• The right of Euripides to this line is zoine. what disputable. See Aristophanes; Plutus, 1152
not that the beginning of it? Come, man, do not be angry. Why do you pace up and down with such long steps? You are not at Tartarus yet. You seem to think that you are already stalking, like poor Achilles,
* With stride Majestic thrvugh the plain of Asphodel."*
Spe. How can you talk so, when you know that I believe all that foolery as little as you do?
Alc. Then march. You shall be crier.t Callicles, you shall carry the torch. Why do you stare?
CAL. I do not much like the frolic.
ALC. Nay, surely, you are not taken with a fit of piety. If all be true that is told of you, you have as little reason to think the gods vindictive as any man breathing. If you be not belied, a certain golden goblet which I have seen at your house was once in the temple of Juno at Corcyra. And men say that there was a priestess at TarentumCAL. A fig for the gols! I was think
See Homer's Odyssey, xi, 538. + The crier and torch bearer were important functionaries at the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries.
ing about the Archons. You will have an accusation laid against you to-morrow. It is not very pleasant to be tried before the king. *
Alc. Never fear: there is not a sycophant in Attica who would dare to breathe a word against me, for the golden planetree of the great king.
Hip. That plane-tree
Alo. Never mind the plane-tree. Come Callicles, you were not so timid when you plundered the merchantman off Cape Malea. Take ap the torch and move, Hippomachus, tell one of the slaves to bring a sow.t
Cal. And what part are you to play?
Alo. I shall be Hierophant. Herald, to your office. Torchbearer, advance with the lights. Come forward, fair novice. We will celebrate the rite within.
CRITICISMS ON THE PRINCIPAL
(KNIGHT'S QUARTERLY MAGAZINE, JANUARY, 1824.)
"Fairest of stars, last in the train of night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
MILTOX. In a review of Italian literature, Dante has poem of modern times, but also of creat. a double claim to precedency. He was ing a language distinguished by uprathe earliest and the greatest writer of his valled melody, and peculiarly capable of
country. He was the first furnishing to lofty and passionate Double claim to precedency, man who fully descried
thoughts their appropriate garb of severe and exhibited the powers
and concise expression. of his native dialect. The Latin tongue, To many this may appear a singular which, under the most favourable circum panegyric on the Italian tongue. Indeed stances, and in the hands of the greatest the great majority of the young gentlemasters, had still been poor, feeble, and men and young ladies, who, when they singularly unpoetical, and which had, in are asked whether they read Italian, the age of Dante, been debased by the answer "yes," nerer go admixture of innumerable barbarous beyond the stories at the
reading. words and idioms, was still cultivated end of their grammar,with superstitious veneration, and re The Pastor Fido,—or an act of Artaserse. ceived, in the last stage of corruption, They could as soon as read a Babylonian more honours than it had deserved in the brick as a canto of Dante. Hence it is a period of its life and vigour. It was the general opinion, among those who know language of the cabinet, of the university, little or nothing of the subject, that this of the church. It was employed by all admirable language is adapted only to who aspired to distinction in the higher the effeminate cant of sonnetteers, musiwalks of poetry. In compassion to the cians and connoisseurs. ignorance of his mistress, a cavalier The fact is that Dante and Petrarch might now and then proclaim his passion have been the Oromasdes and Arimanes in Tuscan or Provençal rhymes. The of Italian literature. I wish not to devulgar might occasionally be edified by a tract from the merits of pious allegory in the popular jargon. Petrarch. No one can
Petrarch. But no writer had conceived it possible doubt that his poems that the dialect of peasants and market exhibit, amidst some imbecility and more women should possess sufficient energy and affectation much elegance, ingenuity and precision for a majestic and durable work. tenderness. They present us with a mixDante adventured first. He detected the ture which only can be compared to the rich treasures of thought and diction whimsical concert described by the humorwhich still lay latent in their ore. He ous poet of Modena,
refined them into purity. He burnished "S'udian gli usignuoli, al primo albore, them into splendour. He fitted them for
E gli asini cantar versi d'amore." every purpose of use and magnificence. And he has thus acquired the glory, not
I am not, however, at present speaking of only of producing the finest narrative • Tassoni ; Secchia Rapita, i. canto stanza 6.
the intrinsic excellences of his writings, which I shall take another opportunity to examine, but of the effect which they produced on the literature of Italy. The florid and luxurious charms of his style enticed the poets and the public from the contemplation of nobler and sterner models. In truth, though a rude state of society is that in which great original works are most frequently produced, it is also that in which they are worst appreciated. This may appear paradoxical; but it is proved by experience, and is consistent with reason. To be without any received canons of taste is good for the few who can create, but bad for the many who can only imitate and judge. Great and active minds cannot remain at rest. In a cultivated age they are too often contented to move on in the beaten path. But where no path exists they will make one. Thus the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, appeared in dark and half barbarous times; and thus of the few original works which have been produced in more polished ages we owe a large proportion to men in low stations and of uninformed minds. I will instance, in our own language, the Pilgrim's Progress and Robin. son Crusoe. Of all the prose works of fiction which we possess, these are, I will not say the best, but the most peculiar, the most unprecedented, the most inimit.
able. Had Bunyan and Bunyan and Defoe been
gentlemen, they would probably have published translations and imitations of French romances “by a person of quality." I am not sure that we should have had Lear if Shakspeare had been able to read Sophocles.
But these circumstances, while they foster genius, are unfavourable to the science of criticism, Men judge by comComparison.
parison. They are unable
to estimate the grandeur of an object when there is no standard by which they can measure it. One of the French philosophers (I beg Gerard's pardon) who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt, tells us that when he first visited the great Pyramid, he was surprised to see it so diminutive. It stood alone in a boundless plain. There was nothing near it from which he could calculate its magnitude. But when the camp was pitched beside it, and the tents appeared like diminutive specks around its base, he then perceived the immensity of this mightiest work of man. In the same
is not till a crowd of petty writers has sprung up that the merit of the great master spirits of literature is understood.
We have indeed ample proof that Dante was highly admired in his own and the following age. I wish that we had equal proofs that he was admired for the excel. lences. But it is a remarkable corroboration of what has been said that this great man seems to have been utterly unable to appreciate himself. In his treatise De Vulgari Eloquentia he talks with satisfaction of what he has done for Italian literature, of the purity and correctness of his style.“ Cependant," says a favourite* writer of mine, " il n'est ni pur, ni correct, mais il est créateur." Considering the difficulties with which Dante had to struggle, we may perhaps be more inclined than the French critic to allow him this praise. Still it is
Critioism of by no means his highest or most peculiar title to applause. It is scarcely necessary to say that those qualities which escaped the notice of the poet himself were not likely to attract the attention of the commentators. The fact is, that while the public homage was paid to some absurdities with which his works may be justly charged and to many more which were falsely imputed to them,-while lecturers were paid to expound and eulogize his physics, his metaphysics, his theology, all bad of their kind, while annotators laboured to detect allegorical meanings of which the author never dreamed, the great powers of his imagination, and the incomparable force of his style, were neither admired nor imitated. Arimanes had prevailed. The Divine Comedy was to that age what St. Paul's cathedral was to Omai. The poor Otaheitean stared listlessly for a moment at the huge cupola, and ran into a toyshop to play with beads. Italy, too, was charmed with literary trinkets, and played with them for four centuries.
From the time of Petrarch to the appearance of Alfieri's tragedies, we may trace in almost every page of Italian literature the influence of those celebrated sonnets which, from the nature both of their beau
sonnets. ties and their faults, were peculiarly unfit to be models for general imitation. Almost all the poets of that period, however different in the degree
• Sismondi, Littérature du Midi de l'Europe.