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OPTO CORRESPONDENTS.-An account of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence-"Spring Joys"_" The Desultory Speculator”-and seventh chapter of Virginia Springs"-have been unavoidably laid over till the August number. Then comes the continuation of “Lucile," and " Francis Armine,” “ Bar Associations," " Review of Bulwer's Falkland,” “Remarks on a late Review of Lord Bacon," " Review of Memoirs of Dr. Wm. Carey," "Scientiae Miscellanea, No. III," "French Anecdotes," "Copy Book," " The Adventurers," “Literature of Virginia," " Oliver Oldschool,” &c. &c. with some two or three dozen poetical contributions, all of which shall be served up” with all possible despatch.
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RICHMOND, JULY, 1838.
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common merit. It is that they show us, both in ANCIENT LITERATURE.
great and in little things, in the highest aspiraBy a Virginian, now a Citizen or Ohio.
tions of thought and feeling, as well as in the most common amusements and frivolity, the
absolute identity of our race, and that man is XENOPHON.
now just what he was in the earliest age to
which we can trace him, even in the very dawn We have sometimes been led to fear that in of his history. Greatly as the circumstances in the flood-tide of modern literature, amid the which he is placed are changed, and though the numerous works of fiction and fancy, the easy external man be moulded and modified to adapt narrative, the minute display of petty passions itself to that which surrounds him, yet in all and fine shades of character and feeling in which that goes to make up the being, in the unity of the writers of the present day excel, the standard character, in his actions arising out of any given works of ancient literature would fall into neglect, condition in which we find or place him, we see and be, for all practical purposes, forgotten by him to have been then just that which under like our reading public.
conditions we feel that he is now. Thus through We do not entirely acquit ourselves and our the long lapse of ages, in remote lands and in reviewing fraternity of all blame in aiding the different climes, in the first dawn of history, in tendency to this result. We have, or are sup- the earliest poem and in the oldest proverb, we posed to have, to do only with that which is new recognize the developments of the same nature and fresh before the reading public. We are which is still our own, and instinctively claim expected to be their tasters at the sumptuous fellowship with the shadowy memories of the and varied feast served up out of the fresh pro- past. ducts of each abundant year; to invite their We do not propose to write a dissertation upon attention to wbat is savory and wholesome on ancient literature, or to institute a comparison the wellspread board, and to warn them against between ancient and modern writers; but, led all that is noxious or insipid. Laboring in this by the reflections which we have sketched, and our vocation, we seldom ourselves find leisure 10 with them for our apology, we invite our readers look back upon the past-to revel in the rich to sit down with us for one short hour, and renew productions of other ages and other climes—and his schoolboy acquaintance with one of the most we feel nothing of the glow of original concep- beautiful writers and one of the most adventurous tion, no pride as the discoverer of bidden merit, and generous spirits of antiquity-the bold, the when we commend those writings of high anti- simple, the elegant and classic Xenophon. quity which need not the sanction of our judg We do not write for scholars, but for ourselves ment, because they have been consecrated by and for the reading public. We refer to no Greek time.
text, but to an excellent translation of the works We do not feel a blind veneration for antiquity, of our author, which is to be found in any of our however much we may admire all that is excel-bookstores, and which may be read as a recrealent in what has been transmitted to us from tion by those who found it in the original a labor remote times. We cannot but be struck with and a task, and with equal profit by those to the vast inferiority of the ancients in all that whom in that original it was a sealed book. relates to the physical sciences; and we are Xenophon was one of the scholars of Socrates, advised that they had in their day and genera- and imbibed deeply the opinions and philosophy tion multitudes of trashy writers, as well as of that extraordinary man. He lived at the time we-men who could write by the quantity for a when Athens had fallen under the dominion of wager-who, like Lucilius, could compose two Sparta, and that iron power ruled in Greecebundred verses standing upon one leg—but their when the Persian Empire under Darius and Arcbaff has been long since given to tbe winds, taxerxes, his son, was in all its glory, and the and they have left us only the windowed grain. Emperor was known among the States of Ionia
There is one point of view in which we look and Greece as "the Great King"-when the ith delight on some of the relics of antiquity, Carthaginians ruled in Western Africa and which would else, perhaps, in our eyes have but Spain and were conquerors in Sicily, and when
Rome, which has since slowly risen, spread / we cannot be persuaded they deserve any study. wide its empire, lived out its appointed day, and I am not only careful of losing the honor due to crumbled to pieces and fell, so as to be itself | learning, but tender also of Socrates, lest his among the remembrances of the long past, was virtue should incur any prejudice by my ill relaan inconsiderable city of a rude and barbarous tion of it.” people, almost unknown and unnoticed by its Yet it is just to suppose that he was jealous of more polished neighbors. Yet in searching the the honor of his master, rather than of the compapers of this accomplished author, we enter parative success of his own and Plato's treatise into his thoughts and feelings as if he were of concerning him. His declared purpose was to our owo time-we sympathize with him as a appeal in behalf of Socrates, to the tribunal, friend whom we know and love, and feel that “not where the Athenians were judges, but to we could with him, or such as he was, pass a all who consider the virtue of the man;" and he convivial hour very happily and much at our was unwilling that his stern virtue and practical ease, and (all conventional forms aside) find wisdom should be discolored or tinged by even a bim a gentleman, well fitted to adorn the social glow of poetic fancy. circle, to improve by his intelligence and delight In the first book of his Memoirs, he incidentby his wit; and we almost forget the mighty ally details a conversation between Pericles and chasm of ages on ages of perishable States and Alcibiades, in which we find, in substance, Sir Empires, and still more perishable man, which William Blackstone's definition of law. Alci separates him from us.
biades, then a youth, having requested Pericles The first thing that strikes us in the writings to explain to him “what a law is,” Pericles of Xenophon, indicative of his character, is the replies: love and veneration which he bears to the person “Your request, my Alcibiades, is not difficult and memory of Socrates, and his care and at- to be complied with; for that is a law which the tention to all that remains of him. While Xe- people agree upon in their public assemblies, nophon lived in his native city, in his youth and and afterwards cause to be promulgated in a early manhood, he was a constant follower of proper manner, ordaining what ought, and what Socrates, devoted to his person and obedient to ought not, to be done." his counsels. During this period occurred most “And what do they ordain ; good, or evil ?'' of those conversations which he has given in “Not evil, surely, my young friend." his“Memoirs of Socrates.” They are narrated “But what do you call that,” said Alcibiades, with much spirit, and contain in them, as we" which in states where the people have no rule, have reason to suppose, much more of the "fa- is advised and ordained by the few who may be ther sage” than do similar notices from the pen in power ?" of his other celebrated pupil, Plato. Xenophon "I call that likewise a law,” replied Pericles; indeed intimates in one of his epistles, that there "for laws are nothing but the injunctions of is more of poetry than truth in Plato's account such men as are in possession of the sovereign of the sayings of that philosopher, though he authority.” seems to speak, not without some slight tincture But the young inquirer led the experienced of rivalry. Writing to Lamprocles, son of So-statesman into those intricate mazes of social crates, he says:
and political obligation, in which so many have “I have a design to collect the sayings and been bewildered in our own times, and through actions of Socrates, which will be his best apo- difficulties inherent in the nature of government, logy, both now and for the future, not in the for which a written constitution is the only court where the Athenians are judges, but to all remedy, and that, perhaps, not always effectual. who consider the virtue of the man, If we “But,” said Alcibiades, " when a tyrant is should not write this freely, it were a sin against possessed of this sovereign authority, are the friendsbip and truth. Even now there fell into things he ordains to be received as laws ?" my hands a piece of Plato's to that effect, where “As laws," returned Pericles. in is the name of Socrates, and some discourses “What then is violence and injustice ?" said of his nut unpleasant. But we must profess that Alcibiades. “Is it not when the strong compel we heard not, nor can commit to writing any in the weak, not by mildness and persuasion, but that kind, for we are not poets as he is, though by force, to obey them ?" he renounce poetry.”
" I think it is." And in writing to Cebes and Simmias, he “Will it not then follow, that what a tyrant says:
decrees, and compels the observance of, conPlato, though absent, is much admired trary to the will of the people, is not law,
but throughout Italy and Sicily for his treatises; but violence ?"
“I believe it may," answered Pericles; “ for savory and unsavory, unless a palate had been I cannot admit that as a law, which a tyrant given, conveniently placed to arbitrate between enacts, contrary to the will of the people.” them and declare the difference? Is not that
"And when the few impose their decrees upon Providence in a most eminent manner conspicuthe many, not by persuasion, but by force, are ous, which, because the eye of map is so delicate we to call this also violen ?"
in its contexture, hath therefore prepared eyelids “We are: and truly, I think,” said Pericles, like doors, whereby to secure it, which extend of " that whatever is decreed and enforced without themselves whenever it is needsul, and again the consent of those who are to obey, is not law, close when sleep approaches ? Are not the but violence."
eyelids provided, as it were, with a fence on the " Then ought that which is decreed by the edge of them, to keep off the wind and guard people contrary to the will of the nobles, to be the eye? Even the eyebrow itself is not withdeemed violence, rather than law ?"
out its office, but as a pent-house, is prepared to “No doubt of it,” replied Pericles. “But, my turn off the sweat falling from the forehead, Alcibiades, at your age we were somewhat more which might enter and annoy that no less tender acute in these pice subtleties, when we made it than astonishing part of us. Is it not to be our business to consider them."
admired that the ears should take in sounds of In the same book, in a conversation with every sort, and yet are not 100 much filled by Aristodemus, an atheist, Socrates gives a brief them? That the fore teeth of the animal should but striking outline of that view of natural the-be formed in such a manner as is evidently best ology whirb Mr. Paley has so fully elaborated suited for cutting of its food, as those on the side in his work on that subject.
for grinding it in pieces ? That the mouth, “Tell me," said he, "Aristodemus, is there through which the food is conveyed, is placed any man whom you admire on account of his so near the nose and eyes, as to prevent the merit ?"
passing unnoticed, wbatsoever is unfit for nouAristodemus having answered, “Many" rishment? And canst thou still doubt, Aristo
“Name some of them,” said Socrates, “I pray demu3, whether a disposition of parts like these you.”
should be the work of chance, or of wisdom and "I admire," said Aristodemus, “Homer for contrivance ?” his epic poetry, Melanippides for his dithyram
How strong his argument and how beautiful bics, Sophocles for his tragedy, Polycletes for his illustrations! We must not forget that the statuary, and Xeuxis for painting."
light of Revelation was not yet upon the earth; “But which seems to you most worthy of and the Creator of the universe could be known admiration, Aristodemus; the artist who forms only by bis works. images void of motion and intelligence, or one Xenophon says of Socrates, that “when he who hath the skill to produce animals that are prayed, his petition was only this: 'that the endued not only with activity, but understand-gods would give to him those things that were ing?"
good;' and this he did forasmuch as they only “The latter, there can be no doubt,” replied knew what was good for man.” The same with Aristodemus, "provided the production be not the prayer commended to us by Doctor Johnson the effect of chance, but of wisdom and contri- in the conclusion of his beautiful poem on the vance."
Vanity of Human Wishes: “But since there are many things, some of which we can easily see the use of, wbile we "Still raise for good the supplicating voice, cannot say of others, to what purpose they were But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice." produced, which of these, Aristodemus, do you suppose the work of wisdom ?”
In the feast of Callias, we are made present " It would seem the most reasonable to affirm almost in very deed, at a fine scene of ancient it of those whose fitness and utility is so evi-conviviality. To this we will take leave to dently apparent."
introduce our readers. “But,” replied Socrates, “it is evidently “During the feast of Minerva, there was a apparent, that He who made man endued him solemn tournament, whither Callias, who tenwith senses because they were good for him; derly loved Autolicus, carried him, which was eyes wherewith to behold whatever was visible, soon after the victory which that youth had and ears to hear whatever was to be heard. And obtained at the Olympic games. When the say, Aristodemus, to what purpose should odors shows were over, Callias taking Autolicus and be prepared, if the sense of smelling were de- bis father with him, went down from the city to nied ? or why the distinctions of bitter and sweet,' his house in the Pireum, with Nicerates, the son
of Nicias. But upon the way meeting Socrates, soul, to abstain from kissing handsome women. Hermogenes, Critobulus, Antisthenes and Car- Carmides retorts, and effectually turns the tables mides, discoursing together, he gave orders to upon the old philosopher. one of his people to conduct Autolicus and those Whai," said Carmides, “must I be afraid of of his company to his house; and addressing coming near a handsome woman? Nevertheless, himself to Socrates and those who were with I remember very well, and I believe you do too, him, “I could noi,” said he, “have met with Socrates, that being one day in company with you more opportunely: I treat to-day Autolicus Critobulus's beautiful sister, who resembles him and his father; and, if I am not deceived, per- so much, as we were searching for a passage sons like you, who have their souls purified by in some author, you held your head very close to refined contemplations, would do much more that beautiful virgin, and I thought you seemed honor to our assembly, than your colonels of to take pleasure in touching her paked shoulder horse, captains of foot, and other gentlemen of with yours." business, who are full of nothing but their offices Then follows a humorous contest between and employments.” “You are always upon the Socrates and Critobulus for the prize of beauty. banter,” said Socrates; "for, since you gave so Socrates gives the challenge. much money to Protagoras, Georgias and Prodi Critob. “Come, I will not refuse to enter the cas, to be instructed in wisdom, you make but lists for once with you: pray then use all your little account of us, who have no other assistance eloquence, and let us know how you prove yourbut ourselves to acquire knowledge.” “'Tis self to be handsomer than I.” true,” said Callias, “hitherto I have concealed Socrates. " That shall be done presently: from you a thousand fine things I learned in the bring but a light, and the thing is done." conversation of those gentlemen ; but if you will Crit. “Bui, in order to state the question, will sup with me this evening, I will teach you all I you allow me to ask you a few questions ?" know, and after that I do not doubt you will say Soc. “I will." I am a man of consequence.”
Crit. “But, on second thought, I will give Socrates and his party accepted the invitation, you leave to ask what questions you please first." and we soon find them seated at the supper table, Soc. “Agreed. Do you believe beauty is no which, like all other entertainments, whether where to be found but in man ?" called supper or dinner, was at the beginning Crit. “Yes, certainly, in other creatures too, dull enough. “A profound silence was observed, whether animate, as a horse or bull, or inanimate as though it had been enjoined." By-and-by, a things, as we say, that is a handsome sword, a buffoon entered, who tried to raise a laugh, but fine shield, &c." failed. After the first course, and they had made Soc. “But how comes it then, that things so “effusion of wine in honor of the gods, a certain very different as these, should yet all of them be Syracusan entered, leading in a handsome girl, handsome ?" who played on the flute, another that danced and Crit. “Because they are well made, either by showed very nimble feats of activity, and a beau. art or nature, for the purposes they are employed tiful little boy, who danced, and played perfectly in." well on the guitar.” Socrates became talkative. Soc. “Do you know the use of eyes ?" He complimented Callias on the liberality and Crit. “To see.” good taste displayed in the entertainment; said Soc. “Well! it is for that very reason mine some happy things in praise of the wives of are handsomer than yours." Critobulus and Nicerates, two married gentle Crit. “Your reason." men of the party; he recited some poetry, and Soc. “Yours see only in a direct line; but, as the dancing girl's elegant performance drew from for mine, I can look not only directly forward, as him some fine observations on the comparative you, but sideways too, they being seated on a beauty of objects at rest and in motion, together kind of ridge on my face, and staring out.” with a whimsical declaration that he himself was Crit. “At that rate, a crab has the advantage determined to learn to dance. The Amphytrion, of all other animals in matter of eyes." Callias, called out all his guests, by requiring Soc. "Certainly; for theirs are incomparably each to tell what he most valued himself for; more solid and better situated than any and, as an interlude to this, Socrates banters creature's.” Carmides, a young man of the party, about his Crit. “Be it so as to eyes; but as to your excessive fondness for his mistress, Amandra, nose, would you make me believe yours is better and taxes him with having snatched a kiss from shaped than mine ?" her in his presence; and he sagely advises Car Soc. “There is no room to doubt, if it be mides, if he would preserve the liberty of his granted that the nose was made for the sense of