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Made visionary fabrics round them rise,
But on the South, a long majestic race
Of Gothic structure was the Northern side,
“In the deep windings of the grove, no more
The hag obscene, and grisly phantom dwell ;
Minstrel.-Warton. Ver. 107. Confucius stood,] Congfutzee, for that was his name, flourished about two thousand three hundred years ago, just before Pythagoras. He taught justice, obedience to parents, humility, and universal benevolence : and he practised these virtues when he was a first minister, and when he was reduced to poverty and exile. His family still exists in China, and is highly honoured and respected.-Warton.
Ver. 110. Egypťs priests, &c.] The learning of the old Egyptian priests consisted for the most part in geometry and astronomy : they also preserved the history of their nation. Their greatest hero upon record is Sesostris, whose actions and conquests may be seen at large in Diodorus, &c. He is said to have caused the kings he vanquished to draw him in his chariot. The posture of his statue, in these verses, is correspondent to the description which Herodotus gives of one of them, remaining in his own time.-P.
Ver. 119. Of Gothic structure was the Northern side,] The architecture is agreeable to that part of the world. The learning of the northern nations
There huge Colosses rose, with trophies crown'd,
lay more obscure than that of the rest. Zamolxis was the disciple of Pythagoras, who taught the immortality of the soul to the Scythians. Odin, or Woden, was the great legislator and hero of the Goths. They tell us of him, that, being subject to fits, he persuaded his followers, that during those trances he received inspirations, from whence he dictated his laws : he is said to have been the inventor of the Runic characters.-P.
This rude nation had great ideas. When Alaric their king was buried in Calabria, 410, they turned the course of the river Vasento, where it was most rapid ; and having dug a very deep grave in this river's bed, there interred their revered prince, with many rich suits of armour, and much gold and precious stones. They then turned the river back into its usual course, and killed on the spot all that had assisted at this work, that the place of his interment might never be discovered.—Warton.
Ver. 122. Runic characters] The Gothic mythology, by being more nobly wild, is more affecting to the imagination than the classical. The magicians of Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser, have more powerful spells than those of Apollonius, Seneca, and Lucan. The enchanted forest of Ismeno is more poetical than even the grove, which Cæsar, in Lucan, orders to be cut down, b. iii. v. 400. What a group of dreadful images do we meet with in the Edda ! Hence are drawn those thrilling numbers which Gray has given us in his Descent of Odin.-Warton.
I cannot admit that the Gothic mythology is, in general, so nobly wild, as Dr. Warton represents it. That it is gloomy, terrific, and in parts highly poetical, is very true ; but there is a ludicrousness in many of its images, and a littleness, instead of that grandeur which is essential to the higher species of poetry. The story of Thor and the Cat, and many other of his extraordinary feats, are far from being “nobly wild.” I must, however, except the sublime description in the Edda, of the “ Twilight of the Gods, and Surtur the Black Angel.” Such a mixture of wild ideas is common in the superstitions of all rude nations. The Northern superstitions can be traced, I believe, clearly to the East.Bowles.
Ver. 127. Druids and Bards, &c.] These were the priests and poets of those people, so celebrated for their savage virtue. 'Those heroic barbarians accounted it a dishonour to die in their beds, and rushed on to certain death in the prospect of an after-life, and for the glory of a song from their bards in praise of their actions.-P.
In ranks adorn'd the Temple's outward face;
135 For thus romantic Fame increases all.
The Temple shakes, the sounding gates unfold, Wide vaults appear, and roofs of fretted gold: Rais'd on a thousand pillars, wreath'd around With laurel-foliage, and with eagles crown'd: 140 Of bright transparent beryl were the walls, The friezes gold, and gold the capitals : As heav'n with stars, the roof with jewels glows, And ever-living lamps depend in rows. Full in the passage of each spacious gate,
145 The sage Historians in white garments wait ; Grav’d o'er their seats the form of Time was found, His scythe revers’d, and both his pinions bound. Within stood Heroes, who through loud alarms In bloody fields pursu'd renown in arms.
150 High on a throne with trophies charg‘d, I view'd The Youth that all things but himself subdu’d; His feet on sceptres and tiaras trod, And his horn'd head bely'd the Libyan God.
Ver. 147. The sage Historians, &c.] The white garments are suitable emblems of pure purpose and undecorated truth ; veritatis non fucatæ ; for which we seem to want an elegant appropriate term in our language.Wakefield.
Ver. 152. The Youth that all things but himself subdu'd ;] Alexander the Great: the Tiara was the crown peculiar to the Asian princes : his desire to be thought the son of Jupiter Ammon, caused him to wear the horns of that god, and to represent the same upon his coins ; which was continued by several of his successors.-P.
Ver. 154. bely'd the Libyan God.] “ Bely'd the God,” are expressions from Dryden : A dragon's fiery form “bely'd the God.”
St. Cecilia's Ode.-Bowles.
Ver. 132. The wall in lustre, &c.]
“ It shone lighter than a glass,
There Cæsar, grac'd with both Minervas, shone; 155
Much-sufforing heroes next their honours claim,
Ver. 155. The greatest panegyric that ever Alexander and Cæsar met with, is from Lord Bacon, in the Advancement of Learning, b. i. p. 75, first edition.- Warton.
Ver. 161. Epaminondas stood ;] “ In other illustrious men you will observe that cach possessed some one shining quality, which was the foundation of his fame : in Epaminondas all the virtues are found united; force of body, eloquence of expression, vigour of mind, contempt of riches, gentleness of disposition, and, what is chiefly to be regarded, courage and conduct in war.”—Diodorus Siculus, lib. xv.-Warton.
Ver. 162. Timoleon, glorious in his brother's blood ;] Timoleon had saved the life of his brother Timophanes in the battle between the Argives and Corinthians ; but afterwards killed him when he affected the tyranny, preferring his duty to his country to all the obligations of blood.-P.
Ver. 162. T'imoleon, glorious] Mr. Harte told me, our author had once intended to write an epic poem on the story of Timoleon ; and it is remarkable that Dr. Akenside had the same design ; he hints at it himself in the last stanza of the thirteenth ode, b. i. on Lyric Poetry :
“ But when from envy and from death to claim,
A hero bleeding for his native land ;
Nor Theban voice, nor Lesbian lyre,
From thee, O muse, do I require ;
Conscious of powers she never knew,
Nor by another's fate submits to be confin’d.”
He whom ungrateful Athens could expel,
But in the centre of the hallow'd choir,
Ver. 172. He whom ungrateful Athens, &c.] Aristides, who for his great integrity was distinguished by the appellation of the Just. When his countrymen would have banished him by the Ostracism, where it was the custom for every man to sign the name of the person he voted to exile in an Oyster.shell ; a peasant, who could not write, came to Aristides to do it for him, who readily signed his own name.-P.
Ver. 174. martyrd Phocion] Who, when he was about to drink the hemlock, charged his son to forgive his enemies, and not to revenge his death on those Athenians who had decreed it.-Warton.
Ver. 178. But in the centre of the hallow'd choir, &c.] In the midst of the Temple, nearest the throne of Fame, are placed the greatest names in learning of all antiquity. These are described in such attitudes as express their different characters : the columns on which they are raised are adorned with sculptures, taken from the most striking subjects of their works ; which sculpture bears a resemblance, in its manner and character, to the manner and character of their writings.-P.
Ver. 178. But in the centre] The six persons Pope thought proper to select as worthy to be placed on these pillars as the highest seats of honour, are Homer, Virgil, Pindar, Horace, Aristotle, and Tully. It is observable that our author has omitted the great dramatic poets of Greece. Sophocles and Euripides deserved certainly an honourable niche in the Temple of Fame, as much as Pindar and Horace. But the truth is, it was not fashionable in Pope's time, nor among his acquaintance, attentively to study these poets. By a strange fatality they have not in this kingdom obtained the rank they deserve amongst classic writers. We have numberless treatises on Horace and Virgil, for instance, who in their different kinds do not surpass the authors in question, whilst hardly a critic among us has professedly pointed out their excellencies.
I own I have some particular reasons for thinking that our author was
Ver. 179. Six pompous columns, &c.]
“ From the dees many a pillere,
“Upon an iron piller strong,
That bare of Thebes up the name," &c.-P'.