« السابقةمتابعة »
Musa dedit fidibus Divos, puerofque Deorum,
(HORAT.) N times of very remote antiquity, when men
were not so lavish of their wit as they have since been, Poetry could not furnish employment for more than Threė Muses; but as business grew upon their hands and departments multiplied, it became neceffary to enlarge the commission and a board was constituted consisting of Nine in number, who had their several presidencies allotted to them, and every branch of the art poetic thenceforth had its peculiar patroness and fuperintendant
As to the precise time when these three senior goddesses called in their fix new affeflors it is matter of conjecture only; but if the poet Hom fiod was, as we are told, the first, who had the honour of announcing their names and characters to the world, we may reasonably suppose this was done upon the immediate opening of their new commission, as they would hardly enVol. V.
ter upon their offices without apprising all those, whom it might concern, of their acceffion.
Before this period the three eldest fisters condescended to be maids of all work; and if the work became more than they could turn their hands to, they have nobody but themselves and their fellow deities to complain of; for had they been content to have let the world go on in its natural course, mere mortal poets would not probably have overburthened either it or them ; but when Apollo himself (who being their president should have had more confideration for their ease) begot the poet Linus in one of his terreftrial frolics, and endowed him with hereditary genius, he took a certain method to make work for the muses: Accordingly we find the chaste Calliope herself, the eldest of the fifterhood, and who should have set a better example to the fam mily, could not hold out against this heavenly bastard, but in an unguarded moment yielded her virgin honours to Linus, and produced the poet Orpheus : Such an instance of celestial incontinence could not fail to shake the morals of the most demure ; and even the cold goddess Luna caught the flame, and sinuggled a bantling into the world, whom maliciously enough the named Mufæus, with a fly design no doubt of laying
her child at the door of the Parnaffian nun. nery.
Three such high-blooded bårds as Linus, Orpheus and Mufæus, fo fathered and so mo. thered, were enough to people all Greece with poet's and musicians ; and in truth they were not idle in their generation, but like true patriarchs spread their families over all the shores of Ionia and the islands of the Archipelago : It is not therefore to be wondered at, if the three fifter muses, who had enough to do to nurse their own children and descendants, were disposed to call in other helpmates to the task, and whilft Greece was in its glory, it may well be supposed that all the nine sisters were fully employed in bestowing upon every votary a portion of their attention, and answering every call made upon them for aid and inspiration : Much gratitude is due to them from their favoured poets, and much hath been paid, for even to the present hour they are invoked and worshipped by the sons of verse, whilft all the other deities of Olympus have either abdicated their thrones, or been dismissed from them with contempt; even Milton himself in his facred epic invokes the heavenly muse, who inspired Moses on the top of Horeb or of Sinai ; by which
he ascribes great antiquity as well as dignity to the character he addresses.
The powers ascribed to Orpheus were under the veil of fable emblems of his influence over savage minds, and of his wisdom and eloquence in reclaiming them from that barbarous state: Upon these impressions civilization and society took place : The patriarch, who founded a family or tribe, the legislator, who established a ftate, the priest, prophet, judge or king, are characters, which, if traced to their first sources, will be found to branch from that of poet: The first prayers, the first laws and the earliest prophecies were metrical ; prose hath a later origin, and before the art of writing was in existence, poetry had reached a very high degree of excellence and some of it's noblest productions were no otherwise preserved than by tradition. As to the facred quality of their first poetry the Greeks are agreed, and to give their early bards the better title to inspiration they feign them to be descended from the Gods; Orpheus must have profited by his mother's partiality, and Linus may well be supposed to have had some interest with his father Apollo. But to dwell no longer on these fabulous legends of the Greeks, we may refer to the books of Moses for the earliest
and most authentic examples of sacred poetry : Every thing that was the immediate effufion of the prophetic spirit seems to have been chaunted forth in dithyrambic measure; the valedictory blessings of the Patriarchs, when dying, the songs of triumph and thanksgiving after victory are metrical, and high as the antiquity of the sacred poem of Job undoubtedly is, such nevertheless is its character and construction as to carry strong internal marks of its being written in an advanced state of the art.
The poet therefore, whether Hebrew or Greek, was in the earliest ages a sacred character, and his talent a divine gift, a celestial inspiration : Men regarded him as the ambassador of Heaven and the interpreter of it's will.. It is perfectly in nature and no less agreeable to God's provi. dence to suppose that even in the darkest times some minds of a more enlightened fort should break forth, and be engaged in the contempla . tion of the universe and its author: From media tating upon the works of the Creator the tranfition to the act of praise and adoration follows as it were of course : These are operations of the mind, which naturally inspire it with a certain portion of rapture and enthusiasm, rushing upon the lips in warm and glowing language, and dis