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which calumniated writings far beyond the little sphere of its knowledge to comprehend.
As to Orpheus himself, the original author of these Hymns, scarcely a vestige of his life is to be found amongst the immense ruins of time. For who has ever been able to affirm any thing with certainty of his origin, his age, his country, and condition. This alone may be depended on, from general assent, that there formerly lived a person named Orpheus, who was the founder of theology among the Greeks; the institutor of their life and morals; the first of prophets, and the prince of poets; himself the offspring of a Muse; who taught the Greeks their sacred rites and mysteries, and from whose wisdom, as from a perennial and abundant fountain, the divine muse of Homer, and the sublime theology of Pythagoras and Plato flowed.
The following, however, is a summary of what has been transmitted to us by the ancients concerning the original Orpheus, and the great men who
have at different periods flourished under this venerable name. The first and genuine Orpheus is said to have been a Thracian, and according to the opinion of many was a disciple of Linus,' who flourished at the time when the kingdom of the Athenians was dissolved. Some assert that he was prior to the Trojan war, and that he lived eleven, or as others say, nine generations. But the Greek word yevea, or generation, signifies, according to Gyraldus, the space of seven years: for unless this is admitted, how is it possible that the period of his life can have any foundation in the nature of things? If this signification therefore of the word is adopted, Orpheus lived either seventyseven or sixty-three years, the latter of which, if we may believe astrologers, is a fatal period, and especially to great men, as it proved to be to Aristotle and Cicero.
Our poet, according to fabulous tradition, was torn in pieces by Ciconian women; on which account, Plutarch affirms, the Thracians were accustomed to beat their wives, in order that they might revenge the death of Orpheus. Hence in the vision of Herus Pamphilius, in the tenth book of Plato's Republic, the soul of Orpheus, being destined to descend into another body, is said to have chosen that of a swan, rather than to be born again of a woman; having conceived such a hatred of the sex, on account of his violent death. The cause of his destruction is variously related by authors. Some report that it arose from his being engaged in puerile loves, after the death of Eurydice. Others, that he was destroyed by women intoxicated with wine, because he was the cause of men relinquishing an association with them. Others again assert, according to Pausanias, that on the death of Eury
dice, wandering to Aornus, a place in Thesprotia, where it was customary to evocate the souls of the dead, having recalled Eurydice to life, and not being able to detain her, he destroyed himself; nightingales bringing forth their young on his tomb, whose melody exceeded
every other of this species. Others again, ascribe his laceration to his having celebrated every divinity except Bacchus, which is very improbable, as among the following hymns there are nine to that deity, under different appellations. Others report, that he was delivered by Venus herself into the hands of the Ĉiconian women, because his mother Calliope had not determined justly between Venus and Proserpine concerning the young Adonis. Many affirm, according to Pausanias, that he was struck by lightning; and Diogenes confirms this by the following verses, composed, as he asserts, by the Muses on his death :
Here by the Muses placed with golden lyre,
Great Orpheus rests, destroy'd by heavenly fire. Again, the sacred mysteries called Threscian, derived their appellation from the Thracian bard, because he first introduced sacred rites and religion into Greece; and hence, the authors of initiation into these mysteries were called Orpheotelestæ. Besides, according to Lucian, Orpheus brought astrology and the magical arts into Greece; and as to his drawing to him trees and wild beasts by the melody of his lyre, Palæphatus' accounts for it as follows : “ The mad Bacchanalian Nymphs, says he, having violently taken away cattle and other necessaries of life, retired for some days into the mountains. But the citizens, having expected their return for a long time, and fearing the worst for their wives and daughters, called Orpheus, and entreated him to invent some method of drawing them from the mountains. Orpheus, in consequence of this, tuning his lyre conformably to the orgies of Bacchus, drew the mad nymphs from their retreats; who descended from the mountains, bearing at first ferulæ, and branches of every kind of trees. But to the men who were eye-witnesses of these wonders, they appeared to bring down the very woods, and from hence gave
rise to the fable."
Vid. Opusc. Mythol. p. 45. 2 The true meaning of the fable however, in my opinion, is this; that Orpheus by his sacred doctrines tamed men of rustic and savage dispositions. But the most careless readers must be struck with the similitude of the latter part of this fable to what took place at the wood of Birnam in Shakspeare's Macbeth; and to which the following lines allude:
“ Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be, until
Shall come against him.” This coincidence, however, has not been noticed by any of the commentators of Shakspeare.
So great, indeed, was the renown of Orpheus, that he was deified by the Greeks; and Philostratus relates, that his head gave oracles in Lesbos, which when separated from his body by the Thracian women, was, together with his lyre, carried down the river Hebrus into the sea. In this manner, says Lucian, singing as it were his funeral oration, to which the chords of his lyre, impelled by the winds, gave a responsive harmony, it was brought to Lesbos and buried. But his lyre was suspended in the temple of Apollo; where it remained for a considerable space of time. Afterwards, when Neanthus, the son of Pittacus the tyrant, found that the lyre drew trees and wild beasts by its harmony, he earnestly desired to possess it ; and having corrupted the priest privately with money, he took the Orphic lyre, and fixed another similar to it in the temple. But Neanthus considering that he was not safe in the city in the day, departed from it by night; having concealed the lyre in his bosom, on which he began to play, As, however, he was a rude and unlearned youth, he confounded the chords; yet pleasing himself with the sound, and fancying he produced a divine harmony, he thought himself to be the blessed successor of Orpheus. But in the midst of his transports, the neighboring dogs, roused by the sound, fell on the unhappy harper and tore him in pieces.
The former part of this fable is thus admirably explained by Proclus, in his Commentaries (or rather fragments of Commentaries) on the Republic of Plato, “Crpheus (says he), on account of his perfect erudition, is reported to have been destroyed in various ways; because, as it appears to me, men of that age participated partially of the Orphic harmony: for they were incapable of receiving a universal and perfect science.
But the principal part of this melody [i. e. of his mystic doctrine] was received by the Lesbians; and on this account, perhaps, the head of Orpheus, when separated from his body, is said to have been carried to Lesbos. Fables of this kind, therefore, are related of Orpheus no otherwise than of Bacchus, of whose mysteries he was the priest.”
The second Orpheus was an Arcadian, or, according to others, a Ciconian, from the Thracian Bisaltia, and is said to be more ancient than Homer and the Trojan war. He composed fabulous figments called (uvdoroval) and epigrams. The third Orpheus was of Odrysius, a city of Thrace, near the river Hebrus; but Dionysius in Suidas denies his existence. The fourth Orpheus was of Crotonia ; flourished in the time of Pisistratus, about the fiftieth Olympiad, and is, I have no doubt, the same with Onomacritus, who changed the dialect of these hymns. He wrote Decennalia (Sekaernpla), and in the opinion of Gyraldus the Argonautics, which are now extant under the name of Orpheus, with other writings called Orphical, but which according to Cicero' some ascribe to Cecrops the Pythagorean. But the last Orpheus was Camarinæus, a most excellent versifier; and the same, according to Gyraldus, whose descent into Hades is so universally known.
1 In lib. i, de Nat. Deor.
I shall only add to this historical detail respecting Orpheus, what Hermias excellently remarks in his Scholia on the Phædrus of Plato. “You may see, (says he,) how Orpheus appears to have applied himself to all these [i. e. to the four kinds of mania],' as being in want of, and adhering to, each other. For we learn that he was most telestic, and most prophetic, and was excited by Apollo; and besides this, that he was most poetic, on which account he is said to have been the son of Calliope. He was likewise most amatory, as he himself acknowledges to Musæus, extending to him divine benefits, and rendering him perfect. Hence he appears to have been possessed by all the manias, and this by a necessary consequence. For there is an abundant union, conspiration, and alliance with each other of the Gods who preside over these manias, viz. of the Muses, Bacchus, Apollo, and Love."
With respect to the following translation, it is requisite to observe, that I have adopted rhyme, not because most agreeable to the general taste, but because I conceive it to be necessary to the poetry of the English language; which requires something as a substitute for the energetic cadence of the Greek and Latin hexameters. Could this be obtained by any other means, I should immediately relinquish my partiality for rhyme, which is certainly, when well executed, far more difficult than blank verse, as these Orphic Hymns must evince in an eminent degree.
Indeed, where languages differ so much as the ancient and modern, the most perfect method perhaps of transferring the poetry of the former tongue into that of the latter, is by a faithful and animated paraphrase; faithful, with regard to retaining the meaning of the author; and animated, with respect to preserving the fire of the original ; calling it forth when latent, and expanding it when condensed. He who is anxious to effect this, will every where endeavour to diffuse the light and fathom the depth of his author; to elucidate what is obscure, and to amplify what in modern language would be unintelligibly concise.
Thus, most of the compound epithets of which the following hymns chiefly consist, though extremely beautiful in the Greek language, yet when literally translated into ours, lose much of
'i.e. The telestic, or pertaining to the mysteries, the prophetic, the
, poetic, and the amatory.
their propriety and force. In their native tongue, as in a prolific soil, they diffuse their sweets with full-blown elegance; and he who would preserve their theological beauties, and exhibit them to others in a different language, must expand their elegance by the supervening and enlivening rays of a light derived from mystic lore; and, by the powerful breath of genius, scatter abroad iheir latent but copious sweets.
If it shall appear that the translator has possessed some portion of this light, and has diffused it in the following work, he will consider himself to be well rewarded for his laborious undertaking. The philosophy of Plato, and the theology of the Greeks, have been for the greater part of his life the only stụdy of his retired leisure; in which he has found an inexhaustible treasure of intellectual wealth, and a perpetual fountain of wisdom and delight. Presuming, therefore, that such a pursuit must be a great advantage to the present undertaking, and feeling the most sovereign contempt for the sordid drudgery of venal composition, he desires no other reward, if he has succeeded, than the praise of the liberal; and no other defence, if he has failed, than the decision of the candid and discerning few.
Daretis Phrygii Historicorum omnium primi de Bello
Trojano Libri Sex, a Josepho Exoniensi Latino carmine elegantissime redditi.'
Most of our readers are probably aware of the existence of an apocryphal work, professing to be a translation into Latin of an original history of the Trojan war, by Dares, a Phrygiau, and contemporary
with the events which he relates. The exact
' Of this work there are many editions: the only ones we are acquainted with are that of J. More, London, 1675 (a very inaccurate vne, though the editor speaks of having corrected many gross errors), and that appended to the Delphin edition of Dictys and Dares, with the notes of Dresenius; in which the errors of the former editions are removed, although the right reading is not always substituted. An edition was announced, some twelve years ago, from the Clarendon press.