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Oft on thy struggle through the obscure unrest
WIT AND SATIRE OF THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY.
TRANSLATED BY LORD NEAVES, SENATOR OF THE COLLEGE OF JUSTICE,
It would not have been conformable either to human nature in general, or to Greek nature in particular, if the country and the literature that produced Aristophanes should not in its less
By permission of W. Blackwood and Sons.
serious compositions have given some place for wit and sarcasm. We find, accordingly, that these elements are not wanting. A great many epigrams both of a jocular and of a satirical kind are well deserving of notice, of which specimens shall now be given.
Nowhere, perhaps, are the proper objects of ridicule better set forth than in the Introduction to one of Foote's farces. He refuses to bring on the stage mere bodily defects or natural misfortunes ; and when asked to say at what things we may laugh with propriety, answers thus : “At an old beau, a superannuated beauty, a military coward, a stuttering orator, or a gouty dancer. In short, whoever affects to be what he is not, or strives to be what he cannot, is an object worthy the poet's pen and your mirth.”
We do not say that the Greek epigrammatist always abstained from making merry at mere bodily defects; but we shall avoid as much as possible those that have no other recommendation. The proper object of ridicule is surely Folly, and the proper object of satire, Vice. Within the present section, however, will be included not merely the ridicule of sarcasm and the attacks of satire, but any also of those merry or witty views of nature and things that tend to produce sympathetic laughter.
Of bodily peculiarities there are some at which it is difficult not to smile; and if it is done good-humoredly, and rather as a warning to abstain from vanity or conceit, there is no harm in it. Many of such epigrams were probably written upon merely imaginary persons :
A NEW USE OF A HUMAN FACE.
(Attributed to the Emperor Trajan: the translation old.)
With nose so long and mouth so wide,
Some of the critics are greatly delighted to find that in this epigram the Emperor's knowledge of Greek was not such as to prevent him committing a false quantity.
A COUNTERPART TO NARCISSUS.
(By Lucilius : translated by Cowper.)
Thy nose, thou chance to see;
As self-enamored he.
LONG AND SHORT.
(Anonymous : translated by Merivale.)
His nose so long is, and his arm so short;
He cannot hear so distant a report. A variety of trades and professions have been traditional objects of ridicule. Schoolmasters and professors come in for their share.
ON A SCHOOLMAȘTER WHO HAD A GAY WIFE.
You in your school forever flog and flay us,
ON A PROFESSOR WHO HAD A SMALL CLASS.
Hail, Aristides, Rhetoric's great professor!
His room's four walls, and the three benches near him! This that follows is on Cadmus, without whom there might have been no grammar, and little rhetoric. It is said to be by Zeno— not the philosopher, we presume. We give first a translation by Wellesley :
Take it not ill that Cadmus, Phænician though he be,
This is good ; but even “ English readers ” may know that A, B, C, is not the right name of the Greek alphabet. Let us respectfully propose a slight change :
Cadmus am I: then grudge me not the boast, that, though I am a Phænician born, I taught you Greeks your Alpha, Beta, Gamma.
The medical profession as usual comes in for some of those touches which we are ready enough to give or to enjoy when we are not actually in their hands.
A CONVENIENT PARTNERSHIP.
Damon, who plied the Undertaker's trade,
GRAMMAR AND MEDICINE.
A thriving doctor sent his son to school
souls to Hades ere their time.
Musical attempts, when unsuccessful, are a fruitful and fair subject of ridicule. The following is by Nicarchus :
Men die when the night raven sings or cries:
The harper Simylus, the whole night through,
THE MUSICAL DOCTOR.
(By Ammianus : the translation altered from Wellesley.)
Nicias, a doctor and musician,
He murders all the finest music:
If he shall e'er find me or you sick.
Eutychus many portraits made, and many sons begot;
Compliments to the fair sex are often paid by the epigrammatists in a manner at once witty and graceful.
We have seen how Sappho was described as a tenth Muse; but this epigram by an unknown author goes further. The translation is old and anonymous, though borrowed apparently from one by Swift, on which it has improved. It has been slightly altered :
The world must now two Venuses adore ;
She's a new Muse, a Venus, and a Grace. We find an adaptation of this to an accomplished Cornish lady, in an old magazine :
Now the Graces are four and the Venuses two,
And ten is the number of Muses;
My dear little Molly Trefusis.