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Vis salis insoliti et subitus circumstet amaror,
Quam sacer ille chorus stupuit. The father then recounts to his son the circumstances of his own and his brother's death; and points out to him, among the choir of surrounding spirits, several of the heroes of the second Punic war. The death of Æmilius Paullus is described with some detail. Africanus then introduces himself to his uncle, with whom he enters into conversation on a variety of subjects, as the superiority of the heavenly life, the unlawfulness of suicide, and the rewards allotted to public virtue in the celestial world. The old Roman kings and patriots then pass under review; the poet dwells more particularly on the story of the three Horatii. There are a great many fine patriotic and philosophical passages in this book ; but as they are chiefly interesting on account of the reflection of the Roman mind in Petrarch, which they exhibit, and as the effect would be injured by detaching them from the text, we have not thought proper to make any quotations.
In the second book, Scipio, impelled by a natural curiosity, enquires the future destinies of Rome. His father complies with his request; and foretels, in the first place, the defeat and subsequent misfortunes of Hannibal; he then prophecies the glories of the second Africanus; the conquests of Rome; the civil wars; the subversion of liberty under Augustus; the gradual corruption of public morals, and the final fall of the empire, the name only remaining, as a gorgeous but unmeaning title, worn by a succession of barbarian kings, and transferred from nation to nation. The peroration of this part is too beautiful and too characteristic to be omitted. We need scarcely point out the obvious allusion to the tribune Rienzi.
Forte sub extremos annos, mundique ruentis
Unum hoc de pluribus ille supremus
Vir aliquis, dignus meliori tempore nasci,
Cum mundo peritura suo.
Illa vel invitum, fugias licet, illa sequetur :
Ni laudem, et varios populi per compita ventos. He then exhorts his son to perseverance in the path of virtue, as a preparation for the glories of heaven; and foretells his voluntary exile and death.
In the third book, Lælius is sent to Africa to request the alliance of Syphax. The palace of the Numidian monarch is described at too great a length, but not without fancy; we can only afford a short extract.
Niveis suggesta columnis
Ire videbatur radiis, tenerumque' serena
Atra quidem, et radiis circum illustrata supernis.3 The description of the infernal rivers, as represented in the portraiture on the walls, may have been read by Milton.
Hic-claustris distincta novem pallentia regna
Funduntur. Lælius, after the conference, is invited by the king to a splendid banquet, where a minstrel is introduced as relating
In the original, “ tecumque:" we have ventured to substitute as above.
? Allading, perhaps, to the popular notion, that light was inherent in the carbuncle.
Darkness hath no dominion o'er its beams;
Thalaba, Book 1.
Where there is not a ray to reflect back its gleam,
But shines thro' the gloom with unborrowing beam. MS. 3. The idea of this passage seems to be borrowed from the planetarium of the Emperor Nero. A somewhat similar description is quoted by D'Israeli from an early poem of Orator Henley's. (Calamities of Authors, Vol. i. p. 157.)
Pillars of marble bore a silken sky,
Form'd in the midst almost a real sun. 4 So in the original.
the stories of Atlas, of Dido, of the Philæni, and, in short, the history of Africa in general. Lælius, at the request of the monarch, gives a sketch of the origin and growth of the Roman state; the stories of Curtius and the Decii, and especially that of Lucretia, are commemorated at length. The descent of Curtius into the gulph is vividly described :
Dicens hæc, lumina coelo
Fit strepitus : coëunt ripæ, et junguntur in unum. The death of Lucretia, with which the book concludes, is feebly told.
In book iv. Lælius describes the person, manners, and character of Scipio to the king.
The whole is written completely con amore : no poet, indeed, was ever more in love with his hero than Petrarch. The rest of the book is taken up with a narration of various exploits of Scipio's; his behavior in the secret assembly of the young nobility after the battle of Cannæ, his taking of New Carthage, and his reconciling the rival candidates for the obsidional crown. The effect of his presence in tranquillising the tumults attendant on a sanguinary victory, is thus illustrated :
Sic atra serenat
Ir may not be uninteresting to trace a few more instances of resemblance. For this purpose I have selected the Prometheus of Æschylus.
In the first instance, to renew the charge of imitation, Oceanus addressing Prometheus is represented as warning him not to incur the augmented wrath of Jupiter,
Εί δ' ώδε τραχείς και τεθηγμένους λόγους
Πάροντα μόχθων παιδιών είναι δοκεϊν.
But what if he, our conqueror, (whom I now
By right of war.
Τον γηγενή τε Κιλικίων οικήτορα
Εκατοντακάρηνον, προς βίαν χειρούμενον
Σμερδναϊσι γαμφιλήσι συρίζων φόνον.”
Briareos or Typhon.
'Εξ όμμάτων δ' ήστραπτε γοργωπόν σέλας,