Billeder på siden

and to surprise his reader with a seeming absurdity. If this poet were well examined, one would find that some of his greatest beauties as well as faults arise from the frequent use of this particular figure.

I question not, says Philander, but you are tired by this time with the company of so mysterious a sort of ladies as those we have had before us. We will now, for our diversion, entertain ourselves with a set of riddles, and see if we can find a key to them among the ancient poets. The first of them, says Cynthio, is a ship under sail, I suppose it has at least a metaphor or moral precept for its cargo. This, says Philander, is an emblem of Happiness,' as you may see by the inscription it carries in its sails. We find the same device to express the same thought in several of the poets: as in Horace, when he speaks of the moderation to be used in a flowing fortune, and in Ovid, when he reflects on his past happiness.

Rebus angustis animosus atque
Fortis appare: sapienter idem
Contrahes vento nimiùm secundo
Turgida vela.

When Fortune sends a stormy wind,

Then show a brave and steady mind;
And when with too indulgent gales

HOR. Od. 10, lib. ii.

She swells too much, then furl thy sails. MR. CREECH.
Nominis et famæ quondam fulgore trahebar,

Dum tulit antennas aura secunda meas.

OV. DE TRIS. lib. v. El. 12.

En ego, non paucis quondam munitus amicis,
Dum flavit velis aura secunda meis.

Id. EPIST. EX PONTO 3. lib. ii.

I lived the darling theme of every tongue,

The golden idol of the adoring throng;

Guarded with friends, while Fortune's balmy gales
Wantoned auspicious in my swelling sails.

You see the metaphor is the same in the verses as in the medal, with this distinction only, that the one is in words and the other in figures. The idea is alike in both, though the manner of representing it is different. If you would see the whole ship made use of in the same sense by an old poet, as it is here on the medal, you may find it in a pretty allegory of Seneca.

1 Second series, fig. 1.

Fata si liceat mihi
Fingere arbitrio meo,
Temperem zephyro levi
Vela, nè pressæ gravi
Spiritu antennæ tremant.
Lenis et modicè fluens
Aura, nec vergens latus,
Ducat intrepidam ratem.

SEN. DIP. chor. act. 4.

My fortune might I form at will,
My canvass zephyrs soft should fill
With gentle breath, lest ruder gales
Crack the main-yard, or burst the sails.
By winds that temperately blow
The bark should pass, secure and slow,
Nor scare me leaning on her side:

But smoothly cleave the unruffled tide.

After having considered the ship as a metaphor, we may now look on it as a reality, and observe in it the make of the old Roman vessels, as they are described among the poets. It is carried on by oars and sails at the same time.

Sive opus est velis minimam bene currit ad auram,
Sive opus est remo remige carpit iter.

[blocks in formation]

OV. DE TRIS. lib. i. El. 10. of it has the bend that Ovid and Virgil mention.

Puppique recurvæ.
Littora curvæ

Ibid. lib. i. El. 3.

Prætexunt puppes



You see the description of the pilot, and the place he sits on, in the following quotations.

VIRG. EN. lib. v.

Ipse gubernator puppi Palinurus ab altâ.
Ipsius ante oculos ingens a vertice pontus
In puppim ferit, excutitur, pronusque magister
Volvitur in caput.

Orontes' bark, that bore the Lycian crew,
(A horrid sight,) ev'n in the hero's view,
From stem to stern by waves was overborne;
The trembling pilot, from his rudder torn,
Was headlong hurled;-

Segnemque Menoten,

Ob decorisque sui sociûmque salutis,


mare præcipitem puppi deturbat ab altâ : Ipse gubernaculo rector subit.

Id. EN. lib. i.


VIRG. EN. lib. v.

Mindless of others' lives, (so high was grown
His rising rage,) and careless of his own:

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
[ocr errors]

The trembling dotard to the deck he drew,
And hoisted up, and overboard he threw :
This done, he seized the helm-


I have mentioned these two last passages of Virgil, because I think we cannot have so right an idea of the pilot's misfortune in each of them, without observing the situation of his post, as appears in ancient coins. The figure you see on the other end of the ship is a Triton, a man in his upper parts, and a fish below, with a trumpet in his mouth. Virgil describes him in the same manner on one of Æneas's ships. It was probably a common figure on their ancient vessels, for we meet with it too in Silius Italicus.

Hunc vehit immanis Triton, et cærula conchâ

Exterrens freta: cui laterum tenus hispida nanti
Frons hominem præfert, in pristim desinit alvus;

Spumea semifero sub pectore murmurat unda. VIR. EN. lib. x.
The Triton bears him, he, whose trumpet's sound
Old ocean's waves from shore to shore rebound.
A hairy man above the waist he shows,

A porpoise tail down from his belly grows,
The billows murmur, which his breast oppose.

Ducitur et Libyæ puppis signata figuram
Et Triton captivus.

LORD LAUDerdale.

SIL. IT. lib. xiv.

I am apt to think, says Eugenius, from certain passages of the poets, that several ships made choice of some god or other for their guardians, as among the Roman Catholics every vessel is recommended to the patronage of some particular saint. To give you an instance of two or three.

Est mihi sitque precor flava tutela Minervæ

OV. DE TRIS. lib. i. El. 10.

Numen erat celsæ puppis vicina Dione.
Hammon numen erat Libycæ carinæ,
Cornigerâque sedens spectabat cærula fronte.

SIL. IT. lib. xiv.

The poop great Ammon, Libya's god, displayed,
Whose horned front the nether flood surveyed.


The figure of the deity was very large, as I have seen it on other medals, as well as this you have shown us, and stood on one end of the vessel that it patronized. This may give us an image of a very beautiful circumstance that we meet with in a couple of wrecks described by Silius Italicus and Persius.

« ForrigeFortsæt »