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764

CLAUDIANUS.

feional pieces, in Greek as well as Latin, compre­hended under the general title o^Epigrammata. The Christian hymns to be found among these in most editions are, as we have observed above, certainly spurious. 19. Lastly, we have a hundred and thirty-seven lines entitled "Laudes Herculis;" but with the exception of some slight resemblance in style, we have no ground for attributing them to Claudian.

The measure employed in the greater number of these compositions is the heroic hexameter. The short prologues prefixed to many of the longer poems are in elegiacs, and so also are the last four epistles, the last two idylls, and most of the epi­grams. The first of the Fescennines is a system of Alcaic hendecasyllabics ; the second is in a stanza of five lines, of which the first three are iambic dimeters catalectic, the fourth is a pure choriambic dimeter, and the fifth a trochaic dimeter brachycatalectic ; the third is a system of anapaestic dimeters acatalectic; and the fourth is a system of choriambic trimeters acatalectic.

It will be at once perceived that the first thir­teen articles in the above catalogue, constituting a very large proportion of the whole works of Clau­dian, although some of them differ from the rest and from each other in form, belong essentially to one class of poems, being such as would be exacted from a laureate as the price of the patronage he enjoyed. The object in view is the same in all— all breathe the same spirit, all are declamations in verse devoted either professedly or virtually to the glorification of the emperor, his connexions and favourites, and to the degradation of their foes. We must also bear in mind, while we discuss the merits and defects of our author, and compare him with those who went before, that although Virgil and Horace were flatterers as well as he? yet their strains were addressed to very different ears. When they, after entering upon some theme appa­rently far removed from any courtly train of thought, by some seemingly natural although un­expected transition seemed as it were compelled to trace a resemblance between their ro}Tal benefactor and the gods and heroes of the olden time, they well knew that their skill would be appreciated by their cultivated hearers, and that the value of the compliment would be enhanced by the dexterous delicacy with which it was administered. But such refinements were by no means suited to the " purple-born" despots of the fifth century and their half-barbarous retainers. Their appetite for praise was craving and coarse. If the adulation was presented in sufficient quantity, they cared little for the manner in which it was seasoned, or the form under which it was served up. Hence there is no attempt at concealment; no veil is thought requisite to shroud the real nature and object of these panegyrics. All is broad, direct, and palpable. The subject is in each case boldly and fully proposed at the commencement, and fol­lowed out steadily to the end. The determination to praise everything and the fear lest something should be left unpraised, naturally lead to a syste­matic and formal division of the subject; and hence the career of each individual is commonly traced upwards from the cradle, and in the case of Stilicho separate sections are allotted to his warlike, his peaceful, and his magisterial virtues,—the poet warning his readers of the transition from one sub­division to another with the same care as when an

CLAUDIANUS.

accurate lecturer discriminates the several heads of his discourse. It can scarcely be argued, however, that the absence of all reserve rendered the task more easy. The ingenuity of the author is severely taxed by other considerations, with this disadvan­tage, that just in proportion as we might feel dis­posed to admire his skill in hiding the ugliness of his idol within -the folds of the rich garment with which it is invested, so are we constrained to loathe his servile hypocrisy and laugh at his unblushing falsehood. It was indeed hard to be called upon to vaunt the glories of an empire which was crum­bling away day by day from the grasp of its feeble rulers; it was harder still to be forced to prove a child of nine years old, at which age Honoring re­ceived the title of Augustus, to be a model of wis­dom and kingly virtue, and to blazon the military exploits of a boy of twelve who had never seen an enemy except in chains; and hardest of all to be constrained to encircle with a halo of divine per­fections a selfish Vandal like Stilicho. To talk of the historical value of such works as the J3etiuni, Gildonicum and the Bellum Gcticum is sheer folly. Wherever we have access to other sources of in­formation, we discover at once that many facts have been altogether suppressed, and many others distorted and falsely coloured ; and hence it is im­possible to feel any confidence in the fidelity of the narrator in regard to those, incidents not else­where recorded.

The simple fact that pieces composed under such circumstances, to serve such temporary and un­worthy purposes, have been read, studied, admired, and even held up as models, ever since the revival of letters, is in itself no mean tribute to the powers of their author. Nor can we hesitate to pronounce him a highly-gifted man. Deeply versed in all the learning of the Egyptian schools, possessing a most extensive knowledge of the history of man and of the physical world, of the legends of mythology, and of the moral and theological speculations of the different philosophical sects, he had the power to light up this mass of learning by the fire of a brilliant imagination, and to concentrate it upon the objects of his adulation as it streamed forth in a flashing flood of rhetoric. The whole host of heaven and every nation and region of the earth are called upon to aid in extolling his patron, the prince, and their satellites; on the other hand, an infernal Pantheon of demons and furies with all the horrors of Styx and Tartarus, are evoked as the allies and tormentors of a Rufinus, and all nature is ransacked for foul and loathsome images to body forth the mental and corporeal deformity of the eunuch consul. His diction is highly bril­liant, although sometimes shining with the glitter of tinsel ornaments ; his similes and illustrations are elaborated with great skill, but the marks of toil are frequently too visible. His versification is highly sonorous, but is deficient in variety; the constant recurrence of the same cadences, although in themselves melodious, palls upon the ear. His command of the language is perfect; and although the minute critic may fancy that he detects some traces of the foreign extraction of the bard, yet in point of style neither Lucan nor Statius need be ashamed to own him as their equal. His powers appear to greatest advantage in description. His pictures often approach perfection, combining the softness and rich glow of the Italian with the force and reality of the Dutch school.

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