Imágenes de páginas

long continued reception gave it probability. Thus, we find it displayed in the authentic scriptures of chivalry, the early romances, and the numerous epic poems of the Italian school. -We find the champions of Christendom, the knights of Arthur's table ronde, and the Paladins of Charlemagne, passing with surprising ease and velocity, from kingdom to kingdom, without finding any impediment--they traverse every part of the globe, and leave their trophies in regions the most remote from each other.-Nor can this poetical license be ascribed to an ignorance of geography in those times-no-it is very apparent, that geography was neglected, and the natural bounds of countries invaded or confused, for the sake of giving greater scope to a wild invention, and introducing a variety of romantic and marvellous adventures. In the same manner, and on the same princi. ples, the early writers, who took in hand the interesting and eventful story, of the Argonautic expedition, found themselves induced, to depart from what was well known, respecting the site of remote countries, and to conduct their heroes by an imaginary, and, indeed, impossible route.

From these considerations it will appear manifest, that a minute and critical examination, of the geographical details of our author, would be a mere waste of time and labour; and that we should be grossly mistaken, were we to suppose him seriously responsible, for the manner in which he conducts the Argonauts out, and home; since, in fact, he found their route ready traced before him, and well knew, that it was wholly fictitious and imaginary, and subordinate to the pur. poses of embellishment and amusement. - Whether he follows Timagetus, Hecateus Milesius, or Herodorus, who treated the subject of the Argonautic expedition, ante. cedent to our author, does not fully appear; but Valerius Flaccus, by following our poet in this particular, and the agreement of other writers, as Apollodorus of Athens, seeni to confirm the supposition, that the fabulous geography, of the Argonautic route, was so fully established, that it could not be shaken.

These particulars, which I have stated, were some of the charms, which attracted the admiration of the judicious Virgil. The mild majesty, the scientific refinement, the cultivated and measured graces of Apollonius, enchanted his soul. He wisely estimated his own strength, and properly judged, that such an exemplar was more imitable by him, in the correctness and artifices of composition, than the mighty father of epic poetry, in his vast conceptions, and heaven-ward flights.Virgil studied the graceful poet of Alexandria, with daily, with nightly care. - He made him his inseparable companion, he inhaled his spirit, he imbibed, if I may so say, his juice, and vital blood, until they became part of his own substance. A moderate degree of attention, to the poems

of Homer and Apollonius, will serve to convince any reader, at once, without the necessity of recurring to history, that they must have been writers of different


and education; that their works must have been composed, in

very different states of society; that they both viewed and read human nature, but human nature considered in different attitudes, and under different aspects. It must appear, that Homer wrote, while society was yet young,

and man but little formed or subdued, by rules, by customs, and civil ordinances, not far removed from the simple life, the vigorous and undisguised feelings, of the pastoral, and heroic ages. Apollónius, on the contrary, shows that he wrote, when society was more formed and regulated; when the manners of men were more polished, their sentiments more refined; when

a very


the charities of life were extended, and better felt, and understood; when the decorums and proprieties of conduct had more sway, and there were greater research, reflection, and contrivance, in the motives of action.The sentiments, both in Homer and Apollonius, are the sentiments of nature. These writers were both painters, who delineated from the life—they both express the feelings of the heart, the genuine workings of the mind, with a learned spirit of human dealings; but, in Apollonius we discover more of the plaits and foldings of the heart; we penetrate, with the author, more deeply into the secret recesses of the soul.--Thus, the topics are less obvious in Apollonius, though not less natural, than in Homer; the remarks are less open to common observation, such, as, in his state of society, could not have occurred to Homer, but, which, having been made by the later poet, forcibly strike us, as just and natural.

The court of the Ptolemies, where the genius of Apollonius was formed, no doubt, exhibited as much politeness of manners, and delicacy of sentiment, at least, as any court of our modern times.- -Hence, when we come to compare his poem with those of Homer, we perceive a material change. In the later writer, we find sentiments more refined, exprest in more courtly and polished language; a greater appearance of care and study; an elegance of thought and diction, unknown to Homer.----We find in Apollonius even a turn of correct gallantry, which would not misbecome a knight of modern chivalry and romance one of the heroes of Ariosto, Spenser, or Tasso.

Love is the passion, which particularly embellishes the poem of Apollonius. The refinements, the vicissitudes, the conflicts of the passion were displayed by him, with the hands of science and philosophy. In the more rude and simple times, when men were strenuously



[ocr errors]

occupied in the pursuits of agriculture, of hunting, or of war, there was little refinement in the intercourse of the sexes; the expressions of feeling were plain and simple; the process to the indulgence of a mutual inclidation was brief, and unembarrassed by affectation or ceremony. The dear delays, the fascinating, suspense, the charming mystery, the tender solicitude, the sentimental delicacy, the mild decorums, the veil that modesty throws over the avowals of the female wish. Of these we find few traces in the writings of Homer, who took his ideas from the pastoral and heroic times. A more advanced state of society produced a greater variety in the motives of action, more intricacy in the affairs of men; and this complication in the intercourse of life, introduced into the arrangements, that produce the union of lovers, multiplied difficulties, perplexities, embarrassments, and intrigues—thus, love began to occupy more of the time and thoughts of men; to be considered more as a business of life; and to be treated more scientific cally by writers. In proportion, as it became the subject of more thought and consideration, and excited more extensive and lasting interests among men, it afforded more constant and varied employment, for the exercise of their talents. It was then, that the joys, the sorrows, the fears, the hopes, the disappointments, and triumphs of love, began to furnish a new and most fertile department, to the cultivation of the muse. Homer, it is true, has transient displays of passion and tenderness, but they seem to be merely accidental, without research, or study of the heart. They are such sudden bursts of feeling, as we might expect in the ruder states of society. We have not the patient investigation, the gradual unfoldings, the instructive pourtraiture of human emotions.


Antecedent to the productions of the Alexandrine school, some writers had expressly and exclusively chosen the passion of love for their subject-such, for instance, were Mimnermus, Alcæus, Anacreon, Sappho, Erinna, and the rest of the erotic poetesses. The tender and feeling Euripides, who bad formed himself, in the school of moral philosophy, to an acquaintance with the heart, has given us some learned and instructive displays of the human breast, in the conscious emotions of Phadra, the jealous rage of Medea, the conjugal tenderness of Alcestis. But, it seems to have been re, served and destined, for the writers of the Alexandrian court, to treat love, as a science; and to bring the muse of amorous feeling to her utmost refinement and perfection. The Idyls of Theocritus speak the very voice of nature; and exhibit all the varieties of passion, in the young and artless bosom.

" Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstulit error." And, as to Apollonius, he anatomizes love, with all the skill of a master, who had watched every glance of the impassioned eye, felt every pulse of the enamoured heart, and knew how to read and express every emotion and expression of the soul. But, I find I have anticipated topics, that belong to another essay.

Thus, have I endeavoured to point the attention of the reader, to the chief excellencies, which distinguish our author. I have also noticed, though, I must own, with reluctance, certain peculiarities and blemishes, which, as critical justice compels us to admit, prevent our feeling, in their whole force, the effects of his beauties. I cannot forbear repeating my observation, that the most convincing proof, of the value and excellence of the poem of Apollonius, is the circumstance, of the



« AnteriorContinuar »