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LAYS OF ANCIENT ROME.
That what is called the history of the kings in the sacred grove, the fight of the three Roand 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 simuBeaufort, 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 Hoof 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 ugend 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 per- of the foundation of Rome, because that acsonages, of the same class with Perseus an
count appeared to them to have the air, not of Ixion. As he draws nearer and nearer to the a history, bat 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 ar. that the most important parts of the narrative guments than that chance sometimes turns 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 plots 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 vi dacorciv, thy rúxnu sportas, piwo Tour
* Υποπτον μεν ενίοις έστι το δραματικών και πλασμαcabin, the recognition, the fratricide, the rape márwv nulovpyós doti.-"Plut. Rom. viil. This remarkof the Sabines, the death of Tarpeia, the fall able passage
has been more grossly misinterpreted than of Hostus Hostilius, the struggle of Mettus 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 torn 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 meaning of the
original. None of the translators saw even that muinua meetings of Numa and the Nymph by the well I 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 ap- 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 harpers preternal 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 guages.
Ottoman power was recorded in lays full of The Latin literature which has come down martial spirit. We learn from Herrera thal, 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 men, 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 patterns the cies of poetry attained a high degree of excelspeeches of Demosthenes 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 interest.ng 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 ed 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 origin of ballad-poetry, 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 Nourish 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, Fessed.“ 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, little the ancient 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 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 but 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 belungs had been long utterly 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 και φρονήματος δικον, ου συοφορβούς και βουκόλοις έοιpeople who, through their whole passage from | Aύντας 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 vùva detai.-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 regretted as hopelessly lost. Such a suppoperished, is, therefore, 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 thai Dionysius, as Reiske and other come to pass; and we should be justified in hius Pictor. The whole passage has the air of an extract
editors evidently thought, was merely quoting 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 μέν Φάβιος ο Πίκτωρ λεγόμενος, τήδε we have direct evidence of unquestionable Ypaper:
Another argument may be urged which seems to deauthority.
serve consideration. The author of the passage in Ernius, who flourished in the time of the question mentions a thaiched hut 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 never in any reswas, 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 of Latin poetry,--of the only school of which that of Romulus. But this hut, as we learn from Vitruthe works have descended to us. But from vius, stood, not near the Circus,, but in the Capitol. (Vit. Ennius himself we learn that there were poets in his own person, we can reconcile his statemen. with
ii. 1.) If, therefore, we understand Dionysius to speak 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 Aligustan age, iwo thatched huts, both beAlarcos stood to Garcilaso, or the author of the lieved 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 Dionysius Ennius speaks of verses which the Fauns and nor Vitruvius speaks of more than one such hut. Dio the Bards were wont to chant in the old time, iration of Augustus, the hut of Romulus caught fire.
Cassins informs us that twice, during the long adminiswhen none had yet studied the graces of (xlviii. 43. liv. 29.) Had there been iwo such buts, 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, Cam... old verses now ?”.
bridge. Marcus Seneca, Macrobius, and Conon, a Greek
writer from whom Photius has made Jarge extracts, Contemporary with Ennius was Quintus mention only one but of Romulus, that in the Capitol. Fabius Pictor, the earliest of the Roman anna- (M. Seneca, Contr. i. 6; Macrobius, Sat. i. 15; Phorrus, lists. His account of the infancy and youth of
Bibl. 166.) Ovid, Petronius, Valerius Maximus, Lucius Romulus and Remus has been preserved by los without specifying the site. (orid, Fasti, iii. 183,
Seneca, and St. Jeronie mention only one hut of Romu-
tio ad Helriam; D. Hieron. ad Paulinianum de Didymo. “Quid ? Nostri veteres versus ubi sunt 1
The whole difficulty is removed, if we suppose that Quos olim Fauni vatesque canebant,
Dionysius was merely quoting Fabius Picior. Nothing Cum neque Musarum scopulos quisquam superârat, of Fabius stood near the Circus, might, long before the
is more probable than that the cabin, which in the time Nec dicti studiosus erat.'" Cic. in Bruto, cap. xviii.
age of Augustus, have been transported to the Capitol.
as the place fittest, by reason both of its safely and of The Muses, it should be observed, are Greek divinities. ils sanctity, to contain so precious a relique. The Italian Goddesses of verse were the Camænæ. The language of Plutarch confirms this hypothesis. a later period, the appellations were used indiscriminate- He describes, with great precision, the spot where Roly; but in the age of Ennius there was probably a dis- mulus dwelt between the Palatine Mount and the Cir. tinction. In the epitaph of Navius who was the repre- cus: but he says not a word implying that the dwelling sentative of the old Italian school of poetry, the Ca- was still to be seen there. Indeed, his expressions inmene, not the Muses, are represented as grieving for ply that it was no longer there. The evidence of soli the loss of their votary. The “Musarum scopali" are nus is still more to the point. He, like Plutarch, evidently the peaks of Parnassus.
des ribes the spot where 'Romulus bad 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 great ingenuity, that the Fauns who bis time, it was there no longer. The site, it is certain, were represented by the superstition of later ages as a was well remembered ; and probably retained its old race of monsters, half gods and half brutes, may really name, as Charing Cross and the Haymarket have done have been a class of men wlio exercised in Latium, at a This is probably the explanation of the words, “casa very remote period, the same functions which belonged Ron,uli'' in Vicior's description of the Tenth Region of to the Magians in Persia and to the Bards in Gaul. Rome, under Valentinian.
men; and these ballads it was the fashion for gends, which present so striking a contrast to the guests at banquets to sing in turn while the all that surrounds them, are broken and depiper played. “Would,” exclaims Cicero,“ that faced fragments of that early poetry which, we still had the old ballads of which Cato even in the age of Cato the Censor, had bespeaks !"*
come antiquated, and of which Tully had Valerius Maximus gives us exactly similar never heard a line. information, without mentioning his authority, That this poetry should have been suffered and observes that the ancient Roman ballads to perish will not appear strange when we were probably of more benefit to the young consider how complete was the triumph of the than all the lectures of the Athenian schools, Greek genius over the public mind of Italy. and that to the influence of the national poetry It is probable that, at an early period, Homer, were 10 be ascribed the virtues of such men Archilochus, and Herodotus, furnished some as Camillus and Fabricius.t
hints to the Latin minstrels :* but it was not Varro, whose authority on all questions con- till after the war with Pyrrhus that the poetry nected with the antiquities of his country is of Rome began to put off its old Ausonian entitled to the greatest respect, tells us that at character. The transformation was soon conbanquets it was once the fashion for boys to summated. The conquered, says Horace, led sing, sometimes with and sometimes without captive the conquerors. It was precisely at instrumental music, ancient ballads in praise the time at which the Roman people rose to of men of former times. These young per- unrivalled political ascendency, that they formers, he observes, were of unblemished stooped to pass under the intellectual yoke. charactér, a circumstance which he probably It was precisely at the time at which the mentioned because, among the Greeks, and sceptre departed from Greece that the empire indeed in his time among the Romans also, of her language and of her arts became unithe morals of singing boys were in no high versal and despotic. The revolution indeed repute.
was not effected without a struggle. Nævius The testimony of Horace, though given in- seems to have been the last of the ancient line cidentally, confirms the statements of Cato, of poets. Ennius was the founder of a new Valerius Maximus, and Varro. The poet pre- dynasty. Nævius celebrated the First Punic dicts that, under the peaceful administration War in Saturnian verse, the old national verse of Augustus, the Romans will, over their full of Italy.t Ennius sang the Second Punic War goblets, sing to the pipe, after the fashion of their fathers, the deeds of brave captains, and * See the Preface to the Lay of the Battle of Regillus. the ancient legends touching the origin of the + Cicero speaks highly in more than ne place of this city.
poem of Nævius ; Ennius sneered at it, and stole from it
As to the Saturnian measure, see Herman's Elementa The proposition, then, that Rome had ballad
Doctrinæ Metricæ, iii. 9. poetry is not merely in itself highly probable, The Saturnian line consisted of two parts. The first but it is fully proved by direct evidence of the was a catalectic dimeter iambic; the second was comgreatest weight.
posed of three trochees. But the license taken by the
early Latin poets seems to have been almost boundless. This proposition being established, it be. The most perfect Saturnian line which has been precomes easy to understand why the early his served by the grammarians was the work, not of a protory of the city is uulike almost every thing fessional artisi, but of an amateur ; else in Latin literature-native where almost
“Dabunt malum Metelli Nævio poete.” every thing else is borrowed, imaginative
There has been much difference of opinion among where almost every thing else is prosaic. We That it is the same with a Greek measure used by Ar
learned men respecting the history of this measure. can scarcely hesitate to pronounce that the chilochus is indisputable. (Bentley, Phalaris, xi.) But magnificent, pathetic, and truly national le-i in spite of the authority of Terentianus Maurus, and of
the still higher authority of Bentley, we may venture to
doubt whether the coincidence was not fortuitous. * Cicero refers twice to this important passage in constantly find the same rude and simple numbers in Cato's Antiquities :-“Gravissimus auctor in ‘Origini- different countries, under circumstances which make it bus' dixit Cato, morem apud majores hunc epularum impossible to suspect that there has been imitation on fuisse, ut deinceps, qui accubarent, canerent ad tibiam either side. Bishop Heber heard the children of a vilclarorum virorum laudes atque virtutes. Ex quo per- lage in Bengal singing “ Radha, Radha," to the tune of spicuum est, et cantus tum fuisse rescriptos vocum so- “My boy Billy." Neither the Castilian nor the German nis, et carmina.”- Tusc. Quæst. iv. 2. Again : "Utinam minstrels of the middle ages owed any thing to Paros er exstarent illa carmina quæ multis sæculis ante suam to ancient Rome. Yet both the poem of the Cid and the ætatem in epulis esse cantitata a singulis convivis de poem of the Nibelungs contain many Saturnian verses; clarorum virorum laudibus in Originibus' scriptum re- as, liquit Cato."-Brutus, cap. xix.
“ Estas nuevas a mio Cid eran venidas." +“Majores natu in conviviis ad tibias egregia supe- A mi lo dicen; a ti dan las orejadas." riorum opera carmine comprehensa pangebant, quo ad ea imitanda juventutem alacriorum redderent,
“ Man möhte michel wunder von Sifride sagen." Quas Athenas, quam scholam, quæ alienigena studia
“ Wa ich den Künic vinde daz sol man mir sagen." huic domesticæ disciplinæ prætulerim ? Inde oriebantur Indeed, there cannot be a more perfect Saturnian line Camilli, Scipiones, Fabricii, Marcelli, Fabii.” — Val. than one which is sung in every English nurseryMar. ii. 1. “In conviviis pueri modesti ut cantarent carmina
“The queen was in her parlour eating bread and honey," ontiqua, in quibus laudes erant majorum, et assa voce, yet the author of this line, we may be assured, borrowed el cum tibicine." Nonius, Assa roce pro sola.
nothing from either Nævius or Archilochus. “Nosque et profestis lucibus et sacris,
On the other hand, it is by no means improbable that, Inter jocosi munera Liberi,
two or three hundred years before the time of Enpius, Cum prole matroniaque nostris,
some Latin minstrels may have visited Sybaris or CroRite Deos prius apprecati,
tona, may have heard some verses of Archilochus song, Virtute functos, MORE PATRUM, duces, may have been pleased with the metre, and may bave Lydis remixto carmine tibiis,
introduced it at Rome. Thos much is certain, that the Trojamque, et Anchisen, et almæ
Saturnian measure, if not a native of Italy, was at Progeniem Veneris canemus."
least so early and so completely naturalized there that Carm. iv. 51. its foreign origin was forgotten.