« AnteriorContinuar »
navigable then, or at any time, even for the smallest craft, (that they should have carried their vessel, a considerable space, over land, to convey it from one water to another. This, certainly, is no unusual thing in Ames rica, where there are a number of carrying places, which interyene in the course of navigations; and where the native Indians carry their canoes over land. The vessels used by the early navigators of Greece, though much larger than canoes, were very small; and it was usual, with those first mariners, when they encountered storms, to make to land, and draw their vessels on shore; a proof, that they must have been but light, and of small dimen-sions. It is certain, from all accounts, that the vessel, in which the Argonauts navigated, was not very large; it was barely sufficient, to contain from fifty to fifty-four persons; for such do the best accounts make the number of these adventurers. One of the Argonautic writers says, that Hercules was left behind, because he was too bulky and heavy for the Argo. Apollonius says, that Hercules was placed in the centre, together with Ancaus, that the vessel might be properly trimmed, by their weight. These relations combined, serve to show, . that the vessel in question, must have been very small. It was also without deck or cabin; for Orpheus, in his Argonautics, relates, that the Argonauts hung the Golden: Fleece, together with their shields and armour, to form a sort of enclosure, or closet, that Medea and Jason might enjoy the society of each other, in private. All this tends to show, that the idea of the Argonauts carrying their vessel over land, is not quite so wild, as may at first sight appear, to those who consider the Argo, in the light of a large ship of war.. The poet selates, that it was actually carried over land, in Lybia. If we suppose, that it was actually carried over land, in other places, not particularly mentioned by the poet,
as well as in Lybia; we may be able to reconcile the accounts of Apollonius, by the help of the theory already laid down, to possibility, if not to truth and probability. At least, the violation of credibility will be diminished, in the eyes of the critical reader.
Such a fiction, in downright opposition to truth, with respect to the site and direction of rivers, is not productive of any great poetical embellishment. - It does not, like those respecting the Sirens, the enchantments of Medea, the fiery bulls, or Talus, open a field for the display of sublime poetical imagination, or picturesque description. No possible advantage occurs, which the poet could have proposed to himself, by disfiguring, in cold blood, the geography of the Argonautic expedition. The reader will easily see, that he might have obtained all the praise and charms of variety, which could result from the bringing home of his heroes, by a new route, without resorting to such a violent expedient. But, supposing Apollonius, as a poet, should wilfully have hazarded such a bold experiment; how happens it, that other writers of the Argonautic story, some of them sober dealers in prose, should agree with him, in the errors of his geography?- Is it not rather to be supposed, that they were all equally misled, by the mistakes of travellers, originating in the causes I have already stated? The remaining part of the geography of Apollonius seems to be more reconcileable to truth, except with respect to the Argonauts having carried their vessel over land, for twelve days and nights together. The poet was himself so fully aware, that such a circumstance must shock probability, that he invokes the muse, to vouch ' for his veracity.--As to the dangers of the Argonauts, in the Syrtes, and their distresses, on the shore, from thirst and hunger; the narrative of the poet is not much removed from strict and sober truth, and fidelity of de
scription. The reader will find considerable lights thrown on this part of our poet's narrative, by the learned and judicious work of Major Rennell, on the geography of Herodotus, from which I have made copious extracts, in the notes on that part of my author, where the subject is introduced.
The reader will find, that nothing improbable, or unusual, happened to the Argonauts, in this place: that they were, at first, in danger of being lost, in the shallows and quicksands of the greater Syrtis, now the gulf of Sydra :-that they landed and hauled their vessel ashore, a proceeding very common with ancient mariners: that they carried their vessel overland (the least probable part of the story):--that they floated the Argo, in the lake of Triton, and found an outlet, which conveyed them out to sea, by a dangerous passage :that is to say, that they past from land, by a certain river, which communicated with the lesser Syrtis, now called the bay or gulf of Cabes.--All these matters are already so fully treated, in the extracts, to which I refer, that I think it unnecessary, to add any thing on the subject, in this place.
Apollonius is so exact and faithful to truth, in most of his narratives, that it strikes us, as a very extraordinary thing, that he should deviate from it, so wantonly and widely, in points of geography. We are as much disappointed, as when we see a man of high character, for probity and truth, detected in a fraud, or falsehood.- We are unwilling to think, that he, who in all other particulars, affected something of historic fidelity, and seemed to draw his materials, from the most genuine and authentic sources, should, in this department, and this alone, launch out at once, without restraint, into the fields of fiction and romance.- We are much disposed, to think, that he worked upon ma
terials, which had been transmitted to him, and followed the relations of early voyagers, somewhat disguised and coloured, by the love of the marvellous, and the spirit of exaggeration, incident to travellers, and other persons, in rude and early periods. Any person, who refers to the legends of Archbishop Turpin, which fill a large folio, and have furnished the ancient poets of chivalry with their materials; will find a memorable proof, of the spirit of disguising true history, with fiction, and the power of credulity, in rude and unlettered ages. But, it is high time, to release the reader, from a subject, on which so little can be advanced with cer. tainty, or even very much appearance of plausibiliiy.
"The Hesperides, and their garden, are so particularly mentioned by Apollonius; that it may not be unpleasing to see some notices, on this curious and romantic subject, more ample and detailed, than could well be comprised, in the compass of a note. I shall not hazard any conjecture of my own. I merely throw together some striking particulars, collected in one view.
According to Palephatus, Hesperus was a rich Milesian, who had established himself in Caria, he had two daughters, called after him the Hesperians. These females possest numerous flocks and herds, called Golden, perhaps, on account of their beauty, perhaps, to intimate the rich produce derived from them. These nymphs (says the same writer) entrusted the care of their focks, to a person named Draco: but Hercules, passing through the country, carried off both the shep. herd and his flock.-Varro, and Servius, the venerable annotator of Virgil, have concurred, in adopting this Datural and simple explication of the fable.
- Other writers change the shepherd of these nymphs into a gardener, and the flocks into certain fruits, called