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Scilicet et quondam borealis frigora linquens
Lumina, et ambrosias zephyrorum in vallibus auras:
At Tu, Roma ferox! quæ victum amplecterís orbem,
"Hæc adeo auspicia, hæc quondam volventibus annis Fata trahunt! Neque enim, armipotens, tibi carior Hebrus, Aut Thracum nemora, et Libyci vada barbara ponti !
Hic olli sedes; hic olim horrentia ducet
"Sed neque me strepitus, aut belli æterna lacessent
Quas neque sævus Iber quatiet, neque deprimet olim
Pectora, et occultas promet labor improbus artes.
Excipient, ratibusque gement stridentibus undæ.
Splendentesque domos Regum, et quæ maxima ripis
"At quæ dira meos obscurat scena triumphos!
Funera, quæ lymphata gravi Discordia motu
Eheu, quanta meæ spectabunt prælia ripæ!
Et sociam Musarum, et amantem dulcis olivæ."
CHR. CH. COLL.
ON THE GREEK PASTORAL POETS.
§ 4. Of Theocritus-whether he imitated the Song of
THE memorials which we have of the life of Theocritus are few. It appears, however, beyond a doubt, that he was an inhabitant of Sicily, notwithstanding the disputes of the grammarians. The Emperor Julian calls him a Sicilian Poet, in one of his Epistles. Terentianus Maurus calls him "Siculæ telluris alumnus," and Manilius "Sicula tellure creatus." In one of his own Epigrams he calls himself a Syracusan, the son of Praxagoras and Philina. Supposing that this
Epigram were not genuine, we have a clear proof of his being at least an inhabitant of Syracuse in his twenty-eighth Idyllium, called the Distaff.
ἁμετέρας εὖσαν ἀπὸ χθονὸς
Καὶ γάρ σοι πατρὶς ἂν ὣς Εφύρας κτίσσε ποτ' Αρχίας
Theocritus is said to have been a disciple of Philetas, an elegiac poet of Cos or Rhodes, (who was preceptor to Ptolemy Philadelphus) and also of Sicelidas or Asclepiades, a Samian writer of epigrams. But this story rests on no other foundation than that he says in the seventh Idyllium, that he does not excel these poets, or rather modestly confesses his inferiority.
The time when Theocritus florished is ascertained by his Poems, addressed to Hiero, and to Ptolemy Philadelphus king of Egypt. That he lived in the court of Ptolemy 'seems certain, as he is numbered in that constellation of seven poets, called the Pleiades, whom Ptolemy's munificence to men of learning drew to Alexandria. Theocritus appears to have been a considerable traveller. The scene of the fourth Idyllium is laid in Crotona, in Italy. From the particularity of the description, I conclude that our poet visited that country.— Most critics suppose that the scene of the seventh Idyllium is in the island of Coos. With them the Scholiast agrees, and supposes that Theocritus was entertained there by Phrasedamus and Antigenes, then celebrating the festival of Ceres, in the course of his voyage to Alexandria. It seems, however, to have been out of his way to have touched there: I am more inclined to think, with Heinsius, that the scene of the seventh Idyllium is laid in Sicily, and that all we can reasonably infer from it is, that Phrasedamus and Antigenes, though then living in Sicily, were descended from honorable ancestors of Coan origin.
In the twenty-eighth Idyllium Theocritus talks of going to visit the physician Nicias, at Miletus in Ionia, who appears to have been an accomplished man and a lover of learning. He had evidently a high respect for this Nicias, and appears to have formed a particular intimacy with him. He mentions Aratus also as his friend, who is supposed to be the author of the Phænomena. The twenty-first Idyllium is addressed to Diaphantus as a friend. I know no account of this Diaphantus. From some pasages of the Idyllium called Charites, or the Graces, addressed to Hiero, the last tyrant of Syracuse, we may conjecture that Theocritus had not experienced much generosity or favor from that prince. Who knows but this Poem may have had a good effect on Hiero, as he appears afterwards to have been a friend to men of learning, particularly to Archimedes?
Theocritus celebrates Ptolemy, king of Egypt, in his fourteenth Idyllium, as a lover of the Muses, and as a liberal giver. In the eighteenth he says that the priests of the Muses celebrate Ptolemy on account of his goodness:
Μουσάων δ' ὑποφῆται ἀείδοντι Πτολεμαῖον
From these circumstances we may reasonably conclude, that the pastoral poet met with liberal patronage from that great prince.
These are the few particulars which I have been able to collect with any degree of probability, concerning the life of Theocritus. He lived in a polished court, after the Grecian literature had reached the summit of its perfection. Yet we cannot find that he much imitated any of his predecessors. He is indeed, as far as we now can know, one of the most peculiarly original of all writers, though imitation has been of very ancient date among the poets. We find even those great geniuses Sophocles and Euripides imitating Homer. Theocritus has copied Anacreon in two of his pieces. He is said also to have borrowed some thoughts from that exquisite sacred pastoral the Song, of Solomon. It must be granted that the Septuagint translation was executed in Alexandria, in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. This translation was undoubtedly a work of considerable celebrity even then, and might naturally attract the attention of the learned in general, and of Theocritus in particular. The Song of Solomon might more especially attract his notice. As he must necessarily be a stranger to any allegorical interpretation of it, he would consider it as composed by King Solomon in praise of his bride, the daughter of Pharaoh king of Egypt. As he himself resided in the court of a splendid monarch, living in great love and harmony with his queen, such a representation of chaste and refined love as is contained in the Song of Solomon must have appeared very striking. As we are, however, very apt to be led by fancy to mistake in such a case, and to take those images for imitations, which occurred to original geniuses in consequence of being conversant with the same objects, I shall point out a few passages in Theocritus which seem to be imitations of Solomon, without pretending to give any decisive opinion. I have been long convinced that Virgil did not imitate Isaiah in the fourth Eclogue, for this good reason, that so great a poet, and so judicious au imitator as Virgil, would not weaken and faintly translate his original.
1.-Song of Solomon, chap. i. v. 5. "I am black, but comely.v. 6. Look not upon me because I am black, (or rendered swarthy') because the sun has looked upon me."
Theocrit. Idyl. x. v. 26.-In the Reaper's song in praise of his mistress we have:
"O graceful Bombyce, all call thee a Syrian,
2.-Song of Solomon, chap. i. v. 9. "I have compared thee (for excellence and beauty) to the mare in the chariots of Pharaoh.".
Theocrit. Idyll. xviii. v. 30, 31. "As the Thessalian horse is (an ornament) to the chariot, so is the rosy-colored Helen an ornament to Lacedæmon."
3.-Song of Solomon, chap. ii. v. 9. "He standeth behind our