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be without its great lyric utterances, and such as should be truly its own; but it was first to find these in the Christian hymns of the middle ages.
The poetry of home growth,—the old Italian poetry which was thrust out by this new,-was composed, as we learn from the fragments which survive, and from notices lying up and down, on altogether a different basis of versification. There is no reason to believe that quantity, except as represented by and identical with accent, was recognized in it at all. For while accent belongs to every language and to every age of the language, that is, in pronouncing any word longer than a monosyllable, an ictus or stress must fall on one syllable more than on others,-quantity is an invention more or less arbitrary. At how late a period, and how arbitrarily, and as from without, it was imposed on the Latin, the innumerable anomalies, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the prosodical system of the language sufficiently testify.
I know, indeed, that some have denied the early Latin verse to have rested on a merely accentual foundation. I certainly would not have gone out of my way to meddle with a controversy upon which such high names are ranged upon either side. But lying as it does so directly in my path as not to be avoided, I cannot forbear saying, that, having read and sought to make myself master of what has come within my reach upon the question, and judging by the analogy of all other popular poetry, I am convinced that Ferdinand Wolf*, Bähr †,
* Ueber die Lais, p. 159.
† Gesch. d. Römischer Litteratur, vol. i. p. 89; Edélestand du Méril, Poésies populaires Latines, Paris, 1843, p. 45.
and those others are in the right, who, admitting indeed the existence of Saturnian, that is old Italian, verses, deny that there was properly any such thing as a Saturnian metre-that is, any fixed scheme or frame-work of long and short feet, after the Greek fashion, according to which these verses were composed; these consisting rather, as all ballad-poetry does, of a loosely defined number of syllables, not metrically disposed, but with places sufficiently marked, upon which a stress of the voice fell, to vindicate for them the character of verse.*
Into what these numbers would have unfolded themselves, as the nation advanced in culture, and as the ear, gradually growing nicer and more exacting in its requirements, claimed a finer melody, it is not easy to say; but Latin poetry at all events, as it would have had a character, so would it have rested on a basis of versification, which was its own. And knowing this, we can scarcely sympathize without reserve in the satisfaction which Horace expresses at the change which presently came over it; however we may admit that, with the exception of his one greater predecessor, he accomplished more than any other, to excuse and justify, and even to reconcile us to, the change. That change came, as is familiar to all, when, instead of being allowed such a process of natural developement from
It is characteristic of this, that numeri should be the proper Latin word for verses rather than any word which should correspond to the Greek metre. The Romans, in fact, counted their syllables and did not measure them, a certain number of these constituting a rhythm. Numeri is only abusively applied to verses which rest on music and time, and not on the number of the syllables (Niebuhr, Lectures on Early Roman History, p. 11).
within, it was drawn out of its own orbit by the too prevailing attractions of the Greek literature, within the sphere and full influence of which the conquests of the sixth century brought it,-though indeed, that influence had commenced nearly a century before.*
It is, indeed, a perilous moment for a youthful literature,- —so youthful as not yet to have acquired confidence in itself, and, though full of latent possibilities of greatness, having hitherto actually accomplished little,—to be brought within the sphere of an elder, which is now ending a glorious course, and which offers to the younger for its imitation finished forms of highest beauty and perfection. Most perilous of all is it, if these forms are not so strange, but that with some little skill they may be transplanted to the fresher soil, with a fair promise of growing and flourishing there. For the younger to adhere to its own forms and fashions, rude and rugged, and as yet only most imperfectly worked out-to believe that in them, and in cleaving to them, its true future is laid up, and not in appropriating the more elaborate models which are now offered ready to its hands-for it thus to refuse to be dazzled by the prospect of immediate results, and of overleaping a stage or two of slow and painful progress, this is indeed most hard; the temptation has proved oftentimes too strong to be resisted.
It was so in the case which we are considering now. The Roman spirit could not, of course, utterly disappear, or be entirely supprest. Quite sufficient of that
* See the limitations upon Horace's well-known words, Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit (Epp. ii. 1, 156), which Orelli (in loc.) puts, and in like manner Niebuhr.
spirit has remained to vindicate for Roman literature an independent character, and to free it from the charge of being merely the echo and imitation of something else; but the Roman forms did nearly altogether disappear, and even the Roman spirit was very considerably depressed and affected by the alien influence to which it was submitted.
The process, in truth, was wonderfully like that which found place, when, in the first half of the sixteenth century, the national poetry of Spain yielded to the influence of Italian models, and Castillejo was obliged to give place to Boscan and Garcilasso. The points of resemblance in these parallel cases are many. Thus in either case, the conquered, and at that time, morally, and so far as strength went, intellectually, far inferior people,-the people, therefore, with much less of latent productivity for the future, whatever may have been the marvels it had accomplished in the past,-imposed its literary yoke on the conquering and the nobler nation; caused it in a measure to be ashamed of that which hitherto it had effected, or of all which, continuing in its own line, it was likely to bring to pass. Nor was this the only point in which the processes were similar. There were other points of resemblance-as this, that it is impossible to deny but that here, as there, poetry of a very high order was composed upon the new models. Great results came of the change, and of the new direction in which the national taste was turned. Every thing, in short, came of it but the one thing, for the absence of which all else is but an insufficient compensation; namely, a thoroughly popular literature, which should truly smack of the soil from which it
sprung, which should be the utterance of a nation's own life; and not merely accents, which, however sweet or musical, were yet caught from the lips of another, and only artificially fitted to its own.
But with the fading and growing weak of every thing else in the classical literature of Rome, this foreign usurpation faded and grew weak also. It is more than possible, for indeed we have satisfactory evidence to the fact, that traditions of the old rhythms were preserved in the popular poetry throughout the whole period during which the metrical forms borrowed from the Greek were alone in vogue at the capital, and among those who laid claim to a learned education, that Saturnian or old Italian verses lived upon the lips of the people during all this interval.* We have continual allusion to such rustic melodies: and even were we
* Muratori (Antiqq. Ital. Diss. 40): Itaque duplex Poëseos genus olim exsurrexit, alterum antiquius, sed ignobile ac plebeium; alterum nobile et a doctis tantummodo viris excultum. Illud rhythmicum, illud metricum appellatum est. Sed quod potissimum est animadvertendum, quamquam Metrica Poësis primas arripuerit, omniumque meliorum suffragio et usu probata laudibus ubique ornaretur: attamen Rhythmica Poësis non propterea defecit apud Græcos atque Latinos. Quum enim vulgus indoctum et rustica gens Poëtam interdum agere vellet, nec legibus metri addiscendis par erat; quales poterat, versus efformare perrexit: hoc est, Rhythmo contenta, Metrum contemsit: Metrum, inquam, hoc est, rigidas prosodiæ leges, quas perfecta Poësis sequitur. So Santen, in his Notes on Terentianus Maurus, p. 177: Nec tamen post Græciæ numeros, ab Andronico agresti Latio introductos, vetus Saturniorum modorum rusticitas cessavit, immo vero non solum ejus vestigia, sed ipsa etiam res in omne ævum superstes mansit. Yet he has certainly committed an oversight in adducing among his proofs the well-known lines of Horace, Epp. ii. 1. 156