Page images
PDF
EPUB

33

which was said to be engraved upon the pediment of their 3 temples. As the land of Canaan lay so opportunely for traffic, and the emigrants from most parts went under their conduct, their history was well known. They navigated the seas very early, and were necessarily acquainted with foreign regions; to which they must at one time have betaken themselves in great numbers, when they fled before the sons of Israel. In all the places where they settled they were famous for their hymns and music; all which the Greeks have transferred to birds, and supposed that they were swans who were gifted with this harmony. Yet, sweet as their notes are said to have been, there is not, I believe, a person upon record who was ever a witness to it. It is, certainly, all a fable. When, therefore, Plutarch tells us that Apollo was pleased with the music of swans,

μεσικη τε ήδεται, και κυκνων φωναις; and when Es

34

33

Tατε ωτα, και τες οφθαλμες οι δημιεργαντες εξ ύλης τιμιας καθιερυσι, τοις Θεους ανατιθεντες εις τες εωςτετο δηπο αινισσομενοι, ως παντα θεος ορα, και ακοει. Clemens Alexand. I. 5. p. 671.

See Diodorus. 1. 3. p. 145. 'This may have been one reason, among others, why the Cyclopians and Arimaspians are represented with one eye: τον μουνωπα τρατον Αριμαστον. Εschylus Prometh. p.49. The Arimaspian history was written by Aristeus Proconnesius, and styled ApuulaoTEC 877. 34 Plutarch. E.. vol. 2. p. 387.

35

chylus mentions their singing their own dirges ; they certainly allude to Egyptian and Canaanitish priests, who lamented the death of Adon and Osiris. And this could not be entirely a secret to the Grecians, for they seem often to refer to some such notion. Socrates termed swans his fellow-servants : in doing which he alluded to the antient priests, stýled 'Cycni.'. They were people of the choir, and officiated in the temples of the same Deities ; whose servant he professed himself to be. Hence Porphyry assurés us, " 'Ou παιζων ομοδελες αυτε ελεγεν τες κυκνες (Σωκρατης), that Socrates was very serious when he mentioned swans as his fellow-servants. When, therefore, Aristophanes speaks of the 36 Delian and Pythian swans, they are the priests of those places, to whom he alludes. And when it is said by Plato, that the soul of Orpheus, out of disgust to womankind, led the life of a 37.swan, the meaning certainly is, that he retired from the world to some cloister, and lived a life of celibacy, like a priest. For the priests of many countries, but particularly of Egypt, were recluses, and devoted themselves to 38

celibacy: hence monkery came originally from

35 Porph. de Abst. 1. 3. p. 286.
36 Aristophanes. Aves. Kuxvụ Tiedow was Annew. V.870.
37 Plato de Republicà. I. 10. p. 620. vol. 2.

58 Porph. de Abstin. I. 4. p. 364.
VOL. II.

G

38

[ocr errors]

Egypt. Lycophron, who was of Egypt, and skilled in antient terms, styles Calchas, who was the priest of Apollo, a swan. 39 Μολοσσε κυπεως κοίτε

These epithets, the Scholiast tells us, be, long to Apollo; and Calchas is called a swan, dia to yugatov, kat Mavrixov : because he was an old prophet and priest. Hence, at the first institution of the rites of Apollo, which is termed the birth of the Deity, at Delos, it is said that many swans came from the coast of Asia, and went round the island for the space of seven days.

Κυκνοι δε θεε μελποντες αοιδοι
Μηονιον Πακτωλον εκυκλωσαντο λιποντες
Εβδομάκις περι Δηλον" επηεισαν δε λοχαη
Μουσαων ορνιθες, αοιδοτατοι πετεηνων.

The whole of this relates to a choir of priests, who came over to settle at Delos, and to serve in the newly erected temple. They circled the island seven tinies; because seven, of old, was looked upon as a mysterious and sacred number.

44 Εβδομη ειν αγαθοις, και έβδομη ε5ι γενεθλη.

39 Lycophron. v. 426. Scholia Ibidem. * Callimachus. Hymn to Delos, v. 249.

"Fragmenta Lini. Ex Aristobulo. See Poesis Philosoph. H. Steph. p. 112.

Εβδομη εν πρώτοισι, και έβδομη εςι τελειπ:
Εβδοματη δη οι τετελεσμενα παντα σετυκται.
Επτα δε παντα τετυκτοι εν ουρανο ασεροεντι.

The birds in the island of Diomedes, which were said to have been originally companions of that hero, were undoubtedly priests, and of the same race as those of whom I have been treating. They are represented as gentle to good men, and averse to those who are bad. Ovid describes their shape and appearance: 4* Ut non cygnorum, sic albis proxima cygnis ; which, after what has been said, may, I think, be easily understood.

If then the harmony of swans, when spoken of, not only related to something quite foreign, but in reality did not of itself exist, it may appear wonderful that the antients should so universally give into the notion. For not only the poets, byt * Plato, Plutarch, Cicero, Pliny, with many others of high rank, speak of it as a circumstance well known. But it is to be observed, that none of them speak from their own experience: nor are they by any means consistent in what they say. Some mention this singing as a general faculty; which was exerted at all times: others limit it to particular seasons, and to particular places. Asistotle seems to confine it to the seas of * Africa : * Aldrovandus says, that it may be heard upon the Thames near London. The account given by Aristotle is very reinarkable. He says, that mariners, whose course lay through the Libyan sea, have often met with swans, and heard them singing in a melancholy strain : and upon a nearer approach, they could perceive that some of them were dying, from whom the harmony proceeded. - Who would have expected to have found swans swimming in the salt sea, in the midst of the Mediterranean? There is nothing that a Grecian would not devise in support of a favourite error. The legend from beginning to end is groundless : and though most speak of the music of swans as exquisite; yet some absolutely deny " the whole of it; and others are more moderate in their commendations. The

* Ovid. Metamorph. I. 14. v. 509. * Plato in Phädone. vol. 1. p. 84. Plutarch. in Es. 1. %.

p. 387.

Cicero Tuse. Quæst. I. 1. Pliny. I. x. c. 23.
Blian de Animal. 1. 2. c. 32. 1. x. c. 36.
Philostratus. Vita Apollon. 1. 3. c. 23.

De Animalibus. I. 9. Kai tinez per sortis sapa tu Along περιετυχα ον τη θαλαττη πολλους αδoυσι φωνη γοωδει και τουτων έωρων erempuertas nec, vol. 2. p. 423.

45 See Brown's Vulgar Errors. 1. 3. c. 27.

40ο δε Μυνδιος φησω Αλεξανδρος πολλοις τελευτωσι παρακολούθησες ex exorci zdarmur. Athenæus. 1. 9. c. ll.

« PreviousContinue »