صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

“ And, whilst your grey beards wag, 'the gaping guest “ Sits wondering with a fooliso face of praise."

(PLATO, Com.)

CRAtes, by birth an Athenian, was first an actor, and afterwards a writer of the old comedy; he performed the principal characters in Cratinus's plays, and was the great rival of Aristophanes's favourite actors Calliftratus and Philonides; we have the titles of more than twenty comedies, and but four small fragments of this author : I have searched for his remains more diligently, from the circumstance of his having been so celebrated an actor ; a profesfion which centers in itself more gifts of nature, education, art and study, than any other. His comedies are said to have been of a very gay and facetious cast; and the author of the Prolegomena to Aristophanes informs us, that he was the first who introduced a drunken character on the Athenian itage; to this anec. dote I give credit, because no one could better know how entirely such an attempt depends upon the discretion and address of the actor, who has fuch a part in his keeping: It is plain the experiment succeeded, because even the tragedians exhibited such characters in succeeding times. Modern experience shews us, how subject such representations are to be outraged ;


the performer generally forgetting, or not knowing, that his own fobriety should keep the drunkennefs he counterfeits within its proper bounds. Aristotle ascribes to Crates another innovation with respect to the iambic metre of the old comedy, which he made more free and apposite to familiar dialogue ; this also correfponds with the natural and facetious character of his drama. I cannot say the four small fragments which I have collected bear that stamp; on the contrary, they are of a grave and sententious cait: One of them is an observation on the effects of poverty, which Horace has either literally translated, or struck upon the very fame thoughts in the following palfage :

Non habet infelix paupertas durius in se
quam quod ridiculos bomines facit.

I find a short stricture upon the gluttony of the Theffalians; a remark upon the indecorum of inviting women to wedding suppers, and making riotous entertainments at a ceremony which modesty would recommend to pass in private, and within the respective family where it occurs.

The last fragment is a short but touching picture of old age, and the vanity of human

wishes :


wishes: I think the turn of thought and expression extremely beautiful.



OLD " These shrive!l'd finews and this bending frame, “ The workmanship of Time’s strong hand proclaim; “ Skill'd to reverse whate'er the gods create, And make that crooked which they fashion straight, • Hard choice for man, to die-or else to be “ That tottering, wretched, wrinkled thing you see : “ Age then we all prefer ; for age we pray,, “ And travel on to life's last ling’ring day ; “ Then sinking flowly down from worse to worse, $Find heay'n's extorted boon our greatest curse.”


[ocr errors]

PHRYNICHUS was a contemporary of Eupolis, and a writer of the old comedy; a dramatic poet of the first class in reputation as well as in time, He was an Athenian by birth, and must not be confounded with the tragic poet of that name. I find the titles of ten comedies of his writing; these are The Ephialtes; The Beard, (the fame title with that of Plato); Saturn; The Revellers; The Satyrs; The Tragedians; The Reclufe ; The Muses; The Priest, and The Weeding-Women. We have no other guides but these titles to guess at the comedies themselves; we see however by some of them what subjects his satire pointed out to the spectators, in which the philosophers had their share as usual ; and by certain fragments it


appears, that Alcibiades was also treated with fome personal severity.

PHERECRATES is the next author I shall notice, a poet famous in his time, and whose character as well as genius descends to us with the warmest testimonies of high authority. His stile was of that fort, which has been proverbially dignified as Most Attic : He acquired such reputation by his poems as well as plays, that the metre he used was called by pre-eminence the Pherecratian Metre. He was no less excellent in his private character than in his poetical one; he was attached to Alexander of Macedon, and accompanied that great conqueror in his expeditions; he lived in intimacy with Plato at Athens, and in some of his comedies was engaged in warm competition with Crates, the actor and author, of whom I have already spoken. Suidas says he wrote seventeen comedies, and the titles of these are still extant: One of them, viz. Tha Peasants, is mentioned by Plato in his Protagoras : Clemens quotes a passage from his Deserters of great elegance, in which the gods are introduced making heavy complaints of the frauds put upon them by mankind in their facrifices and oblations : This poet also has a perfonal stroke at the immoral character of Alcibiades. 8

Having Having quoted a passage from Crates on the video ya subject of old age, I shall now select one'from this author on the same; and if the reader is curious to observe how these celebrated rivals expressed themselves on a similar sentiment, he has an opportunity of making the comparison.

[blocks in formation]

" Age is the heaviest burthen man can bear,
" Compound of disappointment, pain and care;
“ For when the mind's experience comes at length,
“ It comes to mourn the body's loss of strength:
~ Resign'd to ignorance all our better days,
« Knowledge just ripens when the man decays ;

ray of light the closing eye receives,
“ And wisdom only takes what folly leaves.”


66 One

Pherecrates intitled one of his comedies The Tyranny; it does not appear what particular object he had in view under this title, but from the following fragment he seems to have levelled. some share of his fatire against the fair sex

“ Remark how wisely antient art provides “ The broad-brimm'd cup with flat expanded sides; A cup contrivd for man's discreeter use, « And sober potions of the generous juice : “ But woman's more ambitious thirsty soul “ Soon long’d to revel in the plenteous bowl ; “ Deep and capacious as the swelling hold " Of some stout bark she shap'd the hollow mould,

" Then

« السابقةمتابعة »