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his career of personality, and composed his Æoloficon upon the plan of what we now dem nominate the. Middle Comedy. Cratinus also, though the bitterest of all the old writers, began to sweeten his gall, and, conforming to the necessity of the times, condescended to take up with the resource of parody, and wrote his Ulysses upon the same system of reform ; no longer permitted to vent his satire upon living characters, he took post on the boldest ground, that was left for him to stand on, and opened his attack upon the dead by ridiculing the immortal Odyssey of Honier. The chorus was now withdrawn, and the poet no longer spoke his own sentiments or harangued his audience by proxy ; parody is fatire of so inferior a species, that if comedy did not very sensibly decline in it's middle æra (which there is no reason to think was the case), it must have been upheld by a very strong exertion of talents, or by collateral resources of a better stamp than this, which we are fpeaking of. Some, who are ranked in the old clafs of comic writers, continued to compose for the stage, as we have already instanced ; it may well be presumed that they at least drooped the wing, and Aagged under the pressure of unexperienced restraints; but if I may form & conjecture of the comparative spirit and excele lence of the Middle Comedy from the samples and fragments of those dramatists, who properly and exclusively belong to it, I find nothing which disposes me to suspect that it had in the least declined from the merit of the first writers, but on the contrary should conceive, that it advanced in perfection no less than it did in time by the revolution which took place.
I shall now produce some specimens of the comedies, which fall under this class, and such accounts as I have been able to collect of their authors, whom I have ranged alphabetically; the first therefore, which I shall speak of, will be the poet Alexis.
A L E X IS. This poet was a native of Thurium in Magna Græcia, a town celebrated for being the birthplace of Herodotus; he was great uncle by the father's side to Menander, and was the first to discover and encourage the early genius of that admired writer. Alexis lived to a great age, and we have the authority of Plutarch for saying that the vigour of his faculties was preserved to the last; “ The comic poets Alexis and Phi« lemon,” says that author, “continued to write « for the stage to the latest period of their lives, " and when death at length surprised them, he VOL. IV,
« found them crowned with the trophies of suc« cess and triumphing in the plaudits of the " theatre.” The numerous productions of our poet confirm this assertion of Plutarch, for Suidas fays he was author of no less than two hundred and forty-five dramas, and I find the titles of one hundred and thirteen of this collection even now upon record ; this proves that he possessed a very copious vein of invention, and the fragments, which remain out of the general wreck of his works, indicate the richness as well as copiousness of that vein. The works of such a master were of themselves a study, and as Menander formed himself upon his instructions, we cannot fail to conceive very highly of the preceptor from the acknowledged excellence of the pupil. I discover a comedy of Alexis intitled Adelphi ; it is generally supposed that Terence copied his comedy of that name from Menander, but unless his commentators have given some better reason, than I have yet met with, for the fact, it will bear a doubt at least whether that elegant copy may not have been as much indebted to the uncle as to the nephew for the charms of it's dialogue and the delicacy of it's character.
Agellius inforins us that Alexis formed the plot of one of his comedies upon the life and actions of Pythagoras ; posterity will give him credit for his choice, as we cannot conceive a 5
happier fable for an ingenious author to work upon, nor any that would afford a more fruitful field for facetious raillery than the extravagant and juggling tricks and contrivances, which that impostor's story teems with. Amongst his fragments I discover one little scrap, which, though a very small one, seems to have been a splinter of the wreck, wherein he ridicules a certain gluttonous Pythagorean, named Epicharides, for evading the abstemious rule of his sect for eating nothing that has life, by swearing that his meat is killed before it is cooked; there can be no doubt but the tenour of the piece was altogether Catirical, for it cannot be supposed that the fame man, who lampooned Plato, would spare Pythagoras; and that he did treat Plato in this contemptuous strain we have the word of Laertius, who refers to no less than four of his comedies, in which he ridicules him very severely; there is one short passage still remaining, which conveys a freer at this philosopher, and so far as it goes confirms the anecdote, which Laertius gives us; ) but the biographer does more than the admirers of the divine Plato will thank him for, when he informs us of the grace and comeliness of Alexis's person, and of Plato's partiality to him on that account; and ainongst many other galfa:tries of the like nature we find fome verses
addressed to Alexis in praise of his beauty by the enamoured philosopher, whose muse seems to have visited him pretty frequently on these occasions : There is no great point in his love. epigram to Alexis, but in that to a certain young man named Stella, who was his fellowstudent in astrology, he seems to have been as extravagant in imagination, as Juliet's concetto of cutting Romeo into little stars, for I question if the whole school of Epicurus can furnith a more ridiculous start of rhapsodical bombast than the following
« Oh! that I were that heaven on which you gaze, “ To dart upon thee with a thousand rays
What a plunge is this for Pegasus to make with a grave philosopher on his back! Whether it was successful or not with the young stargazer I am not curious to enquire ; if he was in the humour to be tickled with nonsense I should think such an address must have been irresistibly charming; but we may be very sure that Alexis was not so complying, and that, instead of being pleased with the flattery, he turned the flatterer into ridicule upon all occasions, first in his Mesopis, again in his Ancylion, his Olympiodorus, and most of all in his celebrated comedy intitled The Parafite. Aristotle records an answer made b;