« PoprzedniaDalej »
ing dangers, obtain both peace and years enriched with fruits. With song the gods above are appeased, with song the gods below.
Our ancient swains, stout and happy with a little, after the grain was laid up, regaling in a festival season their bodies and even their minds, patient of hardships through the hope of their ending, with their slaves and faithful wife, the partners of their labors, atoned with a hog [the goddess] Earth, with milk Silvanus, with flowers and wine the genius that reminds us of our short life. Invented by this custom, the Fescennine” licentiousness poured forth its rustic taunts in alternate stanzas ; and this liberty, received down through revolving years, sported pleasingly ; till at length the bitter raillery began to be turned into open rage, and threatening with impunity to stalk through reputable families. They, who suffered from its bloody tooth smarted with the pain; the unhurt likewise were concerned for the common condition : further also, a law and a penaltya: were enacted, which forbade that any one should be stigmatized in lampoon. Through fear of the bastinado, they were reduced to the necessity of changing their manner, and of praising and delighting.
Captive Greece took captive her fierce conqueror, and introduced her arts into rude Latium. Thus fowed off the
22 The peasants of Latium had as little regard to modesty in their di versions, as the Tuscans had in their verses. Fescenina was a town in Etruria, whose inhabitants, in all their public entertainments, and in their marriage festivals especially, were not ashamed of licentious and obscene expressions in the verses pronounced on such occasions. When the Romans began to form their stage, as the Tuscans were famous for dancing, and theatrical representations, a company of them were sent for to Rome in the year 342. They did not speak, because the Romans did not understand their language, but they supplied their want of speech by a kind of dumb declamation. By their dancing, gesture, and movements, regulated by the sound of the flute, they presented every thought and sentiment to the eyes of the spectators. From these beginnings the Roman theater arose. San.
23 This law was thus expressed, “Si occentâssit malum carmen, sive condidi-set, quod infamiam faxit flagitiumque alteri, capital esto.” If any one sing or compose verses injurious to the reputation or honor of another, let him be punished with death. This law was made in 302, which is a proof, gays Mr. Sanadon, that the Romans wrote verses in the first ages of their state. The poets from thence changed their tone for fear of being beaten to death. The punishment was called Fustuari,
rough Saturnian numbers, and delicacy expelled the rank venom : but for a long time there remained, and at this day remain traces of rusticity. For late [the Roman writer] applied his genius to the Grecian pages; and enjoying rest after the Punic wars,““ began to search what useful matter Sophocles, and Thespis, and Æschylus afforded : he tried, too, if he could with dignity translate their works; and succeeded in pleasing himself, being by nature [of a genius) sublime and strong : for he breathes a spirit tragic enough, and dares successfully; but fears a blot, and thinks it disgraceful in his writings.
Comedy is believed to require the least pains, because it fetches its subjects from common life; but the less indulgence it meets with, the more labor it requires. See how Plautusas supports the character of a lover under age, how that of a covetous father, how those of a cheating pimp: how Dossennus exceeds all measure in his voracious parasites ; with how loose a sock he runs over the stage: for he is glad to put the money in his pocket, after this regardless whether his play stand or fall.
Him, whom glory in her airy car has brought upon the
21 In 514, a year after the first Punic war, Livius Andronicus first brought a play divided into acts upon the Roman stage. The republic then enjoyed an universal peace, for the temple of Janus was shut in 519. DAC.
25 Our best interpreters imagine that Horace praises Plautus and Dossennus, and proposes them as examples worthy of our imitation in the beautiful characters in their plays. On the contrary, Horace, better to show the difficulty of succeeding in comedy, is willing to mark some of the faults which the best theatrical poets have committed. Plautus, who succeeded so well in the plots and intrigues of his plays, is very unhappy in his characters, which are generally either too tame, or too much outraged. Dossennus was in great reputation for the morality of his plays, as appears by his epitaph, “Hospes, resiste, et sophiam Dossenni lege;" but his characters were of one unvaried kind, and only fit for the diversion of the crowd. Horace pleasantly marks this negligence by saying, he walked over the stage with his comic slippers loose and untied. HEINSIUS. DAC.
26 Quem tulit ad scenam ventoso gloria curru, exanimat lentus spectator, etc. There is an exquisite spirit of pleasantry in these lines, which hath quite evaporated in the hands of the critics. These have gravely supposed them to come from the person of the poet, and to contain his serious censure of the vanity of poetic fame. Whereas, besides the manifest absurdity of the thing, its inconsistency with what is delivered elsewhere on this subject (A. P. v. 324), where the Greeks are commended as being “præter laudem nullius avari,” absolutely requires us to understand them as “And what then,” says he, "you would have us yield ourselves to the very wind and gust of praise ; and, dropping all inferior considerations, drive away to the expecting stage in the puffed car of vain glory? For what? To be dispirited, or blown up with air, as the capricious spectator shall think fit to enforce or withhold his inspirations. And is this the mighty benefit of your vaunted passion for fame? No; farewell the stage, if the breath of others is that on which the silly bard is to depend for the contraction or enlargement of his dimensions.” HURD.
stage, the careless spectator dispirits, the attentive renders more diligout: 80 slight, so small a matter it is, which overturns or raises a mind covetous of praise! Adieu the ludicrous business [of dramatic writing], if applause denied brings me back meager, bestowed [makes me] full of flesh and spirits.
This too frequently drives away and deters even an adventurous poet? that they who are in number more, in worth and rank inferior, unlearned and foolish, and (if the equestrian order dissents) ready to fall to blows, in the midst of the play, call for either a bear or boxers; for in these the mob delight. Nay, even all the pleasurse of our knights is now transferred from the ear to the uncertain eye, and their vain amusements. The curtains” are kept down for four hours or more, while troops of horse and companies of foot flee over the stage : next is dragged forward the fortune of kings, with their hands bound behind them ; chariots, litters, carriages, ships hurry on; captive ivory, captive Corinth, is borne along. Democritus, if he were on earth, would laugh; whether a panther a different proceeding from an objector; who, as the poet bath very satirically contrived, is left to expose himself in the very terms of his objection. He had just been blaming the venality of the Roman dramatic writers. They had shown themselves more solicitous about filling their pockets, than deserving the reputation of good poets. And, instead of insisting further on the excellence of this latter motive, he stops short, and brings in a bad poet himself to laugh at it.
27 Aulcea. The curtain, in the ancient theater, when the play began, or, upon extraordinary occasions, between the acts, was let down and placed under the stage. Thus they said “tollere aulæa" when the play was done, and “premere aulæa" when it began and the actors appeared. We say just the contrary. FRAN.
23 Ships either in picture, says the old commentator, or drawn along the Tiber, which was not far from Pompey's theater. Dacier thinks, there were subterranean conduits, which poured forth such a sea of water, that a naval combat might be represented on it. Indeed, if we believe the prodigious accounts given by historians of the magnificence and expense of the Roman shows, public entertainments, and triumphs, nothing of this kind can appear incredible to us. However, as the towns in this procession were built of ivory, we may believe the ships were pictures FRAN
genus confused" with the camel, or a white elephant attracted the eye of the crowd. He would view the people more attentively than the sports themselves, as afforcing him more strange sights than the actor : and for the writers, he would think they told their story to a deaf ass. For what voices are able to overbear the din with which our theaters resound ? You would think the groves of Garganus, or the Tuscan Sea, was roaring ; with so great noise are viewed the shows and contrivances, and foreign riches : with which the actor being daubed over, as soon as he appears upon the stage, each right hand encounters with the left. Has he said any thing yet? Nothing at all. What then pleases ? The cloth imitating [the color of] violets, with the dye of Tarentum.
And, that you may not think I enviously praise those kinds of writing which I decline undertaking, when others handle them well: that poet to me seems able to walk upon an extended rope," who with his fictions grieves my soul, enrages, soothes, fills it with false terrors, as an enchanter; and sets me now in Thebes, now in Athens. 3a
But of those too, who had rather trust themselves with a reader, than bear the disdain of an haughty spectator, use a
29 Diversum confusa genus. “ Panthera camelo confusa, divergum tamen ab utroque genus” is the construction. This creature was first shown to the people by Julius Cæsar, as a tame tiger was by Augustus. TORR.
30 The Romans, who were immoderately addicted to spectacles of every kind, had in particular esteem the funambuli, or rope-dancers;
“Ita populus studio stupidus in funambulo
PROL. IN HEOTR. From the admiration of whose tricks the expression “ire per extentum funer" came to denote, proverbially, an uncommon degree of excellence and perfection in any thing. The allusion is here made with much pleasantry, as the poet had just been rallying their fondness for these extraordinary achievements. HURD.
31 Qui pectus inaniter angit. The word inaniter, as well as falsis, applied in the following line to terroribus, would express that wondrous force of dramatic representation, which compels us to take part in feigned adventures and situations, as if they were real; and exercises the passions with the same violence in remote, fancied scenes, as in the present distresses of real life. HURD.
32 We must understand this of different plays, for the Greek and Roman stage by no means allowed that change of scenes which is indulged to an English theater. Argos, Thebes, Athens according to the expression of Torrentius, were the dwelling-houses of tragedy. FRAN.
you would fill with books (the library you have erected], an offering worthy of Apollo, and add an incentive to the poets, that with greater eagerness they may apply to verdant Helicon.
We poets, it is true (that I may hew down my own vineyards), often do ourselves many mischiefs, when we present å work to you while thoughtful or fatigued; when we are pained, if my friend has dared to find fault with one line : when, unasked, we read over again passages already repeated : when we lament that our labors do not appear, and our poems, spun out in a fine thread : when we hope the thing will come to this, that as soon as you are apprised we are penning verses, you will kindly of yourself send for us, and secure us from want, and oblige us to write. But yet it is worth while to know, who shall be the priests*' of your virtue signalized in war and at home, which is not to be trusted to an unworthy poet. A favorite of king Alexander the Greatăwas that Chærilus, who to his uncouth and ill-formed verses owed the many pieces he received of Philip's royal
33 Ædituos. Since the time that Augustus had received divine honors, our poet looked upon his actions as things sacred. His virtue is now become a goddess, and hath a temple consecrated to her, and poets are the guardians of it and of its mysteries. Such is the meaning of Ædituos. FRAN.
34 This praise of Augustus, arising from the comparison of his character with that of Alexander, is extremely fine. It has been observed of the Macedonian, ly his historians and panegyrists, that to the stern virtues of the conqueror, he had joined the softer accomplishments of the virtuoso, in a just discerrment and love of poetry and of the elegant arts. The one was thought clear, from his admiration and study of Homer; and the other, from his famour edict concerning Apelles and Lysippus, could not be denied. Horace finds means to turn both these circumstances in his story to the advantage of his prince.
From his extravagant pay of such a wretched versifier as Charilus, he would insinuate that Alexander's love of the muse was, in fact, but a blind, unintelligent impulse toward glory. And, from his greater skill in the arts of sculpture and of painting than of verse, he represents him as more concerned about the drawing of his figure than the portraiture of his manners and mind. Whereas Augustus, by his liberalities to Varius and Virgil, had discovered the truest taste in the art from which he ex. pected immortality; and, in trusting to that as the chief instrument of his fame, had confessed a prior regard to those mental virtues which are the real ornament of humanity, before that look of terror, and air and attitude of victory, in which the brute violence of Alexander most do .lighted to be shown. HURD.