Page images
PDF
EPUB

ancient cosmogony and theogony, the birds go off

, under superintendence of Euelpides, to build the fortifications, while Pisthetærus remains to sacrifice for the welfare of the new city, Cuckoocloudland. The sacrifice, which is to the various birds instead of the various gods, is interrupted by the arrival of sundry pettifogging officials, informers, reformers, and other nuisances, who are very summarily disposed of, being in most instances kicked out headlong

a most commendable precedent for disposing of such people

and then comes in a messenger-bird, in great haste and flutter, with the astounding intelligence that the fortifications are completed, at which Pisthetærus himself is taken aback. But soon another messenger arrives, announcing that some one from heaven is trespassing in the city. It proves to be Iris. How she has flown through the walls does not exactly appear, but where the whole piece is a gigantic lie, it is not well to be too particular about slight inconsistencies. However, Pisthetærus bullies her back by sheer force of slang, after the usual manner of demagogues, and at the same time the herald who had been despatched to the lower world returns with the report that all the Athenians have gone bird-mad. Some more emigrants and visitors are disposed of, and then enters Prometheus disguised and concealed under an umbrella. He has come down on the sly to betray the starving and desperate condition of the gods, and his information is soon verified by the appearance of an embassy from heaven, consisting of Neptune, Hercules, and a certain barbarian divinity, one of the Triballi. The terms demanded by Pisthetærus are sufficiently exacting, no less than that Jupiter shall give up to the birds the sovereignty of the world, and to himself his favorite queen (not his wife, whom the Thunderer might have been too glad to get rid of) in marriage. Neptune is for going back re infectå, but the premier of Cuckoocloudland, with an eye to the wellknown sove of good cheer which characterizes the stage Hercules, has a savory banquet in preparation. The son of Alcmene is overcome by the order, he bullies the Triballian (who cannot speak plain Greek, and is altogether a very slow specimen of a divinity) into voting with him, the treaty is concluded, and the play ends with a grand apotheosis of Pisthetærus and his bride. It was put on the stage

without regard to expense, but only gained the second prize, probably from political reasons.

The Birds is very amusing throughout, and not so difficult as some of the other Aristophanic comedies. Professor Felton has, on the whole, performed his editorial task very well, as, indeed, might have been suspected from his previous success with the Clouds. Whatever diversity of opinion there may be as to his transactions with Æschylus, we have never heard it denied that he takes hold of Aristophanes in a workman-like manner. It is evidently a labor of love with him; he has a hearty sympathy with his author that carries him through triumphantly. The few observations we have to make refer generally to sins of omission rather than of commission. Thus we should have said something on v. 150; on apoo 3 , v. 425; on vv. 479, 817 (távu ya), 961, 989, 1140, 1396, 1663 (where Dindorf's suggestion, si ur Butiget y' (=allà Batičɛl], instead of the common reading, Badicalv, seems to us the only way of making anything like sense of the passage); and generally we think there is not sufficient explanation of the proverbs and the parodies, particularly as some of the translations and other parts of the notes are not absolutely necessary, and might easily be dispensed with if there was any fear of making the work too bulky. At the end of v. 537 there should be a comma between úuñv and avtõv (we entreat T. L. not to be angry, but we cannot afford to put a full stop to our points just yet, even for him; by the way, will he oblige us by observing that Professor Felton puts a full-sized comma between xatayahậs uov and dýžos ži, v. 1393?), otherwise the position and construction of the latter word are ambiguous. contrary, the first comma in v. 771 should be omitted; as it now stands xúzvoi would be the vocative instead of the nominative. The professor's note on v. 543 is “Ertuoũ, in any case, i. e. here, to my harm.” This is a confusion of two different readings and renderings. Most of the editions have eri tuoő, in my time, opposed to προγόνων παραδόντων in the previous line ; Bothe wishes to substitute en' uòl, which reading the translation to my harm (or more literally against me) requires. But the old reading, with the old explanation, does not involve a solecism or anachronism, any more than the

very first sentence in Thucydides does; it is in accordance with a common Greek idiom, which, indeed, would be a bull in any modern language, but is perfectly good Attic nevertheless. Káundov duvóv tiv, vv. 1544, 1545, we should translate a camel by way of a lamb, like Theocritus, Idyll. xiv. 17, Bohostis xoyhias dengéin, a shell-fish was chosen by way of relish. It is but fair to add, however, that both passages are much disputed.

There! we have finished our observations without saying much about tou, or , or rus, or any of those particles which it is, indeed, a small thing for a scholar to understand, but which it is a still smaller thing (pace T. L. again) for one professing scholarship to be ignorant of. And, in concluding, we have one suggestion to offer to Professor Felton. Aristophanes may be very pleasantly and usefully illustrated from Athenæus. Mitchell has tried this, but his extracts were too wholesale and indiscriminate, and being unaccompanied by translations or explanations, their length and dificulty generally prevent the student from making much use of them. Judicious selections, with translations attached, embodied in the notes, would do much towards making Aristophanes more intelligible and more interesting to our collegians.

THE WALTER MAPES' POEMS. *

Knickerbocker, April 1850.

FRIENDS AND READERS OF 'OLD KNICK.':

LAST May I submitted to your notice a certain translation, promising at the same time to present you, in the very next number, with some observations explanatory of it, and of the collection of poems whence it was taken. But 'man proposes,' and it is otherwise disposed for him: since then I have been terris jactatus

* The Latin Poems commonly attributed to WALTER MAPES. Collected and edited by THOMAS WRIGHT, Esq. London: printed for the Camden Society. 1841.

et alto, and moreover, so much mixed up in the quidquid agunt homines, that honest Walter and I have been strangers from that time to the present. Ten months! - it is a long while in Magazine history; almost long enough for the completion of a 'serial' romance; quite long enough for you to have forgotten PHILLIS and FLORA, even supposing you read their dispute. But I do not thus hold myself excused from my promise; especially since, if you should happen to have read the translation in question, that very slovenly version standing by itself must have given an unfair idea of the Oxford Archdeacon, which it is my duty to correct. Would that all mistakes of the pen could be as easily corrected!

It is a very pleasant thing for a quiet man, who has been knocking about in general society, to get back once more into his library; to feel post tot naufragia, if not tutus, at least securus; careless of what is going on out of doors; to live in a world of his own, far pleasanter than that with which he associates every day. An intelligent and highly accomplished friend of mine, who has a predilection for using long words without being particular about their meaning, is wont to call himself a misogynist, intending thereby to signify that he dislikes the majority of men. Now I don't call myself a misogynist, but I avow a strong preference for books. When it is remembered that you choose your companions not from your own little age and locality, but from all countries and all times; that you can be with them just when you please, and just as long as you please; that you can vary them at will; that there is no risk of your talking them out and exhausting their capacities; no fear of their boring you or your boring them; in view of all this, I really marvel that any man who has the education to enjoy, and the means to procure a library, can be tempted out into the world to seek amusement or relaxation, unless on the principle of D’Israeli's exquisite, who found good wine such a bore because he had it every where, and wanted a little bad, by way of change.

The above incipient flourish is not altogether due to Walter Mapes. I had many older and more valued friends – Greek, Latin and English classics — to shake hands with first, and then after a pleasant time with them, I bethought me of my promise to 'Old KNICK.,'

was

and came down to the Archdeacon; who after all is not to be despised, for, though no remarkable poet, he was a stout satirist, and the school of verse which he founded valuably illustrates the popular movements in England during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Walter Mapes (the orthography of his name is uncertain: we find it written Map, Mape, Mahan, and Mahapp)

an ecclesiastic of Henry the Second's time, and a favorite with that monarch, from whom he received various preferments, ending with the Archdeaconry of Oxford. He had studied at Paris and travelled to Rome; was esteemed for his learning and celebrated for his wit. He died early in the thirteenth century. His satires on the clergy generally appear in manuscript under the name of Golias or Golias Episcopus, and even his friend and biographer Giraldus Cambrensis talks about this Golias as if it were the name of a real personage. But the appellation is so clearly a pseudonym, having reference to the goliards, or clerical buffoons of the time, that there is reason to suspect that this mistake of Giraldus, which much surprises our editor, was really a mistake made on purpose, and that prudential considerations induced him to ignore the real authorship of the satires. In the extract given by Mr. Wright from the Speculum Ecclesiæ, GIRALDUS quotes all the bitterest parts of the attack on the Romish Court (Golias in Romanam Curiam,) just as a fashionable lady repeats a scandalous story: 'It's very shocking - I don't believe a word of it - very improper for people to invent such things but here it is;' and the story, being much more spicy than the contradiction, goes deeper and travels farther. It is not till more than a century after that we find the best known of these poems, such as the Apocalypsis, the Confessio, and the De Conjuge, generally attributed to WALTERS MAPES. This popular opinion is supported by some slight internal evidence in the poems themselves, by the absence of contradiction, (for Giraldus may have been deceived himself, or, as we think more probable, have endeavored to deceive others, and by the knowledge derived from Mapes' contemporaries, that he was of a satirical disposition, and lampooned the Cistercian Monks. But the original satires of Mapes gave rise to many imitations during the half century succeding him, and it is not pos

« PreviousContinue »