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ocritus, so happily rendered that, as it suits our purpose, we will repeat it. It is seldom that a writer not professedly a poet, and an eminent one too, has struck forth so masterly a bit of translation. The verly in the last line even surpasses the original. We will put the Greek first, both in justice to it, and because (to own a whim of ours) the glimmering and thorny look of the Greek characters gives, in our eyes, something of a boskiness to one's pages. A
page of a Greek pastoral is the next thing with us to a wood-side, or a landscape of Gasper Poussin :
Ου θεμις, ω ποιμαν, το μεσημβρινου, ου θεμις αμμιν
“ Shepherd, forbear: no song at noon's dread hour;
Tir'd with the chase, Pan sleeps in yonder bower ;
We must quote the Satyr's concluding speech, though it is not so much in character. The poet might have defended his straying in the air, but it must have been upon very abstract and ethereal grounds, foreign to the substantial part which he plays in this drama; and the fine allusion to Orpheus' lute is equally learned and out of its place. However, the whole passage is so beautiful, that we cannot help repeating it. Our Platonical friend is taking leave of the lady :
“ Satyr. Thou divinest, fairest, brightest,
Thou most pow'rful maid, and whitest,
For the Satyr? Shall I stray
Or steal from heav'n old Orpheus' lute!” What a relic! The lute of Orpheus! and laid up in some corner of heaven! Doubtless in the thick of one of its grassiest nooks of asphodel; and the winds play upon it, of evenings, to the car of Proserpine when she visits her mother, — giving her trembling memories to carry back to Eurydice.
THE NYXPHS OF ANTIQUITY AND OF
IIE Nymphs of antiquity are the gentle powers
of the earth, and therefore figured under the shape of beautiful females. A large or violent river had a god to it : — the nymph is
ever gentle and sweet. The word signifies a marriagcable female. It is traced to a word signifying moisture ; and all the Nymphs, as a body, are said to have derived their origin from Neptune, or water the first principle of all things.
Every fountain, every wood, many a single tree, had a nymph to it. An ancient could not stir out of doors, if he
was religious, without being conscious that he was surrounded with things supernatural ; and thus his religion, though full of beautiful forms, was a different thing to him from what it is to us. The nymph was lovely and beneficent; she took care of her brook or her grove for the agriculturist, and he humbly assisted her in his turn and presented her with flowers; and yet a sight of her was supposed to occasion a particular species of madness, thence called Nympholepsy. A living writer,* who has a young heart, has founded a pastoral drama upon it. We are informed, by a native of the Ionian Isles,f that to this day a peasant there cannot be persuaded to venture out of his cottage at noonday during the month of July, on account of the fairies whom he calls Aneraides, i.e., Nereids. The truth is, that in this instance, as in that of the modern fairies, he who thought he beheld any thing supernatural was in a fair way of being delirious beforehand.
It was otherwise with the great or initiated.” Poets talked of seeing the nymphs, and the gods too, without any harm, not excepting Bacchus, the most awful vision of them all ; † and multitudes of heroes were descended and received favors from enamoured Dryads and Naiads. The old poets have a favorite phrase to denote these condescending amours. $ The use of the fiction was obvious; nor was it confined to the maternal side of ancient heraldry. There is a story of a girl, who, having been honored with
* See “Amarynthus, or the Nympholept.” By Mr. Horace Smith.
† Ugo Foscolo, in his criticism in the “ Quarterly Review,” upon the “Narrative and Romantic Poems of the Italians," vol. 21, p. 514.
# Cospetto di Bacco (Face of Bacchus) is still an oath among the Italians.
$ In the Homeric account of Venus's amours with Anchises, the goddess enjoins the hero, in case he is asked questions about child, to say that a nymph was his mother; but on no account was he to dare to say it was Venus.
the attentions of the river Scamandler, observed him one day standing in a crowd at a public festival; upon which the divinity was taken up and carried before the magistrate.
We shall give a list of the principal nymphs and their names ; partly, because the genuine reader, who does not happen to be learned, will be glad of it, and partly on account of the beauty of the nomenclature. These were the Vereids, or nymphs of the sea, daughters of Vereus : Oreads, or nymphs of the mountains ; Vaiads, or nymphs of the streams ; Dryads, or nymphs of the woods; and Hamadryads, or nymphs of trees by themselves; nymphs who were born and clied each with her particular tree.
Those were the principal ; but we also hear of the Limnads or Limniads, nymphs of the lakes ; Potamèdes, or nymphs of the rivers ; Ephydriads, or nymphs of the fountains ; Napèæ, nymphs of the woody glens and meadows ; and Meliæ, nymphs of the honey-making.
But these specific appellations, we suppose, were given at will. There are furthermore the Bacchantes, or nymphs of Bacchus; the IIesperides, or daughters of Hesperus,
“Who sing about the Golden Tree,”
the nymphs who waited upon the deities in general; the celestial Sirens, who sat upon the spheres; and some reckon among them, the Graces and the Muses.
Aristophanes, in one of his plays, has introduced a chorus of clouds; and, though the singers appear to be the clouds themselves and not deities conducting them, it seems remarkable that an incarnation of those fair and benignant travellers through heaven escaped the fertile imagination of the Greeks.
All these nymphs passed a happy and graceful life of
mingled duty and pleasure, and evinced their benignity to mankind after their respective fashions : the Nereids in assisting men at sea, and allaying the billows ; the Oreads in assisting hunters ; the Vaiads or Dryads in taking care of the streams and woods; and so on of the rest. They danced and bathed, and macle love and played among the trees, and sat tying up their hair by the waters. As they were kind, they expected kindness, and were grateful for it. If their worshippers represented them as severe in their resentments, it was in punishment of what was thought impious; and there is always some inconsistency in those personifications of the natural reaction of error.
Such was the life led by the nymphs of old, and such is the one they lead still, even in quarters where they would not be expected ; so native are they to the regions of poetry, that they will divide them with other mythologies rather than remove. It is as well to keep the latter distinct, though our old poets, in the interior of their philosophy, would have had much to say for uniting them. At all events, there they are all together in the pages of Spenser, as we shall presently see. Even Wilton contrived not to let them go; and Camoens, like a right sailor, finds them in every port.
We proceed to the different classes separately, and to touch upon what the poets have said of them. And, in the first place, as personal matters are as important to them as to other ladies, and the sea-nymphs got Neptune to send a whale against Queen Cassiopeia for pretending to be their equal in beauty, it is to be observed, as a caution to men at sea, that nobody must speak ill of green hair — such being the tresses of the Nereids. For our part, who are great readers of the poets, we make no scruple to