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Τοῖον ἐπὶ φρένα βάλλεις καρπὸν εἰς ἀθάνατον,
Σε δ ̓ ἕνεκ' ἐκ Διὸς Ἡρακλέης
Αθάνατόν τε μιν αὐξήσεσι μέσαι,
Διὸς ξενία σέβας αὔξεσαι
Φιλίας τε γέρας βεβαίει.
i There is a considerable difference in the copies of this ode, as given us in the best editions of Athenæus and Diogenes Laertius. But the SIXTH verse is, in all of them, so inexplicable, in respect of the measure, the construction, and the sense, that I have no doubt of its being extremely corrupt. In such a case one may be indulged in making conjectures. And the following one, by a learned person, exactly skilled in the proprieties as well as elegancies of the Greek language, is so reasonable, that I had almost ventured to give it a place in the text.
The Poet had been celebrating v. 3. the divine form of virtue; which inspired the Grecian youth with an invincible courage and contempt of danger. It was natural therefore to conclude his panegyric with some such Epiphonema as this: "Such a passion "do'st thou kindle up in the minds of men !"
To justify this passion, he next turns to the fruits, or advanvages which virtue yields; which, he tells us, are more excellent
Hail, Virtue! Goddess! sov'reign Good,
And death's dark frown no terror wears.
So full into the breast of man descends
Thy rich ambrosial show'r;
A show'r, that gold, that parents far transcends,
than those we receive from any other possession, whether of wealth, nobility, or ease, the three great idols of mankind. Something like this we collect from the obscure glimmerings of sense that occur to us from the common reading,
Τοῖον ἐπὶ φρένα βάλλεις καρπόν τ ̓ εἰς ἀθάναλον,
Χρυσέ τε κρέσσω, &c.
But it is plain, then, that a very material word must have dropt out of the first part of the line, and that there is an evident corruption in the last. In a word, the whole passage may be reformed thus,
Τοῖον ἐπὶ φρέν ̓ ΕΡΩΤΑ βάλλεις.
Καρπὸν ΦΕΡΕΙΣ ἀθάνατον
Κρυσε το κρέσσω καὶ γονέων,
Μαλακαυγηλοϊό θ' ύπνω,
It need not be observed how easily καρπὸν ΤΕΕΙΣ is changed into καρπὸν ΦΕΡΕΙΣ: And as to the restored word ἔρωτα, besides the necessity of it to complete the sense, it exactly suits with σοῖς τε πόθοις in v. 12. Lastly, the measure will now sufficiently justify itself to the learned reader.
By thee ALCIDES soar'd to fame,
His deeds, his social love (so will the nine,
Of friendship and of friendly Jove) shall shine
This moralizing humour, so prevalent in those times, is, I dare be confident, the true source of the sententious cast of the Greek dramatic writers, as well as of that sober air of moral, which, to the no small disgust of modern writers, is spread over all their poets. Not but there would be some difference in those poets themselves, and in proportion as they had been more or less conversant in the Academy, would be their relish of this moral mode; as is clearly seen in the case of Euripides, that philosopher of the stage, as the Athenians called him, and who is characterized by Quinctilian, as sententiis densus, et in iis, quæ a sapientibus tradita sunt, pæne ipsis par. [L. x. c. 1.] Yet still the fashion was so general, that no commerce of the world could avoid, or wholly get clear of it; and therefore
Sophocles, though his engagements in the state kept him at a greater distance from the schools, had yet his share of this philosophical humour. Now this apology for the practice of the Greek poets doth bý no means extend to the Roman; Philosophy having been very late, and never generally, the taste of Rome.
Cicero says, Philosophia quidem tantum abest ut proinde, ac de hominum est vitá merita, laudetur, ut a plerisque neglecta, a multis etiam vituperetur. In another place he tells us, that in his time Aristotle was not much known, or read, even by the philosophers themselves. [Cic. Top. sub init.]
And, though in the age of Seneca, Sentences, we know, were much in use, yet the cast and turn of them evidently shew them to have been the affectation of the lettered few, and not the general mode and practice of the time. For the quaintness, in which Seneca's aphorisms are dressed, manifestly speaks the labour and artifice of the closet, and is just the reverse of that easy, simple expression, which cloaths them in the Greek poets, thus demonstrating their familiar currency in common life. Under any other circumstances than these, the practice, as was observed, must be unquestionably faulty; except only in the chorus, where for the reason before given, it may always, with good advantage, be employed.
220. CARMINE QUI TRAGICO, &c.] The connexion with v. 201, from whence the poet had digressed, is worth observing. The digression had been taken up in describing the improved state of dramatic music; the application of which to the case of tragedy, brings him round again to his subject, the tragic chorus; to which alone, as hath been observed, the two last lines refer. This too is the finest preparation of what follows. For to have passed on directly from the tibia to the satyrs, had been abrupt and inartificial; but from tragedy, the transition is easy, the satyrs being a species of the tragic drama. That it was so accounted may be seen from the following passage in Ovid,
Est et in obscænos deflexa tragedia risus,
For the tragedy, here referred to, cannot be the regular Roman tragedy. That he had distinctly considered before, and, besides, it in no age admitted, much less in this, of which we are speaking, so intolerable a mixture. As little can it be understood of the proper Atellane fable, for besides that Ovid is here considering the Greek drama only, the Atellane was ever regarded as a species, not of tragedy, but comedy: The authority of Donatus is very express; "Como"diarum formæ sunt tres: Palliatæ, Togatæ, Atel
lanæ, salibus et jocis compositæ, quæ in se non habent nisi vetustam elegantiam." [Prol. in Terent.]