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BLACKWOOD'S

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.

No. CCCLI.

JANUARY, 1845.

HOMER, DANTE, AND MICHAEL ANGELO.

THERE is something inexpressibly striking, it may almost be said awful, in the fame of HOMER. Three thousand years have elapsed since the bard of Chios began to pour forth his strains; and their réputa tion, so far from declining, is on the increase. Successive nations are employed in celebrating his works; generation after generation of men are fascinated by his imagination. Discrepancies of race, of character, of institutions, of religion, of age, of the world, are forgotten in the common worship of his genius. In this universal tribute of gratitude, modern Europe vies with remote antiquity, the light Frenchman with the volatile Greek, the impassioned Italian with the enthusiastic German, the sturdy Englishman with the unconquerable Roman, the aspiring Russian with the proud American. Seven cities, in ancient times, competed for the honour of having given him birth, but seventy nations have since been moulded by his productions. He gave a mythology to the ancients; he has given the fine arts to the modern world. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Juno, are still household words in every tongue; Vulcan is yet the god of fire, Neptune of the ocean, Venus of love. When Michael Angelo and Canova strove to embody their conceptions of heroism or beauty, they portrayed the heroes of the Iliad. Flaxman's genius was elevated to the highest point in embodying its events. Epic poets, in subsequent

VOL. LVII. NO. CCCLI.

VOL. LVII.

times, have done little more than imitate his machinery, copy his characters, adopt his similes, and, in a few instances, improve upon his descriptions Painting and statuary, for two thousand years, have been employed in striving to portray, by the pencil or the chisel, his yet breathing conceptions. Language and thought itself have been moulded by the influence of his poetry. Images of wrath are still taken from Achilles, of pride from Agamemnon, of astuteness from Ulysses, of patriotism from Hector, of tenderness from Andromache, of age from Nestor. The galleys of Rome were, the line-of-battle ships of France and England still are, called after his heroes. The Agamemnon long bore the flag of Nelson; the Ajax perished by the flames within sight of the tomb of the Telamonian hero, on the shores of the Hellespont; the Achilles was blown up at the battle of Trafalgar. Alexander the Great ran round the tomb of Achilles before undertaking the conquest of Asia. It was the boast of Napoleon that his mother reclined on tapestry representing the heroes of the Iliad, when he was brought into the world. The greatest poets of ancient and modern times have spent their lives in the study of his genius or the imitation of his works. Withdraw from subsequent poetry the images, mythology, and characters of the Iliad, and what would remain ? Petrarch spent his best years in restoring his verses. Tasso portrayed the siege

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