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Nor must it be inferred that the heroic age of Greece is too much degraded by the comparison ; for though we maintain that the heroic age was an age of barbarism, yet barbarism, like civilization, has its degrees. They are not themselves different degrees of the same thing. There appears to be an essential difference between them, which makes the highest point of barbarism a very different thing from a low degree of civilization. Nations, who must be called barbarous, like the Mexicans, have carried some human improvements to a point unknown in some civilized countries, and yet the peasant in civilized countries possesses some points of superiority over any hero of the Iliad, or Inca of Peru. Though we think, therefore, the heroic life in Greece will bear a comparison with the life of our Northern American savages, inasmuch as both fall under the class of barbarous ; yet the Agamemnons and Hectors are certainly before the Redjackets and Tecurnsehs; whether they are before the Logans would bear an argument.
Mr Heeren next treats of the Period succeeding the Heroic Age; of the Emigrations from Greece; and the Origin and Character of the republican Forms of Government. Regarding Homer as having lived within this period, a brief discussion succeeds of the subject of his personality, and the effect of the poetry which bears his name, on his countrymen.
Mr Heeren only alludes, and with the greatest impartiality, to those discussions among his neighbors and colleagues in Germany, relative to the authenticity of these renowned poems. This no doubt may be ascribed to the deep share of our author's father in law, the venerable Heyne, in the contest, which this subject excited about thirty years ago in Germany, and to which we have made some allusion, in our review of Mr Heeren's life of Heyne, in an early volume of the former series of this journal. The following observations on the subject, we are persuaded will interest our readers ; the fact mentioned, at the close of the extract, will probably be new to many of them.
Under such circumstances it is intelligible, that when a sublime poetic genius arose among a people so fond of poetry and song as the Ionians always were, the age was favorable to him ; although the elevated creations of his mind must continue to appear wonderful. There are two things, which in modern times appear most
remarkable and difficult of explanation ; how a poet could have first conceived the idea of so extensive a whole, as the Iliad and the Odyssey; and how he could have composed them, how he could have executed works of such extent, and how those works could have been preserved, without the aid of writing.
With regard to the first point, criticism has endeavored to show, and has succeeded in showing, that these poems, especially the Iliad, possess by no means that perfect unity, which they were formerly believed to possess ; that rather many whole pieces have been interpolated or annexed to them; and there hardly exists at present an inquiring scholar, who can persuade himself, that we possess them both in the same state, in which they came from the hands of the poet. But notwithstanding the more or less frequent interpolations, each has but one primary action; which, although it is interrupted by frequent episodes, could hardly have been introduced by any but the original author ; and which does not permit us to consider either of these poems as a mere collection of scattered rhapsodies. It is certainly a gigantic step, to raise epic poetry to the unity of the chief action ; but the idea springs from the very nature of a narration ; and therefore it did not stand in need of a theory, which was foreign to the age; genius was able of itself to take this step. Herodotus did something similar in the department of history.
We find it still more difficult to comprehend how works of this extent could have been planned and executed without the aid of an alphabet, and preserved, probably for a long time, till they were finally saved from perishing by being committed to writing. We will not here repeat at large, what has already been said by others; that a class of singers, devoted exclusively to this business, could easily preserve in memory much more ; that the poems were recited in parts, and therefore needed to be remembered only in parts ; and that even in a later age, when the Homeric poems had already been entrusted to writing, the rhapsodists still knew them so perfectly, (as we must infer from the Son of Plato,) that they could readily recite any passage which was desired. But let us be permitted to call to mind a fact, which has come to light since the modern inquiries respecting Homer, and which proves, that poems of even greater extent than the Iliad and the Odyssey can live in the memory and mouths of a nation. The Dschangariade of the Calmucks is said to surpass the poems of Homer in length, as much as it stands beneath them in merit ;* and yet it exists only
* See on this subject B. Bergmann, Nomadische Streifereyen unter den Kalmycken. B. 2, s. 213, &c. This Calmuck Homer flourished in the last century. He is said to have sung three hundred and sixty cantos; but this
exaggerated. Of the singers, called Dschangartschi, it is not
in the memory of a people, which is not unacquainted with writing. But the songs of a nation are probably the last things, which are committed to writing, for the very reason that they are remembered.' p. 114-116.
The next chapter treats of the Means of preserving the National Character; and the remarks on the Amphictyonic Councils are particularly instructive. The Persian Wars and their Consequences are next in order, and here too the American student of history will find, in his own country, the aptest illustrations of the effect on the Grecian character of their united efforts against the Persian invaders. The war of 1776 is the Trojan war of America; it brought the colonies into united action, and bound them together as members of a whole ; and even the last war with England, however the analogy may fail in other respects, had an effect scarcely less powerful, in concentrating the energy, crushing the parties, and raising the spirit of the people. The political tone, on all sides in this country, was comparatively low till this crisis. The reciprocal disputes about British and French influence cannot now be read, by a highminded American, without a blush. It is since the peace of December, 1814, that the country has begun to raise its crest among the nations; that it is quoted, feared, and courted abroad. We are well persuaded that, in our future annals, when ages shall have illustrated with permanent consequences the bearing and effect of things, the war of 1812 will be found to be the Persian war of our country. What the Persian war was to Greece, is briefly told in the following sentences.
"Thus the people of Hellas, by means of this war, appeared among the nations in the splendor of victory. They were now permitted to look around in tranquil security ; for who would venture to attack them ? The eastern world obeyed the humbled Persian ; in the North, the kingdom of Macedonia had not yet begun its career of conquest; and Italy, still divided into small states, did not as yet contain a victorious republic. The period was therefore come, in which Greece could unfold all its youthful vigor ; poetry and the fine arts put forth their blossoms; the philosophic easy to find one, who knows more than twenty by heart. In the fourth part of his work, Mr Bergmann has given us a translation of one of them, which is about equal in length to a rhapsody of Homer. It thus appears to be no uncommon thing for the Calmuck singers to retain in memory a poem quite as long as the Iliad or Odyssey.
mind contemplate itself in tranquillity; and in public spirit, the several cities vie with each other in generous competition. A nation does not need peace and tranquillity, to become great ; but it needs the consciousness, that it is possessed of strength to gain peace and tranquillity.' p. 149.
The Constitutions of the Grecian States are next discussed. The topic is various, perplexed, and difficult in some points to explain. But Mr Heeren has treated it with great success; and the best read student will rise from the chapter with instruction. The readers of Mitford particularly will feel relieved from some of that melancholy, which his able work inspires, by its dark pictures of the effect of free institutions. The Political Economy of the Greeks, which forms the topic of the tenth chapter, has, since the publication of Mr Heeren's work, been made the subject of a separate treatise of uncommon research, by Professor Boeckh of Berlin.* Still, however, the chapter in Mr Heeren's Reflections will be read with advantage, even by those acquainted with the work of Mr Boeckh. Our limits do not permit us to enter into the discussion of any of the interesting topics brought forward in this chapter. We should, however, like the opinion of the assessors of the city of Boston of the feasableness of the usage hinted at, in the following passage and note appended to it by Mr Heeren.
· Taxes on property are attended with one great difficulty, that they cannot be apportioned out without a knowledge of the fortunes of each contributor. But they depend also more than any other on correctness of moral sentiment, and on public spirit. Where these exist, (and they can nowhere more prevail, than in such civil communities as the Grecian states,) there is no need of returns on the part of those who are to be taxed, nor of any inquisition on the part of the state. Confidence is reposed in the conscience of the contributor ; and examples may be found in history, of states in which even a suspicion of any insincerity was almost unheard of.t In the Grecian cities, at least in Athens, very severe measures were in the later periods made use of against those, who were suspected of concealing the true state of their fortunes, or whom it was desired to vex in that manner. They could be compelled to exchange their property for the sum at which they had estimated it. But in better times, such measures, though perhaps permitted, seem never to have been usual.'
* Die Staatshaushaltung der Athener, vier Bücher von August Boeckh. 2. 8vo.
t'As in several of the late German imperial towns. The author is acquainted with one, in which the contributions were thrown into a box, unexamined; and yet the amount of the whole was previously known, with almost perfect exactness.'
p. 208–209. The Judicial Institutions and the Army and Navy of the Greeks form the subjects of the two succeeding chapters. For those, who would go deeper into the first, which is an intricate subject, Sir William Jones's Isæus will prove a valuable source of information. However justly we may complain of the perplexity, which involves the accounts left us of the Athenian Courts, we venture to say, that a foreigner would sooner obtain a clear idea of their organization, than of the single point of the difference between the courts of Chancery and of law in England. The thirteenth chapter On the Statesmen and Orators of Greece is that, which will be perused with most interest by the general reader. We exclude the remarks to which it might otherwise give occasion, for the sake of gratifying our readers with the character of Demosthenes, as it is contained in the following extract.
Nothing would be more superfluous, than the desire of becoming the eulogist of that master in his art, whom the united voice of so many centuries has declared to be the first ; and whose worth, the only rival whom antiquity placed by his side, has described in a manner at once exact, and equally honorable to both. We would not here speak of Demosthenes the orator, but of Demosthenes the statesman; and of him only as far as the man, the orator, and the statesman were most intimately connected in him. His political principles came from the depths of his soul ; he remained true to his feelings and his convictions, amidst all changes of circumstances and all threatening dangers. Hence he was the most powerful of orators; because with him there was no surrender of his convictions, no partial compromise, in a word, no trace of weak
This is the real essence of his art; everything else was but secondary. And in this how much does he rise above Cicero! And yet who ever suffered more severely than he for his greatness ? Of all political characters, Demosthenes is the most sublime and purest tragic character, with which history is acquainted. When, still trembling with the vehement force of his language, we read his life in Plutarch; when we transfer ourselves into his times and bis situation ; we are carried away by a deeper interest, than can be excited by any hero of the epic muse or of tragedy. From his first appearance, till the moment when he swallows poison in the temple, we see him contending against destiny, which seems