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et vultum oculosque ac ora divinos radios sparsisse mentiri.” Proclus affected to believe, that he was assisted in the composition of his works by the goddess Cybele. Hence the visionary hopes of forming a commerce with angelic existences, which dissipated the hours of many ardent scholars. The Paracelsian and Rosicrucian follies, and the most sincere part of Alchemy, as well, perhaps, as some late sects, derive their origin from this mixed and doubtful source.
This wild conjunction of mythology and magic formed a spell, not easily to be broken. An undefined veneration was attached to the term genius, which became more powerful as it was less understood. The influence of classical imagery, and its perpetual recurrence to inspiration, supported an impression, which, like the terror of nocturnal illusions, though disclaimed in public, and no longer existing as a system, still haunts the hours of silence and solitude. Poets, at all times the most incorrigible of the literary tribe, still dream of impulse, and mistake their own idleness for the frown of Minerva. Morhoff, one of those singular characters, who acquire the belief of common errors, by extensive reading and profound meditation, was so struck with this impression, that he wrote a whole chapter, de eo, quod in diciplinis divinum est.
He has indeed faintly rejected the syncretistic follies of the former age, but he perhaps allowed inspiration rather too largely, when he granted it to an Italian improvisatore, and to Valentine Greatrak.*
The concluding lines of Buchannan's address to Mary Queen of Scots, which have been reckoned so obscure, may be easily explained by this view of the former acceptation of genius. Non tamen ausus eram male natum exponere
fæ. tum, Ne mihi displiceant quæ placuere tibi. Nam quod ab ingenio domini sperare nequibant, Debebunt genio forsitan illa tuo,
Polyhistor. Literar, lib. i. cap. xii. $13. 28. The feebleness of the poet's verses (as his modesty led him to speak), was to be protected by the genius of the Queen, which,
the courtesy of the age, was deemed of superior rank and power to the genius of a private person. I cannot suspect so excellent a poet as Buchannan, of any intentional play on the words ingenium and genius. In the Ajax Mastigophorus, Sophocles ascribes the hero's execrations to his evil genius, who alone, he says, could have invented them. .
Κακα δεννάζων ρήμαθ', & δαίμων,
Lord Verulam had many strange fancies, about the genius attendant on great minds; he sublimed his notions on this subject with Van Helmont's doctrine of transmitted spirits, which referred all eminence in military and civil affairs, as well as in wit, to the force of perspiration.
The genii were sometimes supposed to be the spirits of departed men, especially those which were thought to revisit the places of
their former residence, or the scenes of their destruction : hence that passage in Milton; Henceforth thou art the genius of the shore, In thy large recompense, and shalt be good To all that wander in the perilous flood.*
With all this contagious mysticism floating from brain to brain, it is not to be wondered, that poets should be presumptuous and idle, or that readers should be slavishly timid. The votary of poetical frenzy fancied himself entering the temple of Apollo, and invested with the sacred characters of a priest and a prophet, when he 6 poured forth his unpremeditated verse,” while the multi. tude, combining the most distant analogies, believed that in the writings of eminent poets, they discovered predictions, in which the author himself had been unconsciously prompted by his genius.
It was not enough to admire Virgil as a great Poet; his votaries were determined to venerate him as a prophet, and almost as a god. While altars were erected, and incense was burnt to him, by some of the first restorers of letters, the credulous explored their destinies in his pages, by the aid of false translation, and distorted inference. It is well known, that Charles 1. was greatly disconcerted and distressed, on finding the Sortes Virgilianæ unfavourable, at the beginning of the civil war. With the liberties of application allowed in these cases, it is easy to find a prophecy of any event, after it has taken place. If, for instance, a prediction is wanted of the calamities occasioned by the Pragmatic Sanction, it is ready in Juvenal;
Inde cadunt partes, ex fædere Pragmaticorum.
In this manner, the celebrated prophecies of Nostradamus have acquired the protection, even of the learned. Morhoff dwells with great satisfaction, on the number of important events predicted by this man, who wrote his rhapsodies in 1555. One of his rhimes was supposed to be accomplished sixteen