« ElőzőTovább »
most poetical passages. It is where they appear to Æneas, to warn him from Crete, and announce his destined empire in Italy. (Lib. III. v. 147.)
Nox erat, et terris animalia somnus habebat.
per insertas fundebat luna fenestras.
And again, after they had addressed him,-
illud erat; sed coram agnoscere vultus,
My being, that I burst at every pore. The Lares, or Lars, were the lesser and most familiar Household Gods; and though their offices were afterwards extended a good deal, in the same way as those of the Penates, with whom they are often confounded, their principal sphere was the fire-place. This was in the middle of the room ; and the statues of the Lares generally stood about it in little niches.
They are said to have been in the shape of monkies; more likely mannikins, or rude little human images. Some were made of wax, some of stone, and others doubtless of any material for sculpture. They were represented with good-natured grinning countenances, were clothed in skins, and had little dogs at their feet. Some writers make them the offspring of the goddess Mania, who presided over the spirits of the dead; and suppose that originally they were the same as those spirits; which is a very probable as well as agreeable superstition, the old nations of Italy having been accustomed to bury their dead in their houses. Upon this supposition, the good or benevolent spirits were called Familiar Lares, and the evil or malignant ones Larvæ and Lemures. Thus Milton, in his awful Hymn on the Nativity :
In consecrated earth,
But Ovid tells a story of a gossiping nymph Lara, who having told Juno of her husband's amour with Juturna, was “sent to hell” by him, and courted by Mercury on the road; the consequence of which was the birth of the Lares. This seems to have a natural reference enough to the gossiping over fire-places.
It is impossible not to be struck with the resemblance between these lesser Household Gods and some of the offices of our old English elves and fairies. Dacier, in a note upon Horace (Lib. I., Od. 12) informs us, that in some parts of Languedoc, in his time, the fire-place was still called the Lar; and that the name was also given to houses.
Herrick, a poet of the Anacreontic order in the time of Elizabeth, who was visited, perhaps more than any other, except Spenser, with a sense of the pleasantest parts of the ancient mythology, has written some of his lively little odes upon the Lares. We have not them by us at this moment, but we remember one beginning,
It was, and still my care is
We take the opportunity of the Lar's being mentioned in it, to indulge ourselves in a little poem of Martial's, very charming for its simplicity. It is an Epitaph on a child of the name of Erotion.
Hic festinata requiescit Erotion umbra,
fati sexta peremit hiems.
THE EPITAPH OF EROTION.
Underneath this greedy stone,
Whom the fates, with hearts as cold,
It is a curious and pleasant thing to consider, that a link of personal acquaintance can be traced up from the authors of our own times to those of Shakspeare, and to Shakspeare himself. Ovid, in recording his intimacy with Propertius and Horace, regrets that he had only seen Virgil. (Trist. Lib. iv., v. 51.) But still he thinks the sight of him worth remembering. And Pope, when a child, prevailed on some friends to take him to a coffee-house which Dryden frequented, merely to look at him; which he did, with great satisfaction. Now such of us as have shaken hands with a living poet, might be able to reckon up a series of connecting shakes, to the very hand that wrote of Hamlet, and of Falstaff, and of Desdemona.
With some living poets, it is certain. There is Thomas Moore, for instance, who knew Sheridan. Sheridan knew Johnson, who was the friend of
Savage, who knew Steele, who knew Pope. Pope was intimate with Congreve, and Congreve with Dryden. Dryden is said to have visited Milton. Milton is said to have known Dayenant; and to have been saved by him from the revenge of the restored court, in return for having saved Davenant from the revenge of the Commonwealth. But if the link between Dryden and Milton, and Milton and Davenant is somewhat apocryphal, or rather dependent on tradition (for Richardson the painter tells us the story from Pope, who had it from Betterton the actor, one of Davenant's company), it may be carried at once from Dryden to Davenant, with whom he was unquestionably intimate, Davenant then knew Hobbes, who knew Bacon, who knew Ben Jonson, who was intimate with Beaumont and Fletcher, Chapman, Donne, Drayton, Camden, Selden, Clarendon, Sydney, Raleigh, and perhaps all the great men of Elizabeth's and James's time, the greatest of them all undoubtedly. Thus have we a link of “ beamy hands” from our own times up to Shakspeare.
In this friendly genealogy we have omitted the numerous side-branches or common friendships. It may be mentioned, however, in order not to omit Spenser, that Davenant resided some time in the family of Lord Brooke, the friend of Sir Philip Sydney. Spenser's intimacy with Sydney is mentioned by himself in a letter, still extant, to Gabriel Harvey