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praise, on condition that he should be supported by the public treasury by an annual income, he was told there would be no end of maintaining the Homeroi, or blind men. From this he received the name Homer. Finding his generous offer so ill deserved by the citizens of Cuma, he left that city, uttering this imprecation: "May no poets ever be born in Cuma to celebrate it by their poems." He afterward wandered for several years from place to place, as a minstrel, and finally settled at Chios, where he established a school of poetry, and composed his Odyssey. From this he realized a small profit, married, and had two daughters, one of whom died young; the other became the wife of a very dear friend at Bolyssus. Having now determined to visit Athens, he embarked in a vessel for that city, but was driven on the Island of Samos, where he spent the winter singing at the houses of the great, for a bare subsistence. On the opening of spring he again set sail for Athens; but, landing by the way at Ios, he fell sick, died, and was buried on the sea shore.
"Narrow is thy dwelling now,
When shall it be morn in the grave?
According to some Grecian traditions, both the Iliad and Odyssey were written by Homer after his blindness. Longinus, an eminent Greek critic and
philosopher, compares the former to the mid-day, and the latter to the setting sun; and observes, "that though the Iliad claims an uncontested superiority over the Odyssey; yet, in the latter, the same force, the same sublimity and elegance prevail, though divested of their most powerful fire; and that it still preserves its original splendor and majesty, though deprived of its meridian heat."
These two celebrated poems are so frequently met with in this land of books, and so universally admired, that whatever we might here offer in praise of their author's wonderful inventive powers, the purity of his style and his godlike conceptions, would seem superfluous. He has been very justly called the father of Epic Poetry. So charmed was Alexander the Great with his compositions, that he commonly placed them, together with his sword, under his pillow. The Iliad he carefully deposited in one of the most valuable caskets of Darius, in order, said he to his courtiers, "that the most perfect production of the human mind, may be enclosed in the richest casket in the world." It is related of Alcibiades, that he once gave a rhetorician a sound box on the ear, for not having the writings of Homer in his school. The Battle of the Frogs and Mice, and several epigrams, have been ascribed to him; but the most probable opinion is, that there are none of his writings now extant, except the Iliad and Odyssey.
By many of the ancients, Homer was worshiped as a Divinity, and sacrifices were offered to him.
But not until after his death did fame breathe aloud his praise. It has since been echoed through each succeeding age, by applauding millions. "Our author's work," says Mr. Pope, "is a wild paradise, where, if we cannot see all the beauties so distinctly as in an ordered garden, it is only because the number of them is infinitely greater. It is like a copious nursery, which contains the seeds and first productions of every kind, out of which those who followed. him have but selected some particular plants, each according to his fancy, to cultivate and beautify. If some things are too luxuriant, it is owing to the richness of the soil; and if others are not arrived to perfection or maturity, it is only because they are overrun and oppressed by those of a stronger nature." In speaking of the growing interest of the Iliad, and the poet's fancy, he says: "It is, however, remarkable that his fancy, which is everywhere vigorous, is not discovered immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fullest splendor: it grows in the progress, both on himself and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot wheel, by its own rapidity. Exact disposition, just thought, correct elocution, polished numbers, may have been found in a thousand; but this poetic fire, this vivida vis animi,' in a very few."
The inimitable writings of Homer, as translated by Pope, we have read with enthusiastic delight. How it is that the blind can derive any degree of satisfaction from descriptive poetry, has long been a subject of speculation and doubt. Nor can we reflect much
light upon it. How it is that one who has never seen light and color, is able to form any conception of distance, or extent beyond his reach, or of brilliant objects, as the moon and stars, of the rainbow or the landscape, must remain, to the seeing, enigmatical. We can no more describe to you, fortunate reader, the light which our own fancy sheds around objects, by which our minds take cognizance of them, than you can describe to us the clear light of the sun, or how it pictures upon your mind the objects from which it is reflected.
It may not be uninteresting to those of our readers who have followed us thus far, to give in this connection, a brief description (however vague and imperfect) of our own feelings on reading the wonderful productions of Homer. As our reader gives rapid and distinct utterance to each happily applied word, and as each complete sentence conveys to the mind its full import, every picture drawn by the immortal poet lies before us, glowing with its own poetic fire, and busy with life. Every active, moving and breathing image passes in quick succession before our view, and at their respective distances from each other. Entirely wrapped within ourselves, and excluded from meaner objects without, we are borne unconsciously and irresistibly, on the wings of fancy, to the scenes so vividly described. Our reader is transported with us, and performs a conspicuous part in the drama. He is successively transformed in the
several characters; and every word he articulates, grows with significance as the scene heightens.
The writings of Homer must ever stand an indestructible monument of his deathless fame: a sublime structure so well proportioned in all its parts, and so sacred to genius, that it is almost sacrilege to tear from it relics of artistic skill.
FROM THE EIGHTH BOOK OF THE ILIAD.
Jupiter assembles the gods, and commands them not to assist either army. Minerva, however, obtains his consent to aid the Greeks. He afterwards descends to Mount Ida, and balances the fate of the Greeks and Trojans. For force and dignity, this description excels everything we have yet read. The most perfect creations of modern degenerate genius, are mere pigmies when compared with this giantthis twin-brother of perfection.
Aurora now, fair daughter of the dawn,