Изображения страниц

that was, it is a point that seems general- but all his paintings have more of force ly allowed, that he and Pacuvius were than elegance, and put one more in mind the two best tragic poets the Romans ever of Homer than Virgil. had.

Spence. With these I shall choose to close the $ 45. Of the Rise of Satire: Of Luci- first age of the Roman poetry: an age more

remarkable for strength than for refineLIUS, LUCRETIUS, and CATULLUS,

ment in writing. I have dwelt longer on All this while, that is, for above one it perhaps than I ought; but the order hundred years, the stage, as you see, was and succession of these poets wanted much almost solely in possession of the Roman to be settled: and I was obliged to say poets. It was now time for the other kinds something of each of them, because I may of poetry to have their turn; however, the have recourse to each on some occasion or first that sprung up and flourished to any another, in shewing you my collection. degree, was still a scyon from the same All that remains to us of the poetical root. What I mean, is Satire; the pro- works of this age, are the miscellaneous duce of the old comedy, This kind of poems of Catullus; the philosophical poem poetry had been attempted in a different of Lucretius; six comedies by Terence; manner by some of the former writers, and and twenty by Plautus. Of all the rest, in particular by Ennius: but it was so al- there is nothing left us, except some pastered and so improved by Lucilius, that he sages from their works as happened to be was called the inventor of it. This was quoted by the ancient writers, and partia kind of poetry wholly of the Roman

cularly by Cicero and the old critics. growth; and the only one they had that

Ibid. was so; and even as to this, Lucilius improved a good deal by the side lights he § 46. Of the Criticisms of Cicero, Hoborrowed from the old comedy at Athens.

Race, and QUINCTILIAN on the above Not long after, Lucretius brought their

Writers. poetry acquainted with philosophy: and The best way to settle the characters Catullus began to shew the Romans some- and merits of these poets of the first age, thing of the excellence of the Greek lyric where so little of their own works repoets. Lucretius discovers a great deal of mains, is by considering what is said of spirit wherever his subject will give him them by the other Roman writers, who leave; and the first moment he steps a lit- were well acquainted with their works. .tle aside from it, in all his digressions he The best of the Roman critics we can conis fuller of life and fire, and appears to have sult now, and perhaps the best they ever been of a more poetical turn, than Virgil had, are Cicero, Horace, and Quinctilian. himself; which is partly acknowledged If we compare their sentiments of these in the fine compliment the latter seems to poets together, we shall find a disagreement pay him in his Georgics. His subject of- in them; but a disagreement which I think ten obliges him to go on heavily for an may be accounted for, without any great hundred lines together; but wherever he dificulty. Cicero, (as he lived before the breaks out, he breaks out like lightning Roman Poetry was brought to perfection, from a dark cloud; all at once, with force and possibly as no very good judge of poeand brightness. His character in this try himself) seems to think more highly of agrees with what is said of him : that a them than the others. He gives up Liphiltre he took had given him a frenzy, vius indeed; but then he makes it up in and that he wrote in his lucid intervals. commending Nævius. All the other comic He and Catullus wrote, when letters in poets he quotes often with respect; and as general began to flourish at Rome much to the tragic, he carries it so far as to seem more than ever they had done. Catullus strongly inclined to oppose old Ennius to was too wise to rival him; and was the Æschylus, Pacuvius to Sophocles, and Acmost admired of all his cotemporaries, in tius to Euripides. - This high notion of the all the different ways of writing he at: old poets was probably the general fashion tempted. His odes perhaps are the least in his time, and it continued afterwards valuable part of his works. The strokes (especially among the more elderly sort of of satire in his epigrams are very severe; people) in the Augustan age; and indeed and the descriptions in his Idylliums, very much longer. Horace, in his epistle to 'full and picturesque. He paints strongly; Augustus, combats it as a vulgar error in



his time; and perhaps it was an able in the satirical part of his works, but from which that prince himself was not scarce so in the rest of his lyric poetry. wholly free. However that be, Horace,

Spence. on this occasion, enters into the question very fully, and with a good deal of warmth. $47. Of the flourishing State of Poetry The character he gives of the old drama

among the Romans. tic poets (which indeed includes all the The first age was only as the dawning poets I have been speaking of, except Lu- of the Roman poetry, in comparison of cilius, Lucretius, and Catullas), is perhaps the clear full light that opened all at once rather too severe. He says, “ That their afterwards, under Augustus Cæsar. The

, language was in a great degree superan- stale which had been so long tending tonuated, even in his time; that they are wards a monarchy, was quite settled down often negligent and incorrect; and that to that form by this prince. When he there is generally a stiffness in their com- had no longer any dangerous opponents, positions: that people indeed might par- he grew mild, or at least concealed the don these things in them, as the fault of cruelty of his temper

He gave peaco the times they lived in; but that it was and quiet to the people that were fallen provoking they should think of commend- into his hands; and looked kindly on the ing them for those very faults.” In ano- improvement of all the arts and elegancies ther piece of his, which turns pretty much of life among them. He had a minister, on the same subject, he gives Lucilius's too, under him, who (though a very bad character much in the same manner.

He writer himself) knew how to encourage owns, “ that he had a good deal of wit; the best; and who admitted the best poets, but then it is rather of the farce kind, in particular, into a very great share of than true genteel wit. He is a rapid friendship and intimacy with him. Virgil writer, and has a great many good things was one of the foremost in his list; who, in him; but is often very superfluous and at his first setting out, grew soon their most incorrect; his language is dashed affectedly applauded writer for genteel pastorals ; with Greek; and his verses are hard and then gave them the most beautiful and unharmonious.”—Quinctilian steers the most correct poem that ever was wrote in middle

between both. Cicero


the Roman language, in his rules of agrihaps was a little misled by his nearness to culture (so beautiful, that some of the antheir times; and Horace by his subject, cients seem to accuse Virgil of having which was professedly to speak against the studied beauty too much in that piece); old writers. Quinctilian, therefore, does and last of all, undertook a political poem, not commend them so generally as Cicero, in support of the new establishment. I nor speak against them so strongly as Ho- have thought this to be the intent of the race;

and is perhaps more to be depended Æneid, ever since I first read Bossu; and upon, in this case, than either of them. the more one considers it, the more I He compares the works of Ennius to some think one is confirmed in that opinion. sacred grove, in which the old oaks look Virgil is said to have begun this poem

the rather venerable than pleasing. He com- very year that Augustus was freed from mends Pacuvius and Actius, for the his great rival Antony: the government strength of their language and the force of of the Roman empire was to be wholly in their sentiments; but says, “ they wanted him; and though he chose to be called that polish which was set on the Roman their father, he was, in every thing but poetry afterwards." He speaks of Plautus the name, their king. This monarchical and Cæcilius, as applauded writers: of form of government must naturally be apt Terence, as a most elegant, and of Afra-. to displease the people. Virgil seems to nius, as an excellent one; but they all, have laid the plan of his poem to reconcile says he, fall infinitely short of the grace them to it. He takes advantage of their and beauty which is to be found in the religious turn; and of some old prophecies Attic writers of comedy, and which is that must have been very flattering to the perhaps peculiar to the dialect they wrote Roman people, as promising them the em

To conclude: According to him, pire of the whole world: he weaves this in Lucilius is too much cried up by many, with the most probable account of their and too much run down by Horace; Lu- origin, that of their being descended from cretius is more to be read for his matter the Trojans. To be a little more partithan for his style; and Catullus is remark. cular: Virgil, in his Æneid, shews that



It appears

Æneas was called into their country by left unfinished by its author, has been althe express order of the gods; that he was ways reckoned as much superior to all the made a king of it, by the will of heaven, other epic poems among the Romans, as and by all the human rights that could be; Homer's is among the Greeks. that there was an uninterrupted succession

Spence. of kings from him to Romulus; that his heirs were to reign there for ever; and that

§ 48. Observations on the Æneid, and the Romans, under them, were to obtain

the Author's Genius. the monarchy of the world. from Virgil, and the other Roman writers, It preserves more to us of the religion that Julius Cæsar was of the royal race, of the Romans, than all the other Latin and that Augustus was his sole heir. The poets (excepting only Ovid) put together: natural result of all this is, that the pro- and gives us the forms and appearances of mises made to the Roman people, in and their

deities, as strongly as if we had so through this race, terminating in Augustus, many pictures of them preserved to us, the Romans, if they would obey the gods, done by some of the best hands in the and be masters of the world, were to yield Augustan age. It is remarkable that he is obedience to the new establishment under commended by some of the ancients themthat prince. As odd a scheme as this may selves, for the strength of his imagination seem now, it is scarce so odd as that of as to this particular, though in general that some people among us, who persuaded is not his character, so much as exactness. themselves, that an absolute obedience was He was certainly the most correct poet owing to our kings, on their supposed de- even of his time; in which all false scent from some unknown patriarch: and thoughts and idle ornaments in writing yet that had its effects with many, about a were discouraged: and it is as certain, century ago; and seems not to have quite that there is but little of invention in his lost all its influence, even in our remem- Æneid; much less, I believe, than is

gebrance. However that be, I think it ap- nerally imagined. Almost all the liitle pears plain enough, that the two great facts in it are built on history; and even points aimed at by Virgil in his Æneid, as to the particular lines, no one perhaps were to maintain their old religious tenets, ever borrowed more from the poets that and to support the new form of govern preceded him, than he did. He

goes so ment in the family of the Cæsars. That far back as to old Ennius: and often inpoem therefore may very well be consi- serts whole verses from him, and some dered as a religious and political work, or other of their earliest writers. The obsorather (as the vulgar religion with them leteness of their style, did not hinder him was scarce any thing more than an engine much in this: for he was a particular of state) it may fairly enough be consider- lover of their old language; and no doubt ed as a work merely political. If this was inserted many more antiquated words in the case, Virgil was not so highly encou- his poem than we can discover at present. raged by Augustus and Mæcenas for no- Judgment is his distinguishing character; thing. To speak a little more plainly: and his greatexcellence consisted in choosHe wrote in the service of the new usur. ing and ranging things aright. Whatever pation on the state: and all that can be be borrowed, he had the skill of making offered in vindication of him in this light his own, by weaving it so well into his is, that the usurper he wrote for, was work, that it looks all of a piece; even grown a tame one; and that the temper those parts of his poems, where this may and bent of their constitution, at that time, be most practised, resembling a fine piece was such, that the reins of government of Mosaic, in which all the parts, though must have fallen into the hands of some of such different marbles, unite together; one person or another; and might proba- and the various shades and colours are so bly, on any new revolution, have fallen artfully disposed as to melt off insensibly into the hands of some one less mild and into one another. indulgent than Augustus was, at the time One of the greatest beauties in Virgil's when Virgil wrote this poem in his sera private characters was, his modesty and vice. But whatever may be said of his good-nature. He was apt to think humreasons for writing it, the poem itself has bly of himself, and handsomely of others: been highly applauded in all ages, from its and was ready to shew his love of merit, first appearance to this day; and though even where it might seem to clash with

ever was.


his own. He was the first who recom

into the minds of his readers. They may mended Horace to Mæcenas. Spence. serve, as much as almost any writings can,

to make men wiser and better: for he has $49. Of HORACE.

the most agreeable way of preaching that Horace was the fittest man in the world

He was, in general, an honest for a court where wit was so particularly good man himself: at least he does not encouraged. No man seems to have had seem to have had any one ill-natured vice more, and all of the genteelest sort; or to about him. Other poets we admire; but have been better acquainted with mankind. there is not any of the ancient poets that I His gaiety, and even his debauchery, made could wish to have been acquainted with, him still the inore agreeable to Mæcenas: so much as Horace. One cannot be very so that it is no wonder that his acquaint- conversant with his writings, without havance with that Minister grew up to so high ing a friendship for the man; and longing a degree of friendship, as is very uncom- to have just such another as he was, for mon between a first Minister and a poet; one's friend.

Ibid. and which had possibly such an effect on the latter, as one shall scarce ever hear of

50. Of TIBULLUS, PROPERTIUS, between any two friends the most on a

and Ovid. level: for there is some room to conjecture, In that happy age, and in the same that he hastened himself out of this world court, flourished Tibullus. He enjoyed to accompany his great friend in the next. the acquaintance of Horace, who mentions Horace has been most generally celebrated him in a kind and friendly manner, both for his lyric poems; in which he far ex- in his Odes and in his Epistles. Tibullus celled all the Roman poets, and perhaps is evidently the most exact and most beauwas no unworthy rival of several of the tiful writer of love-verses among the RoGreek: which seems to have been the mans, and was esteemed so by their best height of his ambition. His next point of judges; though there were some, it seems, 1. erit, as it has been usually reckoned, was even in their better ages of writing and his refining satire; and bringing it from judging, who prefered Propertius to him. the coarseness and harshness of Lucilius to "Tibullus's talent seems to have been only that genteel, easy manner, which he, and for elegiac verse: at least his compliment perhaps nobody but he and one person on Messala (which is his only poem out of more in all the ages since, has ever possess- it) shews, I think, too plainly that he was ed. I do not remember that any one of neither designed for heroic verse, nor panethe ancients says any thing of bis Epistles: gyric. Elegance is as much his distinand this has made me sometimes imagine, guishing character, among the elegiac that his Epistles and Satires might origi- writers of this age, as it is Terence's nally have passed under one and the same among the comic writers of the former; name; perhaps that of Sermons. They and if his subject will never let him be subare generally written in a style approach- lime, his judgment at least always keeps ing to that of conversation; and are so him from being faulty. His rival and comuch alike, that several of the satires temporary, Propertius, seems to have set might just as well be called epistles, as se- himself too many different models, to copy veral of his epistles have the spirit of satire either of them so well as he might otherin them. This latter part of his works, wise have done. In one place, he calls by whatever name you please to call them himself the Roman Callimachus ; in an(whether satires and epistles, or discourses other, he talks of rivalling Philetas: and in verse on moral and familiar subjects) he is said to have studied Mimnermus, and is what, I must own, I love much better, some other of the Greek lyric writers, even than the lyric part of his works. It with the same view. You may see by this, is in these that he shews that talent for and the practice of all their poets in genecriticism, in which he so very much ex- ral, that it was the constant method of the celled; especially in his long epistle to Au- Romans (whenever they endeavoured to gustus; and that other to the Piso's, com- excel) to set some great Greek pattern or monly called his Art of Poetry. They other before them. Propertius, perhaps, abound in strokes which shew his great might have succeeded better, had he fixed knowledge of mankind, and in that pleas- on any one of these; and not endeavoured ing way be had of teaching philosophy, of to improve by all of them indifferently. laughing away vice, and insinuating virtue, Ovid makes up the triumvirate of the ele

[ocr errors]


giac writers of this age; and is more loose and incorrect than either of the other. As

§ 51. Of PHÆDRUS. Propertius followed too many masters, Under this period of the best writing, I Ovid endeavoured to shine in too many

should be inclined to insert Phædrus. For different kinds of writing at the same time. though he published after the good manBesides, he had a redundant genius; and ner of writing was in general on the dealmost always chose rather to indulge, cline, he flourished and formed his style up

unthan to give any restraint to it. If one der Augustus: and his book, though it did was to give any opinion of the different not appear until the reign of Tiberius, demerits of his several works, one should serves, on all accounts, to be reckoned not perhaps be much beside the truth, in among the works of the Augustan age.

. saying, that he excels most in his Fasti; Fabulæ Æsopæ, was probably the title then perhaps in his love-verses; next in which he gave his fables. He professedly his heroic epistles; and lastly in his Meta- follows Æsop in them: and declares, that morphoses. As for the verses he wrote he keeps to his owo manner, even where the after his misfortunes, he has quite lost his subject is of his own invention. By this it spirit in them; and though you may dis- appears, that Æsop's way of telling stories cover some difference in his manner after was very short and plain: for the distinhis banishment came to sit a little guishing beauty of Phædrus's fables is, lighter on him, his genius never shines their conciseness and simplicity. The taste out fairly after that fatal stroke. His very was so much fallen, at the time when he love of being witty had forsaken him; published them, that both these were obthough before it seems to have grown jected to him as faults. He used those upon him when it was least becoming, to- critics as they deserved. He tells a long, wards his old age: for his Metamorpho- tedious story to those who objected ses (which was the last poem he wrote at against the conciseness of his style; and Rome, and which indeed was not quite answers some others, who condemned the finished when he was sent into banish- plainness of it, with a run of bombast ment) has more instances of false wit in verses, that have a great many noisy eleit, than perhaps all his former writings vated words in them, without any sense put together. One of the things I have at the bottom.

Ibid. heard him most cried up for, in that piece, is his transitions from one story to another.

52. Of MANILIUS. The ancients thought differently of this Manilius can scarce be allowed a place point; and Quinctilian, where he is in this list of the Augustan poets; his poetry speaking of them, endeavours rather to ex- is inferior to a great many of the Latin cuse than to commend him on that head. poets, who have wrote in these lower ages, We have a considerable loss in the latter so long since Latin has ceased to be a live half of this Fasti; and in his Medea which ing Language. There is at least, I believe, is much commended. Dramatic poetry no instance in any one poet of the flourishseems not to have flourished, in proportion ing ages, of such language, of such versito the other sorts of poetry, in the Au. fication, as we meet with in Manilius; gustan age.

We scarce hear any thing of and there is not any one ancient writer that the comic poets of that time; and if tra- speaks one word of any such poet about gedy had been much cultivated then, the those times. I doubt not there were bad Roman writers would certainly produce poets enough in the Augustan age; but I some names from it, to oppose to the question whether Manilius may

deserve the Greeks, without going so far back as to honour of being reckoned even among the those of Actius and Pacuvius. Indeed bad poets of that time. What must be their own critics, in speaking of the dra- said, then, to the many passages in the matic writings of this age, boast rather of poem, which relate to the times in which single pieces, than of authors: and the the author lived, and which all have a retwo particular tragedies, which they talk gard to the Augustan age? If the whole of in the highest strain, are the Medea be not a modern forgery, I do not see how of Ovid, and Varius's Thyestes. How- one can deny his being of that age; and if ever, if it was not the age for plays, it was it be a modern forgery, it is very lucky certainly the age in which alınost all the that it should agree so exactly, in so many other kinds of poetry were in their greatest little particulars, with the ancient globe of excellence at Rome.

Spence. the heavens, in the Farnese Palace, Al



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »