Page images

• The wind blew hard, the rough wave smote
In rage on Danaë's fragile boat;

Her cheeks all wet with tears and spray,
She clasp'd her Perseus as he lay,

And, "Oh! what woes, my babe," she said,
"Are gathering round thy mother's head!
Thou sleep'st in peace the while, and I
May hear thee breathing audibly,
Unknowing of this dreary room,
These barriers rude, this pitchy gloom.
For the wild wave thou dost not care;
It shall not wet thy clust'ring hair!
Beneath my purple robe reclin'd,
Thou shalt not hear the roaring wind.
Alas! my beauteous boy! I know,
If all this woe to thee were woe,
Soon wouldst thou raise thy little head,
And try to catch what mother said.
Nay; sleep, my child, a slumber deep!
Sleep, thou fierce sea-my sorrows, sleep!
There is another passage of Simonides, which we notice chiefly
for the very pretty version of it by Mr. Merivale. Cleobulus, a
native of Lindus, and one of the seven wise men of Greece, com-
posed some lines, purporting to be spoken by a monumental
figure sculptured on the tomb of Midas. Mr. Merivale gives

them thus:


'Sculptur'd in brass, a virgin bright,

On Midas' tomb I stand.

While water cools-while flow'rs delight-
While rivers part the land-

While Ocean girds the earth around

While with returning day

Phoebus returns, and Night is crown'd

By Luna's glimmering ray

So long as these shall last, will I,

A monument of woe,

Declare to every passer-by

[ocr errors]


That Midas sleeps below.'-Merivale, p. 53.

We cannot refrain from adding Robert Smith's version-so famous in the me mory of his contemporaries at Eton:'Ventus quum fremeret, superque cymbam Horrentis furor immineret undæ, Non siccis Danaë genis, puellum Circumfusa suum; "Miselle," dixit, "O quæ sustineo! sopore dulci Dum tu solveris, insciaque dormis Securus requie; neque has per undas Illætabile, luce sub maligna, Formidas iter, impetumque fluctus

Supra cæsariem tuam profundam
Nil curas salientis, ipse molli
Porrectus tunica, venustus infans;
Nec venti fremitum. Sed, O miselle,
Si mecum poteras dolere, saltem
Junxisses lacrymas meis querelis.
Dormi, care puer! gravesque fluctus,
Dormite! O utinam mei dolores
Dormirent simul!"?


To which Simonides made an answer, thus exquisitely rendered by the same hand :—

Who so bold

To uphold

[blocks in formation]

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:

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Now Bacchylides, so far as we can judge from the scanty frag ments 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,

γλυκεῖ ἀνάγκα σευομένα κυλίκων,

θάλπησι θυμὸν 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 collection :


'Thirsty comrade! would'st thou know

All the raptures that do flow

From those sweet compulsive rules
Of our ancient drinking schools?—
First, the precious draught shall raise
Amorous thoughts in giddy maze,
Mingling Bacchus' present treasure
With the hopes of higher pleasure.
Next, shall chase through empty air
All th' intolerant host of Care;
Give thee conquest, riches, power;
Bid thee scale the guarded tower;
Bid thee reign o'er land and sea
With unquestion'd sov'reignty.
Thou thy palace shalt behold,
Bright with ivory and gold;

While each ship that ploughs the main,
Fill'd with Egypt's choicest grain,
Shall unload her pond'rous store,

Thirsty comrade, at thy door.'-p. 76.

The other is better known, and was thus rendered by the late Mr. Bland:

τίκτει δὲ θνατοῖσιν εἰρήνα μεγάλα

πλοῦτον, καὶ μελιγλώσσων ἀοιδῶν ἄνθεα, ολο το λιο
For thee, sweet Peace, Abundance leads along
Her jovial train, and bards awake to song.


On many an altar, at thy glad return,
Pure victims bleed, and holy odours burn;
And frolic youth their happy age apply

To graceful movements, sports, and minstrelsy.
Dark spiders weave their webs within the shield;
Rust eats the spear, the terror of the field;
And brazen trumpets now no more affright
The silent slumber and repose of night.
Banquet, and song, and revel, fill the ways,

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 :

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Him, therefore, the recording Nine
In songs extol to heights divine,
And every chord awake;

Promoting still, with reverence due,

The meed of friendship, tried and true.’

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

ἐν μύρτου κλαδὶ τὸ ξίφος φορήσω.κ. Το λογα

to the lover's wish-so oddly attributed to Alcæus →→→

[merged small][ocr errors]

'I wish I were an ivory lyre-
A lyre of burnish'd ivory-
That to the Dionysian choir
Blooming boys might carry me!
Or would I were a chalice bright,
Of virgin gold by fire untried-
For virgin chaste as morning light

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—
No fairer maid e'er heav'd the bosom's snow-
A thousand loves around her forehead fly;
A thousand loves sit melting in her eye;
Love lights her smile-in Joy's red nectar dips
His myrtle flower, and plants it on her lips.
She speaks! and hark, that passion-warbled song-
Still, Fancy! still that voice, those notes prolong!
As sweet as when that voice with rapturous falls
Shall wake the softened echoes of heaven's halls
O (have I sighed) were mine the wizard's rod,
Or mine the power of Proteus, changeful god!
A flower-entangled ARBOUR I would seem,
To shield my love from noon-tide's sultry beam:
Or bloom a MYRTLE, from whose odorous boughs
My love might weave gay garlands for her brows.
When twilight stole across the fading vale,
To fan my love, I'd be the EVENING GALE;
Mourn in the soft folds of her swelling vest,
And flutter my faint pinions on her breast!


« PreviousContinue »