Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the poet.

feet. Originality and simplicity then virtue of Italy. From this time the went hand in hand.

writers are few, and scattered at long This, it is quite obvious, could not intervals over a dreary and neglected last long. In proportion as simple tract. The reigns of succeeding emimagery and sentiment were "pre- perors, down to Vespasian and Titus, occupied, artificial combinations be- exhibit little else than the annals of came necessary. The change in the "cruelty and sensuality; and a poet appoetical style is apparent, accordingly, pears like an oasis of the desert green even in the younger writers of the

age in the midst of a scorched and sandy of Augustus. Ovid and Propertius waste. That tendency to the artificial exhibit many marks of what Quin- style, which began with Ovid, attaina tilian has described as the depravity of ed, in the hands of Seneca, to all the the Latin style. That quaintness of madness of metaphor and antithesis. expression, pointedness of sentence, Examples of these figures are indeed and elaborate metaphor, in which this to be found in almost every sentence depravily is thought to consist, are of his prose writings, and of the few best known from a selection of passages verses he has left. It is perhaps superwhich contain them. In the few ex- fluous to remark, that the heavy and ampies here given, such are attempted tasteless tragedies under the name of to be selected as embody the peculiari- Seneca are generally thought to be ties of the style of the age, at the same falsely attributed to the tutor of Nero. time that they illustrate the genius of In his poetical lamentations on his

banishment, he quaintly alludes to the Propertius was one of the latest solitude of Corsica. writers of the Augustan age. He died " Hic, sola hæc duo sunt, Exul et exilium," young, and his remains have been less And in conclusion of a deprecatory esteemed than they deserve to be, pro- address to the rugged genius of the bably because they are somewhat more place, thus sings tinctured with the peculiarities of the Parce religatis, hoc est jam parce sepultis,

" Vivorum cineri sit tua terra levis," artificial style than those of his con

This taste in the usual course of temporaries. He certainly has not the genius of Ovid, to excuse his want of things soon became subject to a reacsimplicity, to those who make it the tion. It was a permanent one, and first criterion of excellence. Neither the writers from that time downwards has he the equable and plaintive flow are comparatively moderate in the apa of Tibullus : but his elegies exhibit plication of artificial embellishment, occasional bursts of poetry, superior only using it in proportion as they are perhaps to any thing in those of his compelled to do so by the increasing rival. The following passage may necessities of originality. afford some idea of the capabilities of

Lucan was about twenty five years the poet, as well as of the turn of his younger than Seneca. It is needless style.

to dilate upon the well-known char

acteristics of this admirable poet. He Quicumque ille fuit Puerum qui pinxit Amorem, Nonne putas miras hunc habuisse manus ?

has been, perhaps justly, accused of a Hic prirnum vidit sine sensu vivere amantes tendency to bombast. The Pharsalia, Et levibus curis magna perire bona. Idem non frustra ventosas addidit alas,

however, as a whole, has a well-susFecit et humano corde volare deum ;

tained tone of lofty stoicism, and conScilicet alterna quoniam jactamur in unda, Nostraque non ullis permanet aura locis;

tains many passages of a force and Et merito hamatis manus est armata sagittis energy which have not often been Et pharetra exhumero Gnossia utroque jacet; Anteferit quoniam, tuti quam cernimus hostem surpassed. It may perhaps be but a Nec quisquam, ex illo vulnere, sanus abit. doubtful compliment, that the sceptiIn me tela manent, manet et puerilis imago, Sed certe pennas perdidit ille suas ;

cal Pere Hardouin, who has disputed Evolat heu ! nostro quoniam de pectore nunquam

the guthenticity of most of the classics, Assiduusque meo sanguine bella gerit.

Lib. ii. Eleg. xii.

concedes that of Lucan. His language Though generally elegant, however, is much more artificial, and includes and occasionally tender, he is haunted more apparent effort than that of the with a sort of pedantry, which some

best poets of the Augustan period. times weighs down his genius.

His complimentary line to Cato is During the latter portion of the celebrated, reign of Tiberius, began that course “ Victrix causa Diis placuit, sed victa Catoni.” of tyranny and debauchery, which This, however, is not the only comoverlaid and poisoned the genius and pliment he has paid to the Patriot.

Lib. ii,

The following fine panegyrical ex

The character is well kept up; clamations are put into the mouth of his persuasion that he was fated to Brutus.

conquer Rome,-his joy at the omens " Quid, tot durasse per annos, in his favour, and his disregard of Profuit, immunem corrupti moribus ævi ? Hoc solum longæ pretium virtutis habebis,

them when against him,-his intense Accipient alios, facient te bella nocentem." love of Fame and loathing of peaceful He thus eulogizes the customary

obscurity

Quantum, enim, distant a morte silentia Vitæ ?" suicides of a certain tribe, auxiliaries of Pompey

The passage of the Alps is, in some * Proh ! quanta est gloria Genti places, highly wrought. Indeed it Injecisse manum Fatis, vitaque repletos,

seems to be one of the peculiarities of Quod superest donasse Deis!

Lib. iii. Having related the rout of Pom- this poet to give a sort of dramatic, or pey's army, he breaks into these ex- even theatrical effect to some of his clamations; the change of tense from descriptions of natural scenery. the third to the first person plural is

The following passage is remarkastriking, and the concluding thought ble, not only as being a procl of th strong, and perhaps a little too daring. strong and pointed metaphorical ex “ Vincimur his gladiis omnis, quæ serviet, ætas;

pression of which Silius Italicus was Proxima quid Soboles, aut quid meruere nepotes

capable, but also as affording a strikIn regnum nasci? pavidi num gessimus arma? Teximus aut jugulos ? - Alieni poena timoris ing example of that change of style In nostra cervice sedet: post proelia natis, which the necessity of originality forces Si dominum, Fortuna, dabas, et bella dedisses."

Silius Italicus has of all the Latin upon poets. The Alpine solitudes are poets met with the worst usage and referred to. the greatest neglect.

Has observatis Valles enavimus astris ; The injudicious

Namque dies confundit iter, peditemque profundo plan of his poem, on the second Punic Errantem Campo, et semper inedia arva videntem, war, has in part been the cause. A Sidoniis Cynosura regit fiūtissima nautis.” Lib. iii. work of seventeen books, and consist

Lucan, in his account of Cato's ing of no great single action, but a

march through the Lybian Desert, mounting to something very like what, had already said, “ sideribus novere upon a smaller scale, had been called viam.” Silius strengthens this passage

a Gazette in rhyme,” has dreariness by the “ enavimus,” which is “ in the very outset. Added to this has bold word,” and by additional circumbeen the operation of that criticism stances. which, to the occasional boldness of The brave obstinacy of Flaminius, Silius, prefers the exaggerated charac- who fights at lake Thrasimene, against ters and feebler style of Statius. Si- all augury, and under the most unlius Italicus has too easily indulged in favourable circumstances, is pourtraythe pleasure of composition. He was ed in lively colours. Describing the a man of wealth and leisure; and disorder of the Roman troops, hurrywhen a great man chooses to relax him- ing to the onset, he saysself in verse, few critics are ill-bred Implere, et pugnan, fugientum more petebant."

-Præsago cuncta tumultu enough to hint the possibility of prolixity. Had he concentrated the and the audacious Consul, in defiance powers, which he has lavished upon

of dissuading Omens, exclaimshis voluminous Epic, into a poem of Augur adest, Ensis."

Sat magnus in hostem the fourth of the length, he would The rout at Canne, which, though have stood high as a poet. A very few infinitely more disastrous, includes extracts will amply prove this. His less of picturesque circumstance, is expressions are sometimes very bold, less successfully treated. The diffithough his force, upon the whole, is culty of transferring the interest from much less than that of Lucan. The Hannibal to Fabius, Scipio, and othopening presents a forcible description ers, who, after the decline of his for. of Hannibal, the Hector of the poem. tunes, became “ lords of the ascend“ Ingenio motus avidus fideique sinister

ant," takes much of their attraction Is fuit, exuberans astu, sed devius æqui; Armato nullus Divum pudor; improba virtus

from the latter books of the poem. Et pacis despectus honos: penitusque medullis

The following lines may be quoted, as Sanguinis humani tiagrat sitis : insuper ævi Flore virens, avet Egales abolere parentům having that sort of theatrical effect Dedecus, ac Siculo demergere foedera ponto. which has been already adverted to :Jamque, aut nocturno penetrat Capitolia visu, Aut, rapidus, fertur per summas passibus Alpes,

“ Hinc rupti reboare poli, atque hinc crebra micare Sæpe etiam famuli, turbato ad lumina somno,

Fulmina, et in classem ruere impacabile coelum." Expavere trucem, per vasta silentia, vocem; Ac largo sudore virum invenere, futuras

The poems of Statius have been alMiscentem pugnas, et inania bella gerentem.

Lib. i. ready mentioned. Pope has conde.

[ocr errors]

Lib. V.

[ocr errors]

Lib. v.

Lib. XVII.

Pierio meritam serto redimire Serenam?

" Ceu murmurat alti

scended to translate the first book of ". Dic mihi, Calliope, tanto cur tempore differs his Thebais, and to give an English Vile putas donum, solitam consurgere gemmis version of the melodious mediocrity of Et rubro radiare mari, si floribus ornes his original. All Latin verse, how

Quos neque frigoribus Boreas, nec Sirius urit ever, is melodious; and to this excel- Aestibus, eterno sed veris honore rubentes

Fons Aganippeâ Permessius educat unda lence, which he possesses in common Unde piæ pascuntur apes, et prata legentes with the rest of his poetical country

Transmittunt sæclis Heliconia mella futuris." men, Statius has added little of his

On the nuptials of Honorius, the own.

gay poet informs the young brideFrom this period down to Claudian, groom, « all is void," poetically speaking, for, "! Non quisquam fruitur veris honoribus excepting by scholars, Ausonius is not Hyblæos latebris nec spoliat favos,

Si fronte caveat, si timeat rubos: resorted to, and Prudentius scarcely Armat spina rosas ; mell? tegunt apes ;

Crescunt difficili guadia jurgio;. ranks as a classic—that poet being a

Ascendit que magis quæ refugit Venus ; Christian. In annals which are filled Quod fenti tuleris, plus sapit esculum.”

Fescennina. with wars abroad and brutality at home, there is no room for literature. The

In the poem on the enterprise of leaf coloured red is, in the eye of rea

Rufinus, the half-suppressed inquieson, as much a blank as that which is tude of the people is described in a left untouched. Whilst every thing

simile, of which the exquisite lanestimable was retrograde, corruption of guage is fully equal to the evident manners advanced with accelerated justice of the comparison :progress. Juvenal had said, in his

Impacata quies pelagi, cum, flamino fracto, strong way,

Durat adhuc sævitque tumor, dubiumque per æstun "Occurrunt multæ tibi Belides, atque Eriphylæ:

Lassa recedentis fuitant vestigia ventiMane' Clytemnestram nullus non vicus habebit”

In Ruf. Lib. I. and Silius Italicus elegantly and feel

Rufinus is slain and hacked in pieces, ingly alludes to the same deterioration.

and his limbs scattered about,

« Pulvere raro, He is describing the conduct of the

Per partes tegitur, nusquam totiesque sepultus." Romans after the defeat at Canne,

Lib. II. “ Hæc tum Roma fuit; post te, cui vertere mores The next passage is singular, as beSi stabat fatis, potius, Carthago, maneres !” The poetry of Claudian is like the System. It may possibly have afford

ing in anticipation of the Linnean last lamp which, after a long interval,

ed a hint to Darwin. seems to bid us adieu, in our egress

“ Vivunt in Venerem frondes; omnisque vicissim from some city where we are leaving Felix arbor amat : nutant ad mutua Palme

Foedera; Populeo suspirat Populus ictu ; the brilliancy of palaces, and the illu

Et Platani Platanis, Alnoque assibilat Alnus.” minated haunts of elegant civilization.

Epithal. de nupt. Hon. & Mar. He is one of the most polished of The following description of the inpoets; nor does his polish detract any fant Sun is pushed, though elegantly, thing from his strength. His satirical to an extreme of quaintness. It is passages are as free from coarseness as one of his few faulty passages : his gayest strains: and, as the finest " Invalidum dextro portat Titana lacerto,

Nondum luce gravem, nec pubescentibus alte scymitars are said to be tempered with

Cristatum radiisperfume, they, perhaps, cut deeper

Rapt, Pros. Lib. I. from the delicacy employed in their After Claudian there is no Roman formation. The obscurity of the poet of note. The intellect and learnevents which constitute the subjects ing of the times were rapidly absorbed of most of his pieces, is a great disad- by. theological polemics of a descripvantage. We are with difficulty in- tion which, in their operation, seem terested by that of which we know to have darkened rather than enlightlittle. The Trojan war, and the for- ened the minds of the disputants. tunes of the first Cæsars, are familiar Such was the twilight which preceded to all; but who knows or cares about the night of the middle ages. the virtues of Stilicho, or the defeat of The foregoing extracts have gone so Rufinus ?

far in shewing that, after the AugusThis poet abounds, above all the tan age, the paucity of poets is probaLatin poets,

point and antithesis. bly be attributed to the noxious inHis points, however, are always ele- fluence of a corrupted and distracted gant; although perhaps pushed, in a empire; and that the efforts which few instances, to absolute quaintness. were actually made, exhibit proofs of

The opening of the Panegyric on genius and taste, which, had they Serena, is a beautiful effort:

been reserved for a happier period,

Cut with thine own dust"

The gene

must have led to splendid results. It there is a homely formality, more or remains to glance at the revival of less interlarded with that tendency to poetry, as it extended to England, and quaint conceit, which, after Spenser, to point out the similitudes between went on increasing, until the paroxthe progress of the English poetical ysm had its crisis in Cowley. A few style, and that of the Latin classics. instances of quaint metaphor may be, The truth of the critical deductions indeed, selected from the immense which

may

be drawn from this view, stores of the dramatic productions of must, of course, depend upon the Elizabeth's reign ; but they are few. right appreciation of the facts.

Romeo and Juliet contains more than It was not until about the com

one; and in the pathetic oration of mencement of the reign of Elizabeth, Caratach over the body of the suicide that the English language attained Penius, in the Bonduca of Beaumont such an approximation to perfection, and Fletcher, the Briton is made to as to become comparatively perman- exclaim, ent in its idioms and general tone of “ Thou hallow'd relic, thou rich diamond, expression. In tracing the progress of our poetical style, it would, how

The style of the great Epic or ram ever, be unjust to omit one or two ther allegorical poet of the period,

Had writers of Henry VIII. and Mary. Spenser, is much more simple. The works of the Earl of Surrey, and he written a regular Epic, and been of Wyatt, present many passages of less fond of the antiquated phraseopoetical simplicity, joined to easy logy which he affects, he might have versification, the last of which quali- ranked as the English Virgil

. His ties is as rare in early poetry, as its

verse is melodious, and his language, adjunct is common. in an investiga- in general, simply poetical; for he tion of this nature, the progress of has few of those pointed and antiEnglish poetry in general must be thetical passages which increase with carefully kept distinct from that of the advancement of poetry. The folEnglish dramatic poetry.

lowing stanzas are more pointed than ral style of poetry in the reign of is usual with him : Elizabeth, the true Augustan age of "Dear dame, quoth he, you sleeping sparkes awake

Which, troubled once, into huge flames will grow, Britain, was affected by circumstances

Ne ever will their fervent fury slake, from the operation of which the drama ving moisture into smoke do flow, was in a great measure free. The Yet sithens silence lesseneth not my fire drama may be called of indigenous I will revele what you so much desire.

glow growth, while the Epic and Lyrical Ah! Love lay down thy bow the whiles" I may shoots were early improved by grafts

respyre."

Book 1, Canto IX. from the ancient classical and modern Italian Parnassus. The drama, too, Envy is thus finely described, was adopted by a man who had pow- Upon a ravenous wolfe, and still did chaw ers to form it as no other school was Between his canker'd teeth a venomous todo ever formed, and to enrich it as no

That all the poison ran about his jaw;

But inwardly he chawed his owna mawe, other poetry was ever enriched. In At neibours welth that made him ever sad; the hands of this almost preternatural for death it was when any good he saw; genius, it at once attained that perfec- But when he heard ał harme he wexed wondrous tion which other departments of the

glad.”

Book 1, Canto IV. poetic art have only reached through the lapse of ages ; and he has thrown there is an evident deviation from the

In Ben Johnson and in Donne a radiance over his dramatic contemporaries, with which their own powers, though often hard, sometimes writes

early simplicity of style.

Jonson, aided even by the tuition of his example, would never have invested elegantly, even in the modern accepthem.

tation of elegance. His epitaphs are Throughout the plays of Shak- deservedly celebrated. The two fol

lowing are the first and last stanzas of speare, and also, in a

lesser degree, in the other dramatic writers of his

one of his songs :

“ Come let us here enjoy the shade, time, is to be found that just mixture of simple originality, bold metaphor, Tho' Envy oft his shadow be,

None brooks the sunlight worse than he." and pointed energy, which approaches the perfection of poetical writing. In

“Such are his pow'rs whom time hath styled the miscellaneous poetry of the age,

Now swift, now slow, now tame, now mild;

Till

• For love in shadow best is made;

[ocr errors]

Now hot, now cold, now fierce, now wild,

WEEPING. The eldest god yet still a child."

" See where she sits, and in what comely wise In his Elegy on Shakespeare, the Props,

tears more fair than others eyes !

Ah! charming maid, let not ill fortune see, strong thoughts are clothed in rough Th'attire thy sorrow wears,

Nor know the beauty of thy tears, versification :

For she'll still come to dress herself in thee.
« Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to shew As stars reflect on waters, so I spy
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe; In ev'ry drop, methinks, her eye;
He was not of an age but for all time;

The baby which lives there, and always plays And all the muses still were in their prime

In that illustrious sphere, When like Apollo he came forth to warm

Like a Narcissus does appear,
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm.

Whilst in his flood the lovely boy did gaze.
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines,

Ne'er yet did I behold so glorious weather,
Which were so richly spun and wov'n so fit,

As this sunshine and rain together ; As since she will vouchsafe no other wit."

Pray heav'n her forehead, that pure hill of snow,

For some such fountain we must find,
The reputation of Donne is a little To waters of so fair a kind,
unaccountable.
His lumbering con-

Melt not to feed that beauteous stream below. ceits and lumbering phraseology seern

Ah! mighty love, that it were inward heat

Which made this precious limbeck sweat! to have acted as a sort of pioneers to the But what, alas! ah! what does it avail less awkward forces of Cowley; but

That she weeps tears so wondrous cold,

As scarce the asses' hoof can hold, he is best known by the translation So cold that I admire they fall not hail !" which Pope has made of some of his To this song, a double mark of adsatires. İf Donne was the precursor miration is requisite. The tribe, of of Cowley, Drummond may, perhaps, which this author is one, have been as properly be called that of Waller. called the metaphysical poets;" In this poet some of the most musical and he is the prince of them. The versification and most elegantly point- term “ metaphysical” is, however, by ed lines of the time are to be found.

no means happy in this application of Indeed some of his sonnets have never it. It is used in contra-distinca been surpassed.

tion to “ natural ;” the style of CowWaller has carried the union of ley is the unnatural style. To define pointed thought with correct versifi- precisely what is meant by this is yet cation to a height which after times a matter of nice distinction; the faults have seldom exceeded. He is not, of this style have been much exaggerhowever, always equally happy, nor ated, and sometimes misconceived. The is the polish of his language always difference between Cowley and those sufficient to disguise the far-fetched who are called the natural poets seems thoughts which are embodied in his to be merely this; that he pushes his stanzas. His exquisite song, “Go thoughts, whether metaphors, antiLovely Rose,” has been the favourite theses, or similes, frequently too far, of most readers of poetry. But a fair- and, what is worse, for the most part er sample of his beauties and his uses them indiscriminately and withfaults must be given.

out any apparent consideration, whethSONG VII.

er or not their general tone is adapted While I listen to thy voice

to that of the subject he is treating. “ Chloris, I feel my life decay; That pow'rful noise

His quaintest thoughts may be paralCalls iny fleeting soul away.

leled" from different passages, in the Oh! suppress that magic sound, Which destroys without a wound.

works of other poets, but he is so Peace, Chloris, peace, or singing die,

blindly attached to them, that he That together you and I To heav'u may go;

crowds into his verse every point of For all we know

every kind which his subject affords, Of what the blessed do above

Is that they sing and that they love." as if all of equal propriety and value. One of the happiest stanzas in his Thus, in the example given, the last panegyric on Cromwell runs thus: It line is absolutely ludicrous, because alludes to the insular advantages of utterly uncongenial with the graver England.

tone of the subject and the preceding Angels and we have this prerogative,

matter, whilst in an epigram or a saThat none can at our happy seats arrive,

tire it might have been applauded. While we descend, at pleasure, to invade The bad with vengeance, and the good to aid." His love of point is so intense, that

Cowley made his age of English he heeds not how far he goes for one, poetry what that of Seneca was in or how laboriously he hammers it inRomán poetry; and had Seneca been to the shape he wants. Although a more of a poet, he would have been thought have the coldness of frostthe Roman Cowley. One song will work itself, he cares not, so it possesssufficiently exemplify the peculiarities es also the crystalline sparkle; and

though in the banquet he sets before

of this poet.

« ZurückWeiter »