صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Hebrew, Persiar, Arabic, Greek, Látin, German, Spanish, Italian, French and English, but an incredible quantity of incidental criticism and differtation upon every possible variety of subject, metaphysics, manufactures, medicine, ethics, wool-dressing, generation, government, husbandry and engineering. The mere defcription of such a commentary, is enough to give our readers an alarming idea of Mr Good's industry and the extent of his reading → and when we add to this, that he neither reasons nor writes very ill upon most of the subjects he discusses, we shall probably give an impression of the work something more favourable than we can conscientiously agree to sanction. The truth is, that Mr Good, though very intelligent, is very indiscrimate in the selection of his information ; and though, for the most part, sufficiently candid and judicious in his remarks, is at the same time intolerably dull and tedious. He has no vivacity; no delicacy of taste or fancy; very little originality; and a gift of extreme prolixity. His profe is better than his poetry ; his reasonings are more to be trusted to than his criticism; and his statements and explanations are of more yalue than his argument. We can afford to give but short specimens of his multifarious labours; but in a work of this magnitude it is fair that our readers should be enabled, in some degree, to judge for themselves.

In writing the life of the poet, it certainly was scarcely necefsary for Mr Good to inform his readers, that, immediately upon the expulsion of the Tarquins, Spurius Lucretius was unanimously chosen interrex, or king for the time being,' or to give an account of the library of Appellicon, or the labours of Sylla in correcting the text of Aristotle. Some mention of Greek literature, howcver, was natural; and as Lucretius appears to have studied at Athens, the following elaborate encomium on that seat of learning is not perhaps altogether out of place. .

But the literature of Greece was, nevertheless, best to be acquired in Greece itself; and the Romans, though they transplanted books, could not transplant the general taste and spirit that produced them, Athens, although confiderably shorn of the glory of her original constitution, and dependent upon Rome for protection, had ftill to boast of her schools, her scholars, and her libraries. Every scene, every edi, fice, every conversation was a living lecture of taste and elegance. Here was the venerable grove, in which Plato had unfolded his subJime mysteries to enraptured multitudes : here the awful lyceum, in which Aristotle had anatomised the springs of human intellect and action : here the porch of Zeno, ftill erect and stately as its founder: and here, the learned shades and winding walks, in which Epicurus had dc. lineated the origin and NATURE OF THINGS, and inculcated tranquillity and temperance : and here too was the vast and magnificent library that Pilitratus first established, and endowed for the gratuitous use of his countrymen. Here Homer sung, and Apelles painted : here Sophocles had drawn tears of tenderness, and Demofthenes fired the soul to deeda of heroism and patriotic revenge. The monuments of every thing great. or glorious, dignified or refined, virtuous or worthy, were still exifting at Athens; and she had still philosophers to boast of, who were capable of elucidating the erudition that blazed forth more conspicuously in her earlier ages of independence. ' I. xxix. xxx.


This piece of biography, which, of itself, would fill a moderate volume, contains, we think, about three authenticated passages : one is, that Lucretius studied at Athens; another is, that he lived a retired life, and did not mingle in the political contentions of his age; a third is, that he had a wife, or a mistress, of the name of Lucilia ; and the last is, that he became insane, and destroyed himself at the age of forty-four. Whether his madness was brought on by grief for the banishment of his friend Memmius, or by the unlucky operation of a love potion administered by Lucilia, is much and learnedly disputed by Eusebius, Giffenius, and Mr Good, who, of course, prefers the former and more creditable suppogtion.

We cannot undertake to give our readers even a specimen of the profundities that are discussed in the life and the appendix. They contain, among other things, a resolute defence of materialism, and of almost every particular tenet of the school of Epicurus. Mr Good has given, however, a very clear and accurate summary of the atomical philosophy of that teacher, which we shall beg leave to extract, as by far the most consistent and masterly account we have ever met with of that comprehensive system.

• In its mere physical contemplation, the theory of Epicurus allows' of nothing but matter and space, which are equally infinite and unbounded, which have equally exifted from all eternity, and from different combinations of which every individual being is created. These exiftences have no property in common with each other ; for, whatever matter is, that space is the reverse of ; and whatever space is, matter is the contrary to. The actually folid parts of all bodies, therefore, arc matter ; their a&tual pores, space, and the parts which are not altogether solid, but an intermixture of solidity and pore, are space and matter combined. Anterior to the formation of the universe, space and matter exifted uncombined, or in their pure and elementary ftate. Space, in its elementary ftate, is positive and unsolid void : matter, in its elementary ftate, consists of inconceivably minute seeds or atoms. so small that the corpuscles of vapour, light, and heat, are compounds of them , and so folid that they cannot possibly be broken, or made smaller, by any concussion or violence whatever. The express figure of these primary atoms is various : there are round; square, pointed, jagged, as well as many other shapes. These shapes, however, are not diverfi. çd to infinity ; but the atoms themselves, of each existent shape, are in


[ocr errors]

fuite or innumerable. Every atom is possessed of certain intrinsic powers of motion. Under the old school of Democritus, the perpetual motions exhibited were of two kinds :-a descending motion, from its own gra. dity; and a rebounding motion, from mutual concussion. Beldes these two motions, and to explain certain phenomena which the follow.. ing poem develops, and which were not accounted for under the old sy item, Epicurus supposed that some atorós were occafionally pofleffed of a third, by which, in some very small degree, they descended in an oblique or curvilinear direction, deviating from the common and right line anomalously; and hence, in this respect, resembling the oscillations of the magnetic needle.

These infinitudes of atoms, Aying immemorially in such different directions, through all the immeoficy of space, have interchangeably tried and exhibited every poflible mode of agion,- sometimes repelled from each other by concuffion,-and sometimes adhering to each other froin their own jagged or pointed construction, or from the casual interfices which two or more connected atoms must produce, and which may just be adapted to those of other configurations, as globular, oval, or square. Hence the origin of compound bodies ; hence the origin of immense masles of matter; hence, eventually, the origin of the world itself. When these primary atoms are closely.compacted together, and but little vacuity or fpace intervenes, they produce those kinds of subAances which we denominate solid, as stones, and metals : when they are loofe and disjoined, and a large quantity of space or vacuity occurs between them, they produce the phenomena of wool, water, vapour. In one mode of combination, they form earth ; in another, air ; and in another, fire. Arranged in one way, they produce vegetation and irritability ; in another way, animal life and perception.--Man hence arises--families are formed-fociety multiplies, and governments are inftituted.

· The world, thus generated, is perpetually sustained by the application of fresh elementary atome, Aying with inconceivable rapidity clírough all the infinitude of space, invisible from their minuteness, aud occupying the posts of all those that are as perpetually flying off. Yet, nothing is eternal and immutable but these elementary seeds or atoms themselves : the compound forms of matter are continually decompounding, and diffolving into their original corpuscles : to this there is 10 exception :-minerals, vegetables, and animals, in this respect all alike, when they lose their present configuration, perishing from exiltelice for ever, and new combinations proceeding from the matter into which they diffolve. But the world itself is a compound, though not an organized being; fuftained and nourished like organized beings from ibe, material pabulum that floats, through the void of infinity.

The world itself muft therefore, in the same manner, perish : it had a beginning, and it will eventually have an end. Its present crasis will be decompounded; it will return to its original, its elementary atoms; and new worlds will arise from its destruction.


[ocr errors]

• Space is infinite, 'material atoms are infinite, but the world is not infinite. This, then, is not the only world, or the only material syitein that exists. The cause whence this visible fyftem originated is com. petent to produce others; it has been acting perpetually froin all eter, nity; and there are other worlds and other systems of worlds exifting around us. In the vast immensity of space, there are alío other beings than man, possessed of powers of intellect and enjoyment far sutperior to our own : beings who existed before the formation of the world, and will exist when the world shall perülh for ever ; whose hap. piness flows unlimited, and unallayed ; and whom the tumults and pafsions of grofs matter can never agitate. These, the founder of the fyftem denominated gods :--not that they created the universe, or are possessed of a power of upholding it ; for they are finite and created be: ings themselves, and endowed alone with finite capacities and powers ;.but from the uninterrupted beatitude and tranquillity they enjoy, their everlasting freedom from all anxiety and care.' I. cviii.--cxi.

Some such abstract as this, indeed, we conceive to be altogether indispensable to every English reader, who may have courage to venture upon this translation. The system is not developed in the original with any extraordinary regard to method or perspicuity; and we must say for Mr Good's prose, that it is infinitely more luminous, as well as more harmonious, than the greater part of his versé.

The poetical merits of Lucretius have been a good deal obscured by the faults of his philosophy, and still more by their injudicious application to a system of so intricate and comprehensive a nature. It has been said of him, that when he put on the philosopher, he put off the poet; and laid aside his philosophy, in like manner, when he chose to be poetical. It would have been better for his reputation, in both capacities, if this had been true,--if he had reserved his poetry for episodes and introductions, and confined himself, in the body of the work, to an argumentative exposition of his system, which might have been in verse, without any disadvantage. But the boldness of his genius, his unfeigned enthusiasm for the subject he had undertaken, and the immature state of the critical and poetical art among his countrymen, effectually excluded such a distribution ; and led him to incumber and embellish his reasonings with tender, sublime, and fanciful illustrations, while his genius was perpetually recalled from its flights by the details and intricacies of his philosophy. His work, therefore, is extremely unequat, and, in many places, insufferably tedious and fatiguing. But it is full of genius ; and contains more poetry, we are inclined to . think, than any other production of the Latin muse. With less skill—less uniform propriety and less sustained dignity than Virgil, it has always appeared to us, that he had more natural


genius and original spirit; that his diction in his happier passages was sweeter and more impressive'; and all the movements of his mind more free, simple, and energetic. His latinity is beautiful; and a certain mixture of obsolete expressions, gives it an antique air that is very interesting. These are the chief merits of the work; and certainly they are not to be found in every part of it : yet it has an interest of another kind, which would be lost; if it were reduced to a collection of choice passages. From the great extent of the subject, and the infinite variety and miscellaneous nature of the illustrations, it presents us with a more lively and comprehensive picture of the state of the arts and sciences at the time of its composition, and of the way of thinking and arguing that was then in fashion, than any other work which has come down to us of the same period. . .

But though, for all these reasons, we would recommend the study of Lucretius to all who have any relish for ancient learning, we can scarcely say that it gave us any pleasure to hear

that a new attempt had been made to introduce him to the Eng·lish reader. There is no poet, perhaps, so difficult to translate

happily. His graceful, pure, simple, and melodious diction, could scarcely be transfused into another language, and there is an occasional tenderness and delicacy in his finer passages, which must defy the imitation of any one who could toil through his philosophy. Then the philosophy itself, occupying three fourths of the poem, is wholly insufferable to, a modern reader : and to preserve the semblance of verse, without an entire sacrifice of perspicuity or coherence, must be more difficult than to put Homer's catalogue into harmonious couplets. . To say that Mr Good has failed to make an interesting English poem out of the work of Lucretius, would only be saying that he had not wrought an impossibility. But we are afraid he has more than this to answer for; and that he is chargeable with a pretty considerable share of the ennui and perplexity, the giddiness and intellectual lassitude which we encountered in our perusal, of his two huge quartos. His pace in verse, we are compelled to say, is very heavy and shuffling. He has some strength, but no grace or spirit; and neither catches the fire, nor copies the elegance of his original. The grave, dignified, and sententious passages, are those he manages most tolerably ;---the noble and magnificent, he tames and subdues completely ;-the tender and mellifluous, he makes stiff and ordinary; and the common argumentative ones, he contrives to roh of their only. merit, by the use of a pompous and obscure diction, which effectually conceals the simplicity and precision of the original statement. It appears to us, also, that he has sometimes mistaken the sense of his author; and we are positive that he has often expressed it


« السابقةمتابعة »