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Now turn to the skilful and learned Latin poet
The beauty of the place excels the flowers: the plain curving into a slight eminence, grew into a hill by gentle slopes: fountains that sprang into the living rock, were caressing the moistened grasses with their running waters: a wood tempers with the freshness of its branches the blazing sun, and claims for itself a winter in mid-summer.1
Then follow the flowers
The pride of the meadows is despoiled: one goddess inweaves lilies with dusky violets: soft marjoram adorns another: one moves brilliant with roses; another is white with privet. Thee too, Hyacinth, lamenting with thy inscribed sorrows, and Narcissus, do they gather. . . .2
The description then passes off into mere display of learning and mythology. Nor does Proserpine drop her flowers when carried off to the under world. It is Vergil, without his vital charm, without his magic. Will it not be enough simply to compare with Claudian's these lines?—
Hither, fair boy! Lo, for thee the Nymphs bring lilies in heaped-up baskets; For thee the fair Nais, gathering the pale yellow violet and the poppy blossom, joins them to narcissus and the flower of aromatic fennel: then, interweaving casia and other odorous plants, picks out the dark hyacinth with the golden marigold.3
1 forma loci superat flores; curvata tumore
Rapt. Pros. II, IOI.
2 pratorum spoliatur honos: haec lilia fuscis
3 huc ades, o formose puer; tibi lilia plenis
To conclude. "It is interesting to note how the rising "tide of romanticism has here, as elsewhere, left Claudian "wholly untouched. The passage, though elaborately ornate, "is executed in the clear, hard manner of the Alexandrian "school; it has not a trace of that sensitiveness to Nature “which vibrates in the Pervigilium Veneris."
Rutilius Namatianus, a southern Gaul, in the (imperfectly preserved) narrative of a voyage from Rome (416 A.D.) to his native land, describes his voyage along the Italian coast, with little attempt, indeed, at poetical handling, but in a simple naturalistic vein; it is truly an Itinerary in our sense. The coast-line is briefly sketched with clear, plain language; the ruins of Cosa, the Pharos of Populonia, the harbour of Pisa, the Corsican mountains. And touches, brief but true, of Nature are scattered. Such glimpses may be―
Dewy twilight shone in the purple red sky :
But two slight pictures from the notion of this interesting poem.
voyage will give a fuller The first is a twilight
As rest for the night we take up our quarters on the sea sand. A myrtle thicket supplies our evening fire: we build little tents supported by the oars; the quant thrown across formed an extemporary roof-tree.3
The journey is afterwards resumed—
We now urge on the course by sail, as the North wind had shifted when first the Morning Star shone forth on his rosy
narcissum et florem iungit bene olentis anethi,
1 W. J. Mackail, Latin Literature.
dat vespertinos myrtea silva focos:
Buc. II, 45.
steed: Corsica now begins to show her dark mountains, the dark shadow giving added height to the cloudy summit.1
Namatianus is last in this long series of classical poets who in diverse ways have given us the ancient impressions of landscape. The little collection which I have here offered, from its subject, we might almost literally call a Greek and Roman Anthology. The mere list of names might summon up before us a gallery of splendour, as if we enumerated the great landscape painters from Titian to Turner-Homer, Sappho, Pindar, Sophocles, Theocritus, Lucretius, Catullus, Vergil, Horace. Quitting this fascinating region-as at least the writer finds it -we see some prevision, faint yet clear, of later days. Yet near a thousand years were destined to pass-years covering the destruction of the Western Roman Empire by Northern tribes, the darkness, the pale twilight following, the gradual emergence of the first, the early or cosmopolitan Renaissance-till the new world of Christian literary civilisation breaks forth in full magnificent splendour with Dante ;-that first poet of imperial stature to whom, since Vergil, Europe had given birth.
1 currere curamus velis, aquilone reverso ;
LANDSCAPE IN THE HEBREW POETRY
THUS far the landscape, as seen in the Greek and Roman poetry, has been before us. It is a scarcely disputable commonplace to add, that these two great literatures have been eminently the most powerful models in moulding modern verse; they form, in fact, the magnificent inevitable ante-room, the Propylaea, to the story of European song, of English more emphatically. Yet though the subject be trite, a few words may be added in explanation, so far as I am able, of the precise grounds upon which this high place is claimed.
It is a familiar, though often ignored canon, that perfect poetry demands a perfect equipoise, a perfect equivalence, between subject and treatment, matter and form;—and that the art must be the more absolute the higher the theme chosen whilst we have at once to confess that imperfection attends all human attempts at the perfect. It is in the region of form and treatment that the largest debt of Modern poetry probably lies to Classical; to Hellas we all owe the eternal models of diction, of metre, in short, of style: and, hardly less important, the separation of poetry under definite forms; the eternal models, also, of clearness and of sanity, of unity and climax in the whole. Rome, receiving this splendid inheritance, like a bridge uniting two worlds, carried it on to us with modifications which adapted Hellenic master-works to later thought and language. The Greek, in a word, generally speaking, taught us Beauty; the Roman, Dignity.
This bequest belongs to the formal side, the side of art, as
above defined. While it is in this field that we have gained most in a direct way from classical treasures, it would be ungrateful-it would be criminal-to ignore our immense debt to the noble thought, the penetrating insight into human character and life, the profound and exquisite, if limited, feeling for Nature (to touch our own province) which mark classical poetry from Homer onwards. We owe also to the ancients that constantly exhibited preference for objective over subjective treatment of theme which, as Goethe urged, is always the mark of the highest poetry. And if we are dwelling here upon both style and subject, this is because, although, for criticism, form and matter have been necessarily separated, yet the two are interwoven as warp and woof in the fine tapestry of verse, or rather, intimately combined everywhere as if by chemical union.
If, however, here the metaphor of body and soul naturally occurs to the mind, it should recall also at once that vital element from which modern poetry can hardly dissever itself without suicide-that which, in its profoundest sense, the old pre-Christian world inevitably wanted. One ancient literature, however, remains by which the spiritual element was conferred upon humanity, and thus on human song. Palestine and Hellas, Athens and Jerusalem, these unquestionably are the two fountains of whatever is deepest in human thought, human emotion, human art-fountains which, like those fabled ones of
Eros and Anteros at Gadara,
answer and complete each other by their immense contrast. And this contrast, running through every region of man's interest, everywhere appears in the presentation of Landscape in Poetry.
Under its highest aspect the Hebrew treatment has been admirably set forth by Humboldt in his Cosmos 1
1 Physical science has advanced with magnificent movement since that work was written. Yet the author enjoyed a range of knowledge, the fruit alike of study and of experience—a width, and at the same time a refinement of taste-a large-minded grasp of life in past and present times, which render Cosmos worthy of an attention now-it may be feared-seldom given.