« PreviousContinue »
To which Simonides made an answer, thus exquisitely rendered by the same hand :
Who so bold
Who would dare
The flow'ret's hues
Bids his tide
-Go, go! who said it was—an ass.'—Merivale, p. 60. We close our hasty remarks on the lyric poets of Greece with the name of Bacchylides. He was nephew of Simonides, and native of the same island and town. He closes the lyric Ennead of the Alexandrian critics, and comes down recommended to our interest, or at least to our curiosity, by the reported fact that Hiero and his court preferred him to Pindar. That Bacchylides composed odes in honour of the winners at the Pythian games is undoubted, and we see no conclusive reason for discrediting the story that his poems were admired beyond those of his great contemporary. For although we were to assume, as we do assume, that the preference was grievously misplaced, we may well believe it was not the first, as we certainly know it has not been the last instance of poets, of comparatively small merit, carrying off the full prize of present popularity from their mightier but severer rivals. All ages and all countries have exhibited, and continue to exhibit, conspicuous examples of the fashionable postponement of the beautiful to the pretty, of the majestic to the showy; and we cannot but think, that Pindar must have put the finishing stroke to many of his subtle and deeply-wrought odes, with a feeling akin to that contained in Dante's solemn declaration to the Frivolous :
• Canzone, i' credo, che saranno radi Color, che tua ragione intendan bene, Tanto lor parli faticoso e forte !!
Now Bacchylides, so far as we can judge from the scanty fragments remaining of him, and also from the opinions of some of the old critics, formed just that sort of contrast to Pindar, which would be likely to win favour with a luxurious prince and a careless court. He was as open and playful as Pindar was elaborate and serious; he wrote down to the precise level of the taste of his patrons, and it is deeply to be regretted that all patrons have not possessed a taste equally elegant and pure. His Pythian Odes are lost; the freer and more sagacious judgment of subsequent times avenged the Theban bard by letting this part of his rival's works perish, and all that we now have are of a different description. There are two very sweet fragments of Bacchylides in the Anthology, which will serve as specimens of the simple and easy flowing of his muse.
One of these, γλυκεί” ανάγκα σευoμίνα κυλίκων, ,
θάλπησι θυμον Κύπριδος.-κ. τ. λ. is thus prettily, but rather too laxly, translated by Mr. Merivale's son, who has contributed not a few ornaments to this collec
• Thirsty comrade! would'st thou know
Thirsty comrade, at thy door.'- p. 76.
τίκτει δε θνατοϊσιν ειρήνα μεγάλα
πλούτον, και μελιγλώσσων αοιδών άνθεα.-κ. τ. λ.
On many an altar, at thy glad return,
And youths, and maidens sing their roundelays.'-p. 77. The early and original lyric poetry of Greece died away in the two unequally balanced forms of the scolium or song, and the scenic chorus. Some of the remaining specimens of the former have all the spirit and flow of the best of the beautiful songs of our good English literature, especially those in the Shakspearian dramatists, and by the old cavaliers, Lovelace, Suckling, Carew, and the like: other specimens are in a graver and more exalted tone, and make us doubt what the real limits of the scolium were supposed to be. Of this last class we instance the noble Hymn to Virtue-attributed, and properly attributed, as we believe, by Athenæus, to Aristotle :
'Αρετά, πολύμοχθε γένει βροσείω,
θήραμα κάλλιστον βίω.-κ. τ. λ.
By those of human birth,
Thou goodliest gain on earth!
Death for thy beauty's worth ;
And more desir’d than gold,
For thee those heroes old,
By perils manifold:
And age immortal make
For thy dear beauty's sake:
Him, therefore, the recording Nine
And every chord awake;
Merivale, p. 91. Of that species of the scolium, which more exactly corresponds with our notion of a song, there are instances in abundance, from the Alcæus-like outburst of Callistratus
εν μύρτου κλαδί το ξίφος φορήσω.-κ. τ. λ.to the lover's wish-so oddly attributed to Alcæus
είθε λύρη καλή γενοίμην ελεφαντίνη.–κ. τ. λ.
A lyre of burnish'd ivory-
Blooming boys might carry me!
Of virgin gold by fire untried-
To bear me to the altar side.'— Merivale, p. 88. These few lines have set all poetical lovers a wishing, for ages since, even down to our · I wish I were a Butterfly!' Take the prettiest of these wishes, all strung together in lines, which we doubt if any poet in Meleager's Garland could have mended :
No fairer maid does Love's wide empire know-
On seraph wing I'd float a DREAM by night,
To soothe my love with shadows of delight: biti And gaze upon her with a thousand eyes ! —Coleridge.
It would lead us into another subject, if we were nowy to go on to distinguish, as we
have it in
minds to do, between the lyric poetry proper of old Greece and the choric songs of the great dramatists. Another more fitting opportunity may be found; and enough of such old lore for the present. Pleasant, indeed, very pleasant it is to us=to recur for a brief hour to the themes of those sweet and silent studies in which we passed our youth, and to take a second draught at the fountains of almost all that is just and beautiful in human language. Such a momentary diyersion must be delightful to every one who has within him any sense of the true and the pure in taste; but who cay estimate the peculiar gust with which Reviewers turn to an old master, from the thousand-times-hashed novel, the lying memoir, or the brutal pamphlet?
Art. IV.-A Treatise on the Care, Treatment, and Training
of the English Race-horse. By R. Darvill, V:S., 7th Hussars.
London. 8vo. 1832. IN N splendour of exhibition and multitude of attendants, New
market, Epsom, Ascot, or Doncaster would hear no comparison with the imposing spectacles of the Olympic Games and had not racing been considered in Greece a matter of the highest national importance, Sophocles would have been guilty of a great fault in his Electra, when he puts into the mouth of the messenger
who comes to recount the death of Orestes, a long description of the above sports. Nor are these the only points of difference between the racing of Olympia and Newmarket. At the former, honour alone was the reward of the winner, and no man lost either his character or his money.* But still, great as must
* Of the training and management of the Olympic race-horse we are unfortunately left in ignorance-all that can be inferred being the fact, that the equestrian candidates were required to enter their names before the celebration of the games and send their horses to Elis at least thirty days
commenced, and that the charioteers and riders, whether owners or proxies, went through a prescribed course of exercise during the intervening month. In some respects, we can see, they closely resembled ourselves.
They had their course for full-aged horses, and their course for colts; and their prize for which mares only started, corresponding with our Epsom Oaks-stakes. It is true, that the race with riding-horses was neither so magnificent nor so expensive, and consequently not considered so royal, as the race with chariots, ģet they had their gentlemen-jockeys in those days, and noted ones too, for amongst the number were Philip, king of Macedon, and Hiero, king of Syracuse. The first Olympic ode of