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for doubting that the whole poem was composed, or took its present shape, between A.D. 9 and A.D. 14. The poet gives no clue to his own origin, but his style has a strongly Greek tinge.
Scaliger pronounced him "equal in sweetness to Ovid, and superior in majesty;" a verdict which Bentley cites with approval. To most readers it will be scarcely intelligible. Where Manilius deals with the technical parts of astronomy, he displays, indeed, excellent ingenuity; but, in the frequent passages where he imitates Lucretius, the contrast between a poet and a rhetorician is made only more glaring by an archaic diction. The episode of Andromeda and Perseus, in his fifth book, and a passage on human reason in the second, were once greatly admired. To show him at his best, however, I should rather take one of those places where he expresses more simply a feeling of wonder and awe common to every age.
Wherefore see we the stars arise in their seasons, and move, as at a word spoken, on the paths appointed for them? Of whom there is none that hastens, neither is there any that tarries behind. Why are the summer nights beautiful with these that change not, and the nights of winter from of old ? These things are not the work of chance, but the order of a God most high.”
Bentley's treatment of the text sometimes exhibits all his brilliancy: thus in Book v. 737 the received text had
“Sic etiam magno quaedam respondere mundo
This responděre had even been quoted to show that the poem was post-classical. The MSS. have not Haec, but QUAM; not caeli, but CAELO; and one good MS. has mun
Bentley restores :
“Sic etiam in magno quaedam RESPUBLICA mundo est,
Quam Natura facit, quae caelo condidit URBEM. “So also in the great firmament there is a commonwealth, wrought by Nature, who hath ordered a city in the heavens.” Respondere arose from a contraction resp. And urbem is made certain by the next verses, which elaborate the comparison of the starry hierarchy to the various ranks of civic life. But this, Bentley's last published work, shows a tendency from which his earlier criticism was comparatively free. Not content with amending, he rejects very many verses as spurious. The total number is no less than 170 out of 4220 lines which the poem contains. In the vast majority of cases, the ground of rejection is wholly and obviously inadequate. As an example of his rashness here, we may take one passage-which, I venture to think, he has not understood. At the beginning of Book iv. Manilius is reciting the glories of Rome:
Quid referam Cannas admotaque moenibus arma ?
“Why should I tell of Cannæ, and of (Carthaginian) arms carried to the walls of Rome? Why tell of Varro, great in his flight, ... and Fabius, in his delay? Or how the conquered towers of Car. thage received our yoke ?”
Varro's "flight” is his escape from the field of Cannæ, after wlrich he saved the remnant of the Roman army. The words, " quod vivere possit Postque tuos, Thrasimene, lacus,” are untranslatable. Bentley seems to have understood : “in that he can live, and that, too, after the battle at Lake Thrasimene;" but, to say no more, que forbids this. And then he rejects the whole line, “ Accepisse arces.” Why? Because “yokes" are put on peoples, not on “ towers !” Now the oldest manuscript (Gemblacensis) has not vivere, but VINCERE : the MSS. have not quod (a conjecture), but quam. They have also MORANTEM (not morando), VICTAE (not victas). I should read :
“Quid referam Cannas admotaque moenibus arma ?
"and that—though after the fight by thy waters, Thrasimene, she could hope to conquer—the towers of conquered Carthage received our yoke.”
The words “ quom vincere posset " allude to the imminent peril of Rome after Hannibal's great victory at Lake Thrasimene, when the fall of the city seemed inevitable if the conqueror should march upon it. (Cp. Liv. xxi. 7 f.)
It remains to speak of another labour which Bentley was not destined to complete, but which, even in its comparatively slight relics, offers points of great interest—his Homer.
The first trace of Homeric criticism by Bentley occurs in a letter which he wrote to his friend Davies, of Queens' College, just after Joshua Barnes had published his edition of the Iliad and Odyssey (1711). Barnes, who was unreasonably offended with Bentley, refers in his preface to a certain "hostile person,” a very Zoilus. “If he mean me," says Bentley, “I have but dipped yet into his notes, and yet I find everywhere just occasion of censure.” Bentley then shows that Barnes had made an arbitrary change in a line of the Iliad (αυτάρ for αλλά in XIV. 101), through not seeing that a reading which had stood in all former editions, and which had puzzled the Greek com.
mentator Eustathius, was a mere blunder (åmontaréovor for totattavéovoiv). In 1713 Bentley published his “Remarks" on the “Discourse of Free-thinking” by Anthony Collins. Collins had spoken of the Iliad as “the epitome of all arts and sciences," adding that Homer “designed his poem for eternity, to please and instruct mankind.” "Take my word for it,” says Bentley, "poor Homer, in those circumstances and early times, had never such aspiring thoughts. He wrote a sequel of songs and rhapsodies, to be sung by himself for small earnings and good cheer, at festivals and other days of merriment; the Ilias he made for the men, and the Odysseis for the other
These loose songs were not collected together in the form of an epic poem till Pisistratus's time, above [2nd edition : 1st, about] 500 years after.” There is some ambiguity in the phrase, "a sequel of songs and rhapsodies." It seems improbable that Bentley meant, “a connected series.”
When Bentley wrote this, the origin of the Homeric poems had not yet become a subject of modern controversy. It would be unfair to press his casual utterance as if it were a carefully defined statement. Yet it is interesting to note the general outlines of the belief which satisfied a mind so bold and so acute. He supposes, then, that a poet named Homer lived about 1050 B.C. This poet “ wrote” (by which, perhaps, he meant no more than
composed ") both the Iliad and the Odyssey. But neither of them was given to the world by Homer as a single epic. Each consisted of many short lays, which Homer recited separately. These lays circulated merely as detached pieces, until they were collected about 550 B.c. into the two epics which we possess.
Seventy-two years later F. A. Wolf published his Prol
egomena. The early epic poetry of Greece, Wolf argues, was transmitted by oral recitation, not by writing. But our Iliad and Odyssey could not have been composed without writing. We must conclude, then, that the Homeric poems were originally, in Bentley's phrase, quel of songs and rhapsodies.” These “loose songs first written down and arranged by the care of Peisistratús. Thus Bentley's sentence scontains the germ of the view which Wolf developed. Yet it would be an error to conceive Bentley here as an original sceptic, who threw out the first pregnant hint of a new theory. Bentley's relation to the modern Homeric question is of a different kind. The view which he expresses was directly derived by him from notices in ancient writers; as when Pausanias says that the Homeric poems, before their collection by Peisistratus, had been “scattered, and preserved only by memory, some here, some there." Cicero, Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius, the Platonic Hipparchus, Heracleides Ponticus, were other witnesses to whom Bentley could appeal.
He brought forward and approved that old tradition at a time when the original unity of each epic was the received belief. It was not till the latter part of the eighteenth century that the passion for returning from “art” to “nature” prepared a welcome for the doctrine that the Iliad and the Odyssey are parcels of primitive folk-songs. But then we note the off-hand way in which Bentley's statement assumes points which have since vexed Homeric research. He assumes that the Iliad and Odyssey are made up of parts which were originally intended for detached recitations: an inference to which the structure of the poems is strongly adverse. He accepts without reserve the tradition regarding Peisistratus. By the ancient saying that the Iliad was written for men and the Odys