Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

If then, in the furvey of HERCULES, or the TwinBrothers, performing wonders, and engaged in valorous adventure, we experience but a feeble fatisfaction; the fource of our languor hath poffibly been discovered.

To fee HERCULES inftructing HYLAS, or forrowing for his lofs, might have been pleafing and affecting in the days of THEOCRITUS, remote as they were from the heroic ages of Greece. Indeed the very circumftance of their remoteness from the fabulous æra, must have heightened the fatisfaction of beholding a demigod's more familiar occupations. He, who had been seen but faintly through the shades of antiquity, whose obscurer atchievements were the subjects of astonishment and diftant awe, is now brought home, in clearer light, to view; and minutely contemplated, even in the ordinary fituations of life.

With the HYLAS, therefore, the HERCULISCUS, or HERCULES the Lion-flayer,* the worshippers of the demigod muft, on this principle, have been uncommonly delighted.

·

Though these pieces are marked with marvellous adventure, yet are they replete with a variety of familiar conversation and incident. This intermixture hath by no means an agreeable effect, with us who view the giant HERCULES as the creature of imagination. Romantic improbabilities, furrounded by trivial and obvious occurrences, become proportionably ftriking; and rise, in more prominent features of abfurdity. If therefore the poet will exhibit wonders, let 13th, 24th, and 25th Idyllia.

him involve them in wild and myfterious obfcurity. Let` his images be transported, far from vulgar life, into regions unexplored but by fancy: Let them pass, in rapid transition; nor give time for the pauses of reafon! Is it not thus, that we are captivated by the eccentric tales of chivalry, and the grotesque appearances of the Gothic mythology?

There are, doubtlefs, many pleafing paffages in the HYLAS: and the Young HERCULES cradled in AMPHYTRION's fhield, is a finely imagined painting. We are at once struck with the propriety and novelty of the affociation. The description of the ferpents, not even PINDAR hath exceeded: but there is something so extremely awful in the fupernatural illumination of the chamber, at the hour of midnight, that we are ready to believe light, under certain circumstances, to be equally the fource of the fublime, with darkness. The prediction of TIRESIAS hath all the folemnity of fcriptural prophecy.

In HERCULES the Lion-flayer we meet with pastoral scenery, pleasingly diversified, which is the most engaging part of the piece; though the picture of the lion is drawn to the life, and the conflict strongly and accurately described. We do not, however, feel the intereft of fufpenfe; neither our hope nor fear is even momentarily agitated. HERCULES tells the story; but if he had not escaped the lion's jaws, he could not have told it. His triumph neither creates pleasure nor wonder. For we coldly confider (what we had learned at fchool) that HERCULES and his club were almost a match for the world,

[ocr errors]

The

1

REUS.

The CASTOR and POLLUXt contains an extensive representation of heroic atchievements. In the first part of it, we are gratified with a most luxuriant landscape; the ftill fcenery of which is beautifully contrasted with a living figure, of wild and gigantic appearance. The gauntlet fight of THEOCRITUS is infinitely fuperior to that of APOLLONIUS; though VIRGIL'S DARES and ENTELLUS by no means fhrink from a comparison with AMYCUS and POLLUX. In the fecond part, CASTOR and POLLUX carry off PHOEBE and TALAIRA, the daughters of LEUCIPPUS, who had been efpoufed to LYNCEUS and IDAS, the fons of АPHAOn this a battle enfues between the ravishers and the fanctioned lovers: but LYNCEUS is flain by CASTOR; and IDAS ftruck dead by lightning. OVID (in the fifth book of his Fafti) defcribes a different catastrophe, approaching nearer to poetical juftice. Indeed the morality of this piece (if we are to extract a moral from it) hath obviously an evil tendency. A lawless rape is encouraged, to the diffolution of a folemn contract. But the discomfiture of AMYCUS, by the hand of POLLUX, is juft; while his inhofpitality is punished by the very inftrument of his former ferocious triumphs. This application is warranted by the concluding lines; and having seen a moral in the first part, we naturally look for one in the fecond,

In the BACCHE, we have a tranfient prospect of the orgies of BACCHUS; and a fpecies of female madness, too dreadful for a broader difplay. Such subjects as these form, in general, the plots of the Grecian tragedy. EURIPIDES + 22d Idyllium. 26th Idyllium.

hath

hath been particularly accused of exhibiting female manners in an unamiable light: but furely his brother-tragedians have presented us with characters of the fex that little recommend them, in point of softness, decorum, or delicacy. The story of PENTHEUS is fomewhat differently related by OVID; but there is a horror in the tale, at which imagination recoils, attempting with painful efforts to review the traits of fimilarity.

Such are the poems of THEOCRITUS, which may, properly, be filed Mythological. And these, among other works of a like nature, will frequently be read by the scholar, though feldom copied by the poet: the modern Muse hath rejected their ponderous imagery-aware, that the club and the ceftus are weapons too unwieldy for her heroes!

THE

EPISTOLARY IDYLLIA,

THE Epiftle hath been commonly divided into two kinds

—the Didactic and the Elegiac. The first, whose end is inftruction, is that of HORACE; the fecond, whofe end is emotion, belongs to OVID. Criticism or morals have been, generally, the fubjects of the one; of the other, love and friendship.

[blocks in formation]

But though the Romans may have been properly the inventors of both thefe fpecies, (having reduced them to a regular form of compofition) we find many resemblances of them scattered through the Grecian poetry. We have the Epiftles of PHOCYLIDES and THEOGNIS, and a variety of other Greek pieces, in the ftrain of Elegy; the origin of which may be traced back to the carlieft writers of Greece. THEOCRITUS is faid to have written Iambics and Elegies, in which perhaps we might have found the archetypes of the Horatian and Ovidian epistles.

The three little poems before us,* are of the latter class. Though it would be abfurd to compare them to the Heroides or Epiftles from Pontus, they certainly unite the plaintive elegiac air, with the lax epiftolary negligence.

The Aites, probably, is not the property of THEOCRITUS. But if it were, we should not much regret to see him deprived of it. It is a sprig of no agreeable verdure; and the beauty of his laurels is not impaired by its loss.

The Advice to a Friend is not unpleafing: but it is the Difiaff charms us. It is here we discover a striking vein of fenfibility and elegance; while we contemplate the friendfhip of THEOCRITUS and the Milefian phyfician, and the virtues of THEUGENIS fo affectionately touched, fo delicately recommended to female imitation. The wife of NICIAS becomes, immediately on her introduction, an

¿

* 12th, 28th, and 29th Idyllia,

interesting

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »