« PreviousContinue »
DIRECTIONS TO THE BINDER.
The Story of the Trojan Horse, considered as a Proof of
the Reality of a Trojan IVar.
The writers who have examined the question, whether the city of Priam ever existed, are entitled to our approbation and gratitude, though they annihilate our earliest and pleasantest associations. The scenes and the characters of Homerare not only delightful to us as children or young men ; the leisure of manbood and age is equally gratified with the life and spirit, the nature, the imagery, the language, and varieties of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and of their majestic imitation, the Æneid. If Mr. Bryant and his coadjutors could succeed in overthrowing the general opinion in favor of the real existence of Troy, they would destroy the noblest illusions which have attracted and fascinated all classes of readers for nearly thirty centuries. For though it is not necessary to the pleasure arising from poetical composition, that we should consider the splendid pictures of the poet, either as mere matters of fact, or as a more vivid coloring of real history, than is usually given by the sober historian, we are little interested in the Epic dramas, which rest on no other fouodation, than the imagination of their author, or the fables of romance. We care less about Kehama and Thalaba, than Achilles and Hector ; because we know that these beings could not have been placed in the situations represented by the poet. If Jerusalem had never existed, we should have no interest in the heroic Godfrey, or the good Raymond : if the wood bad not been cut down by the crusaders, we should have thought the poet was raving when he described the enchantments employed to prevent the
VOL. XX. CL, JI. NO, XXXIX. А
felling of the trees. The works of Fancy must be fouwded on fact, knowledge, or memory, or they can neither interest nor please. This reasoning will apply to the Iliad and the neid ; if the persuasion that Troy had no real existence, and therefore that there were no such men as Achilles, Ajax, Hector, Paris, &c. be once universally received; the admirable talents of Homer and Virgil will be no longer appreciated: their works would gradually be esteemed as ingenious romances, to be neglected, though not entirely forgotten.
So far from esteeming the Iliad and the Odyssey in this inferior point of view, we ought rather to receive them as a valuable and interesting collection of exact and perfect representations of the earlier manners, customs, and modes of thinking among the first postdiluvian and patriarchal governments. Though we reject all the fabulous parts of the story, and doubt the truth of many possible events recorded, there seems to be such an air of reality in the whole narrative of the Siege of Troy, that it challenges our belief in the existence of the city, and in the certainty that it was besieged, in spite of all the arguments which have been adduced by Mr. Bryant and his admirers. There is such keeping, uniformity, and connexion, that the buman mind never could have invented what Homer must be supposed to have done, if the “ tale of Troy divine” was not founded on fact. Its interval evidence, in short, appears to decide the controversy. Many instances, in which these observations are applicable, could be pointed out; from others I have selected the curious Episode of the Trojan Horse : the coincidences which I shall enumerate will not perhaps appear too fanciful.
The Greeks, says the history, were unable to take the city. They pretended to return hone, but sailed only to Tenedos, to await ibe result of a stratagem, by nieans of which they trusted to capture Troy. They leave an immense statue of a horse on the plain before the town, which contained within its spacious recesses a large body of armed men. On the departure of the Greeks, the Trojans, as Virgil so beautifully describes the scene, open their gates, and fight their battles over again ; they mark where Achilles had fought, where ihe tents of the several nations had been pitched, and the ships drawn up. While many were thus engaged, and others wondered at the immense borse, Sipon is found lurking on the shore. He is requested, after the first insults of the crowd, aud when protection had been promised by Priam, to explain the reasous wliy this immense statue had been left by the Greeks. He replies, after a solemn and suspicious assertion of his veracity, that when Ulysses and Tydides stole the Palladium from the citadel, they had touched the tillets of the Goddess with bands stained