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The sparrow's chirrup on the roof,
The slow clock ticking, and the sound
The poplar made, did all confound
When the thick-moated sunbeam lay
“I am aweary, weary,
RISE OF POETRY AMONG THE ROMANS.
The Romans, in the infancy of their state, were entirely rude and unpolished. They came from shepherds; they were increased from the refuse of the nations around them; and their manners agreed with their original. As they lived wholly on tilling their ground at home, or on plunder from their neighbours, war was their business, and agriculture the chief art they followed. Long after this, when they had spread their conquests over a great part of Italy, and began to make a considerable figure in the world—even their great men retained a roughness, which they raised into a virtue, by calling it Roman spirit; %nd which might often much better have been called Roman barbarity. It seems to me, that there was more of austerity than justice, and more of insolence than courage, in some of their most celebrated actions. However that be, this is certain, that they were at first a nation of soldiers and husbandmen: roughness was long an applauded character among them; and a sort of rusticity reigned, even in their senate-house.
In a nation originally of such a temper as this, taken up almost always in extending their territories, very often in settling the balance of power among themselves, and not unfrequently in both these at the same time, it was long before the politer arts made any appearance; and very long before they took root or flourished to any degree. Poetry was the first that did so; but such a poetry as one might expect among a warlike, busied, unpolished people.
Not to enquire about the Songs of triumph mentioned even in Romulus's time, there was certainly something of poetry among them in the next reign, under Numa; a Prince who pretended to converse with the Muses as well as with Egeria, and who might possibly himself have made the verses which the Salian priests sang in his time. Pythagoras, either in the same
ANCIENT ROMAN CENTURION.
reign, or if you please some time after, gave the Romans a tincture of poetry as well as of philosophy; for Cicero assures us that the Pythagoreans made great use of poetry and music; and probably they, like our old Druids,
ANCIENT ROMAN SHOES.
delivered most of their precepts in verse. Indeed, the chief employment of poetry in that and the following ages, among the Romans, was of a religious kind. Their very prayers, and perhaps their whole liturgy, was
poetical. They had also a sort of prophetic or sacred writers, who seem to have written generally in verse; and were so numerous that there were above two thousand of their volumes remaining even to Augustus's time. They had a kind of plays too, in these early times, derived from what they had seen of the Tuscan actors when sent for to Rome to expiate a plague that raged in the city. These seem to have been either like our dumbshows, or else a kind of extempore farces—a thing to this day a good deal in use all over Italy and in Tuscany. In a more particular manner, add to these that extempore kind of jesting dialogues begun at their harvest and
vintage feasts, and carried on so rudely and abusively afterwards as to occasion a very severe law to restrain their licentiousness; and those lovers of poetry and good eating, who seem to have attended the tables of the richer sort, much like the old provincial poets, or our own British bards, and sang there to some instrument of music the achievements of their ancestors, and the noble, deeds of
ANCIENT ROMAN TORCHES.
those who had gone before them, to inflame others to follow their great examples.
The names of almost all these poets sleep in peace with all their works ;
and, if we may take the word of the other Roman writers of a better age, it is no great loss to us. One of their best poets represents them as very obscure and very contemptible ; one of their best historians avoids quoting them as too barbarous for politer ears; and one of their most judicious emperors ordered the greatest part of their writings to be burnt, that the world might be troubled with them no longer.
All these poets, therefore, may very well be dropped in the account, there being nothing remaining of their works, and probably no merit to be found in them if they had remained. And so we may date the beginning of the Roman poetry from Livius Andronicus, the first of their poets of whom anything does remain to us; and from whom the Romans themselves seem to have dated the beginning of their poetry, even in the Augustan age.
The first kind of poetry that was followed with any success among the Romans, was that for the stage. They were a very religious people; and stage plays in those times made no inconsiderable part in their public devotions ; it is hence, perhaps, that the greatest number of their oldest poets, of whom we have any remains, and, indeed, almost all of them, are dramatic poets.
ANCIENT ROMAN MILL.
CHARACTER OF JULIUS CÆSAR.
ÆSAR was endowed with every great and noble quality that could exalt human nature, and give a man the ascendant in society. Formed to excel in peace as well as war ; provident in council ; fearless in action, and executing what he had resolved with an amazing celerity; generous beyond measure to his friends ; placable to his enemies; and for parts, learning, and eloquence, scarce inferior to any man.
His orations were adn ed for two qualities, which are seldom found
together, strength and elegance: Cicero ranks him among the greatest orators that Rome ever bred; and Quintilian says, that he spoke with the same force with which he fought; and if he had devoted himself to the bar, would have been the only man capable of rivalling Cicero. Nor was he a master only of the politer arts ; but conversant also with the most abstruse and critical parts of learning; and, among other works which he published, addressed two books to Cicero on the analogy pf language, or the art of speaking and writing correctly. He was a most liberal patron of wit and learning, wheresoever they were found; and out of his love of those talents, would readily pardon those who had employed them against himself; rightly judging, that by making such men his friends, he should draw praises from the same fountain from which he had been aspersed. His capital passions were ambition and love of pleasure, which he indulged in their turns to the
COIN OF CÆSAR AUGUSTUS.
greatest excess; yet the first was always predominant—to which he could easily sacrifice all the charms of the second, and draw pleasure even from toils and dangers, when they ministered to his glory. For he thought Tyranny, as Cicero says, the greatest of goddesses; and had frequently in his mouth a verse of Euripides, which expressed the image of his soul, that if right and justice were ever to be violated, they were to be violated for the sake of reigning. This was the chief end and purpose of his life—the scheme that he had formed from his early youth ; so that, as Cato truly declared of him, he came with sobriety and meditation to the subversion of the republic. He used to say, that there were two things necessary to acquire
and to support power—soldiers and money; which yet depended mutually upon each other: with money, therefore, he provided soldiers, and with soldiers extorted money, and was, of all men, the most rapacious in plundering both friends and foes ; sparing neither prince, nor state, nor temple, nor even private persons, who were known to possess any share of treasure. His great abilities would necessarily have made him one of the first citizens of Rome; but, disdaining the condition of a subject, he could never rest till he made himself a Monarch. In acting this last part, his usual prudence seemed to fail him ; as if the height to which he was mounted had turned his head and made him giddy; for, by a vain ostentation of his power, he destroyed the stability of it; and, as men shorten life by living too fast, so by an intemperance of reigning he brought his reign to a violent end.
SIEGE OF TYRE.
It appeared to Alexander a matter of great importance, before he went further, to gain the maritime powers. Upon application, the Kings of Cyprus and Phænicea made their submission ; only Tyre held out. He besieged that city seven months, during which time he erected vast mounds of earth, plied it with his engines, and invested it on the side next the sea with two hundred gallies. He had a dream in which he saw Hercules offering him his hand from the wall, and inviting him to enter; and many
of the Tyrians dreamt “ that Apollo declared he would go over to Alexander, because he was displeased with their behaviour in the town." Hereupon, the Tyrians, as if the God had been a deserter taken in the fact, loaded his statue with chains, and nailed the feet to the pedestal, not scrupling to call him an Alexandrist. In another dream, Alexander thought he saw a satyr playing before him at some distance, and when he advanced to take him, the savage eluded his grasp. However, at last, after much coaxing and taking many circuits round him, he prevailed with him to surrender himself. The interpreters, plausibly enough, divided the Greek name for Satyr into two, Sa Tyros, which signifies Tyre is thine. They still show us a fountain near which Alexander is said to have seen that vision.
About the middle of the siege, he made an excursion against the Arabians who dwelt about Anti-Libanus. Here he ran a great risk of his life, on account of his preceptor Lysimachus, who insisted on attending him—being, as he alleged, neither older nor less valiant than Phænix; but when they came to the hills and quitted their horses to march up on foot, the rest of