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This we shall presently attempt to show, but we will first point out some of Milton's errors. The Latin urguet is not correctly rendered by courts, which is not at all suitable to the position which the critics, and of course Milton, assign the lovers. In wreat/s does not, we think, accurately express the mode in which the Roman ladies dressed their hair : reliyas (an intensive verb) rather indicates that it was in tresses tightly fastened round the head. Simpler mundisiis is, in our opinion, better expressed by Milton’s “plain in thy neatness,” than by Warton’s “plain in your ornaments;” for munditia never meant earrings, necklaces, etc. “Simply meat and elegant’ seems to be the meaning of the phrase, and the poet may have had her hair alone in view, as Ovid says,
Munditiis capimur; nec sint sine lege capilli.
Milton perhaps was not aware that mutatam was to be understood with sidem, or that aspera was i. q. asperata, roughened;* emiror, as being intensive, is to gaze on with utter amazement, and not merely to admire; and fallacious, deceiving, and not flattering, is the meaning of sallaw. Finally, potens maris is simply ruler of the sea, and sfernness formed no part of the sea-god's character. . After having already transgressed by digression, we have hardly the courage to venture on a second offence. Yet, relying on the indulgence of the reader, we will here insert a comment on this Ode of our favourite classic poet, which has been lying in our scrinia these many years, our last dealing with the Classics.
* See our Virgil, Excurs. IX.
HORACE. CARM. I. 5.
I have been always of the opinion, that those Odes of Horace which are addressed to persons with significant Greek names, are purely ideal, mere fancy-pieces; of which species of composition there is far more in Latin literature than is usually supposed. Such, for example, is, I think, the Amores of Ovid, and such of course is the present Ode.
The critics in general suppose the youth and Pyrrha to be lying —solus cum sola, as Orelli expresses it from Terence—on a bed of roses in a grotto, and that Horace foretells that she will prove faithless to him, as she had done to himself. Lord Kaimes further remarked, that in vo. 9, 10, the allegory is broken, contrary to the principles of taste, to which objection the critics have made no valid reply. My own opinion is that all these suppositions are wrong. The ancients knew nothing of beds of roses; Horace's sense of delicacy and propriety was such, that in speaking of love elsewhere in his Odes, he never even hints at anything improper; and in those to imaginary ladies, like Pyrrha, he is always scrupulously delicate; and finally, he was of too fine a taste and too well acquainted with the rules of composition to violate them by breaking an allegory. My idea is, that the scene is an epula in a grotto —a thing which, as Orelli tells us, is customary at the present day, in which Pyrrha lies on the same lectus, or sofa, with her lover; that it is the uncertainty of her temper, and not her infidelity, of which the poet speaks, and that the allegory which commences in v. 5 is preserved unbroken to the end, the parallels being the surface of the sea and the countenance of the lady. The following commentary on the Ode will, I hope, justify these assertions.
In multa rosa. “Non de coronis cogitandum, sed de lecto rosarum cumulo strato, id quod potissimum demonstrat v. multa, quod de corona acceptum prope ridiculum foret: tum praepos. in quae item de corona usurparinon poterat.” (OR.) Now Horace, like the other ancient poets, when speaking of his own times, always gives their manners and usages correctly, and surely no one can suppose that roses were so abundant at Rome that beds could be formed of their leaves, covering the floor of a grotto; for that is the view of the critics. On the contrary, Cicero (Verr. v. 11) gives as an instance of the enormous luxury of Werres, that he had a pillow stuffed with them. The following place, however, is quoted from AElian (War. Hist. ix. 24):-oxois É68ov travareorov (Xpwöuptoms & >usłapirms) Kai kopomoels ēr atrov, Šavéorm Aéyov bMukraivas & Tos eiväs oxeiv. But Sybaris was before the times of history, and to the later Greeks it was a sort of Pays de Cocagne, about whose luxury all kinds of fables (this among the rest) were invented. Another place which is cited is the following from Philostratus (Ep. 27) : kai orov 8éopal of osteoavosorbat uévov, d\\ä kai kopomoval &Ti sãov, which at most can only allude to a pillow like that of Verres. The in rosa jaceat of Seneca (Ep. 36, 9) is only a supposed case, and the in odoribus jacet of the same writer (Ep. 82,2) evidently refers to the anointing of the dead body. These are, I believe, all the proofs that have been produced by the advocates of the bed of roses. On the other side, in opposition to Orelli's strange assertion respecting the use of in, may be adduced, el sov per sipovorías alei 6 & v a req divo tortv simv, Eur. Herc. Fur. G77. Koguesv tauras, pi) év TAéypacrw, Xpvoró papyapitals, 1 Tim. ii. 9. Et caput in verna semper habere rosa, Prop. iii. 3, 44. In jaculis et pelle Libystidis ursae, Virg, Aen. v. 37. In viola aut in rosa dicere, Cic. Tusc. v. 26. Potitem in rosa, Id. Fin. ii. 20 (these last two given by Orelli himself), in armis, etc. In fact this use of in runs through most languages. We ourselves say, a lady in a cap, in a veil, in her hair, etc.; and the French en chapeau, etc.; so also in Italian and Spanish. As to multa, I see not any force in Orelli's objection. Multus thus used in the singular is many a, and here it is used to intimate that the wreath of roses was a large full one. For the use of roses for this purpose, see Carm. i. 36, 15; ii. 3, 14; iii. 15, 15, et alib. I further think that in multa rosa should be joined with puer, and not with te, as she was apparently simply in her hair.—Perfusus, etc. This shows that it was an epult, for it was only on such occasions that the Romans in general put fragrant liquids or unguents on their hair: comp. ii. 7, 7, 22; 11, 16; iii. 29, 4, et alib. These were usually supplied by the person who gave the entertainment.—Urguet. I do not believe that a single instance can be produced of the use of this verb in the sense of “arte amplectitur.” (OR.) Its meaning is to press or push from or against, and I conceive that here it signifies ‘lies close to, sc. on the lectus or sofa. We should say, sits close to. The youth and Pyrrha, as we have said, occupied the same sofa, and he lay above her.—Sub antro, i. q. in antro, see my note on Ov. Fast. i. 186. For this custom see Ov. Fast. ii. 315 seq.; Tac. Ann. iv. 59. We now come to the figure in which he likens Pyrrha to the sea, and we may observe that the allusion to her name (already made in flavam comam), is still kept up.–fidem, sc. mutatam. It applies to the sea, as well as to the lady; for fides is the ground of trust, reliance, confidence. Virgil uses infidum marmor, Geor. i. 254, and fides pelagi, AEn. iii. 69, of the sea; compare AEn. v. 849; and Isocrates has, in prose, toy druartav roi troXéuov, Archid. § 21. —nigris, as opposed to the aurea of v. 9.—a quora, i. q. aquor, the surface of the sea, i.e. her countenance.—fruitur. This verb may be used of the sea, as well as of porticoes, Ep. i. 1, 71–aurea. This may allude to the colour of her hair, as well as to the serenity of her countenance, and the blandness of her manners. Propertius has (iv. 7, 85) aurea Cynthia, and Tibullus (i. 6, 58) auream anum. As applied to the sea, it may denote its splendour in the rays of the sun. Aureus is used of sol, luna, and ather, denoting brightness.-vacuam, sc, a ventis, v. 7, of the sea; irarum, the tempest of the mind, of Pyrrha, the tristes Amaryllidos iras of Virgil, that is, bursts of temper.—amabilem (`parewów). In iti. 13, 10, he has frigus amabile, and Virgil (Geor. iv. 478) has palus inamabilis. Why not then mare amabile P In prose, Cicero has (ad Fam. xvi. 18) Tusculanum erit amabilius. The French use their aimable in a similar manner, as aimable grotte, and we ourselves say, a lovely landscape, bay, sheet of water, etc.—Sperat, expects to be.—fallacis, i.e. that may deceive, go contrary to his expectations; the uncertainty of her temper—intentata, untried, not embarked on: comp. Virg. Buc. iv. 32; with respect to her, having had no experience of her changeful mood.—nites. As to the applicability of this to the calm surface of the sea in the solar beams, there can be no dispute. It also expresses the serenity of her countenance, and the lustre of her hair and eyes. If the AEsopic fable of the Shepherd and the Sea be as old as the times of Horace, I should suspect him to have had it in his mind. At all events he may have thought of these verses of Lucretius (v. 1002): Nec poterat quemduam placidi pellacia ponti Subdola pellicere in fraudem ridentibus undis.
The remainder is easy. Horace says, that he himself had embarked on this apparently calm and tranquil sea, and that such a tempest had arisen, that he had hardly made his escape from the waves in which he was overwhelmed.”
* In another of Horace's Odes (ii. 17), the critics seem to have missed Y
Though this was, in all likelihood, the last composed of all Milton's poems, we place our notice of it here, as, on account of its being of so different a nature from the heroic poems, and so totally unconnected with them, it would have been incongruous to have treated of them together.
Samson Agonistes was first published in 1671, along with Paradise Regained; which last poem, as we have seen, was finished in 1666. As it is probable that the mind of Milton could not remain in a state of inaction, we may suppose that it reverted to his former idea of composing dramas in the Greek manner, on sacred subjects; and that of Samson, though not included in the list which he had drawn up, may, from the resemblance of the fortunes of that hero to his own, have led to his giving it the preference to any of the fine subjects contained in that list, formed ere the clouds of misfortune had descended on his head. Would that he had devoted to them the time and labour wasted on now-neglected controversies |
Samson was a hero raised up by Heaven to be a chief instrument in freeing his country from the yoke of the idolatrous Philistines; in his simplicity he united himself in marriage with a daughter of that race, and the consequence was his blindness, his captivity, and his living to find all his work undone, and Israel, from its own want of virtue and energy, still in bondage. Milton viewed himself also as raised up by Heaven to vindicate the
the exact sense. Indeed one might almost fancy they took columen for columna. The figure is that Mascenas and Horace formed an edifice, of
which the former was the roof, without which the latter was of little worth.