« AnteriorContinuar »
fectation of virtue, and semblance of decorum, joined with a real anxiety to conceal the enormity of her conduct. --All these form such a mixed character, such an union of contrarieties, as the great poet of the English stage was delighted to paint, and are fully sufficient to evince the skill of our poèt in depicting character.
Nobleness and dignity of sentiment, is the next quality, which we shall find occasion to notice, in our author.-The high-minded refusal of Hercules, to accept the offered command of the Argonauts-his selfdenial, in remaining behind, at the ship, when his companions went to enjoy themselves with the Lemnian women--his noble reproof, of the sensual and unworthy luxury, and indulgence, of the Argonauts, and their generous shame the conduct of Alcides,
third time, in remaining behind, with a chosen few, to guard the ship, while the rest of the band proceeded to share the hospitality of Cizycus and the Dolions. The pious resignation and determined magnanimity of the illustrious augur-his generous contempt of life, foreseeing, as he did, that he was ordained to perish, if he joined the Argonautic expedition, yet, resolved to join it, and despising existence, when placed in competition with glory--the contention and subsequent reconciliation of Telamon with Jason---the gallant manner, in which Pollux reptesses the insolence of Amycus, and accepts his challenge-the noble conduct of Peleus, on observ. ing the dismay, with which the proposal of Æetes had inspired the Argonauts. To these I may refer the reader, as ample proofs, how much our author excels in this great and substantial poetical beauty.
I now proceed, by a natural transition, to remark in Apollonius, a strain of eloquence, and a display of perfect skill and mastery, in all the arts of oratory.-Dionysius of Halicarnassus has traced out, with considerable minuteness, the same species of skill and artifice, in many of the speeches of Homer; but, I think, we may trace, in those of our poet, the superior refinement and information of the age, in which he wrote.-We see more of address, of artifice, and management; a more studious attention to form and decorum ; something more exquisite, and rechercheé, in the choice and application of the topics. In this respect, however, he may have been indebted, on some occasions, to Homer ; and, perhaps, also, to different epic and dramatic wri. ters, who preceded him, and whose works bave not reached us. -The poem of Apollonius abounds in speeches; and in all these speeches we find examples of persuasive address, and oratorical artifice. We observe, for instance, much of this talent, in the speech of the aged Polyxo, to the assembly of Lemnian women-in the plausible account, which Hypsipile gives to Jasan, of the expulsion of the males from Lemnos in the artful and political speeches of Jason, in the second book; intended to prove the spirits of his followers, and ascertain the extent of their courage and perseverance. But, above all, on those occasions, where Medea appears, and speaks, the poet shows his skill and mastery, in all the artifice of oratory, and the whole science of addressing the feelings, and awaking the passions.
In considering the poetical talent and excellence of Apollonius, it is impossible to overlook the happy use, which he makes of his various learning, and the dexte, rity and address, with which he applies the mythology and traditions of the ancients, to the purposes of embellishment—this faculty may, sometimes, have been carried to an excess, and degenerated into pedantry and affectation, as I have already observed; but, doubtless, it brings with it a degree of awful and solemn magnificence; and impresses the mind with a religious enthusiasm. In the solemnity of his manner, and the apt and energetic application of mythology and tradition, he has been most nearly imitated by Virgil and Miltonin the ready and dexterous introduction, of the various treasures of his learning, in current use through his poem, there is no writer, who, in my apprehension, approaohes him so nearly as Ovid; whose stores of traditional and mythological knowledge are inexhaustible, and who appears to have studied our author with attention, and to have imitated him on many occasions.Every page of our poet furnishes us with proofs of his learning, and of his ingenious manner of introducing it. -We may notice, at random, *the various figures represented on the mantle of Jason, in the first bookthe allusiont to the awful mysteries of the Cabiri, preserved in Samothrace- the solemn rites to Cybele,† and the Idai Dactyli
, on mount Dindymus ; and the sublime description of the appearance of the goddess, in the same book.—The beautiful and tender episode of Parebius,ll in the second book.—The origin of the Etesian breezes.f—The splendid appearance of Phebus, ** returning from Lycia. The solemn religious rites, and the hymn of Orpheus.+t-The tomb of Sthenelus, 11 and the noble appartion of the hero, in the same book.
-The incantations of Medea, and the rites of Brimo
* See Book I. v. 721.
Hecate. * -The legend of Phaeton. The account of the disagreement between Thetis and her husband Pe. leus.—The fabulous origin of the island of Corcyra.The story of the nymph Macris, and the account of the Atlantides, in the succeeding books.
I proceed, now, to notice a particular, which must strike every reader of Apollonius, and surprise him not a little, when he considers the general and universal learning of this writer, and adverts to the circumstance of his writing, in a commercial age, when geography began to be tolerably well known, and in a commercial country, which possessed extraordinary means of acquiring this branch of science, and had particular reasons for attaching herself to its study; I mean his most extraordinary fabulous system of geography, which was not only visionary, and romantic, unsupported by what was then commonly reported and believed, concerning the topography and relative situation of distant countries, but must have been well known to be so, by the author hinaself. The fact, I believe, is, that there were a number of traditional legends, which established a sort of poetical geography, in full possession of public currency, from which, the poet did not think himself at liberty to depart, at the time when he wrote. The Argonautic expedition was naturally a favourite subject with the Grecian writers. It was one of those national tales, which did honour to the spirit of adventure, and the heroism, of the early Greeks. When these legends were first composed and published, the knowledge of geography was very rude and imperfect, and the writers themselves were, probably, very barbarous and unlettered. The origin of this romantic legendary geography of the Argonants, most probably, had its sole
* See Book II. v. 914.
foundation in ignorance; though it may have also been recommended to the early Greek poets, by its superior wildness, and its tendency to admit a series of extraordinary hazards, and surprising adventures.' However that may be, it is likely, that this legendary geography took such firm root, and obtained such credit, by presumption, that it became somewhat like a part of the Grecian mythology, and could not well be displaced, even by polite and learned writers, when they came to treat the subject of the Argonautic expedition. In the same manner, the romances and early poems of ancient modern times, if I may be allowed the strange expression, for want of a better, together with a Gothic mythology peculiar to them, employ a sort of wizard or fairy geography, wholly fanciful and fictitious; a geography, which annihilates time and space, confounds all the known boundaries of sea and land, and conveys a young lady, without any danger, delay, or difficulty, from Cathay to France.--It assembles together heroes, from every quarter of the world, and sends the same cavalier, to display his prowess, and acquire glory, in every quarter of the globe, like the knights of Ariosto.
“ E per lei, “ In India, in Media, in Tartaria lasciato “ Avea infiniti ed immortal Trofei. " In ponente con essa era tornato, " Dove, sotto i ġran monti Pirenei, “ Con la gente di Francia, e di Lamagna,
“ Re Carlo era attendató a la campagna.” This kind of fabulous or legendary geography, became so generally received, and so fully established, by common use, that it was hallowed, by antiquity, and a sort of religious veneration; so that it seemed to be a species of poetical sacrilege, to examine or question it; and