Зображення сторінки

onoer world. of truth, with oth fillel aro

to same poet could

\ot while the grando

onattainable except by

to the sublimest airgave a voice existed thou countrymen. His no individual; but its charactor It came forth from a no levotional, to chime in with ... • or spirit akin to his own. aloud and servently of to his nation, while in the greater glories to oined his eyes to so old in his blindness ingo future dawn.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][graphic][graphic]

avenge the slightest injury to them.” Where such things were sung and welcomed, liberty had surely obtained a foothold, and a firm one.

It is not worthy of those who love their race, to question the existence or the works of Homer. No troop of minstrels could have so consistently described the seen, or so continually aspired to the unseen world. The ardor for battle and the love of truth, with which the Iliad and the Odyssey are both filled, are such in their expression, as one and the same poet could alone harmoniously breathe. Yet while the grandeur of these poems was surely unattainable, except by one whose harp was strung to the sublimest airs, the feelings to which he gave a voice existed, though unsung, within his countrymen. His poetry is the utterance of an individual; but its character is altogether national. It came forth from a free spirit, adventurous yet devotional, to chime in with the same tones in every other spirit akin to his own. The place he fills in the history of Grecian liberty" is of one who speaks aloud and fervently of glories present to him and to his nation, while in the same breath he foretells the greater glories to come. And every Greek who strained his eyes to see the visions which Homer beheld in his blindness was unconsciously quickening the future dawn.

* Odyss., VI. 207,208, IX.270. from 165-200 years after the Tro

* “The druń of Homer, taken jan era,” reckoning this at A. C. from the age of 25 to 60 years, will 1127. See note to Fast. Hell., fall,” is the conclusion of Mr. Clin- Vol. I. p. 362. ton, “within B. C. 962 – 927, or

The political forms under which a people live are, as has been already intimated, much less worthy objects of inquiry than the spirit from which they spring, and upon which they react, as the secondary, rather than the primary, element of liberty. The institutions of the early age in Greece may be very simply delineated. At first, the hero and the prince were generally identical; whoever had the strongest arm and the boldest heart was the ruler of others who could not rule themselves. But in following

years, the hero was sometimes subject, as Hercules to .

Eurystheus, and the authority of the king rises superior to the fame of the hero, wherever the two are separated. The claim of birth displaced the claim of strength, and hereditary power succeeded to the power of the old heroism. Homer intrusts his kings with duties as well as with dominions; and it was then or soon afterwards the universal belief, that sovereign authority depended upon the pleasure of the immortals, who might command the subject to punish the crimes of the king.” Next to the king were the nobles or warriors, his immediate companions and counsellors, who formed the Boule, or council, of the state; and after these, the main body of freemen, who met in the Agora, or assembly, to be made acquainted with the decision of the council, which had itself been adopted at the command or the instigation of the king.” The nobles were the progressive class,

* “Indequereges Homero passim I. 238,239, II. 205, 206 ; and the dicti Atoyevsis, Atorpe pets, a Jove Odyssey, III. 214,215, XIV.83, 84. geniti ac nutriti.” Ev. Feith, Ant. 43 See Grote's account of the asHomer., II. sect. 1. See the Iliad, sembly described in the second book

as they may be called; to them the king yielded the priestly robes that he had hitherto worn with his armour; to them, also, he surrendered the judicial offices which he would be either indifferent or umable to exercise. The lower classes had still to bide their time for power, though their rights were more generally acknowledged. Neither slaves nor strangers were protected, except, perhaps, in life and limb; but the number of these was so small in each divided town or kingdom, that they would scarcely then appear entitled to consideration.” The government over all the people was one of arms; and though there might be some sort of laws, divine and human, in existence, they were engraven on the shields or suspended to the swords of the nobles and the heI'Oes. The best principles of liberty under these heroic governments consisted in the truths concerning earth and heaven, which, as we have seen, were partially disclosed; but the actual occupations and relations of the Greeks are, after all, the surest materials of any general conception concerning the condition and the prospects of their race. The hero of the Odyssey is described, not only as the crafty warrior, but as the active husbandman and the skilful artisan ; * and as

of the Iliad Hist. Greece, Pt. I. classes were then very much upon a ch. 20. level in point of taste, sentiment, and

44 “On the whole,” says Grote, instruction.” Hist. Greece, Vol. II. “the slavery of legendary Greece p. 132. does not present itself as existing 45 Odys., XVIII. 366 et seq., under a peculiarly harsh form, es- XXIII. 189 et seq. pecially if we consider that all the

« НазадПродовжити »