Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

cied themselves masters of his meaning, when in truth, they knew little about it.

Now we know that Callimachus, as I have hinted, was himself a poet, and a good one; he was also esteemed a good critic, he almost, if not actually, adored Homer, and imitated him as nearly as he could.

What shall we say to this? I will tell you what I say to it. Callimachus meant, and he could mean nothing more by this assertion, than that the poems of Homer were in fact an allegory, that under the obvious import of his stories, lay concealed a mystic sense, sometimes philosophical, sometimes religious, sometimes moral, and that the generality either wanted penetration or industry, or had not been properly qualified by their studies, to discover it. This I can readily believe, for I am myself an ignoramus in these points, and except here and there, discern nothing more than the letter. But if Callimachus will tell me that even of that I am ignorant, I hope soon by two great volumes to convince him of the contrary.

I learn also from the same Villoison, that Pisistratus, who was a sort of Mecænas in Athens, where he gave great encouragement to literature,

ora

cer

as

and built and furnished a public library, regretting that there was no complete copy of Homer's works in the world, resolved to make one. For this purpose he advertized rewards in all the newspapers to those, who being possessed memoriter of any part or parcel of the poems of that bard, would resort to his house, and repeat them to his secretaries that they might write them. Now it happened that more were desirous of the reward than qualified to deserve it. The consequence was that the non-qualified persons having, many of them, a preity knack at versification, imposed on the generous Athenian most egregiously, giving him instead of Homer's verses, which they had not to give, verses of their own invention. He, good creature, suspecting no such fraud, took them all for gospel, and entered them into his volume accordingly.

Now let him believe the story who can. That Homer's works were in this manner corrected I can believe, but that a learned Athenian could be so imposed upon, with sufficient means of detection at hand, I cannot. Would he not be on his guard? Would not a difference of stile and manner have occurred ? Would not that difference have excited a suspicion? Would not that suspicion have led to enquiry, and

would not that enquiry have issued in detection? For how easy was it in the multitude of Homer-conners to find two, ten, twenty, possesed of the questionable passage, and by confronting him with the impudent impostor, to convict him. Abeas ergo in malam rem cum istis tuis hallucinationibus, Villoisone!

Yours,

W.C,

LETTER LXXXIV.

To SAMUEL ROSE, Esqr.

The Lodge, Jan. 3, 1790.

MY DEAR SIR.

I have been long silent, but you have had the charity I hope, and believe, not to ascribe my silence to a wrong cause. The truth is, I have been too busy to write to any body, having been obliged to give my early mornings to the revisal and correction of a little volume of Hymns for Children, written by I know not whom. This task I finished but yesterday, and while it was in hand, wrote only to my Cousin, and to her rarely. From her, however,

in.

I knew that you would hear of my well being, which made me less anxious about my debts to you than I could have been otherwise.

I am almost the only person at Weston, known to you, who have enjoyed tolerable health this winter. In your next Letter give us some account of your own state of health, for I have had many anxieties about you. The winter has been mild ; but our winters are in general such, that when a friend leaves us in the beginning of that season, I always feel in my heart a perhaps, importing that we have possibly met for the last time, and that the robins may whistle on the grave of one of us before the return of summer.

I am still thrumming Homer's lyre ; that is to say I am still employed in my last revisal; and to give you some idea of the intenseness of my toils, I will inform you that it cost me all the morning yesterday, and all the evening, to translate a single simile to my mind. The transitions from one member of the subject to another, though easy and natural in the Greek, turn out often so intolerably awkward in an English version, that almost endless labour, and no little address are requisite to give them grace and elegance. I forget if I told you that your German Clavis has been of considerable use to me. I am indebted to it

[ocr errors]

for a right understanding of the manner in which Achilles prepared pork, mutton, and goat's-flesh, for the entertainment of his friends, in the night when they came deputed by Agamemnon to negociate a reconciliation. A passage of which nobody in the world is perfectly master, myself only, and Schaulfelbergerus excepted, nor ever was, except when Greek was a live language.

I do not know whether my Cousin has told you or not how I brag in my Letters to her concerning my Translation; perhaps her modesty feels more for me than mine for myself, and she would blush to let even you know the degree of my self-conceit on that subject. I will tell you however, expressing myself as decently as vanity will permit, that it has undergone such a change for the better in this last revisal, that I have much warmer hopes of success than formerly.

Yours,

W.C.

« ElőzőTovább »