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Carmina sublimis tunc sunt peritura Lucretî
This prediction of Ovid, with regard to the durability of the Poems of Lucretius, was in eminent danger of being compleatly overthrown through the barbarism of modern Europe. Lucretius had, for several centuries, disappeared, and had entirely escaped the researches of the few who were interested in the preservation of ancient literature, until the commencement of the fifteenth century, when the
* This second line of my, motto is a verbal copy from Lucretius, and in thus using the very phraseology of the philosophic poet, Ovid appears to have thought that the intrinsic merit of this tribute of respect would be doubled. Lucretius in lib. v. 93, 96, thus expresses himself:
Una dies dabit exitio,
philosophic poet was restored to the admiration of the world through the indefatigable perseverance of Poggio Bracciolini. A history of the discovery of ancient manuscripts has been frequently mentioned as a work that would prove highly interesting to the scholar and the man of taste; and, in such a volume, Poggio would merit every encomium which gratitude. could furnish. It is from the following lines in a latin elegy by Christoforo Landino, on the death of this celebrated ornament of his age, that we learn where to pay our acknowledgements for the first of philosophic poems. Landino, recording the discoveries of his friend, exclaims
Illius—manu nobis, doctissime rhetor,
We are likewise indebted to Poggio for Plautus, parts of Statius, and Valerius Flaccus, but in rescuing from oblivion the sublime
disciple of Epicurus, he has conferred an obli gation of incalculable extent. It is astonishing how numerous have been the imitations, in almost every european language, of this exquisite poet, and that Virgil possessed a high relish of, and a desire to copy his beauties, every page of the Georgics affords proof.
Whether Lucretius can lay claim to perfect originality in the conception and execution of his poem, is a subject of considerable uncertainty; little of the didactic poetry of the Greeks is left, and the Opera et Dies of Hesiod, or the Alieuticon and Cynegeticon of Oppian, though conveying precepts in verse, can with scarce any probability be considered as furnishing a model for the philosophic genius of the Roman. That verses, however, inculcating the tenets of the different schools of philosophy existed in Greece, wants not the fullest testimony, and the poem of Empedocles on the doctrines of Pythagoras, was so celebrated for its energy and harmony, that it was publicly recited, along with the works of Homer and Hesiod, at the Olympic Games. Many, indeed, have not hesitated to avow, that the Roman Bard found his prototype in this
production of the Sicilian: but the assertion is founded merely on conjecture, and, perhaps, the whole controversy may be now deemed beyond the limit of enquiry.
We shall, therefore, consider this work of Lucretius as the earliest specimen which has descended to us of the philosophic poetry of the ancients, for though, in common with the writings of Hesiod and Oppian, it may be in, cluded under the Genus Didactic, as endeavouring to teach and instruct through the medium of versification, yet, as aspiring to develope the principles of natural and moral philosophy, it takes a higher station than any poem on Agriculture, Fishing, or Hunting can ever hope to attain. To combine the most exquisite poetry with the clashing and recondite dogmata of the grecian schools, was an arduous task, and to which very few, even in the first ranks of genius, could be supposed equal. However various and hostile may be the ideas with regard to the tenets of Lucretius, of his merit as a poet, I should imagine, there can be but one opinion. He who has acquired a just taste for sublime sentiment and luminous description, will find his highest gratification in