Page images



That what is called the history of the kings and early consuls of Rome is to a great extent fabulous, few scholars have, since the time of Beaufort, ventured to deny. It is certain that, more than three hundred and sixty years after the date ordinarily assigned for the foundation of the city, the public records were, with scarcely an exception, destroyed by the Gauls. It is certain that the oldest annals of the commonwealth were compiled more than a century and a half after the destruction of the records. It is certain, therefore, that the great Latin writers of a later period did not possess those materials, without which a trustworthy account of the infancy of the republic could not possibly be framed. They own, indeed, that the chronicles to which they had access were filled with battles that were never fought and consuls that were never inaugurated; and we have abundant proof that, in those chronicles, events of the greatest importance, such as the issue of the war with Porsena, and the issue of the war with Brennus were grossly misrepresented. Under these circumstances a wise man will look with great suspicion on the “end which has come down to us. He will, erhaps, be inclined to regard the princes who are said to have founded the civil and religious institutions of Rome, the son of Mars, and the husband of Egeria, as mere mythological personages, of the same class with Perseus and Ixion. As he draws nearer and nearer to the confines of authentic history, he will become less and less hard of belief. He will admit that the most important parts of the narrative have some foundation in truth. But he will distrust almost all the detářss, not only because they seldom rest on any solid evidence, but also because he will constantly detect in them, even when they are within the limits of physical possibility, that peculiar character, more easily understood than defined, which distinguishes the creations of the imagination from the realities of the world in which we live. The early history of Rome is indeed far more poetical than anything else in Latin literature. The loves of the Westal and the God of War, the cradle laid among the reeds of Tiber, the fig tree, the she-wolf, the shepherd's cabin, the recognition, the fratricide, the rape of the Sabines, the death of Tarpeia, the fall of Hostus Hostilius, the struggle of Mettus Curtius through the marsh, the women rushing with torn raiment and dishevelled hair between their fathers and their husbands, the nightly meetings of Numa and the Nymph by the well

in the sacred grove, the fight of the three Ro

mans and the three Albans, the purchase of the Sibyline books, the crime of Tullia, the simulated madness of Brutus, the ambiguous reply of the Delphian oracle to the Tarquins, the wrongs of Lucretia, the heroic actions of Horatius Cocles, of Scaevola, and of Cloelia, the battle of Regillus won by the aid of Castor and Pollux, the fall of Cremera, the touching story of Coriolanus, the still more touching story of Virginia, the wild legion about the draining of the Alban lake, the combat between Valerius Corvus and the gigantic Gaul, are among the many instances which will at once suggest themselves to every reader. In the narrative of Livy, who was a man of fine imagination, these stories retain much of their genuine character. Nor could even the tasteless Dionysius distort and mutilate them into mere prose. "The poetry shines, in spite of him, through the dreary pedantry of his eleven books. It is discernible in the most tedious and in the most superficial modern works on the early times of Rome. It enlivens the dulness of the Universal History, and gives a charm to the most meager abridgments of Goldsmith. Even in the age of Plutarch there were discerning men who rejected the popular account of the foundation of Rome, because that account appeared to them to have the air, not of a history, but of a romance or a drama." Plutarch, who was displeased at their incredulity, had nothing better to say in reply to their arguments than that chance sometimes turns poet, and produces trains of events not to be distinguished from the most elaborate plots which are constructed by art." But though the existence of a poetical element in the early history of the Great City was detected so many ages ago, the first critic who distinctly saw from what source that poetical element had been derived was James Perizonius, one of theomost acute and learned critics of the seventeenth century. His theory, which, in his own age, attracted little or no notice, was revived in the present generation by Niebuhr, a man who

*"Yrarror Fiv wtois tari &pagaruköv kai raaguaröðcs' Qū āti he driarriv, rov ráxnv'bpovrak, of uv rotopārov &nutoupy6; tart.— Plut. Rom. viii. This remarkabse passage so been more grossly misinterpreted than any other in the Greek language, where the sense was so obvious. The Latin version of Cruserius, the French version of Amyot, the old English version by several hands, and the later English version by Langhorne, are all equally destitute of every trace of the meaning of the original. None of the translators saw even that roinua

is a poem. They all render it am cvent
2 y 2 5so


would have been the first writer of his time, if his talent for communicating truths had borne any proportion to his talent for investigating them.

larly by the Bishop of St. David's, by Professor Maiden, and by the lamented Arnold. It appears to be new generally received by men conversant with classical antiquity; and indeed it rests on such strong proofs, both internal and external, that it will not be easily subverted. A popular exposition of this theory and of the evidence by which it is supported may not be without interest even for readers who are unacquainted with the ancient languages. The Latin literature which has come down to us is of later date than the commencement of the second Punic war, and consists almost exclusively of words fashioned on Greek models. The Latin metres, heroic, elegiac, lyric, and dramatic, are of Greek origin. The best Latin epic poetry is the feeble echo of the Iliad and Odyssey. The best Latin eclogues are imitations of Theocritus. The plan of the most finished didactic poem in the Latin tongue was taken from Hesiod. The Latin tragedies are had copies of the master-pieces of Sophocles and Euripides. The Latin comedies are free translations from Demophilus, Menander, and Apollodorus. The Latin philosophy was borrowed, without alteration, from the Portico and the Academy; and the great Latin orators constantly proposed to themselves as patterns the speeches of Demosthenes and Lysias. But there was an earlier Latin literature, a literature truly Latin, which has wholly perished—which had, indeed, almost wholly perished long before those whom we are in the habit of regarding as the greatest Latin writers were born. That literature abounded with metrical romances, such as are found in every country where there is much curiosity and intelligence, but little reading and writing. All human beings, not utterly savage, long for some information about past times, and are delighted by narratives which present pictures to the eye of the mind. But it is only in very enlightened communities that books are readily accessible. Metrical composition, therefore, which, in a highly civilized nation, is a mere luxury, is, in nations impersectly civilized, almost a necessary of life, and is valued less on account of the pleasure which it gives to the ear than on account of the help which it gives to the memory. A man who can invent or embellish an interest,ng story, and put it - into a form which others may easily retain in their recollection, will always be highly esteemcd by a people eager for amusement and information, but destitute of libraries. Such is the origin of ballad-poctry, a species of composition which scarcely ever fails to spring up and slourish in every society, at a certain point in the progress towards refinement. Tacitus informs us that songs were the only memorials of the past which the ancient Germans posressed. We learn from Lucan and from Ammianus Marcellinus, that the brave actions of the ancient Gauls were commemorated in the verses of Bards. During many ages, and

It has been adopted by several eminent scholars of our own country, particu

through many revolutions, minstrelsy retained its influence over both the Teutonic and the Celtic race. The vengeance exacted by the spouse of Attila for the murder cf Siegfried was celebrated in rhymes, of which Germany is still justly proud. The exploits of Athelstane were commemorated by the Anglo-Saxons, and those of Canute by the Danes; in rude poems, of which a few fragments have come down to us. The chants of the Welsh harpers preserved, through ages of darkness, a faint and doubtful memory of Arthur. In the highlands of Scotland may still be gleaned some reliques of the old songs about Cuthullin and Fingal. The long'struggle of the Servians against the Ottoman power was recorded in lays full of martial spirit. We learn from Herrera that, when a Peruvian Inca died, men of skill were appointed to celebrate him in verses which all the people learned by heart, and sang in public on days of festival. The feats of Kurroglou, the great freebooter of Turkistan, recounted in ballads composed by himsels, are known in every village of Northern Persia. Captain Beechey heard the bards of the Sandwich Islands recite the heroic achievements of Tamehameha, the most illustrious of their kings. Mungo Park found in the heart of Africa a class of singing men, the only annalists of their rude tribes, and heard them tell the story of the great victory which Damel, the negro prince of the Jaloffs, won over Abdulkader, the Mussulman tyrant of Foota Torra. This species of poetry attained a high degree of excellence among the Castilians, before they began to copy Tuscan patterns. It attained a still higher degree of excellence among the English and the Lowland Scotch, during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. But it reached its full perfection in ancient Greece; for there can be no doubt that the great Homeric poems are generically ballads, though widely indeed distinguished from all other ballads, and, indeed, from almost all other human compositions, by transcendant merit. As it is agreeable to general experience that, at a certain stage in the progress of society, ballad-poetry should flourish, so is it also agreeable to general experience that, at a subsequent stage in the progress of society, balladpoetry should be undervalued and neglected. Knowledge advances: manners change: great foreign models of composition are studied and imitated. The phraseology of the old minstrels becomes obsolete. Their versification, which, having received its laws only from the ear, abounds in irregularities, seems licentious and uncouth. Their simplicity appears beggarly when compared with the quaint forms and gaudy colouring of such artists as Cowley and Gongora. The ancient lays, unjustly despised by the learned and polite, linger for a time in the memory of the vulgar, and are at length too often irretrievably lost. We cannot wonder that the ballads of Rome should have altogether disappeared, when we remember how very narrowly, in spite of the invention of printing, those of our own country and those of Spain escaped the same fate. There is, indeed, little doubt that oblivion covers many English songs equal to any that were published by Bishop Percy, and many Spanish songs as good as the best of those which have been so happily translated by Mr. Lockhart. Eighty years ago England possessed only one tattered copy of Childe Waters and Sir Cauline, and Spain only one tattered copy of the noble poem of the Cid. The snuff of a candle, or a mischievous dog, might in a moment have deprived the world for ever of any of those fine compositions. Sir Walter Scott, who united to the fire of a great poet the mirute curiosity and patient diligence of a great antiquary, was but just in time to save the precious reliques of the Minstrelsy of the Border. In Germany, the lay of the Nibelungs had been long utterly forgotten, when, in the eighteenth century, it was, for the first time, printed from a manuscript in the old library of a noble family. In truth, the only people who, through their whole passage from simplicity to the highest civilization, never for a moment ceased to love and admire their old ballads, were the Greeks. That the early Romans should have had ballad-poetry, and that this poetry should have perished, is, therefore, not strange. It would, on the contrary, have been strange if it had not come to pass; and we should be justified in pronouncing them highly probable, even if we had no direct evidence on the subject. But we have direct evidence of unquestionable authority. Ennius, who flourished in the time of the Second Punic War, was regarded in the Augustan age as the father of Latin poetry. He was, in truth, the father of the second school of Latin poetry, of the only school of which the works have descended to us. But from Ennius himself we learn that there were poets who stood to him in the same relation in which the author of the romance of Count Alarcos stood to Garcilaso, or the author of the “Lytell Geste of Robin Hode” to Lord Surrey. Ennius speaks of verses which the Fauns and the Bards were wont to chant in the old time, when none had yet studied the graces of speech, when none had yet climbed the peaks sacred to the Goddesses of Grecian song. “Where,” Cicero mournfully asks, “are those old verses now !” Contemporary with Ennius was Quintus . Fabius Pictor, the earliest of the Roman annalists. His account of the infancy and youth of Romulus and Remus has been preserved by

Dionysius, and contains a very remarkable re. serence to the old Latin poetry. Fabius says that, in his time, his countrymen were still in the habit of singing ballads about the Twins. “Even in the hut of Faustulus,”—so these old lays appear to have run-" the children of Rhea and Mars were, in port and in spirit, not like unto swineherds or cowherds, but such that men might well guess them to be of the blood of kings and gods.” Cato the Censor, who also lived in the days of the Second Punic War, mentioned this lost literature in his lost work on the antiquities of his country. Many ages, he said, before his time, there were ballads in praise of illustrious

** Quid? Nostri veteres versus ubi sunt 1
- - - ‘Quos olim Faunivatesque canebant,
Cum neque Musarum scopulos quisquam superárat,
Nec dictistudiosus erat.’”
Cic. in Bruto, cap. xviii.

The Muses, it should be observed, are Greek divinities.
The Italian Goddesses of verse were the Camoenre. At
a later period, the appellations were used indiscriminate-
ly ; but in the age of Ennius there was probably a dis-
tinction. In the epitaph of Navius who was the repre-
sentative of the old Italian school of poetry, the Ca-
moente, not the Muses, are represented as grieving for
the loss of their votary. The “Musarum scopuli” are
evidently the peaks of Parnassus.
Scaliger, in a note on Varro (De Lingua Latina, lib.
vi.) suggests, with great ingenuity, that the Fauns who
were represented by the superstition of later ages as a
race of monsters, half gods and half brutes, may really
have been a class of inen who exercised in Latium, at a
very remote period, the same functious which belonged
to the Magians in Persia and to the Pards in Gaul.

* Oi di dvápotlivre; yívovrat, sarà re do soaty mappij; kai oppovář assos okov, avopop/80is wai gavad Nots totkóres, MAA' otous liv ris, d:1837tte robs in BuctXstov re ovras ovets, xai diró datačvov atopsis revénøut rout;opivous, as to rois tarpiot; ouvois iro 'Pouaiov or rai vivo derat.—Dion. Hal i. 79. This passage has sometimes been cited as if Dionysius had been speaking in his own person, and had, Greek as he was, been so industrious or so fortunate as to discover some valuable remains of that early Latin poetry which the greatest Latin writers of his age regretted as hopelessly lost. Such a supposition is highly improbable ; and indeed it seems clear from the context that IDionysius, as Reiske and other editors evidently thought, was merely quoting from Fabius Pictor. The whole passage has the air of an extract from an ancient chronicle, and is introduced by the words, Kötvros utv 448tos b IIixrop Mtyáutwos, ride ypá%tt.

Another argument may be urged which seems to deserve consideration. The author of the passage in question inentions a thatched but which, in his time stood between Mount Palatine and the Circus. This hut, he says, was built by Romulus, and was constantly kept in repair at the public charge, but never in any respect embellished. Now, in the age of Dionysins there certainly was at Rome a thatched hut, said to have been that of Romulus. But this hut, as we learn from Vitruvius, stood, not near the Circus, but in the Capitol. (Wit. ii. 1.) If, therefore, we understand Dionysius to speak in his own person, we can recourile his statemen, with that of Vitruvius only by supposing that there were at Rome, in the Augustan age, two thatched huts, both believed to have been built by Romulus, and both carefully repaired, and held in high honour. The objections to such a supposition seem to be strong. Neither Dionysius nor Vitruvius speaks of more than one such hut. Dio Cassius informs us that twice, during the long administration of Augustus, the hut of Romulus caught fire. (xlviii. 43. liv. 29.) Had there been two such huts, would he not have told us of which he spoke 1 - An English historian would hardly give an account of a fire at Queen's College without saying whether it was at Queen's College, Oxford, or at Queen's College, Calabridge. Marcus Seneca, Macrobius, and Conon, a Greek writer from whem Photius has made large extracts, mention only one hut of Romulus, that in the Capitol. (JM. Seneca, Contr. i. 6; Macrobius, Sat. i. 15; Photius, Bibl. 186.) Ovid, Petronius, Valerius Maximus, Lucius Seneca, and St. Jerome mention only one hut of Romulus without specifying the site. (Oriol, Fasti, iii. 183, Petronius, Fragm. ; Pal. Maz. iv. 4; L. Seneca. Consolatio ad Helvium; D. Hieron. ad Paulinianum de Didymo.

The whole difficulty is removed, if we suppose that Dionysius was merely quoting Fabius Pictor. Nothing is more probable than that the cabin, which in the time of Fabius stood near the Circus, might, long before the age of Augustus, have been transported to the Capitol as the place fittest, by reason both of its safety and o its sanctity, to contain so precious a relique.

The language of Plutarch confirms this hypothesis. IIe describes, with great precision, the spot where Romulus dwelt between the Palatine Mount and the Circus : but he says not a word implying that the dwelling was still to be seen there. Indeed, his expressions imply that it was no longer there. The evidence of Soli nus is still more to the point. He, like Plutarch, describes the spot where Romulus 1...d resided, and says expressly that the hul had been there, but that, in his time, it was there no loster. The site, it is certain, was well remembered; and probably retained its old name, as Charing Cross and the Haymarket have done. This is probably the explanation of the words, “cass Romuli.” in Vicior's description of the Tenth Region of Rome, undcrValentinian

[merged small][graphic]

men; and these ballads it was the fashion for the guests at banquets to sing in turn while the piper played. “Would,” exclaims Cicero, “that we still had the old ballads of which Cato speaks!” ..Valerius Maximus gives us exactly similar information, without mentioning his authority, and observes that the ancient Roman ballads were probably of more benefit to the young than all the lectures of the Athenian schools, and that to the influence of the national poetry were to be ascribed the virtues of such men as Camillus and Fabricius.f Warro, whose authority on all questions connected with the antiquities of his country is entitled to the greatest respect, tells us that at banquets it was once the fashion for boys to sing, sometimes with and sometimes without instrumental music, ancient ballads in praise of men of former times. These young performers, he observes, were of unblemished character, a circumstance which he probably mentioned because, among the Greeks, and indeed in his time among the Romans also, the morals of singing boys were in no high repute.i. The testimony of Horace, though given incidentally, confirms the statements of Cato, Valerius Maximus, and Varro. The poet predicts that, under the peaceful administration of Augustus, the Romans will, over their full goblets, sing to the pipe, after the fashion of their fathers, the deeds of brave captains, and the ancient legends touching the origin of the city. § The proposition, then, that Rome had ballad. poetry is not merely in itself highly probable, but it is fully proved by direct evidence of the greatest weight. This proposition being established, it becomes easy to understand why the early history of the city is unlike almost everything else in Latin literature—native where almost every thing else is borrowed, imaginative where almost every thing else is prosaic. We can scarcely hesitate to pronounce that the magnificent, pathetic, and truly national le

* Cicero refers twice to this important passage in Cato's Antiquities:–“Gravissimus auctor in ‘Originibus' dixit Cato, morem apud majores hunc epularum fuisse, ut deinceps, qui accubarent, canerent ad tibiam clarorum virorum laudes atque virtutes. Ex quo perspicuum est, et cantus tum fuisse rescriptos vocums sonis, et carmina.”—Tusc Quarst. iv. 2. Again: “Utinam exstarent illa carmina quae multis sarculis ante suam actatem in epulis esse cantitata a singulis convivis de clarorum virorum laudibus in ‘Originibus' scriptum reliquit Cato.”—Brutus, cap. xix.

+ “ Majofes natu in conviviis ad tibias egregia supe11orum opera carmine comprehensa pangebant, quoad ea imitanda juventutem alacriorum redderent. . . . Quas Athenas, quam scholam, qute alienigena studia huic domesticæ disciplinae praetulerim 1 inde oriebantur Camilli, Scipiones, Fabricii, Marcelli, Fabii.” – Pal. *Mar. ii. 1.

t “In conviviis pueri modesti ut cantarent carmina antiqua, in quibus laudes erant majorum, et assa voce, et cum tibicine.” Nonius, Assa roce pro sola.

“Nosque et profestis lucibus et sacris,
Inter jocosi munera Liberi,
Cum prole isque nostris,
Rite Deos prius apprecali,
- Virtute functos, Mon E patrum, duces,
Lydis remixto o tibiis,
Trojamine, et Anchisen, et almae
Progeniehl Veneris canemus.”
- Carm. iv.


gends, which present so striking a contrast to all that surrounds them, are broken and defaced fragments of that early poetry which, even in the age of Cato the Censor, had be. come antiquated, and of which Tully had never heard a line. That this poetry should have been suffered to perish will not appear strange when we consider how complete was the triumph of the Greek genius over the public mind of Italy. It is probable that, at an early period, Homer, Archilochus, and Herodotus, furnished some hints to the Latin minstrels:" but it was not till after the war with Pyrrhus that the poetry of Rome began to put off its old Ausonian character. The transformation was soon consummated. The conquered, says Horace, led captive the conquerors. It was precisely at the time at which the Roman people rose to unrivalled political ‘ascendency, that they stooped to pass under the intellectual yoke. It was precisely at the time at which the sceptre departed from Greece that the empire of her language and of her arts became universal and despotic. The revolution indeed was not effected without a struggle. Naevius seems to have been the last of the ancient line of poets. Ennius was the founder of a new dynasty. Naevius celebrated the First Punic War in Saturnian verse, the old national verse of Italy. Ennius sang the Second Punic War

* See the Preface to the Lay of the Battle of Regillus.

+ Cicero speaks highly in more than one place of this poem of Naevius; Ennius sneered at it, and stole from it

As to the Saturnian measure, see Herman’s Elementa Doctrinae Metricte, iii. 9.

The Saturnian line consisted of two parts. The first was a catalectic dimeter iambic; the second was composed of three trochees. But the license taken by the early Latin poets seems to have been almost boundless. The most perfect Saturnian line which has been preserved by the grammarians was the work, not of a professional artist, but of an amateur;

“Dabunt malum Metelli Navio poetac.”

There has been much difference of opinion among learned men respecting the history of this measure. That it is the same with a Greek measure used by Archilochus is indisputable. (Bentley, Phalaris, xi.) But in spite of the authority of Terentianus Maurus, and of the still higher authority of Bentley, we may venture to doubt whether the coincidence was not fortuitous We constantly find the same rude and simple numbers in different countries, under circumstances which make it impossible to suspect that there has been imitation on either side. Bishop Heber heard the children of a village in Bengal singing “Radha, Radha,” to the tune of “My boy Billy.” Neither the Castilian nor the German minstrels of the middle ages owed any thing to Paros cr to ancient Rome. Yet both the poem of the Cid and the poem of the Nibelungs contain many Saturnian verses; as,

“Estas nuevas a mio Cid eran venidas.” -
“A milo dicen; a tidan las orejadas.”

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

yet the author of this line, we may be assured, borrowed nothing srom either Naevius or Architochus. On the other hand, it is by no means improbable that, two or three hundred years before the time of Ennius, some Latin minstrels may have visited Sybaris or Crotona, may have heard some vers s of Architochus sung, may have been pleased with the metre, and may have introduced it at Rome. Thus much is certain, that the Saturnian measure, if not a native of Italy, was at least so early and so completely naturalized there that its foreign origin was forgotten.

in numbers borrowed from the Iliad. The elder poet, in the epitaph which he wrote for himself, and which is a fine specimen of the early Roman diction and versification, plaintively boasted that the Latin language had died with him." Thus, what to Horace appeared to be the first faint dawn of Roman literature, appeared to Naevius to be its hopeless setting. In truth, one literature was setting, and another dawning. The victory of the foreign taste was decisive: and indeed we can hardly blame the Romans for turning away with contempt from the rude lays which had delighted their fathers, and giving their whole admiration to the great productions of Greece. The national romances, neglected by the great and the refined whose education had been" finished at Rhodes or Athens, continued, it may be supposed, during some generations, to delight the vulgar. While Virgil, in hexameters of exquisite modulation, described the sports of rustics, those rustics were still singing their wild Saturnian ballads.f It is not improbable that, at the time when Cicero lamented the irreparable loss of the poems mentioned by Cato, a search among the nooks of the Apennines, as active as the search which Sir Walter Scott made among the descendants of the mosstroopers of Liddesdale, might have brought to light many fine remains of ancient minstrelsy. No such search was made. The Latin ballads perished forever. Yet discerning critics have thought that they could still perceive in the early history of Rome numerous fragments of this lost poetry,

Bentley says, indeed, that the Saturnian measure was first brought from Greece into Italy by Naevius. But this is merely obiter dictum, to use a phrase common in our courts of law, and would not have been deliberately maintained by that incomparable critic, whose-memory is held in reverence by all lovers of learning. The arguments which might be broucht against Bentley's assertion—for it is mere assertion, supported by no evidence—are innumerable. A few will suffice. 1. Bentley's assertion is opposed to the testimony of Ennius. Ennius sneered at Navius for writing on the First Punic War in verses strett as the old italian bards used hefore Greek literature had been studied. Now, the poem of Navius was in Saturnian verse. Is it possible that Ennius could have used such expressions, if the Saturnian verse had been just imported from Greece for the first time? 2. Bentley's assertion is opposed to the testimony of Horace, “when Greece,” says Horace, “introduced her arts into our uncivilized country. those rugged Saturnian numbers possed away.” Would Horace have said this, if the Saturnian numbers had been imported from Greece just before the hexameter 1 3. Bentley's assertion is opposed to the testimony of Festus and of Aurelius ictor, both of whom positively say that the most ancient prophecies attributed to the Fatims were in Raturnian verse. 4. Bentley's assertion is opposed to the testimony of Terentianus Maurus, to whom he has himself appealed. Terentianits Maurus does indeed say that the Saturnian measure, though believed by the Romans from a very carty period (“credidit vetustas”) to be of Italian invention, was really borrowed from the Greeks. But Terentianus Maurus does not say that it was first horrowed by Naevius. Nay, the expressions used by Terentianus Maurus clearly imply the contrary; for how could the Rouvans have believed, from a very early period, that this measure was the indigenous production of Latium. if it was really brought over from Greece in an age of intelligence and liberal curiosity,+in the age which gave birth to Ennius. Plautus, Cato the Censor, and other distinguished writers? If Bentley's assertion were correct, there could have been no more doubt at Roine ahnut the Greek origin of the Raturnian measure than about the Greek origin of hexameters or Sapphics. * Aulus Gellius, .Noctes Atticar, i. 24. + See Servius, in Georg.ii. 385. Wor... IV —68

as the traveller on classic ground sometimes finds, built into the heavy wall of a fort or convent, a pillar rich with acanthus leaves, or a frieze where the Amazons and Bacchanals seem to live. The theatres and temples of the Greek and the Roman were degraded into the quarries of the Turk and the Goth. Even so did the old Saturnian poetry become the quarry in which a crowd of orators and annalists found the materials for their prose. It is not difficult to trace the process by which the old songs were transmuted into the form which they now wear. Funeral pane. gyric and chronicle appear to have been the . intermediate links which connected the lost ballads with the histories now extant. From a very early period it was the usage that an oration should be pronounced over the remains of a noble Roman. The orator, as we learn from Polybius, was expected, on such an occasion, to recapitulate all the services which the ancestors of the deceased had, from the earliest time, rendered to the commonwealth. There can be little doubt that the speaker on whom this duty was imposed would make use of all the stories suited to his purpose which were to be found in the popular lays. There can baas little doubt that the family of an eminent man would preserve a copy of the speech which had been pronounced over his corpse. The compilers of the early chronicles would have recourse to these speeches; and the great historians of a later period would have recourse to the chronicles. It may be worth while to select a particular story, and to trace its probable progress through these stages. The description of the migration of the Fabian house to Cremera is one of the finest of the many fine passages which lie thick in the earlier books of Livy. The Consul, clad in his military garb, stands in the vestibule of his house, marshalling his clan, three hundred and six fighting men, all of the same proud patrician blood, all worthy to be attended by the fasces and to command the legions. A sad and anxious retinue of friends accompanies the adventurers through the streets; but the voice of lamentation is drowned by the shouts of admiring thousands. As the procession passes the Capitol, prayers and vows are poured forth, but in vain. The devoted band, leaving Janus on the right, marches to its doom through the Gate of Evil Luck. After achieving great deeds of valour against overwhelming numbers, all perish save one child, the stock from which the great Fabian race was destined again to spring, for the safety and glory of the commonwealth That this fine romance, the details of which are so full of poetical truth, and so utterly destitute of all show of historical truth, came originally from some lay which had often been sung with great applause at banquets, is in the highest degree probable. Nor is it difficult to imagine a mode in which the transmission might have taken place. The celebrated Quintus Fabius Maximus, who died about twenty years before the First Punic War, and more than forty years before Ennius was born, is said to have been interred with extraordinary pomp. In the eulogy pronounced over his body all the great

« PreviousContinue »