The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

. (page 36 of 75)
Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 36 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" Intuitive and vigilant and strong

He thundered : instantaneous all around

Earth reeled with horrible crash : the firmament

Roared of high heaven, the ocean streams and seas,

And uttermost caverns ! While the king in wrath

Uprose, beneath his everlasting feet

Trembled Olymptis : groaned the steadfast earth.

From either side a burning radiance caught

Th" darkly-rolling ocean, from the flash

Of lightnings and the monster's darted flame,

Hot thunderbolts, and blasts of fiery winds.

Glowed earth, air, sea : the billows heaved on high

Foamed round the shores, and dashed on every side

Beneath the rush of gods. Concussion wild

And unappeasable arose : aghast

The gloomy monarch of th' infernal dead

Trembled : the sub-Tartarean Titans heard

ITen where they stood on Cronus in the midst;

They heard app tiled the unextinguished rage

Of tumult and the din of dreadful war.

Now wh->n the god, the fulness of his might

Gathering at once, had grasp"d his r tdiant arms,

The glowing thunderbolt and bickering flame,



He from the summit of th' Olympian mount

Leapt at a bound, and smote him : hissed at once

Tho horrible monster's heads enormous, scorched

In one conflagrant blaze. When thus the god

Had quelled him, thunder-smitten, mangled, prone,

lie fell : beneath his weight earth groaning shook.

Flame from the lightning-stricken prodigy

Flashed 'mid the mountain hollow, rugged, dark,

Where he fell smitten. Broad earth glowed intense

From that unbounded vapour, and dissolved,:

As fusile tin, by art of youths, above

The wide-brimmed vase up-bubbling, foams with heat ;

Or iron hardest of the mine, subdued

By burning flame, amid the mountain dells

Melts in the sacred caves beneath the hands

Of Vulcan, so earth melted in the glare

Of blazing fire. He down wide Hell's abyss

His victim hurled, in bitterness of soul."

Elton, 1108-1149.

The italicised lines may recall the noble
image in the " Paradise Lost ; )U a passage
which Milton's editor, Todd, pronounces
grander in conception than Hesiod's. But,
as Elton fairly answers, it is only in Milton's
reservation that he is superior. " The mere
rising of Zeus causing mountains to rock
beneath his everlasting feet, is sublimer than
the firmament shaking from the rolling of

After quelling this monster, Zeus is repre-
sented bethinking himself of a suitable con-
sort, and espousing Metis or Wisdom, so as
to effect a union of absolute wisdom with
absolute power. As, however, in the Hesio-
dic view of the divinity, there was ever a
risk of dethronement to the sire at the hand
of offspring, Zeus hit upon a plan which
should prevent his wife producing a pro-
geny that might hereafter conspire with her
to dethrone him, after the hereditary fashion.
He absorbed Metis, with her babe yet un-
born, in his own breast, and, according to
mythology, found this task easier through
having persuaded her to assume the most
diminutive of shapes. Thenceforth he blend-
ed perfect wisdom in his own body, and in
due time, as from a second womb

" Ho from his head disclosed, himself, to birth
The blue-eyed maid Tritonian Pallas, fierce,
Rousing the war field's tumult, unsubdued,
Leader of armies, awful, whose delight
The shout of battle and the shock of war."

Elton, 1213-1217.

1 " Under his burning wheels
The steadfast empyrean shook throughout,
All but the throne itself of God."

vi. 832-834.

Yet, notwithstanding so summary a putting
away of his first wife, Zeus, it appears, had
no mind to remain a widower. Themis bare
him the Hours ; Eurynome the Graces

" Whose eyelids, as they gaze,
Drop love unnerving ; and beneath the shade
Of their arched brows they steal the sidelong glance
Of sweetness ;" Elton, 1196-1199.

and Mnemosyne, a daughter of Uranus, be-
came the mother by him of the Nine Muses,
celebrated by Hesiod at the beginning of
the poem. With Demeter and Latona also
he had tender relations, before he finally re-
signed himself to his sister Hera (Juno),
who took permanent rank as Queen of the
Gods. From this union sprang Mars and
Hebe, and Eileithyia or Lucina : whilst ac-
cording to Hesiod, who herein differs from
Homer, Hepha3stus or Vulcan was the off-
spring of Hera alone, as a set-off to Zeus's
sole parentage of Athena. Of the more illicit
amours of the fickle king of the gods, and
of their issues, and the "marriages conse-
quent upon these children of the gods espou-
sing nymphs or mortals, Hesiod has still
much to tell, in his fashion of genealogising,
before we reach the Heroogony, or list of
heroes born of the union of goddesses with
mortal men, which is tacked to the " Theo-
gony " proper, as it has come down to us.
It is indeed a list and little more ; tracing,
for example, the birth of Plutus to the meet-
ing of Demeter with lasius in the wheat-
fields of Crete ; of Achilles, to the union of
Peleus with Thetis ; of Latinus, Telegonus,
and another, to the dalliance of Ulysses
with the divine Circe.

" Lo ! these were they who, yielding to embrace
Of mortal men, themselves immortal, gave
A race resembling gods."

Elton, 1324-1326.

Thus virtually ends the " Theogony " in
its extant form, but our sketch of ft would
not be complete were we to ignore the story
of Pandora and Prometheus, which has been
passed over at its proper place in the gene-
alogy, with a view to a clearer unfolding of
the sequence of the poem. In the " Works "
this legend is an episode ; in the " Theogo-
ny " it is a piece of genealogy, d propos of
the offspring of lapetus, the brother of Cro-
nus, and Clymene. Atlas, one of their sons,
was doomed by Zeus to bear up the vault of
heaven as an eternal penalty ; Menoetius,
another, was for his insolence thrust down
to Erebus by the lightning-flash. Of Epi-



metheus, who in the " Works " accepts the
gift of Pandora, it is simply said in the
" Theogony " that he did so, and brought
evil upon man by his act. Nothing is said
of heedlessness of his brother's caution ;
nothing of the casket of evils, from which
in the ' Works,' Pandora, by lifting the lid,
lets mischief and disease loose upon the
world. The key to the difference between the
two accounts is to be found in the fact that
in the ' Works' Hesiod narrates the conse-
quences of the sin of Prometheus ; in the
' Theogony,' the story of the sin itself. In
the order of events that story would run
thus : Prometheus enrages Zeus by scoffing
at sacrifices, and by tricking the sage ruler
of Olympus into a wrong choice touching
the most savoury part of the ox. In his
office of arbitrator, he divides two portions,
the flesh and entrails covered with the belly
on one hand, the bones under a cover of
white fat on the other. Zeus chooses after
the outward appearance, but, as Hesiod
seems to imply, chooses wittingly, for the
sake of having a grievance. Thenceforth
in sacrifice it was customary to offer the
whitening bones at his altars. But the god
neither forgot nor forgave the cheat

" And still the fraud remembering from that hour,

The strength of unexhausted lire denied

To all the dwellers upon earth. But him

Benevolent Prometheus did beguile :

The far-seen splendour in a hollow reed

He stole of inexhaustible flame. But then

Resentment stung the Thunderer's inmost soul,

And his heart chafed with anger when he saw

The fire far-gleamiug in the midst of men.

Straight for the flame bestowed devised he ill

To man." Elton, 749-759.

Outwitted twice, he roused himself to take
vengeance upon Prometheus as well as his
clients. On the latter he inflicted the evil
of winsome womankind, represented by
Pandora, and placed them in the dilemma
of either not marrying, and dying heirless,
or of finding in marriage the lottery which
it is still accounted. As to Prometheus and
his punishment, Hesiod's account is as fol-
lows :

" Prometheus, versed

In various wiles, ho bound with fettering chains
Indissoluble, chains of galling weight,
Midway a column. Down he sent from high
The broad-winged eagle : she his liver gorged
Immortal. For it sprang with life, and grew
In the night season, and the waste repaired
Of what by day the bird of spreading wing
Devoured." Elton, COG-704.

This durance was eventually terminated by
Hercules slaying the vulture or eagle, and
reconciling Zeus and the Titan. Hesiod's
moral will sum up the tale :

" Nathless it is not given thee to deceive
The god, nor yet elude the omniscient mind ;
For not Prometheus, void of blame to man,
Could 'scape the burden of oppressive wrath ;
And vain his various wisdom ; vain to free
From pangs, or burst the inextricable chain."

Elton, 816-821.

The foregoing sketch will, it is hoped,
have enabled English readers to discover in
Hesiod's ' Theogony ' not a mere prosy cata-
logue, but a systematised account of the
generation of the gods of Hellas, relieved
of excessive detail by fervid descriptions,
stirring battle-pieces, noble images, and
graceful fancies. Such as it was, it appears
to have found extensive circulation and ac-
ceptance in Greece, and to have formed the
chief source of information amongst Greeks
concerning the .divine antiquity. This is
not the kind of work to admit of a compari-
son of the so-called Orphic Theogony,
which, in point of fact, belongs to a much
later date, with that of Hesiod. Enough to
state that the former, to use Mr. Grote's ex-
pression, " contains the Hesiodic ideas and
persons, enlarged and mystically disguised."
But those who have the time and materials
for carrying out the comparison for them-
selves, will be led to discover in the develop-
ment of religious belief, in the bias towards
a sort of unity of Godhead, and in the in-
vestment of the powers of nature with the
attributes of deity, which characterise the
Orphic worship and theogonies, indirect
corroboration of the opinion which assigns
a very early date to the simple, unmystical,
and, so to speak, unspiritual view of the
divine foretime, handed down to us in
Hesiod's theogonic system.



From a Speech on the Trial of Aaron Burr.

[WILLIAM WIRT, an American writer and advocate,
born at Bladensburg, Md., 1772, died at Washington, in
1834. He studied law, which he practised for twenty



five years in Virginia, where he aided in the prosecu-
tion of Aaron Burr for treason in 1807 ; was Attorney
General of the United States twelve years, 1817-29.
Mr. Wirt was noted for the finished and elaborate
character of his legal arguments, and for the rhetorical
quality of his style. He wrote " Lettert of a, British
Spy, " a series of critical and descriptive sketches, often
reprinted. " The Old Bachelor," 2 vols., 1812, and
" Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, "
1817; which has passed through more than twenty

Who is Blannerhassett ? A native of
Ireland, a man of letters, who fled from the
storms of his own country to find quiet in
ours. His history shows that war is not
the natural element of his mind. If it had
been, he would never have exchanged Ire-
land for America. So far is an army from
furnishing the society natural and proper to
Mr. Blannerhassett's character, that on his
arrival in America he retired even from the
population of the Atlantic States, and
sought quiet and solitude in the bosom of
our western forests. But he carried with
him taste, and science, and -wealth ; and lo,
the desert smiled ! Possessing himself of
a beautiful island in the Ohio, he rears upon
it a palace, and decorates it with every ro-
mantic embellishment of fancy. A shrub-
bery, that Shenstone might have envied,
blooms around him. Music, that might
have charmed Calypso and her nymphs, is
his. An extensive library spreads its treas-
ures before him. A philosophical apparatus
offers to him all the secret mysteries of
nature. Peace, tranquillity, and innocence
shed their mingled delights around him.
And to crown the enchantment of the scene
a wife, who is said to be lovely even beyond
her sex, and graced with every accomplish-
ment that can render it irresistible, had
blessed him with her love and made him
the father of several children. The evi-
dence would convince you that this is but
a faint picture of the real life. In the
midst of all this peace, this innocent sim-
plicity, and this tranquillity, this feast of the
mind, this pure banquet of the heart, the
destroyer comes ; he comes to change this
paradise into a hell. Yet the flowers do
not wither at his approach. No monitory
shuddering through the bosom of their un-
fortunate possessor warns him of the ruin
that is coming upon him. A stranger pre-
sents himself. Introduced to their civilities
by the high rank *.vhich he had lately held
in his country, he soon finds his way to
their hearts by the dignity and elegance of

his demeanour, the light and beauty of hia
conversation, and the seductive and fasci-
nating power of his address. The conquest
was not difficult. Innocence is ever simple
and credulous. Conscious of no design it-
self, it suspects none in others. It wears
no guard before its breast. Every door and
portal and avenue of the heart is thrown
open, and all who choose it enter. Such
was the state of Eden when the serpent
entered its bowers. The prisoner, in a
more engaging form, winding himself into
the open and unpractised heart of the un-
fortunate Blannerhassett, found but little
difficulty in changing the native character
of that heart and the object of its affection.
By degrees he infuses into it the poison of
its own ambition. He breathes into it the
fire of his own courage ; a daring and des-
perate thirst for glory ; an ardour panting
for great enterprises, for all the storm and
bustle and hurricane of life. In a short
time the whole man is changed, and every
object of his former delight is relinquished.
No more he enjoys the tranquil scene ; it
has become flat and insipid to his taste.
His books are abandoned. His retort and
crucible are thrown aside. His shrubbery
blooms and breathes its fragrance upon the
air in vain ; he likes it not. His ear no
longer drinks the rich melody of music ; it
longs for the trumpet's clangour and the
cannon's roar. Even the prattle of his
babes, once so sweet, no longer affects him ;
and the angel smile of his wife, which
hitherto touched his bosom with ecstasy so
unspeakable, is now unseen and unfelt.
Greater objects have taken possession of
his soul. His imagination has been dazzled
by visions of diadems, of stars and garters,
and titles of nobility. He has been taught
to burn with restless emulation at the names
of great heroes and conquerors. His en-
chanted island is destined soon to relapse
into a wilderness ; and in a few months we
find the beautiful and tender partner of his
bosom, whom he lately " permitted not the
winds of" summer "to visit too roughly,"
we find her shivering at midnight on the
winter banks of the Ohio, and mingling her
tears with the torrents that froze as they
fell. Yet this unfortunate man, thus de-
luded from his interest and his happiness,
thus seduced from the paths of innocence
and peace, thus confounded in the toils that
were deliberately spread for him, and over-
whelmed by the mastering spirit and genius
of another this man, thus ruined and ua-



done, and made to play a subordinate part
in this grand drama of guilt and treason,
this man is to be called the principal of-
fender, while he by whom he was thus
plunged in misery is comparatively inno-
cent, a mere accessory ! Is this treason ?
Is it law ? Is it humanity ? Sir, neither
the human heart nor the human under-
standing will bear a perversion so mon-
strous and absurd I so shocking to the
soul 1 so revolting to reason ! Let Aaron
Burr, then, not shrink from the high desti-
nation which he has courted, and having
already ruined Blannerhassett in fortune,
character, and happiness for ever, let him
not attempt to finish the tragedy by thrust-
ing that ill-fated man between himself and


[ALEXANDER HAMILTON, an American author and
statesman, born in the island of Nevis, 1757, killed by
Aaron Burr in a duel, near New York, 1804. His father
was Scottish and his mother a Huguenot. Educated at
Columbia College, New York, he early took part in the
war of Independence, serving on Washington's staff.
Later, he studied law, was elected to Congress from New
York in 1782, and one of the most prominent members
of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In defence of
that instrument, he wrote a large part of the papers
known as Tlie Federalist. He was President Washing-
ton's first Secretary of the Treasury ''1789-95) and author
of the funding system, which restored the public credit.
An ardent jxditician of the Federalist school, an able
advocate, and a very influential writer, his share in the
formation of our institutions, and the settlement of the
country's financial difficulties, was a highly important

Assuming it, therefore, as an established
truth, that, in cases of disunion, the several
states, or such combinations of them as
misrht happen to be formed out of the wreck
of the general confederacy, would be subject
to those vicissitudes of peace and war, of
friendship and enmity, with each other,
which have fallen to the lot of all other na-
tions not united under one government, let
us enter into a concise detail of some of the
consequences that would attend such a situ-

War between the states, in the first periods
of their separate existence, would be accom-
panied with much greater distresses than it
commonly is in those countries where regu-
lar military establishments have long ob-

tained. The disciplined armies always kept
on foot on the continent of Europe, though
they bear a malignant aspect to liberty and
economy, have, notwithstanding, been pro-
ductive of the singular advantage of render-
ing sudden conquests impracticable, and of
preventing that rapid desolation which used
to mark the progress of war prior to their
introduction. The art of fortification has
contributed to the same ends. The nations
of Europe are encircled with the chains of
fortified places, which mutually obstruct in-
vasion. Campaigns are wasted in reducing
two or three fortified garrisons, to gain ad-
mittance into an enemy's country. Similar
impediments occur at every step, to exhaust
the strength and delay the progress of an
invader. Formerly, an invading army
would penetrate into the heart of a neigh-
bouring country almost as soon as intelli-
gence of its approach could be received ;
but now, a comparatively small force of dis-
ciplined troops, acting on the defensive, with
the aid of posts, is able to impede, and final-
ly to frustrate, the purposes of one much
more considerable. The history of war in
that quarter of the globe is no longer a his-
tory of nations subdued, and empires over-
turned ; but of towns taken and retaken, of
battles that decide nothing, of retreats more
beneficial than victories, of much effort and
little acquisition.

In this country the scene would be alto-
gether reversed. The jealousy of military
establishments would postpone them as long
as possible. The want of fortifications,
leaving the frontier of one state open to an-
other, would facilitate inroads. The popu-
lous states would with little difficulty over-
run their less populous neighbours. Con-
quests would be as easy to be made as
difficult to be retained. War, therefore,
would be desultory and predatory. Plunder
and devastation ever march in the train of
irregulars. The calamities of individuals
would ever make the principal figure in
events, and would characterize our exploits.

This picture is not too highly wrought ;
though I confess it would not long remain a
just one. Safety from external danger is
the most powerful director of national con-
duct. Even the ardent love of liberty will,
after a time, give way to its dictates. The
violent destruction of life and property inci-
dent to war, the continual effort and alarm
attendant on a state of continual danger,
will compel nations the most attached to
liberty to resort for repose and security to



institutions which have a tendency to destroy
their civil and political rights. To be more
safe, they at length become willing to run
the risk of being less free. The institutions
chiefly alluded to are STANDING ARMIES, and
the corresponding appendages of military
establishments. Standing armies, it is said,
are not provided against in the new consti-
tution ; and it is thence inferred that they
would exist under it. This inference, from
the very form of the proposition, is, at best,
problematical and uncertain. But standing
armies, it may be replied, must inevitably
result from a dissolution of the confederacy.
Frequent war and constant apprehension,
which requires a state of constant prepara-
tion, will infallibly produce them. The weak-
er states or confederacies would first have re-
course to them, to put themselves on an
equality with their more potent neighbours.
They would endeavour to supply the inferiori-
ty of population and resources by a more
regular and effective system of defence
by disciplined troops, and by fortifications.
They would, at the same time, be obliged to
strengthen the executive arm of government ;
in doing which their constitutions would
acquire a progressive direction towards
monarchy. It is the nature of war to in-
crease the executive at the expense of the
legislative authority. The expedients which
have been mentioned would soon give the
states, or confederacies, that made use of
them, a superiority over their neighbours.
Small states, or states of less natural
strength, under vigorous governments, and
with the assistance of disciplined armies,
have often triumphed over large states, or
states of greater natural strength, which
have been destitute of these advantages.
Neither the pride nor the safety of the im-
portant states, or confederacies, would per-
mit them long to submit to this mortifying
and adventitious superiority. They would
quickly resort to means similar to those by
which it had been effected, to re-instate
themselves in their lost pre-eminence. Thus
we should, in a little time, see established
in every part of this country the same en-
gines of despotism which have been the
scourge of the old world. This, at least,
would be the natural course of things ; and
our reasonings will be likely to be just, in
proportion as they are accommodated to this
standard. These are not vague inferences,
deduced from speculative defects in a con-
stitution, the whole power of which is lodged
in the hands of the people, or the represen-

tatives and delegates ; they are solid conclu-
sions, drawn from the natural and necessary
progress of human affairs

If we are wise enough to preserve the
union, we may for ages enjoy an advantage
similar to that of an insulated situation.
Europe is at a great distance from us. Her
colonies in our vicinity will be likely to con-
tinue too much disproportioned in strength
to be able to give us any dangerous annoy-
ance. Extensive military establishments
cannot, in this position, be necessary to our
security. But, if we should be disunited, and
the integral parts should either remain sep-
arated, or, which is most probable, should
be thrown together into two or three confed-
eracies, we should be, in a short course of
time, in the predicament of the continental
powers of Europe. Our liberties would be
a prey to the means of defending ourselves
against the ambition and jealousy of each

This is an idea not superficial or futile,
but solid and weighty. It deserves the
most serious and mature consideration of
every prudent and honest man of whatever
party. If s\ich men will make a firm and
solemn pause, and meditate dispassionately
on its importance ; if they will contemplate it
in all its attitudes, and trace it to all its
consequences, they will not hesitate to part
with trivial objections to a constitution, the
rejection of which would, in all probability,
put a final period to the union. The airy
phantoms that now flit before the distem-
pered imaginations of some ofits adversaries,
would then quickly give place to more sub-
stantial prospects of dangers, real, certain,

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 36 of 75)