Page images

to mean the Supreme Being, and the phrase stultum facit is softer than dementat : but the Greek evidently makes the gods the efficient causes of those transgressions for which they afterwards punish (Baarlesv) poor mortals, for the word FEETH is much too strong to imply a bare permission. Grævius indeed attempts to defend these and other passages of the same purport; but with how little reason, is evident from the passage in Hesiod which occasioned the foregoing quotations. Speaking of the two kinds of strife (egsdwr) which prevail in the world, the poet observes that the first

- πόλεμον το κακόν και δημιν όφίλλα
Σχετλίη. έτις τήνγε φιλέι βροτος, αλλ' υπ' ανάγκης
'Αθανάτων βελησιν έξιν τιμώσι βαρείαν.

Hes. op. lin. 15.

Upon the whole we must not expect to find a consistent scheme of theology in the writings of the poets, whatever we may in those of the philosophers.

I am, Sir, yours, &c. Ipswich.


MR. URBAN, IN your volume for 1771, one of your constant readers desires some of your classical correspondents to inform him in what original Roman author the common adage

Quem Jupiter vult perdere, prius dementat, is to be found. D. H. intimates, that it is not in any classic author, but a saying taken up and used at random. W.W. believes it cannot be found verbatim in any ancient author, though the Greek and Latin writers have, as he has shewn, commonly adopted the sentiment. We may safely assert, I presume, that it is not in any truly classic author, as the verb demento will not be found in any writer generally esteemed such. And may we not almost as safely pronounce, that, wherever this saying is to be found verbatim, it is only a translation of the following lines of Euripides, which occur in the Incertæ Tragediæ, as published by Barnes?

"Οταν δε Δαιμων ανδρί πορσύνη κακά,

Τον νύν έβλαψε πρώτον. V. 436, 437. In Barnes's note upon this passage, among other ferences, he adds, -- " Tale quid Paterculus de Variana


clade." Paterculus's words are these: “Ita se res habet, ut plerumque deus, fortunam mutaturus, consilia corrumpat." Lib. ii. cap. 118.-It may be further remarked, that Duport, in his Gnomologia Homerica, at p. 282 note, absolutely translates these words of Euripides by the common adage which has given occasion to these hints from,

Your constant reader, Sept. 21, 1773.

L. L 1771, June. 1773, Sept.

L. Critique on Virgil, and an Inquiry into the Propriety of some

passages in Silius Italicus.

MR. URBAN, THE excellent author of the Rambler compares the silence of Dido at the sight of Æneas in the infernal shades, so elegantly described by Virgil in the sixth book of the Æneid, with that of Ajax in the thirteenth book of the Odyssey; and gives the preference to the latter, as being much more highly in character. He intimates, that the silence of the son of Telamon was undoubtedly founded in pride, and proceeded from a consciousness of his own dea fects in the arts of eloquence; justly concluding, that thiş sullen taciturnity had a much more striking effect, and conveyed a stronger idea of the most sovereign scorn and contempt, " than any words which so rude an orator could have found.” To this, I think, may, with some appearance of reason, be added, what I do not remember to bave seen remarked by any of the commentators, that this hero could not but recollect his having been foiled, before the assembly of the Grecian chiefs, in his contest for the arms of Achilles, merely by the superior address of his wordy antagonist; and would not this reflection naturally prevent him from having now recourse to the same weapon to serve the purposes of his resentment, in the use of which he had before been so signally defeated ? If it were not refining too much, I would venture to assert, that Silius Italicus was impressed with the idea of this particular circumstance in the conduct of Ajax, when he introduced him into his own Elysium; and that the short, characteristic stroke, in which he represents Scipio as admiring the stately step of this hero,

Ajacisque gradum

Sil. Ital. XIII. 801.

was borrowed from the figure he makes in the Elysium of Homer.

I shall not dispute with The Rambler the inferiority of the copy exhibited in Virgil to the original of his great master, the Mæonian bard; but must venture to differ from him, though not without great diffidence and distrust of my own opinion, concerning the reason on which this inferiority is principally founded. He seems to think, that the sight of Æneas, instead of chaining up the tongue of Dido, and striking her speechless, ought to have produced an effect the very reverse of this : it should have roused her into clamour, reproach, and denunciation. But, with submission to the judgment of this admirable writer, he seems, herein, to have totally mistaken the design of the poet. Virgil, I apprehend, by the behaviour of Dido on this occasion, intended to represent the dignity of her resentment; dropping the woman in her to portray


queen :
Illa solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat;
Nec magis incepto vultum sermone movetur,

Quam si dura silex aut stet Marpesia cautes. Considered in this light, is not her fixed attitude and contemptuous silence, her turning away from Æneas, and keeping her eyes immoveably rivetted to the ground, infinitely more expressive and more eloquent than all the powers of language? A mere female, indeed, would, in her circumstances, have railed and reproached; it was beneath the queen of Carthage to do either. I am not, however, ignorant that a different interpretation has been given of this silence of hers, by an anonymous writer* of great taste and elegance, who imputes it to the consciousness of her guilt," and her consequent “shame on finding herself in the presence of the most virtuous of all women, the Cumæan Sibyl.This sense of the passage, though supported with the utmost ingenuity and refinement, does not, I confess, appear to me Bo natural as that before mentioned; since it is neither clear how Dido could possibly have any knowledge of the

* See No. VIII. of an ingenious and entertaining collection of papers on subjects literary, critical, and humorous, entitled, The Old Maid, publiska in the year 1755, and reprinted in 1764.

Sibyl, nor is it in the least probable, that the sight of any other being in the universe could affect her so sensibly as that of Æneas, who had been the author of her greatest misfortunes, and the immediate occasion of her death.

I have sometimes been inclined to fancy, that the poet, in this passage might possibly design to hint to us, in his delicate manner, the difference between the states of the living and the dead; to intimate, that, though the latter may retain all the passions and resentments* to which they were enslaved upon earth, yet, in this state of separate beings, those passions can only prey upon the spirits that entertain them, and so much the more keenly as they are now deprived of the power of gratifying, or giving vent to them. The duration of the vicious appetites beyond the grave, and their attendance on the soul in the next life, is a favorite doctrine of Plato. As Virgil was a great admirer of this author, and has evidently adopted his principles of philosophy, bis shadowing out this favorite tenet of his master, in the conduct of Dido, may, perhaps, be thought no improbable conjecture.

The affinity of the subject leads me to touch upon a point, which I have frequently canvassed in my own thoughts, but could never yet satisfactorily clear up. I mean the conduct of Silius Italicus in his thirteenth book; wherein, after conveying his hero into the Elysian fields, in imitation of his great original, he presents him with a view of several of the heroes who figured in the Trojan war:

Inde vero stupet Æacide, stupet Hectore magno;
Ajacisque gradum, venerandaque Nestoris ora
Miratur, geminos aspectans LÆTUS Atridas,

Jamque Ithacum, corde æquantem Peleia facta: representing him, we see, as gazing upon the others with wonder and astonishment, but seized with joy, which appears to me utterly misplaced, at the sight of the two royal Grecian brothers, the most determined enemies of the house of Priam, and consequently of Æneas, from whom the Romans, and Scipio, as one of them, affected to derive the glory of their origin. The poet would, surely, with much more propriety, have shewn his hero expressing his satisfaction on the appearance of a Trojan chief.' And, indeed, he awakens all our attention, and prepares us for some such pleasing incident a few lines higher, in that noble encomium upon Homer, which he puts into the mouth of the Sibyl; who, after expatiating to Scipio on the merits of the venerable bard, judiciously closes the whole with this fine stroke, admirably calculated to recal his thoughts (as it instantly recals ours) to his Trojan ancestors-namely, that the muse of this divine poet had likewise immortalized his mother country, Troy:

* Curæ non ipsa in morte relinquunt,

Æn. VI. 444.

--- Et VESTRAM tulit usque ad sidera TROJAM.

Now, I appeal to the judgment of the critical reader, whether these words, and the place they are found in, do not naturally make him expect to see the

young Roman introduced to some of the heroes of the Dardan race? and whether he is not disappointed to find the poet slurring over the name of Hector with the same undistinguishing marks of cursory attention as that of Achilles,-stupet Æacide, stupet Hectore magno,-without suffering it to excite peculiar emotions of pleasure and admiration in the breast of Scipio; and still more so to behold these emotions excited in him by the appearance of Agamemnon and Menelaus, Nestor and Ajax ?

Ajacisque gradum, venerandaque Nestoris ora
Miratur, geminos aspectans lætus Atridas.

If these may be deemed improprieties, and certainly they seem to be such, by what name shall we call the total omis. sion of Romulus and Æneas ?--The poet, in order, we may presume, to animate his hero, by great examples, to the pursuit of honest fame, selects the most conspicuous characters of antiquity to pass in review before him; and, to incite him, as a Roman, to direct that passion solely to the good of his country, to make that the ultimate object of his ambition, and thence to expect the truest and inost durable renown, points out to him, by the Sibyl, a group of his immortal countrymen, who, devoting their labours and their lives to that noble end, had finished, in her service, the same career of glory that he was himself now going to enter upon. Is it not reasonable here to look for, do we not anxiously expect to find, at the head of this illustrious band of Romans, Æneas the father of that people, and Romulus the founder of their state? It is true, Lavinia and Hersilia, the

« PreviousContinue »