صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

hither stooped their flight. Apollo, with harp and sun-fillet, muses over other times. Jove visits his temple, and propitiously regards a nation which so rapturously adores his patronage of hospitality and freedom !—But the apparitions are no more !

One scene only more must we visit. The victors are to be feasted in the banquetting room of the Prytaneum! Pass by the Vestal shrine, and enter it. Contrary to the custom of most Grecian feasts to which the guests brought their own provisions, this was, according to Plutarch, a Pindaric or a common board. About the cates and viands all we may hope is that, in newspaper phrase commemorative of such things, they reflected infinite credit on the worthy hosts. One point we know,-“a cook from Elis,"—was a proverb for a gastronome. Literature was not forgotten. Aulus Gellius quotes from Marcus Varro, “During the entertainment, it is not every thing that should be read, but such as are at the same time useful and delightful.” Pindar is there, the songster of the Games. All caress him !Music reigns in this festal hour,

“ Dapibus supremi Grata testudo Jovis."

[ocr errors]

It is,

* The Dorian mood,
Of flutes and soft recorders,......

Such as raised
To height of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle, and instead of rage

*Deliberate valour breathed.” They have resolved that Pindar shall sing one of his celebrated hymns, and loud are the plaudits as he obeys. What a dream of inspiration mantles on his brow! What a thrill comes from the chords the moment his hand approaches them ! How the wings of his soul stir and dispread and make themselves heard ! With how deep a sympathy do they listen, and with what acclaims they reward the strain !

Ask you, my soul, what things excel ?
Beauty, life, music, are where fountains well.
Gold, which creates a greatness, from the mines
Like fire from night, all other wealth outshines.

Hor: Carm: i. 32.

Search the wide range of Æther's ambient field,
How every star to the Day-orb must yield.
Pre-eminent are these! But so transcends
The Olympic Course whate'er its like pretends !
Inspiring birth-place of immortal song
Which swells to Jove in numbers clear and strong,-
Where well-skilled minstrels lavish noble verse
Which they at Hiero's bounteous Court rehearse !
Hiero who rightful power and law maintains
O'er Sicily's wide flock-depasturing plains,-
Which though each precious lovely plant embowers,
He only cares to gather virtue's Powers.
Master is He of the renowned Lyre,
The noblest instrument of all the quire,-
Such as we often strike around the board
Of that endeared Host and patron Lord.
But now the Dorian testudo bring -
Though rude its shape.-from its harmonious string
Shall vibrate through the mind each pleasant theme
of Pisa's hippodrome and Alpheus' stream,
'Long which ungoaded Pherenicos flew,
And blent its fame with its own sovereign's due,
The Syracusan! Chivalry's proud light !
Whose blaze of glory now attains its height,
And brightest burns upon the very shore
Where Lydian Pelops disembarked of yore
The Hero-Colony! Strange tales of ruth
Now open in the past,—despite of truth,
How mighty Neptune loved him, Whose sea-girth
Binds all the nations of this heaving earth,-
When Gentlest Fate subdued the cauldron's strife,
And gave those mangled members back to life,
And he, who was for viands loathed prepared,
His ivory shoulder in these Contests bared!
Enough,—we venture idly when we guess
These mythic stories through their painted dress !*

But the bard has grown too serious for his convivial auditors, and they require a change of lay. Courteously he invites their choice. The cry is, the Graces, the Graces ! No Thamyris, but Pindar!

Where, soft whispering through its reeds,
Bright Cephisus pours its wave,-

* Olym: i.

Where roam free the glossy steeds

There is found Your haunted Cave,
Queens of rich Orchomenos,

Guardians of old Minya's line,
Ye all varied fame engross-

To my humble prayer incline !
All of fair and sweet besprint

'Mong us mortals here below,
Wisdom, beauty, valour dint,

From your genial influence flow.
What without Their tutelage

Festal song and hallowed rite ?
Gods their services engage,

And to glorious thrones invite !

Phæbus, of the golden bow,

Lifts them nearest to his seat,
While they bend in reverence low

At the eternal Monarch's feet.
O Aglaia, most revered !

Carolling, blithe, Euphrosyne !
And Thalia, song-endeared !

Highest Jove's blest Progeny :-
See my song ascend aloft!

Lydian measure is my aim !
Deeply mused, high let it waft

Of Asophicus the fame!
Minya conquers in her son,-

He returns with olive crown'd,
By Your favour he has won,-

Wake ye Echoes ! wide rebound-
Pierce to Proserpine's dark dome,

Tell the father's blessed shade
That his child hath overcome

In the Course of Pisa's glade :-
That the youthful Athlete there

Gained the wreath which never dies,
Binding in his clustering hair,

Plumes which bear him to the skies !

Though no aquatic exercises have taken place within the strict rule of the present Games, yet a Regatta will soon be celebrated at Sunium. Then is the time for jests. A trierarch

*Olym : xiv.

will spend fifteen minä on the chase. And when a poor rower falls overboard, little is laughter restrained at him, “salsos removentem pectore fluctus.”

A controversy has arisen concerning the claims of the three great Tragic bards.

It is settled that the compositions of Æschylus may be compared to Cyclopean Architecture, ponderous, wild, and typic: that those of Sophocles resemble a Temple, perfected in solemn proportions and filled with awful cries : while those of Euripides remind us of a Home sacred as Penates can make it, yet wanting no tenderness that wife and child can gather round its hearth.

The flowing goblets once more go round, and having drunk to the nine Muses in three times three, they invoke the glory of the next Olympiad, and entreat a happy reunion then !

Where is Olympia now? There still blows the olive,Cronion still lifts its heap: but the very olive is stunted, and instead of the mountain there is a mound. The name is forgotten, and Antilalla only heard. The Carbon creeps where once Alpheus flowed. All is drearily still where nations shouted ! All is well-nigh depopulated where kingdoms threw forth their swarms ! Where is the revel-cheerfulness, the high-souled valour, now? It was life in its most compressed energy and intensity,—it is death in its deepest, coldest, gloom. The real barbarian has been there, rifling earth's fairest portion, destroying man's noblest race. We have little to regret that the Olympics survive but as a tale of wonder and romance. Better institutions have risen, though not there : nobler feelings are enkindled. Well may we rejoice that such things are now regarded as the sports of that childhood which has grown in wisdom and stature up to the present age. Let us hope that a country so lovely may not be abandoned to perpetual desolations : let us more than hope that a people who erst filled such an orb of fame may complete more glorious destinies. New

civilization, and sounder philosophy, and purer religion, may elevate them not only to the standard of the line

“ Such as the Doric mothers bore;"

may foster not only our belief,

“ That there perchance some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own;"

as brave, as free, as refined as the Grecian Heraldry,- but must rank them transcendently more wise, and virtuous, and happy! And while this Retrospect of a Marvellous Institute, based on the solidity of ages,—elaborated by the arts of sculpture, eloquence, and poesy,—the school of glory,—the centre of intelligence,—the apex and paragon of fame,—while this retrospect has opened upon us,-let us, - thinking of our higher duties and graver responsibilities and incomparably more precious advantages,-learn from this Course of agonistic strife and struggle to fulfil our nobler, better, Course! There was One who had seen the first, or who was fully informed concerning it, -and it may be well, - at least cannot be harmful,- to listen to his “conclusion of the whole matter.” He seems to have in imagination the throng of spectators,—the debated course, -the contested rivalry,—the gymnastic curriculum,-he transfers it all to a grander combat and a sublimer speed, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily entangle, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us !" “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize ? So run, that ye may obtain.” “If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” “Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but,- We an Incorruptible !"

« السابقةمتابعة »