Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

that each opinion is entitled to deferential consideration, while both time and space are too often wanting to do this fully. In truth the notes, critical and explanatory, which have been already published on Aeschylus, form so large a mass of literary matter, that it has become a very formidable task to consult, and a positive impossibility to discuss at length, the views of each writer on disputed passages. It is not easy to be well acquainted with even the more recent editions, as those of Blomfield, Wellauer, Scholefield, Franz, Müller, Dindorf, Hermann, Haupt, Klausen, Peile, Conington, Linwood, Davies, Weil, Emper, Heimsoeth, Burges, Griffiths, Bamberger, Minckwitz, Kennedy, not to mention at least as many more who preceded them in the same literary field. And yet we must every now and then appeal to these. All have done something for their author, and that something deserves to be specially and honourably commemorated'. It is a just law among the community of scholars that credit should ever be rendered to whom credit is due. Besides, it is really vain to expect a blind acquiescence, on the part of an intelligent and inquiring student, in the solitary judgment of each latest editor. No scholar will accept unquestioned the text of any one edition, as finally settled with that degree of precision beyond which criticism cannot hope to go. Every editor must give a sort of history of his text; and that history will be a very long, and bardly a very interesting one, unless he confines himself to a brief notice of the more important MS. variations and the most plausible conjectural emendations.

It would seem indeed that no inconsiderable part of the interest which is still so keenly felt in classical literature, consists in the canvassing and controverting the views and interpretations put forth by rival scholars. “Literarum studia dissentione incitantur atque acuuntur,” said Hermann'. Were there nothing

* See a long catalogue of editors, commentators, and critical writers on Aeschylus in p. 311—2 of Franz's Orestea.

“Unusquisqne nostrum aliquid in commune confert; non unus omnia complecti potest" (Hermann, Praef. ad Eur. Suppl. p, xiv). We may here mention with especial praise a series of critical papers on the Septem contra Thebas, recently published by Dr. John Oberdick, Rector of the Imperial Gymnasium at Münster, Bavaria.

6 Praef. ad Hec. p. vii, ed. 1831.

left to discover, nothing even to refute, the pleasure as well as the profit would be less. The useful and honourable motive of ambition to surpass would be wanting ; and so would that peculiar feeling of unsatisfied curiosity, which ever enlivens and encourages the really enterprising mind in perusing writings which have something of an enigmatical character. Every scholar trusts that he may be the Oedipus to grapple successfully with the Sphinx. Thus it is, that the very imperfections of classical literature add materially though indirectly to its value.

Thus much has been said, -it is feared somewhat at length,by way of apology for what many will think a useless, but what really is a necessary and inevitable part of an editor's duty, viz. the continual discussion of various readings,-a duty which happens to fall with unusual severity on the editor of Aeschylus. It is indeed the fashion of the present day, which is impatient of slow processes and tediously minute learning, to depreciate, in a wholesale way, the critical study of the classical writers, on the ground that the matter rather than the words ought to be our chief concern, and that too much care about the latter has a tendency to divert our attention from the former. Now, as words are but the vehicles of matter, so to speak, this objection obviously strikes at the root of all really accurate learning. The science of classical criticism requires no defence; what it has already effected in restoring and settling the texts of the classical authors entitles it to be spoken of with the highest respect. There is, perhaps, at this time, a not unnatural nor unhealthy reaction from the dry verbal scholarship which was exclusively in vogue during the last generation, and was undoubtedly esteemed far beyond its merits. Still we must remember that nothing less is involved in the principles of sound criticism than the laws of grammar and metre, nay, of language itself, in all its nicer shades and more refined and subtle modes of expression. And those who disparage verse-composition as a mere waste of time should be told, that there is no better or surer way to attain a sound judgment of what an ancient poet would or would not lave written. Many are tempted to smile at the pains which a naturalist takes to determine the species of a fossil, or to define the distinctive characteristics of a new plant or insect, which seems in itself quite insignificant. But here the answer is the

same; all these are methods and helps, individually small, but great in their ends, and therefore not undeserving of pains, towards the perfecting certain branches of human knowledge?. And whether the object be the understanding of Nature's laws, or the penetrating the inmost depths of the human intellect, either of these is certainly worthy of our best attention. There is nothing which may not become ridiculous when carried beyond due bounds; and if classical criticism be liable to extravagances, it has this fault in common with nearly every branch of human learning. Those are wiser who, instead of disparaging it, try to correct its aberrations and to chasten its tendencies to excess by bringing taste and learning and a sound knowledge of principles to bear on the practice of it.

The settlement of the text of Aeschylus, as far as it has yet gone, has been a gradual process of restoration and recovery, founded not merely on a series of happy guesses, but on a constantly increasing knowledge of general laws, and on brilliant archaeological investigations and discoveries. What has been corrected with certainty has in its turn suggested the true readings in other passages; and thus at the present time the really corrupt verses do not perhaps much exceed a hundred out of some eight thousand in all. There are, however, a great number of passages where there is no doubt at all about the reading, but much uncertainty as to the author's meaning. And this leads us to speak on another point, the difficulty of Aeschylus as a poet.

First, then, he is difficult because he is profound, or in other words, because he treats of matters beyond the reach of man's ordinary knowledge and perceptions. There is more of esoteric theology in him than in any other Greek poet, not excepting Pindar or Hesiod. He is fond of dwelling on the principles of divine action in relation to man, but he rarely expresses his sentiments on these subjects in plain and ordinary language, but employs terms mystical, figurative, and sometimes grammatically obscure. He writes with the reverent reserve of a religious man. He seems to have had a system before him, perhaps even a uniform and connected one; but he gives us mere glimpses of it here and there, which, without the additional light of other passages,

7 Porson's apophthegm is familiar to most, “Nihil contemnendum est, neque in bello neque in re critica."

would hardly guide us through the intricacies of the subject. His mind was pervaded by a gloomy awe of invisible and supernatural agencies for evil, especially those of Earth and the demon powers of Hades. His Zeus is not that of the Homerio god, who sends storms and hail and lightning, but the vepétøp, the awarder of retribution to the just and the unjust of mankind. Hence there is a continual reference to the ideas of expiation, propitiation, and averting of possible ills. Pythagoras, one of the most deep-minded speculators of the ancient world, speaks in every page of Aeschylus, and in language so remarkable for metaphor and imagery that we justly feel that we ought to know more than unfortunately we do about the master, before we can comprehend the full scope and meaning of the disciple.

Δαυλοί γάρ πραπίδων δίσκιοί τε τείνουσιν πόροι

κατιδείν άφραστοι. . That part of the opening chorus of the Suppliants, where these words occur (73 -102), is a fair specimen of the school of mystical divinity in which the mind of Aeschylus was trained. Though here and there perhaps doubts occur as to the right reading of words, we cannot help feeling that the views of the author as to the attributes of the Divine Mind are the real difficulties which we have to encounter, and which lie beyond the province of the mere critic or grammarian. The same is true, in a greater or less degree, of nearly every choral ode in the Orestea. We can see their drift, so to speak, and can explain pretty well their general connexion ; still we are under the constant impression that there was something in the mind of the poet which we imperfectly comprehend. To bring these remarks home to the reader, we would request him to reflect on such sentences as the following, and say if, without note or comment or parallel passages, he can satisfy himself of their full and exact sense. Those who have studied Aeschylus the longest will be the least inclined to dogmatic assertions on the subject. Agam. 172,

στάζει δέν θ ύπνω πρό καρδίας
μνησιπήμων πόνος, και παρ' άκοντας ήλθε σωφρονείν.

δαιμόνων δε που χάρις βίαιος, ,

σέλμα σεμνών ήμένων. .

Ibid, 365,

πέφανται δ' εκγόνοις

άτολμήτως "Αρη πνεόντων μείζον ή δικαίως,

φλεόντων δωμάτων υπέρφευ υπέρ το βέλτιστον έστω δ' απήμαντον, ώστε κάπαρκείς

ευ πραπίδων λαχόντα, Choeph. 628,

το δ' άγχι πνευμόνων ξίφος
διανταίαν οξυπευκές ουτά
διαι Δίκας' το μη θέμις για
ου λάξ πέδοι πατούμενον

το πάν Διός
σέβας παρεκβάντος οι θεμιστώς.
Δίκας δ' ερείδεται πυθμών,
προχαλκεύει δ' Αίσα φασγανουργός:
τέκνον δ' επεισφέρει δόμοισιν,
εκ δ' αιμάτων παλαιτέρων

τίνει μύσος

χρόνο κλυτά βυσσόφρων Ερινύς. In such passages as these,-and they are very numerous, ---there is, literally, scarcely a word that does not involve a doctrine, a metaphor, or a meaning that lies below the surface. Take a few points from the last: How is a sword said ουτάν διά Δίκης ? What is πέδοι πατεϊν το μή θέμις ? What is το μή θέμις των ου θεμιστώς παραβαινόντων ? How is a man said παραβαίνειν Διός σέβας ? What is meant by πυθμών Δίκης ? Why is the sword said προχαλκεύεσθαι ? What doctrine is involved in τέκνον επεισφέρειν ? In what way does the Fury εκτίνει μύσος αιμάτων ? In what sense is she βυσσόφρων and χρόνω κλυτά ?

Such questions are well calculated to arrest the attention of hasty and careless readers of Aeschylus. But much more remains for consideration.

& Mr. Clark (Travels in the Peloponnesus, p. 257) says, " The symbolism of a later age,-an age which has ceased to be creative and become critical, forces upon the heedless simplicity of ancient works a subtle interpretation of which their authors never dreamed. I cannot but think that the odes of Pindar and the choruses of Aeschylus have been sometimes subjected to similar misconstruction.” Nevertheless, an ancient Greek always meant something. We are only concerned to ascertain what that something really was.

« AnteriorContinuar »