« AnteriorContinuar »
MR. EMERSON, in a course of lectures by her example, even though we candelivered in this city during the past not permit that example again to bewinter, expressed his conviction that come our law. within twenty years, the literature and And herein lies the error of all the history of antiquity would become idolaters of the past. Because the subjects of general interest and study ancients did well in their day with among the American people. At first their means, therefore we should do this would appear almost a paradox like them in our day with our means. for probably no other civilized nation Instead of qualifying our institutions to has at any period of its history so com- the changes wrought by time and repletely thrown off its allegiance to the flection, they would have us translate past, as the American. The whole the institutions of Greece and Rome essay of our national life and legisla- into American forms. They have no tion, has been a prolonged protest sympathy or taste for native virtues. against the dominion of antiquity in They grieve that we have no Cæsars every form whatsoever. In our ethni- in our day that they may show the cal mythology, Jupiter has taken the stoical patriotism of Brutus, and they place of Saturn, and all the old Satur- would almost take the trouble to be man prejudices and customs have been “just” if there were an institution of dethroned.
ostracism which could give them the Yet extravagant as the above pre- immortality of Aristides. Until this diction may appear, we have no doubt spirit of imitation is eradicated, antithat it is to be substantially fulfilled. quity can never exert an altogether We have rebelled against ihe domin healthy influence. “ Fool," said St. nion of antiquity, but we shall not re- Paul, “ that which thou sowest is not main long vindictive, nor harden our quickened except it die.” No man's hearts but for a season to her advice. experience is useful to another for the We are willing to be cautioned by her same purposes exactly that it had been errors, to be sustained and encouraged to himself. It dies out in him, but the VOL. XI-NO. LI.
essentials of it are to be born again in builded up. With us the disputes a new body, that is, in a new state of about political constitutions and forms facts. To the latter it becomes a law, of government will soon have passed but to issues as different as the circum- away. We are satisfied as a people stances under which he lives. This is that the less of government we have, true in respect to individuals, it is consistently with the protection of the of course true in respect to nations, rights of all, the better. The age of Among the American people this death, individualism is already upon us. We which is the harbinger of a regenera- are not much longer to judge of right tion, has overtaken antiquity. Our and wrong by the statute book. The contest with the past has been long independence of the individual at once and very bitter, and some years must enthrones the conscience. The conelapse before our animosity can sub- science will be disciplined and eduside, before we can exchange our agon- cated more or less by the complicated istic attitude for one of unsuspicious interest of individuals in society. The ease and confidence. Should the free difficulties that will occur in harmoninstitutions of our country be permitted izing these interests are not to be cut to continue for another quarter of a by the sword of the state, but to be century undisturbed by any extraordi- solved by the moral sagacity of each nary political convulsions, we should individual. Their interpretations will expect to see the literature and history be the vexata quæstiones of the apof the ancients more thoroughly un- proaching phase of our civilisation, derstood by the American people than Casuistry and ethics will take the they have ever been by any other pa- place of constitutional discussions and tion since the revival of letters, per- political engineering. Whatever will haps not excepting the ancients them- throw light upon this department of selves. It is hardly to be expecied social science, whatever faithful expethat this regenerated taste for the riments the ancients may have made works of antiquity will discover the therein, we shall undoubtedly esteem same preferences altogether which as so much labour saved and endurance have been entertained by those who spared us. have had charge of the ark of ancient Such being our views on this sublearning for the last 300 years. We ject, we feel justified in presuming that shall naturally search for that kind of among the ancient writers, Lucian will experience which may be most readily be among the first to receive a widely adapted to our own wants, and which extended and certainly a well deserved will most speedily solve the mysteries popularity. Indeed at this present, we of our own condition. We shall ap- know of no labour for a thoroughly propriate the discovery of Archimedes liberal and accomplished scholar which for measuring the specific gravity of would be likely to prove more generalbodies, not because the author lived ly acceptable to the mass of our reading more than 2000 years ago, but because community than a good translation and it is one of our most efficient coadju- a thorough exegesis of Lucian's works. tors in multiplying our physical re- The whole history of the human race sources. We shall not commemorate through the mysterious operation of the marriage of Geometry and Mecha- causes comparatively hidden from the nics, because Archytas who officiated observation of men, appears to have at the ceremony was a pupil of Pyiha- crystalized itself into cycles, in each goras, or conversed familiarly with of which some particular idea or aspira. Plato,-he bridged together two con- tion has become dominant. That idea tinents of science—the usefulness of has usually incorporated itself into a his labours is the only earnest of his peculiar body of institutions, and has immortality. In literature we shall organised for itself a priesthood or exercise the same discrimination. We ministry, whose province it was to shall prize the most faithful exponents interpret them to the multitude. It of the social system of the ancients, was their mission to fortify, sustain, while their works of art and æsthetic and propagate the doctrine of which achievement will be set aside for the they were made the apostles, until all present to constitute some subsequent opposition should be removed, and the formation in the strata with which public mind prepared to receive it our national character is being slowly without exhortation. After a time all
the truth of this doctrine is absorbed, and to each succeeding generation. It
ries, has reached us, and the only notice Cycles like the one we have at- approaching the truth which he has tempted to describe, were those il received, that transmitted by Suidas, lustrated by the early idolatries in might have been applied with as much Canaan, by the sophists of Athens, and propriety to any other saucy sophist of their lineal offspring at Rome. The third century as the one to whom The Koreshitish worshippers of the it purports to relate. He simply says Black-stone in Arabia--the Knights that Lucian was an “impious sophist," Errant of modern Europe--the religious who lived about the time of Trajan or bigots of the sixteenth century. The afterwards-which is too vague to idolaters of Canaan had their Iconoclast constitute a fact; who practised law at in Abraham--the sophists of Greece Antioch-which is doubtful at least, had their Aristophanes, those of Rome “who wrote furiously against the their Lucian---the Knights Errant had Christian faith," as did almost every their Cervantes--the bigots had their unbeliever of the period who wrote at Encyclopædists and writers of Philo- all; and “was torn to pieces by dogs sophical Dictionaries. Men whose cae as a punishment for his blasphemy," reers thus résume or sum up their age, which is altogether false. It is difficonstitute altogether the most interest. cult to account for the weakness of Phiing subjects of study to the philosophi- lostratus in leaving him out of his cal historian. Their interest never “Lives of the Sophists,” though it was dies--they turn a new aspect full of a gallery from which Lucian himself attraction to every form of civilisation, would not probably have experienced
much regret at the prospect of being ex- to take care of himself. He says that cluded. The brave men who lived before after considerable debate about the Agamemnon would have hardly receive choice of his future occupation it is reed the immortality which Horace pro- solved that he might make a good mised them, if they had had no more stone-cutter, and that his uncle was adequate exponent of their prowess the best person to teach him in the than the author of Bio Loplorür. By town, whereupon the father says to the this suppression or exclusion, however, uncle, “ " Take* the young man home Philostratus has secured to his own with you, and make of him a dexterous bigotry and narrowness a very unenvi- stone-cutter and statuary; he is not able immortality
deficient in abilities, as you know.' As we are so exclusively indebied to This he said in allusion to certain toys, the writings of Lucian himself, for the with the making of which while a boy details of his life, it is not surprising I had amused myself. For after school that any accounts of him should be hours I used to scrape together pieces more or less imperfect. He never of wax wherever they fell in my way, vaunts himself in his writings, and con- and make cows, horses, aye, God forsequently none of them are in an auto- give me, even men ! and very fine likebiographic spirit at all, unless, perhaps, nesses, as my father thought. This we except the “Dream” and the “Dou- childish amusement, for which I had ble Indictment," where he introduces got many a box on the ear from my his personal experience as auxiliary to schoolmaster, was now brought as a other purposes which he then had in proof of my natural turn, and the best view.
hopes were conceived that by this plasLucian was born about one hundred tic disposition I should in a short time and twenty years after the advent of become a great proficient in the art. our Saviour, at Samosata, a small town As soon, therefore, as a lucky day had on the west bank of the Euphrates. been pitched upon for entering on my The early history of this town entitled apprenticeship, I was transferred to it to some celebrity; but it is now an my uncle, and, to say the truth, not insignificant place attached to the pa. much against my will. On the conchalic of Aleppo, and is called Sche- trary, I thought it would be very dimisat. Trajan had just completed his verting, and procure me no small conambitious though comparatively happy sideration among my comrades, to reign, and the whole life of Lucian fell carve gods and other little images, for within that gilded parenthesis in the myself and those lads whom I liked history of Imperial Rome, during which best. Gibbon thought the condition of the “ It fell out with me, however, as is human race more happy and prosper- usual with young beginners; for my ous than during any other period in the uncle giving into my hands a chisel, history of the world.
ordered me to ply it gently to and fro The parents of our author appear to on a smooth slab of marble which lay have lived in very humble circumstan- upon the ground, adding withal the ces, and to have been under the neces- old saying: Well begun is half done,' sity of putting their son immediately and then left me to my own direction; after leaving school to some productive but for want of knowing better, and business. He was accordingly sent to striking too roughly, the marble broke work with his uncle, where he gained in two. Upon which he fell into a no distinction except that of passing passion, laid hold on a whip that was his earlier years, like Socrates, in the lying near him, and ushered me into trade of a statuary. In his “Dream," a new trade, with so unfriendly a wela short address delivered before his come as deprived me at once of all infellow-townsmen of Samosata after he clination to the art. I ran home, cryhad established his reputation as well ing and roaring, related the story of as his pecuniary independence, he gives the whip-showed the marks of the us an account of this, his first attempt lash, and made vehement complaints
• We extract from Tooke's version of Wieland's translation of Lucian, to which we uniformly refer throughout the article, as the best English version in print. Vol. i. p. 4. quarto.
of the cruelty of my uncle. "I am sure solute nobleman had murdered an imhe did it out of pure jealousy,' said I, perial officer, the fashionable world
he being afraid that I should in the was ready to forsake, for a period, the end prove a better workman than him- gladiatorial displays of the arena for self. My mother at this was very those of the tribune. But Sylvanus angry, and vented bitter reproaches on Julian or Sabinus, the Ciceros or the her brother. Night coming on, how- Antonies of the time, engrossed all such ever, I went to bed, where I passed retainers. An undistinguished Asiatic, many tedious hours of grief and vexa- of low birth, and with a tongue altotion, till at length, with tearful eyes, I gether too free for a despotism, who fell asleep,”—when the “ Dream " is spoke bad Latin, though that was the supposed to occur through of which language of the staiute-book and the he conveyed to his fellow-citizens the court room--certainly he was not the grounds of his preference for a literary person whom, at such a bar, we should profession.
expect would achieve, to say the least, After such an inauspicious collision a very rapid distinction. We may with the graces of his new profession, readily conceive that Lucian could we are not surprised that he declined hardly have mistaken his vocation any further attempt at forming a per- more signally. Here again, as before, manent attachment. He immediately his chagrin took refuge behind his resolved to qualify himself for the bar, pride, and he conceived a disgust for and, like most headstrong and proud the profession, which he took every young men, vindicate the propriety of convenient opportunity to indulge. He his rebellion by achieving the highest charges upon its incumbents, and, honors which the state could confer. doubtless, with propriety, ignorance, As rhetorical brilliancy and artifice impudence, indecency, and corruption. were at that period, as they had been “I had not long carried on the profesfor some 300 years previous, the chief sion of a pleader at the bar,"* says pre-requisite to the success of an ambi- he, “ when experience convinced lious advocate, Lucian devoted himself me that deceit, lies, unblushing imto that study until he was about thirty pudence, clamor, chicanery, and a years of age, meanwhile travelling thousand more such odious qualities, through the principal cities of Asia are inseparable from that mode of Minor and Greece, and studying the life.” Even when laughing at the abmanner of the best artists he could surdities of the prevailing mythology, find. It is probable that at the con- he must go out of his way to have a clusion of this period he commenced fling at the lawyers. In his “ Double his professional career, at the city of Indictment," Drunkenness sues the Antioch. There is no evidence what- Academy in the celestial courts for ever of his success, nor, indeed, that he having seduced Polemon from his allecontinued it for any length of time. giance. But when Drunkenness is
The profession of the law at Rome, called upon to open his case, he finds and throughout the empire, was al- his tongue too thick to articulate to his ways a very unsatisfactory occupation satisfaction, as might have been exto high-minded and accomplished men, rected, whereupon Justice promptly unless they had already achieved a intercedes, and says, “ Then let her high reputation. A despotic govern- employ a proper attorney: there are ment can only rule a people which advocates enough at hand who are feels little interest in the social oppres- ready to split their lungs for three sion of tradesmen and handicraftsmen, oboli (about fourpence).” Whereupon and the lawyer whose reputation could they finally determine that the Acadesecure him retainers from only such as my should be his attorney; but the these must have felt but too painfully Academy is defendant ; therefore it is the sickness of heart which comes resolved that the Academy shall speak from hope deferred. When some first for the plaintiff, and afterwards haughty proconsul had sacrificed a for herself.f province to his pleasures, or some dis. But although Lucian abandoned his
• The Angler, vol. i., p. 254.
| Double Indictment, vol. ii., p. 606.