« AnteriorContinuar »
LAYS OF ANCIENT ROME.
That what is called the history of the kings in the sacred grove, the fight of the three Row and early consuls of Rome is to a great extent mans and the three Albans, the purchase of the fabulous, few scholars have, since the time of Sibyline books, the crime of Tullia, the simu. Beaufort, ventured to deny. It is certain that, lated madness of Brutus, the ambiguous reply more than three hundred and sixty years after of the Delphian oracle to the Tarquins, the the date ordinarily assigned for the foundation wrongs of Lucretia, the heroic actions of Huof the city, the public records were, with ratius Cocles, of Scævola, and of Clælia, the scarcely an exception, destroyed by the Gauls. battle of Regillus won by the aid of Castor and It is certain that the oldest annals of the com- Pollux, the fall of Cremera, the touching story monwealth were compiled more than a centu- of Coriolanus, the still more touching story of ry and a half after the destruction of the re- Virginia, the wild legion about the draining of cords. It is certain, 'therefore, that the great the Alban lake, the combat between Valerius Latin writers of a later period did not possess Corvus and the gigantic Gaul, are among the those materials, without which a trustworthy many instances which will at once suggest account of the infancy of the republic could themselves to every reader. not possibly be framed. They own, indeed, In the narrative of Livy, who was a man of that the chronicles to which they had access fine imagination, these stories retain much of were filled with battles that were never fought their genuine character. Nor could even the and consuls that were never inaugurated ; and tasteless Dionysius distort and mutilate them we have abundant proof that, in those chroni- into mere prose. The poetry shines, in spite cles, events of the greatest importance, such of him, through the dreary pedantry of his as the issue of the war with Porsena, and the eleven books. It is discernible in the most teissue of the war with Brennus were grossly dious and in the most superficial modern works misrepresented. Under these circumstances a on the early times of Rome. It enlivens the wise man will look with great suspicion on the dulness of the Universal History, and gives a pgend which has come down to us. He will, charm to the most meager abridgments of
erhaps, be inclined to regard the princes who Goldsmith. are said to have founded the civil and religious Even in the age of Plutarch there were disinstitutions of Rome, the son of Mars, and the cerning men who rejected the popular account husband of Egeria, as mere mythological pero of the foundation of Rome, because that acsonages, of the same class with Perseus and count appeared to them to have the air, not of Ixion. As he draws nearer and nearer to the a history, but of a romance or a drama. Pluconfines of authentic history, he will become tarch, who was displeased at their incredulity, less and less hard of belief. He will admit had nothing better to say in reply to their arthat the most important parts of the narrative guments than that chance sometimes tums have some foundation in truth. But he will poet, and produces trains of events not to be distrust almost all the details, not only because distinguished from the most elaborate plois they seldom rest on any solid evidence, but which are constructed by art. But though also because he will constantly detect in them, the existence of a poetical element in the early even when they are within the limits of physi- history of the Great City was detected so many cal possibility, that peculiar character, more ages ago, the first critic who distinctly saw easily understood than defined, which distin- from what source that poetical element had guishes the creations of the imagination from been derived was James Perizonius, one of the the realities of the world in which we live. most acute and learned critics of the seven
The early history of Rome is indeed far teenth century. His theory, which, in his own more poetical than any thing else in Latin lite- age, attracted little or no notice, was revived in rature. The loves of the Vestal and the God the present generation by Niebuhr, a man who of War, the cradle laid among the reeds of Tiber, the fig tree, the she-wolf, the shepherd's tüdes om de de incorsiv, tiv rúxnu povras, oiwv soen.
•.Ύποπτον μεν ενίοις έστι το δραματικών και πλασμαcabin, the recognition, the fratricide, the rape parwy önulovoyós dori.—'Plut. Rom. viii. This remarkof the Sabines, the leath of Tarpeia, the fall able passage has been more grossly misinterpreted than of Hostus Hostilius, the struggle of Meitus any other in the Greek language, where the sense was
so obvious. The Latin version of Cruserius, the French Curtius through the marsh, the women rushing version of Amyot, the old English version by several with corn raiment and dishevelled hair between hands, and the later English version by Langhorne, are their fathers and their husbands, the nightly all equally destitute of every trace of the ineaning of the
original. None of the translators saw even that auingen meetings of Numa and the Nymph by the well is a poem. They all render it an event
2 x 2
would have been the first writer of his time, through many revolutions, minstrelsy retained if his talent for communicating truths had its influence over both the Teutonic and the borne any proportion to his talent for investi. Celtic race. The vengeance exacted by the gating them. It has been adopted by several spouse of Attila for the murder of Siegfried eminent scholars of our own country, particu- was celebrated in rhymes, of which Germany larly by the Bishop of St. David's, by Professor is still justly proud. The exploits of Athelstane Malden, and by the lamented Arnold. It apo were commemorated by the Anglo-Saxons, and pears to be now generally received by men those of Canute by the Danes, in rude poems, conversant with classical antiquity; and in- of which a few fragments have come down to deed it rests on such strong proofs, both in- us. The chants of the Welsh barpers prelernal and external, that it will not be easily served, through ages of darkness, a faint and subverted. A popular exposition of this theory doubtful memory of Arthur. In the highlands and of the evidence by which it is supported of Scotland may still be gleaned some reliques may not be without interest even for readers of the old songs about Cuthullin and Fingal. who are unacquainted with the ancient lan. The long struggle of the Servians against the yuages.
Ottoman power was recorded in lays full of The Latin literature which has come down martial spirit. We learn from Herrera thai, to us is of later date than the commencement when a Peruvian Inca died, men of skill were of the second Punic war, and consists almost appointed to celebrate him in verses which exclusively of words fashioned on Greek mo- all the people learned by heart, and sang in dels. The Latin metres, heroic, elegiac, lyric, public on days of festival. The feats of Kurand dramatic, are of Greek origin. The best roglou, the great freebooter of Turkistan, relatin epic poetry is the feeble echo of the Iliad counted in ballads composed by himself, are and Odyssey. The best Latin eclogues are known in every village of Northern Persia imitations of Theocritus. The plan of the most Captain Beechey heard the bards of the Sandfinished didactic poem in the Latin tongue was wich Islands recite the heroic achievements of taken from Hesiod. The Latin tragedies are Tamehameha, the most illustrious of their bad copies of the master-pieces of Sophocles kings. Mungo Park found in the heart of Africa and Euripides. The Latin comedies are free a class of singing nicn, the only annalists of translations from Demophilus, Menander, and their rude tribes, and heard them tell the story Apollodorus. The Latin philosophy was bor- of the great victory which Damel, the negro rowed, without alteration, from the Portico and prince of the Jaloffs, won over Abdulkader, the the Academy; and the great Latin orators con- Mussulman tyrant of Foota Torra. This spestantly proposed to themselves as pat the cies of poetry attained a high degree of excelspeeches of Demostheres and Lysias. lence among the Castilians, before they began
But there was an earlier Latin literature, a to copy Tuscan patterns. It attained a still literature truly Latin, which has wholly pe- higher degree of excellence among the English rished—which had, indeed, almost wholly pe- and the Lowland Scotch, during the fourteenth, rished long before those whom we are in the fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. But it reachhabit of regarding as the greatest Latin writers ed its full perfection in ancient Greece; for were born. That literature abounded with there can be no doubt that the great Homeric metrical romances, such as are found in every poems are generically ballads, though widely country where there is much curiosity and in- indeed distinguished from all other ballads, and, telligence, but little reading and writing. All indeed, from almost all other human compohuman beings, not utterly savage, long for sitions, by transcendant merit. some information about past times, and are As it is agreeable to general experience that, delighted by narratives which present pictures at a certain stage in the progress of society, to the eye of the mind. But it is only in very ballad-poetry should flourish, so is it also enlightened communities that books are readily agreeable to general experience that, at a subaccessible. Metrical composition, therefore, sequent stage in the progress of society, balladwhich, in a highly civilized nation, is a mere poetry should be undervalued and neglected. luxury, is, in nations imperfectly civilized, Knowledge advances: manners change: great almost a necessary of life, and is valued less foreign models of composition are studied and on account of the pleasure which it gives to imitated. The phraseology of the old minstrels the ear than on account of the help which it becomes obsolete. Their versification, which, gives to the memory. A man who can invent having received its laws only from the ear, or embellish an interesting story, and put it abounds in irregularities, seems licentious and into a form which others may easily retain in uncouth. Their simplicity appears beggarly their recollection, will always be highly esteem- when compared with the quaint forms and od by a people eager for amusement and infor- gaudy colouring of such artists as Cowley and mation, but destitute of libraries. Such is the Gongora. The ancient lays, unjustly despised vrigin of ballad-poctry, a species of composi- by the learned and polite, linger for a time in tion which scarcely ever fails to spring up and the memory of the vulgar, and are at length too flourish in every society, at a certain point in often irretrievably lost. We cannot wonder the progress towards refinement. Tacitus in- that the ballads of Rome should have altogether forms us that songs were the only memorials disappeared, when we remember how very of the past which the ancient Germans pos- narrowly, in spite of the invention of printing, sessed. We learn from Lucan and from Am- those of our own country and those of Spain mianus Marcellinus, that the brave actions of escaped the same fate. There is, indeed, lille He ancieni Gauls were commemorated in the doubt that oblivion covers many English songs verses of Bards. During many ages, and equal to any that were published by Bishop
Such a suppo
Percy, and many Spanish songs as good as Dionysius, and contains a very remarkable re the best of those which have been so happily ference to the old Latin poetry. Fabius says translated by Mr. Lockhart. Eighty years ago that, in his time, his countrymen were still in England possessed only one tattered copy of the habit of singing ballads about the Twins. Childe Waters and Sir Cauline, and Spain only “Even in the hut of Faustulus,”-so these old one tattered copy of the noble poem of the Cid. lays appear to have run,—"the children of The snuff of a candle, or a mischievous dog, Rhea and Mars were, in port and in spirit, not might in a moment have deprived the world for like unto swineherds or cowherds, but such ever of any of those fine compositions. Sir that men might well guess them to be of the Walter Scott, who united to the fire of a great blood of kings and gods." poet the mirute curiosity and patient diligence Cato the Censor, who also lived in the days of a great antiquary, was bui just in time to of the Second Punic War, mentioned this lost save the precious reliques of the Minstrelsy of literature in his lost work on the antiquities of the Border. In Germany, the lay of the Ni- his country. Many ages, he said, before his belurgs had been long uiterly forgotten, when, time, there were ballads in praise of illustrious in the eighteenth century, it was, for the first time, printed from a manuscript in the old * Οι δε ανδρωθέντες γίνονται, κατά τε αξίωσιν μορφής library of a noble family. In truth, the only wai oporavazus oy qov, ou svogoBois wat Byukódors lors people who, through their whole passage from Φόντας γίνους, και από δαιμόνων σποράς γενέσθαι νομιζο
κότες, άλλ' οίους άν τις αξιώσειε τους εκ βασιλείου τε simplicity to the highest civilization, never for μένους, ώς εν τοις πατρίοις ύμνοις υπό Ρωμαίων έτι και a moment ceased to love and admire their old vivą deras: -- Dion. Hal. i. 79. This passage has sometimes
been cited as if Dionysius had been speaking in his own ballads, were the Greeks.
person, and had, Greek as he was, been so industrious or That the early Romans should have had so fortunate as to discover some valuable remains of ballad-poetry, and that this poetry should have that early Latin poetry which the greatest Latin writers
of his age regreited as hopelessly lost. perished, is, iherefore, not strange. It would, on sition is highly improbable'; and indeed it seems clear the contrary, have been strange if it had not from the context ihai Dionysius, as Reiske and other come to pass; and we should be justified in blus Pictor. The whole passage has the air of an extract
editors evidently ihought, was merely quouing from Fapronouncing them highly probable, even if we from an ancient chronicle, and is introduced by the ihad no direct evidence on the subject. But words, Κόϊντος μίν Φάβιος ο Πίκτωρ λεγόμενος, τήρε we have direct evidence of unquestionable you to
Another argument may be urged which seems to deauthority,
serve consideration. The anthor of the passage in Ernius, who flourished in the time of the question mentions a thatched but which, in his time
stood between Mount Palatine and the Circus. This Second Punic War, was regarded in the hut, he says, was built by Romulus, and was constantly Augustan age as the father of Latin poetry. He kept in repair at the public charge, but nevrp in any res. was, in truth, the father of the second school pect embellished. Now, in the age of Dionysius there
certainly was at Rome a thatched hut, said to have been vi Latin poetry,—of the only school of which that of Romulus. But this hut, as we learn from Viruthe works have descended to us. But from vius, stood, not near the Circus, but in the Capirol. (Vir. Ennius himself we learn that there were poets in his own person, we can reconeile his statemen. with
ii. 1.) If, therefore, we understand Dionysius to speo's who stood to him in the same relation in that of Vitruvius only by supposing that there were at which the author of the romance of Count Rome, in the Angustan age, iwo thatched huls, both beálarcos stood to Garcilaso, or the author of the heved to have been built by Romulus, and both carefully
repaired, and held in high honour. The objections to Lytell Geste of Robin Hode" to Lord Surrey: such a supposition seem to be strong. Neither Dionysins Ennius speaks of verses which the Fauns and nor Vitruvius speaks of more than one such hur. 110 the Bards were wont to chant in the old time, tration of Augustus, the hut' of Romulus caught fire.
Cassius informs us that twice, during the long adminiswhen none had yet studied the graces of (xlviii. 43. liv, 29.) Had there been two such huis, speech, when none had yet climbed the peaks would be not have told us of which he spoke ? An Eng. sacred to the Goddesses of Grecian song. Queen's College without saying whether it was at
lish historian would hardly give an account of a fire ai Where,” Cicero mournfully asks,“ are those Queen's College, Oxford, or at Queen's College, Can old verses now ?"
bridge. Marcus Seneca, Macrobius, and Conon, a Greek
writer from whom Photius has made large extrael, Contemporary with Ennius was Quintus mention only one hut of Romulus, that in ihe Capitol. Fabius Pictor, the earliest of the Roman anna. (M. Seneca, Contr. 1, 6; Macrobius, Sat. i. 15; Phoitus. lists. His account of the infancy and youth of
Bibl. 186.) Ovid, Petronius, Valerius Maxinius, Lucing
Seneca, and St. Jerome mention only one hut of Romi). Rumulus and Remus has been preserved by 1118 without specifying the site. (Orid, Fasti, iii. 183,
Petronius, Fragm. ; Val. Mar. iv. 4 ; L. Seneca, Consola.
tio ad Helriam; D. Hieron. ad Paulinianum de Didymo. "Quid : Nostri veteres versus ubi sunt !
The whole difficulty is removed, if we suppose that Quos olim Fauni valesqne canebant,
Dionysius was merely quoting Fabius Picior. Nothing Cum neque Maearum scopulos quisquam superarat, 1 of Fabins stood near the Circns, might, long before the
is more probable than that the cabin, which in the line Nec dicti studiosus erat.'" Cic. in Bruso, cap. xviji.
age of Augustus, have been transported to the Capitol,
as the placo Attest, by reason both of its safely and of The Muses, it should be observed, are Greek divinities. its sanctily, to contain so precious a relique. The Italian Goddesses of verse were the Camanæ. The language of Plutarch confirms this hypothesis. a later period, the appellations were used indiscriminale-Ile describes, with great precision, the spot where RoIv; but in the age of Ennius there was probably a dis. mulus dwell between the Palatine Mount and the Cir. unctiou. In the epitaph of Navills who was the repre- cus: but he says not a word implying that the dwelling $rontative of the old Italian school of poetry, the Cn- was still to be seen there. Indeed, his expressions immione, not the Muses, are represented as grieving for ply that it was no longer there. The evidence of Soli the Irs of their votary. The “Musarum scopali'' are nus is still more to the point. He, like Plutarch, evidently the peaks of Parnassus.
de cribes the spot where Romnlus had resided, and Scaliger, in a note on Varro (De lingua Latina, lib. says expressly that the hut had been there, but that, in VI.) suggests, with grrat ingenuity, ibat ibe Fauns who his time, it was there no longer. The site, it is certain, were represented hy the superstition of inter ages as a was well remenihered ; and probably retained its old race of monsters, hair gods and half brutes, may really name, as Charing Cross and the Haymarket have donc have been a class of men who exercised in Lajum, at a This is probably the explanation of the words, “casa very rowote period, the same functions which belonged Romuli's in Vicior's description of the Tenth Region of to the Magianis in Persia and :o the Bards in Caul. Rome, ander Valentinian.