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with tolerable respect of Homer and of poetry at large. Even Plato, when he supposes a poet to visit his republic, proposes to dismiss him with ointment on his hair, a crown upon his head, and a flattering apology-perhaps as likely to suit poetical taste, as an invitation to stay in so demure a commonwealth; and one which, in all probability, satisfied Homer himself, if his soul took any concern in the affairs of Plato's Republic.

But though the Homeric poems were not made for sects, but for the universe, and though they are the earliest unequivocal documents of Greek genius, yet neither is their era exactly ascertained, nor the history of their author known, from his cradle to his grave. The ancients consulted oracles about his birthplace, but disbelieved them when they pretended to fix it. The most received opinion, however, is that he was of Ionia : as his descriptions of winds and countries often agree with the face of nature, when looked at from that quarter; whilst they would be false and strange if taken at Argos or Athens.

The idea of one author having composed either of the two great poems that pass under Homer's name has been violently controverted in recent times, and a general scepticism has been diffused on this subject by the learning of Wolfe and Heyné. Those great men have had antagonists, it is true; but none that were worthy Αντίβιον μαχέσασθαι εν αινη δηϊοτητι, till our own countryman, Payne Knight*, vindicated the Iliad and Odyssey from the imputation of having been patched into beauty and unity by a crowd of equivocal rhapsodists.

The old and ordinary opinion respecting Homer rests on the double argument, of the consent of antiquity, and of the harmonious design apparent in the Homeric poems themselves. On the latter grounds, a mind strongly susceptible of poetry may, possibly, build more assurance to itself, than it may be able to communicate to others. For the perception of harmonious grandeur, in a poem, is a matter of taste more than demonstration. And persons of the highest philological authority, in the question, may sometimes be the most dead to this species of evidence. Mere erudition will no more ensure the power of appreciating harmonious poetical design, than botanical skill will enable obtuse senses to enjoy the flavour of a fruit, or the smell of a flower.

The epics of Homer are said to have been first brought to the Peloponnesus, by Lycurgus. At the Panathenæan festivals,

Mr. Knight is so far a dissenter from the old opinion, that he conceives the Iliad and Odyssey to contain internal marks of separate authors; and he admits that both have many interpolations. But the admission of both of those two suppositions is a very different innovation on our accustomed ideas, from supposing such a work as the Iliad to have been a work of medley production and fortuitous design.

they were sung in disordered and detached parts, till, according to one account, Solon, according to another, Hipparchus, and according to a third, Pisistratus, ordered the rhapsodists, one succeeding another, to sing them in regular order. The words of Cicero, to which Professor Wolfe attaches so much importance, are, that “ Pisistratus is said to have first disposed the books of Homer, which were formerly confused, into the order in which we now possess them.” If this passage really established that the Athenian copy of Homer was the oldest in existence, it is very singular that it should have never been inquired after by the founders of the Alexandrian library. They sent to Sinope, to Massilia, and to the extremities of Asia and Europe, for other copies. They extorted from Athens, at an enormous price, the MSS. of her tragic poetry. But, for this imaginary first edition of Homer, not a demand was made, nor a coin offered. There is nothing however in Cicero's expression of confusas antea which either means or proves that the Iliad and Odyssey, though the rhapsodists might repeat them confusedly, came in incoherent scraps from the genius that produced them. Thucydides says nothing of Greece having owed any such obligation to the Pisistratidæ, as that of having first cast the Homeric fragments into one mighty mould. Aristotle praises Homer himself, and no one else, for the artful structure and disposition of parts in his epic poetry. Herodotus, a native of the country where Homer's poetry was first found, and who lived in the next age after the expulsion of the Pisistratidæ, never mentions the scattered rhapsodies of the Iliad and Odyssey, but describes them as poems anciently and absolutely entire. In seeking for better lights than these primitive authorities, learning only seems to be turning a telescope upon utter darkness, through which she can discern no more than the vulgar eye.

How long Homer's writings were preserved in a state of oral tradition, no one can pretend to determine. At the same time it is but fair to admit, whatever arguments may be drawn from the admission, that there is no appearance of the knowledge of writing in his works. At the making of treaties, a little wool was pulled from the slaughtered lamb, but it was not in those days that its skin was yet made into parchments for recording them. The metals were engraved, but not coined. The tomb of the warrior appears without an epitaph. Had the use of letters been familiar, Homer, who delights in describing processes of art, would certainly have sent an epistle from Ulysses to his spouse; and Minerva would have taken special care of its orthography and sealing.

Hence the possibility of one man having composed either the Iliad or Odyssey has been pronounced by some to be incredible. But let us beware of deciding on this point by our own habits of memory. Our powers of recollection constantly lean on books, even at school, where we are best disciplined into remembering them. In after-life, we seek for general ideas in excursive reading. On the whole, the faculty of memory is, with us, like a servant iil trained, and accustomed to little confidence—awkward when put to the test, and apt to be treacherous when over-trusted. Yet astonishing powers of recollection are attested, even in ages acquainted with books. Xenophon* records, that there were persons in his time who had the whole Iliad and Odyssey by heart. What the human memory can retain of another's composition, it might certainly recollect of its own; and this would be much more likely to be the case in the age of Homer than of Xenophon. Let us imagine all the circumstances of the age operating on such a being as the bard is described by Homer in the heroic times : his inspiration ascribed to the Gods; his calling held by men more honourable than even that of the soothsayer, and the averter of death and disease; his sole business in life to meditate, noon, night, and morning, on those strains that were to render him the favourite of kings and the idol of the people, and to hoard them in a mind undistracted by other pursuits, as the support of his ambition and existence. If we consider these circumstances, we shall hardly believe that a man of genius could be prevented from composing the Homeric works, in a period unacquainted with writing, from the necessary weakness of the human memory.

The supposition, that one genius could have composed them, and found an audience to remember their sequency, is at least as easily admissible, as that the Iliad should have been a medley composition of many poets. For inspiration is a solitary creative spirit, and it is not to knots and groups, or accidental fabricators, that she has ever intrusted those great conceptions, in poetry or painting, or in any of the fine arts, that have commanded the permanent homage of mankind.

The Trojan expedition appears to have had an influence on ancient Greece in many respects similar to that of the Crusades on modern Europe; and as the latter event supplied materials for the romancers, so the former must have given a grand impulse to the spirit of Greek heroic poetry. Dispersed as the strains of romance are over various languages, and fraught with the characteristics of different ages and countries, it is difficult to compare them closely with those of Homer. But it needs only a slight insight into both to be struck by the high superiority of the Greek imitations of life, in point of distinctness and an air

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of reality. It is true, that chivalry gave human character some noble peculiarities unknown to the antique time. Though the Hellenic chief might have as much cultivated brain under his helmet as the Crusader, and though he appears upon the whole to have been a more eloquent and sagacious being, yet the heart of the knight affected a degree of courtesy, love, honour, and devotion, to which his ancient prototype made no pretensions. The later ages of Chivalry also furnished in her tilts and tournaments, and in the gorgeous cathedrals where her votaries were consecrated, more imposing subjects for description than any games, or sacrifices, or temples that are mentioned by Homer. Even the war-field of the Iliad is without a trumpet, or a standard, to heighten its pomp and circumstance,which is the more remarkable because wind-instruments are mentioned, though never as employed in animating troops. The heroic leader is extolled as “good at the shout;" and when Homer leads the Greeks into the Troade, he depends for martial effect on his spirited similes, and on the description of phalanxes blazing in armour, and marching in silence that was only broken by the voices of their chiefs and the sound of the earth under their tread.

Yet still Homer found in his heroic age'a world by no means of desolate simplicity: on the contrary, its manners display the germs of multifarious civilization. Amidst all the turbulence and insecurity of life there is a mixture of peaceful as well as warlike pursuits. Commerce appears as well as agriculture. Ingenious arts that were not practised by the nobles, were nevertheless held in high estimation; and it is mentioned of a hero who falls in battle, that his father was renowned for his skill in shipbuilding. It matters not how imperfect the arts might be, to the fact of their mere existence having had a happy influence on the poetry of Homer.* Infantine and rude as they are, they give relief to his scenes of heroic homicide-they remove his simplicity from savage monotony, and they point our associations agreeably to an interest in popular happiness and familiar life.

Whatever traits of moral or physical culture the poet found,

This subject puts me in mind of a letter with which Mr. Bowles did me the honour of publicly addressing me, in which he says, among other things, that Homer never mentions a bridge. But if gepuga means a bridge, Mr. B. will recollect an instance in a simile of the 5th Niad.

ποταμώ πλήθοντι έoικώς, ,

Χειμάρρω, όστ' ώκα φέων εκέδασσε γεφύρας.-1. 87, 88. When the book in which I dissented from Mr. Bowles's theory of criticism, comes to a second edition, I shall have a good deal to say to my reverend friend. I have not misrepresented him as he imagines. But I have no leisure to write pamphlets about him.

he evidently dwells on them with fondness; and where these are absent, his unsophisticated traits of the human heart, together with the antiquity of his pictures, gives them a charm that we should exchange with reluctance for the representations of a more intellectual state of society. Even the redundance of his diction and description seems so much a part of the overflowing fulness of his mind, that we should no more wish him to be succinct than we should desire to see the shores of the Missisippi trimmed into neatness.

The virtues of Greek heroism are rude in comparison with some of those which chivalry professed and even practised. But the high aspirations of chivalry had all some natural origin in the human breast; and a poet who knew man so well as Homer, and who found him raised above the torpor of barbarism, could not fail to exhibit all the elements, even of chivalrous virtue. Accordingly Hector's delicacy to Helen is the same which a Bayard or a Sidney would have shewn in similar circumstances; and he reproves even his recreant brother with a generous lenity. His combat with Ajax is conducted with mutual magnanimity. We have no challenges, it is true, about the beauty of mistresses; and the word love, in our genuinely romantic meaning, does not meet us in Homer. Nevertheless, the very fathers of Troy speak with a gallant sensibility of Helen's beauty --the scenes of conjugal affection are superlatively beautiful, and the situation of women appears in the lliad to be much more free and honourable than we afterwards find in the height of Attic refinement. In short, we meet in Homer's heroism with all the natural flowers of human virtue, whatever chivalrous cultivation might have afterwards added to their lustre and perfume.

But the effects of chivalry were by no means unmixed : it raised certain sentiments to a factitious magnitude at the expense of others, and its institutions tended, on the whole, to give a formal, hyperbolical, and monotonous cast to human character. Accordingly the personages of romantic fiction have little individuality; and when we have one accomplished knight errant, we may form a tolerable conception of the whole brotherhood. Their virtues are exaggerated, and require but a slight additional touch of exaggeration to convert them into caricature. Whereas Homer, in the ideal of poetry, retains the express image of man, and minutely observes his moral lineaments and proportions, whilst he enlarges heroism above the size of life. Amidst the boldest fables, all his men and women are natural, probable, and strongly discriminated individuals. They are varied as if by chance, yet all harmonizing with the spirit of the age, collectively represent its world of moral character.

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