Abbildungen der Seite

touched with pity at her fate and admiration of her beauty, fell in love with her, and resolved to try if he could not put an end to so terrible a custom. He accordingly got permission from the state to marry her, provided he could rescue her from her dreadful expectant. He armed himself, waited in the temple, and the Genius appeared. It was said to have been of an appalling presence. Its shape was every way formidable, its colour of an intense black; and it was girded about with a wolfskin. But Euthymus fought and conquered it; upon which it filed madly, not only beyond the walls, but the utmost bounds of Temesa, and rushed into the sea.

The Penates were gods of the house and family. Collectively speaking, they also presided over cities, public roads, and at last over all places with which men were conversant. Their chief government, however, was supposed to be over the most inner and secret part of the house, and the subsistence and welfare of its inmates. They were chosen at will out of the number of the gods, as the Roman in modern times chose his favourite saint. In fact, they were only the higher gods themselves, descending into a kind of household familiarity. They were the personification of a particular Providence. The most striking mention of the Penates which we can call to mind is in one of Virgil's most poetical passages. It is where they appear to Æneas, to warn him from Crete, and announce his destined empire in Italy (Book III. v. 147) :

Nox erat, et terris animalia somnus habebat.
Effigies sacræ Divûm, Phrygiique Penates,
Quos mecum a Trojâ, mediisque ex ignibus urbis
Extuleram, visi ante oculos adstare jacentis
In somnis, multo manifesti lumine, quà se
Plena per insertas fundebat Luna fenestras."

'Twas night; and sleep was on all living things
I lay, and saw before my very eyes
Dread shapes of gods, and Phrygian deities,
The great Penates; whom with reverent joy
I bore from out the heart of burning Troy.
Plainly I saw them, standing in the light
Which the moon pour'd into the room that night.

And again, after they had addressed him :

“Nec sopor illud erat; sed coram agnoscere vultus,
Velatasque comas, præsentiaque ora videbar:
Tum gelidus toto manabat corpore sudor.”
It was no dream: I saw them face to face,
Their hooded hair ; and felt them so before
My being, that I burst at every pore.

The Lares, or Lars, were the lesser and most familiar household gods; and though their offices were afterwards extended a good deal, in the saine way as those of the Penates, with whom they are often wrongly confounded, their principal sphere was the fire-place. This was in the middle of the room ; and the statues of the Lares generally stood about it in little niches. They are said to have been in the shape of monkeys; more likely mannikins, or rude little human images. Some were made of wax, some of stone, and others doubtless of any material for sculpture. They were represented with good-natured grinning countenances, were clothed in skins, and had little dogs at their feet. Some writers make them the offspring of the goddess Mania, who presided over the spirits of the dead ; and suppose that originally they were the same as those spirits ; which is a very probable as well as agreeable superstition, the old nations of Italy having been accustomed to bury their dead in their houses. Upon this supposition, the good or benevolent spirits were called Familiar Lares, and the evil or malignant ones Larvæ and Lemures. Thus Milton, in his awful “Hymn on the Nativity":

“In consecrated earth,
And on the holy hearth,
The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaat.
In urns and altars round,
A drear and dying sound
Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;
And the chill marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar Power foregoes his wonted seat."

But Ovid tells a story of a gossiping nymph Lara, who, having


told Juno of her husband's amour with Juturna, was

6 sent to hell” by him, and courted by Mercury on the road ; the consequence of which was the birth of the Lares. This seems to have a natural reference enough to the gossiping over fireplaces.

It is impossible not to be struck with the resemblance between these lesser household gods and some of the offices of our old English elves and fairies. But of them more by and by. Dacier, in a note upon Horace (Book I., Od. 12), informs us, that in some parts of Languedoc, in his time, the fire-place was still called the Lar; and that the name was also given to houses.

Herrick, an excellent poet of the Anacreontic order in the time of Elizabeth, whose works we shall often have occasion to recommend to the reader, and who was visited perhaps more than any poet that ever lived with a sense of the pleasantest parts of the cheerful mythology of the ancients, has written some of his lively little odes upon the Lares. We have not them by us at this moment, but we remember one beginning

“It was, and still my care is,

To worship you, the Lares."

We take the opportunity of the Lars being mentioned in it, to indulge ourselves, and we hope our readers, in a little poem of Martial's, very charming for its simplicity. It is an epitaph on a child of the name of Erotion.

“Hic festinata requiescit Erotion umbra,

Crimine quam fati sexta peremit hiems.
Quisquis eris nostri post me regnator agelli,

Manibus exiguis annua justa dato.
Sic Lare perpetuo, sic turba sospite, solus

Flebilis in terra sit lapis iste tua."


Underneath this greedy stone
Lies little sweet Erotion ;

Whom the Fates, with hearts as cold,
Nipt away at six years old.
Thou, whoever thou mayst be,
That hast this small field after me,
Let the yearly rites be paid
To her little slender shade:
So shall no disease or jar
Hurt thy house, or chill thy Lar;
But this tomb here be alone
The only melancholy stone.

[NOTE.—Herrick can hardly be called a poet of “the time of Elizabeth”, since he was only twelve years old when Elizabeth died, and was living in the reign of Charles II.-E. 0.]



EN of wit sometimes like to pamper a favourite joke

into exaggeration,-into a certain corpulence of face

tiousness. Their relish of the thing makes them wish it as large as possible; and the social enjoyment of it is doubled by its becoming more visible to the eyes of others. It is for this reason that jests in company are sometimes built up by one hand after another—"three-piled hyperboles”—till the overdone Babel topples and tumbles down amidst a merry confusion of tongues.

Falstaff was a great master of this art. He loved a joke as large as himself; witness his famous account of the men in buckram. Thus he tells the Lord Chief-Justice that he had lost his voice “with singing of anthems ;” and he calls Bardolph's red nose “a perpetual triumph, an everlasting bonfirelight ;” and says it has saved him“ a thousand marks in links and torches,” walking with it “ in the night betwixt tavern and tavern." Sce how he goes heightening the account of his recruits at every step :-“You would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks. A mad fellow met me on the way, and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets, and pressed the dead bodies. No eye hath seen such scare-crows.

I 'll not march through Coventry with them, that's flat. Nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs, as if they had gyves on ;

« ZurückWeiter »