« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
may be considered as a whole by itself, and as standing only in an external connexion with the other two. According to this, the wrath of Achilles forms the subject only of the first nine books, which rest on the basis of an ancient hymn to Apollo, embracing about the first four hundred lines of the first book. The nine books, following the tenth, according to this view, set forth the gradual reconciliation of the angry hero, and the last five, it is said, exalt Achilles, now reconciled, by the glory of victory. Now, if we assume, that the words, Sing, o Goddess, the wrath,' was a favorite introductory formula of the most ancient epic bards, by which the whole was merely heralded in, but which was not designed to express the fundamental thought, then we cannot possibly look for the idea of the whole Iliad in the wrath of Achilles. But still we must adhere to the wrath of Achilles as the leading subject, or as constituting the poetic unity of the whole epic. We must consider its delineation as the gradual progress of the original idea, according to the three abovementioned springs of action, which already existed in the original plan of Homer; for, in the first book, Achilles expresses the wish, that Jupiter may grant aid to the Trojans and the glory of victory, and turn the Greeks to flight, that Agamemnon may perceive his wrong. Thetis also utters the same wish to Jupiter, but with the express addition, that she
may see her son honored, and exalted with honor.' The latter is promised by Jupiter, and the action is now extended over the fifteenth book, where we find a spring of action that accounts satisfactorily for all the rest. When Achilles declares, furthermore, that he will take no part in the conflict, until Hector shall threaten the ships of the Myrmidons with fire, and shall venture to attack him in his own tent (which, however, he considers impossible, and seems to treat with scorn), the progress of the action to the sixteenth book, where Hector actually hurls fire among the ships, is made out as necessarily as any portion of the first part of the Iliad. Nay, we find in the second part, both a reference to the promises, which Jupiter had given to Thetis in the first canto, namely, to honor Achilles, and also hints that point to the end of the Iliad ; so that a general connerjon of the three above parts may be made out with no great difficulty, and it is impossible, that three different poets should have been their authors.” – Vol. 1. pp. 295 – 298.
The author follows out this train of thought still further, and arrives at this conclusion ;
“ The same poet, who, in the first book, represented the sublime image of the king of the gods making the heights of Olympus tremble by his nod, when he pledged his promise to Thetis, embracing his knees in supplication, already had the conclusion of the epos in his eye, where Achilles, distracted with sorrow and the passion for revenge, though Jupiter has granted him the promised honor and satisfaction, sees the supplicating Priam before him in the dust. What there is between these two points, embraces the achievements of the Grecian and Trojan heroes, while Achilles indulges his wrath, in inactive repose, among the ships, until he is finally roused to vengeance by the death of his friend. The greatest deed, which Achilles performed in the Trojan war, was, according to the legend, the victory over Hector ; and this the poet very properly made the end of his poetical effort, although, elsewhere, he introduces the hero whoin he wished to celebrate, as inactive, and therefore could not call the poem by his name.” – Vol. 1. pp. 301, 302.
Dr. Bode admits the extreme probability, that, in the course of ages, and under the hands of innumerable editors, collectors, and copyists, a great deal of foreign matter was foisted into the genuine songs of Homer, and that the recitation of the Homeric poetry, by so many rhapsodists, may have introduced important modifications and additions ; but he maintains, that, whatever additions may have been made from the works of other bards, and however much its original plan may have been enlarged, under the hands of the Homeridæ and the Rhapsodists, in the course of time, still its original and essential unity remained uninjured ; and these remarks apply, with still greater force, to the Odyssey. We do not fully coincide with these conclusions. We do not think the preconceived unity of the Iliad especially, can be established. But to unfold, fully, our views upon this point, would carry us far beyond the limits of the present paper. We must, however, admit, that Dr. Bode has made out a very strong case.
The remainder of the volume is taken up with the epic cyclus, and a statement of all that has been handed down to us concerning every branch of epic poetry, including the works of Hesiod. The discussion of these matters is exceedingly full and satisfactory.
The second volume, the first part of which only has reached us, contains the history of lyric poetry. But the space we have already occupied, forbids our doing more,
than indicating, in a general way, the manner in which Dr. Bode has handled this part of his subject. He first considers the nature and the age of lyric poetry, which he traces back to the ante-Homeric period. He illustrates the history of the Pæan, its application to the worship of Apollo, and describes the musical accompaniments. From this, he proceeds to take up, one after another, the successive species of lyric poetry, the different kinds of music which were appropriated to them, the occasions on which they were composed and recited, along with very ably drawn sketches of the lives, characters, and poetical value of the several inventors and authors. The discussions, in this part, conclude with some exceedingly curious details upon the musical principles of the Greeks. But this is a subject too large and difficult to be undertaken at the end of an article. When the other volumes arrive, we may, perhaps, resume our remarks, and consider the peculiarities of Greek lyric poetry at some length.
ART. VIII. - The Poetical Works of THOMAS CAMPBELL.
A New Edition. London. 1836.
Too much, we think, is generally attributed to the infuence of the prevailing spirit of the times, in determining the character of poetry. Those, from whose writings that character is inferred, are few in number, and, not unfrequently, in a position as far as possible beyond the reach of such an influence. Take, for example, Burns and Cowper ; who have been referred to with the view of showing, that the reforming energy, which manifested itself, near the close of the last century, in politics and various forms of literature, was communicated to poetry by the same deep impulse. It would not be easy to name two individuals, of any literary eminence, who were more removed, by circumstances, from the interests and passions, which swayed the living mass around them. When Burns, in the solitude of his lowly cottage at Mossgiel, was pouring the full tide of song from the depths of his proud and manly heart, he was as much sequestered from the great world and its sympathies, as if he had dwelt in the loneliest island of the North Sea ; scarcely acquainted even with the names of the poets of his time ; and finding the source of his inspiration in the fountain within him, springing up to immortality. Cowper was driven from the society of men by causes too painful and too familiar to require to be told ; his poetry was the music by which, when the evil spirit was upon him, “ he was refreshed, and was well”; nothing surely was indifferent to him, which might affect the moral welfare of his race ; but the hopes and interests of the world, and even its intellectual progress, were to him of little moment in any other point of view. Going back a hundred years further, we indeed. observe the influence of the spirit of the age on Dryden, who prostituted his gigantic strength to make sport for the Philistines at the festival of Dagon. But what trace of it is to be found in the character of Milton? Well and truly was it said of him, that “ his soul was like a star, and dwelt apart.” The spirit of his time affected him no more than the gathering mist impairs the lustre of the star, which it hides for a moment from the eye. A mind like his was fitted to guide it, rather than obey.
No doubt there are certain influences, which aid in determining the direction of poetical talent, as they do of every other kind. Milton kept constantly in view the sublime hope, that he might leave something to after times, so written, as that they would not willingly let it die. Whenever he alludes to his immortal work, it is plain, that he looks for no sudden popularity, or early fame. is now an article of traffic ; and one may fix its value with nearly the same precision, as the current prices of other commodities are stated in the daily newspapers. Instead of appealing to the judgment of posterity, the author of the present day stands before an awful Rhadamanthus, in the person of his publisher. What the prerogatives of such a judge may be, is shown by a circumstance, which Scott relates, in reference to his tale of “Ivanhoe.” His publisher had taken a fancy to Athelstan, the descendant of Saxon kings, who was untimely slain by the hand of Sir Brian de BoisGuilbert, the Knight Templar, and insisted, that Scott should restore him from this state of “cold obstruction.” Scott, who saw plainly enough the absurdity of the suggestion, re
sisted, for a time, but at last brought back the knight to life, and thus fixed a sad blemish on a work, which had otherwise been almost faultless. In another of his romances, “ St. Ronan's Well,” the whole character of the story was changed in obedience to another suggestion of the same kind. All this comes from a determination to be popular ; of the chance of which, the publisher is admitted to be a better judge than the author ; at least, he can determine, with unerring certainty, what he inclines to pay for. It is well understood, that Scott received about as much for every line of one of his poems, as was paid to Milton for each book of his 6 Paradise Lost." The writer is thus driven, by a temptation which few can resist, to consult the prevailing taste, and to prefer the reward which awaits him here, to that which is reserved for the highest genius hereafter, when his merit will be weighed in the balance of calm, deliberate judgment. So has it been with most of the poets of our time. “ As the lightning flashed, they went onward by its light ; when it vanished into darkness, they stood still." Wordsworth is, indeed, a striking example to the contrary. He, from the beginning, avowed his persuasion, that the poet has before him the double task of creating the taste by which his works are to be valued, as well as the works themselves ; but we shall presently see, that others have been contented to omit the heavier portion of this task. They have acted under the persuasion, that the voice of poetry was too small and still to make itself heard amidst the din of the wheels of industry, and the roar of the trumpels of reform ; that novelty alone could attract attention ; and that the question for them to solve was, what form of novelty would be most likely to produce the desired effect.
At the same time, we believe, that there is more lamentation over the decline of poetry, than the exigency requires. The tendency, on the part of poets, is, doubtless, in that direction ; but the complaint is founded on a supposed indifference to all poetry on the part of readers. This indifference has been commonly ascribed to the progress of physical science, which, as many apprehend, is to obtain an entire monopoly of interest. But the danger, we apprehend, is greatly overrated.
The two circumstances do not necessarily stand toward each other in the relation of cause and effect;