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Strode to the threshold to receive his guests,
To hasten or delay sweet supper-time.” Didactic Poetry. The Greeks abounded also in didactic poetry. From the accounts and relics of this body of their literature we may gather, that it comprehended religious, moral, and physiological instruction. Probably it for the most part united them; although we find works mentioned by Plato * which must have been didactic poems, of an expressly religious nature, namely, for the direction of sacrifices and purifications. These were evidently the compositions of priests; and whatever philosophy they contained must have been mystic. Indeed both the religion and early philosophy of Greece were deeply infected with mysticism. But still there are traces of very old and simple moral poetry in Greece, calculated to instruct the people in the plain and practical duties of life. Tradition assigns much of this Gnomic poetry to statesmen and philosophers; and we cannot doubt of such public characters having delivered their precepts in verse, whatever we may think of the authenticity of verses ascribed to particular sages. Nor can we wonder that moral proverbs should have been put into verse, when infant science and law itself were tuned to numbers. For, ludicrous as it would be to us to hear of the Statutes at large being set to music, yet the laws of Charondas were publicly sung at the primitive banquets of the Athenians.
The chief of the Gnomic poets were Solon, Theognis, Phocylides, and Pythagoras. The largest extant Gnomic reliques are those ascribed to Theognis, which are obviously a farrago of moral sentences from many different writers, without connexion or consistency of parts. The supposed speaker of the sentiments even changes his existence, and on one occasion exclaims, “I am a beautiful mare,” without deigning to account for his metamorphosis into a quadruped. The greater part of the lines ascribed to Phocylides are also palpable fabrications, and the pious forger has even helped the old Pagan bard to speak like a good Christian about the resurrection. The golden verses of Pythagoras do honour to heathen morality, and may be believed to be classically old, though their having come from Pythagoras himself is at least apocryphal.
Empedocles of Agrigentum seems to have been the first poet of the language who gave its didactic poetry a magnificent and systematic form. He is, unhappily, among the lost writers : since even of his few fragments the whole are not authentic. But his name stands pre-eminent in the history of ancient philosophy and pbilosophical poetry. His great work on the Nature of things was the object of Cicero's admiration and of Lucretius's ardent, and probably imitative regard. “Carmina divini pectoris ejus (says Lucretius) Vociferantur et exponunt præclara reperta, Ut vix humanâ videatur sorte creatus."
The dumbers rolling from his breast divine
• Plato de Rep. t. vi. p. 221.
Like many other wonderful proficients in early science, he acquired the reputation of a magician who could appease the winds and re-animate the dead. It is amusing to find antiquaries, of no very distant date, labouring to exculpate Empedocles from this heavy charge on his memory.
In my next Lecture I shall finish this synopsis of the classes of Greek poetry.
LINES WRITTEN IN SICKNESS.
FRAGMENT FROM MY POCKET-BOOK.
Fair Moon, beneath thy midnight look it was
Upon the rude ungovernable waves,
So often and so safe-in vain he craves
Or, if remember'd, tend to aggravate.
LETTERS ON A TOUR IN SWITZERLAND. NO. 11.
“ E'en here, where Alpine solitudes extend,
I sit me down, a pensive hour to spend.”—GOLDSMITH.
Geneva is an irregular and dirty city, with lofty unsightly ranges of buildings ; no handsome monuments of architecture or art; and only one pleasing promenade, called The Treille, on the walls of the town, where are the residences of the family of Saussure, and of some of the other principal families of Geneva. The "blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone" is the only pleasing object within the walls of the city. Water probably never was of so lovely a hue,-except, as I hear, in the Bay of Naples. Its transparency renders every object at the bottom distinctly visible at a depth of twenty feet. As the waters of the lake precipitate themselves in a torrent through the bridges over the two branches of the Rhone, their colour is a deep ultra-marine, which sea or sky rarely or never equals. Our rooms at the inn (the best at Geneva, but one of the worst in Switzerland) projected on piles into the lake; and I used to hang out of my window in a sunny day, admiring the lovely expanse of the lake bathing the city and the green slopes of Savoy and the Pays de Vaud, watching the gambols of the finny tribe, and the eddies and gurgling currents of the blue waters. Unluckily, just before my windows, in the middle of the lake, was a long building, a public wash-house, where several score of washerwomen were perpetually rubbing and soaping away their linen in the water of the lake, and beguiling their labours with Genevese gossip and Billingsgate.--The cathedral is, in its exterior, a respectable and venerable church. Its interior has all the bald unornamented character of a Calvinistic meeting-house. Bare walls, without pictures or monuments; no altar-place; an oak desk and pulpit uncushioned and undraped-with the number and page of the psalms for the day indicated on a deal board; the nave and ailes filled with uncovered oak benches. . Not a shred or remnant of the abominable splendours of Peter's vest is here left to offend the rigid optics of the followers of brother Jack. The high place of Calvinistic worship is not unworthy of the unsparing severity of its founder and its dogmas. It might at first appear curious, that that doctrine which builds itself the most exclusively upon unquestioning faith, and rejects the most contemptuously the lights of human reason, should exclude the most rigidly from its forms of worship every ceremonial calculated to impress the imagination, or to kindle devotional rapture. But if the Romish church had been a simple and plain one, the Calvinistic worship would have been pompous and ceremonious. Opposition to an adversary was all that was considered-—" reverse of wrong was taken to be right."--I confess I think we Lutherans, or Calvinistic-Lutherans, to speak properly, order these matters much better. A cathedral and cathedral service (thanks, in part, to archbishop Laud) are very fine and inspiring things in England. There is a chastened pomp and grandeur in its sober and devout ceremonies, a dignity without gorgeousness, a poetry without theatrical display, an inspiring fervour and a subduing melancholy in the scene, which make religion imposing without being bombastic, and inviting without being meretricious. And surely, notwithstanding our vocal boys, our altars, our canons, and our anthems and our chaunts, we are as righteous enemies to plenary indulgence and tran
substantiation as our worthy friends at Geneva, with their black caps and gowns.
We drove to Ferney, or Ferney-Voltaire, as the road-posts call it,-on a fine eminence, two leagues from Geneva. Voltaire's chateau is one of the prettiest little French chateaux on a small scale that I have seen, --with a stiff garden and avenues, with terraces, statues, and bosquets, à la Française, --commanding one of the noblest views of Mont Blanc, the lake, and the lower Alps. Voltaire addresses his favourite abode :
“O maison d'Aristippe! O jardins d'Epicure !
Ce qui souvent manque à mes vers,
Le merite de l'art soumise à la nature." An unmerited compliment to his gardening, at the expense of his verses. Nature is certainly not the predominant charm of either, but his versos have more of it than his avenues. A slight effort of imagination would place Voltaire in one of them, with his court suit, sword, and ruffles, spouting one of his own scenes, or grinning and bowing gallantry to some French marchioness. His saloon and bed-room are in the state in which he left them. Over his bed hang portraits of Frederic of Prussia, the empress Catherine, Madame du Chatelet, and Le Kain the actor—the friends of the man of genius, presented by themselves. Voltaire himself, in his best youthful looks and full dress, is, of course, of the party. A variety of little portrait engravings, including Newton, Milton, Franklin, Washington, &c. &c. hang round the room. Beside the chateau is the small church built by Voltaire, with an inscription “ Deo erexit Voltaire ;" his tomb is by the side of it; and our conductor shewed us the little private door by which he used to enter the church.
From Geneva to Chamounix, by way of La Bonneville and Sallanche, is one of the most magnificent rides that Nature can present. The road follows back the course of the Arve, which rises in the glaciers at Chamounix. The valley is at first wide, smiling, and fertile; the Saleve mountain rising on the right, and the grand Voirons and pyramidal Mole mountain at some distance on the left. You
from the Genevese territory into Savoy, about a league from Geneva. Very near this frontier Mons. Sismondi has a delightful little summer-residence, with a garden and pleasure-ground, very much in the English taste. We had the pleasure of visiting him here, and of enjoying a little of that interesting and eloquent conversation, which all who know him appreciate. The lot of such a mind in such a situation appears truly enviable with the world of history and philosophy for his daily study and investigation, and the blue lake, the green valleys of Savoy, and the eternal Mont Blanc for his familiar external objects. We stopped to dine at La Bonneville, a little dirty decayed Savoyard town, at the foot of the green Mole mountain, and surrounded by gigantic heights on all sides. The Arve pours its troubled torrent through a narrow glen of pasture, in which the town stands. The population are dirty and wretched, and the church, which is tumbling into ruins, is bedizened with more than the average quantum of er voto offerings, rude pictures and images, and laced and flowered figures of the Virgin and our Saviour. A crucifix, with a suspended effigy of our Saviour 'as large as life, stood by the church-door, with exact wooden representations of the crown of thorns, the pincers, the hyssop-sponge, and every other implement of the Passion. I never recollect seeing a Catholic crucifix so painfully and disgustingly perfect. A French lady and gentleman with whom we travelled expressed great admiration of it, and availed themselves of the interval while dinner was preparing to perform a long list of Paters and Aves in the church.
Nothing can be more striking than the difference in the character, the looks, the habitations, and the comforts of the Savoyards and the Swiss of the Pays de Vaud, which we had just left. You remember Rousseau's lovely description of the contrast, which hardly appears exaggerated, and is as applicable now as when it was written. It is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful specimens of the moral picturesque ever penned. We will not enter into the moral and political causes assigned by him for the difference, which, perhaps, are little more than theories. Certain it is, that the Savoyards whatever may be the cause) live wretchedly in wooden cabins, without chimneys or casements. Their looks are pale and squalid, their dress tattered and filthy. At La Bonneville we saw many goitres and deformed persons; and one woman lying on the ground by the road side, whose face (if face it could be called) was more inhuman in its deformity than any countenance I could conceive bearing human lineaments.
The inns are generally filthy and dear, and crowds of beggars follow one's steps. And yet, with all these repulsive circumstances, one cannot help feeling a sort of sneaking kindness (to use a vulgar phrase) for a Savoyard. He appears to be a harmless, ignorant, obliging, ready-witted creature, with a laughing wretchedness, and good-humoured roguery about him, which extract sous from travellers' pockets very plentifully. The people are bigoted and priest-ridden Catholics, and not very well affected to the Sardinian government. A political calembourg, which we heard, is not bad. Instead of giving his Sardinian majesty his title of “ Sa Majesté très chrétienne Carlo Felici,” it was proposed to call him “ Sa Majesté très Cretine Carlo Feroci.
From Bonneville to Sallanche is one continued scene of lovely valleys, watered by the torrent of the Arve, fir-clad precipices, and mountains tipped and streaked with snow. Chalets and flocks of goats are scattered about on pastures apparently inaccessible ; and streams, forming lovely cascades, pour down the sides of the rocks, and rush impetuously into the Arve. Mont Blanc, the wonder of the universe, had hitherto been totally concealed from our view. A sultry haze hid it from us when at Lausanne and Geneva, and now we were encompassed by walls of rock and mountain, which almost excluded even the rays of sun from the valley. About a league before Sallanche a sinuosity in the road presented to us the snowy form of the majestic mountain glittering under all the brilliance of a summer sun. It was impossible to believe that it was still six leagues distant. Between St. Martin and Sallanche, we stood in awful wonder and admiration of this overpowering object. The scene exceeded all powers of description. Around us lay the most luxuriant green valley, with sloping orchards and pastures surrounding the little town of Sallanche; the overwhelming torrent of the Arve rushing, with unceasing roar, through these soft and lovely
Immediately and almost perpendicularly above us* rose the grey jagged rocks of the Varens, and other mountains, to a height of above 7000 feet—the snow hanging in their crevices, and whitening