Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of the first rank. Although one may find it difficult to agree with the numerous praises lavished on the elegies by Mr. Paley, to whom nearly every second one is exquisite, pathetic, or graceful; although one may admit even that four-fifths of the elegies are uninteresting from want of connexion, paucity of sentiment, and sameness of subject, there is left a noble residue that indeed redeems the author. It may fairly be doubted whether there are in the whole of Latin literature three poems which are of the same length and at the same time equal in merit to those three immortal elegies in the fifth book, the Vision of Cynthia, the Feast with the two girls on the Esquiline, and the Elegy on Cornelia. Can anything be more pathetic than the words in which the shade of the unfortunate courtesan intercedes with her old lover for her servants, and entreats him to burn the poems he had written in her praise.

Nutrix in tremulis ne quid desideret annis

Parthenie: patuit, nec tibi avara fuit.
Deliciaeque meae Latris cui nomen ab usu est

Ne speculum dominae porrigat illa novae.
Et quoscumque meo fecisti nomine versus

Ure mihi: laudes desine habere meas. The effect of ure mihi is inexpressible. If Mr. Paley had paused to call attention to the pathos of this passage, no one would have quarrelled with him. There is a ghastly reality and minuteness in the way in which Propertius dwells upon the funeral rites of Cynthia, which makes this poem unique, and which appears to me more than anything else to testify to the reality and long abiding nature of the passion, which allowed his mind to dwell morbidly upon subjects from which most men would shrink.

A strong contrast to the Vision is the Feast with the two girls. In this poem the descriptive powers of the poet are seen at their highest, from vs. 20-70. Cynthia had gone to Lanuvium with a rival of the poet in his dogcart, and Propertius determined to revenge himself.

Cum fieret nostro totiens iniuria lecto

Mutato volui castra movere toro. Accordingly he invites two merry girls to sup with him. The description of the banquet that follows is inimitable : the light summer service of glass, the dry Greek wine, Phyllis playing on the castanets, to which a dancing dwarf kept time—all the materials for mirth and enjoyment were there. But the poet's heart was heavy. Everything was wrong The lamps went out. The table was upset. The poet tried for an omen by dice, and invariably threw aces. The charms of Phyllis and her companion were thrown away. The secret cause of it all at last comes out: he was thinking of his faithless Cynthia at Lanuvium.

Cantabant surdo nudabant pectora caeco :

Lanuvii ad portas, hei mihi, solus eram. The famous elegy on Cornelia has from first to last a sustained grandeur that well corresponds with the high birth and character of the matron whose stately Roman virtues it is written to celebrate. It is generally considered to be the masterpiece of the poet's genius:' I myself prefer the Vision.

The above three poems are sufficient to entitle Propertius to a place in the highest rank of poets. Passages of equal beauty are not to be expected often : and there are not many more at all approaching them in the poems of Propertius. But Propertius is never mean. His own estimate of his poetry is accurately true:

Me quoque non humilem mirabere saepe poetam.

In all his writings there is dignity of language at the least, and all his poems may be read with pleasure if only on account of the sounding grandeur of his diction in individual lines. Take for instance the following line taken almost at random :

Nunc, O Bacche, tuis humiles advolvimur aris.

or this couplet,

Cerne ducem, modo qui fremitu complevit inani
Actia damnatis aequora militibus.

or this,

Milanion nullos fugiendo, Tulle, labores

Saevitiam durae contudit Iasidos.

or the fine line, quoted by Merivale, with others, to prove that Propertius alone knew how to handle the Latin pentameter:

Viximus insignes inter utramque facem.

All these are specimens of vigour in the mere construction of this verse, which is only attained in an equal degree by one other ancient author, Juvenal.

PLATO'S OBLIGATIONS TO THE IONIC AND ELEATIC

SCHOOLS. By THOMAS MAGUIRE, LL. D., University of Dublin; Professor of Latin, Queen's College, Galway.

THE following paper is not offered as a history of the praePlatonic philosophy; it merely points out the elements which Plato worked into his own system, and for which he was indebted to the Ionic and Eleatic Schools.

THALES, the father of Greek Philosophy, derived the sensible universe from water. Everything drew its origin from water, and into water everything was finally resolved. But Thales was no materialist; while water was the primordial material, mind was the primordial agent which gave shape to the liquid mass, the entire extent of which was pervaded by the plastic mind. Mind however did not exist apart from the material on which it worked. We thus find in the very outset of philosophy the two great factors Matter and Form-το άπειρον, το πέρας-but as yet they appear only in the concrete.

To Thales succeeded ANAXIMANDER, who substituted in place of water a more attenuated material. To this primitive essence, which he termed åpxí, he added the property of perpetual motion, so that the sum of the primitive mobility remained the same in bulk, while its inherent motivity kept exhibiting the various sensible qualities. The primitive essence possessed the accident of infinitude ärelpov. But this term, which appears for the first time in philosophy, represented rather the inexhaustibleness of the available material than either the mathematical or metaphysical concept. The function of the

· The authorities may all be found in Mullach ; Frag. Gr. Philos. Didot.

versa.

infinite material, which was not actually employed in production, was to enclose the sensible scheme of things. In this scheme he posited as phenomenal antinomies Heat and Cold, Dryness and Moisture. The view that these antinomies exist merely as phenomena without reaching back to ultimate essence is the theory which elicits the praise of the veteran Parmenides in the dialogue so-called. For this view and the notion ảoxí—something which precedes but which is not preceded by anything in questionPlato is indebted to Anaximander. But, by making formative activity an inherent property of matter, Anaximander originated philosophical atheism. The law of parsimony rejects a creator, as matter in its own infinitude and by its own activity does all the work.

Anaximander was succeeded by ANAXIMENES, for the greater definiteness of his conceptions shows that he improved on the metaphysics of Anaximander and not vice

His primordial material was air; air was infinite i. e. infinite in quantity; and infinity was the logical essence of being. Here, for the first time, we meet with infinity, ärelpov, in its strict mathematical application to modes of quantity. The process of thought which construed air as infinite is obvious to any one who understands the argument for the infinity of space; and air, is popularly the symbol of vacuity. But this infinite air although boundless in its essence or substance, was yet, according to Anaximenes, determinate in its qualities or manifestations. We here find the indefinite element and the definite things, το άπειρον and τα πεπερασμένα, familiar to the student of the Philebus.

According to HERACLITUS, the primordial material was fire. Fire by its modifications originated sensible bodies according to a progressive scale of densities in a certain direction. And these sensible bodies were resolved into fire by a movement in the contrary direction. In the concrete language of Heraclitus, “the road up and the road down is one and the same." According to this system,

« AnteriorContinuar »