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measure wit by their own standard, and idle men seek amusement without any effort of the intellect; and that will be until science be as God to produce wisdom, and knowledge be as pleasant to the indolent as wine to the drunkard.
But, notwithstanding these causes for the influence which Martial has exercised, it is possible that, had higher models been before Modern Epigrammatists, they might have chosen the good and refused the evil. But they had not the choice. The Greek Anthology was not only unread, but was well-nigh unknown. At the period at which Martial's manner most strongly affected epigrammatic literature, a great part of the Anthology, as it now exists in the * Analecta” of Brunck, and the "Anthologia” of Jacobs, was yet in manuscript, hidden away in various libraries throughout Europe, while that portion which was in print was too scarce to be generally known. The study of Greek, too, was much neglected, and from many of those who could read Martial, the epigrams of the Greeks were locked up in an unknown tongue. Thus it came to pass that, froin want of acquaintance with the purest style of epigram, Martial was looked upon as the true model, and was considered, as he is still sometimes called, the greatest Epigrammatist who has ever lived ; a truth, if quantity and not quality be the test of his greatness.
The effect of Martial's influence on our epigrammatic literature has been most disastrous. The pithy fulness, the elegant simplicity, the graceful turn, the sound sense, the guileless humour, and the inoffensive point, which characterized the epigram in its ancient home among the Greeks, has been exchanged for the redundant wordiness, the coarse conceit, the rough satire, the puerile imbecility, the unchaste wit, and the stinging point of the Roman school. The character of the epigram has been so lowered, that some of our critics have not hesitated to speak of it as unworthy of a place in our literature, and it has consequently fallen into disrepute, and has been considered as fit only to be the vehicle for party malice and private spite. It is only necessary to take up any of the popular collections of the last century, to be convinced how fallen was then the epigram from its high estate ; how lost was its true character ; how undignified the form it had assumed. Happily there have never been wanting some Epigrammatists, who scorned to imitate either the grossness or the folly of Martial, who copied him in his virtues and not in his vices; and a few, too, who knew and appreciated the Greek models, and studied to reproduce their beauties. Of late years the imperfections of Martial have been more clearly discerned, and it may be hoped that his deleterious influence as a pattern for epigram writers is no longer paramount.
We now come to the period when the Gothic arms had driven literature from the West; and when at the Byzantine court the last uncertain sounds of the Grecian lyre were struggling with victorious barbarism. But whilst darkness for centuries hung over Europe, and the light of learning was so feeble that it was lost in the gloom, far away in the East the Muses were courted, and monarchs and courtiers vied for the bays. Epigrammatic literature flourished among the votaries of Mabomet. Arabian poetry is little known in England, and even translations are rarely to be found. At the close of the last century, however, Mr. Carlyle, Cambridge Professor of Arabic, published a volume of great interest, “Specimens of Arabian Poetry from the Earliest Time to the Extinction of the Khaliphat.' This work contains translations of Arabian poetry of various kinds, but a very considerable number of the pieces are of an epigrammatic character, not in the style of the Roman, but rather approximating towards the Greek, epigram, though a few are more humorous than was usual among the earlier Greek writers, and the majority are longer than the terse inscriptions of that people. The following example displays the character of many of these Arabian pieces. The author is Abou Teman, who was born in the year of the Hegira 190; i.e., A.D. 812. He addresses his mistress, who had found fault with him for profusion ("Specimens of Arabian Poetry,” 1796, 64):
Ungenerous and mistaken maid,
To scorn me thus because I'm poor!
For dealing round some worthless ore?
To spare's the wish of little souls,
The great but gather to bestow;
And stagnates in the swamp below. Turning again to the West, the revival of learning in Europe, and the resumption of epigram-writing, claims attention. The commencement of the fifteenth century is the period generally assigned as that at which the first marked attempts were made to dispel the darkness, and to rekindle the flame of literature. But, as in all revivals, it is usually one man who takes the lead, and directs the efforts of others, so, at this time, Lorenzo de Medici, the munificent patron of men of letters, stands prominently forward as the centre whence emanated the exertions for the restoration of learning. Succeeding to the chief place in the Republic of Florence, at the death of his father in 1469, Lorenzo the Magnificent bent all his energies to his favourite project-the revival of literature. He it was who employed learned men to discover and purchase the valuable relics of antiquity; who despatched John Lascaris (the editor of the first printed edition of the Greek Anthology) into the East to collect manuscripts; and who directed the labours of Italian scholars in collating the remains of ancient authors, for the purpose of disseminating them by means of the newly-invented art of printing. He was greatly aided in his efforts by learned Greeks, who, at the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, had taken refuge in Italy, and who gladly resorted to a city which was graced by one so noble in rank and in mind as Lorenzo. The result was the establishment of an academy at Florence for the cultivation of the Greek language and literature, under the direction of Greeks and Italians, by means of which the study of that tongue was extended throughout a great part of Europe, though it was afterwards unfortunately allowed to fall much into desuetude.
From this period may be dated the restoration of Latin epigrammatic literature. But, though Latin was the language, the ancient Latin writers were not the models. The Anthology of John Lascaris, and the study of the Greek tongue, gave a tone to the authors which removes them far from the style of Martial and his compeers. The Mediaeval and Early Modern Latin Epigrammatists comprised Italian, German, Belgian, French, and English writers. The subjects of their epigrams are as various as those of the Greeks. Love is, perhaps, the predominating theme, but treated generally with remarkable chastity. Many caustic epigrams are to be found, but rarely personai bitterness ; and many witty ones in which the humour is delicate, and, although the conceit is sometimes strained, as in our metaphysical poets, it very seldom sinks into puerility. The influence of country is scarcely perceptible in these Epigrammatists. They took no part in wars or political combinations, and did not seek to stir up their countrymen to patriotic deeds. They were actnated by love of learning rather than of nationality, and were consequently homogeneous in their thoughts and writings. Their rank or their profession had little effect on their poetry, and their productions may be studied without discovering a clue to their history. l'opes and cardinals, high dignitaries and their secretaries, lawyers and phy. sicians, are found in the roll of these authors, whose pure latinity and graceful sentiments display classic polish and refined mental cultivation. An Anthology, containing a large number of the epigrams of these writers, was published in 1637 by Abraham Wright, a Fellow of S. John's College, Oxford, entitled “Delitiæ Delitiarum," a volume which it is impossible to peruse without pleasure or to study without improvement. The only fault of the work is the absence of chronological or other definite arrangement.
But these Epigrammatists have fallen into unaccountable neglect. They were well known to Pope and a few of our greater poets, and have exercised a most important influence over those who were acquainted with them, by displaying a style of epigram-writing, pure as the Greek, but more humorous, and lively as Martial, but generally free from his coarseness, his personality, and his puerile trifling. That they have been neglected is another evidence of the debasing ascendency which the Roman school has acquired; and it is curious to observe in some of the collections of the last century, translations and imitations of a few of the epigrams of these writers, given generally without any hint of their foreign origin, and almost invariably the very worst specimens which could be selected, evidently chosen because in accordance with the Martial type. As, for instance, the following, given as an original English epigram in the “Poetical Farrago”:
How fitly join'd the lawyer and his wife !
Which is a translation from the Latin of Petrus Ægidius, or Giles, a native of Antwerp ( Delitiæ Delitiarum," 165).
Wright does not include in his “Delitiæ Delitiarum” any of the epigrams of Sir Thomas More, or of John Owen, the Cambro-Briton. The latter was one of the most voluminous of the Latin Epigrammatists, and had he written less, he would, perhaps, have been even more famous than he is, for he is apt to reproduce himself, and to allow his wit to wear itself out by too much exercise. His epigrams are not of the Greek type, for his vein of satire was far too strong to be subdued; but his thorough knowledge of human nature, his rough good sense, quaint wit, and generally kindly feeling, make them pleasing, though they seldom attain much beauty or elegance. But the writing of Latin epigrams never gained a firm hold in Great Britain. When to More and Owen have been added the Scotchmen, Buchanan and Ninian Paterson, and, at a later period, Vincent Bourne, the Usher of Westminster School, the list is complete of those wbo obtained any eminence as Latin Epigrammatists. Our countrymen preferred their own language, and to English writers our attention shall now be given.
Many names of note, during the period previous to the Restoration, at once occur.
Of these it is only necessary to mention Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick. As an Epigrammatist, the style of the former is very varied. He well understood the Greek manner, and when he strays from it, as he too often does, into scurrilous and coarse language, he shows at once that he is doing violence to his