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the brains of men, would have borne testimony to that youth and vigour.'


With our illustrious academician's leave, this is by no means the state of the question. It is not asked whether Nature can at the present day produce as great geniuses, and as good works, as those of Greek and Latin antiquity, but whether we really have such. It is doubtless possible, that there are oaks in the forest of Chantilly as large as those of Dodona; but supposing that the oaks of Dodona could talk, it is quite clear that they had a great advantage over ours, which, it is probable, will never talk.

La Motte, a man of wit and talent, who has merited applause in more than one kind of writing, has, in an ode full of happy lines, taken the part of the moderns. We give one of his stanzas:

Et pourquoi veut-on que j'encense
Ces prétendus Dieux dont je sors?
En moi la même intelligence
Fait mouvoir les mêmes ressorts.
Croit-on la nature bizarre,
Pour nous aujourd'hui plus avare
Que pour les Grecs et les Romains?
De nos ainés mère idolâtre,
N'est-elle plus que la marâtre
Du reste grossier des humains?

And pray, why must I bend the knee
To these pretended Gods of ours?
The same intelligence in me
Gives vigour to the self-same powers.
Think ye that Nature is capricious,
Or towards us more avaricious

Than to our Greek and Roman sires-
To them an idolizing mother,

While in their children she would smother
The sparks of intellectual fires?

He might be answered thus-Esteem your ancestors, without adoring them. You have intelligence and powers of invention, as Virgil and Horace had; but perhaps it is not absolutely the same intelligence. Perhaps their talents were superior to yours; they exercised them, too, in a language richer and more harmonious than our modern tongues, which are a mix

ture of corrupted Latin, with the horrible jargon of the Celts.

Nature is not capricious; but it is possible that she had given the Athenians a soil and a sky better adapted than Westphalia and the Limousin to the formation of geniuses of a certain order. It is also likely that the government of Athens, seconding the favourable climate, put ideas into the head of Demosthenes which the air of Clamar and La Grenouillère, combined with the government of Cardinal De Richelieu, did not put into the heads of Omer Talon and Jerome Bignon.' Some one answered La Motte's lines by the fol


Chèr la Motte, imite et révère

Ces Dieux dont tu ne descends pas;
Si tu crois qu' Horace est ton père,
Il a fait des enfans ingrats.
La nature n'est point bizarre ;
Pour Danchet elle est fort avare,
Mais Racine en fut bien traité;
Tibulle était guidé par elle,
Mais pour notre ami La Chapelle,
Hélas! qu'elle a peu de bonté !

Revere and imitate, La Motte,
Those Gods from whom thou'rt not descended;
If thou by Horace wert begot,

His children's manners might be mended.
Nature is not at all capricious:
To Danchett she is avaricious,
But she was liberal to Racine;
She used Tibullus very well,

Though to our good friend La Chapelle,‡
Alas! she is extremely mean!

This dispute, then, resolves itself into a question of fact. Was antiquity more fertile in great monuments of genius of every kind, down to the time of Plutarch, than modern ages have been, from that of the house of Medicis to that of Louis XIV. inclusively?

*French writers of the 17th century.-T.

A French poet of some repute, cotemporary with Voltaire.-T.

This La Chapelle was a Receiver-general of Finance, who made a spiritless translation of Tibullus; nevertheless, those who dined at his table were highly pleased with his verses.

The Chinese, more than two hundred years before our Christian era, built their great wall, which could not save them from invasion by the Tartars. The Egyptians had, four thousand years before, burdened the earth with their astonishing pyramids, the bases of which covered ninety thousand square feet. No one doubts that if it were thought advisable to undertake such useless works at the present day, they might be accomplished by lavishing plenty of money. The great wall of China is a monument of fear; the pyramids of Egypt are monuments of vanity and superstitions: both testify the great patience of the two people, but no superior genius. Neither the Chinese nor the Egyptians could have made a single statue like those formed by our living sculptors.

Sir William Temple, who made a point of degrading the moderns, asserts, that they have nothing in architecture which can be compared to the temples of Greece and Rome; but, Englishman as he was, he should have allowed that St. Peter's at Rome is incomparably more beautiful than the Capitol.

There is something curious in the assurance with which he asserts that there is nothing new in our astronomy, nor in our knowledge of the human body, except, says he, it be the circulation of the blood. The love of his opinion, founded on his extreme self-love, makes him forget the discovery of Jupiter's satellites, of Saturn's five moons and ring, of the Sun's rotation on his axis, the calculation of the positions of three thousand stars, the developement by Kepler and Newton of the law by which the motions of the heavenly bodies are governed, and the knowledge of a thousand other things of which the ancients did not even suspect the possibility. The discoveries in anatomy have been no less numerous. A new universe in miniature, discovered by the microscope, went as nothing with Sir William Temple; he closed his eyes to the wonders of his contemporaries, and opened them only to admire ancient ignorance.

He even goes so far as to regret that we have nothing left of the magic of the Indians, Chaldeans, and

Egyptians. By this magic, he understands a profound knowledge of nature, which enabled them to work miracles, of which, however, he does not mention one, because the truth is, that they never worked any. 'What," says he, "has become of the charms of that music which so often enchanted men and beasts, fishes, birds, and serpents, and even changed their nature?" This enemy to his own times believed implicitly in the fable of Orpheus, and, it should seem, had never heard of the fine music of Italy, nor even of that of France, which do not charm serpents, it is true, but which do charm the ears of the connoisseur.

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It is still more strange that, having all his life cultivated the belles-lettres, he reasons no better on our good authors than on our philosophers. He considers Rabelais a great man, and speaks of Les Amours des Gaules (The Loves of the Gauls) as one of our best works. He was, nevertheless, a learned man, a courtier, a man of considerable wit, and an ambassador, who had made profound reflections on all that he had seen; he possessed great knowledge; one prejudice sufficed to render all this merit unavailing.

Boileau and Racine, when writing in favour of the Ancients against Perrault, showed more address than Sir William Temple. They knew better than to touch on astronomy and physical science. Boileau seeks only to vindicate Homer against Perrault, at the same time gliding adroitly over the faults of the Greek poet, and the slumber with which Horace reproaches him. He strove to turn Perrault, the enemy of Homer, into ridicule. Wherever Perrault misunderstands a passage, or renders inaccurately a passage which he understands, Boileau, seizing this little advantage, falls upon him like a redoubtable enemy, and beats him as an ignoramus-a dull writer. But it is not at all improbable that Perrault, though often mistaken, was frequently right in his remarks on the contradictions, the repetitions, the uniformity of the combats, the long harangues in the midst of them, the indecent and inconsistent conduct of the Gods in the poem-in short, on all the errors into which this great poet is asserted

to have fallen. In a word, Boileau ridicules Perrault much more than he justifies Homer.

Racine used the same artifice, for he was at least as malignant as Boileau. Although he did not, like the latter, make his fortune by satire, he enjoyed the pleasure of confounding his enemies on the occasion of a small and very pardonable mistake into which they had fallen respecting Euripides, and, at the same time, of feeling much superior to Euripides himself. He rallies the same Perrault and his partisans upon their critique on the Alceste of Euripides, because these gentlemen had unfortunately been deceived by a faulty edition of Euripides, and had taken some replies of Admetus for those of Alceste; but Euripides does not the less appear in all countries to have done very wrong in making Admetus use such extraordinary language to his father, whom he violently reproaches for not having died for him :—

"How!" replies the king his father. “ Whom, pray, are you addressing so haughtily? Some Lydian or Phrygian slave? Know you not that I am free, and a Thessalian? (Fine language, truly, for a king and a father!) You insult me as if I were the meanest of men. Where is the law which says, fathers must die for their children? Each one for himself here below. I have fulfilled all my obligations towards you. In what, then, do I wrong you? Do I ask you to die for me? The light is dear to you ;-is it less so to me? You accuse me of cowardice! Coward that you yourself are! You were not ashamed to urge your wife to save you, by dying for you. After this, does it become you to treat as cowards those who refuse to do for you what you have not the courage to do yourself? Believe me, you ought rather to be silent. You love life; others love it no less. Be assured that, if you continue to abuse me, you shall have reproaches, and not false ones, in return.”

Here he is interrupted by the chorus, with"Enough!-too much on both sides. Old man, cease this ill language towards your son."

One would think that the chorus should rather give

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