Here, the Cumans say, he composed an epitaph on Gordius, king of Phrygia, which has however, and with greater probability, been attributed to Cleobulus of Lindus. Arrived at Cumae, he frequented the conversaziones of the old men, and delighted all by the charms of his poetry. Encouraged by this favourable reception, he declared that, if they would allow him a public maintenance, he would render their city most gloriously renowned.
They avowed their willingness to support him in the measure he proposed, and procured him an audience in the council. Having made the speech, with the purport of which our author has forgotten to acquaint us, he retired, and left them to debate respecting the answer to be given to his proposal. At Phocaea Homer was destined to experience another literary distress. One Thestorides, who aimed at the reputation of poetical genius, kept Homer in his own house, and allowed him a pittance, on condition of the verses of the poet passing in his name.
Having collected sufficient poetry to be profitable, Thestorides, like some would-be literary publishers, neglected the man whose brains he had sucked, and left him. At his departure, Homer is said to have observed: Homer continued his career of difficulty and distress, until some Chian merchants, struck by the similarity of the verses they heard him recite, acquainted him with the fact that Thestorides was pursuing a profitable livelihood by the recital of the very same poems.
This at once determined him to set out for Chios. No vessel happened then to be setting sail thither, but he found one ready to start for Erythrae, a town of Ionia, which faces that island, and he prevailed upon the seamen to allow him to accompany them. Having embarked, he invoked a favourable wind, and prayed that he might be able to expose the imposture of Thestorides, who, by his breach of hospitality, had drawn down the wrath of Jove the Hospitable. At Erythrae, Homer fortunately met with a person who had known him in Phocaea, by whose assistance he at length, after some difficulty, reached the little hamlet of Pithys.
Here he met with an adventure, which we will continue in the words of our author. The dogs barked on his approach, and he cried out. Glaucus for that was the name of the goat-herd heard his voice, ran up quickly, called off his dogs, and drove them away from Homer. For some time he stood wondering how a blind man should have reached such a place alone, and what could be his design in coming. He then went up to him and inquired who he was, and how he had come to desolate places and untrodden spots, and of what he stood in need.
Homer, by recounting to him the whole history of his misfortunes, moved him with compassion; and he took him and led him to his cot, and, having lit a fire, bade him sup. Whereupon Homer addressed Glaucus thus: O Glaucus, my friend, prythee attend to my behest. First give the dogs their supper at the doors of the hut: Having finished supper, they banqueted afresh on conversation, Homer narrating his wanderings, and telling of the cities he had visited. Having left the goats in charge of a fellow-servant, he left Homer at home, promising to return quickly.
Having arrived at Bolissus, a place near the farm, and finding his mate, he told him the whole story respecting Homer and his journey. He paid little attention to what he said, and blamed Glaucus for his stupidity in taking in and feeding maimed and enfeebled persons. However, he bade him bring the stranger to him.
Conversation soon showed that the stranger was a man of much cleverness and general knowledge, and the Chian persuaded him to remain, and to undertake the charge of his children. Besides the satisfaction of driving the impostor Thestorides from the island, Homer enjoyed considerable success as a teacher.
In the town of Chios he established a school, where he taught the precepts of poetry. It is on the coast, at some distance from the city, northward, and appears to have been an open temple of Cybele, formed on the top of a rock. The shape is oval, and in the centre is the image of the goddess, the head and an arm wanting.
She is represented, as usual, sitting. The chair has a lion carved on each side, and on the back. The area is bounded by a low rim, or seat, and about five yards over. The whole is hewn out of the mountain, is rude, indistinct, and probably of the most remote antiquity. So successful was this school, that Homer realised a considerable fortune.
He married, and had two daughters, one of whom died single, the other married a Chian. The following passage betrays the same tendency to connect the personages of the poems with the history of the poet, which has already been mentioned: He also testifies his gratitude to Phemius, who had given him both sustenance and instruction. His celebrity continued to increase, and many persons advised him to visit Greece whither his reputation had now extended.
Having, it is said, made some additions to his poems calculated to please the vanity of the Athenians, of whose city he had hitherto made no mention, he set out for Samos. Here, being recognized by a Samian, who had met with him in Chios, he was handsomely received, and invited to join in celebrating the Apaturian festival.
He recited some verses, which gave great satisfaction, and by singing the Eiresione at the New Moon festivals, he earned a subsistence, visiting the houses of the rich, with whose children he was very popular. In the spring he sailed for Athens, and arrived at the island of Ios, now Ino, where he fell extremely ill, and died.
Such is, in brief, the substance of the earliest life of Homer we possess, and so broad are the evidences of its historical worthlessness, that it is scarcely necessary to point them out in detail. Let us now consider some of the opinions to which a persevering, patient, and learned — but by no means consistent — series of investigations has led.
In doing so, I profess to bring forward statements, not to vouch for their reasonableness or probability. The history of this poet and his works is lost in doubtful obscurity, as is the history of many of the first minds who have done honour to humanity, because they rose amidst darkness. The majestic stream of his song, blessing and fertilizing, flows like the Nile, through many lands and nations; and, like the sources of the Nile, its fountains will ever remain concealed. Such are the words in which one of the most judicious German critics has eloquently described the uncertainty in which the whole of the Homeric question is involved.
With no less truth and feeling he proceeds: If the period of tradition in history is the region of twilight, we should not expect in it perfect light. The creations of genius always seem like miracles, because they are, for the most part, created far out of the reach of observation. If we were in possession of all the historical testimonies, we never could wholly explain the origin of the Iliad and the Odyssey; for their origin, in all essential points, must have remained the secret of the poet.
From this criticism, which shows as much insight into the depths of human nature as into the minute wire-drawings of scholastic investigation, let us pass on to the main question at issue. Was Homer an individual? Well has Landor remarked: It were idle and foolish to shake the contents of a vase, in order to let them settle at last. We are perpetually labouring to destroy our delights, our composure, our devotion to superior power.
Of all the animals on earth we least know what is good for us. My opinion is, that what is best for us is our admiration of good. No man living venerates Homer more than I do. But, greatly as we admire the generous enthusiasm which rests contented with the poetry on which its best impulses had been nurtured and fostered, without seeking to destroy the vividness of first impressions by minute analysis, our editorial office compels us to give some attention to the doubts and difficulties with which the Homeric question is beset, and to entreat our reader, for a brief period, to prefer his judgment to his imagination, and to condescend to dry details.
Before, however, entering into particulars respecting the question of this unity of the Homeric poems, at least of the Iliad, I must express my sympathy with the sentiments expressed in the following remarks: It was not till the age of the grammarians that its primitive integrity was called in question; nor is it injustice to assert, that the minute and analytical spirit of a grammarian is not the best qualification for the profound feeling, the comprehensive conception of an harmonious whole.
The most exquisite anatomist may be no judge of the symmetry of the human frame; and we would take the opinion of Chantrey or Westmacott on the proportions and general beauty of a form, rather than that of Mr. Brodie or Sir Astley Cooper. Long was the time which elapsed before any one dreamt of questioning the unity of the authorship of the Homeric poems.
The grave and cautious Thucydides quoted without hesitation the Hymn to Apollo, the authenticity of which has been already disclaimed by modern critics. Longinus, in an oft-quoted passage, merely expressed an opinion touching the comparative inferiority of the Odyssey to the Iliad; and, among a mass of ancient authors, whose very names it would be tedious to detail, no suspicion of the personal non-existence of Homer ever arose.
So far, the voice of antiquity seems to be in favour of our early ideas on the subject: Indeed, it is with the Wolfian theory that we have chiefly to deal, and with the following bold hypothesis, which we will detail in the words of Grote: Wolf, turning to account the Venetian Scholia, which had then been recently published, first opened philosophical discussion as to the history of the Homeric text. A considerable part of that dissertation though by no means the whole is employed in vindicating the position, previously announced by Bentley, amongst others, that the separate constituent portions of the Iliad and Odyssey had not been cemented together into any compact body and unchangeable order, until the days of Peisistratus, in the sixth century before Christ.
As a step towards that conclusion, Wolf maintained that no written copies of either poem could be shown to have existed during the earlier times, to which their composition is referred; and that without writing, neither the perfect symmetry of so complicated a work could have been originally conceived by any poet, nor, if realized by him, transmitted with assurance to posterity. By Nitzsch, and other leading opponents of Wolf, the connection of the one with the other seems to have been accepted as he originally put it; and it has been considered incumbent on those who defended the ancient aggregate character of the Iliad and Odyssey, to maintain that they were written poems from the beginning.
But much would undoubtedly be gained towards that view of the question, if it could be shown, that, in order to controvert it, we were driven to the necessity of admitting long written poems, in the ninth century before the Christian aera. Few things, in my opinion, can be more improbable; and Mr. Payne Knight, opposed as he is to the Wolfian hypothesis, admits this no less than Wolf himself. The traces of writing in Greece, even in the seventh century before the Christian aera, are exceedingly trifling. We have no remaining inscription earlier than the fortieth Olympiad, and the early inscriptions are rude and unskilfully executed; nor can we even assure ourselves whether Archilochus, Simonides of Amorgus, Kallinus Tyrtaeus, Xanthus, and the other early elegiac and lyric poets, committed their compositions to writing, or at what time the practice of doing so became familiar.
The first positive ground which authorizes us to presume the existence of a manuscript of Homer, is in the famous ordinance of Solon, with regard to the rhapsodies at the Panathenaea: But here we only escape a smaller difficulty by running into a greater; for the existence of trained bards, gifted with extraordinary memory, is far less astonishing than that of long manuscripts, in an age essentially non-reading and non-writing, and when even suitable instruments and materials for the process are not obvious.
Moreover, there is a strong positive reason for believing that the bard was under no necessity of refreshing his memory by consulting a manuscript; for if such had been the fact, blindness would have been a disqualification for the profession, which we know that it was not, as well from the example of Demodokus, in the Odyssey, as from that of the blind bard of Chios, in the Hymn to the Delian Apollo, whom Thucydides, as well as the general tenor of Grecian legend, identifies with Homer himself.
The author of that hymn, be he who he may, could never have described a blind man as attaining the utmost perfection in his art, if he had been conscious that the memory of the bard was only maintained by constant reference to the manuscript in his chest. The loss of the digamma, that crux of critics, that quicksand upon which even the acumen of Bentley was shipwrecked, seems to prove beyond a doubt, that the pronunciation of the Greek language had undergone a considerable change.
Now it is certainly difficult to suppose that the Homeric poems could have suffered by this change, had written copies been preserved. If, in the absence of evidence, we may venture upon naming any more determinate period, the question at once suggests itself, What were the purposes which, in that state of society, a manuscript at its first commencement must have been intended to answer? For whom was a written Iliad necessary? Not for the rhapsodes; for with them it was not only planted in the memory, but also interwoven with the feelings, and conceived in conjunction with all those flexions and intonations of voice, pauses, and other oral artifices which were required for emphatic delivery, and which the naked manuscript could never reproduce.
Not for the general public — they were accustomed to receive it with its rhapsodic delivery, and with its accompaniments of a solemn and crowded festival. The only persons for whom the written Iliad would be suitable would be a select few; studious and curious men; a class of readers capable of analyzing the complicated emotions which they had experienced as hearers in the crowd, and who would, on perusing the written words, realize in their imaginations a sensible portion of the impression communicated by the reciter.
Incredible as the statement may seem in an age like the present, there is in all early societies, and there was in early Greece, a time when no such reading class existed. If we could discover at what time such a class first began to be formed, we should be able to make a guess at the time when the old epic poems were first committed to writing. Now the period which may with the greatest probability be fixed upon as having first witnessed the formation even of the narrowest reading class in Greece, is the middle of the seventh century before the Christian aera B.
I ground this supposition on the change then operated in the character and tendencies of Grecian poetry and music — the elegiac and the iambic measures having been introduced as rivals to the primitive hexameter, and poetical compositions having been transferred from the epical past to the affairs of present and real life.
Such a change was important at a time when poetry was the only known mode of publication to use a modern phrase not altogether suitable, yet the nearest approaching to the sense. It argued a new way of looking at the old epical treasures of the people, as well as a thirst for new poetical effect; and the men who stood forward in it may well be considered as desirous to study, and competent to criticize, from their own individual point of view, the written words of the Homeric rhapsodies, just as we are told that Kallinus both noticed and eulogized the Thebais as the production of Homer.
There seems, therefore, ground for conjecturing that for the use of this newly-formed and important, but very narrow class , manuscripts of the Homeric poems and other old epics — the Thebais and the Cypria, as well as the Iliad and the Odyssey — began to be compiled towards the middle of the seventh century B. I; and the opening of Egypt to Grecian commerce, which took place about the same period, would furnish increased facilities for obtaining the requisite papyrus to write upon. A reading class, when once formed, would doubtless slowly increase, and the number of manuscripts along with it: But even Peisistratus has not been suffered to remain in possession of the credit, and we cannot help feeling the force of the following observations: If the great poets, who flourished at the bright period of Grecian song, of which, alas!
Whatever occasional anomalies may be detected, anomalies which no doubt arise out of our own ignorance of the language of the Homeric age; however the irregular use of the digamma may have perplexed our Bentleys, to whom the name of Helen is said to have caused as much disquiet and distress as the fair one herself among the heroes of her age; however Mr. Knight may have failed in reducing the Homeric language to its primitive form; however, finally, the Attic dialect may not have assumed all its more marked and distinguishing characteristics: It is not quite in character with such a period to imitate an antique style, in order to piece out an imperfect poem in the character of the original, as Sir Walter Scott has done in his continuation of Sir Tristram.
In later, and it may fairly be suspected in earlier times, the Athenians were more than ordinarily jealous of the fame of their ancestors. But, amid all the traditions of the glories of early Greece embodied in the Iliad, the Athenians play a most subordinate and insignificant part. Even the few passages which relate to their ancestors, Mr. Knight suspects to be interpolations.
It is possible, indeed, that in its leading outline, the Iliad may be true to historic fact; that in the great maritime expedition of western Greece against the rival and half-kindred empire of the Laomedontiadae, the chieftain of Thessaly, from his valour and the number of his forces, may have been the most important ally of the Peloponnesian sovereign: The songs which spoke of their own great ancestor were, no doubt, of far inferior sublimity and popularity, or, at first sight, a Theseid would have been much more likely to have emanated from an Athenian synod of compilers of ancient song, than an Achilleid or an Odysseid.
Could France have given birth to a Tasso, Tancred would have been the hero of the Jerusalem. If, however, the Homeric ballads, as they are sometimes called, which related the wrath of Achilles, with all its direful consequences, were so far superior to the rest of the poetic cycle, as to admit no rivalry — it is still surprising, that throughout the whole poem the callida junctura should never betray the workmanship of an Athenian hand; and that the national spirit of a race, who have at a later period not inaptly been compared to our self-admiring neighbours, the French, should submit with lofty self-denial to the almost total exclusion of their own ancestors — or, at least, to the questionable dignity of only having produced a leader tolerably skilled in the military tactics of his age.
To return to the Wolfian theory. He divides the first twenty-two books of the Iliad into sixteen different songs, and treats as ridiculous the belief that their amalgamation into one regular poem belongs to a period earlier than the age of Peisistratus. Pirous and Acamas, of the Thracians. But he has also shown, and we think with equal success, that the two questions relative to the primitive unity of these poems, or, supposing that impossible, the unison of these parts by Peisistratus, and not before his time, are essentially distinct.
These alterations Onomakritus, and the other literary friends of Peisistratus, could hardly have failed to notice, even without design, had they then, for the first time, undertaken the task of piecing together many self-existent epics into one large aggregate. Everything in the two great Homeric poems, both in substance and in language, belongs to an age two or three centuries earlier than Peisistratus. Indeed, even the interpolations or those passages which, on the best grounds, are pronounced to be such betray no trace of the sixth century before Christ, and may well have been heard by Archilochus and Kallinus — in some cases even by Arktinus and Hesiod — as genuine Homeric matter.
As far as the evidences on the case, as well internal as external, enable us to judge, we seem warranted in believing that the Iliad and Odyssey were recited substantially as they now stand always allowing for partial divergences of text and interpolations in B. On the whole, I am inclined to believe, that the labours of Peisistratus were wholly of an editorial character, although I must confess that I can lay down nothing respecting the extent of his labours. At the same time, so far from believing that the composition or primary arrangement of these poems, in their present form, was the work of Peisistratus, I am rather persuaded that the fine taste and elegant, mind of that Athenian would lead him to preserve an ancient and traditional order of the poems, rather than to patch and reconstruct them according to a fanciful hypothesis.
I will not repeat the many discussions respecting whether the poems were written or not, or whether the art of writing was known in the time of their reputed author. Suffice it to say, that the more we read, the less satisfied we are upon either subject. I cannot, however, help thinking, that the story which attributes the preservation of these poems to Lycurgus, is little else than a version of the same story as that of Peisistratus, while its historical probability must be measured by that of many others relating to the Spartan Confucius. I will conclude this sketch of the Homeric theories with an attempt, made by an ingenious friend, to unite them into something like consistency.
It is as follows: Many of these, like those of the negroes in the United States, were extemporaneous, and allusive to events passing around them. But what was passing around them? The grand events of a spirit-stirring war; occurrences likely to impress themselves, as the mystical legends of former times had done, upon their memory; besides which, a retentive memory was deemed a virtue of the first water, and was cultivated accordingly in those ancient times.
Ballads at first, and down to the beginning of the war with Troy, were merely recitations, with an intonation. Then followed a species of recitative, probably with an intoned burden. Tune next followed, as it aided the memory considerably. He saw that these ballads might be made of great utility to his purpose of writing a poem on the social position of Hellas, and, as a collection, he published these lays connecting them by a tale of his own. His noble mind seized the hint that there presented itself, and the Achilleis grew under his hand.
Unity of design, however, caused him to publish the poem under the same pseudonyme as his former work; and the disjointed lays of the ancient bards were joined together, like those relating to the Cid, into a chronicle history, named the Iliad. Melesigenes knew that the poem was destined to be a lasting one, and so it has proved; but, first, the poems were destined to undergo many vicissitudes and corruptions, by the people who took to singing them in the streets, assemblies, and agoras.
However, Solon first, and then Peisistratus, and afterwards Aristoteles and others, revised the poems, and restored the works of Melesigenes Homeros to their original integrity in a great measure. Having thus given some general notion of the strange theories which have developed themselves respecting this most interesting subject, I must still express my conviction as to the unity of the authorship of the Homeric poems. To deny that many corruptions and interpolations disfigure them, and that the intrusive hand of the poetasters may here and there have inflicted a wound more serious than the negligence of the copyist, would be an absurd and captious assumption; but it is to a higher criticism that we must appeal, if we would either understand or enjoy these poems.
In maintaining the authenticity and personality of their one author, be he Homer or Melesigenes, quocunque nomine vocari eum jus fasque sit , I feel conscious that, while the whole weight of historical evidence is against the hypothesis which would assign these great works to a plurality of authors, the most powerful internal evidence, and that which springs from the deepest and most immediate impulse of the soul, also speaks eloquently to the contrary.
The minutiae of verbal criticism I am far from seeking to despise. Indeed, considering the character of some of my own books, such an attempt would be gross inconsistency. But, while I appreciate its importance in a philological view, I am inclined to set little store on its aesthetic value, especially in poetry. Three parts of the emendations made upon poets are mere alterations, some of which, had they been suggested to the author by his Maecenas or Africanus, he would probably have adopted.
Moreover, those who are most exact in laying down rules of verbal criticism and interpretation, are often least competent to carry out their own precepts. Grammarians are not poets by profession, but may be so per accidens. I do not at this moment remember two emendations on Homer, calculated to substantially improve the poetry of a passage, although a mass of remarks, from Herodotus down to Loewe, have given us the history of a thousand minute points, without which our Greek knowledge would be gloomy and jejune.
But it is not on words only that grammarians, mere grammarians, will exercise their elaborate and often tiresome ingenuity. Binding down an heroic or dramatic poet to the block upon which they have previously dissected his words and sentences, they proceed to use the axe and the pruning knife by wholesale; and, inconsistent in everything but their wish to make out a case of unlawful affiliation, they cut out book after book, passage after passage, till the author is reduced to a collection of fragments, or till those who fancied they possessed the works of some great man, find that they have been put off with a vile counterfeit got up at second hand.
If we compare the theories of Knight, Wolf, Lachmann; and others, we shall feel better satisfied of the utter uncertainty of criticism than of the apocryphal position of Homer. One rejects what another considers the turning-point of his theory. One cuts a supposed knot by expunging what another would explain by omitting something else. Nor is this morbid species of sagacity by any means to be looked upon as a literary novelty.
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Justus Lipsius, a scholar of no ordinary skill, seems to revel in the imaginary discovery, that the tragedies attributed to Seneca are by four different authors. Now, I will venture to assert, that these tragedies are so uniform, not only in their borrowed phraseology — a phraseology with which writers like Boethius and Saxo Grammaticus were more charmed than ourselves — in their freedom from real poetry, and last, but not least, in an ultra-refined and consistent abandonment of good taste, that few writers of the present day would question the capabilities of the same gentleman, be he Seneca or not, to produce not only these, but a great many more equally bad.
With equal sagacity, Father Hardouin astonished the world with the startling announcement that the AEneid of Virgil, and the satires of Horace, were literary deceptions. Now, without wishing to say one word of disrespect against the industry and learning — nay, the refined acuteness — which scholars like Wolf have bestowed upon this subject, I must express my fears, that many of our modern Homeric theories will become matter for the surprise and entertainment, rather than the instruction, of posterity.
Nor can I help thinking that the literary history of more recent times will account for many points of difficulty in the transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey to a period so remote from that of their first creation. I have already expressed my belief that the labours of Peisistratus were of a purely editorial character; and there seems no more reason why corrupt and imperfect editions of Homer may not have been abroad in his day, than that the poems of Valerius Flaccus and Tibullus should have given so much trouble to Poggio, Scaliger, and others.
But, after all, the main fault in all the Homeric theories is, that they demand too great a sacrifice of those feelings to which poetry most powerfully appeals, and which are its most fitting judges. The ingenuity which has sought to rob us of the name and existence of Homer, does too much violence to that inward emotion, which makes our whole soul yearn with love and admiration for the blind bard of Chios. To believe the author of the Iliad a mere compiler, is to degrade the powers of human invention; to elevate analytical judgment at the expense of the most ennobling impulses of the soul; and to forget the ocean in the contemplation of a polypus.
There is a catholicity, so to speak, in the very name of Homer. Our faith in the author of the Iliad may be a mistaken one, but as yet nobody has taught us a better. While, however, I look upon the belief in Homer as one that has nature herself for its mainspring; while I can join with old Ennius in believing in Homer as the ghost, who, like some patron saint, hovers round the bed of the poet, and even bestows rare gifts from that wealth of imagination which a host of imitators could not exhaust — still I am far from wishing to deny that the author of these great poems found a rich fund of tradition, a well-stocked mythical storehouse, from whence he might derive both subject and embellishment.
But it is one thing to use existing romances in the embellishment of a poem, another to patch up the poem itself from such materials. What consistency of style and execution can be hoped for from such an attempt? A blending of popular legends, and a free use of the songs of other bards, are features perfectly consistent with poetical originality. In fact, the most original writer is still drawing upon outward impressions — nay, even his own thoughts are a kind of secondary agents which support and feed the impulses of imagination. But unless there be some grand pervading principle — some invisible, yet most distinctly stamped archetypus of the great whole, a poem like the Iliad can never come to the birth.
Traditions the most picturesque, episodes the most pathetic, local associations teeming with the thoughts of gods and great men, may crowd in one mighty vision, or reveal themselves in more substantial forms to the mind of the poet; but, except the power to create a grand whole, to which these shall be but as details and embellishments, be present, we shall have nought but a scrap-book, a parterre filled with flowers and weeds strangling each other in their wild redundancy; we shall have a cento of rags and tatters, which will require little acuteness to detect.
Sensible as I am of the difficulty of disproving a negative, and aware as I must be of the weighty grounds there are for opposing my belief, it still seems to me that the Homeric question is one that is reserved for a higher criticism than it has often obtained.
We are not by nature intended to know all things; still less, to compass the powers by which the greatest blessings of life have been placed at our disposal. Were faith no virtue, then we might indeed wonder why God willed our ignorance on any matter. But we are too well taught the contrary lesson; and it seems as though our faith should be especially tried, touching the men and the events which have wrought most influence upon the condition of humanity.
And there is a kind of sacredness attached to the memory of the great and the good, which seems to bid us repulse the scepticism which would allegorize their existence into a pleasing apologue, and measure the giants of intellect by an homaeopathic dynameter. Long and habitual reading of Homer appears to familiarize our thoughts even to his incongruities; or rather, if we read in a right spirit and with a heartfelt appreciation, we are too much dazzled, too deeply wrapped in admiration of the whole, to dwell upon the minute spots which mere analysis can discover.
In reading an heroic poem, we must transform ourselves into heroes of the time being, we in imagination must fight over the same battles, woo the same loves, burn with the same sense of injury, as an Achilles or a Hector. And if we can but attain this degree of enthusiasm and less enthusiasm will scarcely suffice for the reading of Homer , we shall feel that the poems of Homer are not only the work of one writer, but of the greatest writer that ever touched the hearts of men by the power of song.
And it was this supposed unity of authorship which gave these poems their powerful influence over the minds of the men of old. Heeren, who is evidently little disposed in favour of modern theories, finely observes: No poet has ever, as a poet, exercised a similar influence over his countrymen.
Prophets, lawgivers, and sages have formed the character of other nations; it was reserved to a poet to form that of the Greeks. This is a feature in their character which was not wholly erased even in the period of their degeneracy. When lawgivers and sages appeared in Greece, the work of the poet had already been accomplished; and they paid homage to his superior genius.
He held up before his nation the mirror in which they were to behold the world of gods and heroes, no less than of feeble mortals, and to behold them reflected with purity and truth. His poems are founded on the first feeling of human nature; on the love of children, wife, and country; on that passion which outweighs all others, the love of glory. His songs were poured forth from a breast which sympathized with all the feelings of man; and therefore they enter, and will continue to enter, every breast which cherishes the same sympathies.
If it is granted to his immortal spirit, from another heaven than any of which he dreamed on earth, to look down on his race, to see the nations from the fields of Asia, to the forests of Hercynia, performing pilgrimages to the fountain which his magic wand caused to flow; if it is permitted to him to view the vast assemblage of grand, of elevated, of glorious productions, which had been called into being by means of his songs; wherever his immortal spirit may reside, this alone would suffice to complete his happiness.
The more we read, and the more we think — think as becomes the readers of Homer — the more rooted becomes the conviction that the Father of Poetry gave us this rich inheritance, whole and entire. Whatever were the means of its preservation, let us rather be thankful for the treasury of taste and eloquence thus laid open to our use, than seek to make it a mere centre around which to drive a series of theories, whose wildness is only equalled by their inconsistency with each other.
Pope was not a Grecian. His whole education had been irregular, and his earliest acquaintance with the poet was through the version of Ogilby. It is not too much to say that his whole work bears the impress of a disposition to be satisfied with the general sense, rather than to dive deeply into the minute and delicate features of language. Hence his whole work is to be looked upon rather as an elegant paraphrase than a translation.
There are, to be sure, certain conventional anecdotes, which prove that Pope consulted various friends, whose classical attainments were sounder than his own, during the undertaking; but it is probable that these examinations were the result rather of the contradictory versions already existing, than of a desire to make a perfect transcript of the original. And in those days, what is called literal translation was less cultivated than at present. We must be content to look at it as a most delightful work in itself — a work which is as much a part of English literature as Homer himself is of Greek.
We must not be torn from our kindly associations with the old Iliad, that once was our most cherished companion, or our most looked-for prize, merely because Buttmann, Loewe, and Liddell have made us so much more accurate as to amphikipellon being an adjective, and not a substantive. The poem opens within forty eight days of the arrival of Ulysses in his dominions. He had now remained seven years in the Island of Calypso, when the gods assembled in council, proposed the method of his departure from thence and his return to his native country.
For this purpose it is concluded to send Mercury to Calypso, and Pallas immediately descends to Ithaca. She holds a conference with Telemachus, in the shape of Mantes, king of Taphians; in which she advises him to take a journey in quest of his father Ulysses, to Pylos and Sparta, where Nestor and Menelaus yet reigned; then, after having visibly displayed her divinity, disappears. The suitors of Penelope make great entertainments, and riot in her palace till night. Phemius sings to them the return of the Grecians, till Penelope puts a stop to the song.
Some words arise between the suitors and Telemachus, who summons the council to meet the day following. Telemachus in the assembly of the lords of Ithaca complains of the injustice done him by the suitors, and insists upon their departure from his palace; appealing to the princes, and exciting the people to declare against them. The suitors endeavour to justify their stay, at least till he shall send the queen to the court of Icarius her father; which he refuses. There appears a prodigy of two eagles in the sky, which an augur expounds to the ruin of the suitors.
Pallas, in the shape of Mentor an ancient friend of Ulysses , helps him to a ship, assists him in preparing necessaries for the voyage, and embarks with him that night; which concludes the second day from the opening of the poem. The scene continues in the palace of Ulysses, in Ithaca. Telemachus, guided by Pallas in the shape of Mentor, arrives in the morning at Pylos, where Nestor and his sons are sacrificing on the sea-shore to Neptune. Telemachus declares the occasion of his coming: They discourse concerning the death of Agamemnon, the revenge of Orestes, and the injuries of the suitors.
Nestor advises him to go to Sparta, and inquire further of Menelaus. The sacrifice ending with the night, Minerva vanishes from them in the form of an eagle: Telemachus is lodged in the palace. The next morning they sacrifice a bullock to Minerva; and Telemachus proceeds on his journey to Sparta, attended by Pisistratus. Telemachus with Pisistratus arriving at Sparta, is hospitably received by Menelaus to whom he relates the cause of his coming, and learns from him many particulars of what befell the Greeks since the destruction of Troy.
He dwells more at large upon the prophecies of Proteus to him in his return; from which he acquaints Telemachus that Ulysses is detained in the island of Calypso. In the meantime the suitors consult to destroy Telemachus on the voyage home. Penelope is apprised of this; but comforted in a dream by Pallas, in the shape of her sister Iphthima. Pallas in a council of the gods complains of the detention of Ulysses in the Island of Calypso: The seat of Calypso described. She consents with much difficulty; and Ulysses builds a vessel with his own hands, in which he embarks.
Neptune overtakes him with a terrible tempest, in which he is shipwrecked, and in the last danger of death; till Lencothea, a sea-goddess, assists him, and, after innumerable perils, he gets ashore on Phaeacia. Pallas appearing in a dream in to Nausicaa the daughter of Alcinous, king of Phaeacia, commands her to descend to the river, and wash the robes of state, in preparation for her nuptials.
Nausicaa goes with her handmaidens to the river; where, while the garments are spread on the bank, they divert themselves in sports. Their voices awaken Ulysses, who, addressing himself to the princess, is by her relieved and clothed, and receives directions in what manner to apply to the king and queen of the island.
The princess Nausicaa returns to the city and Ulysses soon after follows thither. He is met by Pallas in the form of a young virgin, who guides him to the palace, and directs him in what manner to address the queen Arete. She then involves him in a mist which causes him to pass invisible. The palace and gardens of Alcinous described. Ulysses falling at the feet of the queen, the mist disperses, the Phaecians admire, and receive him with respect. The queen inquiring by what means he had the garments he then wore, be relates to her and Alcinous his departure from Calypso, and his arrival in their dominions.
Alcinous calls a council, in which it is resolved to transport Ulysses into his country. After which splendid entertainments are made, where the celebrated musician and poet, Demodocus, plays and sings to the guests. They return again to the banquet and Demodocus sings the loves of Mars and Venus. Ulysses, after a compliment to the poet, desires him to sing the introduction of the wooden horse into Troy, which subject provoking his tears, Alcinous inquires of his guest his name, parentage, and fortunes.
Ulysses begins the relation of his adventures: From there they sailed to the land of the Cyclops, whose manners and situation are particularly characterised. The giant Polyphemus and his cave described; the usage Ulysses and his companions met with there; and, lastly, the method and artifice by which he escaped.
Ulysses arrives at the island of AEolus, who gives him prosperous winds, and incloses the adverse ones in a bag, which his companions untying, they are driven back again and rejected. Then they sail to the Laestrygons, where they lose eleven ships, and, with only one remaining, proceed to the island of Circe. Eurylochus is sent first with some companions, all which, except Eurylochus, are transformed into swine.
Ulysses then undertakes the adventure, and, by the help of Mercury, who gives him the herb Moly, overcomes the enchantress, and procures the restoration of his men. Ulysses continues his narration. How he arrived at the land of the Cimmerians, and what ceremonies he performed to invoke the dead. The manner of his descent, and the apparition of the shades: He meets his mother Anticles, from whom he learns the state of his family. He sees the shades of the ancient heroines, afterwards of the heroes, and converses in particular with Agamemnon and Achilles.
Ajax keeps at a sullen distance, and disdains to answer him. He then beholds Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus, Hercules; till he is deterred from further curiosity by the apparition of horrid spectres, and the cries of the wicked in torments. He relates how, after his return from the shades, he was sent by Circe on his voyage, by the coast of the Sirens, and by the strait of Scylla and Charybdis: With which his narration concludes. Ulysses takes his leave of Alcinous and Arete, and embarks in the evening.
Next morning the ship arrives at Ithaca; where the sailors, as Ulysses is yet sleeping, lay him on the shore with all his treasures. On their return, Neptune changes their ship into a rock. In the meantime Ulysses, awaking, knows not his native Ithaca, by reason of a mist which Pallas had cast around him. He breaks into loud lamentations; till the goddess appearing to him in the form of a shepherd, discovers the country to him, and points out the particular places.
He then tells a feigned story of his adventures, upon which she manifests herself, and they consult together of the measures to be taken to destroy the suitors. To conceal his return, and disguise his person the more effectually, she changes him into the figure of an old beggar.
Ulysses arrives in disguise at the house of Eumaeus, where he is received, entertained, and lodged with the utmost hospitality. The several discourses of that faithful old servant, with the feigned story told by Ulysses to conceal himself, and other conversations on various subjects, take up this entire book. The goddess Minerva commands Telemachus in a vision to return to Ithaca.
Pisistratus and he take leave of Menelaus, and arrive at Pylos, where they part: The scene then changes to the cottage of Eumaeus, who entertains Ulysses with a recital of his adventures. In the meantime Telemachus arrives on the coast, and sending the vessel to the town, proceeds by himself to the lodge of Eumaeus. Telemachus arriving at the lodge of Eumaeus, sends him to carry Penelope the news of his return. Minerva appearing to Ulysses, commands him to discover himself to his son.
The princes, who had lain in ambush to intercept Telemachus in his way, their project being defeated, return to Ithaca. Telemachus returning to the city, relates to Penelope the sum of his travels. Ulysses is conducted by Eumaeus to the palace, where his old dog Argus acknowledges his master, after an absence of twenty years, and dies with joy. Eumaeus returns into the country, and Ulysses remains among the suitors, whose behaviour is described.
The beggar Irus insults Ulysses; the suitors promote the quarrel, in which Irus is worsted, and miserably handled. Penelope descends, and receives the presents of the suitors. The dialogue of Ulysses with Eurymachus. Ulysses and his son remove the weapons out of the armoury. Ulysses, in conversation with Penelope, gives a fictitious account of his adventures; then assures her he had formerly entertained her husband in Crete; and describes exactly his person and dress; affirms to have heard of him in Phaeacia and Thesprotia, and that his return is certain, and within a month.
He then goes to bathe, and is attended by Euryclea, who discovers him to be Ulysses by the scar upon his leg, which he formerly received in hunting the wild boar on Parnassus. The poet inserts a digression relating that accident, with all its particulars. While Ulysses lies in the vestibule of the palace, he is witness to the disorders of the women. Minerva comforts him, and casts him asleep. At his waking he desires a favourable sign from Jupiter, which is granted.
The feast of Apollo is celebrated by the people, and the suitors banquet in the palace. Telemachus exerts his authority amongst them; notwithstanding which, Ulysses is insulted by Caesippus, and the rest continue in their excesses. Strange prodigies are seen by Theoclymenus, the augur, who explains them to the destruction of the wooers. Penelope, to put an end to the solicitation of the suitors, proposes to marry the person who shall first bend the bow of Ulysses, and shoot through the ringlets.
After their attempts have proved ineffectual, Ulysses, taking Eumaeus and Philaetius apart, discovers himself to them; then returning, desires leave to try his strength at the bow, which, though refused with indignation by the suitors, Penelope and Telemachus cause it to be delivered to his hands. He bends it immediately, and shoots through all the rings. Jupiter at the same instant thunders from heaven; Ulysses accepts the omen, and gives a sign to Telemachus, who stands ready armed at his side.
Ulysses begins the slaughter of the suitors by the death of Antinous. He declares himself, and lets fly his arrows at the rest. Telemachus assists and brings arms for his father, himself, Eumaeus, and Philaetius. Melanthius does the same for the wooers. Minerva encourages Ulysses in the shape of Mentor. The suitors are all slain, only Medon and Phemius are spared. Melanthius and the unfaithful servants are executed.
The rest acknowledge their master with all demonstrations of joy. Penelope scarcely credits her; but supposes some god has punished them, and descends from her department in doubt. At the first interview of Ulysses and Penelope, she is quite unsatisfied. Minerva restores him to the beauty of his youth; but the queen continues incredulous, till by some circumstances she is convinced, and falls into all the transports of passion and tenderness.
They recount to each other all that has passed during their long separation. The next morning Ulysses, arming himself and his friends, goes from the city to visit his father. The souls of the suitors are conducted by Mercury to the infernal shades. Ulysses in the country goes to the retirement of his father, Laertes; he finds him busied in his garden all alone; the manner of his discovery to him is beautifully described. They return together to his lodge, and the king is acknowledged by Dolius and the servants.
The Ithacensians, led by Eupithes, the father of Antinous, rise against Ulysses, who gives them battle in which Eupithes is killed by Laertes: This web edition published by eBooks Adelaide. Last updated Wednesday, December 17, at Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate, Celestial Muse! Ulysses, sole of all the victor train, An exile from his dear paternal coast, Deplored his absent queen and empire lost.
At length his Ithaca is given by fate, Where yet new labours his arrival wait; At length their rage the hostile powers restrain, All but the ruthless monarch of the main. When to his lust AEgysthus gave the rein, Did fate, or we, the adulterous act constrain? Did fate, or we, when great Atrides died, Urge the bold traitor to the regicide? Here paused the god; and pensive thus replies Minerva, graceful with her azure eyes: His death was equal to the direful deed; So may the man of blood be doomed to bleed! And will Omnipotence neglect to save The suffering virtue of the wise and brave?
That wise Ulysses to his native land Must speed, obedient to their high command. To distant Sparta, and the spacious waste Of Sandy Pyle, the royal youth shall haste. There, warm with filial love, the cause inquire That from his realm retards his god-like sire; Delivering early to the voice of fame The promise of a green immortal name.
On hides of beeves, before the palace gate Sad spoils of luxury , the suitors sate. With rival art, and ardour in their mien, At chess they vie, to captivate the queen; Divining of their loves. Attending nigh, A menial train the flowing bowl supply. Others, apart, the spacious hall prepare, And form the costly feast with busy care. There young Telemachus, his bloomy face Glowing celestial sweet, with godlike grace Amid the circle shines: Thus affable and mild, the prince precedes, And to the dome the unknown celestial leads. He led the goddess to the sovereign seat, Her feet supported with a stool of state A purple carpet spread the pavement wide ; Then drew his seat, familiar, to her side; Far from the suitor-train, a brutal crowd, With insolence, and wine, elate and loud: The tables in fair order spread, They heap the glittering canisters with bread: Viands of various kinds allure the taste, Of choicest sort and savour, rich repast!
Delicious wines the attending herald brought; The gold gave lustre to the purple draught. Luxurious then they feast. Light is the dance, and doubly sweet the lays, When for the dear delight another pays. But ah, I dream! And hope, too long with vain delusion fed, Deaf to the rumour of fallacious fame, Gives to the roll of death his glorious name! With venial freedom let me now demand Thy name, thy lineage, and paternal land; Sincere from whence began thy course, recite, And to what ship I owe the friendly freight?
All who deserved his choice he made his own, And, curious much to know, he far was known. Far from your capital my ship resides At Reitorus, and secure at anchor rides; Where waving groves on airy Neign grow, Supremely tall and shade the deeps below. Let not your soul be sunk in sad despair; He lives, he breathes this heavenly vital air, Among a savage race, whose shelfy bounds With ceaseless roar the foaming deep surrounds.
Yet hear this certain speech, nor deem it vain; Though adamantine bonds the chief restrain, The dire restraint his wisdom will defeat, And soon restore him to his regal seat. For sure Ulysses in your look appears, The same his features, if the same his years. To whom, with aspect mild, the guest divine: Or from their deed I rightlier may divine, Unseemly flown with insolence and wine? Unwelcome revellers, whose lawless joy Pains the sage ear, and hurts the sober eye. Then grateful Greece with streaming eyes would raise, Historic marbles to record his praise; His praise, eternal on the faithful stone, Had with transmissive honour graced his son.
And I his heir in misery alone. She seems attentive to their pleaded vows, Her heart detesting what her ear allows. They, vain expectants of the bridal hour, My stores in riotous expense devour. In feast and dance the mirthful months employ, And meditate my doom to crown their joy. Then let this dictate of my love prevail: Direct your toil Through the wide ocean first to sandy Pyle; Of Nestor, hoary sage, his doom demand: Thence speed your voyage to the Spartan strand; For young Atrides to the Achaian coast Arrived the last of all the victor host. If yet Ulysses views the light, forbear, Till the fleet hours restore the circling year.
With decent grief the royal dead deplored, For the chaste queen select an equal lord. Then let revenge your daring mind employ, By fraud or force the suitor train destroy, And starting into manhood, scorn the boy.
Hast thou not heard how young Orestes, fired With great revenge, immortal praise acquired? But my associates now my stay deplore, Impatient on the hoarse-resounding shore. Thou, heedful of advice, secure proceed; My praise the precept is, be thine the deed. So fathers speak persuasive speech and mild Their sage experience to the favourite child. But, since to part, for sweet refection due, The genial viands let my train renew; And the rich pledge of plighted faith receive, Worthy the air of Ithaca to give.
Abrupt, with eagle-speed she cut the sky; Instant invisible to mortal eye. His tender theme the charming lyrist chose. The shrilling airs the vaulted roof rebounds, Reflecting to the queen the silver sounds. A veil, of richest texture wrought, she wears, And silent to the joyous hall repairs. What Greeks new wandering in the Stygian gloom, Wish your Ulysses shared an equal doom! Mature beyond his years, the queen admires His sage reply, and with her train retires.
Then swelling sorrows burst their former bounds, With echoing grief afresh the dome resounds; Till Pallas, piteous of her plaintive cries, In slumber closed her silver-streaming eyes. Meantime, rekindled at the royal charms, Tumultuous love each beating bosom warms; Intemperate rage a wordy war began; But bold Telemachus assumed the man.
Pacific now prolong the jovial feast; But when the dawn reveals the rosy east, I, to the peers assembled, shall propose The firm resolve, I here in few disclose; No longer live the cankers of my court; All to your several states with speed resort; Waste in wild riot what your land allows, There ply the early feast, and late carouse.
By him and all the immortal thrones above A sacred oath , each proud oppressor slain, Shall with inglorious gore this marble stain. May Jove delay thy reign, and cumber late So bright a genius with the toils of state! Fast by the throne obsequious fame resides, And wealth incessant rolls her golden tides. Nor let Antinous rage, if strong desire Of wealth and fame a youthful bosom fire: Your patrimonial stores in peace possess; Undoubted, all your filial claim confess: Your private right should impious power invade, The peers of Ithaca would arm in aid.
But say, that stranger guest who late withdrew, What and from whence? His grave demeanour and majestic grace Speak him descended of non vulgar race: That stranger-guest the Taphian realm obeys, A realm defended with encircling seas. Sole with Telemachus her service ends, A child she nursed him, and a man attends. The Council of Ithaca. Then by his heralds, restless of delay, To council calls the peers: Soon as in solemn form the assembly sate, From his high dome himself descends in state.
Bright in his hand a ponderous javelin shined; Two dogs, a faithful guard, attend behind; Pallas with grace divine his form improves, And gazing crowds admire him as he moves,. Yet still his Antiphus he loves, he mourns, And, as he stood, he spoke and wept by turns,. Say then, ye peers! Why here once more in solemn council sit? Ye young, ye old, the weighty cause disclose: Arrives some message of invading foes? Or say, does high necessity of state Inspire some patriot, and demand debate?
The present synod speaks its author wise; Assist him, Jove, thou regent of the skies! No story I unfold of public woes, Nor bear advices of impending foes: Peace the blest land, and joys incessant crown: Of all this happy realm, I grieve alone. For my lost sire continual sorrows spring, The great, the good; your father and your king.
Yet more; our house from its foundation bows, Our foes are powerful, and your sons the foes; Hither, unwelcome to the queen, they come; Why seek they not the rich Icarian dome? If she must wed, from other hands require The dowry: Yet through my court the noise of revel rings, And waste the wise frugality of kings.
Scarce all my herds their luxury suffice; Scarce all my wine their midnight hours supplies. Safe in my youth, in riot still they grow, Nor in the helpless orphan dread a foe. But come it will, the time when manhood grants More powerful advocates than vain complaints. Rise then, ye peers! By all the deathless powers that reign above, By righteous Themis and by thundering Jove Themis, who gives to councils, or denies Success; and humbles, or confirms the wise , Rise in my aid!
If ruin to your royal race ye doom, Be you the spoilers, and our wealth consume. Then might we hope redress from juster laws, And raise all Ithaca to aid our cause: The big round tear hung trembling in his eye: The synod grieved, and gave a pitying sigh, Then silent sate — at length Antinous burns With haughty rage, and sternly thus returns: Elusive of the bridal day, she gives Fond hopes to all, and all with hopes deceives.
Where as to life the wondrous figures rise, Thus spoke the inventive queen, with artful sighs: Cease, till to great Laertes I bequeath A task of grief, his ornaments of death. The work she plied; but, studious of delay, By night reversed the labours of the day. We saw, as unperceived we took our stand, The backward labours of her faithless hand. Then urged, she perfects her illustrious toils; A wondrous monument of female wiles!
Dismiss the queen; and if her sire approves Let him espouse her to the peer she loves: Bid instant to prepare the bridal train, Nor let a race of princes wait in vain. A thousand deaths are not so terrible as one sin! All suffering not a punishment for sin. We should not conclude from this, however, that all suffering or natural evil bears the characteristic of a punishment for moral evil. This seems to be a great mistake of certain theologians, who pay more attention to the coherency of their system than to the light of nature or of revelation. Pain and death are evils, and when inflicted by the hand of a just God, must be punishments: To pretend that, although death and other temporal evils have come upon us through the sin of Adam, yet these are not to be regarded as a punishment, is neither more nor less than to say, -- they must not be called a punishment, because this would not agree with our system.
If we should concede that they are a punishment, we should be compelled to admit that the sin of the first man is imputed to his posterity, and that he was their federal head. We deny, therefore, that the labours and sorrows of the present life, the loss of such joys as are left to us at its close, and the dreadful agonies and terrors with which death is often attended, have the nature of a penalty. In like manner, a man may call black white, and bitter sweet, because it will serve his purpose; but he would be the veriest simpleton who should believe him.
But the question is, Do suffering and death never fall upon the innocent under the administration of God? We affirm that they do; and also that they may fall upon the innocent, in perfect accordance with the infinite goodness of God. In the first place, we reply to the confident assertions of Dr.
Dick, and of the whole school to which he belongs, as follows: To pretend that death and other temporal evils are always punishments , is neither more nor less than to say, "they must be called punishments, because this would agree with our system. If we should concede that they are not a punishment, we should be compelled to admit that the sin of the first man is not imputed to his posterity, and that he was not their federal head.
Surely it is not very wise to use language which may be so easily retorted. Secondly, it is true, the change of a word cannot alter the nature of things; but it may alter, and very materially too, our view of the nature of things. Besides, if to refuse to call suffering in certain cases a punishment , be merely to change a word, why should so great an outcry be made about it?
Why may we not use that word which sounds the most pleasantly to the ear, and sits the most easily upon the heart? Thirdly, we do not arbitrarily and blindly reject the term punishment , "because it does not agree with our system. We mean to affirm, that the innocent do sometimes suffer under the administration of God; and that all suffering is not a punishment for sin. The very idea of punishment, according to Dr. Dick himself, is, that it is suffering inflicted on account of sin in the person upon whom it is inflicted; and hence, wherever pain or death falls under the administration of God, we must there find, says he, either actual or imputed sin.
Now, in regard to certain cases, we deny both the name and the thing. And we make this denial, as it will be seen, not because it agrees with our system merely, but because it agrees with the universal voice and reason of mankind, except where that voice has been silenced, and that reason perverted, by dark and blindly-dogmatizing schemes of theology.
Fourthly, there is a vast difference, in reality, between regarding some sufferings as mere calamities, and all suffering as punishment. If we regard all suffering as punishment, then we need look no higher and no further in order to vindicate the character of God in the infliction of them. For, according to this view, they are the infliction of his retributive justice, merited by the person upon whom they fall, and adapted to prevent sin; and consequently here our inquiries may terminate; just as when we see the criminal receive the penalty due to his crimes.
On the other hand, if we may not view all suffering as punishment, then must we seek for other grounds and principles on which to vindicate the goodness of God; then must we look for other ends, or final causes, of suffering under the wise economy of divine providence. And this search, as we shall see, will lead us to behold the moral government of the world, not as it is darkly distorted in certain systems of theology, but as it is in itself, replete with light and ineffable beauty.
But before we undertake to show this by direct arguments, let us pause and consider the predicament to which the greatest divines have reduced themselves, by their advocacy of such an imputation of the sin of one man. Dick affirms, as we have seen, that every evil brought upon man under the good providence of God, must be a punishment for sin; and hence, as infants do not actually sin, they are exposed to divine wrath on account of the sin of Adam, which is imputed to them.
But is not this imputation, which draws after itself pain and death, also an evil?
How has it happened, then, that in the good providence of God, this tremendous evil, this frightful source of so many evils, has been permitted to fall on the infant world? Must there not be some other sin imputed to justify the infliction of such an evil, and so on ad infinitum? Dick carry out his principle to this consequence? Will he require, as in consistency he is bound to require, that the tremendous evil of the imputation of sin shall not fall upon any part of God's creation, except as a punishment for some antecedent guilt?
The imposition of this evil is justified, not by any antecedent guilt, but by the divine constitution, according to which Adam is the federal head and representative of the human race. Thus, after all, Dr. Dick has found some principle or ground on which to justify the infliction of evil, beside the principle of guilt or ill-desert. Might there not possibly be, then, such a divine constitution of things, as to bring suffering upon the offspring of Adam in consequence of his sin, without resorting to the dark and enigmatical fiction of the imputation of his transgression?
If there be a divine constitution, as Dr. Dick contends there is, which justifies the imputation of moral evil, with all its frightful consequences, both temporal and eternal death, may it not be possible, in the nature of things, to suppose a divine constitution to justify suffering without the imputation of sin? How can the one of these things be so utterly repugnant to the divine character, and the other so perfectly agreeable to it?
Until this question be answered, we may suspect the author himself of having assumed positions and made confident assertions, "because they agree with his system. Dick, "that by his sin his posterity became liable to the punishment denounced against himself. They became guilty through his guilt, which is imputed to them, or placed to their account; so that they are treated as if they had personally broken the covenant.
Indeed, the author does not deny that it is attended with difficulties, which have never been answered. In regard to the imputation of sin, he says: After the most mature consideration of the subject, it appears mysterious that God should have placed our first parent in such circumstances, that while he might insure, he might forfeit, his own happiness and that of millions of beings who were to spring from his loins.
We cannot tell why he adopted this plan with us and not with angels, each of whom was left to stand or fall for himself.
Why is it not admitted, "It may be so;" "We cannot tell? Why not act consistently with the character of the sceptic or the dogmatist, and not put on the one or the other by turns, according to the exigencies of a system? If we ask, why infants are exposed to death, we are told, that it is a punishment for Adam's sin imputed to them.
We are told that this must be so; since "none but the guilty ever suffer under the administration of God," who is not an arbitrary and cruel tyrant to cause the innocent to suffer. Why then, we ask, does he impute sin to them? To this it is replied, "We cannot tell. The advocates of it themselves have laid down a principle, which shows it to be without a reason. Hence they may well say, "We cannot tell. If this is all that can be done, would it not have been just as well to have begun, as well as ended, in the divine constitution of things?
It seems to be inconceivably horrible to Dr. Dick, and others of his school, that the innocent should ever be made to suffer under the providence of God; but yet they earnestly insist that the same good providence plunges the whole human race -- infants and all -- into unavoidable guilt, and then punishes them for it! To say that the innocent may be made to suffer is monstrous injustice -- is horrible; but to say that they are made sinners, and then punished, is all right and proper!
To say that the innocent can suffer under the administration of God, is to shock our sense of justice, and put out the light of the divine goodness; but it is all well if we only say that the punishment due to Adam's sin is made, by the same good administration, to fall upon all his posterity in the form of moral evil, and that then they are justly punished for this punishment! Alas, that the minds of the great and the good, born to reflect the light of the glorious gospel of God upon a darkened world, should be so sadly warped, so awfully distorted, by the inexorable necessities of a despotic system!
The imputation of sin not consistent with the goodness of God. This point has been already indirectly considered, but it is worthy of a more direct and complete examination. It is very remarkable that although Dr. Dick admits he cannot reconcile the scheme of imputation with the character of God, or remove its seeming hardships, not to say cruelty, he yet positively affirms that "it is a proof of the goodness of God. Dick, be a " proof of the divine goodness," it cannot but appear to be too severe.
But as this point, on which he scarcely dwells at all, is more elaborately and fully discussed by President Edwards, we shall direct our attention to him. That Adam had stronger motives to watchfulness than his posterity would have had; in that, not only his own eternal welfare lay at stake, but also that of all his posterity.
Adam was in a state of complete manhood when his trial began. The eternal welfare of his posterity was staked upon his obedience; and, having this stupendous motive before him, he would be more likely to preserve his allegiance than if the motive had been less powerful. The magnitude of the motive, says Edwards, is the grand circumstance which evinces the goodness of God in the appointment of such a constitution. If this be true, it is very easy to see how the Almighty might have made a vast improvement in his own constitution for the government of the world.
He might have made the motive still stronger, and thereby made the appointment or covenant still better: According to the argument of Edwards, what a vast, what a wonderful improvement would this have been in the divine constitution for the government of the world, and how much more conspicuously would it have displayed the goodness of its Divine Author! Again, the scheme of Edwards is condemned out of his own mouth. If this scheme be better than another, because its motives are stronger , why did not God render it still more worthy of his goodness, by rendering its motives still more powerful and efficacious?
Edwards admits, nay, he insists, that God might easily have rendered the motives of his moral government perfectly efficacious and successful. He repeatedly declares that God could have prevented all sin, "by giving such influences of his Spirit as would have been absolutely effectual to hinder it. This is emphatically the case, as the Governor of the world might have strengthened the motives to obedience indefinitely , not by augmenting the danger, but by increasing the security of his subjects; that is to say, not by making the penalty more terrific, but by giving a greater disposition to obedience.
The same thing may be clearly seen from another point of view. Let us suppose, for instance, that God had established the constitution or covenant, that if Adam had persevered in obedience, then all his posterity should be confirmed in holiness and happiness; and that if he fell, he should fall for himself alone. Would not such an appointment, we ask, have been more likely to have been attended with a happy issue than that for which Edwards contends? Let us suppose again, that after such a constitution had been established, its Divine Author had really secured the obedience of Adam; would not this have made a "happy issue" perfectly certain?
Why then was not such a constitution established? It would most assuredly have been an infinitely clearer and more beautiful expression of the divine goodness than that of Edwards. Hence, the philosophy of Edwards easily furnishes an unspeakably better constitution for the government of the world, than that which has been established by the wisdom of God! Is it not evident, that the advocates of such a scheme should never venture before the tribunal of reason at all? Is it not evident, that their only safe policy is to insist, as they sometimes do, that we do not know what is consistent, or inconsistent , with the attributes of God, in his arrangements for the government of the world?
Is it not evident, that their truest wisdom is to be found in habitually dwelling on the littleness, weakness, misery, and darkness of the human mind, and in rebuking its arrogance for presuming to pry into the mysteries of their system? The vindication of the divine goodness by Edwards, is, we think it must be conceded, exceedingly weak. All it amounts to is this, -- that this scheme is an expression of the goodness of God, because, in certain respects, it is better than a scheme which might have been established. So far from showing it to be the best possible scheme, his philosophy shows it might be greatly improved in the very respects in which its excellency is supposed to consist.
In other words, he contends that God has displayed his goodness in the appointment of such a constitution, on the ground that he might have made a worse; though, according to his own principles, it is perfectly evident that he might have made a better! Is this to express, or to deny, the absolute, infinite goodness of God?
Is it to manifest the glory of that goodness to the eye of man, or to shroud it in clouds and darkness? Edwards also says, that "the goodness of God in such a constitution with Adam appears in this: On this passage, we have to remark, that it is built upon unfounded assumptions. It is frequently said, we are aware, that if it had not been for the redemption of the world by a "sovereign, gracious" dispensation, the whole race of man might have been justly exposed to the torments of hell forever.
But where is the proof? Is it found in the word of God? This tells us what is , what has been , and what will be ; but it is not given to speculate upon what might be. For aught we know, if there had been no salvation through Christ, as a part of the actual constitution and system of the world, then there would have been no other part of that system whatever.
We are not told, and we do not know, what it would have been consistent with the justice of God to do in relation to the world, if there had been no remedy provided for its restoration. Perhaps it might never have been created at all. The work of Christ is the great sun and centre of the system as it is ; and if this had never been a part of the original grand design, we do not know that the planets would have been created to wander in eternal darkness. We do not know that even the justice of God would have created man, and permitted him to fall, wandering everlastingly amid the horrors of death, without hope and without remedy.
We find nothing of the kind in the word of God; and in our nature it meets with no response, except a wail of unutterable horror. We like not, we confess, those vindications of God's goodness, which consist in drawing hideous, black pictures of his justice, and then telling us that it is not so dark as these. We want not to know whether there might not be darker things in the universe than God's love; we only want to know if there could be anything brighter, or better, or more beautiful.
The most astounding feature of this vindication of the divine goodness still remains to be noticed. We are told that the constitution in question is good, because it was so likely to have had a "happy issue. At the very time this constitution was established, its Divine Author foresaw with perfect absolute certainty what would be the issue. He knew that the great federal head, so appointed by him, would transgress the covenant, and bring down the curse of "death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal," upon all his posterity.
This cannot be evaded, by asserting that the same difficulty attaches to the fact, that God created Adam foreseeing he would fall. His foreknowledge did not necessitate the fall of Adam. It left him free as God had created him. Life and death were set before him, and he had the power to stand, as well as the power to fall. He had no right to complain of God, then, if, under such circumstances, he chose to rebel, and incur the penalty.
But if the scheme of Edwards be true, the descendants of Adam did not have their fate in their own hands. It did not depend on their own choice. It was necessitated, even prior to their existence, by the divine constitution which had indissolubly connected their awful destiny, their temporal and eternal ruin, with an event already foreseen.
And the constitution binding such awful consequences to an event already foreseen, is called an expression of the goodness of God! Suppose, for example, that a great prince should promise his subjects that on the happening of a certain event, over which they had no control, he would confer unspeakable favours upon them. Suppose also, that at the same time he should declare to them, that if the event should not happen, he would load them with irons, cast them into prison, and inflict the greatest imaginable punishments upon them during the remainder of their lives.
Suppose again, that at the very time he thus made known his gracious intentions to them, he knew perfectly well that the event on which his favour was suspended would not happen. Then, according to his certain foreknowledge, the event fails, and the penalty of the covenant or appointment is inflicted upon his subjects: Now, who would call such a ruler a good prince? Who could conceive, indeed, of a more cruel or deceitful tyrant? But we submit it to the candid reader, if he be not more like the prince of predestination, than the great God of heaven and earth?
This scheme of imputation, so far from being an expression of infinite goodness, were indeed an exhibition of the most frightful cruelty and injustice. It would be a useful, as well as a most curious inquiry, to examine the various contrivances of ingenious men, in order to bring the doctrine of imputation into harmony with the justice of God. We shall briefly allude to only two of these wonderful inventions, -- those of Augustine and Edwards. Neither of these celebrated divines supposed that a foreign sin, properly so called, is ever imputed to any one; but that the sin of Adam, which is imputed to his descendants, is their own sin, as well as his.
Augustine, as is well known, maintained the startling paradox, that all mankind were present in Adam, and sinned in him. In this way, he supposed that all men became partakers in the guilt of Adam's sin, and consequently justly liable to the penalty due to his transgression. Augustine was quite too good a logician not to perceive, that if all men are responsible for Adam's sin, because they were in him when he transgressed, then, it follows, that we are also responsible for the sins of all our ancestors, from whom we are more immediately descended.
This follows from that maxim of jurisprudence, from that dictate of common-sense, that a rule of law is coextensive with the reason upon which it is based. Hence, as Wiggers remarks: Indeed, if this frightful hypothesis be well founded, if it form a part of the moral constitution of the world, no man can possibly tell how many thefts, murders, or treasons, he may have committed in his ancestors. One thing is certain, however, and that is, that the man who is born later in the course of time, will have the more sins to answer for, and the more fearful will be the accumulation of his guilt; as all the transgressions of all his ancestors, from Adam down to his immediate parents, will be laid upon his head.
Clearly as this consequence is involved in the fundamental principle of Augustine's theory, the good father could not but reel and stagger under it. Having followed those principles but a little way, the scene becomes so dark with his representations of the divine justice, that he feels constrained to retrace his steps, and arbitrarily introduce the divine mercy, in order to mitigate the indescribable horrors which continually thicken around him.
Such hesitation, such wavering and inconsistency, is the natural result of every scheme which places the decisions of the head in violent conflict with the indestructible feelings of the heart. In his attempt to reconcile the scheme of imputation with the justice of God, Edwards has met with as little success as Augustine.
For this purpose, he supposed that God had constituted an identity between Adam and all his posterity, whereby the latter became partakers of his rebellion. And though he dealt more immediately with Adam, it yet was as the head of the whole body, and the root of the whole tree; and in his proceedings with him, he dealt with all the branches as if they had been then existing in their root.
From which it will follow, that both guilt, or exposedness to punishment, and also depravity of heart, came upon Adam's posterity just as they came upon him, as much as if he and they had all coexisted, like a tree with many branches; allowing only for the difference necessarily resulting from the place Adam stood in as head or root of the whole. Otherwise, it is as if, in every step of proceeding, every alteration in the root had been attended at the same instant with the same alteration throughout the whole tree, in each individual branch.
I think this will naturally follow on the supposition of their being a constituted oneness or identity of Adam and his posterity in this affair. In the serious promulgation of such sentiments, it is only forgotten that sin is not the sap of a tree, and that the whole human race is not really one and the same person. Such an idea of personal identity is as utterly unintelligible as the nature of the sin and the responsibility with which it is so intimately associated.
Surely these are the dark dreams of men, not the bright and shining lights of eternal truth. Before we take leave of President Edwards, we would remark, that he proceeds on the same supposition with Calvin, Bates, Dwight, Dick, and a host of others, that suffering is always a punishment of sin, and of "sin in them who suffer. Thus we have an account, that when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on Paul's hand, they said among themselves, 'No doubt, this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the seas, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
Paul was neither a murderer nor a god. Nor, indeed, if the venomous beast had taken his life, would this have proved him to be a murderer, any more than its falling off into the fire proved him to be a god, according to the rash judgment of the barbarians. There is a better source of philosophy, if we mistake not, than the rash, hasty, foolish judgments of barbarians.
The imputation of sin not consistent with human, much less with the divine goodness. There are few persons whose feelings will allow them to be consistent advocates of the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin. There are many who cannot endure it; or rather, there are very few who can endure it; but, as Bishop Burnet says, they find no difficulty in the idea of temporal punishment on account of Adam's sin. This view of a limited imputation, and a limited punishment , is not confined to the Church of England.
It prevails to a greater or less extent in all denominations. But President Edwards has, we think, unanswerably exposed the inconsistency of its advocates. On which I would observe, that to suppose God imputes, not all the guilt of Adam, but only some little part of it, relieves nothing but his imagination. To think of poor little infants bearing such torments for Adam's sin, as they sometimes do in this world, and these torments ending in death and annihilation, may sit easier on the imagination, than to conceive of their suffering eternal misery for it; but it does not at all relieve one's reason.
There is no rule of reason that can be supposed to lie against imputing a sin in the whole of it, which was committed by one, to another who did not personally commit it, but will also lie against its being so imputed and punished in part ; for all the reasons if there be any lie against the imputation , not the quality or degree of what is imputed.
If there be any rule of reason that is strong and good, lying against a proper derivation or communication of guilt from one that acted to another that did not act, then it lies against all that is of that nature If these reasons are good, all the difference is this: Hence, in the eye of reason , there is no medium between rejecting the whole of the imputation of Adam's sin, and ceasing to object against the imputation of the whole of it, as inconsistent with the justice and goodness of God. We may arbitrarily wipe out a portion of it in order to relieve our imagination ; but this brings no relief to the calm and passionless reason.
It may still the wild tumults of emotion, but it cannot silence the voice of the intellect. Why not relieve both the imagination and the reason? Why not wipe out the whole dark film of imputation, and permit the glad eye to open on the bright glory of God's infinite goodness? The wonder is, that when Edwards had carried out his logic to such a conclusion, he did not regard his argument as a perfect reductio ad absurdum.