« PreviousContinue »
and a professor of rhetoric! By your method of computation, Timæus, the Lacedemonians fall vastly short of Isocrates, in expedition ; for they spent thirty years in the siege of Messene, he only ten in writing that Panegyric.
But how does he inveigh against those Athenians who were made prisoners after the defeat in Sicily. “Guilty (says he) of sacri
lege against Hermes, and having defaced his
images, they were now severely punished; “ and what is somewhat extraordinary, by “ Hermocrates the son of Hermon, who was “ paternally descended from the injured
deity.” Really, my Terentianus, I am surprised that he has not passed the same cerisure on Dionysius the tyrant, “ who for his hei
nous impiety towards Jupiter (or Dia) “ and Hercules (Heraclea) was dethroned
by Dion and Heraclides."
Why should I dwell any longer upon Timæus, when even the very heroes of good writing, Xenophon and Plato, though educated in the school of Socrates, sometimes forget themselves, and transgress through an affectation of such pretty flourishes? The former in his Polity of the Lacedemonians speaks thus: “ They observe an uninterrupted
“ silence, and keep their eyes as fixed and “ unmoved, as if they were so many statues “ of stone or brass. You might with reason “think them more modest? than the 3 virgins “ in their eyes.” Amphicrates might, perhaps, be allowed to use the term of modest virgins for the pupils of the eye ; but what an indecency is it in the great Xenophon? And what a strange persuasion, that the pupils of the
eye should be in general the scats of mo
2 Than the virgins in their eyes.] Xenophon, in this passage, is shewing the care which that excellent law, giver Lycurgus took to accustom the Spartan youth to a grave and modest behaviour. He enjoined them, whenever they appeared in public, “ to cover their arms with " their gown, to walk silently, to keep their eyes from "wandering, by looking always directly before them." Hence it was, that they differed from statues only in their motion. But undoubtedly that turn upon the word sogn, here blamed by Longinus, would be a great blemish to this fine piece, if it were justly chargeable on the author. But Longinus must needs have made use of a very incorrect copy, which, by an unpardonable blunder, had εν τοις οφθαλμοις instead of εν τοις θαλαμοις, as it stands now in the best editions, particularly that at Paris by H. Stephens. This quite removes the cold and insipid turn, and restores a sense which is worthy of Xenophon: “ You would think them more modest in their whole behaviour, than virgins in the bridal bed.”
The word sopy, signifying both a virgin and the pupil of the eye, has given occasion for these cold insipid turns.
desty, when impudence is no where more visible than in the eyes of some? Homer, for instance, calls a person,
Drunkard! thou dog in eyet! Timæus, as if he had found a treasure, could not pass by this insipid turn of Xenophon without imitation. Accordingly he speaks thus of Agathocles: “ He 'ravished his own “ cousin, though married to another person, “and on the very day when she was first
seen by her husband without a veil; a
crime, of which none but he who had “ prostitutes, not virgins, in his eyes, could “ be guilty.” Neither is the divine Plato to be acquitted of this failure, when he says, for instance ; “ After they are written, they de
posit in the temples these cypress memo
+ Iliad. 1. 1. V. 225. The
very day when--a veil] All this is implied in the word avanchuringiw. It was the custom throughout Greece, and the Grecian colonies, for the unmarried women never to appear in public, or to converse with men, without a veil. The second or third day after marriage, it was usual for the bridegroom to make presents to his bride, which were called avanahuatupia, for then she immediately unveiled, and liberty was given him to converse freely with her ever after.
See Potter's Antiquities, v. ii. p. 294-5.
“ rials *.” And in another passage ;
« Asto “ the walls, Megillus, I join in the opinion “ of Sparta, to let them sleep supine on the “ earth, and not to rouse them upt." Neither does an expression of Herodotus fall short of it 5, when he calls beautiful women, “ the “ pains of the eye." Though this indeed may admit of some excuse, since in his history it is spoken by drunken barbarians. But neither in such a case, is it prudent to hazard the censure of posterity, rather than pass over a pretty conceit.
ALL these and such like indecencies in composition take their rise from the same original; I mean that eager pursuit of uncom
* Plato 5. Legum.
+ Plato 6. Legum. When he calls of the eye.] The critics are strangely divided about the justice of this remark. Authorities are urged, and parallel expressions quoted on both sides. Longinus blames it, but afterwards candidly alledges the only plea which can be urged in its favour, that it was said by drunken Barbarians. And who, but such sots, would have given the most delightful objects in nature so rude and uncivil an appellation? I appeal to the ladies for the propriety of this observation. | Herod. Terpsichore, c. 18.
same common source.
mon turns of thought, which almost infatuates the writers of the present age.
For our excellencies and defects flow almost from the
So that those correct and elegant, those pompous and beautiful expressions, of which good writing chiefly consists, are frequently so distorted as to become the unlucky causes and foundations of opposite blemishes. This is manifest in hyperboles and plurals; but the danger attending an injudicious use of these figures, I shall discover in the sequel of this work. At present it is incumbent upon me to enquire, by what means we may be enabled to avoid those vices, which border so near upon, and are so easily blended with the trųe Sublime.
SECTION VI. This indeed may be easily learned, if we can gain a thorough insight and penetration into the nature of the true Sublime, which, to speak truly, is by no means an easy, or a ready acquisition. To pass a right judgment upon composition is generally the effect of a long experience, and the last improvement of study and observation. But however, to speak