« AnteriorContinuar »
has betrayed his ignorance of the nature of ancient poetry, and of the character of Orpheus. “ In the early ages of the Grecian state, the wild and barbarous inhabitants wanted the assistance of the Muses to soften and tame them. They stood in need of being impressed with an awe of superior and irresistible powers, and a liking to social life. They wanted a mythology to lead them by fear and dread, the only holds to be taken of a rude multitude, into a feeling of natural causes, and their influence upon our lives and actions. The wise and good among the antients saw this necessity and supplied it; the oldest of the inspired train were the Pii Vates, et Phæbo digna locuti: they had religion for their theme, and the service of mankind for their song*. And in another place the same author observes, that all the
* Blackwall's Enquiry into the Life, &c. of Homer,
poems of Orpheus were philosophical, prophetical, and religious *.” The conduct therefore of Apollonius was perfectly just, in attributing a song to Orpheus, the subject of which was philosophy and religion. And it was for the same reason that f Onomacritus, many years before Apollonius, represented Orpheus singing the origin of the gods, and the creation of things, in his contest with Chiron.
But the propriety of the subject of this song in Apollonius is easily to be defended, without considering the character of Orpheus. The occasion of the song was a general quarrel among the Argonauts, whom Orpheus endeavours to pacify with the united powers of music and verse. On which account, says the scholiast,
« Την πρωην συγχσία
των σοιχειων αδειν βουλείαι, ως εκ τινο φιλονεικίας το ιδιον έκαςον μελεσχεν, και ταξιν ελαζεν. Οικεια δε και τους υποκειμενους πραύμασιν ή ωδη. Οι εςι της μαχης ααυσασθαι, και εις την οικειαν διαθεσιν επανιεναι."-Το this we may add, that a song whose subject is also religious, and which asserts the right Jupiter to the possession of Olympus, was here not only proper, but even expedient, as one of the Argonauts had but just before blasphemed Jupiter* Nor were the auditors of this song altogether of so mean a condition as Scaliger insinuates. He terms them Viri Militares ; but it is to be remembered that they were Princes and Demigods.
But whether the subject of the song of Orpheus in Apollonius be blameable or not, it has one essential circumstance, which indisputably gives it a superiority to that of Orpheus in Valerius Flaccus; I mean the design of it, which was to repress the vehe
L. i. v. 466.
mence of the passions : a design at once so agreeable to the peculiar character of Orpheus, and so expressive of the influence of music. In the Latin poet, Orpheus sings upon no occasion, and to no end, unless it be to that general one of entertainment, and of making the night pass more pleasantly,
Thracius hic noctem dulci testudine vates
Milton in the following verses alludes both to Apollonius and Onomacritus, in their respective songs of Orpheus.
Tunc de more sedens festa ad convivia vates
* Argon. b. 1. v. 277.
Silvestres decet isté choros, non Orphea, cantus;
Silius Italicus alludes to the contest of Chiron with Orpheus, as related by Onomacritus. In describing the miraculous force of the music of Orpheus, he has plainly translated from the Greek poet; particularly in this circumstance.
Οιωνου τ' εκυκλανίο βοαυλια Κενταυροιο
Avesque circumdederunt stabula Centauri,
The verses of Silius Italicus are these.
Immemor et dulcis nidi, positoque volatu,
Ad Patrem. V. 44.