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have become the abodes of those arts, which could not flourish in antiquity, but in a Hesperian or Ionian climate. Still, however, there must be a limit to the multiplication of powerful nations; and while political power and national wealth are increasing, with a rapidity we can hardly compute in this hemisphere, it is scarcely possible that the seeds of their decline should not be sown in the eastern. Perilous conflicts must in time follow, and vast rivalries grow up; and in that condition of the world's politics, it is plain that the complicated enginery of the old world must give way in the collision with the new. If this be a just view, Europe is hereafter, like Asia, to exhibit monuments where she now exhibits trophies, and furnish themes for speculation, not on national superiority, but national decline. Nevertheless, as it is rather safer to take the world as it is, and as it has been for the last four thousand years, it must be acknowledged that the European ascendency is a fact, deserving at least an attempt at an explanation. The following remarks are thrown out by our author, merely as a hint toward solving a problem, which, in its extent, is probably beyond the grasp of our minds.
Here one important circumstance excites attention ; and yet a circumstance, of which the cautious inquirer hardly ventures to fix the value. Whilst we see the surface of the other continents covered with nations of different, and almost always of dark color; (and, in so far as this determines the race, of different races ;) the inhabitants of Europe belong only to one race. It has not now, and it never had, any other native inhabitants than the white nations.* Is the white man distinguished by greater natural talents ? Has he by means of them an advantage over his colored brethren ? This is a question, which physiology cannot answer, and to which history must reply with timidity. Who will directly deny, that the difference of organization, which we so variously observe to attend on the difference in color, can have an influence on the more rapid or more tardy unfolding of the mind ? But who can, on the other hand, demonstrate this influence, without first raising that secret veil, which conceals from us the reciprocal connexion between body and mind? And yet we must esteem it probable; and how much does this probability increase in strength, if we make inquiries of history? The great superiority, which the white nations in all ages
** The Gipsies are foreigners ; and it may seem doubtful how far the Laplanders are to be reckoned in the white or yellow race.'
and countries have possessed, is a matter of fact, which cannot be denied. It may be said, this was the consequence of external circumstances, which favored them more. But has this always been so ? And why has it been so ? And further, why did those darker nations, which rose above the savage state, attain only to a degree of culture of their own; a degree, which was passed neither by the Egyptian nor by the Mongolian, neither by the Chinese nor the Hindoo ? And among them, why did the black remain behind the brown and the yellow? If these observations cannot but make us inclined to attribute a greater or smaller capacity to the several branches of our race, they do not on that account prove an absolute want of capacity in our darker fellow men, nor must they be urged as the sole cause. Thus much only is intended, that experience thus far seems to prove, that a greater facility for developing the powers of mind belongs to the nations of a clear color; but we will welcome the age, which shall contradict experience in this point, and which shall exhibit to us cultivated nations of negroes. pp. 4-6.
After some general remarks on the geographical configuration of Europe at large, Mr Heeren treats that of Greece in particular, and this topic forms the subject of his first chap
It ought ever to be borne in mind, in studying the history of any nation of antiquity, that its geographical features are of far greater importance than they usually are in modern nations. It is true, that in all ages, some geographical features are sufficient to decide the whole character of a country. A bar at the mouth of a river, a want or an abundance of harbors, an insular or a continental position, are all facts, in which the fate of nations has been wrapt up. In antiquity, without printing and without the compass, man was far more the creature of the spot on which he grew. As the vine is said to differ even in contiguous vineyards, from almost imperceptible qualities of the soil, so in antiquity, the smallest circumstances of position, contiguity, and protection of mountain, river, or sea, decided the condition of countries. If any one cause be demanded for the lead taken by southern Greece, in the march of improvement, none could be so well fixed on as the triple row of mountains, by which it was defended from the incursions of the barbarians of the north.
The difficult subject of the earliest condition of the Greeks is treated by our author in the second chapter. The traditions of antiquity on this point are well known to be so contradictory; and the relations of the Pelasgi and Hellenes to each other, and to the subsequent Greek race, are so unsettled, that few topics relative to Greece less reward the labor of research. Mr Heeren does not, in any part of his work, assume the office of the antiquary, and the greater portion of the section is occupied in marking the radical distinction, which appeared, at a later period, between the Doric and Ionic races. This distinction, closely connected as it is with all effectual insight into Grecian history, literature, and art, must yet be assumed as an ultimate fact, insufficiently traced to any remote springs of national character. When it first bursts upon us, in the return of the Heraclidæ, it is already strongly marked, energetic, ominous, or rather productive of revolution and convulsion; and from that hour to the last of Grecian liberty, it was the hinge of all their politics. It was to them alone all that has ever been included in patrician and plebeian, Guelph and Ghibbeline, catholic and protestant, roundhead and cavalier, and whatever other names have prevailed in other nations, with or without any other principle, than that which leads men to quarrel, when honors and profits are few, and candidates many.
In treating the original sources of the culture of the Greeks, the author has made fine remarks on their religion, and on the colonists from Egypt and Phenicia ; the one as the source of the indigenous, and the other of the borrowed improvements, in the period which transpired before a new political organization was formed, original, peculiar, healthy, competent to the production of great works and great characters. Though Mr Heeren does not dwell to much extent on the interesting subject of the mysteries, yet from his brief remarks, it would appear that he regards them, in what has ever appeared to us the most reasonable light, that of representations of those arts of civilized life, which prevailed at the periods, at which the mysteries were severally instituted, and designed at first as festivals, in honor of the divinity more immediately connected with the arts or improvements in question. There can be little doubt, that the Bacchic and Eleusinian mysteries had a primitive connexion with the introduction of the culture of the vine and of wheat ; nor that the oracle of Dodona, among the oaks of Epirus, had its origin in the periods, when those oaks afforded the sustenance of the rude mountaineers, who consulted the god beneath their shade. These, however, are speculations into which Mr Heeren does not enter, and from which such of our readers as may have fallen into the hands of Gibelin or Dupuis will be glad to escape, even at the risk of running into the unnatural refinements of the Warburtonian school.
The heroic age of Greece and the Trojan war form the subject of the next chapter. In hinting at the analogy of the heroic age of Greece, and the age of chivalry in modern Europe, we are satisfied that Mr Heeren has made a suggestion, capable of being pursued to the greatest advantage. As we read of the heroic ages in their great record, the poems of Homer, we are apt to regard it only as a pleasing fiction, and not even always entitled to that epithet. The poetical attributes of the heroes, their manners, their exploits, their characters, by turns extravagant, ridiculous, marvellous, in all the gradations of the romantic, fabulous, insipid, and revolting, are apt to disgust us, to the extent, that we deny all reality to an original of which this is the delineation. But we learn to think more soberly and charitably of Grecian heroes and their conflicts with wild beasts, their predatory excursions, piratical expeditions, multitudinous wooings, their contests and intercourse with gods, the rudeness of their language and barbarity of their manners, when we look into Tasso and Ariosto. Possessing contemporary and authentic accounts of the age of chivalry, we are not left to these last poems for all our information relative to the period, in which their action is laid. But supposing all other documents had perished, that Ariosto and Tasso were the only sources of our information of the age of chivalry, or the age immediately preceding, it is quite plain that as fabulous an air would hang over those ages, as over the heroic ages of Greece. They would have been found open to the objections resting of course on everything avowedly marvellous; and even doubts would have arisen in regard to the most unquestioned features of the time. Nothing but authentic historical monuments would be sufficient to make men, at this day, give credit to the traditions of the manners and character of the age of knight errantry. Now of the heroic age of Greece, we know nothing but through the poems of
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Homer and some similar sources. He no doubt gave some scope to his invention, and pretends only to a distant traditionary knowledge of the events he describes.* If then, the main picture, which he gives us of the life and character of the heroes, be different from any form of social existence now known, the analogy of the modern chivalrous times should teach us, at least, a modest skepticism with respect to its reality.
Before quitting this topic we would briefly observe, that a form of social existence, nearer to us in time and place than the chivalrous ages of Europe, might furnish some analogies to illustrate the heroic age of Greece. We allude to the condition of our North American savages. The classical reader needs not too hastily start at a comparison of the heroic fathers of Greece with the natives of our woods. There are some striking points of resemblance in their institutions, manners, and organization. The ascendency acquired by personal prowess, independent of any official rank, the nature of the authority of the chief, the priestly character, the style of hospitality in which the hero slays the animal and cooks the food, the delicacy with which the stranger is feasted before his errand is inquired for, the honor in which thieving is held, and numerous other points will suggest themselves to the curious inquirer, in which the heroic life reappears in our western forests. We cannot here but recal the observation of M. de Talleyrand, in a memoir to the Institute, in which the same conclusion is reached in another way. He observes that in travelling inward from the Atlantic coasts to the west, you pass through those gradations of character, which in the old world are found only by travelling backward in the line of time. We do not think that fruit enough has been gathered from this wise reflection. Ancient history tells us about the aborigines of Greece and Italy; we see the accounts are exaggerated, incredible, fabulous; and we exclude the period, to which they refer, from the range of authentic history. But here in Amerca, we are brought in contact with tribes, from the nature of the case, nearly similar ; and we have no doubt, that a philosophical examination of their peculiarities would reduce within credible limits many of the wild tales of classical antiquity.
* Iliad L. 486.