« ZurückWeiter »
nius and learning, are not known until the men themselves are for ever lost to this world. Thus, we are equally ignorant, how far the family circumstances, and course of their early life, have influenced the studies, and determined the labours of learned men--and how far, again, the course of their studies may have contributed to influence the conduct and temper of their riper age. Entombed through life, the days of those splendid yet depreciated beings glide away, in darkness and in silence; they pass on, to the gulf of eternity, unob. served, like the noiseless rivers, that work their way beneath the earth, and suddenly burst on the day, to clothe the astonished valley with beauty and abundance. It is also unfortunate, for literary men, and artists, that the little which we know respecting them, is usually transmitted through an unfavourable medium. That their jealousies, their rivalships, their petty squabbles, their impatience, their irritability, and ridiculous distresses, are all transmitted to us by the industrious care of malice and envy; while the features of benevolence, the circumstances that might do them honour, their loves, their friendships, and their virtues, are lost in oblivion.
It seems, that the happy situation of poets, at the elegant court of the Ptolemies, was not sufficient to tranquillize their spirits, or exempt them wholly from the corroding influence of jealousy, and mutual animosity. The unbounded munificence of the sovereign was incapable of satiating the cupidity of his poets, or excluding the baneful effects of envy and rivalship. Though Apollonius, in his early years, had been, as we observed, the disciple of Callimachus: the connexion of these illustrious poets ended in the most violent animosity, and
acts of decided and open hostility. The circumstances • of this quarrel, and the causes whence it originated,
have not been transmitted to us. But, certain it is, that
aut, certain limachus
Callimachus must have been actuated, by no small degree of resentment, since he composed a poem, of considerable length, in which, under the fictitious name of Ibis, he satirizes, in the most pointed terms, the igno, rance, the malevolence, and calumnies, of a certain person. It has been the universal opinion of the learned, that the person, meant by Callimachus, was no other than our poet Apollonius. It should seem, that this poem was written with considerable strength and ability of invective, since it was generally known among the ancients.
That the Ibis of Callimachus had obtained a high degree of reputation, we may infer, from the circumstance of Ovid having adopted the name, as well as the plan of this poem, in his satire on a malicious enemy and calumniator, which has reached us among his works. Probably, indeed, the Ibis of Qvid contains many par. ticular passages, translated or imitated from the Ibis of Callimachus. He speaks thus of the poem of Callimachus, as of a performance well known, and in the hands of every body.
“ Nunc quo Battiades * inimicum devovet Ibin,
Tho' such disguise but little suits my muse." The expression devovet - devotes with curses, is characteristic of the deadly rancour, with which Callimachus pursued his foe--and the expressions of cacis involvam carmina historiis, show, that his cowardice, or, to use
* The father of Callimachus was named Battus. VOL. 111.
the the mildest term, his caution, was equal to his malignity. It appears hence too, that the story of this ancient literary quarrel was well known, and much celebrated among the ancients. The superabundance of ancient mythology, and learned allusion, with which great part of the Ibis is crouded, resembles the style of Callimachus so much, that I am apt to think, the Latin poet closely followed the Greek original.' One cannot avoid remarking, in the poets of the Alexandrine school, inany passages of such strong resemblance, as would tempt us to think they may have been imitated from the Scrip. tures. In the Ibis of Ovid we may remark, a severity of malediction, not unlike that which occurs in some of the psalms of David.t And in the elaborate details of misery, to which the malignant Ibis is devoted, by the incensed poet, there is much that reminds us of the gloomy paintings in the poetical book of Job.
If it be true, that Hyginus the grammarian, according to the conjecture of Salvagnius, or the person, whoever he might have been, whom Ovid has thought proper to designate by the feigned name of Ibis, not only attacked him in his exile, with calumnies, and false accusations, but also attempted to estrange from him the affections of a beloved and constant wife; we cannot wonder, that the resentful feelings of the injured and indignant poet dictated such a strain of invective and asperity. “ Quisquis is est, (nam nomen adhuc utcumque
tacebo) “ Cogit inassuetus sumere tela manā “ Ille relegatum gelidos aquilonis ad ortus « Non sinit exilio delituisse suo. “ Vulneraque immitis requiem querentia vexat “ Jactat, et in toto verba canina foro:
+ For instance, the 35th, 59th, 69th, and 109th.
“ Perpetuoque mihi sociatam federe lecti
Though the person, who was the object of the original Ibis, is clearly ascertained, the causes, which provoked this act of cruel hostility, are only to be sought in conjecturex-in all probability, they were much less real and justifiable, than those of which Ovid complains -perhaps the quarrel originated only in the rivalry of talent, and jealousy of authorship; perhaps Callimachus, in full possession of literary fame, might view the growing genius of a younger poet with inauspicious eyes, and feel himself disposed to cuff down rising merit* -perhaps Apollonius, with the rashness and sanguine spirit incident to youth, might have presumed too much on the friendship, and good offices, of his preceptor, and guide in the tuneful art, and finding himself disappointed in these expectations, might have shown some of that irri
tability tability which has been ascribed to poets-perhaps he might have shown his early compositions to Callimachus, who might have treated them with contempt, and discouraged him from the prosecution of poetical studiesperhaps Callimachus, through jealousy or contempt, might have contributed to the ill success of his first essays—whether any, or all of these motives, influenced the youthful and ardent mind of Apollonius : it should seem that he exprest himself with considerable severity respecting Callimachus.
Whatever may have been the original ground of quarrel, the genius of Apollonius seems to have been so elegant, his writings breathe such an amiable spirit, that I should be much inclined, to acquit him of unprovoked asperity, and to retort the charge of ill temper and malignity on his antagonist; at least, there is a passage of Callimachus yet remaining, which shows that he was not of a very conciliating, or placable disposition, but truly one of the genus irritabile vatum-jealous in honour, sude den and quick in quarrel.-- That injuries, whether real or imaginary, sunk deep into his spirit, and found there a temper impatient, resentful, querulous, by no means prone to forget or forgive, or indisposed to retaliate. The lines in question are part of the conclusion of his hymn to Apollo. He there speaks of some cotemporary writer, who, as he says, envied him; and yet, at the same time, endeavoured to exalt himself, at his expence, by a depreciating comparison of their works, in respect to magnitude and dignity. In the same strain of comparison, Suckling, in his session of poets, introduces Ben Johnson undervaluing his brother bards--because his were called works, while others wrote but plays.- Callimachus introduces his enemy and rival as saying, in the same spirit, I do not value the poet, who does not produce something great like the ocean. This something vast