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never lay aside the principles which have always been the pride and support of our profession, and that if ever a second Eton should be founded in New Zealand I will cheerfully devote myself to the performance of those duties which none but an old Etonian like myself can worthily discharge. I hope that before long you will find time to let me know how you are all getting on at Eton. My affection for my old haunts and old comrades is unchanged, and if any of you should ever feel inclined to follow me over the water, you will always be welcome at Kitson House. The captain calls for letters, so with love to all Etonians,
See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another ;
If it disdained its brother;
And the moon-beams kiss the sea ;
If thou kiss not me?
TRANSLITION FROM ANACREON.
Λέγουσιν αι γυναικες
'Avukpewv yépwv ĉi, k. 7. Ruga, tibi frontem sulcat,
Ét fronte incanam vix superesse comam.
Fas est quo propria mors venit altra pede.
ON ITEARING HANDEL'S ANTHEM
" Holy, Holy," &c. Hear ye that voice, that through the fretted aisle,
As iwere to rouse the energies of prayer, Now softly whispers, and now bursts awhile,
As if a seraph's voice and heart were there ! Can ye ecstatic notes so soon be o'er,
Too sweet to linger on the chilling earth ? Too soon on echo's viewless wings to soar,
And sing in heaven his praise who gave ye birth? Yet hark! that voice-o listen while ye may ;
In pity to th' enchanted crowd 'tis given, Still fuller swelling seems in kind delay,
To grant a foretaste of the songs of heaven. Hark! Still that thrilling note is held, and still
In wavy mazes sports the air along, And wandering fetterless where'er it will,
Woos the tall pillars which it floats among. 'Tis o'er-but like the meteor's gleam of gold
Borne on the fitful current of the wind, Pathless it speeds; its mystic flight untold,
Save by the breathless calm it leaves behind. O sing no more ! O do not mar the sound;
Thou cans't no beauty round that relic fing; O while it floats above this hallowed ground Disturb it not-'tis memory's foster-ling.
THE POET VIRGIL.
If you take from Virgil his diction and metre, what do you leave him ?
Coleridge's Table Talk.
The great writer, whose words I have quoted above, used to say that all Eton men were wont to swear “per Maronem." Perhaps indeed, this is hardly the case in point of fact, but if it were so, there would, I believe, be great differences of opinion, whether or not it should be looked upon as a reproach. It is with a view of endeavouring to ascertain upon some fixed principles, the position which this celebrated poet is entitled to hold, that I have ventured to throw together the following considerations.
There are few distinguished names in literature, perhaps none, which hold so anomalous a position as that of Virgil. The well-known epigram places him in the triad of great poets. Scaliger, and in later times the Zoili of the French school were inclined to exalt him above even Homer, as the perfect master of finished elegance. We, in these days, are in no danger of falling into this mistake.
We are rather given to deny his being a poet at all, than to place him at the head, or even in the first ranks of the sacred band. Originality, depth, philosophy, naturalness, insight; these are the characteristics of our ideal poet, and we refuse to grant the name to any one, who cannot shew us all, or most of these mental qualities. Hence it is that while Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Burns, Shelley, are to various classes of minds the very Gods of their idolatry, few will now-a-days be found to declare for Pope, or his followers. Perhaps our present feelings are on the right side. Perhaps the extreme of the (so called) romantic, is better than the extreme of the (so called) classic school. That we are in an extreme, I very strongly believe, and the common language we hear used of Virgil, I think, amply proves it.
I cannot certainly deny that in some of the abovementioned qualities, Virgil is very signally deficient. He cannot boast of much originality.
Niebuhr in a very eloquent passage has pointed out the utter want of it in the Æneid, which be describes as but a splendid piece of patchwork, a skilful specimen of mosaic, brilliant indeed and highly polished, but lacking the consistent unity, the informing spirit of a master mind; not poured into the mould in one full unbroken stream, but joined together like a cabinet, bit by bit, through minute and elaborate mechanism. Of the Æneid as compared with the Iliad, we may perhaps say, (and here I wish to speak quite generally,) that the one is the work of talent, but the other of genius; we can analyze our feelings as to the one, we cannot as to the other; the workmanship strikes us in the one, we scarce think of it in the other; the work of genius cannot, strictly speaking, be judged of, or estimated; it has its own laws and its own standard ; we may take up the work of talent, ruthlessly handle it, look into it, and accurately weigh it in the critical scale; we gaze at the one as a magnificent result, but what it is the result of, we know not; the other we admire, not so much for its excellency when done, as from the known difficulty of doing it at all.
| Niebuhr, vol. I. p. 197. 3d. Ed.
I said that I was speaking generally, for it is evident that this statement requires qualification. Yet on the whole it is substantially correct. Let us consider for a moment what is the case as to his similes. Whether these be addressed to the mental or to the bodily eye, whether they be similes of the fancy or the imagination, they are one of the best tests of the genius of the poet. Now with scarcely an exception these are translated in the Æneid from some former poet, and, generally speaking, they lose much of their freshness and vigour in the process.
Let me shew this by an instance or two ; and I will first take one in which, as has been remarked often before, Virgil at first sight has the advantage, from the extreme sweetness of his lines. When did Latin, (perhaps even Greek,) ever flow in such surpassing melody as this ?
Qualis populeâ mærens Philomela sub umbrâ
Geor. IV. 511.
But compare it with its vigorous original, and what becomes of it?