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other. They did not pursue the forms of beauty into leaf and flower; into the cheerful culture of the field, or the brown tinges of the desert. They did not watch the growing, or fading lights of the sky, and the colours, as they lived or died on the distant mountain tops ; – the passing of light and shadow over earth and ocean. Their acquaintance with the subtle spirit of the universe had not become so intimate. They abode most in the general; they admired in the mass; for they had not arrived at the refinement of very delicate, or extensive analysis; and they did not go out to admire as the moderns; their admiration of nature was not advanced, as with us, into an art and a passion. Beauty rather fell upon their senses than was inquired after. They were pleased, and did not always seek out the operative causes of their sensations. Their mention of their delight was, therefore, generally incidental. They were in the condition and state of mind of the old man in Wordsworth's ballad,
Think you, mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
But we must still be seeking ?
That Homer had an eye for the sublime features of earth, the nobler forms of animal life, and phenomena of nature, his bold and beautiful similies, scattered all through the Iliad, of storms, of overflowing rivers, of forests on flame, of the lion, the horse, and others, sufficiently testify; that he had a most exquisite sense of the picturesque, is slewn in almost every page of the Odyssey; in the cave of Polypheme, in good old king Laertes occupied in his farm; and in the whole episode of Ulysses at the lodge of Eumeus, the goatherd.
But yet it is, after all, only in contemplating some scene of delicious rural beauty, something akin to Arcadian sweetness, that he breaks out into anything like a rapture.
The abode of Calypso, as seen by Hermes on his approach to it, is an exact instance.
Then, swift ascending from the azure wave,
Odyssey, B. v.
In Hesiod, the perception of even the delights of the summer field were far fainter. Though he fed his flock at the foot of Mount Helicon, he has little to say in praise of its aspect; and though he gives you great insight into the state of agriculture, and the simple mode of life of the country people, a very few verses furnish almost all the praise of nature which he had to bestow. His mind seemed occupied in tracing the genealogy of the gods, and framing grave maxims for the regulation of human conduct.
Of all the Greek writers, Theocritus is the one that luxuriates most in natural beauty. His sense of the picturesque is keen, and his pencilling of such subjects is most vigorous and graphic.
His two fishermen remind us of Crabbe; nothing can be more exquisite.
Two ancient fishers in a straw-thatched shed-
Then again, nothing can be more picturesque, nothing more boldly graphic and solemnly poetical, than the situation in which he makes Castor and Pollux find Anycus, the king of Bebrycia; nothing more striking than the image of that chief.
Meanwhile, the royal brothers devious strayed
Id. xxii. His description of an ancient drinking-cup appears to me to have no rival in all the round of literature, ancient or modern, except Keats’ description of an antique vase. It is life and beauty itself. The figures stand out in bold relief, cut with an energy and precision most wonderful, and with a grace that makes itself felt to the very depths of the spirit.
A deep, two-handled cup, whose brim is crowned
Smiling, by turns she views the rival pair ;
Hard by, a fisherman, advanced in years,
A vineyard next with intersected lines,
What a glorious subject would this be for one of our modern sculptors. Were I one, I would not lose an hour ere I attempted it.
But in Theocritus, as in Homer, they are Arcadian amenities that engross almost all his passion for nature. They are flowery fields, running waters, summer shades, and the hum of bees; all the elements of voluptuous dreaming and indolent entrancement; the most delicious of all idleness, lying abroad with the blue sky above you, and the mossy turf beneath you, and the bubble of running waters, and the whisper of forest branches near, to lull you to repose. Is it not so ? When is it that he invites you to outof-door enjoyment?