Imágenes de página

with expressing our sincere hope, that it may be very long before his prediction is accomplished; for though the author, as appears from this work, has reached the age of seventy-five, his mental powers evince all the freshness and vigour of thirty.

Art. III.

Collections from the Greek Anthology; and from the Pastoral, Elegiac, and Dramatic Poets of Greece. By the Rev. Robert Bland and others. 8vo. pp. lv. 525. Murray. 1813. WHATEVER else this ponderous octavo of trifles may have

to boast of, its claim to the praise of variety will hardly be disputed. The Anthologies of Brunck and Stobæus, and the Deipnosophists of Athenæus might have furnished, one would have thought, a very ample selection. With these, however, the authors have by no means been content; and to their collections' from these sources, they have added odes from Sappho and Anacreon; idyls from the pastoral poets; and dialogues and declamations from the tragedians, of which, Mr. Bland strangely thinks 'the true spirit might be the more nearly attained, by adopting the sonorous and majestic couplet, which Dryden wished to introduce on the English stage, in imitation of Corneille and Racine; and which, however unsuitable to the purpose of representing violent and sudden emotions, is peculiarly well adapted as the vehicle both of declamatory passion, and of pathetic sweetness.' p. 240.

Illustrations' are adjoined, chiefly, as it appears, for the purpose of introducing, whether in season or out of season no matter, whatever translations and imitatious from modern authors, the port-folios of these industrious poetasters might furnish. A few originals complete this huge imbroglio,'---this patchwork, at which all the muses have been labouring in turns. We have certainly read the volume, but we can hardly give an account of it;---so confused have we been with the changes from gay to grave,' from ancient to modern, from dignified heroic to Peter Pindaric, whose humour consists in the proper intermixture of very long and very short lines;---now an epitaph from Simonides on those who fell at Thermopyla,' and now the verses of Mad. la Mareschale de Mirepoix and M. le Duc de Nivernois on a lock of grey hair; now the ravings of Medea, and now a rondeau on a young lady who slept too long of mornings; now the hope of immortality,' and anon on long


[ocr errors]

Lord Chesterfield, we think, recommended the Greek epigrams to the supreme contempt of his son. We do not mean to iterate the advice of his Lordship to our readers; yet we think that a candid critic must allow that these distichs and tetrasichs owe a great deal to their being Greek. For instance, we doubt

whether, if the following had been originally English, any body would have taken the trouble to translate them, for at least two or three thousand years to come.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

• This life a theatre we well may call,
Where every actor must perform with art,

Or laugh it through, and make a farce of all
Or learn to bear with grace his tragic part.'*
Sweet is the goblet cool'd with winter-snows,
To him who pants in summer's scorching heat,
And sweet to weary mariners, repose

From ocean tempets, in some green retreat;

p. 110.

But far more sweet than these, the conscious bower,

Where lovers meet, at "love's delighted hour."+ p. 16.

[ocr errors]

These are taken quite at random, and are, perhaps, about the average of the collections.' What indeed is to be done with a single thought, and in the compass of half a dozen lines? It is obvious that, in such narrow limits, fancy and feeling must have a very contracted play, and that a thought placed thus alone must frequently have the appearance of a fragment, which, in its original situation and connexion, might stand naturally and gracefully enough, but which, separate and disjointed, is awkward and unmeaning. The following are very much in the manner of the sentiments of some tragic personage, naturally drawn forth by the situation in which he was placed, but than which, as they now stand, nothing can be imagined more idle. I mourn not those who, banish'd from the light, Sleep in the grave thro' death's eternal night, But those whom death for ever near appals, Who see the blow suspended ere it falls.' p..110. Oh let not death, unwept, unhonour'd, be

The melancholy fate allotted me!

But those who loved me living, when I die,
Still fondly keep some cherish'd memory.'¶ p. 183.

In pleasure's bowers whole lives unheeded fly,

But to the wretch one night's eternity.' p. 109.

The natural resort of the writer, who is obliged to shut up his meaning in so small a compass, is to point, to a neatness and smartness approaching to epigrammatic wit, and yet by no means inconsistent with serious compositions ;---such, to give a single instance, as that with which Gray concludes his sonnet, and which he stole, by-the-bye, from the Emperor Augustus,--· And weep the more because I weep in vain.' Of this, how

† Asclepiades, 20. i. 215.
¶ Solon, 2. i. 65.

Palladas, 100. ii. 427.
Lucillius, 123. ii. 343.
Lucian, 29. ii. 314.



ever, the Grecian triflers are not always very ambitious. What can be blunter than the following?

"Witness, thou conscious lamp, and thou, oh night,
(No others we attest), the vows we plight!

Guard ye our mutual faith!" We said, and swore,
She endless love, and I to roam no more

But oaths are scatter'd o'er the waves, and thou,
Oh lamp, bear'st witness to her alter'd vow.

p. 7.

Sometimes, however, they get into the regions of antithesis and conceit. The following (the reader will wonder) is a favourite fancy with them, both in verse and


• Him who revers'd the laws great nature gave,
Sail'd o'er the continent and walked the wave,
Three hundred spears from Sparta's iron plain

Have stopp'd-oh blush, ye mountains, and thou main!'† p. 116. If the following mean any thing, it would prove that he of the most unmusical voice must be of the strongest health.

[blocks in formation]

We shall now bring forward some few of the better pieces of the volume. The Reproof of Discontent', from Menander,


appears to great advantage in Mr. Blands translation.

Hadst only thou, of all Mankind been born
To walk in paths untroubled by a thorn
From the first hour that gave thee vital air,
Consigned to pleasure and exempt from care.
Heedless, to while away the day and night,
In one unbroken banquet of delight,
Pamper each ruling sense, secure from ill
And own no law superior to thy will;
If partial Heaven had even sworn to give
This happy right as thy prerogative,

Then blame the Gods, and call thy life the worst
Thyself of all mankind the most accurst.
But if with us the common air you draw,
Subject alike to Nature's general law,
And on thy head an equal portion fall
Of life's afflicting weight imposed on all,
Take courage from necessity and try
Boldly to meet the foe thou can'st not fly,
Thou art a man, like others doomed to feel
The quick descent of Fortune's giddy wheel:

* Meleager, 71. i. 21.

† Parmenio, 9. ii. 202.

Nicarchus, 32. ii. 356

Weak human race! we strive to soar from sight
With wings unfitted for the daring flight;
Restless each flecting object to obtain,
We lose in minutes what in years are gain.
But why should'st thou my honour'd friend repine!
No grief peculiar or unknown is thine!

Though fortune smile no more as once she smil'd
Nor pour her gifts on thee her favourite child,
Patient and firm the present ill redress

Nor by despairing make thy little less. p. 218. The following strongly expresses an amiable sentiment : Cling to thy home! If there the meanest shed Yield thee a hearth and shelter for thy head, And some poor plot, with vegetables stored, Be all that heaven allots thee for thy board, Unsavoury bread, and herbs that scatter'd Wild on the river-brink or mountain-brow, Yet e'en this cheerless mansion shall provide More heart's repose than all the world beside.'* p. 111. Mimnermus's evils of mortality' appear to have furnished Gray with a hint or two for his Eton College.


'We too as leaves that, in the vernal hours,
Greet the new sun, refresh'd by fruitful show'rs
Rejoice, exulting in our vigorous primne,
Nor good nor evil marks the noiseless time;
But round our birth the gloomy fates preside,
And smile malignant in our fleeting pride;
One with cold age prepared to blast our bloom,
One armed with death to hide it in the tomb.
Our better moments smile and pass away,
E'en as the sun that shines and sets to-day:
When youth is flown, death only can assuage
And yield a refuge from the ills of age.
All mourn adversity-one. nobly bred,
Toils, a poor slave to him his bounty fed;
One solitary seeks the tomb's embrace,
With no transmitter of his name and race;

While sick and faint, or rack'd by ceaseless fears,

Another journeys down the vale of years.'t pp. 180, 181. We may give, as a companion to this, the gloomy lines of Menander.

Most blest, my friend, is he

Who having once beheld this glorious frame
Of nature, treads again the path he came.
The common sun, the clouds, the starry train,
The elemental fire, and watery main,

[blocks in formation]

If for an hundred years they glad our sight,
Or but a moment ere they fade in night,
'Tis all the same-we never shall survey
Scenes half so wond'rous fair and blest as they.
Beyond, 'tis all an empty, giddy show,
Noise, tumult, strife, extravagance, and woe;
He who can first retire departs the best,
His reckoning paid, he sinks unharm'd to rest.
But him who stays, fatigue and sorrows wait,
Old age, and penury's unhappy state;

By the world's tempests toss d, a prey he lies


open force and ambush'd enemies,

Till his long-suffering frame and lingering breath

He yields at last to agonizing death."* pp. 218, 219.

This is the general strain of the fragments of Menander,--of him who was known as the comic, the gay, and the gallant, ---omnis luxuriæ interpres. Such are the capricious transformations of time. Who would think now of inscribing on his statue lines like the following?

Behold, Menander! siren of the stage,

Who charm'd, with love allied, a happier age;
Light wanton wreathes, that never shall be dead,
Are curl'd luxuriant round the poet's head,

Who dress'd the scene in colours bright and gay,
And breathed enchantment o'er the living lay.'t p. 365.
The following is the most energetic translation from Tyrtæus
that we have seen.

By heaven high courage to mankind was lent,
Best attribute of youth, best ornament.
The man whom blood and danger fail to daunt,
Fearless who fights, and ever in the front,
Who bids his comrades barter useless breath
For a proud triumph or a prouder death,
He is my theme-He only, who can brave
With single force the battle's roaring wave,
Can turn his enemies to flight, and fall
Beloved, lamented, deified by all.
His household gods, his own parental land
High in renown, by him exalted stand;
Alike the heirs and founders of his name
Share his deserts and borrow from his fame:
He, pierced in front with many a gaping wound,
Lies, great and glorious, on the bloody ground,
From every eye he draws some general tear,
And a whole nation follows to his bier ;
Illustrious youths sigh o'er his early doom,
And late posterity reveres his tomb.

* Menander, 2.

Uncertain, 562. iii. 269.

« AnteriorContinuar »