תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

poet often

You have not heard all yet, says Philander, there is still an advantage to be drawn from Aledals, which I am sure will heighten your este in for them. It is indeed an use that no body has hitherto dwelt upon. If any of the Antiquaries have touched upon it, they have immediately quitted it, without considering it in its full latitude, light, and extent.

Not to keep you in suspense, I think there is a great affinity between Coins and Poetry, and that your Medallist and Critic are much nearer related than the world generally imagines. A reverse often clears up the passage of an old poet, as the serves to unriddle a reverse. I could be longer on this head, but I fear I have already tired you. Nay, says Eugenius, fince you have gone so far with us, we must beg you to finish leca ture, especially fince you are on a subject, that I dare promise you will be very agreeable to Cynthio, who is to professed an admirer of the ancient poets. I must only warn you, that you do not charge your Coins with more uses than they can bear. It is generally the method of such as are in love with any particular science to discover all others in it. Who would imagin, for example, that architecture should comprehend the knowledge of history, ethics, music, astronomy, natural philosophy, physic, and the civil law? Yet Vitruvius will give you his rasons, such as they are, why a good architect is master of these several arts and tciences. Sure, says Cynthin, Martial had never read Vitruvius when he threw the Crier and the Architect into the same class.

Duri si puer ingenî videtur
Praconem facias vel architeclum.

your

If of dull parts the strippling you suspectz

A herald make him, or an architect. But to give you an instance out of a very celebrated discourse on poetry, because we are on that subject, of an author's finding out imagina

ry beauties in his own art. I have Völius de observed, says he, (speaking of the naviribus tural propenfion that all men have to Rythmie numbers and harmony) that my bar

ber has often combed my head in Dactyls and Spondees, that is with two short strokes and a long one, or with two long. ones fucceffively. Nay, says he, I have known him sometimes run even into Pyrrichius's and Anapali us's. This.you will think perhaps a very extravagant fancy, but I must own I should as soon expect to find the Profodia in a Comb as Poetry in a Medal. Before 1 endeavour to convince you of it, says Philander, I must confess to you that this science has its visiomaries as well as all others. There are several, for example, that will find a mystery in every tooth of Neptune's trident, and are amazed at the wisdom of the ancients that represented a thunder-bolt with three forks, since, they will tell you, nothing could have better explained its triple quality of piercing, burning and melting. I have seen a long discourse on the figure and nature of horn, to fhew it was impossible to have found out a fitter, emblem for plenty than the Cornu-copia. These are a sort of authors who scorn to take up with appearances, and fancy an interpretation vulgar when it is natural. What could have been more proper to shew the beauty and friendship of the three Graces, than to represent them naked and knit together in a kind

of

of dance? It is thus they always appear in ancient sculpture, whether on Medals or in Marble, as I doubt not but Horace alludes to designs of this nature, 'when he describes them after the same manner,

-Gratia,
Junctis nuda fororibus :

-Segnefque nodum folvere Gratiæ.
The Sister-Graces hand in hand,
Conjoin'd by love's eternal band.

Several of your Medallists will be here again aftonished at the wisdom of the ancients, that knew how to couch such excellent Precepts of morality under visible objects. The nature of Gratitude, they will tell you, is better illustrated by this single device, than by Seneca's whole book de Beneficiis

. The three Graces teach us three things. 1. To remark the doing of a courtesy. I. The return of it from the receiver. Hl. The obligation of the receiver 'to acknowledge it.

The three Graces are always hand in hand, to fhow us that these three duties should be never separated. They are naked, to admonith us that Gratitude fhould be returned with a free and open heart; and dancing, to fhew us that no virtue is more active than Gratitude. May not We here fay with Lucretius? Qua bene & eximie quanquam difporta ferantur, Sunt langè tamen à verâ ratione repulfa. It is an eafy thing, fays Eugenius, to find out defigns that never entered into the thoughts of the sculptor or the coiner. I dare say, the same Gentlemen who have fixed this piece of morality

on the three naked Sisters dancing hand in hand, would have found out as good a one for them, had there been four of them sitting at a distance from each other, and covered from head to foot. It is here therefore, says Philander, that the old Poets step in to the affiftance of the Medallift, when they give us the same thought in words as the masters of the Roman mint have done in fia gures. A man may see a metaphor or an allegory in picture, as well as read them in a description. When therefore I confront a Medal with a Verse, I only shew you the fame design executed by different hands, and appeal from one master to another of the same age and taste. This is certainly a much furer way than to build on the interpretations of an author, who does not consider how the ancients used to think, but will be still inventing mysteries and applications out of his own fancy. To make myself more intelligible, I find a Thield on the reverse of an Emperor's Coin, designed as a complin ment to him from the senate of Rome. I meet with the fame metaphor in ancient poets to express protection or defence. I conclude therefore that this Medal compliments the Emperor in the same fenfe as the old Romans did thein Dictator Fabius when they called him the Buckler of Rome. Put this reverse now if you please into the hands of a mystical antiquary: He shall tell you that the use of the shield being to defend the body from the weapons of an enemy, it very aptly shadows out to us the resolution or continence of the Emperor, which made him proof to all the attacks of fortune or of pleasure. In the next place, the figure of the Thield being jound, it is an emblem of perfection, for Aristotle

has

Kas said the round figure is the most perfect. It may likewise signify the immortal reputation that the Emperor has acquired by his great actions, rotundity being an emblem of eternity that has neither beginning nor end. After this I dare not answer for the Thield's convexity that it does not cover a mystery, nay there shall not be the least wrinkle or flourish upon it which will not turn to foine account. In this case therefore * Poetry being in some respects an ait of designing as well as Painting or Sculpture, they may serve as Comments on each other. 1 am very well satisfied, says Eugenius, by what you have faid on this subject, that the Poets may contribute to the explication of such reverses as are purely emblematical, or when the persons are of that shadowy allegorical nature you have before mentioned, but I suppose there are many other reverses that represent things and persons of a more real existence. In this case too, says Philandir, a Poet lets you into the knowledge of a device better than a Prose-writer, as his defcriptions are often more diffuse, his story more naturally circumstanced, and his language enriched with a greater variety of epithets; So that you

often meet with little hints and suggestions in a Poet that give a great illustration to the customs, actions, ornaments, and all kinds of Antiquities that are to be met with on ancient Coins. I fancy, says Cynthio, there is nothing more ridiculous than an Antiquary's reading the Greek or Latin Poets. He never thinks of the beauty of the thought or language, but is for

* Poenia ejt pidura loquiax.

B4

searching

« הקודםהמשך »