Obrázky stránek

they were surrounded, contained what we should call materials for an autobiography.'-Preface, p. 1.

Such an autobiography it is Mr. Frere's object to frame out of the 1400 lines of Theognis, the poet under whose name are preserved by far the largest remains of the Grecian elegy. These fragments are thrown together in utter confusion, having been preserved by the collectors of gnomæ or moral apophthegms, who, if they studied any order, it would be an ethic not a poetic sequence and connexion. They contain passages froin longer elegies, which we know were written by Theognis, with short poems apparently complete in themselves; amatory verses, sometimes of a highly objectionable cast, mingling with grave moral sentences. Mr. Frere compares them to a curiously blazoned old window, purchased on the continent by a gentleman of Norwich, who unfortunately forgot to include the lead in his bargain. The window arrived 'a chaos of painted glass, of all shapes, sizes, and colours.' By patience, however, and judgment, Mr. Stevenson succeeded in recomposing the whole into the original picture.

But Mr. Stevenson had an advantage over Mr. Frere; he had seen the painted window when complete, and had only to rearrange the fragments according to the original design, which he might remember more or less perfectly. But of the original outline of the life of Theognis we know nothing except from his own scattered lines and we are almost as imperfectly acquainted with the order of events in Megara; so that we have no clue whatever to guide us in the grouping and disposing the several fragments. Mr. Frere has shown great ingenuity in working out a consistent story; his fancy has connected the thoughts and sentiments of the poet with the supposed events of his day with wonderful subtlety ; and, on the whole, he has given us a very scholar-like and pleasing essay; but we are bound to acknowledge that his ingenuity appears to us to have betrayed him at times into far too great confidence; his fancy has woven links and threads quite undiscoverable and untraceable by our inferior discernment. We find in his elegant translations much which we seek in vain in the original - dim hints brighten into distinct allusions, very faint probabilities quicken into proofs; and in some points we think that the groundwork of his arguments entirely fails. At the close of his work Mr. Frere observes,

• It is recorded of persons who have long been confined in situations of apparently total darkness, that they have by degrees acquired the power of distinguishing objects, and that ultimately time and habit have enabled them to enjoy the faculty of vision in a medium so obscure as to present no distinguishable object to a stranger newly introduced into the same abode. The author of this Essay has subjected himself to volun


tary confinement in one of the darkest cells in the whole dungeon of literature; being persuaded that by time and patience he might adapt his vision to the obscurity in which he was placed, and that some object of interest and curiosity would be finally discoverable. At his first entrance everything was obscure; by degrees, however, many points became dimly discernible, and finally distinctly manifest ; but he cannot expect that the same objects, even when they are pointed out and described, should be at once recognised by a stranger, however acute his natural power of vision may be, who passes at once from the broad glare of daylight, and transfers himself suddenly into the situation in which the writer has been so long secluded.'-p. 116.

There is much truth in this; but, on the other hand, there is a faculty which is very apt to offer itself to clever men who wish to see in the dark, and to pass itself off for clear and distinct intellectual vision. The imagination, precisely under such circumstances, delights to give form and substance to the dim and flickering lights; it connects together what is broken and confused, supplies what is wanting, discards what is incongruous; and, in short, frames such a charming picture that it is almost impossible not to believe it to be reality. Still, as Mr. Frere allows us, whose eyes are not yet purified for his beatific vision, ample indulgence for amicable difference, we can have no objection to real the fragments in the order in which they are here disposed; it is no doubt better for their poetic interest than the wild confusion in which they have hitherto lain. Though the arrangement may be altogether arbitrary, and wanting therefore in authority, yet as at the same time we acknowledge our own uncertainty and ignorance, we shall not think it necessary to enter into a formal contest against his theory, but shall take his verses as we find them, in order to impart to our readers the pleasure which we have derived from some of his graceful, and faithful, when not too paraphrastic versions.

As, however, the fragments of Theognis must almost entirely depend for their interest on the relation of the poet to his native city and to his times, we must briefly touch on these points, Megara, the Grecian, not Sicilian Megara, no doubt the city of Theognis, was ruled by a Doric nobility, the privileged families and land-owners of the republic. As in the neighbouring cities, Corinth and Athens, in Megara likewise, a tyrant, Theagenes, by espousing the popular cause, overthrew the oligarchy. The nobility rallied, and expelled Theagenes, as it has been conjectured, with the aid of the great patrons and maintainers of the Doric oligarchies, the Lacedæmonians. The city enjoyed, after the fall of Theagenes, a short period of order and prosperity, when an insurrection of the commonalty, drunken, according to Plato's expression, with the wine of freedom, not merely shook off the aris


tocratic rule, but conducted the revolution with unusual violence. The poor entered the houses of the rich, and forced them to provide costly banquets (possibly to admit them to their sussitia or clubs), and maltreated those who refused to comply. They went farther, and not merely cancelled their debts by a public edict, but forced the aristocratic creditors to pay back the whole interest which they had already received. Such was Greek repudiation. But the iron yoke of the demagogues led to anarchy; the expatriated nobles returned in arms, and re-established their supremacy. It was not, however, till after long struggles and convulsion, that Megara settled down again under a permanent aristocratic constitution. It is the opinion of Bishop Thirlwall,

that the oligarchy which followed the period of anarchy had been unable to keep its ground, and that a new revolution had taken place, by which the poet, with others of the aristocratical party, had been stripped of his fortune and driven into exile :'*-it seems rather, we should say, that the city was distracted by one long revolutionary struggle, of which Theognis witnessed the commencement, suffered in its progress, and survived to its conclusion.

Unhappily the date of our poet's birth is by no means certain ; whether Olympiad 59, about 544 s.c. be that of his birth or his celebrity is a grave question—the best authorities, such as they are, assign his birth to Olympiad 55. Mr. Frere attempts to bring it down to the later period by an ingenious process of argu . ment, from which we are constrained, with great regret, to dissent. It rests on certain verses addressed to “Simonides,' and · Onomacritus, whom Mr. Frere identifies with the two celebrated Athenians, the former the great poet of that name; but there is nothing in the verses which in the least degree favours this notion. We are more inclined to think with Otfried Müller (in his excellent History of the Literature of Greece,' p. 123) that the Simonides of Theognis was the president of an aristocratic Megarian club, or sussition, and Onomacritus one of his boon companions; and in his addresses to Kyrnus (of which so much of his poetry consists), Theognis assumes a paternal tone, and speaks of his own age in a manner scarcely consistent with this late date of his birth.

Mr. Frere naturally assigns most of the verses upon love and wine to the youth of the poet. He has, however, to settle this point with Professor Welcker, who infers, from a passage in Xenophon, that Theognis wrote nothing but grave and serious moral poetry :-ούτος ο ποιητής περί ουδενός άλλου λόγον πεποίηται ή περί αρετής και κακίας ανθρώπων. Accordingly, in his edition * History of Greece, vol. i. p. 439.


Welcker has separated all the more tender and symposiac or convivial verses, and assigned them to some other nameless person. Mr. Frere would no doubt, with ourselves, gladly relieve our poet from some of these verses, but there appears to us something arbitrary in Welcker's proceedings, and we do not see that the passage in Xenophon need be interpreted so very rigidly. In the mean time Bekker has given us above one hundred and fifty more lines, chiefly in an amatory tone, some of them very objectionable. We will therefore, right or wrong, discard the cold criticism of the Professor, and decline to adjudge away from Theognis all these graceful lines. No doubt he became more wise and sober during his reverses (though we must say that, at the close of his life, there are some suspicious, and, as poetry, distressingly beautiful, symptoms of a return to his old habits). We will suppose him, then, with Mr. Frere, a prosperous young heir just entering into life, and looking forward to the enjoyment of pleasure and happiness, and making this the object of his devout song to the gods.'

"Ήβης μέτρον έχoιμι. . 1115.*
Guided and aided by their holy will,
Jove and Apollo, may they guard me still,
My course of youth in safety to fulfil:
Free from all evil, happy with my wealth,

In joyous easy years of peace and health.” Nor will we cast any doubt on his amusements and accomplishments at this time of life, his fondness for the pipe, which he delighted to accompany (for it was not allowable for a gentleman to play upon so ungainly an instrument), and the pleasure which he took in playing on that graver and more decorous instrument, the lyre.'

Αίεί μοι φίλον ήτορ. 531.
'My heart exults, the lively call obeying,
When the shrill merry pipes are sweetly playing :
With these to chaunt aloud, or to recite,
To carol and carouse is my delight:
Or in a steadfast tone, bolder and higher,

To temper with a touch the manly lyre.'
In the next fragment our poet is much further gone;


preserves, nevertheless, more self-command than is usual in topers so conscious of their state

* Mr. Frere has not given any reference to the passages which he has translated. As we have had some trouble in hunting them out in the ordinary editions, we subjoin the first words of each piece, with the number of the verses, from Gaisford's edition of the ‘Poetæ Minores Græci':-Oxford, 1814. These references nearly correspond with the edition of Theognis by Bekker. That of Welcker, which follows a different and arbitrary arrangement of the editor's, has an index table, in which the numbers of his own and of Bek ker's edition are given in parallel columns.


οινοβαρών κεφαλήν. 503. .
My brain goes dizzy, whirled and overthrown
With wine, my senses are no more my own ;
The ceiling and the walls are wheeling round.
But let me try! perhaps my limbs are sound;
Let me retire with my remaining sense,

For fear of idle folly and offence.' How Professor Welcker will bear the next charge against his grave and solemn moralist, we are not prepared to say; we must admit that Mr. Frere gets a little scandalous.

“Young Mr. Theognis, as it should seem, from his own poetical statement, had succeeded in seducing a woman; unfortunately after a time his delicacy was alarmed by the discovery of a rival or rivals ; hereupon he resolves either to transfer the same virtuous attachment elsewhere, or to diffuse it liberally and promiscuously. These circumstances and this resolution, so singularly calculated to attract approbation and sympathy, are here recorded by the author, both as a credit to himself and an example to posterity; according to the worthy practice of what are called amatory poets.'

έστε μεν αυτός έπινον.

. 953.
My thirst was sated at a secret source :
I found it clear and limpid: but its course
Is altered now, polluted and impure!
I leave it, and where other springs allure
Shall wander forth; or freely quaff my fill

From the loose current of the flowing rill.' But there is another piece of private history, unnoticed by Mr. Frere, which has been pointed out by K. O. Müller. well known that, in the ancient republics, the surest sign of the breaking up of an old oligarchy was the enforced concession of the connubium (the right of intermarriage) between the popular or lower orders, and the gentes, the gentlemen, or aristocratic houses—the exclusives. Theognis in a passage, undoubtedly genuine, speaks with the utmost bitterness of this change in public manners: this misalliance between the good and the bad.

Κριούς μεν και όνους. 183.
“With kine and horses, Kyrnus, we proceed
By reasonable rules, and choose a breed
For profit and increase, at any price;
Of a sound stock without defect or vice.

But in the daily matches that we make
The price is every thing; for money's sake
Men marry-Women are in marriage given;
The Churl or Ruffian, that in wealth has thriven,
May match his offspring with the proudest race :
Thus every thing is mixed, noble and base.




« PředchozíPokračovat »