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nounce the triumph of Liberality and the Muse, with such a Monarch to bless his people, and such a Poet to record the blessing!
THERE were two sorts of Epithalamia, or Nuptial Songs, among the ancients. The first were called ETIOAAAMIA KOIMHTIKA. These were sung by a chorus of virgins, in
. the evening, after the bride had been introduced into the bride-chamber; and were intended (as their name imports) to dispose the married couple to sleep. The same chorus were accustomed to return in the morning, and awaken the bride and bridegroom with the EΠIΘΑΛΑΜΙΑ ΕΓΕΡΤΙΚΑ; which were the second species of the spousal song.
Of compositions on these occasions we have not many examples in the Greek or oriental poetry; though CATULLUS and CLAUDIAN among the Roman writers, and the Cavalier MARINO among the modern Italians, have profusely cele. brated the rites of HYMEN.
The Canticles, or the Song of Solomon, the Forty-fifth Pfalm, and the Espousals of Helen, are the most conspicuous Epithalamia of remoter antiquity. In respect only to their general style and manner, there appears to be no impropriety in this assemblage.
The latter poem, whether the work of THEOCRITUS or not, hath certainly an agreeable flavor of Eastern genius. Its imitations will hereafter be adduced in the notes, with their parallel passages from the Septuagint. In the mean time, for a general idea of its imitative manner, the following attempt is submitted to the English reader; though not as a close translation.
The Epithalamium of HELEN.
• TWELVE honorable virgins, among the daughters of Sparta, went forth to the palace of the gold-haired MENELAUS, in the day of his espousals with Helen, in the day of the gladness of his heart. Their beautiful locks ' inwreathed with hyacinths, they danced before the bridal * chamber, and sung to the sound of the cithern: “Why
sleepest thou, O beloved, ere the twilight departeth, thy “ knees opprest with slumber? Are thine eye-lids heavy “ with wine, that thou seekest, thus early, thy bed? But “ draw not thy bride from her mother, from the virgins “ whom her soul loveth. Let her sport among her fellows, “ until the day break, and the shadows flee away. She is “ thine from the evening to the morning-Behold, she is
thine, for ever. Lo, among bridegrooms, thou art blessed: .
“ thou art crowned above the princes of Sparta. Thou art “ more excellent than the children of men; for thy spouse " is the daughter of Jove. Surely the fruit of her womb “ shall be fair, if it resemble the fairest among women. Full
of joy and gladness, we bore her company; and, virgins “ without number, anointed our limbs with oil on the 66 banks of the Eurotas. But none could
with “ HELEN; or stand, without spot, before her. She looked
forth, like the eye-lids of the morning, when the rainy
night is paft; and the winter is over and gone. She rose " like a furrow in the field; or a cypress in the garden; or “ the horse in the chariot of Thessaly, None can equal her cs in the loom! Lo! her needle-work is wrought with “ divers colors. When she sung her songs to the stringed “ instrument, none equalled the voice of her harp. Behold! eyes
of the damsel are full of love! How beautiful, “ how pleasant art thou for delights, our virgin companion
no more! Yet with the dawn, we will go forth to the villages, we will get up early to the fields, to gather the
sweet-smelling wreath-longing for thee, O Helen, as “ the lamb longeth for her mother's teats! We will weave “ for thee a garland of lotus, and hang it on the plane-tree “ branches. Our boxes of silver shall drop frankincense “ under its shade; and on the bark thereof shall be graven, " that the passenger may read: Worship me! I am the plant
of HELEN! Incline thine ear, o daughter! and “'hearken, thou son of the supreme! Ye shall have chil. “ dren's children, to be princes in all lands, and to inherit
your riches, for ever. Rejoice now, O HELEN; and may the king have pleasure in thy beauty: But awake, as
“ the shadows flee away! For remember, with the day
spring we return-when the cock, from his early bed, “ shall arise, to greet the morning!"
The imagery of this Idyllium hath obviously its source in the East. Yet, like all copies of this nature, it is but faintly tinctured with the peculiar cast of its original. There is a richness—an exuberance in the Asiatic invention, with a wildness that mocks the imitative pursuits of frigid European genius. And the Arabian poetry of the present day seems characterized by the same color of imagination, the fame inimitable enthusiam. As the sacred poet enriched his numbers with the roses of Sharon, the verdure of Carmel, or the vines of Engaddi; the happy Arabian still charms us with the “ Odors of Yemen, the Musk of Hadramut, or the Pearls of Omman."
And still the Arabian maids have their hair inwreathed with hyacinths, like the virgin companions of Helen; or, like the Spartan bride herself, their ftature resembles the cypress, and their foreheads the morning!
Τ Η Ε
THE Mythological stories of antiquity contain chara&ters too gigantic, to interest the feelings; and fi&tion too cold, to animate the fancy. The chief pleasures of poetry arise from recognition. The recurrence of images, with which we were before familiarly acquainted, assuming new attitudes, or placed in novel fituations; the combination of contin. gencies, whose assemblage agrees with our preconceptions of probability; the introduction of such natural circumstances as come home to our business and bosoms; and all those draughts, in short, of action, that have their prototypes in ourselves; and those lineaments of paslion, that are reflected from the heart; these, since we know them from observation or sympathy, must necessarily interest and delight us,
The creations of the ancient poets were no other than a fuperinduction on the popular creed. Their chimeras were the divinities of the vulgar. They addressed themselves therefore to imagination, heightened by enthusiasm; to the strongest passions of our nature; to the hopes and the fears of man! But these fictions have now lost their support: the foundation is removed; and the superstructure hath crumbled into ryins,