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kindly guidance of his blind steps, and his venerable figure is described as placed in a silver-studded chair, beside the pillar on which his lyre is suspended * In another passage allusion is made to the bard being received as a wanderer, and to his being certain, at all times, of an hospitality which was considered as his due, and not as eleemosynary. His profession is distinctly spoken of as one entitled to public support, like that of the physician, the architect, and soothsayer
The prophet, and the healer of disease,
Are dearly prized. The active spirit of the Greeks appears, from the Homeric draught of their manners, to have been much addicted to travelling; and of all members of society the bard had the most agreeable motives for being a traveller, in the security of his being welcomed wherever he went in his love of novelty and in his thirst of knowledge. It is to this circumstance that we are probably indebted for the deep acquaintance with human nature and manners which so much enchants us in the works of Homer. He must have been an extensive traveller, and a poet of the people. Had it been otherwise, and had he been a mere retainer of a Prince's court, his poetry would have assumed a stiff, inflated, and servile air. In that case we should not have enjoyed such endearing traits of homely description, as that of the old stone bank on which Neleus sat before his mansion, or of the feelings of Ulysses on discerning the smoke of his native rooft.
Odyss. vii. 385. † The day of quarrelling with Homer's simplicity is now gone by. But it is not an hundred years since what was called Criticism derided his simplicity. It is Lord Chesterfield (I think), or some judge equally competent, who compares Achilles's reproaches of Agamemnon to the language of that place where (as Addison says) “They sell the best fish, and speak the plainest English.”—Lamotte's (a French critic) observations on Homer are still more amusing. “We see not,” he says, “ in the Biad, either a crowd of staff-officers around Agamemnon, or a garde de corpsAgamemnon dresses himself (it was lucky that powdering and shaving were not yet in fashion)—and Achilles with his own hand cooks and spreads a repast for the deputies of the army.”-One might have helped the Frenchman to better instances of what he calls Homer's grossierté, such as a Princess Royal washing and bleaching the family linen. Perhaps the grossest of all simplicities occurs at the table of Alcinous : the poet Demodochus at that table could be in no want of food, yet Ulysses sends him by the herald, a plate of fat pork, as a compliment in return for the pleasure he had received from hearing his poetry. It was exactly as if a modern Prince had condescended to honour a poet at table by inviting him to drink a glass of wine.Many other grossiertés could have been picked out of Homer; but one instance was as good as twenty to a critic who could propose to accominodate Agamemnon with 2 valet de chambre, or Achilles with a maitre d'hotel.
The bardic profession could not have commenced with Homer, who describes it as thus distinct and popular; for, even if an individual could create an art, it requires a succession of artists to form a profession. At the same time, whilst we must suppose that there were poems in Greece anterior to the Iliad and Odyssey, it is impossible, though we may guess at their subjects, to determine what those poems were, and by whom they were composed.
Homer has recorded only three poets *_Thamyris, Phemius, and Demodochus, no relics of whom are pretended to be known; and the two last appear to be names of fancy rather than of tradition. He has no where mentioned either Orpheus 7 or Musæus; and his silence respecting them, though not a proof, is something like a presumption, against the idea of their poetical existence having preceded his own. But works nominally ascribed to those two bards are still extant; and to judge by Mons. de Sales, a French academicians, there is still å belief in the nineteenth century, that we possess the authentic poetry of Orpheus the Argonaut, and of Musæus, the son of Eumolpus and the Moon. Mons. de Sales, with a great deal more modesty than Stevens's auctioneer, who sold heads “warranted antediluvian,” carries his biographical minuteness only a little farther back than the siege of Troy. He assures us that Orpheus captivated the clergy of Egypt by his affable manners, and that he lost his wife in consequence of teasing her with assiduities when she ought to have been left to solitude and repose. He proves that Orpheus was the son of a king, because he has told us so himself in his Argonautics; and talks of Musæus, his poetical descendant, as well known by his “ fine poem” of Hero and Leander. Unfortunately this fine poem appears to have come into the world about 1600 years later than Mons. de Sales had imagined; and the Argonautics is also a comparatively modern poem, making mention of countries with which the Argonauts had probably the same acquaintance as with Botany Bay.
Yet, though nobody but Monsieur de Sales believes the poems of Orpheus, as we have them, to be as old as the golden Heece, yet men deserving graver notice have deemed them the
* There is a passage in the Iliad where the name of Linus has been supposed by some to be alluded to; but Heyne and other critics of the first authority, reject this idea, and understand the word Aivov to mean simply a chord.
+ Homer mentions Amphion, but not as a poet; and says nothing of his building a city by the power of song.
Histoire d'Homère et d'Orphé, Paris, 1808.
refabricated relics of an ante-Homeric poet*. Orpheus, as a bard and founder of mysteries, is frequently mentioned by the ancients t. Pindar calls him the father of poetry #; and Plato quotes from works that were certainly current in his age, under the names of Orpheus and Musæus. Matthew Gesner therefore supposes that the Athenian Onomacritus, a contemporary of Xerxes, renovated the Orphic poetry from a more ancient dialect, interpolating and abridging it, as he owns, but by no means absolutely forging it.
Certainly, though Homer has been silent about him, an anteHomeric Orpheus may have existed, and Thrace looks like the probable country of a primitive poet and mystagogue. For the mystic poetry of the ancients, according to Strabo, had many traces of Thracian origin, and the Thamyris of Homer was from that country. The tomb of Orpheus was shewn in Greece, and was honoured by the beautiful fiction, that the nightingales in the branches around it excelled all others in sweetness of song. But there was nevertheless an evidently divided opinion among the ancients respecting the authenticity and extreme antiquity of the Orphic works. Cicero imputes them to Cercops, a disciple of Pythagoras. Pindarion, as quoted by Sextus Empiricus ||, makes Onomacritus their fabricator, and declares it the fixed opinion cf his time that Greece had no ante-Homeric poetry. But these are comparatively modern sceptics. Cicero says that Aristotle doubted if such a poet as Orpheus had ever existed ; and the Stagyrite speaks doubtingly of“ the so called poems of Orpheus and Museus.” To go to the fountain-head of history, Herodotus declares his belief, that all the poets given out as older than Homer were of more recent date.**
It has been conceived, however, by very sensible inquirers, that the name of Orpheus, though possibly fabulous, may still represent some real poet who communicated in songs the holy symbols and mysterious secrets of doctrines more pure and ancient than the theology of Homer-doctrines originating in the Asiatic ancestry of the Greeks, or brought less directly from Egypt, that
may have been even dim recollections of Divine revelation. Yet I cannot help suspecting that the quantum of poetry, which could have come down to the age of written literature in
Gesneri Prolegomena Orphica. Rhunkenius also pronounced the Orphic poetry very old, though, with an ambiguity passing all understanding, he allowed at the same time, that it might be of the Alexandrian school.-Vide Herinann's Orphica, p. 680.
# By Euripides, Med. 543. Iphig. in Aulide, 1711. In Rhes. 943. By Aristophanes, Ran. 1064.
popuiktas áo18ây ratnp.—Pind. Pythic. iv. 13. § Gesperi Prolegomena Orphica. || Sextus Empiricus 'adv. Mathematic. Cicero de Nat. Deor. i. 36.
** Herodotus, Euterpe, 53.
Greece from such an ante-Homeric poet, must be at most only a conjectural something, like a mathematical point without definable form or magnitude. At whatever time the Greek mysteries were founded, Homer is silent respecting them; but at the commencement of the republican era in Greece they certainly received a new impulse and enlargement, from the rise of philosophy, and Orpheus was the great poetical authority held out for mystic doctrines and institutions. The connexion between philosophy and mysticism could not, from the nature of the former, be permanent; but, undoubtedly, there was a connexion between them at an early period in Greece. The institutions of Orpheus and Pythagoras, we are told by Herodotus, were the same. Now, admitting that this circumstance arose from both Orpheus and Pythagoras having drawn mystic doctrines in common from Egypt, yet it is impossible not to suspect that a teacher and reformer such as Pythagoras was, would blend such doctrines with philosophical conceptions of his own. St. Clemens says, that the Greek mysteries were founded by philosophers. Early Philosophy at this period might, no doubt, conceal sublime principles under the veil of secrecy and mystic fraternities. But still she allied herself intimately with priestcraft, and externally, at least, with orgies and mummery; and where these existed, fraud could not be long absent. The veil of mysticism was alike favourable to a visionary and an innovating spirit; and as the metaphysics of an Argonaut could not have been a perfect prototype of the Pythagorean philosophy, the name of Orpheus was likely to be used as a cloak for many new ideas. In the later period of Greek literature, the name of Orpheus has been undoubtedly made an heir-loom of forgery, and it probably was so from the beginning.
Great and good as Pythagoras was, more than one of his scholars is accused of having fabricated Orphic poetry; and the blame being divided, only shews that there were partners in the concern. Onomacritus appears as an old and eminent name in the business. Gesner asserts, that he could not have forged all that he gave out to be Orphic. Of his inability to forge, I know of no proof, except his having been once detected in the fact. But that he had often succeeded, in spite of this one detection, we are helped to guess by Pausanias's frequently rejecting things attributed to Orpheus, as the fabrications of Onomacritus. Of his general modesty and uprightness of character we are pretty well assured by Herodotus, who gives a short but pithy account of him t. He was a priest and a vender of oracles; who was banished from Athens by Hipparchus, for fraudulently pretend
* Herodotus, Euterpe, 81.
+ Herodot. Polymnia, 6.
ing to have found in Musæus a prophecy, that some of the Greek islands were to be swallowed up in the ocean. His banishment was probably more for spreading public alarm, than for executing literary fraud. However this may be, we afterwards find him at the court of Xerxes, spiriting up the Persian monarch to the invasion of Greece. The great king, it seems, had scruples about the undertaking ; but Onomacritus plied him with ancient prophecies, which he made so favourable to the barbarians, as to leave no doubt in his majesty's mind, that he should settle the peace of Europe, by seizing on the figs and demolishing the liberties of Athens. If Onomacritus then was a first or main re-publisher of the Orphic poetry, it could scarcely have come through more suspicious hands, nor can better requisites for an extensive forger be well imagined, than those that meet us in the character of this traitor, renegado, parasite, and salesman of old oracles.
As to the extant Orphic poetry, it is, in fact, not the work of one man, nor of one age; and is not believed by the best judges to be by any means so old as the age of Xerxes. The Hymns are allowed to be the oldest, though even they bear some marks which argue against extreme antiquity. No one can suppose them, as a body, to be the same with those which Pausanias says were sung by the Eumolpidæ in the Eleusinian mysteries; for he tells us that these were inconsiderable in number, and ours amount to eighty-five. But it is possible that they may have preserved a wreck of the forms and expressions of Eleusinian worship. The work entitled the Argonautics is pronounced, by the best judges, to belong to the Alexandrian school; and the Lithica, or poem on stones, which mentions substances unknown in Europe in the age of Pliny, betrays itself, by its mineralogy, to have been written probably as late as the reign of the Emperor Commodus.
The Iliad and Odyssey have no vestige of either religious or philosophical mysticism. Not but that many Greek philosophers pretended to spiritualize their meaning, and to discover refined doctrines, profoundly hid under the veil of their fiction. But the experiment would not succeed. Homer may have some allegory, but his general character is remote from the allegoric, and the reverse of the mystic. This was apparent to other philosophers, such as Pythagoras, Xenophanes, and Heraclitus, who openly taxed him with couching impious fables under his beautiful verses. Hence philosophy, as she grew up in Greece, was complimented by a part of her admirers, as the true daughter of Homeric poetry, whilst, by others, she was flattered as too wise and goodly a personage to have sprung from so old, so ignorant, and so irreligious a parent. Upon the whole, however, the philosophers kept on good terms with the public, by speaking