« FöregåendeFortsätt »
and elegance than the most applauded fonnet of the politeit French marquis that ever rhymed. However indelicate I may be esteemed, I freely confess I had rather fit in the grotto of Calypso, than in the most pompous saloon of Louis XV. The tea and the card. tables can be introduced with propriety and success on. ly in the mock heroic, as they have been very happily in the Rape of the Lock; but the present modes of life must be forgotten, when we attempt any thing in the serious or sublime poetry; for heroism disdains the luxurious refinements, the false delicacy and state of modern ages. The primeval, I was about to say, patriarchal fimplicity of manners displayed in the Odyffey, is a perpetual source of true poetry, is inexpressibly pleasing to all who are uncorrupted by the business and the vanities of life, and may therefore prove equally instructive and captivating to younger readers,
It feems to be a tenet universally received among common critics, as certain and indisputable, that images and characters of peaceful and domestic life are not so difficult to be drawn as pictures of war and fury. I own myfelf of a quite contrary opinion, and think the description of Andromache parting with Hector in the Iliad, and the tender circumstance of the child Altyanax starting back from his father's hel. met, and clinging to the bosom of his nurse, are as great efforts of the imagination of Homer, as the dreadful picture of Achilles fighting with the rivers, or dragging the carcass of Hector at his chariotwheels : the behaviour of Hecuba, when she points to the breast that had suckled her dear Hector, is as finely conceived as the most gallant exploits of Dio
mede and Ajax : the natural is as strong an evidence of true genius as the sublime. It is in such images the Odyssey abounds ; the superior utility of which, as they more nearly concern, and more strongly affect need not be pointed out. Let Longinus admire the majefty of Neptune whirling his chaçiot over the deep, surrounded by sea monsters that gambolled before their king; the description of the dog Argus, creeping to the feet of his master, whom he alone knew in his disguise, and expiring with joy for his return, -is fo, inexpreflibly pathetic, that it equals, if not exceeds any of the magnificent and bolder images which that excellent critic had produced in his treatise on the fublime. He juftly commends the prayer of Ajax, who, when he was surrounded with a thick darkness that prevented the display of his prowess, begs of Jupiter only to remove the clouds that in yolved him ; a then,” says he, “ destroy me if thou wilt in the day.
light;" in ds. pasi xar bedre. But surely the relections which Ulysses makes to Amphinomus, the most virtuous of the suitors, concerning the misery, and vanity of man, will be found to deserve equal commendations, if we confider their propriety, folemnity, and truth. Our hero, in the disguise of a beggar, had jult been spurned at and ridiculed by the rest of the riot. ous loyers, but is kindly relieved by Amphinomus; whose behaviour is finely contrasted to the brutality of. his brethren. Upon which Ulyfies says, “ O Amphinomus! and ponder the words I shall speak
unto thee. Of all creatures that breathe or creep
upon the earth, the most weak and impotent is man, 6. For he never thinks that evils shall befal him at “ another season, while the gods bestow on him
as Hear me,
ftrength and happiness. But when the immortal 66 Gods amict him with adversity, he bears it with “ unwillingness and repining. Such is the mind of " the inhabitants of earth, that it changes as Jupiter “ fends happiness or misery. I once numbered myeli
among the happy, and clated with prosperity and
pride, and relying on my family and friends, conW mitted many acts of injustice. But let no man be
proud or unjust, but receive whatever gifts the gods “ bestow on him with humility and silence,” I chose to translate this fententious paffage as literally as polGble, to preserve the air of its venerable fimplicity and Ariking folemnity. If we recollect the spzaker, and the occasion of the speech, we cannot fail of being deeply affected. Can we therefore forbear giving our assent to the truth of the title which Alcidamas, ac-. cording to Ariitotle in his rhetoric, bestows on the Odyssey; who calls it " a beautiful mirror of human * life,” κωλον ανθρωπινο βιε κατοπρο».
Homer, in the Iliad, resembles the river Nile, when it descends in a cataract that deafens and astonishes the. neighbouring inhabitants. In the Odyssey, he is still like the same Nile, when its genial inundations gently diffuse fertility and fatness over the peaceful plains of Egypt. z D 4
No. LXXXI. Tuesday, August 14. 1753.
I have sometimes heard it disputed in conversation, whether it be more laudable or desirable, that a man should think too highly or too meanly of himself: it is on all hands agreed to be beít, that he should think rightly : but fince a fallible being will always make some deviations from exact rectitude, it is not wholly useless to inquire towards which side it is safer to decline.
The prejudices of mankind seem to favcur him who errs by under-rating his own powers : he is confidered as a modest and harmless member of society, not likely to break the peace by competition, to en. deavour after such fplendour of reputation as may dim the lustre of others, or to interrupt any in the enjoyment of themselves; he is no man's rival, and there. fore may be every man's friend.
The opinion which a man entertains of himself ought to be distinguished, in order to an accurate discuffion of this question, as it relates to persons or to things. To think highly of ourselves in comparison with others, to assume by our own authority that pre. 'cedence which none is willing to grant, must be al. ways invidious and offensive ; but to rate our powers high in proportion to things, and imagine ourselves equal to great undertakings, while we leave others in poffeffion of the fame abilities, cannot with equal jul. tice provoke censure.
It must be confeffed, that felf-love may difpofe us to decide too liaftily in our own favour : but who is hurt by the mistake ? If we are incited by this vain opinion to attempt more than we can perform, ours is the labour, and ours is the disgrace.
But he that dares to think well of himself, will not always prove to be mistaken; and the good effects of his confidence will then appear in great attempts and great performances : if he should not fully complete his design, he will at least advance it so far, as to leave an easier task for him that succeeds him ; and even though he should wholly fail, he will fail with honour.
But from the opposite error, from torpid despondency, can come no advantage; it is the frost of the soul, which binds up all its powers, and congeals life in perpetual sterility. He that has no hopes of fuccefs, will make no attempts; and where nothing is attempted, nothing can be done.
Every man should, therefore, endeavour to maintain in himself a favourable opinion of the powers of the human mind; which are perhaps, in every man, greater than they appear, and might, by diligent culti