Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

them.-Altogether present the most riant and animated picture, that can be imagined. *The description of the Syrtes, and the Lybian wilds. The distress of the Argonauts, and the women.--The appearance of the Heroines, or tutelar nymphs of the place. The account of the horse of Neptune-of the dragon Ladon, which had guarded the apples of the Hesperides, being slain by Hercules, and lying dead 1-of the form and deportment of Hercules. --|| The death of Mopsus. These may be selected, from an hundred and an hundred passages, as examples, to show the unrivalled descriptive powers of Apollonius; as illustrations of his genius as a painter poet; of the talents, of the mind, judicious, at once, to elect and combine the attributes and accidents of objects, and the circumstances of actions; of graphical delineation, and distinctness of picturesque imagination, and conception.

To this department of the praise of Apollonius belongs the consideration of the aptitude, the illustrative beauty, the happiness of his similitudes. The near approximation of remote objects—the surprising coincidence of things apparently discordant, excites a degree of wonder in the mind, in which consists much of the pleasure communicated by an ingenious similitude. The love of knowledge, which is unwearied in the mind of man, and the love of novelty, its concomitant, which is one of our strongest emotions, are gratified, by the tracing out the resemblance of things, which, at first glance, seem

* See Book IV. v. 10, et seq. Book IV. from 1125 to v. 1160.

† See Book IV. v. 1260 to 1330.
# See Book IV. from v. 1395 to 1450.

See Book IV. from y. 1500 to 1536.

to

to be unlike, by the bringing together objects, which, it should appear, were originally designed by nature, never. to meet. Nor is an obvious and general resemblance, in some coarse feature, or in a single particular, of things, in other respects dissimilar, as of an edifice and a mountain in bulk, of a man and a lion in fierceness, of a horse and a bird in swiftness-sufficient to constitute the beauty of a simile: the resemblance must be composed of circumstances, not so obvious, at the first glance; of circumstances not appertaining to all of the species, in all possible circumstances, but to some individual of it, placed in some particular circumstance of act and situation; for this gives a force and point to the illustration, a truth and vivacity to the painting. Nor must the comparison be left in generals, else its impression will be faint, it will illustrate nothing; it must be pursued, and driven home; it must be detailed, through the circumstances of resemblance; that it may inculcate and impress a living picture; that it may aptly illustrate the action, or object compared, by exhibiting clear and precise ideas to the mind of the reader. In tracing these circumstances of remote resemblance, much of genius consists; in seising and exhibiting them, with grace and propriety, consists much of the talent of a poet. The more the mind is stored with ideas, the more it has viewed nature and art, in their various forms and combinations, the more facilities will it possess, for the attainment of this branch of poetic excellence. In this aptness of appropriate illustration, in the novelty, beauty, and complete resemblance, or, as it may be called, poetical integrity of his similies, Apollonius Rhodius stands unrivalled. In most of his compositions, there are a peculiar neatness and dexterity, a happiness and originality. To this the stores of various knowledge,

wich

with which his mind was furnished, contributed, in an high degree. But, to these he added a pervading genius, an intuitive perception. Some instances of this excellence will be pointed out, in the following paragraph; and it will be further exemplified, in the progress of this work, when we come to trace some of those passages, in which succeeding writers have imi. tated the beauties of our author.

What can be more beautiful and natural, more ten. der and pathetic, than the comparison of the plaintive mildness, and soft sorrows of Alcimedè, on the eve of parting from her son, and sinking under a weight of grief, to a helpless little girl, opprest by a cruel stepmother, and clinging to her nurse.—The comparison of the fishes pursuing the charming strains of Orpheus, to flocks following the steps of their shepherd, while he goes on piping before them, is highly just and illustrative.-Bees are such an extraordinary and interesting race, so assiduous in their industry, so ingenious in their labours, so wise in their economy, so useful to man in their productions, that it is no wonder, their nature and properties, should equally engage the attention of the poet, and the naturalist. Accordingly, we find more poetical comparisons, and allusions, drawn from bees and their occupations, than, perhaps, from any other given subject. Apollonius has two fine and origi. nal similies, drawn from this source, and applied to illustrate subjects widely different, yet both highly appo. site and expressive. In the first book, the Lemnian women crouding from the city, in swarms, and clinging to the young and beautiful Argonauts, with tender moans, and plaintive murmurs, are, with great felicity, com

[ocr errors]

H

pared

pared to bees pouring from a hollow rock, with murmuring sound dispersing themselves over the meadows, and fastening each on some chosen flower. On the other hand, * the Bebrycians flying in crouds, with confusion and terror, before the Argonauts, after the death of Amycus, are, with equal propriety, resembled to bees driven from their hives, by the smoke of sul. phur, and flying away, in a sort of wild stupefaction.-The comparison of the giants lying slain in their ranks, to tall, trees lying felled in rows.--Thatt of Hercules, raging for the loss of his favourite, to an infuriate bull, are noble and expressive.- How beautiful, and, at the same time, how contrasted, are the two fine similies, in the second book,f where Amycus is compared to one of the Titans, and Pollux to a shining star! How illastrative the one, of the bulk, the strength, the pride, and brutal ferocity of the monarch; the other, of the youthful grace, and beauty, of the son of Leda! The exquisite comparison of the agitated heart of Medea, to the solar spectrum, dancing on the surface of water, appeared so strikingly beautiful to Virgil, that he has made it his own, by adoption. —The furious pattering of hail, against the roofs and walls of houses, crouded together in a city, is aptly employed, to give a notion of the incessant rattling noise, of the vollies of pointed quills, which the birds of Mars darted down, on the shields and helmets of the Argonauts.- What can be more admirable, than the comparison of Jason appear. ing in all the bloom of youth and beauty, for the ruin

* See Book II. v. 130.-Book I. v. 1093.
+ See Book I. v. 1265.
I See Book III. v. 38. -Book III. v. 755.
| See Book II. v. 1085.

See Book III. v.

of Medea's future peace and reputation, to the fatal brightness of Sirius darting malign influence, and shining to destroy.--I might accumulate more instances, to show the transcendent skill and excellence of Apollonius, in this branch of the poetic art, but I believe sufficient have been adduced, to convince the reader, that my praise of his picturesque talent is not exaggerated. To point the attention to passages, where he may trace the luminous display of appropriate attributes and incidents clearly conceived, and previously arranged in the mind, and happily and forcibly exprest.

As the very perfection and consummation, of the graphical or picturesque talent in Apollonius, which crown and place him in the foremost rank, as a painter poet, we find in him a most lively perception of deli. cacy, beauty, grace, and loveliness in form, in action, and in sentiment; an imagination peopled with the silphid apparitions, and ethereal creations, of the fair, the gentle, and the decorous.—To conclude, this head, our author possessed a clearness and distinctness of perception, which caused him to view all objects, physical and moral, with a discriminating eye, and a perfect and retentive intelligence; thus was his mind stored with a variety of the most clear and luminous notions, the most perfect and representative ideas. The things, which fell within his experience, were not viewed by him generally or confusedly, like objects seen at a distance, or through a mist: he contemplated them, in all their attributes, members, and varieties; he discriminated their species; he caught their proper incidents, destinations, and characters. Thus was he enabled to present things to his reader, with such distinctness and accuracy; such strength of design, and truth of colour.. ing; such a vivid appearance of nature, as very few poets have attained.--His mind was like the tablets of , H 2

a judicious

« ZurückWeiter »