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Thermopylæ, as well as that famous four-lined epigram of Simonides over the seer Megistias, which has been so well turned into English by one who had made Simonides, as it were, his own, Mr. Sterling :
• Of famed Megistias here behold the tomb,
Him on this side Spercheus slew the Medes :
But would not lose his share in Sparta's deeds.' An examination of like epigrams, quoted by Thucydides, † as extant in his day, in the Temple of the Pythian Apollo, and at Lampsacus, shows that the first intention of the epigram.' was simply commemoration on stone, or marble, or brass, or other impressible substance. Such records would, of necessity, be brief; and, of equal necessity, the wits of a writer would be strained to enshrine in fewest words the most telling praise and most crowning feature of the object commemorated. Hence the origin of the neat turn and pointed expression; and it is easy to conceive that, as was indeed the case, the province of the epigram would by degrees extend itself, so that what had been peculiar to sepulchral inscriptions or votive offerings, was transferred, by analogy, to the expression of thoughts which might have served as inscriptions, and which, taking the form of such, passed down to posterity through the medium of oral tradition, or in extant poetic 'garlands. In time the epigram came to serve the purpose of the bard who cared to record any event of interest, to point a neat compliment, or to sketch some striking characteristic with telling conciseness. The essentials appear to have been brevity, completeness, adaptation of metrical form to the expression of thought. Point was indeed appreciated, but it stood, if anything, in a secondary rank as compared with elegance and conciseness; and those who take their notion of an epigram from the pungent personalities which pervade Martial's books, or those of the mass of our English epigrammatists, are not to be wondered at, if, finding these to their taste, they find the Greek somewhat insipid by comparison. They have nothing that bites, but something that tickles,’is the character given to Greek epigrams in the article “Epigrams' of the Encyclopædia Britannica ;' but to our mind this sentence hardly sets in a just light the native charm of the Greek. It is wholly inadequate to express the rare felicity, the nameless grace, the complete yet in
Simonides, 1. Fragm., xxv. p. 64, Jacobs. John Sterling's Translation in Anthologia Polyglotta, lxxxvii. p. 75. Bland's Translation of Epigrams, ed. Merivale, p. 64. † Thucyd. vi, 54, 59.
effable expressiveness of a great portion of the gems which are richly strewn over the pages of the “Greek Anthology. These are by no means wanting in refined wit and easy simplicity; and though French taste has frequently pronounced them flat, and spiritless, and saltless, they will not the less command the attention and affection of such as can, through cultivation, appreciate ' that tongue in which so many of the noblest works of man's genius lie enshrined;' not the less be deemed by competent judges as among the best models for imitation, the choicest treasures for memory, the most characteristic, if not the most elaborate specimens, of the poetic achievements of Hellas.
“The Greek Anthology,'we are quoting the Preface to‘Liddell and Scott's Lexicon,' contains about 4500 epigrams, by about 300 authors.' Out of so large a collection it is a marvel that so few should descend to absolute mediocrity, and so many attain a high standard of excellence. Take the fifteen books of Martial, and weed them of the epigrams purely fulsome; this done, expunge those which are so coarse that it were hopeless to attempt to clothe them in 'parliamentary language;' and it will be seen how the Latin epigram suffers by contrast with the Greek. Catullus, again, must lie under the same ban of coarseness; whilst of the numerous other Latin poets, of whose epigrams we have extant specimens, the most to be said is, that their best efforts have been those in which they have copied the spirit, not less than the matter, of the Greek epigrammatists. Comparatively little that demands expurgation causes difficulty in placing a large portion of the Greek Anthology' in the hands of youth. If imitators of this class of poesy in other lands had observed the general care of the Greek epigram writers to set down nought that they might afterwards wish to blot, it had never followed that, as that ripest scholar, Ben Jonson, says, in dedicating his epigrams to the Earl of Pembroke, their name had carried danger in its sound.' For a pleasant and genial field of recreation, commend us to the “Greek Anthology;' for a charming exercise in light and easy criticism, to the spirited versions of the Anthologia Polyglotta,' the earlier collection by Bland and J. H. Merivale, and to the translations from the 'Greek Anthology,' collected by Mr. George Burges. These have picked well-nigh all the plums, though, as far as monumental epigrams are concerned, there is considerable merit in the faithful and forcible versions of Major R. Guthrie Macgregor, a retired Indian officer, who, from the days when he was a Reading schoolboy under Dr. Valpy, has devoted his leisure to these and kindred pursuits. We should hope much from his experiments, if he could be induced to make them, into the wider Vol. 117.-No. 233.
and more general field.* In the volumes which we have enumerated, there is no danger of stumbling on the comparatively few epigrams of Meleager, Agathias, and two or three others, which, for nameless reasons, are objectionable and distasteful, but which are rather characteristic of a depraved age and standard of morality, than of an intention to offend by deliberate coarseness and impurity.
There is one point of view in which the minute study of the 'Greek Anthology' is especially interesting, inasmuch as it, in some sort, ministers to our self-love. In these days of a world that is growing into old age, it is the fashion to say that there is no such thing as originality in our poets or imaginative writers. But read up the Greek epigrams with a previous intimate acquaintance with our best English literature, and, verily, you shall find much confirmation for the venerable proverb, that there is nothing new under the sun.' In these utilitarian days the study of the Classics is subjected to much railing accusation; but what our English literature would have been without it, is seen when we compare the finished and perfected conceit of a Jonson, a Shakspeare, a Pope, with the original idea drawn by them, consciously or unconsciously, from Greek sources. This would be abundantly evident in a survey of the Greek Anthology.' Of the few gleanings from that broad field which we have made for citation, some will admit of ready parallelism in Latin or English, whilst others will wake echoes of some familiar strain, or recall fragments and snatches, which, though we may not be able at once to trace to their source, yet impress us with a strong suspicion that they are, in reality, old friends, whose address we have simply lost.
For example, although the following from Simonides may be one of the latter class, it is not improbably the germ of an idea which has been in many forms worked into subsequent poetry. Simonides, xlii.; Jacobs, I. 67:
τωνδε ποτέ στέρνοισι τανυγλωχίνας οϊστους
λουσεν Φοινίσσα θούρος 'Αρης ψεκάδι.
άψυχ' εμψύχων άδε κέκευθε κόνις.
* Since writing the above remarks we have had the pleasure of perusing Major Macgregor's . Anthology,' a work of great labour and proportionate merit, anticipating our wish and comprehending well-nigh the whole range of Greek epigrams. We are the less sorry that we cannot make extracts from it, because it is a volume that ought to be in every library ; calculated to amuse the unlearned as well as to
; interest the scbolar.
Here the first two lines of the original recall to the memory Gray's expression in his Fatal Sisters,' 'Iron sleet of arrowy shower,' and that of Milton (Par. Reg. iii. 324), “Sharp sleet of arrowy showers,' while the general sentiment has been repeated again and again in later poetry. But the following pretty conceit of Plato, in all probability the philosopher himself, has a more close imitation. Jacobs, I. p. 102 :
• αστέρας είσαθρείς 'Αστήρ έμός είθε γενοίμην
ουρανός, ως πολλοίς όμμασιν είς σε βλέπω. This has been translated, it is needless to say gracefully, by Thomas Moore himself :
Why dost thou gaze upon the sky ?
Oh that I were yon spangled sphere !
To wander o'er thy beauties here.'
The stars, my star, thou view'st! Heaven might I be
That I with many eyes might gaze on thee.' We have no intention of entering upon the question of Shakespeare's scholarship, lest we should seem to imitate in the matter of his classical acquirements, certain supererogatory endeavours to prove the depth of the great dramatist's Biblical studies. But when we note that Apuleius (416. Apol. ed. Paris) has this Latin version
• Astra vides : utinam fiam, mi sidus, Olympus !
Ut multis sic te luminibus videam,' it does not seem improbable that from this Latin version, or some English rendering of it by earlier English poets, our Shakespeare may have culled the conceit which he has wrought out in • Romeo and Juliet,' Act ii. sc. 1:
• Two of the fairest stars in all the Heaven,
eyes To twinkle in their spheres till they return,' &c., as well as in Juliet's words in the 2nd scene of the third act, which follow up the same thought. We cannot pass from this epigram without quoting J. Sylvester's pretty imitation of it:• Were you the earth, dear love, and I the skies,
My love should shine on you like to the sun,
Till heaven wax'd blind, and till the world were done.' The epigrams ascribed to Plato are, as might be expected, mostly rich in fancy. There is, e. g., one on · Lais's Looking,
glass,' which Prior has appropriated and condensed (Jacobs, I. vii. p. 103) ή σοβαρόν γελάσασα κ.τ.λ. :-.
· Venus, take my looking-glass, ,
Venus, let me never see.'
τον Σάτυρον Διόδωρος εκοίμισεν, ουκ έτόρευσεν,
ήν νύξης, έγερείς άργυρος ύπνον έχει, reminds us of Shakespeare's · And sleep in dull cold marble' (Henry VIII. iii. 2), and numberless familiar expansions of the same idea. There is yet another worth quoting, by Plato, which has been turned into most modern languages, and in translating which Moore and Shelley have contended with equal success. It is in Jacobs, I. xxi.
νύν δε θανών λάμπεις "Εσπερος εν φθιμένοις.' Shelley renders this
Thou wert the morning star among the living
Ere thy fair light had fled :
New splendour to the dead.'
*As Phosphor erst thy light on life was shed,
As Hesper now it shines among the dead.' There is a beautiful little epigram by Nossis, a poetess of Locri in Italy, of a date not earlier than the reign of Ptoleiny Soter. It is upon a statue of her daughter, and occurs in Jacobs, Ι. vii. p. 128. “Αυτομέλιννα τέτυκται· ίδ' ώς άγανον το πρόσωπον.'
This is gracefully rendered by Mr. J. H. Merivale :
* In this loved stone Melinna's self I trace;
Ourselves reflected in our progeny.'
• He hath a trick of Cour de Lion's face.
κ. τ. λ.
hath well examined his parts, And found them “perfect Richard."