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Odyssey; not to mention almost all the they were not so self-sufficient, as to imasimiles of Virgil, which are no other than gine their first thoughts were above their copies of those of Homer. The pre-emi- own review and correction, or their last nence in invention, therefore, must, beyond above the judgment of their friends. They doubt, be ascribed to Homer. As to the submitted their compositions to the cenpre-eminence in judgment, though many sure of private persons and public assemcritics are disposed to give it to Virgil, yet, blies. They reviewed, altered, and poin my opinion, it hangs doubtful. In Ho- lished, till they had good hopes they could mer, we discern all the Greek vivacity; in present the world with a finished piece. Virgil, all the Roman stateliness. Homer's And so great and happy was their judgimagination is by much the most rich and ment, that they understood when they had copious; Virgil's the most chaste and cor- done well, and knew the critical season of rect. The strength of the former lies, in laying aside the file. his power of warming the fancy; that of For as those excellent masters, Pliny the latter, in his power of touching the and Quinctilian, observe, there may be an heart. Homer's style is more simple and intemperance in correction; when an ingeanimated ; Virgil's more elegant and uni- nious man has such an excess of moform. The first has, on many occasions, desty and faulty distrust of himself, that a sublimity to which the latter never at- he wears off some of the necessary and tains;
but the latter, in return, never sinks ornamental parts of his discourse, instead below a certain degree of epic dignity, of polishing the rough, and taking off the which cannot so clearly be pronounced of superfluous. the former. Not, however, io detract from
These immortal wits did not prepostethe admiration due to both these great rously resolve first to be authors, and then poets, most of Homer's defects may rea- immediately fall to writing without study sonably be imputed, not to his genius, but and experience; but took care to furnish to the manners of the age in which he lived; themselves with knowledge by close and for the feeble passages of the Æneid, thought, select conversation, and reading; this excuse ought to be admitted, that the and to gain all the information and light Æneid was left an unfinished work. that was necessary to qualify them to do
Blair. justice to their subject. Then, after they To the admirers of polite learning the Lectures had begun to write, they did not hurry on
of Dr. Blair, at large, are strongly recom- their pen with speed and impatience to
their discourse all possible strength and orpracticable, to give any more Extracts, nament, and to make the whole composiconsistently with the necessary limits pre- tion uniform and beautiful. They wisely scribed to this book.
considered, that productions which come
before their due time into the world, are $ 144. On the ancient Writers; and on the Labour with which the Ancients author who designs to write for posterity,
seldom perfect or long-lived; and that an composed.
as well as the present generation, cannot The Ancients (of whom we speak) had study a work with too deep care and resogood natural parts, and applied them right; lute industry. they understood their own strength, and Varus tells us of his incomparable friend were masters of the subjects they under- Virgil, that he composed but very few took; they had a rich genius carefully verses in a day. That consummate philosocultivated; in their writings you have na- pher, critic, and poet, regarded the value, ture without wildness, and art without os- not number of his lines; and never thought tentation. For it is vain to talk of nature too much pains could be bestowed on a and genius, without care and diligent ap- poem, that he might reasonably expect plication to refine and improve them. The would be the wonder of all ages, and last finest paradise will run wild, and lose both out the whole duration of time. Quincits pleasure and usefulness, without a skil. tilian assures us, that Sallust wrote with ful hand constantly to tend and prune it. abundance of deliberation and prudent Though these generous spirits were inspi- caution; and indeed that fully appears red with the love of true praise, and had a from his complete and exquisite writings. modest assurance of their own abilities; yet Demosthenes laboured night and day, out
of his age,
watched the poor mechanic in Athens there exact images of all the actions of (that was forced to perpetual drudgery to war, and employments of peace; and are support himself and his family) till he had entertained with the delightful view of the acquired such a mastery in his noble pro- universe. Homer has all the beauties of
a fession, such a rational and over-ruling ve- every dialect and style scattered through hemence, such a perfect habit of nervous his writings; he is scarce inferior to any and convincing eloquence, as enabled him other poet, in the poet's own way and exto defy the strongest opposition, and to cellency; but excels all others in force and triumph over envy and time.
comprehension of genius, elevation of Plato, when he was eighty years old, fancy, and immense copiousness of invenwas busily employed in the review and tion. Such a sovereignty of genius reigns amendment of his divine dialogues: and all over his works, that the ancients some people are severe upon Cicero, that esteemed and admired him as the great in imitation of Plato, he was so scrupulous High Priest of nature, who was admitted whether he ought to write ad Piræa or in into her inmost choir, and acquainted with Piræa, Piræum, or in Piræum, that nowin her most solemn mysteries. the sixtieth year
in the fury of The great men of former ages, with the civil wars, when he knew not how to voice, celebrate the praises of Homer; and dispose of his family, and scarce expected old Zoilus has only a few followers in safety, he earnestly intreated his noble and these later times, who detract from him learned friend Atticus to resolve that diffi- either for want of Greek, or from a spirit culty, and ease him of the perplexity which of conceit and contradiction. it created him. Whatever raillery or re- These gentlemen tell us, that the divine flection some humorsome wits may make Plato himself banished him out of his comupon that great man’s exactness and nicely monwealth; which, say they, must be in that respect, and at such a time; 'tis a granted to be a blemish upon the poet's plain proof of his wonderful care and dilic reputation. The reason why Plato would gence in his composition, and the strict re- not let Homer's poems be in the hands of gard he had to the purity and propriety the subjects of that goveroment, was beof his language. The ancients so accu- cause he did not esteem ordinary men carately understood, and so indefatigably pable readers of them. They would be studied their subject, that they scarce ever apt to pervert his meaning, and have wrong fail to finish and adorn every part with notions of God and religion, by taking his strong sense, and lively expression. bold and beautiful allegories in too literal
Plato frequently declares that he
loves and admires him as the best, the § 145. On Homer.
most pleasant, and the divinest of all the 'Tis no romantic commendation of Ho- poets; and studiously imitates his figuramer, to say, that no man understood per- tive and mystical way of writing. Though sons and things better than he; or had a he forbad his works to be read in public, deeper insight into the humours and pas- yet he would never be without them in his sions of human nature. He represents own closet. Though the philosopher pregreat things with such sublimity, and lit- tends, that for reasons of state he must retle ones with such propriety, that he al- move him out of his city; yet he declares ways makes the one admirable, and the he would treat him with all possible reother pleasant.
spect while he staid; and dismiss him laHe is a perfect master of all the lofty den with presents, and adorned with gargraces of the figurative style, and all the lands (as the priests and supplicants of purity and easiness of the plain. Strabo, their gods used to be); by which marks of the excellent geographer and historian, honour, all people wherever he came might assures us, that Homer has described the be warned and induced to esteem his perplaces and countries of which he gives son sacred, and receive him with due veaccount, with that accuracy that no man neration.
Ibid. can imagine who has not seen them; and no man but must admire and be astonished
$ 146. On THEOCRITUS. who has. His poems may justly be com- If we mention Theocritus, he will be pared with that shield of divine work- another bright instance of the happy abimanship so inimitably represented in the lities and various accomplishments of the eighteenth book of the Iliad. You bave apcients. He has writ in several sorts of
poetry, and succeeded in all. It seems un- he speaks of their religious rites with necessary to praise the native simplicity and such plainness and clearness in some cases, easy freedom of his pastorals; when Virgil and such reserve and reverence in others, himself sometimes invokes the muse of Sy. that I am apt to believe he was initiated racuse; when he imitates him through all into their ceremonies, and consecrated a his own poems of that kind, and in several priest of some of their orders*. passages translates him. Quinctilian says Thus, being acquainted with the most of our Sicilian bard, that he is admirable famous countries, and valuable things, in his kind; but when he adds, that his and knowing the most considerable permuse is not only shy of appearing at the bar, sons of the age, he applied himself to but in the city too, 'tis evident this remark write the history of the Greeks and Barmust be confined to his pastorals. In several barians : and performed the noble work of his other poenis, he shews such strength with that judgment, faithfulness, and eloof reason and politeness, as would qualify quence, that gained him the approbation him to plead among the orators, and make and applause of the most august assembly him acceptable in the courts of princes. In in the world at that time, the flower of his smaller poems of Cupid stung, Adonis all Greece, met together at the Olympic killed by the boar, &c. you have the vis games. gour and delicacy of Anacreon; in his Hy. His history opens to the reader all the las, and Combat of Pollux and Amycus, antiquities of Greece, and gives light to he is much more pathetical, clear and plea- all her authors.
Ibid. sant, than Apollonius on the same, or any other subject. In his conversation of Alc 148. On the Style of Xenophon and mena and Tiresias, of Hercules and the old
Plato. servant of Augeas, in Cynicea and Thyo- Writers who have displayed any of nichus, and the women going to the cere- that uniform peculiarity in their style monies of Adonis, there is all the easiness which renders it easily imitable, however and engaging familiarity of humour and popular they may become at their first dialogue, which reign in the Odysseys;
and appearance, by gratifying the passion for in Hercules destroying the lion of Nemæa, novelty, are by no means the most perthe spirit and majesty of the Iliad. The fect writers; but are to be classed with panegyric upon king Ptolemy is justly esteemed an original and model of perfection painters distinguish by the appellation of
those artists of the pencil, whom the in that way of writing. But in that ex. cellent poem, and the noble hymn upon is one of the most engaging beauties, is
Mannerists. Simplicity of diction, as it Castor and Pollux, he has praised his gods also one of the most difficult to imitate. and his hero with that delicacy and dex- It exhibits no prominency of feature, but terity of address, with those sublime and graceful expressions of devotion and re
displays one whole, properly embellished
with a thousand little graces, no one of spect, that in politeness, smoothness of which obirudes itself in such a manner as turn, and a refined art of praising without to destroy the appearance of a perfect offence, or appearance of flattery, he has equalled Callimachus: and in loftiness symmetry. In this species of excellence, equalled Callimachus: and in loftiness Xenophon is confessedly a model. He and flight of thought, scarce yields to has been called the Attic Muse and the Pindar or Homer.
Attic Bee. It has been said, that the $147. On HERODOTUS.
Muses would express themselves in his
language, that his style is sweeter than hoHerodotus had gained experience by ney, that the Graces themselves appear travelling over all his own country, Thrace to have assisted in its formation ; but and Scythia; he travelled likewise to Ara- though all this praise is justly due, yet it bia, Palestine, and Egypt; where he care- would be difficult to point out any one fully viewed the chief curiosities and most beauty which recurs so often in the same remarkable places, and conversed with the form as to characterize his composition. Egyptian priests, who informed him of their But the numerous writers who have ancient history, and acquainted him with imitated the Rambler and Adventurer, their customs, sacred and civil. Indeed are discovered in their affectation before
* See Herodot. Gale's Edition, lib. ii. sect. 3. p. 21. sect. 65. p. 114. sect. 171. p. 156.
the reader has perused a single page. The grace, and sweetness with grandeur ; and very peculiar manner of those excellent to him we owe a similar combination in performances has been easily imitated by the great orator and philosopher of Rome, inferior writers, and more easily carica- who formed his style on the model of tured. Addison is simple and natural, Plato, and has given us a resemblance and, consequently, has not often been scarcely less exact than that of the bust mimicked with equal success. Indeed, to its mould, or the waxen seal to the the nearear we approach to the manner sculptured gem. of Addison, the more agreeable is our The introductions to the dialogues of style; but, I believe, none ever admired Cicero are always peculiarly beautiful; the style of the Rambler but in the hands so also are those of Plato. It is agreeable of the original author. The satirical to call to mind the sweet spot which Plato writer of Lexiphanes easily rendered it represents as the place where his diaridiculous; and though, in some of Ai- logues passed, in language no less delightken's prosaic pieces, there is a very seri- ful than the scene. ous and good imitation of it, yet we are The river Ilissus glided over the pebrather disposed to smile than admire. bles in a clear stream, so shallow that you Affectation always borders on burlesque, might have walked through it without but a manner, which derives its graces any great inconvenience. At a small disfrom nature, cannot be rendered ridicu- tance rose a tall plane tree, spreading its lous. The style of Xenophon, like the broad foliage to a considerable distance, philosopher whom he records, is proof and flourishing in all the mature luxaagainst the sportive and malignant buf- riance of summer beauty. At the root foonery of an Aristophanes.
of the tree issued a spring, dedicated to It is, however, certain, that every beau- Achelous and the Nymphs, and remarkty cannot be combined under one form. able for its cool and limpid water. The If the style of Xenophon displays grace, softest herbage grew round its little banks, ease, and sweetness, it is deficient in the verdure of which was rendered permagnificence, in weight, in authority, and petual by the refreshing moisture of the in dignity. But it should be remembered spring, as it flowed down a gentle declithat the Venus of Medici is not to be vity. A sweet and cooling breeze genecensured because it wants the nerves rally breathed along the shade, and great and muscles of the Farnesian Hercules. numbers of cicada, taking shelter from It appears to me, however, that though the sun, resorted to the coverts, and some of the most popular writers of Eng- made, with their little chirpings, an agreeland yield to Xenophon in the softer able kind of natural music. Plato adds graces, they greatly excel him in mascu- several other agreeable heightenings of the line beauty. The authors of the Ram- scene, where moral and philosophical bler, of the Adventurer, and some of beauty was taught to emulate the surtheir imitators, will be found to possess rounding beauties of nature. The lana superiority in this respect, on a fair guage of Plato adds charms to the whole comparison. Indeed, if there were more as variegated colours illuminate and emsingularities and deviations from simpli- bellish the plain sketches of the penciled city than are to be found in those vo- outline. lumes, their excellent sense and fine mo- It is no wonder that philosophy, rerality ought to exalt their authors to a commended by such graces as these, was degree of honour far superior to any found to render her votaries enamoured. which can be derived from a skill in Virtue and public spirit can scarcely ever composition.
want their admirers and followers, when According to the opinions of the best they are decorated in a manner which judges, ancient and modern, the greatest sets off their own loveliness to the greatmaster of the beauties of style whom the est advantage. It is to be lamented, for world ever saw, was the divine Plato. the sake of virtue, that lord Shaftsbury The ancients hesitated not to assert, in was a sceptic. His style was a fine imi. the zeal of their admiration, that if Jupi- tation of Plato, and displays such beauter were to speak in the language of ties as might conceal the ugliness of a Greece, he would infallibly express him- deformed system. Mr. Harris has also self in the diction of Plato. He posses- exhibited some of the Platonic graces ; sed the art of combining austerity with and I cannot help considering it as a
ef defective taste that he is not more popu- happiness, who employ their ingenuity in lar. His style, where it successfully imi- detracting from illustrious and established tates Plato, appears to be one of the most reputation, like his who taught the lessons elegant, classical, and judiciously orna- of reason and virtue, and practised what mented among all the English writers of he taught, and sealed it by death. the present century. They who have
Knor's Essays. raised their taste so as to perceive its beauties, will consider the style of many 8 149. On Xenophon's Memoirs of Sowriters whom they once admired, as
CRATES, and the Inferiority of Translacomparatively barbarous. He who never tions to the Originals. tasted the pine-apple, the peach, and the nectarine, may probably suppose that he
person who should walk about the enjoys the most exquisite flavour of the streets of a great city like Athens or Lonfruit-garden while he is feasting on a don, and give his opinion on all subjects pippin; as he, who never partook of the to those whom he might happen to meet, pippin, may devour a crab, and admire it would be thought, in the present age, a ri. as a delicacy.
diculous enthusiast, or a pitiable madman. A critic of antiquity, Dionysius the Yet it is certain, that he whom the world Halicarnassian, has discovered many and has long revered, as the wisest of mortals, great faults in the style of Plato. He dispensed his advice in this manner, and seems to think the epithets too poetical, was, while alive, the object of envy rathe metaphors too bold, the matter too al- ther than of contempt, as he has been, legorical. Pompey the Great disputed since his death, of admiration. the point with him; and there is a cu
Socrates committed not the philosophy rious letter extant on the subject, from which he thus disseminated, to writing; the critic to the statesman. It is, indeed, and the world would have been deprived obvious to remark, that ough Plato of the inestimable treasure, if his grateful would not admit Homer into his republic, scholars, Xenophon and Plato, had not he has admitted many of his beauties into preserved it. his style; and has often written with an Xenophon's Memorabilia or Memoirs enthusiastic warmth, which they who have of him, abound with a most admirable not partaken of the afflatus to which he morality; yet I hope the admirers of ansomewhere pretended, cannot entirely ap- cient wisdom will pardon me, when I prove. A cold critic, like Dionysius, presume to say,
of the converwould naturally be disgusted with it; sations are tediously protracted, and that but we cannot listen to his censures of a the great Socrates, in the abundance of noble genius, who snatched graces beyond his good-humour, trifles egregiously. It the reach of art, whom Pompey approved, is however equitable to suppose that, to and whom Tully almost idolized. When insiouate his important advice with sucspecimens of perfect composition were to cess, it was necessary to avoid alarming be pointed out, the choice has fallen on the minds of his hearers, and that the bethe Georgics of Virgil, and the Menexe- ginning of his conversations should have dus of Plato.
an air of alluring levity. This levity was Both Xenophon and Plato display probably in unison with the minds of what is more valuable than all verbal those careless passengers whom he adelegance, a fine system of morality, which dressed. It drew their attention. They long diffused over the world a light un- would have shut their ears against every equalled, till the sun of revelation arose. thing which he had to offer, if he had If Xenophon's memoirs were divested of begun by professing a design to reclaim a few superfluities and a few absurdities, them from vice and folly, in a formal and I should not fear to assert, that they ap- severe harangue. They would have hasproach very nearly to the Gospel, in the tened from him, and turned his attempts exhibition of instructive lessons, and a to ridicule. But his jocularity detained sublime, yet encouraging example, of all them, and his good sense, in the con human excellence; for, with respect to clusion, pointed out their errors, and they calumnies advanced against Socrates, taught them the expediency of a reforthey undoubtedly originated from the fa- mation. Yet though this may apologise ther of lies. And those writers are to be for levity and trifling, in the actual esteemed the enemies to human virtue and conversations of the living Socrates, it