Page images
PDF
EPUB

ON LATE-ACQUIRED WEALTH (Jacobs IV. 210, ccccxxxv.).

Translated by Cowper.
Poor in my youth, and in life's later scenes

Rich to no end, I curse my natal hour,
Who nought enjoy'd while young, denied the means ;

And nought when old enjoy'd, denied the power. This picture of discontent, displays a man who was dissatisfied in his youth, because luxuries were denied him, and in his old age, because his strength was abated. The constant craving of the discontented man for something unpossessed, is well expressed in a fragment of Theognis, translated by Hookham Frere (“Works of Hesiod,” &c., 1856, 438) :

Learning and wealth the wise and wealthy find
Inadequate to satisfy the mind;
A craving eagerness remains behind;
Something is left for which we cannot rest;
And the last something always seems the best,
Something unknown, or something unpossest.

THE PORTENT (Jacobs IV. 216, cccclxiii.).

Translated by C.
Three playful maids their fate would try,
Who first was doom'd by lot to die.
Three times the awful die is thrown,
Three times it points to one alone,
Who smiled, nor deem'd that fate her own;
When sudden from the roof 's dim height
She fell, and pass'd to fated night.-
Portents of ill err not, of brighter hours

No prayers can bring to pass, no human powers. Instances of portents of death abound in the literature of ancient and modern times. Those which preceded the murder of Cæsar are among the best authenticated. The hold, however, which these have gained on the popular mind, is probably due to Shakespeare's notice of them, who makes Cæsar himself to be so strongly influenced by his wife's dream (though he puts it upon affection for her) as to refuse to go to the senate-house, saying to Decius (“ Julius Cæsar,” Act II. SC. 2):

Calphurnia here, my wife, stays me at home:
She dreamt to-night she saw my statue,
Which, like a fountain with a hundred spouts,
Did run pure blood; and many lusty Romans

Came smiling, and did bathe their hands in it.
And these does she apply for warnings and portents,
And evils imminent; and on her knee

Hath begg’d, that I will stay at home to-day. Many modern stories of such portents only arise from the superstition of the vulgar; but there are a few, for which the evidence is strong, and the good faith of the narrators unimpeachable. It is not for us to say, that warnings of death or calamity may not be in mercy given by Him, in whom we live and move and have our being; and it argues as little wisdom to scoff at every portent and every warning, which is claimed as supernatural, as it does to believe all the folk-lore and the ghost-stories, which the ignorant hold in reverence, and at which chil. dren tremble. All that from the experience of mankind can be absolutely asserted is, that, proceeding from natural or supernatural causes, Campbell's celebrated line is continually verified :

And coming events cast their shadows before.

GREEK MANNER OF MOURNING FOR THE DEAD

(Stobæus).

Translated by C.
Lov'd shade! For thee we garlands wear,
For thee with perfumes bathe our hair ;
For thee we pledge the festive wine,
For joy, immortal joy, is thine.
Where thou art gone no tears are shed,
"Twere sin to mourn the blest, the dead.

Two stanzas by Byron, “ Bright be the place of thy soul,” breathe very much the same spirit as this beautiful epigram. It may suffice to quote the second :

Light be the turf of thy tomb!

May its verdure like emeralds be:
There should not be the shadow of gloom

In aught that reminds us of thee.
Young flowers and an evergreen tree

May spring from the spot of thy rest :
But nor cypress nor yew let us see;

For why should we mourn for the blest ?

ANCIENT LATIN EPIGRAMMATISTS.

B.C. 54-A.D. 370.

CATULLUS. Flourished B.c. 54. He was born at Verona, and in early life removed to Rome, where his poetry and wit caused him to be held in bigh estimation. With the exception of Martial, he is the most celebrated of the Latin Epigrammatists.

The numbering of the epigrams varies in different editions of Catullus. The one to which reference is made is that of Doering, Londini, 1820.

TO JUVENTIA (Ep. 48). Translated in The Works of Petronius Arbiter, &c., translated by

several hands." 1714.
Juventia, might I kiss those eyes,

That such becoming sweetness dart,
The numbers might to thousands rise,

Yet be too few to satisfy my heart;
A heart no surfeit would allow,

E'en though the harvest of our kisses were
More thick than what succeeds the plough,

And speaks the blessings of the fruitful year.
It was formerly the custom to kiss the eyes as a mark of tenderness.
In Chaucer's “ Troilus and Cresseide we have:

Thus Troilus full oft her eyen two

Gan for to kisse. Steevens, in his notes to Shakespeare's "Winter's Tale," mentions an old MS. play of “ Timon of Athens,” in which the same expression

O Juno! be not angry with thy Jove,

But let me kisse thine eyes, my sweete delight. There is another epigram by Catullus very similar to this, and Martial has closely imitated them in Book VI. Ep. 34.

occurs :

ON THE INCONSTANCY OF WOMAN'S LOVE (Ep. 70).

Translated by George Lamb.
My Fair says, she no spouse but me
Would wed, though Jove himself were he,

She says it: but I deem
That what the fair to lovers swear
Should be inscribed upon the air,

Or in the running stream.
The original of this may be a Greek epigram by Xenarchus, who
flourished B.C. 350 ; thus translated by Cumberland in the “ Observer,"
No. 106:

Ah, faithless women! when you swear

I register your oaths in air. There are many imitations of the epigram of Catullus. In the “Diana," a pastoral romance by George de Monte-Mayor, a Spanish writer, born in the early part of the 16th century, are some lines on a false mistress, who had deceived her lover after writing her eternal vows on the sandy margin of a river:

No prudent doubt fond love allows,

We act as he commands :
I trusted to a woman's vows,

Though written on the sands. The old English poet, Sir Edward Sherburne, has an epigram called “ The Broken Faith":

Lately by clear Thames's side
Fair Lycoris I espied,
With the pen of her white hand
These words printing on the sand :
“None Lycoris doth approve
But Mirtillo for her love."
Ah, false nymph! those words were fit
In sand only to be writ:
For the quickly rising streams
Of oblivion and the Thames,
In a little moment's stay
From the shore wash'd clean away
What thy hand had there impress'd,

And Mirtillo from thy breast. Phineas Fletcher, the author of the “Purple Island,” has some stanzas “On Woman's Lightness," of which the following is the first :

Who sows the sand ? or ploughs the easy shore ?
Or strives in nets to prison in the wind ?
Yet I, (fond I,, more fond, and senseless more,
Thought in sure love a woman's thoughts to bind.

Fond, too fond thoughts, that thought in love to tie

One more inconstant than inconstancy! In “ Wit's Interpreter; the English Parnassus" (3rd edit. 1671, p. 275), there is an epigrain of similar character, but with the metaphor varied :

A woman may be fair, and her mind,
Is as inconstant as the wavering wind :
Venus herself is fair, and shineth far,

Yet she's a planet, and no fixed star. A curious allegorical description of the brevity of renown may be given here, as cognate to the preceding epigrams. Lord Chatham is believed to be the subject of the lines :

Let his monument be the world,
And let that world be a bubble;
And let Fame, in the character of a shadow,
Write his trophies on the air.

ON HIS OWN LOVE (Ep. 85).

Translated in Select Epigrams," 1797.
That I love thee, and yet that I hate thee, I feel ;

Impatient, thou bid’st me my reasons explain :
I tell thee, nor more for my life can reveal,

That I love thee, and hate thee—and tell it with pain. Martial has an epigram (Book I. 33) on dislike without reason, which is well known in the English parody by Tom Brown (Brown's Works, 1760, IV. 100):

I do not love thee, Dr. Fell,
But why I cannot tell ;
But this I know full well,

I do not love thee, Dr. Fell. Dr. John Fell was Bishop of Oxford, and Dean of Christ Church in the reigns of Charles II, and James II. Tom Brown, of facetious memory, being sentenced to expulsion from Christ Church for some irregularity, was offered pardon by the Dean if he could translate extempore Martial's epigram, which he immediately did in the form given above, probably very much to the Dean's astonishment.

Another epigram by Martial (Book XII. 47), on the difficulty of arriving at a conclusion with respect to a companion, is translated by Addison, in the “ Spectator," No. 68:

In all thy humours, whether grave or mellow,
Thou’rt such a touchy, testy, pleasant fellow;
Hast so much wit, and mirth, and spleen about thee,
There is no living with thee, nor without thee.

« PreviousContinue »