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horror and disgust. She who yesterday hung caressing upon a husband's neck, to-day does the last kind office, by dragging his body from her presence by a rope. Some boldly determine to die together, and plunge into one another's arms, and meet a common death, giving and taking the poison of infection. Others, under the influence of despair, sit down to meet their enemy, thus inviting his stroke; others, but wounded by his unerring blow, wander raving and lunatic, unharming others, for the grass is growing in the market-place, and in the busiest scenes of bustle there is a deadly and unnatural tranquillity. In short, the finest and the most appalling events of all antiquity are crowded together into one brief space-in a single week all the events in the long roll of the history of human passions are run over, far too rapidly for the pen of the witness to record them. If then the history of one fatal crime, or of the calamities of one unfortunate sufferer, have been such instruments in the hand of the poet, what a million-headed tragedy is the plague? The robber, the ravisher, the miser, the hero, the devotee, the impostor, the unnatural father or mother, the impetuous lover, the insidious villain, the faithful friend, the angelic female, the lustful hypocrite, all perform their parts, and show themselves in their true colours. The mask is dropped, there is no time for duplicity, the shortest way to the end desired must be pursued when the time for all is so brief. As for changes of fortune, no period is so rich as this; the distant heir in a day sees all obstacles removed between him and immense wealth, but alas ! he dies in taking possession; the poor are rich, and the rich are poor, for he who has lands and houses, unless he have money, is poor indeed. He rolls in wealth he cannot touch, and his wife or child may die for“ a drachm of Mithridate” before he can avail himself of a farthing. Credit is gone, for both the debtor and creditor will shift the scene before the bill is paid; the acknowledged thief prowls about with impunity, because judge, and jury, and witness, are in all probability doomed to death before the day of trial. · When such are the incidents of the plague, together with a host of others even more remarkable, can we wonder that many poets have taken the idea from Thucydides, and presented the subject in various points of view ? Of the narration of Thucydides, we have already spoken. He appears to have been the first who found occasion to dwell upon the horrors of the plague. He did so in a manner to leave nothing to be desired. Lucretius observed the richness of the materials, and worked them into his poem, On the Nature of Things. Virgil wrote a rival description of a plague among cattle, in the Georgicș; and Ovid has made use of some characteristic touches in the Metamorphoses. The subject is allụded to by other classical poets. Statius, Silius Italicus, and Manilius, are among the number. In modern times, the recurrence of this infliction has awaked many pens to the task of recording or simplifying its calamities. Boccacio gives a sketch of the plague of Florence in the Introduction to his Decameron. Wither, in his Britain's Remembrancer, describes the great plague of London in the reign of James I., of which he was an eye-witness, and moralizes his song at very great, and we are sorry to add, tedious length. Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, versified the passages of Thucydides, which relate to this topic, and added such touches as he (very erroneously) deemed would heighten the effect. Thomson, in his Seasons, and Armstrong, in his Art of preserving Health, have some fine thoughts, and animated description, respecting this scourge of mankind. These are nearly all the authors whom our limits will allow us to quote from, in thus attempting to shew the manner in which the principal poets have succeeded in impressing their readers with deep emotions on this subject. We must also be allowed to make some extracts from a very excellent History of the Plugue at Marseilles in 1720, by M. Bertrand, himself an eyewitness and fatal sufferer from its dreadful ravages, translated not long ago by the late Miss Plumptre.
In the description of bodily ailments, however severe or fatal, there is something disgusting, and below the dignity of poetry. This is a difficulty which must have been felt by all writers on the subject, and have rendered the task of Lucretius by no means an easy one. For he was the first who ennobled perspirations, diarrhea, blanes, convulsion, and delirium, and taught disease the secret of harmony and rhythm. A catalogue of symptoms, though interesting; in the highest degree, in the historian, to say the least, sounds' flat and tedious in verse. The poet, however, has endeavoured to dignify the subject, by avoiding all familiarity of expression; and even, when dwelling upon mere personal disease, has contrived to raise deep einotions of commiseration, if not those of elevated and elevating sympathy.
The following is a very spirited picture of a patient labouring under this calamity; though minute in its detail, there is a force in the description which saves it from merely horrifying the reader.
“ Nec requies erat ulla mali : defessa jacebant
Triste supercilium, furiosus vultus, et acer;
Lucretius, vi. 1176.
This is a very accurate and impressive enumeration of the symptoms which precede the fatal termination of the disorder,
*“Nor e’er relaxed the sickness: the rack'd frame
all; but wing the die poet's im
but not in the least more so than many similar descriptions in Buchan's Domestic Medicine. The one is in metre, the other in prose. And we question whether measure would at all heightens the interest with which the reader dwells upon the pages of that fascinating physician. In the whole of this famous digression of Lucretius on the plague, poetry is wanting, the ennobling, embalming, sanctifying touches of the poet's imagination. He has succeeded in sustaining the dignity of his subject, and that seems to be all; but who has done this more triumphantly than Dr. Buchan. Who laughs over The Domestic Medicine? Consumption glides through a chapter, flushing with hectic beauty, smiling in decay, yet animated with virgin gaiety, and full of meekness, charity, and love. Hooping Cough barks horror through the nursery. Young Measles, little Scarlet Fever, Small Pox, and Chicken Pox, stud the page, like winged cherubs on a tombstone. Gout, and Stone, and Gravel, cry aloud in the language of Tantalus and Ixion. Fever and Inflammation cast over all the scene a red and fiery hue. Pleurisy, and Cholic, and Cancer, dance before the eyes, like imps before the fires of hell. Fainting is a relief, Headache is a change, the Vertigo is somewhat gay and airy, but leaden Apoplexy stalks slowly and sullenly, and spreads a dull cold sleep over all the book. But to return-Lucretius is, as we have observed, entirely indebted to Thucydides for every image which he employs. Virgil probably conceived the idea of describing the Plague among cattle from the former, but this is all he owes to his predecessor. Virgil is the true poet. We actually feel more sympathy with Virgil's sheep and oxen, than for the afflicted men, women, and children, of the metrical philosopher. Here are the traits of genius — how sad and melancholy is this well-known incident.
“Ecce autem, duro fumans sub vomere, taurus
Extremosque ciet gemitus. It tristis arator,
Georg. iii. 515.
* “ At once the bullock falls beneath the yoke,
Compare Virgil's description of a horse struck by the plague, with the human sufferer of Lucretius.
“ Labitur infelix studiorum atque immemor herbæ
Georg. iii. 498. Much finer, however, are the lines which describe the
* “ Forgetful of his fame, the victor's steed