網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

1850.

Horace and Tasso.

533

final anarchy. If the President will make secret war on the Assembly; and intrigue for an illegal augmentation or continuance of power - if the Assembly will thwart the President and encroach upon his functions — if the conservative majority will fetter the press, and disfranchise half France, because it fears the Socialist minority — while the Socialist minority lives, moves, and breathes in a perpetual conspiracy against government and order, — the issue cannot be either distant or doubtful; and, end how it may, the result cannot but be lastingly injurious to France, and discrediting to the cause of Representative Government all over the world. Our apprehensions for Republican France lie deeper, it will be seen, than any revision of an impracticable constitution, or any fusion of parties, honest or dishonest, can possibly remove.

ART. IX.-1. The Works of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, illus

trated chiefly from the Remains of Ancient Art. With a Life by the Rev. HENRY HART MILMAN, Canon of St. Peter's.

London : 1849. 2. The Life of Torquato Tasso. By the Rev. R. MILMAN.

2 vols. London : 1850.

IT
T is an occasional privilege of our craft as reviewers to

turn aside from newly opened paths and to survey some beaten track upon the great common of literature. We do not, indeed, summon reputations which have become authentic to the critical bar for a re-hearing of their case: but we submit them to a fresh analysis, or contemplate them under novel aspects as records of intellectual effort or permanent models of art. It is a privilege we would not willingly forego, and it is one which most readers will cheerfully grant; since it enables both parties to interpose a little ease' amid the uncertainties and excitement which inevitably attend upon our contemporary politics and literature. No essay of the present day can indeed add renown to the metaphysical pyramid of Aquinas, or to the sombre and lustrous vision of Dante. Nevertheless it is good at times to reconsider the laws of strength and beauty which governed the structure of the Summa Theologiæ and the Divine Comedy.

The volumes before us afford à fair pretext for exercising this privilege. They relate, indeed, to lighter matters than those great culminations of mediæval science and imagination. Yet the subjects of them are scarcely less illustrative of the epochs and the circumstances which gave them birth. Few VOL. XCII. NO. CLXXXVIII.

Ν Ν

[graphic]

authors have attained a wider reputation than Tasso ; none are more popular or indeed beloved than Horace. From Tasso we learn our first lispings in Italian literature, and imbibe perhaps our most vivid impression of the partly religious, partly ferocious passions which, at the close of the eleventh century of the Christian era, precipitated Europe upon Asia. With Horace we connect the memory of days when friendships were first formed, when hopes were most buoyant, and literary aspirations retained their vernal promise. With Horace also we associate the remembrance of moments stolen or redeemed from the graver business of life; moments in which beside the blazing hearth, or through summer noons we pondered over his pregnant sense and genial wit; or even explored, volume in hand, under Italian skies, the scenery of his Sabine farm, his Bandusian fountain, and Venusian birthplace. Than Horace and Tasso there are indeed no companions meeter for a critic's holiday, such as we now invite our readers for awhile to share with us.

We purpose, however, being anything rather than critical on this occasion. Let Euclid rest, and Archimedes pause. We shall take with us, on our excursion, neither Schlegel nor Dr. Blair. We are off circuit — it is vacation time. We wish for a re-introduction to the men themselves, to their friends and patrons, their employments and amusements, their foibles and their sorrows. In the course of our retrospect we shall have occasion to mourn as well as to smile; for there were shadows even on Horace's career, and there was an horizon of gloom around the life of Tasso. But whether we mourn or rejoice, it shall be with the poets themselves, and not over the defects of the Gierusalemme, or the imperfect canons of the Art of Poetry. The works have received their imprimatur centuries ago;

the men may be studied anew each from an aspect of his ownas representatives of literary or individual life in Italy during two distant and highly-cultivated ages.

Horace's address to the more beautiful daughter of a beautiful mother is not strictly applicable to the relations of Italian and Latin literature, since their several charms are in many respects too unlike for a comparison. The pulcra mater was a majestic and somewhat imperious matron; the pulcrior filia was a susceptible and somewhat voluptuous nymph. The elder literature retained even in its lighter moments and its decline the stately demeanour of a Cornelia or Æmilia ; the younger literature, even in its severest garb, reflected the image of a Laura and Fiammetta. The prelude of the one was the trumpetchorus of Ennius and Pacuvius ; the prelude of the other was

1850.

Latin and Italian Literature.

535

the plaintive and pastoral pipe of the solitary of Vaucluse. Yet between the extremes of Latin and Italian minstrelsy are points of resemblance and affinity which no other literature can exhibit. No other literature, indeed, has enjoyed to the same extent the privilege of metempsychosis. The Roman tongue, partly from direct transmission, partly from the influence of the Genius Loci, passed into the Italian without such foreign admixtures as render the Spanish language nearly as much Gothic or Arabic as it is Romanesque; and without such curtailments of inflection and euphony as cripple the poetic eloquence at least of France. Of all the daughters of the Roman speech the Italian, notwithstanding the diversity we have noticed, best represents the features of the maternal idiom. Nor is the resemblance limited to words. The filial thought and idiosyncrasy are genuine grafts from the parent stem. Neither is it restricted to the sphere of intellect: there is a point of view, strange to say, in which it extends also to the sphere of action. The fortunes of the peninsula, in ancient and in modern times, if we include within our survey a sufficient orbit of change and aspect, have not been so dissimilar as they may appear. The Italy of the Cæsars and that of the Popes, the Italy which declined under the Etruscan Lucumons, and that which withered under the feudal Colonne and Ursini, the final centre of Ethnic civilisation and the earliest source of Christian art and refinement, afford parallels closer than many which have been fancied by historians or drawn by Plutarch. Before, however, we notice the points of resemblance between the age of Horace and the age of Tasso, we must briefly advert to the works now before us which have led to our proposed combination of these remote, but not alien, epochs in literary annals.

Of the editor of this eminently beautiful and splendid edition of the works of Horace it is almost superfluous for us to speak. Dean Milman, as a poet, an historian, and a critic, has already earned for himself a station in literature which no commendation of ours would render more certain or conspicuous. His Life of Horace is, of course, not a performance which can add much to his literary fame. To a scholar so accomplished, and to so experienced a writer, it was probably the work of leisure hours. It is, however, both well written and, what with such a subject is of essential importance, gracefully and genially conceived, and should be taken into account by every subsequent editor of the Roman Lyrist. We detect ex pede Herculem the proverbial loyalty of Etonians to their classical training-in the almost universal reception of the Etonian readings of the text. But this is as it should be; for Etonian scholars, by their long and severe drilling, acquire an instinctive feeling for the niceties of Latin metre, which renders them on the whole perhaps the best judges in such matters. We should be ungrateful, also, not to record our hearty thanks to the artists who have assisted the editor in illustrating the author. The Sosii brothers who published the original parchment of the Editio Princeps cannot have surpassed in the elegance of their borders and designs the beauty of Mr. Murray's vignettes and decorations. The illustrations do not yield to Pine's, and had Annuals been in fashion at the Saturnalia, Horace could have made no choicer Christmas gift to Varius and Virgil than such an impression of his Opera Omnia. Cowper's verses, Maria, could Horace have

guessed – What honours awaited his Ode,' would have been more appropriate to this elegant octavo than to Lady Throckmorton's transcript of a spurious poem.

Mr. Robert Milman, we believe, commences his career as an author with the Life of Tasso. Even were the merits of this work less than they are, we should welcome with pleasure the transmission of literary powers and pursuits in the same family. He does not, however, need the protection of his uncle's Telamonian shield - his book has considerable merit and promise of its own. Its chief defects are such as are incidental to youthful authorship. Mr. R. Milman will write more perspicuously when he has written more frequently, and will sermonise less in his books when he shall have preached oftener in his pulpit. He has evidently, in his biography of Tasso, undertaken a labour of love. His diligence has been great, his materials are copious and well arranged, and his sketches of the poet's contemporaries form agreeable episodes in the narrative of Tasso's works and woes. We should, indeed, have counselled more numerous references to his authorities; and in case of a second edition being called for, we should recommend him to append, either in the text or the notes, the original to the translated passages. This would not materially increase the bulk, while it would greatly add to the worth and interest of the volumes

. Tasso's poems, with the exception of the Gierusalemme' and `Aminta,' are but little known to readers in general ; but they are rich in biographical materials; his critical treatises, which contain much that Lessing and the Schlegels afterwards announced as novel principles of taste, are hardly read on this side of the Alps; and such apposition of the text and the translation is warranted by the practice of Bouterwek, Ginguéné, and Sismondi.

Dean Milman - his ecclesiastical rank spares us the awkward affixes of senior and junior - observes that the poetry of

1850..

Characteristics of Horace.

537

• Horace is the history of Rome during the great change from a • republic into a monarchy, during the sudden and almost com

plete revolution from centuries of war and civil faction to that . peaceful period which is called the Augustan Age of Letters. • Of Rome, or of the Roman mind, no one can know anything • who is not profoundly versed in Horace; and whoever really • understands Horace will have a more perfect and more accu

rate knowledge of the Roman manners and the Roman mind • than the most diligent and laborious investigator of the Roman

antiquities. Useful and admirable indeed as are the archæological works of Bekker and Boettiger, we are disposed to wonder and lament that the learning and liveliness bestowed upon Gallus’and • Sabina' were not rather devoted to a work entitled Horaz und sein Zeitalter. The freedman's son would have been a better centre for social and ästhetical disquisition than a Messalina's toilet-table, or a dilettantè prefect of Egypt.

Of all the men of his own time, perhaps of any time, Horace — whether we regard his genius, his opportunities, or his associates — was probably the best qualified for the representative functions which the Dean of St. Paul's so justly ascribes to him. His genius was not one which, by the fervour and force of its conceptions, or the wide orbit of its movements, transcended or transfigured the present; his opportunities for observation were not bounded by birth or station too illustrious or too obscure; and his associates were, by chance or choice, selected from ranks and parties the most opposite to one another. For he sprang, in modern phrase, from the people; and he became, in mature life, the companion of the intellectual aristocracy. His cultivation was Greek; the groundwork of his character was Roman. In youth he was an eager partisan of Brutus and the Senate; in manhood he was the friend of the inheritors of Cæsar's usurpation. He was sufficiently distinguished, in his riper years, to see the leading men of his time in their happier hours; and yet was too much of a private person to be involved in any of their divisions. He could pay a compliment, and he could speak his mind. His mode of writing exempted him from the responsibilities of the historian and from the exaggerations of the orator. A treasury-clerk and a Sabine land-owner, he had as large an experience as Touchstone himself of the relative advantages of city and country life. His ambition was moderate; his tastes were comprehensive; his humour was for the life contemplative, and he had the advantage of being the spectator of one of the most momentous and skilful games of policy ever played by a ruler of men. Despite his Parian Iambics,' we have no scruple in defining Horace as an eminently good-tempered

[graphic]
« 上一頁繼續 »