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He whom Rome's fairest courted for their own,
This last particular belongs to the verisimilia only. The “ gibe and scoff thrown back in answer to the kind reproof” may well refer to vii. 11; but we know not of any hint in the Epigrams that their author thus sent for his former friend and critic at the last. Here, however, we speak with diffidence, for it is quite possible that the Professor's keenness may have found such an indication.
The story is happily put into the lips of Eubulus (see again 2 Tim. vi. 21), introduced as a Christian freedman of Pudens, and identified with the Encolpus (Mr. Plumtre writes Eucolpus) of Martial, i. 32, v. 48. We greatly admire the original and felicitous turn which the Professor has given to the fact of the servant's shaven crown. Let our readers who have the opportunity compare Martial's two epigrams, which Dean Alford somewhat unfairly describes as involving Pudens in the revolting moral license of the day.
“ And Martial, he made merry with it all,
Called me Eucolpus, bosom friend and true,
In new-born zeal of anxious faith and fear,
The whole story,indeed, from theconversion of Pudens, supposed to have been through the agency of St. Paul, to the early death of Claudia and the long-subsequent martyrdom of her husband, is delicately conceived, and finely told.
Mrs. Prideaux's poem of “Claudia” is far longer and more elaborate; and, for vigour and descriptive beauty, claims a high place among the poetry of the day. The story of the British maiden is artistically connected with that of her fatherland; her conversion being indirectly a means of its evangelization. No longer, however, do we hear of Cogidunus, and his protection by the Roman power. Mrs. Prideaux inclines to the older notion, that the British princess was of the house of Caractacus; not, however, his daughter, as some of the older English writers held, but his niece, child of his brother Owain. In the days when the power of Caractacus was still unbroken, Claudia, then a child, had been kidnapped in a sudden incursion of Roman soldiers into Western Britain, and carried to the imperial city, where we find her in ignorance of her parentage, the reputed daughter of Pomponia. The name “ Claudia,” bespeaks no relationship to the great Roman gens, but is simply (as we understand the poem to intimate) the corruption of “Gladys,” the name which Owain, the Silurian prince, and his consort, Guendolen, had given to their child.
Between the capture of Gladys and the opening of the story, the final unsuccessful stand of the Silures against the power of Rome has been made. Caractacus, i.e., Caradoc, and his family, including his father Brân, are prisoners in Rome. Through the intervention of Julius, an aged Christian Hebrew, Claudia's instructor in the faith, Brân is introduced to his unknown grandchild, in an interview sought by the latter to apprise Julius of an intention, accidentally brought to her knowledge at the table of Plautius, to massacre all the Jews in Rome. This determines Julius to flight; he apprises his brethren of the intended slaughter; and, for a time, is sheltered in the house of Aristobulus, a descendant of the Maccabees. Here he is joined by Brân, who, with Aristobulus, embraces the Christian faith.
But, in parting from Julius, Claudia, who had become aware of her British descent, had addressed to him an earnest entreaty;
"Grant it as thou would'st grant it, were it made
By dying lips, sealed by beseeching looks
In fulfilment of this entreaty, Julius and Aristobulus, the Christian sage and the fervent Maccabee, take their departure for Britain, and so become its earliest, or among its earliest, evangelists. The thought is at least a happy one. It is, of course, suggested by the old Wesh tradition that the Gospel was brought to our shores by Ilid and Arwystli, which may well have been Cymric renderings of the two Latin names. The landing of the voyagers is well described
"As Julius gazed, he grew
Claudia, all clad in pureness; in its feet
One leading object of the poem seems to be, to present the different aspects of primitive evangelism, as modified by the various characters and mental habitudes both of the teachers and the taught. Thus, in Julius, we have the far-seeing, philosophic, tolerant expounder of the truth; in Aristobulus the fervent convert, zealous, perhaps a little narrow.
“And ever as they taught would Julius hang
His teaching on the teachings of the bards;
So each was faithful to his proper trust;
Did space permit, we would quote from a death-bed scene (pp. 206, 7), where the characters of the two teachers are finely discriminated. But a yet richer variety arises from the difference in mental and moral condition of those to whom the truth is sent. The Gospel, indeed, is one; and it would be difficult to find its leading truths more tersely and vividly expressed in the same compass, than in several paragraphs of this poem. Yet its various application,—to the speculative and the sorrowful—to the bewilderment of intellect, to baffled ambition, to mourning patriotism, and to the broken heart—is at least as strikingly discriminated. In such a spirit, we feel as we read, must the glad tidings have been commended to minds of the first century, though the form is supplied by the culture of the nineteenth. The background of scenery is evidently
sketched from nature. At least the following is no imaginary picture :
“Forthwith arise :
It is here, in fact, as well as in other passages, that we should like to have had an explanatory note. For farther on, we read how, when long centuries had passed away, this waterfall was to be called by the name of Gladys, or Claudia. Has then the name of this British princess been actually traced among the glens and streams of South Wales? Where, too, is “ the Church of Ilid,” marking the place of the first temple of Christian worship "that ever rose in Britain ?"*
We have anticipated the issue of the story. Claudia herself finds, in the end, her way to Britain, with Caradoc, her uncle, who has himself embraced Christianity, and the other British captives. Her life in Rome has, meanwhile, been one of mental struggle. The Emperor Claudius is dead; the days of Nero have come; Pudens is assiduous in his addresses; Martial has already framed a flattering epigram, " touching the gold locks and the violet eyes; and how the Roman and the British dames disputed for the honour of” Claudia's birth.† The throbs of a dangerous ambition begin to be felt; her affections too deeply set upon the still heathen Pudens, distress her greatly : hence her sudden resolve to return with
* Since the above was in type, we have been reminded of the waterfall of Gwladys, in the western branch of the Vale of Neath, Llanilid (or "the Church of Ilid”) is a short distance to the S. E. of the Pencoed station of the South Wales railway. Traditions of the neighbourhood, we learn, closely associate the place with the “Man of Asia," and the "Man of Italy," sent over from Rome to preach the Gospel in Britain.
† An evident anticipation, in Claudia's younger days, of the well-known Epigram which celebrates her maturer beauties, when three sons were at her side.