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a judicious painter, filled with faithful studies after nature; and from his storehouse he drew the selection of local circumstances of description; the lively and circumstantial detail of appropriate incidents, of looks, and gestures, that place us on the very spot—that set the different actors before our eyes—that hurry us into the midst of the affairs, in which they are engaged.
As striking instances of the perception of beauty and grace, we may notice three different descriptions of Jason, illustrated, as the descriptions of Apollonius always are, by apt and beautiful similitudes.— Thę description of the young hero, passing to the place of embarkation, in which act he is compared to Phebus proceeding to some of his favourite haunts.-His hast, ing in all the splendour of beauty, and youthful grace, to meet the Lemnian queen, in the first book; and to meet Medea, in the third. In these three descriptions, the materials of the poet, the fundamental circumstances, of youth, beauty, grace, and amiable appearance, are the same;, yet, the poet has employed them, with such art, has so varied the positions and combinations, that there is no sameness in the descriptions themselves.The address of the author is particularly conspicuous, in this respect, that he sends the hero twice to a tender assignation; he compares him, in both instances, to a star, yet the two descriptions have nothing else in common; they are both wholly new, wholly original, and excite ideas wholly different in the mind. — The forms of Calais and Zetes-Pollux, preparing for his combat with Amycus--the deportment of Jason, and the Cola chian princess, when they place themselves, at the hearth of Circe, are pictures worthy of the hand of a Guido.
The power of selecting and combining circumstances being joined with a picturesque sense, and descriptive faculty, and exercised on a subject so well adapted to
them. The various incidents, in a voyage through unknown seas, and to many distant and unexplored regions, the reader is carried, from country to country; the face of the soil, and the manners of the different inhabitants, are described, in the most lively and natural colours; his attention is never suffered to languish;
and a quick succession of interesting objects is presented · to him, in a moving picture. Nothing dwells too long
on the sight, but the scene is perpetually shifting. We accompany the heroic band—we pass, with them, through the most imminent perils—we are presented with the most romantic adventures, and the narrative is carried on, with such spirit, that we cease to be readers. The imagination warms, and we seem to become actors.Thus, the poem of Apollonius excites the same kind of interest, and communicates the same species of rational pleasure, which are found, in the perusal' of well-written books of travels. Thus, the author contrives to encrease the delusion, of seeming reality, and, at the same time, takes occasion to mix instruction with amusement, by introducing the ancient traditions, of history and religion-by tracing out the origin of states, and marking the customs and manners of remote tribes and nations. In the Odyssey we find the same excellence, and feel a similar interest excited by it; but the action of the Argonautics is more important, and better adapted to awaken curiosity; and the sketch of countries and nations, which is presented to us in it, is more rapid, and more diversified. How amusing are the details, which he gives us, of the manners and customs of the Chalybes, the Tibareni, the Mossyneci, and the Colchians ; how amiable the picture, which he presents, of Alcinous, his consort, and the hospitality of their court.
I have dwelt more at length, on this graphical or picturesque talent of Apollonius, because, in my appre
hension, hension, it is that, which is most peculiarly his own, and distinguishes him, in a supereminent degree, from other writers. In fact, the power of realizing, by natural selection, and minute, circumstantial, and local description, has not been possest by many writers.-I proceed, now, in my examination of this fine poet, and. the more minute and critical is the attention paid to him, the more shall we be convinced, that he possesses all the requisites of a great master in his art; and that nothing can be more palpably unjust, than the sentence, which would degrade him to the class of mediocrity.
We must remark in Apollonius that faculty, which is the chief and principal ingredient in the composition of the true poet, which gives life and existence to all his other attributes--a fertility and copiousness of inven. tion, a brilliancy, a clearness, and originality of imagi. nation. How unjust, then, to consign to mediocrity, the writer, who shows the sportive range, and commanding ken, of a felicitous and inexhaustible fancy, teeming with all its golden dreams and divine fictions, producing an exhibition of gay and splendid pictures and imagery, a tissue of wild and romantic incidents and adventures.
To support the truth of this character, the fine de. scription of the appearance of Cybele, and the ground becoming fertile, and the wild beasts fawning at the presence of the goddess* -of the appearance and story of Phineus, and the pursuit of the harpies.-The invo. cation, at the commencement of the third book, and the machinery of Venus and her son.--The dream of Medea. Her magic. --The rising of the earth-born brothers from the new-ploughed land. The descrip
* See Book I. v. 1110. + See Book II.
tion of Circe, and her strange attendants.--Her vision. - The descent of Iris. Her messages to Thetis, Vul čan, and Æolus. The active intervention of Thetis and her nymphs.— The fable of the Sirens. The description of Libya.---The appearance and transformation of the Atlantic nymphs. The apparition of Triton.
The beautiful vision of Euphemus, and the production of the new island-may be cited as full proofs of the inventive powers of our author.
Although the genius of Apollonius may seem to in. dulge itself most, in reveries of delight, in the pursuit of grace and beauty, in those passages, where the gay, the sportive, and the fanciful, predominated; yet, we shall find his muse equal to the noblest flights of sublimity and grandeur. We find in him many of the no. blest and greatest conceptions. We are struck with passages, which compel us to acknowledge, that, when he pleases to exert himself, and put forth his strength, he is not inferior to any writer, ancient or modern, in the powers of displaying the solemn, the magnificent, the gloomy, and the terrible. — Examples of his vigour and sublimity may be found, in the sailing of Argo, while the gods look down from heaven, with admira. tion.I-In the rage of Hercules, for the loss of his fa-,
vourite. || In the noble description of Glaucus.fi . In the description of Amycus, and his combat with Polo lux.**-The description of the closing rocks; of the ship rushing through them; and of Pallas 'speeding the
flight of the vessel - is an instance, at once, of circum stantial and exact delineation, and of sublimity, greatness, and terror.* _ What can be more sublimely dreade ful, more horribly great and appalling, than the passage, where the Argonauts are described, as sailing near mount Caucasus, seeing the vulture slowly descend, hearing the shrieks of the tortured Prometheus, and viewing the bird of carnage on his return.t-Equal in gloomy majesty, and terrific greatness, is the descriptions of the nocturnal rites prescribed by Medea, and the appearance of Brimo Hecatè, in the third book; and of the manner in which Medea destroys Talus, in the fourth.
To these we must add, the power and mastery de the pathetic; in which Apollonius has had no superior, and not many equals. Whether we find him painting the fond solicitudes, the tender hopes, and fears of love; and tracing the progress and growth of passion, in the enamoured breast; and exhibiting the war of contending passions, the painful conflicts, between incli. pation and duty.-Whether he describes the perils and sufferings of heroic worth and daring—expresses the emotions of tenderness, sorrow, and despair-or pourtrays the untimely and afflicting catastrophe of the brave, the young, the illustrious, the wise and good. We find him in full possession of every key, that can unlock the avenues to the heart.-—The description || of the aged and infirm Æson, sinking down in his bed of sorrow, under the weight of years and amictions. The affectionate and melting address of Alcimede, at parting from her son Jason, and the tender and beautiful com
* See Book II.