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and all. There is no doubt that Boethius brings us nearer to the Augustan age than any other Latin for three hundred years. To take his prose first. For all its affectation and excess of ornament,—I am here concerned with the 'Consolation' alone—it is temperate and simple in comparison with the bombast of Cassiodorus, which, in its turn, is infinitely preferable to the intolerable effusions of Ennodius. And yet these writers were reputed models of style, and on them fell the burden of the correspondence and literature of the court; while even Priscian, the famous Byzantine grammarian, betrays a strange unfamiliarity with good Latin.

If, then, we bear in mind how the intellectual vigour of the Latin race had been drained by three centuries of internal strife and corruption and deadly struggle with the barbarian; if we take into consideration the influence wrought by theological controversy, with its incessant demands for fresh terms with which to express thoughts that no writer of the golden age could ever have entertained—we shall be ready to forgive Boethius his occasional aberrations from the style of Cicero.

Obbarius has sagaciously remarked 1 that most of the expressions which offend an ear accustomed to

1 Op.cit., Proleg., i. 21.

the language of the Augustan period can be traced back to prae-classical authors. This tendency is not by any means peculiar to late Latin writers. A certain pedantry and archaic affectation is one of the commonest characteristics of every unspontaneous literature and art, and often follows as a natural reaction from the over-refinement and prejudice of a classical age. When we come to Boethius's verses, we feel at once that we are standing on surer ground. He displays an exceptional ingenuity and versatility in the employment of the various metres which he presses into the service of his Muse, and writes elegiacs, hexameters, asclepiads, Sapphics, hendecasyllabics, and iambics, with equal address and correctness. His skill in this province of literature won the warm admiration of critics as fastidious as Casaubon and Julius Caesar Scaliger, the latter of whom declared “quae libuit ludere in poesi, divina sane sunt ; nihil illis cultius, nihil gravius, neque densitas sententiarum venerem, neque acumen abstulit candorem. Equidem censeo paucos cum illo comparari posse.” I do not suppose that the modern reader will be prepared to give an unqualified assent to this opinion of the great scholar of the Renaissance. But on the other hand, he will surely not be so unfair to our poet as to say with Sitzmann that there is hardly a verse in Boethius that does not seem to have been taken from Seneca. Boethius has borrowed freely from Nero's tutor, as Peiper's index at the end of his edition of the 'Consolation' testifies; nor indeed did he fail to lay Ovid and Horace, Virgil and Juvenal, under contribution when it suited him. But while he does not scruple to appropriate words and phrases, and sometimes whole passages, from the 'Medea,' from the 'Hippolytus,' from the ' Hercules Furens'and the 'CEtseus'—in fact, from nearly every one of Seneca's plays in turn—he generally manages to give them the impress of his own genius, and his imitation is hardly of a kind to justify the old German's hasty generalisation. He sometimes shows a terseness and a brevity which are absent from the work of the older poet. Take, for instance, the fifth metrum of the second book ("Felix nimium prior setas "), and compare with it the descriptions of the former age in the 'Medea' (301 seqq.), the 'Hippolytus' (524 seqq.), and the 'Octavia' (390 seqq.),1 where for the same idea that Boethius expresses in thirty lines Seneca employs seventy or eighty.

1 Poetices liber vi.

It is worthy of notice that the obligation of

1 I quote from Famabius's edition of the tragedies (London, 1624).

Boethius to his forerunners is most apparent in his treatment of mythological subjects; while in the metra of a purely philosophical character, such as iii. 9 and 11; v. 3 and 4, he owes nothing to any Latin poet. These at any rate show that he was quite able to walk alone. But there is a class of critic that takes a singular delight in running down similarities of expression in this and that artist. It should always be remembered that, as Mr Eussell Lowell wisely says, the question of originality is not one of form but of substance; and that the greatest poets—Chaucer, Shakespeare, Moliere—have been the most unblushing borrowers. Plagiarism, after all, is only blameworthy and in the nature of a crime, when the loan is not repaid with interest— when the imitation falls of the original; and a writer who can put a new dress on an old thought, though he may not lay claim to originality nor rise to true greatness, will always command the applause and gratitude of his fellow-men.



Authoritics. — Friederich Nitzsch, "Das System des Boethius. Berlin, 1860. A. Hildebrand, ‘Boethius und seine Stellung zum Christenthume.' Regensburg, 1885.


A THINKER of Boethius's mould and circumstances could not fail to be eclectic; and his philosophical system is a mixture of Platonism (both in its ori- 6 ginal form and as Proclus and Plotinus taught it), Aristotelianism, and Stoicism. To begin with the influence exercised on him by the Attic philosopher, we see that his conception of God is purely Platonic. X To be sure, we seem to trace the teaching of Chris-X tianity in his treatment of some of the divine qualities—for instance, God's prescience in relation

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