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and then he describes one man as smelling of pastils, and another of the goat:
"Pastillos Rufillus olet, Gorgonius hircum." 1
Erasmus quotes words of kindred sentiment from the "Phormio" of Terence: " Ita fugias, ne præter casam”: which he tells us means that we should not so fly from any vice as to be incautiously carried into a greater.2 In his letters the ancient fable recurs more than once. On one occasion he warns against the dangers of youth, and says, "Instead of the ears with wax, as in the Homeric story, the mind must be carefully sealed by the precepts of Philosophy."3 Again he avows fear, lest, shunning Scylla, he fall on a much worse Charybdis: "Nunc vereor ne sic vitemus hanc Scyllam, ut incidamus in Charybdim multo perniciosiorem."4 And the same fear appears yet again, where he describes his straits: "In has angustias protrusus sum, ut mihi, si Scyllam fugero, in Charybdim sit incidendum.” 5 On another occasion he pictures himself as exposed in his expenses to the most voracious Charybdises: "Ex his conjecturam facias licebit, quemadmodum hic dilabantur nummi, ubi nihil non meo sumptu geritur, et est mihi res cum duabus Charybdibus voracissimis." 6 The following is cited by Jortin from another letter of Erasmus: "Some say slanderously that I keep a medium. I confess it is a very impious thing to keep a
1 Satiræ, I. ii. 24, 27.
2 Adagia, Chil. I. Cent. V. Prov. 3: Opera, Tom. II. col. 182. Terent., Phormio, 767.
3 Epist. MCCLXI., Joanni Vergara, Nov. 19, 1533: Opera, Tom. III. col.
4 Epist DLXXIV., Gulielmo Waramo, Archiepiscopo Cantuariensi, Maii 24, 1521: Ibid., col. 645.
5 Epist. XIII., Joanni Sixtino Frisio, Oxoniæ, Oct. 28, 1497: Ibid., col. 11. Epist. CLXV., Rogerio Wentfordo, 1514: Ibid., col. 141.
medium between Christ and Belial; but I think it prudential to keep a medium between Scylla and Charybdis." Thus did his instinctive prudence find expression in this favorite illustration.
If Erasmus were less illustrious for learning, perhaps if his countenance were less interesting, as we look upon it in the immortal portraits by two great artists, Hans Holbein and Albert Dürer, I should not be tempted to dwell on this confession of ignorance. And yet it belongs to the history of this verse, which has had strange ups and downs. The poem from which it is taken, after enjoying early renown, was forgotten,and then again, after a revival, was forgotten, again to enjoy another revival. The last time it was revived through this solitary verse, without which, I cannot doubt, it would have expired forever.
Even before the days of Erasmus, who died in 1536, this verse had been lost and found. It was circulated as a proverb of unknown origin, when Galeotto Marzioan Italian of infinite wit and learning,2 who flourished in the latter half of the fifteenth century, and was for some time instructor of the children of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary - pointed out its author. In a work of Ana, amusing and instructive, entitled "De Doctrina Promiscua," which first saw the light in Latin, and was afterwards translated into Italian, the learned author says: Hoc carmen est Gualteri Galli de Gestis Alexandri, et non vagum proverbium, ut quidam non omnino indocti meminerunt." It was not a vague proverb, as some persons not altogether unlearned have
1 Jortin's Life of Erasmus (London, 1808), Vol. II. p 183.
2 For a glimpse of this interesting character, see Tiraboschi, Storia della Letteratura Italiana (Modena, 1787–94), Tom. VI. pp. 384-393; Michaud, / Biographie Universelle, nom. GALEOTTO (MARZIO).
supposed, but a verse of the "Alexandreïs." And yet shortly afterwards the great master of proverbs, whose learning seemed to know no bounds, could not fix its origin. At a later day, Pasquier, in his "Recherches de la France," made substantially the same remark as Marzio. After alluding to the early fame of its author, he says: "C'est luy dans les œuvres duquel nous trouvons un vers souvent par nous allegué, sans que plusieurs sçachent qui en fut l'auteur." In quoting the verse, the French author uses Decidit instead of Incidis. The discovery by Marzio, and the repetition of this discovery by Pasquier, are chronicled at a later day in the Conversations of Ménage, who found a French Boswell before that of Dr. Johnson was born. Jortin, in the elaborate notes to his Life of Erasmus, borrows from Ménage, and gives the same history.3
When Galeotto Marzio made his discovery, the poem was still in manuscript; but there were printed editions before the "Adagia" of Erasmus. An eminent authority the "Histoire Littéraire de la France," that great work, commenced by the Benedictines, and continued by the French Academy - says that it was printed for the first time at Strasbourg, in 1513.4 This is a mistake. which has been repeated by Warton.5 Brunet, in his "Manuel du Libraire," mentions an edition, without place or date, with the cipher of Guillaume Le Talleur, a printer at Rouen in 1487.6 Panzer, in his "Annales Typographici," describes another edition, with the mon
1 Liv. III. ch. 29: Œuvres (Amsterdam, 1723), Tom. I. col. 276.
2 Menagiana (Paris, 1715), Tom. I. p. 174.
3 Vol. II. p. 285.
4 Tom. XV. p. 117.
5 History of English Poetry (London, 1824), Vol. I. p. clxvii, note.
6 Tom. II. col. 1470, 5me édit.
ogram of Richard Pynson, the London printer at the close of the fifteenth century. Beloe, in his "Anecdotes of Literature," also speaks of an edition with the imprint of Pynson.2 There also appears to have been an edition under date of 1496. Then came the Strasbourg edition of 1513, by J. Adelphus. All these are in black letter. Next was the Ingolstadt edition, in 1541, in Italic, or, as it is called by the French, “cursive characters," with a brief life of the poet, by Sebastian Link. This was followed, in 1558, by an edition at Lyons, also in Italic, announced as now for the first. time appearing in France, "nunc primum in Gallia," which was a mistake. This edition seems to have enjoyed peculiar favor. It has been strangely confounded with imaginary editions which never existed: thus, the Italian Quadrio notes especially one at London, in 1558; and the French Millin assures us that the best was at Leyden, in 1558. No such editions appeared; and the only edition of that year was at Lyons. After the lapse of a century, in 1659, there was another edition, by Athanasius Gugger, a monk of the Monastery of St. Gall, published at the Monastery itself, from manuscripts there, and with its own types, "formis ejusdem." The editor was ignorant of the previous editions, and in his preface announces the poem as a new work, although ancient, never before printed, to his knowledge, eagerly regarded and desired by many, and not less venerable for antiquity than for erudition: "En tibi, candide Lector, opus novum, ut sit antiquum, nusquam, quod sciam, editum, a multis cupide inspectum et desideratum, non minus antiquitate quam eruditione 1 Vol. I. p. 510. 2 Vol. V. p. 255.
8 Della Storia e della Ragione d' ogni Poesia, Vol. IV. p. 480. 4 Magazin Encyclopédique, Tom. II. p. 52.
venerabile." This edition seems to have been repeated at St. Gall in 1693; and these two, which were the last, appear to have been the best. From that time the poem rested undisturbed until our own day, when it found a place in that magnificent collection of patristic learning, the "Patrologia Cursus Completus" of Migne.2 Such an edition ought to be useful in determining the text, for there must be numerous manuscripts in the Paris libraries. As long ago as 1795 there were no less than nineteen in the National Library, and also a manuscript at Tours, which had drawn forth a curious commentary by M. de Foncemagne.3
I ought not to forget here that in 1537 a passage from this poem was rendered into English blank verse, and is an early monument of our language. This was by Nicholas Grimoald, a native of Huntingdonshire, whose translation is entitled "The Death of Zoroas, an Egyptian Astronomer, in the First Fight that Alexander had with the Persians."4 This is not the only token of the attention it awakened in England. Alexander Ross, chaplain of Charles the First, and author, famous from a couplet of "Hudibras," made preparations for an edition. His dedicatory letter was written, bearing date 1644, with two different sets of dedicatory verses, and verses from his friend David Echlin, the scholarly physician to the king,5 who had given him this "great treasure.” But the work failed to appear. The identical copy presented by Echlin, with many marginal notes from Quintus Curtius and others, is
1 Histoire Littéraire de la France, Tom. XV. pp. 117, 118.
2 Tom. CCIX.
3 Millin, Magazin Encyclopédique, Tom. III. p. 181. Journal des Savans, Avril, 1760.
Ritson's Bibliographia Poetica, p. 228.
5 For a list of his works, see Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica, nom. ECHLIN.