Imágenes de páginas


circumstance resulted from his solicitude, to paint from the life, and to exhibit perfectly the object before him. -Virgil, who, perhaps, surpast all poets that ever lived, in taste and judgment, is never betrayed into this fault. He is never tautologous, never redundant, never tirc

We perceive, in every page of Apollonius and Virgil, that they had explored the treasures of various learning; but, in particular, that they were no strangers to moral philosophy.

There is one feature of resemblance, highly deserving of notice, when we come to compare these twin stars, with the great luminary, who preceded them; an appearance of excursive and curious research, in the choice of materials, a certain manifestation of study and industry, in deriving them from more remote sources; a greater appearance of artifice and skill, in the disposition and employment of them. The productions of Homer are like the vast and stupendous Egyptian temples, that overawe, and almost terrify, the astonished beholder, by their immensity, their gigantic proportions, and massy greatness, which seems to be consecrated to eternity. The productions of Apollonius and Virgil seem to resemble magnificent palaces, built for the reception of men, according to the rules and symmetry of Grecian architecture. The events, in Homer, are less connected and prepared there is less contrivance and coherence in the fable-the incidents flow, as it were, spontaneously, without any marking or designation of operating cause, or mutual dependency, or they are brought forward suddenly and unexpectedly, by the direct interference of sone deity. Apollonius and Virgil display more of the springs of action they avail themselves mo of the operation of moral causes, because they are better acquainted with their varieties and details. The story, therefore, has more relation to the

characters characters and feelings of the agents; the events flow from, or are influenced, by their dispositions, in a perceptible and natural manner; and the reader finds a new source of pleasure, in tracing this connexion. There is, in short, in the poems of Apollonius and Virgil, more of what modern writers distinguish by the name of intrigue.-—The wrath of Achilles furnishes the subject for the Iliad. But, this is a simple emotion, producing a simple effect, the retirement of Achilles, and, in consequence of it, the defeat of the Greeks. Here is no amplification, no display of passion. The subsequent events seem to arise of themselves, as it were accidentally, or are brought forward by the direct interposition of the different deities. We have node of that profound complication of motives, none of that am. plification and display of passion. On the contrary, what a web of intrigue is woven; what a complication of cause and effect! what a series of embarrassments, to the completion of the main action, are produced, by the operation of love, in the poem of Virgil! and what a train of consequences follow, and how much is the catastrophe made to depend, on the prevalence of the same passion, in the soul of Medea, as described by Apollonius Rhodius !--It is observable, as a point of resemblance, in these poets, that, as they ascribe much to the operation and influence of love, and allow it to employ a considerable proportion of their poems, they show, alike, that, in so doing, they formed a just estimate of their own talents; since, on this theme they are peculiarly successful, and show themselves admirable masters of passion, in developing the birth, the violence, the conflicts, and the despair of love.

Every attentive reader of Apollonius and Virgil must observe, a certain family resemblance, in the happiness and aptitude of their figures and metaphors, in the


to an

glowing and graphical force of expression, and the excellence of striking and luminous description. We are surprised, at the delicacy of taste, which prevails in their writings; the refined judgment, wakeful, alive, and feeling at every pore, to grace and beauty, and all this recommended and embellished, by the delightful concord of sweet sounds; that seem to be tuned for hea. venly harpings; and intended to sooth the ears of celestial beings. To what shall we ascribe this fraternal coincidence, in beauty and delightfulness? what similar extraneous circumstances have acted on similarity of innate genius!-May not minds be trained and formed,

uncommon sensibility and refinement, in their respective functions, by the being perpetually conversant with beautiful objects, fragrant scents, and harmonious sounds: Apollonius and Virgil were, undoubtedly, much favoured by fortune, in this respect, All that was most refined and exquisite, in every province of the fine arts, was not only not within their reach, but, perpetually offered to their senses. The taste and magnificence of the Ptolemies, seconded by the ministry of active agents, and the command of immense wealth, were exerted, generation after generation, in assembling at Alexandria the most perfect productions of the Grecian pencil and chisel. The theory of sounds was cultivated with care, as a branch of mathematical science; it is to be presumed, that the practice of harmony was carried to a high degree of perfection, in an elegant and voluptuous court, like that of the Egyptian kings. With respect to Virgil, the ingenious and learned Mr. Spence, in his Polymetis, endeavours to show an agreement, between the works of the Roman poets, and the remains of the ancient artists; and to illustrate them mutually by comparison. It is bable, that Virgil has derived considerable aids, from


It is pro

the labours of preceding painters and sculptors; and was led by a diligent contemplation of excellent pictures, which must have been perpetually before his eyes, to an intuitive perception of beauty, symmetry, and grace. ---Milton, too, who possest, in a distinguished degree, the same instinctive taste, the same correct and classical eye, and the same learned aod musical ear, had similar advantages. His travels on the continent, afforded him opportunities of seeing the finest remains of antiquity, and the most perfect productions of mo. dern art; while, at the same time, he attuned his ear, by all that was known and practised in harmony, by all that was most exquisite in musical performance.

I have hitherto dwelt, in a general manner, on the resemblance of these two great poets.-_The subject is so interesting and engaging, that, I persuade myself, the reader will not be displeased, to descend into a more minute enquiry, and to examine more particularly, the features of resemblance.

The first point, in which I shall compare them, is with respect to invention, the prime attribute of a poet. In this, the Latin poet bears away the palm from his Grecian predecessor. Much more of the contexture of the fable was purely his own. In this respect, the invention of Virgil differs as much from the invention of Apollonius, as well as of Homer, as the invention of the historian, who undertakes to embellish a true history, differs from that of a composer of a novel or romance. Homer was in possession of a great event, not so far removed from the times in which he wrote, as to want the charms of probability. The tale of Troy divine, (and the same may be said of the legend of the Argonautic Expedition,) was endeared to the Greeks, by all their passions, and prejudices. The action was, in itself, as great, as it was interesting, in its consequences. How

[ocr errors]

ever, as Apollonius wrote,' at a time so distant from the event he describes, he wants that vivid impression of freshness, that charm of probability, that opportunity of depicting existing manners, and, in some measure, : of referring to the memory of living witnesses, that fell to the share of Homer. I think, therefore, we may venture to say, in common of Apollonius and Virgil, that they had the more laborious and difficult task, of mak. ing up, by the excellence and beauty of their fictions, by the variety and ingenuity of their episodes, by the novelty and richness of their embellishments, what was wanting, in the grandeur, the probability, and the inte. rest of their fables, considering the times in which they wrote. All the characters and manners of the Homeric heroes were, in some measure, established, ascertained, and known, by historical tradition. Homer, also, had the advantage of possessing all the learning of his time; so that his work, in comparison with the measure of information, which was then generally diffused, was a prodigy, exhibiting a complete assemblage of all that could be known, in every branch of science, when he wrote. -Thus, we admire his skill in surgery, medicine, and anatomy, his geographical details, his intimate knowledge of pedigrees, and religious rites and ceremonies. --Apollonius and Virgil found themselves in a very different predicament. They were not the poets of a simple unlettered age they 'were not to address themselves, like the venerable father of epic song-to

“ Many a kind domestic train,
“ Whose pious hearth, and genial bowl,
“ Had cheard the reverend pilgrim's soul.”

Akenside, Ode to Hastings. The kindred poets were fated, to write for ages polite, learned, and refined, in the highest degree. The vast



« AnteriorContinuar »