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private spite. Let the greater tribunals be withdrawn, and we should find a Bavius or a Mævius in every man.
The intent of Comedy is good. It strives only with the evils which it labours to retrieve. It breathes no scorn of our nature, dooms it to no hopelessness, brands it with no ineffaceable reprobation. If it intermix with itself the very vices it should expose and condemn, if it degenerate into caricature, if it prove a pander instead of a monitor, if it gloat complacently in that which it should despise and denounce, then can we take the clear distinction between its proper use and its wretched perversion, and deplore that the virtue, which should have healed the waters, has itself been corrupted to such a degree that it has defiled them!
Of the Grecian Thalia we have but scanty records. From the eulogiums which both Cicero and Quintilian pronounce upon the dramas of Menander, we must deeply regret their irrecoverable loss. From the light and racy wit of those who copied him, we may infer no mean title for the original. He wrote more than a hundred plays. The Apostle Paul condescended to quote from him ; and in the Thais, the original of the Eunuch of Terence, occurred the moral maxim which is cited in the sublime description of the Resurrection : “Evil communications corrupt good manners." The only difficulty in verifying it is, that, Φθαρουσιν ηθη χρησθ' ομιλιαι κακαι, do not form
But this is by no means singular, for many of the lines, yet extant of him, abound in frequent spondees. Concerning Menander it is now impossible for us to form an independent judgment. We possess not a perfect scene or a dialogue, in whatever remains have come down to us. We have received nothing which can serve as a specimen : not a sufficient segment by which to guess the circle. Instead of quick, sparkling, turns of thought,-conceit, and raillery, —
a pure iambic.
“Jest which wrinkled care derides,
Laughter holding both its sides,"
from his few and mutilated fragments, we should gather that be excelled and abounded in sweet and touching sentiment. I
will select a few.-" Were we to launch forth on the deep only for four days, it would be most indispensable, well to observe our course: and should we be spared to old age, ought we to be uninformed and careless of that solemn path?” “ The voice of the old is most pleasant to the old, of youth to youth, of woman to woman, of the sick to the sick,—so he, who knows affliction himself, can alone breathe the true tone of sympathy into the ear of the afflicted.” “If tears could heal our griefs, and incessant weeping could end them, tears would be worth more than gold: but truly things continue just the same, and go on in their own way, whether we weep or not. What is, then, the use of tears? Nothing: but then sorrow as naturally bears its tears, as trees their fruit.” “ Peace can cultivate the highest, bleakest, rock: war blasts the fairest plain.” “He who gives immediate credit to an evil report, without searching into its truth, must be himself a bad man at heart that he can so readily be persuaded of what is evil." “ As the physician is sought for the diseased body, so should a friend be sought for the sick mind: the words of friendship are blessed restoratives to sorrow.” The following are in a more sportive vein. “If you have a daughter of a marriageable age, particularly taciturn on such matter, be sure she means no little by that reserve and silence." “ An expensive wife is a very troublesome affair for a man to have on his hands, and the more that she will not allow him to live the life which he prefers : but some good even comes of her. She brings you family, attends you when laid up in illness, abides with you your last companion in adversity, and manages all the arrangements of your funeral. Think of this counterbalance to your trouble, and do not fret over it every day. For if
you only on the misfortune, and set none of the aforesaid advantages against it, your condition is utterly hopeless.”
Philemon is another comic writer, of nearly the same age, whose works have all but perished. Though not to be mentioned with Menander, he enjoyed a considerable fame. There is something often very noble in his views of character and conduct. Take the following instance: “ He is not entitled to be regarded just, who simply does no wrong, but he who, having the power,
will not commit one: nor is he, who withholds his hands from worthless pilferings, but the man who might seize on mighty prey with perfect impunity, and restrains his very thoughts. Nor indeed is he who observes all such things: but the man that, from the dispositions of an upright nature, aims only to be just in reality, being indifferent to appearance.” But Philemon can be jocular too; but it is generally at the expense of physicians. His gibes are somewhat musty. Three are preserved, but they are almost too ragged to be adduced. Take one for the rest. “ Who is that? A physician. How uncomfortable a physician looks when nobody is ill.” One sentiment seems set as a precious stone amidst much worthless framework,—invaluable as a rebuke to tyranny and as a vindication of man ;*_“ Though, O master, he be thy slave, he is not less a man, if there be a man!"+
These rarities of the New Comedy compel us to regret that the standards to which they belonged have perished, for they certainly breathe a high improvement over the Old. Of this latter order, Aristophanes may be considered the prototype and founder. Though we do not decry him, and are far from thinking lightly of him, yet what is left us of the after comedy induces the wish that its spirit had regulated whatever might boast an earlier date. Never was improvement more rapid and confessed. Should it be objected that Plautus and Terence copied most freely from the New Comedy, and that they often present very depraving pictures and immoral ideas, we have the evidence of those, who were profoundly versed in both, that the Roman but feebly approached, and often grossly corrupted, the archetypes of the Greek.
We are not about to defend Aristophanes : but when we remember the epoch in which he flourished, the epoch of Sophocles, Pericles, Herodotus, Phidias, Thucydides,-the reputation which he then enjoyed, in what may be called, in imitation of
• The physician may find amends for this banter in Homer's panegyric on Machaon: Iητρος γαρ ανηρ πολλων ανταξιος αλλων.-Il: lib. xi. 514.
+ The quotations are taken from the extracts contained in the Poetæ Minores Græci. Warton has some Papers on Menander in the Adventurer.
the Augustan epithet of another nation, the Alcibiadean period, -he must have been far more than the mime or the buffoon. His diction is on all hands admired for its purity and taste. His wit is exuberant, though it is frequently mischievous. For his freedom of animadversion some excuse may readily be made. He was the member of a republic, and virulence is one of its doubtful virtues. He was a dramatist, whose business it is to shows scorn her own image.” He was seen and read as an “abstract and brief chronicle of his time." If he hated Cleon, what true patriot did not? If he lashed the foolish Demus, did not their ungrateful fickleness justify his utmost severity ? If he too unceremoniously dragged Socrates into notice, did not his coalition with the foolish, formal, pompous Sophists force on this contempt? Certainly he had no share in bringing that great man to death. He was too deeply implicated in the very charges brought against the sage,—had himself too freely spoken touching the divinities of his country,—had allowed himself too large a license,—to join in the persecution which was so base and fatal. Nothing was more likely than that he should be doomed to the same poisoned draught. For what can be more irreverent than his colloquies of the Gods, and his banter of the Mysteries ? Besides, had he committed such a deed, would Plato have admitted him into his Convivium, assigned him the place of an interlocutor, and put two speeches into his mouth ? Should we not have heard of the fury of the populace against him, when they relented of that cruel execution ? Must he not have been most prominently marked, when those who were concerned in it were cut off from all communication with their fellow-citizens, and were universally shunned ? It was an injustice, indubitably, that he had practised upon the philosopher, an unworthy impertinence; but there is no presumption of hatred or appearance of spite. The personality would recoil on himself, and Socrates be the first to enjoy it! Several years intervened between the representation of the Něchai, and the philosopher's death.
The terms in which Plutarch condemns this writer are not only ill-advised and coarse, but even truculent. In his Epitome of the comparison of Aristophanes with Menander, he says:
“ All his imitations are overwrought. His knave is not shrewd but malignant, his boor not confident but craven, his jester not jocose but ridiculous, his lover not light-hearted but obscene. This severity of rebuke destroys itself. For he has told us before that the style is ouredimov, —or adapted to the acted scene ; and can any quality be more praiseworthy? He has, moreover, added that in the structure of the words, there is something tragic and comic: can any mixture so well express the cool, grave, point of pleasantry and wit? He also rejoins, that he knows not in what this Author's wide-resounded fame consists. But then it was wide-resounded! How came this to pass? Surely a writer like Plutarch would have given his unmusical ears to have been able to write with the same exquisite purity as Aristophanes,—to whom our Porson ascribes “ the most refined elegance of language,” and whose works St. Chrysostom, it is said, was accustomed to lay under his pillow.
The principal defect in this great Dramatist is the meagreness of his plot. It never seems necessary, and seldom complete. Sometimes it is stiffly plain, at other times it is tediously intricate. But if stiffy plain like a May-pole, it is always surmounted with a vernal garland : if it be tediously intricate as a chain, a current of electric sparks is constantly flowing through it!
A certain imitation, though very amusing, of animal cries and vulgar sounds, by no means enhances the versification and intellectual stamp of his poems. This is, assuredly, a very strong, and, not infrequently, a very gross license. In America there are Frog-concerts,-and he has introduced one in the Bułgayon. The school-boy will always delight in the chorus, so self-interpreting, so far more tuneful to his ear by being so much more simple than most of the zogor, which seems to defy the use of syntax and the help of lexicon, and how, in after life, it breaks upon us from the sedgy lake of Acherusia, wafting all our former recollections and associations with it! Bpexexexeč, xoaz, noağ.-In the Ogudes a similar mimicry occurs, only it is not so perfect, birds having many inflections of voice, frogs having but one: Πο πο πο πο πο πο πο πο ποι.- When in his Ergrun, the