페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

have been styled happy, if that precarious epithet could be safely applied before the last term of the life of man.

A philosopher, liberal of his wealth and parsimonious of his time, might be insensible to the common allurements of ambition, the thirst of gold and employment. And some credit may be due to the asseveration of Boethius that he had reluctantly obeyed the divine Plato, who enjoins every virtuous citizen to rescue the state from the usurpation of vice and ignorance. For the integrity of his public conduct he appeals to the memory of his country. His authority had restrained the pride and oppression of the royal officers, and his eloquence had delivered Paulianus from the dogs of the palace. He had always pitied, and often relieved, the distress of the provincials, whose fortunes were exhausted by public and private rapine, and Boethius alone had courage to oppose the tyranny of the barbarians, elated by conquest, excited by avarice, and, as he complains, encouraged by impunity. In these honourable contests, his spirit soared above the consideration of danger, and perhaps of prudence; and we may learn from the example of Cato that a character of pure and inflexible virtue is the most apt to be misled by prejudice, to be heated by enthusiasm, and to confound private enmities with public justice. The disciple of Plato might exaggerate the infirmities of nature and the imperfections of society; and the mildest form of a Gothic kingdom, even the weight of allegiance and gratitude, must be insupportable to the free spirit of a Roman patriot. But the favour and fidelity of Boethius declined in just proportion with the public happiness ; and an unworthy colleague was imposed, to divide and control the power of the master of the offices. In the last gloomy season of Theodoric, he indignantly felt that he was a slave; but as his master had only power over his life, he stood, without arms and without fear, against the face of an angry barbarian, who had been provoked to believe that the safety of the senate was incompatible with his own. The senator Albinus was accused and already convicted on the presumption of hoping, as it was said, the liberty of Rome. “If Albinus be criminal,' exclaimed the orator, the senate and myself are all guilty of the same crime. If we are innocent, Albinus is equally entitled to the protection of the laws.' These laws might not have punished the simple and barren wish of an unattainable blessing; but they would have shewn less indulgence to the rash confession of Boethius that, had he known of a conspiracy, the tyrant never should. The advocate of Albinus was soon involved in the danger and perhaps the guilt of his client; their signature (which they denied as a forgery) was affixed to the original address, inviting the emperor to deliver Italy from the Goths; and three witnesses of honourable rank, perhaps of infamous reputation, attested the treasonable designs of the Roman patrician. Yet his innocence must be presumed, since he was deprived by Theodoric of the means of justification, and rigorously confined in the tower of Pavia, while the senate, at the distance of five hundred miles, pronounced a sentence of confiscation and death against the most illustrious of its members. At the command of the barbarians, the occult science of a philosopher was stigmatised with the names of sacrilege and magic. A devout and dutiful attachment to the senate was condemned as criminal by the trembling voices of the senators themselves ; and their ingratitude deserved the wish or prediction of Boethius that, after him, none should be found guilty of the same offence.

While Boethius, oppressed with fetters, expected each moment the sentence or the stroke of death, he composed in the tower of Pavia the Consolation of Philosophy; a

golden volume not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully, but which claims incomparable merit from the barbarism of the times and the situation of the author. The celestial guide whom he had so long invoked at Rome and Athens, now condescended to illumine his dungeon, to revive his courage, and to pour into his wounds her salutary balm. She taught him to compare his long prosperity and his recent distress, and to conceive new hopes from the inconstancy of fortune. Reason had informed him of the precarious condition of her gifts ; experience had satisfied him of their real value; he had enjoyed them without guilt, he might resign them without a sigh, and calmly disdain the impotent malice of his enemies, who had left him happiness, since they had left him virtue. From the earth, Boethius ascended to heaven in search of the SUPREME GOOD ; explored the metaphysical labyrinth of chance and destiny, of prescience and free-will, of time and eternity; and generously attempted to reconcile the perfect attributes of the Deity with the apparent disorders of his moral and physical government. Such topics of consolation, so obvious, so vague, or so abstruse, are ineffectual to subdue the feelings of human nature. Yet the sense of misfortune may be diverted by the labour of thought; and the sage who could artfully combine in the same work the various riches of philosophy, poetry, and eloquence, must already have possessed the intrepid calmness which he affected to seek. Suspense, the worst of evils, was at length determined by the ministers of death, who executed, and perhaps exceeded, the inhuman mandate of Theodoric. A strong cord was fastened round the head of Boethius, and forcibly tightened, till his eyes almost started from their sockets; and some mercy may be discovered in the milder torture of beating him with clubs till he expired. But his genius survived to diffuse a ray of knowledge over the darkest ages of the Latin world ; the writings of the philosopher were translated by the most glorious of the English kings, and the third emperor of the name of Otho removed to a more honourable tomb the bones of a Catholic saint who, from his Arian persecutors, had acquired the honours of martyrdom and the fame of miracles.

NOTES. Bģēthius, Anicius Manlius Severinus the principal open space in Rome,

Boethius (4702-524 A.D.). See an irregular quadrangle, where the notes (473), page 38.

people met to transact business. Their countryman. Cf. notes (719), The games of the circus. Celebrated page 192.

yearly (Sept. 4–12). Proclus (412-85), a celebrated teacher, 1 that precarious epithet &c. The

was regarded as 'the genuine suc- saying that ‘no one can be processor of Plato in doctrine.'

nounced happy till he has finished The groves of the Academy. Cf. Mil- his course,' was ascribed to Solon ton, Par. Reg., iv. :

(638-558 B.C.), a famous Athenian *The olive grove of Academe,

legislator, who was also ranked as Plato's retirement.'

one of the seven sages of Greece.

A Gothic kingdom, Theodoric, king A palace &c. Cf. Boethius, Philosoph. of the Ostrogoths (or Eastern Goths :

Consol., Book I., prosa v.: 'biblio- here referred to as 'the barbarians'), thecæ comptos ebore ac vitro pari- overthrew Odoacer, and reigned as etes,' 'library walls adorned with king of Italy, 493—526 A.D. ivory and glass.'

Determined, brought to a term or end The Forum (in full, 'Forum Romanum'), (Lat. terminus).

Vocabulary highly latinised ; balance sustained to monotony.

Dignified movement,

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.—1770-1850. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born in Cumberland, the son of an attorney, and educated at St John's, Cambridge (B.A. 1791). On graduating, his republican fervour carried him to France, whence he returned about the end of 1792, and established himself in quiet country retreats for the cultivation of poetry. In 1798-9, he visited Germany with Coleridge. On his return, he settled permanently in the Lake country (Grasmere, 1798; Allan Bank, 1808; and Rydal Mount, 1813). He was distributer of stamps for Westmoreland from 1813 to 1842, when he received a pension of £300 a year. On the death of Southey in 1843, he became Poet Laureate.

Wordsworth had a very hard struggle for recognition. After several years of verse-making, he published, in conjunction with Coleridge, the Lyrical Ballads (1798), which made no impression. In 1814 appeared his great poem, The Excursion, which made its way in the face of much adverse criticism. Among the poems that appeared later, although written earlier, may be mentioned these : in 1815, The White Doe of Rylstone (1807); in 1819, Peter Bell (1798), and The Waggoner (1805); and in 1850, The Prelude (1799–1805). The Sonnets and miscellaneous poems are innumerable.

LINES

5

10

COMPOSED A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY,
On revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour,

July 13, 1798.
Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters ! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid

groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild : these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me

15

20

« 이전계속 »