Imágenes de páginas

érkaouévwv, or that of Pausanius, viii. 16: kai és katao keùmv περίβλεπτος την πασαν. So great a city as Halicarnassus must have possessed various sculptures of different degrees of excellence, and it would be absurd to suppose that those of the mausoleum are the only ones which have remained. Pausanias would not have bestowed this unqualified praise on an inferior work after describing the frieze of the Parthenon.

In this famous mausoleum we trace an Egyptian type: it was surmounted by a pyramid placed on a colonade, which was inseparable from the Egyptian sepulchral monuments of kings, for we belong to the party which maintains the pyramids to have been purely places of sepulture, and not observatories or temples. We assign these sculptures, then, to the fourth period B.c. 331. Mr. Vaux resumes :

" The fourth period extends from the time of Alexander the Great to the destruction of Corinth. The character of its art is a witness to the state of society during this period, which exhibits a decadence in harmony with the decay of freedom in the formerly republican States. Herein is well shown how in the earlier times art was in intimate communion with the system and the religion of the State. When these decayed, and extrinsic influences became intrinsic, art, though still surviving in a few great minds, ceased to be the product of the people. The schools of art which flourished during this period exhibit a perpetual striving after effect, which ancient critics particularly remarked in the productions of the Rhodian and Sicyonian schools.”

The Romans in ancient art strongly resembled their degenerate followers of the present day—in other words, they were buffoni. Rome possessed no tragic drama, and even their comic theatre consisted in translations or adaptations from the Greek, as witness Terence and Plautus. There being no gravity in action, little could be expected in verse. Horace adapted and copied with a master-hand the levity of the Greek lyric poets, but he could hardly be said to have translated. Virgil's “ Æneid” on the contrary is not merely a very tiresome and monotonous adaptation—a servile imitation—nay, oftentimes a literal translation, of the “Iliad” and “ Odyssey," though few are bold enough to state thus broadly the opinion we here venture. That the “ Æneid ” was the best epic of the Romans may be doubted: for it must be remembered that it was written in an age of adulation and flattery for the purpose of pleasing the vanity of a despotic prince and of proving an imaginary pedigree. A national vanity was, moreover, involved; for it was pleasing to the supposed descendants of the Trojans to believe that the day of retribution had come for the Greeks, the vanquishers of their putative ancestors at Troy. Had Virgil chosen another subject for his “Æneid” we probably should have heard little of this insipid poem, as little of his versified treatise on agriculture, and less of his namby-pamby pastoral common-place impossibilities: nay, we should laugh at them, as contemporaries did at the “ Pastorals” of the Petit Trianon, where la noblesse masqueraded as shepherds in silk breeches and stockings, with shepherdesses to match in brocade, tended lambs first duly washed in soap and water, decked with cordons bleux, and gave themselves up to most unpastoral incontinence in the formal park of Versailles. Sculpture and painting are practical poetry, and in these we see the true bias of the people. There is none of that divine majesty in the Roman sculpture inseparable from the most imperfect Greek: there is, moreover, a coarseness about it unpleasing to the eye, and it is even probable that most of the better Roman statues were cut by Greek artists settled in Rome, who, in an age of decline at home, adapted their work to the taste of their employers.

The best statues passing for Roman were, doubtless, copies of renowned original Greek statues, or the originals themselves transported to Rome. Of those belonging to different epochs and of different degrees of merit an immense number are to be found in the Townley collection. Mr. Vaux gives engravings of the best which enable the visitor to select what is really worth his trouble and attention:

“ To distinguish the fifth and last division of ancient art from those which have been already described, it may be called the Roman period -a nomenclature which will serve to show that, though the sculptures and other monuments were often the workmanship of Greek artists, yet that they were due to Roman influence and furnished to supply Roman wants. The Romans, unlike their half-brothers the Greeks, had no inherent love of art, and little creative genius. On the other hand, as collectors, they have never had their equals, and a taste for magnificence prevailed at the commencement of the empire which despised doing things by halves. The last days of the Republic had seen the first real beginning of artistic knowledge at Rome; and the magnificent views of Augustus and his immediate successors led to the erection of edifices in which the masterpieces of Grecian art were collected and preserved. Hence arose the manufactures of new statues by Greek sculptors for imperial masters, chiefly, if not always, copies of celebrated early Greek works. Of these the Museum possess a considerable number of the best statues in the Townley collection, being, as we shall see hereafter, copies of Greek works in Roman times. The age of Hadrian is remarkable for a partial revival of ancient Greek art, arising almost entirely from the personal influence of that emperor.”

The statuaries of medieval Italy certainly surpassed their classical predecessors under the protection of the family of Medici, and many of these sculptures are worthy to be placed beside those of the most celebrated Greek artists. It is true they cannot lay claim to the originality of the former: still it is seldom that a revived art attains such perfection. A renaissance has always the inherent faults and defects of a renaissance, yet few have been so successful as this revival of ancient art.

We now quit Mr. Vaux with regret, and trust that the second work of this classically critic author will meet with the success it deserves, and which so eminently attended bis first labours on the fields of the more remote antiquity of Nineveh. Our limits compel us to pass over his chapter on the bronzes, and we refer the reader to the original, for we are really in a dilemma as to an extract; but we are forgetting that our readers will be still more so, as we learn that the present edition is already exhausted--a far more practical testimonial of its merit than any which we can bear. The impatient reader—if we have succeeded, indeed, in rousing his curiosity—must even wait until the second edition has left the hands of the printer; for it will certainly not be the fault of this indefatigable author if the public have to tarry long. Mr. Falkener, too, has resolved to prepare a second volume for the press, having well nigh abandoned the enterprize from the support he received being insufficient to cover the outlay of a work so beautifully executed. Scholars ought not to allow Mr. Falkener's work to fall to the ground for want of a guinea.

ART. IV.-A ITistory of Classical Literature. By R. W.

BROWNE, M.A. In Two Volumes. London: 1851.

CLASSICAL literature has long needed an historian equal to the undertaking; but the men were few who could venture upon it. Few were equal to it--few ever had the attainments that would justify their attempting it—and fewer still were the scholars who, with each passing year, continued to add to the knowledge they originally acquired on this often abstruse, and yet always delightful, subject. Much of the information that was given to our fathers was fast becoming antiquated and stale: it was very novel to them, and very useful undoubtedly, but of less and less value every year to ourselves. Hume's “ History of England” was all very well in its day; but

aditions applied. sequence and

it little contents us now. The researches and investigations that are going on continuously on all subjects—the tens of thousands of intellects of a high order that are unceasingly employed in looking out for new and useful facts on all matters connected with art and science-are evidences sufficient that the human mind is ill at ease at the present time in doing nothing; that the age is too stirring, too exacting, too enquiring, to allow of any branch of human knowledge to remain altogether unnoticed and uncared for; and that the end, if not the object, of all this incessant activity and intense mental application, is to benefit and improve mankind both corporeally and intellectually. So marvellous are the acquisitions that are now yearly made, in all branches of human knowledge, that a publication of ten years since is, on some matters, too old to be either useful or amusing; and works new altogether, or new editions of old favourites, with multiplied corrections and additions, are now always in demand, as they are in general liberally supplied.

History, in consequence and in like manner, needs on all subjects to be occasionally re-written, and on nothing more, at the present time, than ancient literature. So many of late years have wandered into its fair fields and have culled of its flowers—so many have dug into its mines and have discovered of its hid treasures, and so widely dispersed are the notices of these matters of so little worth are they disjointly and so valuable collectively—that that scholar renders good service to his generation who collects together all these scattered fragments and detached stores, and combines and arranges them with that judgment and skill which will enable the general reader to understand distinctly the actual state of literature in its best days among the Greeks and Romans.

What this was, it is the object of the volumes before us, with brevity and clearness, to explain; and, availing himself of the vast labours of others of late years upon the subject, and of the successful researches that have been prosecuted by many profound thinkers and able reasoners, the author has here made known to us all that is to this present day discovered. Nothing has escaped his observation-nothing has eluded his research; and having arranged his heaps of materials with consummate skill-put every subject into its proper placegiven to each its due importance-he has most compactly framed together, and most artistically finished, the intellectual history of the most intellectual people of ancient times.

A more difficult undertaking than this, or one requiring more tact, more scholarship, more close and clear reasoning,


llectively the listie widely alignes as

more method, or more perfect knowledge of all the numerous details of this most complicated subject, it would not be easy to name. The main object of such a work would necessarily be to make it generally useful-universally acceptable; and this it could only be by being perfectly correct in itself, and simply, clearly, yet elegantly written, and in a style that whoever read it could understand it. The result of the author's labour is, that a book is produced which the soundest Greek scholars will derive no little pleasure in reading, and from which those who know but little else of the Greek poets and historians than their names will obtain the fullest information of the intellectual vigour and attainments of the most talented and remarkable people the world ever contained within it. Every one amongst us may now, in consequence, know what the mind of the Greek nation, in ancient times, was; what their oratory and their poetry; and why, as philosophers and historians, they were so renowned in their own day and are so admired in ours. On a subject so vast, embracing within it so many topics and comprising within it the historical, philosophical, and poetical works of so many men, so eminent, and of so great influence in their several states and generations, fuller information could scarcely be given than is here produced; and to compress this information within reasonable and readable limits was a work of no little difficulty we should judge, and which could not certainly have been accomplished but by a mind that had mastered the whole subject completely, and that could apportion out to every part its precisely just measure of description and observation.

A remarkable peculiarity in the literature of Greece is, that, ages before the Greeks became a nation, a Greek poem appeared, an epic poem, of which there are but few in the whole circle of the world's literature, and this superior to them all. Thousands of years have passed away since Homer lived, but there has been no second Homer! Many centuries passed before even Virgil appeared, and many again before Dante, Tasso, and Milton wrote their also immortal poems. Yet, marvellous as these are, still Homer remains unapproached by any, and will be, as it would seem, unapproachable to the end of time. But although the earliest species of literature is poetry, yet, until the time of Homer, there is no evidence of the actual existence of Greek poetic literature. Bards there had been, or were reported to have been such as Orpheus, Eumolpus, Thamyris, Musæus, Chrysothemis, Philammon, Olen, and some others; but their history is as fable, and must be looked for in the Greek mythology. They.

« AnteriorContinuar »