« AnteriorContinuar »
third when the sky threatened a thunder-storm.' These superstitions may be received without a sneer in a country where the magical properties of the hazel twig have not lost all their credit; and perhaps the reader may not be much surprised to find that a commentator on Suetonius has taken upon himself gravely to disprove the imputed virtues of the crown of Tiberius, by mentioning that a few years before he wrote a laurel was actually struck by lightning at Rome.S
Stanza xli. line 8.
The Curtian lake and the Ruminal fig-tree in the Forum, having been touched by lightning, were held sacred, and the memory of the accident was preserved by a puteal, or altar, resembling the mouth of a well, with a little chapel covering the cavity supposed to be made by the thunderbolt. Bodies scathed and persons struck dead were thought to be incorruptible ;3 and a stroke not fatal conferred perpetual dignity upon the man so distinguished by heaven.*
Those killed by lightning were wrapped in a white garment, and buried where they fell. The superstition was not confined to the worshippers of Jupiter : the Lombards believed in the omens furnished by lightning, and a Christian priest confesses that, by a diabolical skill in interpreting thunder, a seer foretold to Agilulf, duke of Turin, an event which came to pass, and gave him a queen and a crown.' There was, however, something equivocal in this sign, which the ancient inhabitants of Rome did not always consider propitious; and as the fears are likely to last longer than the consolations of superstition, it is not strange that the Romans of the age of Leo X. should have been so much terrified at some misinterpreted storms as to require the exhortations of a scholar who arrayed all the learning on thunder and lightning to prove the omen favourable: beginning with the flash which struck the walls of Velitræ, and including that which played upon a gate at Florence, and foretold the pontificate of one of its citizens.
Sueton. in Vit. Tiberii, cap. Ixix.
Note 2. pag. 409. edit. Lugd. Bat. 1667. 3 Vid. J. C. Bullenger, de Terræ motu et Fulminib. lib. v. cap. xi.
4 'ουδείς κεραυνωθείς άτιμος έστι, όθεν και ως θεός τιμάται. Ρlut. Sympos. vid. J. C. Bulleng, ut sup.
Stanza xlii. line 1. The two stanzas, XLII. and XLIII. are, with the exception of a line or two, a translation of the famous sonnet of Filicaja :
“ Italia, Italia, O tu cui feo la sorte.”
Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
Stanza xliv. lines 1 and 2. · The celebrated letter of Servius Sulpicius to Cicero on the death of his daughter, describes as it then was, and now is,
Pauli Diaconi, de gestis Langobard. lib. iii. cap. xiv. fo. 15. edit. Taurin. 1527.
1 I. P. Valeriani, de fulminum significationibus declamatio, ap. Græv. Antiq. Rom tom. v. pag. 593. The declamation is addressed to Julian of Medicis.
a path which I often traced in Greece, both by sea and land, in different journeys and voyages.
“On my return from Asia, as I was sailing from Ægina towards Megara, I began to conternplate the prospect of the countries around me: Ægina was behind, Megara before me; Piræus on the right, Corinth on the left ; all which towns, once famous and flourishing, now lie overturned and buried in their ruins. Upon this sight, I could not but think presently within myself, Alas! how do we poor mortals fret and vex ourselves if any of our friends happen to die or be killed, whose life is yet so short, when the carcases of so many noble cities lie here exposed before me in one view.”ı
And we pass
Stanza xlvi. lines 7 and 8. It is Poggio who, looking from the Capitoline hill upon ruined Rome, breaks forth into the exclamation, “ Ut nunc omni decore nudata, prostrata jacet, instar gigantei cadaveris corrupti atque undique exesi.”
Stanza xlix. line 1. The view of the Venus of Medicis instantly suggests the lines in the Seasons, and the comparison of the object with the description proves, not only the correctness of the por
· Dr. Middleton-History of the Life of M. Tullius Cicero, sect. vii. pag. 371. vol. ii.
* De fortunæ varietate urbis Romæ et de ruinis ejusdem descriptio, ap. Sallengre, Thesaur. tom. i. p. 501.
trait, but the peculiar turn of thought, and, if the term may be used, the sexual imagination of the descriptive poet. The same conclusion may be deduced from another hint in the same episode of Musidora ; for Thomson's notion of the privileges of favoured love must have been either very primitive, or rather deficient in delicacy, when he made his grateful nymph inform her discreet Damon that in some happier moment he might perhaps be the companion of her
“ The time may come you need not fly." The reader will recollect the anecdote told in the life of Dr. Johnson. We will not leave the Florentine gallery without a word on the Whetter. It seems strange that the character of that disputed statue should not be entirely decided, at least in the mind of any one who has seen a sarcophagus in the vestibule of the Basilica of St. Paul without the walls, at Rome, where the whole group of the fable of Marsyas is seen in tolerable preservation; and the Scythian slave whetting the knife is represented exactly in the same position as this celebrated masterpiece. The slave is not naked : but it is easier to get rid of this difficulty than to suppose the knife in the hand of the Florentine statue an instrument for shaving, which it must be, if, as Lanzi supposes, the man is no other than the barber of Julius Cæsar. Winkelmann, illustrating a bas relief of the same subject, follows the opinion of Leonard Agostini, and his authority might have been thought conclusive, even if the resemblance did not strike the most careless observer. 1
Amongst the bronzes of the same princely collection, is still to be seen the inscribed tablet copied and commented
See Monim. Ant. ined. par. i. cap. xvii. n. xlii. pag. 50; and Storia delle arti, &c. lib. xi. cap. i. tom. ii. pag. 314. not. B.
upon by Mr. Gibbon. Our historian found some difficulties, but did not desist from his illustration : he might be vexed to hear that his criticism has been thrown away on an inscription now generally recognized to be a forgery.
26. His eyes
to thee upturn,
Stanza li. lines 6 and 7.
Ovid. Amor. lib. ii.
Stanza liv. line 1.
This name will recal the memory, not only of those whose tombs have raised the Santa Croce into the centre of pilgrimage, the Mecca of Italy, but of her whose eloquence was poured over the illustrious ashes, and whose voice is now as mute as those she sung. Corinna is no more; and with her should expire the fear, the flattery, and the envy, which threw too dazzling or too dark a cloud round the march of genius, and forbad the steady gaze of disinterested criticism. We have her picture embellished or distorted, as friendship or detraction has held the pencil : the impartial portrait was hardly to be expected from a cotemporary. The immediate voice of her survivors will, it is probable, be far from affording a just estimate of her singular capacity. The gallantry, the love of wonder, and the hope of associated
i Nomina gentesque Antiquæ Italiæ, p. 204. edit. oct.