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he the degree assigned on the critical scale to the poetry Lucan left behind, he was himself a poet of the very first order, a sovereign genius, a most sublime enthusiast, whose blemishes are all deducible from a defect too easily removed, that of being very young, a writer whom some have not scrupled to prefer to Virgil CO, and who would possibly have really surpassed Virgil, had he been allowed time to chasten the brilliancy of his fancy. His daring genius and incredible assiduity ( for, although cut off scarce in his twenty-seventh year he left above ten literary works), the irony of his dedication to Nero , and the intrepidity which, in such a court of slaves and under such a ferocious tyrant, engaged him to pronounce a panegyric upon freedom ( the cause to which he at last made the libation of his blood), the memory of his Uncle,
and the manner of both their murders, one
a Sage bleeding to death amid his secretaries, the other a juvenile poet expiring slowly while reciting the beautiful verses which he had long previously composed on a wounded soldier whose vital stream
was, like his own , ebbing eaque illi suprema
vox fuit (*>: almost every circumstance about Lu« can's fate conspires to insure him our tender regard. Yet according to the Berlin Critics ' he was little better than a demon, and his Muse was truly infernal: the Pharsalia being an invective
\t) Andre*, Letteratura T. a. p. i»6—J». (») Taciti Ana. Lib. Ml Gap. 70.
against absolute power, and even praising the regicide Brutus (O.'Now, as to preferring a Republic to a military despotism, I do think it is superfluous to defend either Lucan , or his admirer, Dante. M. Merian might possibly have meant to imitate the banter of the dedication of the Pharsalia, and to praise the sentiments which he appears to condemn: but this can be perceptible to his intimate friends alone, whereas the generous aim of the philosopher s nephew could scarcely have been dubious to any but those totally unworthy of perceiving it; besides which, no military master of the last century can be compared for a moment with the murderer of Brittanicus. So that in this Case also (of concealed encomium) it would have become M. Merian to have testified less violence in speaking of one, whom he secretly revered and to whom he must have been conscious of being inferior in even political courage. As to the fall of Ctcsar, it were sufficent for me to remark that those who blame Lucan's sentiments on that head, can have no reason to complain of Dante; for he severely condemns Brutus and Gassius, as we shall find: although he did not consider this difference of opinion to he a ground for denying the young author of the Pharsalia his poetical pre eminence.
la truth both as to the slaying of Caesar and to the conduct of Brutus, there was, is, and will be a pardonable diversity of judgment amongst the best men . Even allowing the perpetual Dictator to have been the noblest Character of all antiquity, he was the immediate destroyer of the established Constitution of his native land: and whoever believes that that constitution might have still survived, may think that (as a traitor only the more dangerous from being seemingly virtuous) he was avowedly guilty of an offence always held capital; that it was an aggravation of his offence, if he had so terrified or corrupted the lawful Magistrates that the laws, though not extinct, were silent; and infine that if he lived in acknowledged defiance of law, and had rendered justice so powerless, that she was evidently unable to put her sentence against him in execution by her usual Officers and ordinary means, the right of executing it by any possible means devolved upon every citizen , as in the case of a fearful outlaw. That precisely Brutus should have been that executioner, against his benefactor, perhaps his father, will to most people appear an infringement of the first of laws, the law of Nature. But those, who can without horror commemorate the tremendous equity of the elder Brutus,may remark that his descendent bore a name which bound him to the most splendid sacrifices; that the freedom acquired at such a bloody price by his family had a peculiar claim.
m» ro I*.
on him; that if he had consulted his feelings, he would have betrayed his cause; that to have openly broken with the Dictator, after having in vain laboured to convert him, would have been to render the subversion of tyranny totally impracticable, whether by himself, or others; that no other Roman arm could be expected to strike for liberty, if his did not; and that that dearly purchased liberty was clearly at its crisis, to revive then, or never. But, whatever may be thought of his action in itself, the purity of his motives is less questionable; so that to him most fairly may be applied the
verses directed to his ancestor 'Unhappy
Chieftain! Whatever be the decision of Posterity as to the morality of thy deed, noble were the aspirations of thy bosom, inflamed by love of Country and inextinguishable thirst of praise!' Infelix! utcumque ferent ea facta Minores, Vincet amor patriae laudumque immensa cupido (0.
• Loftiest poet!' ( altissimo poeta ) was the title by which Virgil was announced; who now tells us that that title, though only intoned once at his entrance by a loud solitary voice (la voce sola), was not for him alone, but also for the other four, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan who honour
him and do well, since in honouring him they honour their common art and themselves.
The Quarterly Review asserts preremptorily, against universal opinion, that this eagle is not
Homer, but Virgil; a violence to the text above
my comprehension (0. By what straining logic can Homer be called one of the pupils ( la bella scuola ) of Virgil? Dante had already called Homer 'the sovereign poet;' which agrees well with this phrase of his'out-soaring all others like an eagle.' That altissimo was applied in a preceding verse to
(i) No. Jh.ii. p. 5ia. The whole passage is remarkable. To understand Homer here is a vulgar error, and to think Dante kuew Homer in Greek is a mistake: yet the first is assertion without a single reason given, and the second contradicts history, and is built on a false quotation. For firstly, it says one Pindar's Latin translation of the Iliad was well known in Italy even previous to Dante, whereas I have cited his own words affirming that Homer was never translated into Latin ( Hell, Comment, Canto in.p. i90); so that even supposing Pindar's translation not quite fabulous (which it may well be), it was at least a treasure unknown to the most learned man in Italy: and secondly, it represents Dante as speaking of ' two Latin translations ' of Aristotle; whereas there is nothing about Latin in the original —the words being simply two translations; la sua scntenza non si truova cotale nell' una traslazione come nell' altra . Convito, p i00. He is so far from saying they were both in Latin, that it is probable one of them was the Arabic version of Averroes, -—a book then much in vogue in Italy; indeed so much so, that S. Thomas Aquinas suspecting its infidelity got over a few Greek copies of Aristotle from Greece. They were the first known in modern Italy (Gradenigo, Lett. Greco-Ital.): so considering their scarcity, for they were imported only some years previous to Dante's time, and the dearness and scarcity of all M. S. S., and his wanderings and poverty, it is no proof of his utter ignorance of Greek that he bad 1i0 Greek Aristotle in bis possession • , •' > • ' ,