Imágenes de páginas

Mantua, and he promises to build a temple on the lake through which the slow and reedy Mincius takes its wandering course.* He praises the fertility of the soil, and asserts that Italy is superior to the richest parts of Asia. But this assertion is made, not with regard to the beauties of its scenery,、 but the usefulness of its productions, and its freedom from noxious animals.

• Not however that the elegant poet was insensible to the charms of Nature; for, in perhaps the most highly finished and admirable passage which all antiquity can furnish, he has given the reins to his fancy in the praise of the country and of a country life. But in this delicious and glowing description, it is observable that no part of the scenery which he apostrophizes by name belongs to his own country. It is all Grecian;t his fields, his mountains, his rivers, and his woods are all found in Thessaly, Laconia, and Thrace.

Horace is so far like Virgil, that neither does he derive his ideas of rural beauty from the country of which he was a native; but, unlike him in other respects, gives the palm to some parts of Italy over

* See Georg. II. v. 136, &c. and Georg. III. 13. The exactness of the poet's description is admirable. The Mincius slowly winding through a flat rich country forms a lake at Mantua; there he promises to build his temple, propter aquam, which ought to be rendered near the lake; a nicety passed over, I believe, by his commentators and translators.

Georg. II. v. 486, et seq.

O ubi Campi
Sperchiusque, et virginibus Vacchata Lacanis
Taygeta! O qui me gelidis in vallibus Hæmi
Sistat, et ingenti ramorum protegat umbrâ!

all the rest of the world. In particular, he prefers it to the most admired scenery of Greece, even by name, in the strongest terms. In his ode to Plancus (Lib. I. Ode 7), he tells him that he shall leave to others the office of celebrating the beauties both of art and nature to be found in Greece; for that neither Laconia itself* (which country was expressly included in Virgil's praises) nor even the boasted vale of Tempe was equal in his estimation to the scenery round Tibur; in which neighbourhood his own villa was seated. Upon the same principle we find the poet earnestly wishing at another time (Lib. II. Ode 6) that he may pass the evening of his days at Tibur, and that if this prayer be denied him, he may be allowed to settle in the soft and genial climate of Tarentum, in the south-east of Italy.

This difference of opinion, or taste, in two poets, contemporaries and friends, is very striking. To which the Emperor gave his suffrage, who loved them both, and (1 am sorry to add) was flattered by both, it would now be useless to inquire; but it is curious to observe in how different a light the same objects appear to minds of perhaps equal powers, of equally cultivated understandings, and having an equal taste for the enchanting scenery which abounds in both those countries.

Admirable indeed is the variety of the

powers of

*Tum patiens Lacedæmon cannot refer to the city, because that could be no object of comparison with the groves and rivers of * Tibur. Larissa was seated on the river, Peneus, which also ran through the vale of Tempe; and, no doubt, is to be understood as referring to that valley which inight well be compared to Tibur, though the fertile Larissa in the strict and literal sense could not.

[ocr errors]

Nature, and their influence on the minds of men
and the different manner in which they affect dif
ferent dispositions, so that what is to one a beauty,
to another appears a deformity, is not one of the
least instances of the bounty of Providence towards
us. Extensive as their variety seems in combination,
the works of Nature (like every thing that is truly
great) are simple. Water, hill, plain, and wood,
form all her materials; but these are subdivided,
modelled, classed, and mixed together, in so many
forms of beauty, as to prove to a well regulated
mind one of the purest as well as highest sources
of innocent intellectual pleasure.


N°. IV. On the state best adapted to human hap-
"Vitam quæ faciunt beatiorem,
Jucundissime Martialis, hæc sunt;
Res non parta labore, sed relicta;
Non ingratus ager; focus perennis ;
Lis nunquam, toga rara; mens quieta ;
Vires ingenua, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas; pares amici;
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa :
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis ;
Non tristis torus, attamen pudicus;
Somnus qui faciat breves tenebras ;
Quod sis, esse velis, nihilque malis ;
Summum nec metuas diem, nec optes."


Translation by Cowley.

"Since, dearest friend, 'tis your desire to see A true receipt of happiness from me;

[ocr errors]

These are the chief ingredients, if not all:
Take an estate neither too great, nor small,
Which quantum sufficit the doctors call.
Let this estate from parents' care descend;
The getting it too much of life does spend.
Take such a ground, whose gratitude may be
A fair encouragement for industrie;
Let constant fires the Winter's fury tame;

And let thy kitchen be a vestal flame.
Thee to the town let never suit at law,
And rarely, very rarely, business draw.
Thy active mind in equal temper keep,
In undisturbed peace, yet not in sleep.
Let exercise a vigorous health maintain,
Without which all the composition's vain.
In the same weight prudence and innocence take,
And of each does the just mixture make.
But a few friendships wear, and let them be
By nature and by fortune fit for thee.
Instead of art and luxury in food,

Let mirth and freedom make thy table good;
If any cares into the day time creep,

At night, without wine's opium, let them sleep.
Let rest, which Nature does to darkness wed,
And not lust, recommend to thee thy bed;
Be satisfied, and pleased, with what thou art;
Act chearfully and well the allotted part;
Enjoy the present hour, be thankful for the past,
And neither fear, nor wish the approaches of the last.”

I have often and deeply reflected how far this state of existence is in right of itself capable of happiness; and what are the circumstances which afford the best chance of attaining it; and I am



firmly convinced that the description given by Martial of the ingredients most conducive to it, is founded not merely in the dreams of a poet's fancy, but in solid and unalterable truth.

The great difficulty is the concurrence of the ingredient, which is least likely to be combined with the rest, but without which all the rest are vain :

"Quod sis, esse velis; nihilque malis."

Unless a man knows how to value such a lot; unless he is thoroughly aware of the emptiness or the perplexities of wealth, and grandeur, and rank, and power; as long as he is dazzled by show, or sighs after distinction, the moderate pleasures within his reach will appear insipid and dull.

To see so large a portion of mankind pass by, unheeded, the very exquisite enjoyments, which offer themselves to their embrace, in pursuit of the most delusive phantoms, which they are seeking at the expence of ease, virtue, health, fortune, and reputation, is indeed amongst the most deplorable proofs of our fallen nature. To rise of a morning with a head unburthened with perplexing business, and a heart unclouded with care; to behold, as the sun pierces through the mistiness of the dawn, the scenes of nature opening before us in dewy brilliance; to be at liberty to wander uncontrouled amid this beautiful landscape, and, while exercise strengthens and braces the body, to inhale freshness and exquisite odours, and exhilarating spirits from the pure airs of heaven, is not mere negative happiness, but rapture and enchantment! From hence to return home, even to a straw-roofed cot

« AnteriorContinuar »