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OBSERVATIONS ON AND SELECTIONS FROM THE GREEK
In continuation of "The Extracts from the Grecian Drama."
ACCORDING to the promise with which I commenced my series of Extracts from the Grecian Drama, I now return to the Epigrams and minor pieces dispersed in the different Anthologies; and with pleasure, since habit has tended to confirm, rather than diminish, the partiality I have always entertained for those simple, yet beautiful, reliques of antiquity.
Simplicity, indeed, can be no objection to those poems in the esteem of fashionable readers; for, palled by the high-wrought refinements of an artificial taste, mankind seems in this respect to be fond of running to the opposite extreme, and imitates the infirm gait and lisping voice of childhood, in order to avoid the very imputation of thought and labour. And, in so doing, if we would have sense enough to depise the frivolous affectation and worse than infantile drivellings of some late poets (if they deserve that name) and seek the clear and unsullied fountains of genuine simplicity which the ancients afford us, as the models of our imitation and the objects of our praise, we might yet save the age on which our lot has been cast from the stigma of degeneracy with which it is at present deservedly branded.
There is, indeed, nothing in the English genius which would render us unfit to perceive and relish the Greek simplicity, though it is hardly to be wondered at if, among our neighbours, who are so much more liable to the influence of first impressions, and so peculiarly attracted by point and equivoque, the fact should be otherwise. Accordingly French authors have, I believe, universally decried the merits of the Greek Anthology.
In the Menagiana is an anecdote to the purpose, humourous enough, and which tends to prove in what estimation these pieces were held among the wits of Lewis the fourteenth's court. Mad. de Gournay shewed one day to M. de Racan some epigrams she had just been composing, which he censured as wanting edge, and she justified as being written upon the Grécian model. Soon afterwards they happened to be in company with each other at a dinner, when Mad. de Gournay whispered to Racan "What insipid soup!" "Oh, Madam,” replied he, "it is soupe a la Grec."
In arranging the following observations, and the translations which I propose occasionally to intersperse among them, I shall follow the chronological mode already adopted by me in my former publication, beginning, indeed, with Meleager, who, though far from the first in point of time, yet, as the earliest collector, must be considered as father of the Anthology, and deserves the foremost rank in my selec tion, for more reasons than one. I am aware that many objections have been made to this arrangement, and admit that some of them VOL. III. appear
appear to me well founded; nor is it from any undue partiality to my old system, but for the sake of present convenience only, that I continue to proceed in the same manner, as I am unavoidably obliged to make frequent reference to the "Translations from the Greek Anthology."
The exquisite poem of which I have endeavoured to produce a faint resemblance at the commencement of the above-mentioned volume,* requires some farther explanation than I have given in the subjoined The "Virgin-Zone" or Girdle (it should be understood) was first worn by maids who had attained a marriageable age; whence, in Callimachus, the expression Πασας εινετεας, πατας ετι παίδας αμιτρος and, when once assumed, was constantly preserved till the day of marriage, or, at least, till the conclusion of a marriage-contract. It was then loosed" or laid aside, sometimes with peculiar ceremonies. In Apollonius, Medea asserts her chastity by an allusion to this custom. "My Virgin-Zone yet remains, untouched, and unpolluted, as when I lived beneath the roof of my father." Nonnus distinguishes it by the appellation of "the chaste, the holy, Girdle."
Οφρά με μαζί
Χειονεων πελασέιε, σαοφρονος εκτοθε матема
The zone or girdle of a bride was fastened round her waist with a peculiar knot, which is said to have had some mystic signification of constancy or purity. This knot, says Brown in his. Vulgar Errors, "resembled the snaky complication in the Caduceus, or Rod of Hermes." Our "true Lover's Knot," which was very illustrious a century ago, but is now hardly known to have any thing peculiar in it, is derived by him with a great deal of fancy, but some probability, from the Kuot of the Bridal Girdle.
On the subject of the lamentations used at Grecian funerals, our old traveller Sandys has a curious passage relative to their modern descendants. "They retain," says he, "in their funerals not a few of their ancient and heathen ceremonies. Of old, the nearest in love or kindred laid their mouths to theirs to receive their last breath, and closed the eyes of the dying.
"His body her's embraced, and, all dismaied,
Being dead, they washt the bodies with sweete oyles, crowned them with garlands of flowers, and clothed thein (as they now do) in the richest apparel. The mammer of their lamentations of old may ap
Ον γαμον αλλ' Αίδαν επινυμφίδιον Κλεαρίςαί
Clarissa, when she loosed her virgin zone," &c.
Transl. from Gr. Anth; p. 3.
pear from this ludicrous threne of a father following the exequies of his son, in Lucian: Oh my sweet son, thou art lost, thou art dead before thy day, and hast left me behind, of men most miserable; not experienced in the pleasures of a wife, the comfort of children, warfare, husbandry, not attained to maturity. Henceforth, oh my son, thou shalt not eate, nor love, nor get drunke among thine equals.' And, altho' these Ethnicke lamentations, reproved in scripture, were prohibited by the Athenian law-givers, the civil lawe, and lastly by the Venetians within their Greek jurisdiction, yet still the Grecians doe use them," &c. &c.
In my note on a remarkable fragment of the writings of Archilo. chus I have defended that interpretation which gives it a metaphorical solution against those who have adopted literally the strong poetical expression κυμα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλασσης; and this mode of rendering it is forcibly assisted by a passage in Sophocles, where the same remarkable metaphor is made use of, and pursued into a very sublime allegory, allusive to the pestilence at Thebes.
Πολις γας, ωσπες κα
The city, dashed about from side to side
No commentator has gone so far as to hazard a conjecture (to which the name of Pericles, the fitness of the metaphor, and of all the circumstances attending it, and the coincidence of expressions here noticed, with some particular ones in the Edipus Tyrannus, may give colour) that the age of this poem has been antedated, and that it refers, in fact, to the famous plague of Athens described by Thucydides.
Indeed, the same image, of a ship in a storm, has been applied to a state distracted by civil commotions, or by any other great calamity, as well as to this particular circumstance of a plague. The whole of Horace's ode,
O Navis, referent in mare te novi
is but a continued metaphor of this sort; and the same interpretation has been given to a spirited fragment of Alcæus, from which Horace probably borrowed the design of his poem
» «Oh Pericles! in vain the feast is spread," &c. &c. p. 7.
Having mentioned the name of Alcæus (who, as contemporary with Sappho, is here in his proper place) I will add another fragment to that already given, which requires no elucidation or commentary, except a reference to two or three other odes of his great imitator, Horace (particularly that of "Vides ut alta, &c.)
Τει μεν ο Ζευς
Jove in rainy streams descends,
In the epigram composed by Antipater, of Sidon, on the nine earthly Muses," the names of Sappho, Erinne, and' Anyte, are joined with those of Telesilla, the patriotic defender and poetess of Argos; of Corinna, the rival of Pindar, to whom the judges in certain games (but they were Baotians, and their respective ages are not mentioned) with great gallantry assigned the prize over her illustrious competitor; of Praxilla, of Sicyon; of Myro, Myrtis, and Nossis. The Anthology has preserved no memorials of their talents more wor...y of eternity than those which I have already translated from Anyte. The same motive which inclined me to insert those in my late publication, that of the curiosity attached to them by way of specimens, urges me now to add to them one of the compositions of Nossis, by no means superior in merit to those of her sister-bard. It is an Epitaph on a bad Tragedian, and has the appearance of being intended to convey some point or satire, which, if it ever possessed, time, and the uncertainty of language and of topical allusions, has now effectually rifled from it.
Oh traveller, tho' you laugh in passing by,
And twined (nay doubt not!) my own ivy-crown.
With regard to the remaining pieces of this authoress and of Myro, as well as those of Anyte and Erinna, they are distinguishable only for one peculiarity, the subject of which they almost universally treat, a subject, though mournful and tender, not capable in itself of much variety or amplification, or at least treated with a most wearisome monotony by those with whom it was so great a favourite. In short, they appear almost all to have been produced on occasion of the premature death of some youthful companion. Yet, simple as they all are (which is, for the most part, their only merit) it must be confessed that they yield, even in simplicity, to the couplet which Margaret of Austria is said to have composed for her own epitaph, when in imminent danger of her life from shipwreck, after being basely deserted by Louis the twelfth, her betrothed husband, and on the point, as she imagined, of eternal separation from Don John, the son of Ferdinand and Isabella, with whom she was about to complete her second engagement.
Cy gist Margot, la gente Demoiselle,
Qu'eut deux maris, et si mourut pucelle.
These short lines possess the merit of expressing as much as has ever been said on the subject by all the nine earthly muses put toge ther.
ACCOUNTS OF, AND EXTRACTS FROM, RARE AND
THE DISCOURSES OF SADI.
THE name of Sheikh Sâdi is known to the general reader; and wherever Persian is understood, his works are admired and studied, as conveying the purest morality in the most classical simplicity of style. His Gulistan was published with a Latin version by Gentius long ago; and a considerable portion of his other great work, the Bostan, has been translated both into French and English. His discourses are less known than these, even in Asia; and I know not of a manuscript copy of them in any European library. I read them in the Calcutta edition of this Persian sage, and thought that a circumstantial