« ZurückWeiter »
The essay on the Eleusinian Mysteries, although short, and without pretensions to any deep research, is perspicuous, and affords a very plausible explanation of those extraordinary ceremonies. The author takes a Warburtonian view of their doctrines, but in a very chastised manner.
The account of the Olympic Games is more popular in its style of narrative, but affords little which might not be obtained by the student from Potter's Archæologia, which must necessarily be in his hands. Indeed, we observe one or two important omissions in this account of them; such as that of the race with the κελης Or μοναμποξ, with which we s0 often meet in Pindar; though we find an apparent reference to it, not by name, in a subsequent lecture on the effect of these games on the manners of Greece. To us it appears that the literary prizes for which competition was excited, and the influence of which was too well proved by experience to be doubted, were the only point that raised the Grecian character above the tournaments, and feats of arms, that form so important a feature in early modern history.
We will pass over the several essays which relate to the military affairs and the political institutions of the more proninent states, and other points, a knowlege which may be so satisfactorily derived from many accessible sources ; detaining our readers a short time with a portion of the fifteenth essay, which is devoted to the private life of the Athenians; and on the subject of the succeeding lecture, which treats of the older comedy.
The ensuing passage appears to us to convey a correct notion of the usual habits of life among this people, as far as the recollections derived from more detached descriptions of their manners allow us to judge. Having described the common occupations of the morning, the author proceeds to state :
During the day, the Athenians either took no food or only a slight repast in private. At sun-set they sat down to supper, and considering the business of the day as over, devoted the evening to society and amusement, and often continued together till a late hour of the night. In Attica, the lower class of the people lived almost entirely on vegetables, and even the richer citizens were long remarkable for the plainness of their entertainments. A short time before the age of Demosthenes, they began to import various articles of luxury from the different countries with which they traded, and introduced into their entertainments a profusion and magnificence long unknown in any part of Greece.
· In Athens the master of the house did not preside at supper. When the company had assembled, one of them, chosen by lot, was appointed king of the feast, and was empowered to preserve
order among the guests, to fix the quantity of wine which they were to drink, and to determine the manner in which, while to. gether, they were to pass the time. In the convivial meetings of the Athenians, music, of which all the Greeks were passionately fond, formed a favourite part of their amusement. Sometimes every one sang in succession, and occasionally the whole joined in singing some favourite air. The songs, sung on such occasions, seem to have often been odes composed in honour of those who had rescued their country from slavery, or had fallen with glory in her defence, and still more frequently the gay and sportive productions of Anacreon.
• Soon after supper the master of the feast was accustomed to propose a subject on which all present were expected to deliver their sentiments. Plato and Xenophon have each of them written a ouumorioy, or account of a convivial entertainment, and have in. troduced this practice as a chief part of the amusement of the company. In Plato the subject is love, and in Xenophon what ought to be the object of desire. Among a people possessed of so much acuteness, fancy, and command of expression as the Athenians, the harangues delivered on such occasions would often be instructive, sprightly, or ingenious; but the practice itself does not deserve the praises which some extravagant admirers of the Greeks have bestowed on it. Conversation is then most pleasing when it flows from the incidents of the moment; when those engaged in it feel themselves without restraint, and express the sentiments which their temper, situation, or habit of thinking, has a tendency to suggest.
• As the evening grew late, the convivial amusements of the Athenians became less refined. Sometimes jugglers and buffoons were hired to excite the surprise and laughter of the guests; and, towards the end of the entertainment, female musicians were occasionally introduced, at whose appearance the whole company rose from table and joined in dancing till it was time to retire.
• It was a saying in Greece that a convivial meeting should not consist of a smaller number than the Graces, nor a greater than the Muses; and accordingly no Greek writer has mentioned any private entertainment at which the landlord expected more than nine.'
We do not consider Dr. Hill to have been altogether so successful in the very brief detail of female society which he exbibits. By describing only the habits and occupations of one class, though the most respectable and important, viz. that of the married women, he leaves the student in the belief that such habits, confined strictly to a routine of domestic employment, and not relieved either by society or by the embellishments of literature, were universal among the sex.
That few exceeded these illiberal bounds without also transgressing the rules of outward decorum and inward
purity, in that city, is probably the case * : but we are well aware that, from the age of Pericles to the later days of Roman dominion over Greece, the class of literary ladies formed an important feature in Athenian society. The Laconia of Juvenal may possibly be regarded as no unfair specimen of such characters. In speaking of the attention paid to music, as a branch of education, Dr. Hill might have traced the prevalence of that taste even in the hardy warrior from the heroic ages.
The old comedy of the Athenians appears now to be tolerably well understood in its character, by all modern classical readers; and later years seem to have produced a "revival” of Aristophanes among scholars, though he will amuse but little if abstracted from the times in which and the people for whom he wrote: but, in proportion as they are more developed, he will arrest the attention much more powerfully. While some knowlege of the Athenians of his own day is requisite for the right understanding of Aristophanes, the comic poet will in his turn afford a key for the better comprehension of the character of the Athenians themselves. It is somewhat remarkable, that few writers have observed on the extraordinary contrast exhibited in the tragedy and the antient comedy of Athens, and the singular contradictions of taste in the same audience which they seem to imply. The discordance between Shakspeare and Foote bears no comparative proportion to that which presents itself between Æschylus and Aristophanes. The descent on the English stage is simply from the fate of kings, who are made to act and think like men in that exalted sphere, to the ludicrous errors of common domestic life; where the schemes of the chamber-maid stand in lieu of the arrangements of the General, and the run-away “ Miss in her Teens" claims that interest which has at other times been created for the distressed queen, or the slighted heroine : the grand distinction lying in the familiarity of incident, the language which conveys it, and the ludicrous instead of serious means by which the catastrophe is effected. Nothing, however, would satisfy the refined taste of an Athenian audience in tragedy, that was of a lower cast than the decrees of destiny, or the fortunes of heroes and demi-gods; sentiments in great part unaccommodated to any state of real society, and incidents more adapted to produce horror (according to our feelings) than
* We may trace this fact from the heroic ages, in the Odyssey, where Telemachus advises his mother on this subject, to the most polished ages of Greece.
commiseration. We acknowlege, indeed, that the to tépalmoes has struck us in passages, where Aristotle might have called us to severe account for such a confession. It is fair to remark that these principles of taste were evidently the result, in a great measure, of that mythology which encircled itself round every fact of history or of fiction : but, when we see the same people greeting with rapturous applause a poet, who frequently debased human nature as extravagantly as the tragedians exalted it, not indeed by any means with pointless wit, but with gross indelicacy and broad buffoonery, we seem to burst on an enigma which requires the solution of some able metaphysician.
Our knowlege of the later Greek comedy can be derived only from its Roman imitators; the few fragments that remain to us affording no insight into it, any mote than the general character of those who cultivated it successfully, which we find in succeeding writers. Dr. Hill, consequently, passes it over lightly and hastily. - We also must now direct our own attention, and that of our readers, to other matters,
Art. IV. Humorous Recitations in Verse: with Pride and Pre
judice, or Strictures on public Schools. By J. Rondeau, Clayhill Academy, Enfield.
12mo. pp. 152
55. Boards. Pinnock and Maunder. 1820. WE E heartily wish, for the amusement of our readers, that
we could copy the frontispiece to this volume, as well as the title-page. Such a frontispiece does indeed speak volumes ! With roses at his feet, and with angels over his head, (including a cherub with two chests, and one pair of legs,) stands a youth of about fourteen, hot in the face, but coolly clad in white trowsers. In his right hand, is a scroll; in his left nothing observable, but extreme rectangularity of elbow, from which it ascends. The motto to the print is,
• Even now I feel her potent influence
Pervading every power of mind and sense : but whether it be the goddess of the Dunciad or any other goddess
o who brings The Smithfield muses to the ear of Kings," we have no clue to decide, except that which is afforded by the “ body of the work,”
Mr. Rondeau informs us, however, that the real clue to his meaning in the present most original publication is irony ; which is the prominent characteristic of these recitations, p. 6. Under the pretence, therefore, and the seeming of great irregularities and absurdities committed at Clayhill Academy, the author would have us to understand that nothing can be so orderly, nothing so sensible, as the whole economy of that suburban establishment. very thankful for this hint; since otherwise we should, inadvertently, have been led to express some degree of surprize at the following picture of the interior of his domestique being afforded by a school-master himself:
• One night, when Somnus had withheld his sway,
And lovely Cynthia emulated day,
Off, off, off!