Page images
PDF
EPUB

signifies altus vel summus Rex. Baxter's Gloss. Antiq. Brit. p. 25. This interpretation certainly agrees very well with the place, and the preceding words regem aliquem, which seem to require not any particular but an indefinite person; and I find it is accordingly approved by Mr. Wise, in his Numismata, p. 226, and, indeed, well it might, since we are assured that the Britons had this species of dominion amongst them; that the like was enjoyed by Agamemnon at Troy; that the monarchs amongst the Anglo-Saxons, during the continuance of the Heptarchy, exercised the same sovereignty; and lastly, that in the nature of things, where a coun: try was broken into small principalities, it would become absolutely necessary for the purpose of peace and unity, to vest in some one a power over the other princes.

As to the expression de temone Britanno excidet, not one of the numerous illustrators of Juvenal, in the copious edition of Henninius, has rightly touched the sense. "Grangæus's note is,

Temone] Pars pro toto, temo pro curru. Curio's is, de curru dejicietur.

An old commentator, cited by Lubinus, gives it thus, mortuus est, et de regno expulsus. But these are none of them the whole of the idea, which the poet meant to reach out

The Temo, of a Rheda or Essedum, which are the names of the chariots used by the ancient Britons in war, was the pole that went between the horses, and was fastened to the Jugum or yoke. The Britons, as Cæsar tells us, de Bello Gallico Lib. IV. c. 33. were so extremely expert at fighting with chariots, that they would run upon the pole, sit upon the yoke, and then retire again into the chariot, by which method of combat, so new to the Romans, the legions were often greatly'embarrassed. Now to this extraordinary dexterity of the hero in engaging with his chariot, the author here evidently alludes, when, he says, some generalissimo shall fall from his pole, be assailed, and tumbled down, that is, whilst he was practising that agile movement. This method of fighting in chariots being so agreeable to the practice of the ancient oriental nations, the Trojans, Egyptians, Canaanites, Syrians, Persians, &c. has been thought to amount to an argument, that the Britons were descended from the Phænicians, see Samme's Britannia, p. 120. but I cannot say I feel the force of it, since it appears to have been equally the custom of many nations in the west, as of the Greeks and Gauls, and I suppose, of

to us.

others. However, since there is the appearance of a wheel upon many of the British coins, (see the first table of Nummi Britannici in Camden,) and always along with a horse, I am induced to believe, that as the Romans had their Denarii Bigati and Quadrigati, so the wheel upon these British coins was intended to point out the Rhedæ and Esseda. Indeed it is said, among the conjectures upon the British coins in Camden, col. cx. that the wheel under the horse, amongst the Romans, “intimated the making of an high-way for carts: so many of which being in the Romans' time made in this country, well deserve such a memorial ;” but I know not how the learned author can establish his notion, that a wheel under a horse, upon a coin, intimated the making of an high-way for carts; nor can I discover why the British coins should be thought to allude to a Roman custom, rather than one of their own. Surely, it is much more natural to imagine they had their thoughts at home, and that a horse with a wheel must have a reference to their own chariots, which by their adroitness and conduct in the management of them, were so formidable even to the Ro. mans themselves.

Yours, &c. 1757, Feb.

PAUL GEMSEGE.

XXV. Criticism on a Passage in Virgil.

Non insueta graves tentabunt pabula fætas,
Nec mala vicini pecoris contagia lædent.

Virgil, Ecl. 1. 50.

MR. URBAN, THAT tento may signify to invade, or attack, and in that sense may be applicable to a distemper, or any other disorder incident to cattle, we have a clear proof in those words of the Georgic, iii. 441.

Turpis oves tentat scabies

In consequence of this interpretation it may come to mean vitiare, as Ruæus understands it here, to whose exposition I should willingly subscribe, were it not that the simple verbs

in the classics are so often used for their compounds, and that tentabunt for distentabunt affords a sense so apposite to this place. I therefore would

render it, would burst the pregnant ewes, this being the effect of such enormous distention; for all sorts of cattle, and sheep as well as the rest, are apt to eat too much of fresh and luxuriant food, and feeding too greedily to gorge themselves, when first they are put into a new pasture, as these ewes would frequently be, were Tityrus forced to remove from place to place, as Melibæus was with his flock of goats. This would be more dangerous to such as were with young, as these ewes were. Now the Eclogues of Virgil are extracts from Theocritus, and there are perpetual allusions in them to the customs and manners of the Greeks. And in Sicily, the country of both the interlocutors, the grass was so very luxuriant, and especially about Mount Ætna, that, as Strabo tells us, the sheep were often choaked with fat. The ashes of the mountain, upon an eruption, he says, enrich the land in several respects, and then adds, πιαίνειν δ' επί τοσύτον τα πρόβαλα Qacir, Ása nvyeo dar, quibus adeo pingucs reddi perhibent oves, ut rumpantur. Strabo, Lib. vi. p. 413.-I know not why the translator renders oviyo Sar by rumpantur, for it rather means suffocated, or choaked. Bursting, however, would naturally often happen on their being put into fresh grounds. This fertility at the roots of Mount Ætna, was owing it seems, to a natural cause, and the case is the same at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius, as might be easily made appear by direct testimony, if needful. But what is more remarkable, the like destructive fertility is observed by authors in other parts of Sicily. I shall only cite the words of Signore Haym, who speaking of the country about Leontini, now called Lentini, says, “ Cicerone, Diodoro, e Plinio dicono che il suo terreno era si abbondante che vi nasceva il frumento naturalmente; e quello che vi si piantava rendeva cento per uno; ed Aristotele soggiunge che spesse volte i bestiami vi morivano per troppa grassezza." N Tesoro Britannico del Sign. Haym. Vol. ii. p. 59.

I conceive then, that in this passage of Virgil there are conveyed two different ideas, that fresh grass would neither burst the teeming ewes, nor would they be in danger of contagion from the scabby flocks of others. Now let us see how Mr. Dryden conducts the matter.

Your teeming ewes shall no strange meadows try,
Nor fear a rot from tainted company.

He has translated the first verse very literally, according to the vulgar sense of tento, which means to try, but that is very poor and jejune, and in my opinion, not half expressive enough. And as to the second line, the rot is not here intended, but the scab; for the former is not contagious, whereas the latter is extremely so. I have no opportunity of consulting any other versions, some of which may have perhaps hit the sense of the author, better than Mr. Dryden, and therefore can only substitute the following, which pretends to no more than just to express the poet's mind,

No new rank meads will burst your teeming ewes, Nor scabs from neighb'ring folds your flock abuse. 1757, May.

PAUL GEMSEGE.

XXVI. Critical Remark on Horace.

MR. URBAN, THE author of the Trojan war was so much the admiration of the ancients, that, besides their stiling him the poet, rat' ifoxon, they thought they could discern in him the rudinients of all kinds of science. The moderns seem to me to be not much averse to the same opinion, for Sir William 'Trumbull, in a letter to Mr. Pope, * speaking of those lines of Horace, Epist. i. 2.

Trojani belli scriptorem, maxime Lolli,
Dum tu declamas Romæ, Præneste relegi;
Qui, quod sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,

Plenius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit. And desiring him to proceed in his translation of this incomparable poet, has these words, “to make his works as useful and instructive to this degenerate age, as he, (Homer) was to our friend Horace, when he read him at Præneste; ' Qui, quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non, &c. I break off with that quid non ? with which I confess I am charmed.” And thus, Sir, the passage stands in the late edition of Mr. Pope's Works, without the least note or animadversion by the

* Pope's Works, Vol. vii. p. 152.

editor; and we are evidently given to understand, especially by the note of interrogation affixed to the words quid non, that every thing, in a manner, was to be learnt from this great author.

I enter not here into the merits of the dispute, about the universality of Homer's knowledge and learning, to wit, whether the whole Cyclopædia of the arts and sciences are to be found in him, or not; for I only mean to suggest to you, that Sir William has certainly mistaken

the Roman author's meaning in that place, and that there is - no occasion for him or any one else to be so grossly charmed with these two little words quid non. Quid non there does not carry the sense of our English phrase, what not? for the verb sit is understood, or rather is to be repeated from the beginning of the verse, along with the adjective utile; and the whole, were it to be filled up, would run thus quid sit utile, quid non sit utile, &c. And this agrees best with our author's design in this passage, where he is expressly speaking of the ethic documents of the Grecian poet, and the moral lessons which may be profitably drawn from thence, which he says are more full and instructive than the precepts both of Chrysippus the stoic, and Crantor the academician. And it is remarkable in the case, that Homer makes the mischief and inconveniences of anger, 'so destructive in its consequences to the Greeks, the very subject of the Iliad, as appears from the invocation at the beginning, insomuch that the quid non utile, which, according to Horace, is taught us by Homer, is so obvious, that it cannot well be missed, and very principally alludes, no doubt, to anger and its fatal effects; I say principally, because I do not think it ought to be totally restrained to that, on account of the sequel of the epistle.

Yours, &c. 1757, June,

P. GEMSEGE.

XXVII. Critique on a Passage in Paradise Lost.

MR. URBAN, MR. WARTON, in his elegant observations on the Fairy Queen of Spencer, has taken occasion to offer an illustration of an expression in the Paradise Lost, which is equally new and satisfactory.

« PreviousContinue »