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Page:Repository of Arts, Series 1, Volume 01, 1809, January-June.djvu/98

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answer to crito.

apostasy of the Jews, and that pronenees to idolize the gods of their Chaldean progenitors, which called forth the repeated censure and severe prohibition of their legislator, and which is subsequently lamented by their prophets.

(To be continued.)




Sir,——The information requested by Crito, in your last number, as to an expression in the first Pythian ode of Pindar, translated by Mr. West and imitated by Mr. West, was given some years since by Mr. Price, in his Essay on the Picturesque; but previous to availing myself of his observations, I shall notice that the verses alluded to by your correspondent, are in decade ii. of the first Pythian Ode by Mr. West, am! in the Progress of Poesy by Mr. Grey, from which it “will appear that the “ruffled plumes” belong to Mr. Grey, and are an imitation of Mr. West’s “ruffling feathers.”

Mr. Gilpin having quoted Pindar’s description of the eagle as equally poetical and picturesque, Mr. Price observes, that Mr. G. has put the ruffled plumage in italics, as the circumstance which most strongly marks that character; and that Mr. West and Mr. Grey have used the same expression, although there is not the least trace of it in the original: and he thinks that Mr. West and Mr. Grey might probably have been impressed with the same idea as Mr. Gilpin, that the imagery in this passage was highly picturesque, but might have felt that smooth feathers could not accord with that character; and therefore perhaps (as Sir Joshua Reynolds observes on Algatotti’s ill-founded eulogium of a picture of Titian), “they chose to find in Pindar what they thought they ought to have found.”

So far from describing the eagle with ruffled plumes, or with any circumstance truly picturesque, Pindar has, on the contrary, avoided every idea that might disturb the repose and majestic beauty of his image——ὑγρον νωτον αιωρει, is so opposite to ruffled, that it seems to signify that perfect smoothness and sleekness given by moisture, that oily suppleness so different from anything crisped or rumpled; as ὑγρον ελαιον express the smooth, suppling, un-drying quality of oil.

The learned Christianus Damm, in his Lexicon, interprets κνωσσων ὑγρον νωτον αιωρει, dormiens incurvatum (vel potius lœve) tergum attollit; and the action is that of a gentle heaving, from respiration, during a quiet repose. In another place Damm interprets ὑγρότης, mollities; all equally opposite to ruffled. Indeed we might almost suppose that Pindar, having intended to represent an image both sublime and beautiful, had avoided every thing that might disturb its still and solemn grandeur; for he has thrown as it were into shade, the most marked and picturesque feature of that noble bird; κελαιωπιν δ'επι ὁι νεφελαν αγκυλω κρατι, βλεφαρων ἁδυ κλαιστρον, κατεχευας; a feature which Homer, in a simile full of action and picturesque imagery, has placed in its fullest light:

Ὁι δ' ωστ' αιγυπιοι γαμψωνυχες, αγκυλοχειλαι,
Πετρῃ εφ' υψηλῃ μεγαλα κλαζοντε μαχονται.