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To follow the steps of Grecian authors was the general practice of the Romans. Each of them found some predecessor who had led the way to the sields of inyention, and was therefore adopted as the instructor of his inexperienced genius, and his guide to eminence and fame. The assistance which Homer, Hesiod, and the tragedians, afforded to Virgil, was similar to that which in other branches pf composition Pindar, Archilochus, Alcœus, and Sappho gave to Horace; Menander to Terence; Plato and Demosthenes to Cicero; Polybius to Livy; and Thucydides to Salluft. As a copy must from its own nature be inferior to the original, they have all sallen short in point of originality
Tafis in æterpo felix Vertumtius Olyrapo,
Tibull, lib. iv. cairn. 2. ed. Heyne.
Whate'er Sulpicia does, where'er me roves,
, ■ To gain the empire of the gazer's hearts.
and $nd fervour of composition. The poets are more particularly remarkable for enriching themselves with foreign treasures; and as so many of their obligations to the Greeks, whose works are stil( extant,, are discovered; it is perhaps the less unfair for us %o conclude, that the Romans were very deeply indebted to those, whose works, have not escaped the ravages of time. The want of ©riginality was in some measure, although imperfectly, supplied by judgment and tafte. The rules of criticism were studied when various kinds of literature were cultivated at Rome; for Horace wrote his Art of Poetry nearly at the fame time Virgil was composing his Eneid. Too clofe an attache ment to their great masters made the Romans servile followers, rather than daring and free adventurers. If however we consider the manners of the nation, their dignity of character, their undaunted spirit, their love of freedom, and the great improvements they made upon other foreign inventions; particularly upon the arts of government ?tnd war; we may safely pronounce, that they would have approached much nearer to perfection, and would have taken a nobler and a sublimer flight, if they had trusted less to the genius of Greece, a.nd| more to the enthusiasm of nature.
II. Decline of the Language.
The decay of taste, which extended its influence to the productions,, of the .sine arts, prevailed likewise in works of literature. In the writers who flourished after the Augustan age, this circumstance is remarkable, although we should be desicient in justice not to acknowledge that they possess a considerable share of beautiful imagery, lively description, and just observatienjf both in poetry and prose. Seneca degraded the dignity of his moral treatises by sentences too pointed, and ornaments of rhetoric too numerous and studied; and Pliny gave too laboured and epigrammatic a turn to his Epistles. Lucan indulged the extravagance and wildnels of his genius in puerile flights of fancy; and Tacitus fettered the powers of his judgment, and obscured the brightness of his imagination by elaborate brevity," and dark and distant allusionsa. Such affectation vas in vain substituted for the charms of nature and simplicity. So fruitless is the attempt to supply, by gaudy ornaments of dress, and artisicial beauty of complexion, the want of genuine charms, and the native bloom of youth.
■ The character given by Pliny to Timanthes may be justly applied to Tacitus: " In omnibus ejus operibus iuttlligitur plus semper quain pingitur; et cum ars summa sit, ingeniuna tamen ultra artem est." Lib. xxxv. c. 10.
44 A man who could join the brilliant wit, and concise sententiousness peculiar to that age, with the truth and gravity of better times, and the deep reflection, and good fense of the best moderns, cannot choose but have something to strike you. Yet what I admire in him above all this, is his detestation of tyranny, and the high spirit of liberty, that every now and then breaks out, as it were, whether he would or no. I remember a sentence in his Agricola, that (concise as it is) I always admired, for saying much in a little compass. He speaks of Domitian, who upon feeing the last will of Agricola, where h« had made him coheir with his wife and daughter, ' Satis constabat lætatum eum velut honore judicioque; tarn cæca et corrupta mens afliduis adulationibus erat, ut neseiret a bono patre non scribi h«redem, nisi malum principem." Gray's Letters to West.
!. 8 was
» QuiffTtLiAN, in an incomparable work, written to give directions for the complete education of a Roman orator, and abounding with the purest; principles of judgment, and the choicest treasures of learning and experience, endeavoured to direct the attention of his countrymen to the ancient models of composition. But the weeds of a bad taste were too deeply and too widely sown to be eradicated, even by his diligent and skilful hand; and this degeneracy in the productions of literature, with a few exceptions, kept a regular pace with the depravity of manners, which prevailed during the succeeding times of the lower empire.
It may be observed of Quintilian and of Sir. Joshua Reynolds, that their respective works are not merely calculated for the improvement of youth in eloquence and painting, but that they contain the principles of true taste, which are applicable to the sine arts and to literature in general, aided by great force of expression, and adorned with great elegance of fancy. The concise review of Greek and Latin authors by Quintilian, is perhaps scarcely to be paralleled for correctness of judgment*. H»
* Quint, lib. x. de Copia Verboruw.
enlarges enlarges with peculiar pleasure upon the Orations of Cicero, of whom he was an enthusiastic admirer; and gives so high a character of the Comedies of Menander, as to make us deeply regret their loss. His strictures upon Seneca prove, that in the decline of literature, when the works of that author were most popular, the taste of Quintilian was neither vitiated by false resinement, nor perverted by the prejudices of his contemporaries.
"Were we to divide the whole space from Augustus to Constantine into two equal periods of time, we could not observe without surprise the difference in their respective degeneracy and deterioration. The writers in the sirst division rank, it is true, far below their predecessors of the Augustan fchool: but who will compare Calphurnius and Nemesianus with Lucan and Statius? Tacitus must not be degraded by a comparison with any historian of the latter interval; and Suetonius himself rises far above the level of Spartianus, Capitolinus, Ind Lampridius V
The great cause of the corruption of the Latin language, which gradually took place after the reign of Augustus, proceeded from the number of strangers, Goths, Alans, Huns, and Gauls, who resorted to Rome from the provinces of Italy, and other parts of the empire, and intermixed foreign . words, and new combinations of speech, with the
c Introduction to the Literary History, &c. p. 20.
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