Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE FIRST TRANSLATOR OF HOMER.

Evrope is indebted to Leontius Pylatus, who lived in the fourteenth century, for the first translation of the works of Homer ; and nobody seems to know much about him. If it had not been for Boccace, who assisted him in this translation into Latin, we should not have been enabled to trace even the name of a man to whom the literary world is under so much obligation. He was a Greek-a Bative of Thessalonica, who taught his own language at Florence, and of whom the author of the Decameron has given the following portrait. . “ His look was frightful; his countenance hideous; he had an immensely long beard, and black hair, which was seldom disturbed by a comb. Absorbed in constant meditation, he neglected the decent forms of society; he was rude, churlish, without urbanity, and without morals; but, to make some amends for this, he wasprofoundly skilled in the Greek language and Greek literature. Of the Latin his knowledge was but superficial. Aware that“ a prophet hath no honour in his own country,” he called himself a Greek in Italy, and an Italian in Greece. He had passed several years among the ruins of the Labyrinth of Crete."

Notwithstanding all the endeavours of Boccace and of Petrarch. to retain this wandering character in Italy, he persisted in his resolution to return to Greece ; but, scarctly had he set his foot in that country, when he wrote a letter to Petrarch, longer and more filthy than his beard and hair, as that author expresses himself, in which he extolled Italy to the skies, and spoke in the bitterest terms of Constantinople. Not receiving any answer, he embarked in a vessel bound for Venice. The ship safely arrived in the Adriatic, when suddenly a terrible storm arose. Whilst all on board were in motion to do what was necessary for the vessel in this predicament, the terrified Greek clung to a mast, which was struck with a thunderbolt. He died on the spot. The mariners and others were in the greatest consternation, but no other person sustained any injury. The body of the unfortunate Leontius, shapeless and half burnt, was thrown into the sea ; and Petrarch, in relating this catastrophe to Boccace, says, among other things, " This unhappy man has left the world in a more miserable manner than he came into it. I do not believe he experienced in it a single happy day. His physioga nomy seemed to indicate his fate. I know not how any sparks of poetic genius found their way into so gloomy a soul.”

* * *

REVIEW OF LITERATURE.

QUI MONET QUASI ADJUVAT.

A Journey from Edinburgh through Parts of North Britain : con.

taining Remarks on Scotish Landscape, and Observations on Rural Economy, Natural History, Manufactures, Trade, and Com. merce; interspersed with Anecdotes, traditional, literary, and historical: together with biographical Sketches, relating chiefly to civil and ecclesiastical Affairs, from the twelfth Century down to the present Time. In two Volumes. Embellished with for. ty-four Engravings, from Drawings made on the Spot, of the lake, river, and mountain Scenery of Scotland. By Alexander Campbell. 410. London. 1802.

To those who are prevented, by a succession of home engagements, by the expence attendant upon travelling, or by other pru. dential motives, from exploring distant regions, which report has rendered interesting ; it is a consolatory resource, that they can sit by their own fire-sides, and have the iconography of those regions placed before them, at a very trivial comparative charge ; that they can gaze, as in a camera obscura, at the faithful representation of remote objects, and have those objects elucidated by an intelligent, though silent guide. We had reason to express our high satisface tion in vols. ix and x of our miscellany, at being conducted through part of the scenery which we now are called upon to re-view, by the late lamented Dr. Garnett : a name which cannot be uttered without a sigh of affectionate regret by all who knew the man, which cannot be written without a glow of grateful respect by all who received instruction from the philosopher. To Dr. Garnett we ex. pressed our obligation for the varied entertainment he afforded us, while his ear was sensible of praise, and we are disposed to pay the same tribute, if it be warranted, to this later tourist, in his pedestrian circuit through the romantic wilds of Caledonia.

Dr. Garnett set forward from Glasgow ; Mr. Campbell proceeds from Edinburgh ; and it would have greatly assisted us in our descriptive sketch of the track which he pursued, to have been presented with a topographical chart of his tour on the plan of Dr. Garnett.

On quitting Edinburgh, Mr. C. turns round to take a view of the prospect whence he had proceeded, in reverse ; while gathering

D-VOL. XV.

distance compresses into a clustered piéture the dome of the register office, the tower: like appearance of the comb of Hume, the ancient college church, the heights of Calton, Salisbury Craigs, and Arthur's Seat, together with the lofty masses of the old town, irregular, and but dimly discerned through smoke on the right, and on the left the clean, elegant, lengthening, and spreading new town : and, more than all, St. Cuthbert's church, over which impending, gloomy and wild, seated on its dark cliffy steep, the castle frowns, adding solemn dignity to this uncommon scene. Proceeding on his journey, he next arrives at a spacious opening on the left, called the Lothian road; respeeting the formation of which we are presented with the following curious narration and anecdote.

“ This read had been the subject of much speculation long before it was made. At last, however, a gentleman undertook, for an inconsiderable wager, to make this piece of road, about a quarter of a inile in length, and in many parts twenty paces in breadth, so far passable with one day's labour, as that he might drive over it in safety with his carriage : which, to the surprise of all who had heard of, or witnessed this whimsical undertaking, he accomplished, and thus gained his bet. The line of road was almost straight, and lay through fields, orchards, gardens, and a multiplicity of small houses. Lest any one, therefore, whose property in this direction might suffer injury when removing obstructions, should take the alarm, and make the application for legal means, which would at least retard, if not prevent such unusual and summary procedure, it was necessary to be secret and expeditious. Accordingly, matters were concerted with address, and executed with promptitude. It happened to be winter, when the Jabouring poor, in general, are out of employ, and a day's work now and then is all they have to depend on for a precarious and scanty subsistence. Of course, a sufficient number of hands were easily procured, and at no great expence. Many hundreds appeared on the ground at sun-rise, on this eventful day; a day of much mirth to some, while others had cause sufficient to lament the ravages of a very few hours. Parties filed off to various occupations : some to demolish houses, others to pull down dikes, some to root up hedges, others to cut down trees. In short, this rnthless band continued their depredations with unwearied assiduity, and before the fall of night, they had accomplished their business of destruction, as was then the opinion of some persons, but it evidently appears now to have been productive of public utility. .

" Among the many scenes of temporary distress which this unexpected invasion occasioned, that experienced by a simple old woman, is supposed to have been one of the most ludicrous incidents of the day. Long before day-light, the good easy soul had milked her cows; for being a milk-woman, such was her usual occupation. Her pipe smoaked and tea taken, all things were in readiness, for her departure to serve her customers; but recollecting that a few friends were to eat some sheep's-head broth with her at mid-day, she with great composure prepared the kail-pot, put in the accustomed ingredients, and left it on the fire, so that it might simmer undisturbed till she should, on her return, cook it lei. surely to her satisfaction. Judge of her surprise and disappointment, when, on her return, neither pot, vor fire, neither house, byre, nor cows, were in the places where she had left them ;-all had suffered a material and radical change, having been swept away in the general wreck.”

Mr. C. proceeds to the water of Leith, and ascending a gentle eminence a little way beyond the second mile stone from Edinburgh, takes a parting glance at that city and its environs. Among the ancient buildings which are discernible from this spot, Whitehouse and Merchiston-house are pointed out as most conspicuous, The latter of these reliques of former times is worthy of notice, as having been the chief residence of Napier, the famous inventor of the logarithms, a person to whom the title of great man is more justly due, says Hume, than any other whom his country ever produced.

“Napier,” adds the present writer, “ was like the great Newton, endowed with the highest ornament of genius and learning, modesty! and he knew, like him, how to appreciate the talents of others, with all the candour which a magnanimous mind is capable of feeling.

This was exemplified in the hospitable reception he gave to the geometer of Gresham college, Henry Briggs, who addressed him, on their first meeting, in the following words :--My Lord, I have undertaken this long journey purposely to see your person, and to know by what engine of wit or ingenuity you came first to think of this most excellent help to astronomy, viz. the logarithms. But, my Lord, being by you found out, I wonder nobody else found it out before, when now being known it appears so easy.' It is yet a matter of doubt among the learned, whether the venerable profes. sor of Gresham college himself had not some pretensions to the discovery of the geometrical series, known by the name of logarithms*. By his letter to Archbishop Usher, Mar. 10, 1615, it should seem that he rather applied himself to the study and improvement of them; his words being—“Napier, Lord Merchiston hath set my head and hands at work with his new and admirable logarithms. I hope to see him, next summer, if it please God; for 1 never saw a book which pleased me better, and made me more wonder.”

Mr. C. pursues his route by the residence of that accomplished antiquary the late Sir James Foulis, of Collington, and passes near Dalmahoy and Hatton; the seats of gloomy Morton and intriguing Lauderdale, noticing, as he passes, the cultivated farms of professor Ferguson, well known for teaching the science of ethics * Sce Huttou's History of Logarithms, p. 37.

and the philosophy of the human mind. Here our traveller pays an incidental tribute of respect to his own collegiate instructor Mr. Dugald Stewart, and noticing one of the oldest churches extant in the village of Corstorphine, soon after gains a height from which the dis. tant prospect beams sublime. He discerns the Grampian mountains, the Ochil hills, and the magnificient Ben-ledi, whose top seems to reach the heavens"; and here for the present we must leave him.

(To be continued.] · The Complaynt of Scotland, written in 1548. With a Preliminary

Dissertation and Glossary, &c. Continued from page 328 in our last Volume.

The author of the Complaynt professes to dedicate the first labour of his pen to the Queen Regent, and it is curious, as Mr. Leyden remarks, to observe the similarity of the complimentary style which the author adopts, to that which is employed in the solemn speeches of some barbarous tribes. Our limits, however, do not permit us to exhibit the specimens that are adduced.

In the prologue which follows the “ Epistil to the Quenis Grace," the author palliates the defects of his composition, and at. tempts to evade the charge of presumption, by alledging his desire of promoting the public utility. Every craft,' says he,' is necessary for the public good; and he that has the gift of traduction, his faculty is as honourable, useful, and necessary, as that of the mariner, merchant, cordiner, carpenter, captain, or civilist.' To an author who professes to address the common people, such an apology was the more necessary, as the influence of literary productions, at that period, was far from being extensive. As few of the commons could read, the most exquisite composition in prose could never equal the popularity of a minstrel.

After the Prologue, the author, in order to discover whether the series of disasters which had almost ruined the Scotish nation, portended the final extermination of that people, or was intended by the Deity for the correction of their vices, proceeds to investigate the general cause of the mutation of monarchies and states. He determines that these revolutions ought to be considered as the punish. ments of Heaven, inflicted on great national vices : he corroborates his position by the citation of divers passages of Scripture : vigorously controverts the opinions of different philosophers concerning the influence of Fortune, and the permanent state of the natural world ; while he intermingles powerful exhortations to unanimity, and breathes a fierce spirit of vengeance against the ' auld enemeis.'

The second division of the Complaynt, denominated the Mono

« PreviousContinue »