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THERE is something inexpressi- times, have done little more than bly striking, it may almost be said imitate his machinery, copy his chaawful, in the fame of HOMER. Three racters, adopt, his similes, and, in a thousand years have elapsed since few instances, improve upon his dethe bard of Chios began to pour scriptions. Painting and statuary, forth his strains; and their reputa- for two thousand years, have been tion, so far from declining, is on the employed in striving to portray, by increase. Successive nations are em- the pencil or the chisel, his yet ployed in celebrating his works ; gene- breathing conceptions. Language and ration after generation of men are thought itself have been moulded by fascinated by his imagination. Dis- the influence of his poetry. Images crepancies of race, of character, of of wrath are still taken from Achilles, institutions, of religion, of age, of the of pride from Agamemnon, of astuteworld, are forgotten in the common ness from Ulysses, of patriotism from worship of his genius. In this uni- Hector, of tenderness from Androversal tribute of gratitude, modern mache, of age from Nestor. The galEurope vies with remote antiquity, leys of Rome were, the line-of-battle the light Frenchman with the vo- ships of France and England still are, latile Greek, the impassioned Ita- called after his heroes. The Agalian with the enthusiastic German, memnon long bore the flag of Nelson ; the sturdy Englishman with the un- the Ajax perished by the flames within conquerable Roman, the aspiring sight of the tomb of the Telamonian Russian with the proud American. hero, on the shores of the Hellespont; "Seven cities, in ancient times, com- the Achilles was blown up at the peted for the honour of having given battle of Trafalgar. Alexander the him birth, but seventy nations have Great ran round the tomb of Achilles since been moulded by his produc- before undertaking the conquest of tions. He gave a mythology to the Asia. It was the boast of Napoleon ancients; he has given the fine arts that his mother reclined on tapestry to the modern world. Jupiter, Sa- representing the heroes of the Iliad, turn, Mars, Juno, are still household when he was brought into the world. words in every tongue; Vulcan is yet The greatest poets of ancient and the god of fire, Neptune of the ocean, modern times have spent their lives Venus of love. When Michael An- in the study of his genius or the imigelo and Canova strove to embody tation of his works. Withdraw from their conceptions of heroism or beauty, subsequent poetry the images, mythey portrayed the heroes of the thology, and characters of the Niad, Iliad. Flaxman's genius was elevated and what would remain ? Petrarch to the highest point in embodying its spent his best years in restoring events. Epic poets, in subsequent his verses. Tasso portrayed the siege
VOL, LVII, NO. CCCLI.
of Jerusalem, and the shock of Europe have been published in Europe within and Asia, almost exactly as Homer the last half century; and the public had done the contest of the same admiration, so far from being satiated, forces, on the same shores, two thou- is augmenting. Every scholar knows sand five hundred years before. Mil- how largely Milton was indebted to his ton's old age, when blind and poor, poems for many of his most powerful was solaced by hearing the verses images. Byron inherited, though often recited of the poet, to whose con- at second hand, his mantle, in many of ceptions his own mighty spirit had his most moving conceptions. Schilbeen so much indebted; and Pop ler has embodied them in a noble deemed himself fortunate in devo- historic mirror ; and the dreams of ting his life to the translation of the Goethe reveal the secret influence of Niad.
the terrible imagination which porNo writer in modern times has trayed the deep remorse and hopeless equalled the wide-spread fame of agonies of Malebolge. the Grecian bard; but it may be MICHAEL ANGELO has exercised doubted whether, in the realms of an influence on modern art little, if thought, and in sway over the at all, inferior to that produced on reflecting world, the influence of the realms of thought by Homer aud DANTE has not been almost as consi- Dante. The father of Italian paintderable. Little more than five hun- ing, the author of the frescoes on the dred years, indeed, have elapsed - Sistine Chapel, he was, at the same not a sixth of the thirty centuries time, the restorer of ancient sculpwhich have tested the strength of the ture, and the intrepid architect who Grecian patriarch-since the immor- placed the Pantheon in the air. Ratal Florentine poured forth his divine phael confessed, that he owed to the conceptions; but yet there is scarcely contemplation of his works his most a writer of eminence since that time, in elevated conceptions of their divine works even bordering on imagination, art. Sculpture, under his original in which traces of his genius are not to hand, started from the slumber of a be found. The Inferno has penetrated thousand years, in all the freshness the world. If images of horror are of youthful vigour; architecture, in sought after, it is to his works that subsequent times, has sought in vain all subsequent ages have turned ; if to equal, and can never hope to surthose of love and divine felicity are pass, his immortal monument in the desired, all turn to the Paradise and matchless dome of St Peter's. He the Spirit of Beatrice. When the found painting in its infancy-he left historians of the French Revolution it arrived at absolute perfection. He wished to convey an idea of the ut- first demonstrated of what that noblo most agonies they were called on to art is capable. In the Last Judgment portray, they contented themselves he revealed its wonderful powers, exwith saying it equalled all that the hibiting, as it were, at one view, the imagination of Dante had conceived whole circles of Dante's Infernoof the terrible. Sir Joshua Reynolds portraying with terrible fidelity the has exerted his highest genius in de- agonies of the wicked, when the last picting the frightful scene described trumpet shall tear the veil from their by him, when Ugolino perished of faces, and exhibit in undisguised truth hunger in the tower of Pisa. Alfieri, that most fearful of spectacles-a Metastasio, Corneille, Lope de Vega, naked human heart. Casting aside, and all the great masters of the perhaps with undue contempt, the tragic muse, have sought in his works adventitious aids derived from finishthe germs of their finest conceptions. ing, colouring, and execution, he The first of these tragedians marked threw the whole force of his genius two-thirds of the Inferno and Paradiso into the design, the expression of the as worthy of being committed to me- features, the drawing of the figures. mory. Modern novelists have found in There never was such a delineahis prolific mind the storehouse from tor of bone and muscle as Michael which they have drawn their noblest Angelo. His frescoes stand out in imagery, the chord by which to strike bold relief from the walls of the Vatithe profoundest feelings of the human can, like the sculptures of Phidias heart. Eighty editions of his poems from the pediment of the Parthenon.