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Her to Iolcus in her youthful pride
He bore, and there possess'd the charming bride;
To Peleus Thetis, silver-footed dame,
Fair Cytherea, ever flush'd with charms,
Circe, the daughter of the sun, inclined To thee, Ulysses, of a patient mind; Hence Agrius sprung, and hence Latinus came, A valiant hero, and a spotless name. The sacred isles were by the brothers sway'd; And them the Tyrrhenes, men renown'd, obey'd. Calypso with the sage indulged her flame; From them Nausithous and Nausinous came. Thus each immortal fair the Nine record Who deign'd to revel with a mortal lord; In whose illustrious offsprings all might trace The glorious likeness of a godlike race: And now, Olympian maids, harmonious Nine, Daughters of ægis-bearing Jove divine,
In lasting song the immortal dames rehearse; Let the bright belles of earth adorn the verse.
NOTES ON THE THEOGONY.
Ver. 1. I SHALL refer the reader to what I have said in the second and fourth sections of my Discourse on the Writings of Hesiod,' concerning the genuineness of the beginning of this poem, and the explanation of the Theogony. Our author here takes an occasion to celebrate the offices and power of the Muses, and to give a short repetition of the greater deities. To what end is this grand assembly of divine personages introduced? To inspire the poet with thoughts suitable to the dignity of their characters; and by raising his imagination to such a height as to believe they preside over his labours, he becomes the amanuensis of the gods. The Muses (says the Earl of Shaftesbury, in his letter concerning enthusiasm) were so many divine persons in the heathen creed.' The same noble writer has in that discourse elegantly showed the necessity and beauty of enthusiasm in poetry.
Ver. 2. A mountain in Bœotia, so called from the Phoenician word hhalik, or hhalikon, which signifies a high mountain.' Bochart, in his Chan. book i. chap. 16, shows that Boeotia was full of Phoenician names and colonies. Le Clerc. Pausanias, in his Bootics, says, Helicon excels all the mountains in Greece, in the abundance and virtues of the trees which grow on it. He likewise tells us it produces no lethiferous herbs or roots.
Ver. 5. Grævius and Le Clerc both agree in this reading, and derive toɛds from adoç 18, having the dusky colour of iron; they likewise bring instances from Homer, and other poets, of the same word being used to the sea, rivers, and fountains; by which epithet, say they, they expressed the depth and plenty of the water.
Ver. 8. Pausanias, and Tzetzes after him, reads it Termessus; but this may proceed from their ignorance of the radix, which, says Le Clerc, is the Phoenician word pheer-metso; the interpretation of which is a pure fountain.' The river is at the foot of Helicon.
Ver. 9. The Phoenician word, says Bochart, is happhigran, which signifies the eruption of a fountain: the word being corrupted into Hippocrene, gave rise to the story of the fountain of the horse. Le Clerc.
Ver. 10. The Phoenician word is hhol-maio, sweet water. Le Clerc.
Ver. 12. The historical and physical interpretation of the deities here mentioned, I shall defer till I come to them in the course of the Theogony.
Ver. 22. Some translate this passage nigris oculis, and Le Clerc chooses blandis: I would correct them, and have it arched or bending. Tzetzes entirely favours my interpretation of ελио¤λεapov, eyebrows arched into a circle: a metaphor taken, says he, εκ των της αμπελό ελικόν, from the curling of the vine.
Ver. 33. This extravagance in our poet has been the subject of satire to some; but Lucian has been the most severe in his dialogue betwixt
himself and Hesiod. Ovid has an allusion to this passage in the beginning of his Art of Love; which Dryden has thus translated:
Nor Clio, nor her sisters, have I seen,
This flight, however extravagant it may seem to some, certainly adds a grace to the poem ; and whoever consults the nineteenth ode of the second book, and the fourth of the third book of Horace, will find this sort of enthusiasm carried to a great height.
Ver. 46. The poet here, from the mouth of the Muse, prepares the reader for what he is to expeet. Though he proposes to give an historical and physical relation of the generation of the gods, according to the received opinion; yet supplies from invention are necessary to make the work agreeable as a poem.
Ver. 50. Le Clerc has a long note on this verse, from Claud. Salmasius, proving the rhapsodists to be so called άño т8 qacd8, from singing with a bough in their hands, in imitation of the ancient poets: which bough was of laurel: but why of laurel before any other? The scholiast Tzetzes gave two very good reasons: first, (says he) the poet makes the sceptre, which he received from the Muses, of laurel; because Helicon, the place on which they presented it, abounds with that tree; secondly, as the laurel is ever green, it is the most proper emblem of works of genius, which never fade.'
Ver. 59. Exactly the same is the flight in the fourth ode of the third book of Horace:
an me ludit amabilis
Insania? Audire et videor pios
Quos et aquæ subeunt, et auræ !
The sense of which, in short, is this: Am I agreeably deluded, while I seem to wander through poetic scenes!' And again,
Quo me, Bacche, rapis tui
Plenum! Quæ in nemora, aut quos, agor in specus,
Lib. iii. Od. 25.
It is worth observing, that the best poets are generally most poetical in their invocations, or in other parts, where a deity is introduced; for then they seem to be overpowered with the inspiration; but here the fine imagination, and exalted genius, are most required, that, while fancy takes her full stretch in fiction, it may seem the real numinis afflatus.
Ver. 68. Le Clerc judiciously observes, that the poets frequently make inanimate beings affected, or with joy or grief, when there is reason for either; that it may be said, even inanimate beings are moved. This, I think, is a boldness seldom practised but by the best poets, and most frequently among the ancients. We find it with as much success as any where in the poetical parts of the Old Testament.
'The valleys shall stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing.' Psalm lvi. ver. 14.
εξέλασσε δε γαια πελώρη, Γήθησαν δε βαθος ποντος.
The wide earth laugh'd, and the deep sea rejoiced.
Tibi rident æquora ponti.
To thee the waters of the ocean smile.