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1798.]

ABSURD CRITICISM.

*

189

"Rollin remarked (being perhaps instructed by Jean Boivin†) that Moooμai never governs a dative, and that consequently this passage of the Iliad ought to be rendered, I entreat you to lay aside your anger towards Achilles. Not that Rollin was the first to make this remark, for Henry Stephens had given nearly the true sense in his Thesaurus; but, when Rollin had made it, Bellenger started up to contradict it; and, in the supplement to the Essais de Critique de M. Vander Meulen' (the name under which Bellenger himself wrote), Amst. 1741, pp. 92-101, says that all interpreters had given the passage a different signification. He seems to have thought that if all interpreters go wrong, it is our business to perpetuate their errors, and transmit them to posterity! But he next accuses Rollin of plagiarism from Stephens. If he thought this accusation just, he ought at the same time to have acquitted Rollin of having introduced a new interpretation. But afterwards, in order to prove that Xioooμai may govern a dative, he cites a verse from Phavorinus, where that verb is followed by a genitive, πì or πpòs being understood: λίσσομαι Ζηνὸς Ολυμπίου ἠδὲ Θέμιστος, a defective line of Homer, from which Bellenger argues thus: If λίσσομαι governs a genitive, with ἐπὶ or πρὸς understood, it may also govern a dative, since i or πpòs governs also a dative. An egregious specimen of argumentation! And how astonishing that he should have adduced so lame a verse without remark; that one pretending to be a critic should not have remembered even the well-known words of Homer! In this note I acknowledge that I have deviated from my proper course; but I have done so for two reasons; the first is, because the true sense of this passage of Homer is not generally known, and a new one, but false, has recently been devised by certain Scotchmen; the second, that I might show, by a striking example, into what monstrous blunders learned men may fall, and what absurdities they may blurt forth, if they

* Manière d'Enseigner, tom. i. p. 191, éd. Amst. 1745.

† See Academiæ Inscriptionum Monument. tom. ii. p. 23; or Brunck ad Aristoph. Ran. 851.

once venture, under the influence of anger, hatred, envy, or any ill-feeling, to pass censure upon subjects which they cannot or will not understand."

The hint about writing under the influence of illfeeling was probably directed as much against the living Wakefield as against the deceased Bellenger. Who the "certain Scotchmen" are, that had interpreted this passage of Homer falsely, we do not know; for Dunbar, in his Analecta Minora, Professor Young, and Monboddo in his "Origin and Progress of Language,"* seem all to have understood it rightly.

For his note on 1121,

"Ωστ' ἐκδακρῦσαι γ ̓ ἔνδοθεν κεχαρμένην,

“ Κεχαρμένη Ald. κεχαρμένην plures MSS. Utrumque probum,” the German editors, Matthæi and Schæfer, have pronounced him guilty of a solecism, in sanctioning the nominative, in such a phrase, before the infinitive. "We will utter lamentations to Helen," says Pylades, in the preceding lines. "So that she may make a show of shedding tears," rejoins Orestes, "while she rejoices in her heart." Scholefield endeavours to defend Porson, by understanding καὶ αὐτὴ αἰσθήσεται, ὥστε αὐτὴ ἐκδαxpoα, "and she will see us lamenting, so that she may shed tears," &c. But this attempt at extrication, it is to be feared, will satisfy but few. How Porson himself would have vindicated the nominative must be left to conjecture.

* Vol. ii. p. 158.

1798.]

PORSON AND PERRY.

66

CHAP. XVI.

PORSON'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE MORNING CHRONICLE."
IN THE PURSUITS OF LITERATURE."

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191

REMARKS

HUMOROUS TRANSLATIONS OF THREE ODES OF HORACE, IN REFERENCE TO THE POLITICS OF THE DAY. SOME ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS.

WE have noticed these two plays, the Hecuba and Orestes, together; but previously to the publication of the Orestes, we must observe, there had appeared, in the " Morning Chronicle," several squibs from Porson's pen, the chief of which were burlesque "Imitations of Horace," and some humorous papers on "The Orgies of Bacchus." After his marriage he had become still more intimate with Perry than he had previously been; Perry, valuing his intellectual powers, contributed in various ways to his comfort; and Porson, in requital, furnished him with numerous paragraphs, chiefly of a jocose and satirical kind, for his paper. Some have considered that he gave up large portions of his time to Perry, and that the columns of the "Morning Chronicle" received numbers of contributions or corrections from him; but more has perhaps been supposed, in regard to this point, than was really the case. The strongest foundation for this supposition is found in the "Pursuits of Literature," where Porson is charged

* Dialogue iv. p. 387.

with giving up to Perry what he owed to the world, and is exhorted to "write no more in Mr. Perry's little democratic closet fitted up for the wits at the 'Morning Chronicle' Office. It is beneath you," adds the author; "I speak seriously. I know your abilities. It may do well enough for Joseph Richardson, Esq., author of the comedy of The Fugitive, if a certain political dramatist's (Sheridan's) compotations will leave him any abilities at all, which I begin to doubt."

The "Imitations of Horace," consisting of whimsical translations of three entire odes, and some fragments, with remarks in prose, have been reprinted in the "Spirit of the Public Journals" for 1797, and in the fourth volume of the "Classical Journal." But they are so little known to the public in general, that we consider no apology necessary for introducing two of the odes, and some of the prose, here. They are excellent specimens of the dry sarcastic humour which Porson could so happily display. It is hardly necessary to observe that Pitt, the war with France, and the supposed danger of the country from the spread of French revolutionary principles, were the constant subjects of attack with Perry and his writers. We have altered two coarse expressions, in the passages italicised, a liberty for which we think that Porson would not have blamed us.

HORACE, Carm. lib. i. od. 14, translated.

The poet makes a voyage to Britain in pursuance of his promise, lib. iii. od. 4, ver. 33, Visam Britannos hospitibus feros, "I will visit the Britons inhospitable to strangers." The vessel in which he sailed was called the "Britannia,"

1794.]

whether from the place of its destination, or from the circumstance of being built of British wood, I cannot determine; but, I believe, for both reasons. After a tedious voyage, at last he arrived safe at Portsmouth. The ship was grievously shattered; but the captain determined to go out again immediately, before she was well refitted, and while the weather was very unpromising. Several of the crew were heard to mutter, in consequence of this proceeding; upon which the captain, by advice of the pilot, put them in irons. But the most curious incident was (if we may believe Quintilian) that Horace was indicted for a libel, as if, under the allegory of a ship, he had intended to paint the dangers and distresses of the commonwealth. Whoever peruses my version will see how groundless and absurd this accusation was. The reader need only keep in mind that the poet, more safe at shore, makes this pathetic address to the vessel in which his life and fortunes were so lately risked.

IMITATIONS OF HORACE.

TO THE GOOD SHIP BRITANNIA.
Britannia, while fresh storms are brewing,
I wonder what the deuce you're doing!
Put back to harbour, might and main,
Nor venture out to sea again:

Your hull's toe tender long to last;
You're fain to try a jury-mast;
Your tackle's old, your timber's crazy,
The winds are high, the weather's hazy;
Your anchor's lost; you've sprung a leak;
Hark, how the ropes and cordage creak!
A rag of canvas scarce remains;

Your pilot idly beats his brains,

A cub that knows not stem from stern,
Too high t' obey, too proud to learn.
In vain you worry Heav'n with prayers;
Think you that Heav'n one farthing cares
Whether a sailor prays or swears?
In vain you sport your threadbare joke,
And call yourself " Old Heart of Oak;
No seaman that can box his compass
Trusts to your daubs, or titles pompous.

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