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The following lines and expressions occur to us as open to criticism :
“ Each strengthening each, and all confirming all."
“ only thought of how to make."
6 Cold accoil;" “ commeasurable strength;” “ mouldering fires;” remote from frequentage;" “ an auriphrygiate mitre.”
We cannot conclude without entering a strong protest against the modern fashion of encumbering a poem with a body of notes, swelled by quotations, which nobody reads, and every body must pay for. It is a heavy tax on the reading part of the community, and we doubt whether it is one which answers in the end even to those who impose it, since it must raise the price of the article so encumbered above the limit, by which a large class of purchasers think it right to bound their literary indulgences.
ART. XIV.-Αισχύλου Προμηθεύς Δεσμωτής. Εschyli Prometheus
Vinctus. Ad Fidem Manuscriptorum emendavit, Notas et Glossurium adjecit Carolus Jacobus Blom field, A. M. Collegii SS. Trinitatis apud Cantabrigienses nuper Socius. Editio Šecunda. 8vo. Londini, Mawman ; Cantabrigiæ, Deighton
1812. Λισχύλου Επτά επί Θήβας. ΑΕschyli Septem contra Thelas. Ad
Fidem Manuscriptorum emendavit, Notas et Glossarium adjecit
Carolus Jucotus Blomfield, A. M. 8vo. Cantabrigiæ, 1812. Airxúrov lepoal. Æschyli Persie. Ad Fidem Manuscriptorum
emenduvit, Notas et Glossarium adjecit Carolus Jacobus Blomfield, A. M. 8vo. Cantabrigiæ, 1814. It is unnecessary to remind our readers of the eminent services conferred by the late Professor Porson on Grecian literature, and of the great loss which the lovers of the ancient classics have sustained by his death. He had accomplished but a small proportion of his edition of Euripides ; enough, however, to raise high expectations of his future labours, and to excite a deep regret that those labours were so prematurely terminated. He was the founder of a school in criticism; and in this view the beneficial influence of his example and authority will long survive him. He banished entirely from the field which he occupied, the dull prosings, the conjectural speculations, and the ingenious triflings of commentators, who were accustomed to think their own lucubrations more interesting than the authors they professed to elucidate, and who not unfrequently rewarded the patience of their readers, by leading them through circuitous passages into final error and confusion.
In the task of editing Euripides, Mr. Porson has been succeeded by Mr. Monk, who succeeded him likewise in the office of Greek Professor, and whose Hippolytus we have already noticed. Æschylus has also fallen into the hands of two scholars of no mean celebrity: Dr. Butler of Shrewsbury has nearly completed an extensive variorum edition; and Mr. Blomfield, who is evidently a disciple of the Porsonian school, has published the first three plays, and is in progress with the remainder. His first edition of the Prometheus appeared in 1810, and was, we believe, the first book printed with the beautiful Greek types cast under Professor Porson's own inspection. The text generally received as the groundwork of this and the other tragedies was that of the Glasgow edition of 1806, which, our readers are aware, was prepared by Porson, though it was printed clandestinely without his name, and without his consent. The accompanying notes are on the plan adopted by the Professor himself in his four plays of Euripides, very short and chiefly employed in stating the various readings, or the grounds of the alterations received. They are “ enriched,” as Mr. Blomfield says, with several copied from the manuscripts of Porson, which are printed in italics, and distinguished with his initials, R. P. that they may be the more easily recognized, amidst the baser matter of ordinary notes. To us, however, we must confess, these MS. notes of Porson appear somewhat jejune and unimportant, very necessary to be preserved, no doubt, for the satisfaction of the scrupulous idolaters of his great name, but constituting a very small proportion indeed of the merits of the present edition, as they are principally occupied in pointing out the citations of different passages by later writers. The printed text of the play is fellowed by a Glossary, exhibiting a collected and well-arranged view of the interpretations given by different grammarians of all the words requiring explanation. This Glossary is an improvement upon Porson's plan, and is calculated to answer all the purposes of a philological commentary.
In 1812 was published a second edition of the Prometheus; and then was supplied, what was obviously needed, an Index to the Glossary, containing a reference to all the words and phrases explained. About the same time also the Septem contra Thebas appeared, published on exactly the same plan with the improved edition of the Prometheus. The Perse, the last play yet published, appeared about the end of 1814. We are waiting in anxious expectation for the remaining dramas of the great Father of Greek tragedy; but in the meantime we shall call the attention of our readers to those already before us.
We consider the proper ultimate end of all the labour, and learning, and investigation employed in the publication of classical authors to be, to render the treasures they contain more easy of access. There must necessarily be much difficulty and abstruseness in the intermediate steps, much research into manuscripts scarcely legible, much patient toil in comparing the established usages of speech, much labour in reducing them, as far as may be, to simplified rules, and still more in eliciting a clear and intelligible text from the jargon of various readings
, and the accumulated blunders of successive editors. But all this is to be done not for any inherent interest or value attached to such labours, but that many may be made wise by the diligence of a few; that ordinary readers may share in the enjoyment produced by the final result; that taste may be assisted by the researches of criticism; and that the treasures of ancient genius may be thrown open to a more enlarged circle of inquirers by an easy and pleasant approach.
For the satisfaction of those who are competent to investigate the point, it is obvious that as there must exist a reason why one reading is right and another wrong, that reason ought to be laid before them. But still an editor's notes should be simple and concise in giving this reason, and detached from all extraneous matter; that the mere reader of taste, with his mind on fire, may not be hampered with investigations belonging only to the critic
, and puzzled with conscientious scruples about dè and YE,
when he looks only for the light of explanation to help him to follow with certainty the march of original genius. The demands of taste have been far too little attended to in the publication of those works, which spread before it the most inspiring enjoyments. Though we need not at every step be reminded in the language of common-place that this is beautiful—that this is sublime; we should be interrupted as little as possible when we are saying all this to ourselves. We require that the collation of MSS. and the promulgation of rules, should not be regarded as the ultimate end of commenting, but as means employed in subservience to the great object of enlightening the understanding, and impressing the heart. As we advance towards the perfection of the building, we expect to see the superfluous scaffolding removed : and we would in like manner remove the accumulated
lumber of critical notes, when they are no longer necessary; or at least reduce them to the smallest compass consistent with the reader's information. The excellence of a verbal commentator is to communicate his own learning in the shortest way, to make his readers wise at the cheapest rate, and to give the most of his author with the least of himself.
In the manner of writing critical notes, we think Professor Porson very nearly reached perfection. His notes on Euripides are what they professed to be,-“ breves notæ emendationum potissimùm rationes reddentes.” We venture even to think that it would have been better, had his notes been confined entirely to this object, and had all that useful information, which he has communicated to his readers in a scattered form, been served up together in a separate course. This is, in fact, what Mr. Blomfield has done. The plan is excellent; and if we complain at all of the manner in which he has executed it, it will be chiefly that his Glossary is in some instances more diffuse than it need have been, Instead of presenting us so fully as he has done with the interpretations given by different scholiasts and lexicographers, we think it would have been better if he had digested the whole, and given us at once an unperplexed and unembarrassed view of the force and bearing of the word in question.
Mr. Blomfield's reputation as a scholar is deservedly very high; and we may congratulate all who feel any interest in ancient learning, that he has applied his attainments with praiseworthy diligence to the great work of editing Æschylus, in a form best calculated to make him understood and valued. It was obviously a work of extraordinary labour. He had to contend with the natural difficulties of a very obscure author, rendered more obsure by a very corrupt text. Stanley, indeed, had not laboured in vain. Uniting taste with learning in a singular degree, he had by his discursive notes led the way to closer criticism. But as he was the first who did much for Æschylus, he left much to be done by his successors. What he left undone, his successors before Mr. Blomfield had ill supplied. To Schutz we have few obligations; and Porson pointed out what was wrong without attempting to supply what was right. Æschylus therefore came into Mr. Blomfield's hands with all the unredeemed deformities of many generations; for of Dr. Butler we purposely omit to say any thing, because it was his professed object to preserve all the deformities of text which had been transmitted by Stanley.
The text, then, as Mr. Blomfield found it, was in many parts entirely corrupt. The more corrupt plays he has not yet touched; but the clearest and most easy abounded with difficulty. In arranging the text of the choral parts, he has in general followed Dr. Burney, with whose learned work on the metres of Æschylus our readers are probably acquainted. In the iambics this assistance was wanting: and in addition to the difficulty of settling the true text, there was a farther difficulty in understanding it, which Mr. Blomfield has well and modestly explained in his Preface to the Prometheus. Quicquid in Eschylo salebrosi est, id omne ferè oritur ex linguæ insolentiâ, non autem ex perplexá verborum constructione, aut ex reconditis sententiis. Multa enim apud eum reperiuntur vocabula ex ultimâ antiquitate repetita, multæque dictiones ac formulæ loquendi, quas frustra alibi quæras, et quarum in lexicis vulgaribus aut nulla mentio fit, aut jejuna saltem atque exilis. Mihi igitur visus sum gratiam cuin tironibus initurus, si opus susciperem, molestius illud quidem, et non tam artis indigens quum laboris, perquam tamen utile adolescentibus futurum; nempe si singularum in Aschylo vocum interpretationes contexerem, glossasque ad eum pertinentes, per grammaticorum scholia et lexica híc illic sparsas, colligerem et concinnarem.”—(Praf. ad Prom. pp. i. ii.)
The labours, however, attached to such a task is not a thankless labour. We know no author more capable than Æschylus of repaying the toil of critical research. No poet, except Shakspeare himself, is a mightier master in the art of suspending the soul in terror, and making his readers hang with breathless attention
upon the magic horror of the scene; and we can casily conceive that Mr. Blomfield has found the reward of his patience in disentangling the knotty intricacy of words and sentences, and in pausing to contemplate the collected beauty and overwhelming grandeur of some of the richest parts of the Prometheus and Cassandra of his author. If Æschylus is inferior to Sophocles and Euripides in the art and conduct of the drama, in all the essential points of original genius, in force, imagination, and invention, in magnificence of diction and pomp of fable, and, above all, in the power of chaining attention, he is, in our judgment, superior to both his rivals. In the whole compass of ancient tragedy, we doubt whether there is any thing that is worthy to be compared with his Agamemnon.
Trusting these general remarks will not be considered as out of place by those who regard the true end and the legitimate object of the re-publication of all ancient authors, we will proceed to a particular examination of the three plays before us, beginning with the Prometheus, which is certainly the easiest, and perhaps the least corrupt, of all our author's tragedies. The character of Prometheus, half a man and half a god, is just suited to the bold genius of Æschylus. There is a magnificence in the con_ception of such a being, rebelling against the usurped power of a tyrannical thunderer, and undergoing a dreadful punishment