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nounce the triumph of Liberality and the Muse, with fuch a Monarch to blefs his people, and fuch a Poet to record the bleffing!
EPITHALAMIUM OF HELEN.*
THERE were two forts of Epithalamia, or Nuptial Songs, among the ancients. The first were called EПIOAAAMIA ΚΟΙΜΗΤΙΚΑ. These were fung by a chorus of virgins, in the evening, after the bride had been introduced into the bride-chamber; and were intended (as their name imports) to dispose the married couple to fleep. The fame chorus were accustomed to return in the morning, and awaken the bride and bridegroom with the ΕΠΙΘΑΛΑΜΙΑ ΕΓΕΡΤΙΚΑ; which were the second species of the spousal song.
Of compofitions on thefe occafions we have not many examples in the Greek or oriental poetry; though CATULLUS and CLAUDIAN among the Roman writers, and the Cavalier MARINO among the modern Italians, have profufely cele brated the rites of HYMEN.
The Canticles, or the Song of Solomon, the Forty-fifth Pfalm, and the Efpoufals of Helen, are the most confpicuous Epithalamia of remoter antiquity. In refpect only to their general style and manner, there appears to be no impropriety in this affemblage.
The latter poem, whether the work of THEOCRITUS or not, hath certainly an agreeable flavor of Eaftern genius. Its imitations will hereafter be adduced in the notes, with their parallel paffages from the Septuagint. In the mean time, for a general idea of its imitative manner, the following attempt is fubmitted to the English reader; though not as a clofe tranflation.
The Epithalamium of HELEN.
TWELVE honorable virgins, among the daughters of Sparta, went forth to the palace of the gold-haired MENELAUS, in the day of his efpoufals with HELEN, in the
day of the gladness of his heart.
Their beautiful locks
' inwreathed with hyacinths, they danced before the bridal
chamber, and fung to the found of the cithern: "Why
fleepest thou, O beloved, ere the twilight departeth, thy "knees oppreft with flumber? Are thine eye-lids heavy "with wine, that thou feekeft, thus early, thy bed? But "draw not thy bride from her mother, from the virgins "whom her foul loveth. Let her sport among her fellows, "until the day break, and the shadows flee away. She is "thine from the evening to the morning-Behold, she is thine, for ever. Lo, among bridegrooms, thou art bleffed:
"thou art crowned above the princes of Sparta. Thou art 66 more excellent than the children of men; for thy spouse "is the daughter of JovE. Surely the fruit of her womb "fhall be fair, if it resemble the fairest among women. Full
of joy and gladness, we bore her company; and, virgins "without number, anointed our limbs with oil on the "banks of the Eurotas. But none could compare with HELEN; or ftand, without spot, before her. She looked "forth, like the eye-lids of the morning, when the rainy. night is past; and the winter is over and gone. She rose "like a furrow in the field; or a cypress in the garden; or "the horse in the chariot of Theffaly. None can equal her "in the loom! Lo! her needle-work is wrought with "divers colors. When the fung her fongs to the ftringed "inftrument, none equalled the voice of her harp. Behold! "the eyes of the damfel are full of love! How beautiful, "how pleasant art thou for delights, our virgin companion no more! Yet with the dawn, we will go forth to the villages, we will get up early to the fields, to gather the fweet-fmelling wreath-longing for thee, O HELEN, as "the lamb longeth for her mother's teats! We will weave "for thee a garland of lotus, and hang it on the plane-tree "branches. Our boxes of filver fhall drop frankincense "under its fhade; and on the bark thereof fhall be graven, "that the paffenger may read: Worship me! I am the plant
of HELEN! Incline thine ear, O daughter! and "'hearken, thou fon of the fupreme! Ye fhall have chil"dren's children, to be princes in all lands, and to inherit your riches, for ever. Rejoice now, O HELEN; and the king have pleasure in thy beauty: But awake, as D 3
"the fhadows flee away! For remember, with the dayfpring we return-when the cock, from his early bed, "shall arise, to greet the morning!"
The imagery of this Idyllium hath obviously its fource in the Eaft. Yet, like all copies of this nature, it is but faintly tinctured with the peculiar caft of its original. There is a richness-an exuberance in the Afiatic invention, with a wildness that mocks the imitative pursuits of frigid European genius. And the Arabian poetry of the present day seems characterized by the fame color of imagination, the fame inimitable enthusiam. As the facred poet enriched his numbers with the roses of Sharon, the verdure of Carmel, or the vines of Engaddi; the happy Arabian still charms us with the "Odors of Yemen, the Musk of Hadramut, or the Pearls of Omman."
And ftill the Arabian maids have their hair inwreathed with hyacinths, like the virgin companions of HELEN; or, like the Spartan bride herself, their ftature resembles the cypress, and their foreheads the morning!
THE Mythological stories of antiquity contain characters
too gigantic, to intereft the feelings; and fiction too cold, to animate the fancy. The chief pleasures of poetry arise from recognition. The recurrence of images, with which we were before familiarly acquainted, affuming new attitudes, or placed in novel fituations; the combination of contin. gencies, whose assemblage agrees with our preconceptions of probability; the introduction of fuch natural circumstances as come home to our business and bofoms; and all those draughts, in short, of action, that have their prototypes in ourselves; and those lineaments of paffion, that are reflected from the heart; these, fince we know them from obfervation or sympathy, must neceffarily interest and delight us,
The creations of the ancient poets were no other than a fuperinduction on the popular creed. Their chimeras were the divinities of the vulgar. They addreffed themselves therefore to imagination, heightened by enthusiasm; to the strongest paffions of our nature; to the hopes and the fears of man! But these fictions have now loft their support:
the foundation is removed; and the fuperftructure hath crumbled into ruins,