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Gie him strong drink until he wink
That's sinking in despair;
Wi' bumpers flowing o'er;
An' minds his griefs no more.
Thou clears the head of doited Lear;
At's weary toil,
Wi' gloomy smile, etc.
In respect to Anacreon, it seems that he was not actually so vicious as his writings represent him to be, for the severe and moral Plato condescends to call him the “ wise Anacreon," and Athenæus distinctly mentions him as “ sober and honorable.” But all the biographers of Burns acknowledge that he was the slave of intemperance. Moreover, it should be recollected in reading translations of bacchanalian songs from the ancients, that one half the charms of vice that hover about them are the legitimate offspring of the translator's corrupt imagination. This remark may be illustrated by comparing the literal translation of one of the most exceptionable odes of Anacreon with the poetic color. ings of Moore. The following is the literal version. « The black earth drinks and the trees drink; the sea also drinks the breezes ; and the sun the sea, and the moon drinks the sun; why do ye contend with me, 0 companions, when I myself have a mind to drink ?”
Now follows Moore's translation.
Observe when mother Earth is dry
Who but an amateur inebriate, a wine-bibber by profession, could have magnified this simple ditty of the Greek poet into such a magnificent, universal drinking song? What imagination, unless fired with wine and swollen by its vapors, would ever conceive of a drunken universe ? There is quite as much difference between the thoughts of Moore and those of Anacreon as there would be between the ancient author himself, in his simple unornamented costume, and the modern exquisite who has paraphrased his verses.
Admitting, however, that the lyrics of Anacreon are as corrupt as they are represented to be, the student who seeks an acquaintance with this department of ancient literature is not obliged to read them. The spotless page of Pindar alone will furnish him a competent knowledge without the least taint of impurity.
Roman lyric poetry is perhaps more objectionable, on the ground of its pernicious tendency, than that of the Greeks. Roman lyric poets imitated the voluptuous bards of Greece in their amatory and convivial effusions. English poets have gathered poisonous flowers from both these gardens to weave a wreath for their own brows. In some instances they have surpassed their teachers in delicacy of language, and always in voluptuousness of thought. We cannot quote passages from modern writers in proof of this assertion, lest by turning the attention of the young reader to the charms of these seductive songs, we should increase the very evil we would guard them against. Both the ancient Epicureans and their modern imitations exhort to sensual enjoyment from the brevity of life and the approach of death.
“ The ungodly” says the Wisdom of Solomon, reason with themselves, but not aright: “Our life is short, our time is a very shadow that passeth away-and, after our end, there is no returning. Come on, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures like as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments, and let no flower of the spring pass by us; let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered. Let none of us go without his part of our voluptuousness; let us leave tokens of our joyfulness in every place ; for this is our portion and our lot in this world.”
Among the Latin poets there is no passage which exhibits a more perfect specimen of this voluptuous and pensive Epicureanism than the following from Catullus.
" Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
Rumoresque senum severiorum
'Let us live while we may
is a summary of the morality of Roman lyric poets whose genius has immortalized their own vices. Their morality was the morality of thu age. This laxity of principle arose from the prevalence of the Epicurean philosophy, which, by corrupting the morals and destroying the manly energies of the nation was greatly instrumental of its ruin. Horace, that prince of lyric poets, has exposed himself to the charge of licentiousness and intemperance by writing for the tastes of a vicious people and humoring the inclinations of a profli-' gate court. Though he has many redeeming traits and has, throughout his works, inserted many excellent moral reflections and some maxims showing the value of temperate habits, still we cannot but lament that, with the good, he has mingled so much that is unpardonably gross and licentious.
But should we, as the opponents of the classics recommend, throw aside ancient literature on account of its tendency to promote intemperance and other vices, and make an indiscriminate use of modern literature, should we be gainers by the exchange? The whole body of our popular literature is corrupt, and no moralist can recommend the “unweeded” volumes of popular writers to the young student. In its infancy, it was baptized in the filthy waters of sensual indulgence. Its very originators were parasites and libertines. They lived by flattering the vices of the great whom in these respects, they faithfully imitated. In the understages of society the offices of the poet and musician, the singer and the actor were united and represented by a single character. “ The aoidoi and rhapsodoi of Greece," says Turner, " the citharædi of the Romans, the bards of Wales, the harpers and gleemen of the Saxons, and the Northern scalds were all itinerant performers who combined the arts of poetry, music, singing and gesticulation.” These strolling minstrels were in a great measure the originators of the early literature of their respective nations, and, of course, left the impress of their own characters upon it. The Anglo Saxon harpers were the retainers of kings and
nobles. They feasted at their master's table and followed him to the battle field. They celebrated, in song, his exploits in war and the revels of the banquet hall. It may not be uninteresting to add a description of a royal feast, by an Anglo Saxon poet, who having borrowed the outlines of the story from the Apocrypha has applied the manners and characters of his day to the time of Judith and thus really made it an Anglo Saxon romance.
" Then was Holofernes
Enchanted with the wine of men :
Mr. Turner adds, “ We have a list of the liquors used at a great Anglo Saxon festival in a passage of Henry of Huntington. They were wine, mead, ale, pigment, morat and cider. The pigment was a sweet and odoriferous liquor, made of honey, wine and spices of various kinds. The morat was made of honey diluted with the juice of mulberries.” After the Norman conquest, intemperance in eating and drinking was characteristic of the barons and their retainers. The courts of princes swarmed with ministrels, players and buffoons, whose regular salaries and expensive living exhausted the treasury of the nation. The minstrels were the principal literary characters of the times, until the clergy were induced to write poetry. Thus living in idleness and voluptuous ease, their number increased ; and they, like many of the pensioned wits of a subsequent age, copying the vices of the court, became so dissolute and abandoned that in the reigns of Edward I. and Elizabeth they were made the subjects of penal enactments being described as “rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars." The first drinking ballad in our language, which has been thought worth preserving appeared in 1551. It commences as follows,
'I cannot eat but little meat,
But sure I think, that I can drink
The last stanza but one reads
"Now let them drink, till they nod and wink,
Good ale doth bring men to.'
This fact again reminds us of the reciprocal influence of the drama and intemperance.
These merry minstrels who are branded by the ecclesiastics and historians of the times, as “ Antichrist," " haunters of taverns," " tutors of idleness," etc., disappeared about the time of Elizabeth ; and, their “merry minstrelsie" and "losels tales” which “ did make their hearers, in taverns, to drink," afterwards gained but little notoriety either of praise or infamy. About this time, there arose a splendid constellation of literary men, whose works are still read with undiminished pleasure and probably will continue to be read down “to the last syllable of recorded time.” Yet amid all their excellence we find many other things, which, like the impurities of amber, are “neither rich nor rare," embalmed in the very language genius has chosen in which to clothe its everlasting thoughts. Some of these defects have already been alluded to, in our notice of the dramatic literature of that age. As learning was not then, generally, diffused among the people, literary men, with the exception of dramatists, could not expect a support from the public. Authors, therefore, who possessed neither rank nor wealth depended, entirely, upon the patronage of nobles and princes. It was fashionable, at that time, for courtiers to encourage intemperate habits both by their example and by the provision they made for their dependents. The parsimonious Queen, indirectly, encouraged this laxity of morals by feasting'at the expense of her nobles. She was accustomed, frequently, to visit her nobility when she and her numerous attendants, retainers, parasites, poets and players were splendidly entertained. These carousals sometimes continued for several weeks in succession. At one of these entertainments probably the most magnificent of the kind ever attempted, given by the Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth Castle, “ one of the items of consumption by the populace was three hundred and sixty five hogsheads of beer.” “This species of hospi