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universal language, but by repeating to the learners premeditated sentences like the Indian speeches, and associating with each of these, as it was impressed upon the memory, the figure or figures corresponding with it in the hieroglyphic series of the whole ; then, though thousands might be well versed in the general signification of symbols which were in general use, none could understand any particular arrangement of them except those who were specially instructed in the same. Many might comprehend the scope of each of the blessings indicated in a hieroglyphic series made from Jacob’s farewell words, but none, by any imaginable process, except previous instruction, could interpret the figures into the words.*
Ancient Greek Literature. Leaving the interminable, perhaps we ought rather to say the inaccessible, maze of hieroglyphics, though
long detained in that obscure sojourn,” we turn to the daylight scenes and pure realities of Greece.
* The following is a very significant specimen of an Indian hiera glyphic still used : it has frequently been mentioned in ridicule, but it is not without a grave signification :
“A serpent in a circle, representing eternity.--A tortoise resting on the serpent, being the symbol of strength, or the upholding power.- Four elephants standing on the back of the tortoise, emblems of Wisdom sustaining the earth. On the top of all the triangle, the symbol of Yoni, and the Creation."
In Oahu, one of the Sandwich Islands, the tax-gatherers, though they can neither read nor write, keep very accurate accounts of all the articles of all kinds collected frorn the inhabitants throughout the island. This is done principally by one man, and the register is nothing more than a line of cordage from four to five hundred fathoms in length. Distinct portions of this rope are allotted to the various districts, which are known one from another by their relative locality in succession, beginning and ending at one point on the coast, and also by knots, loops, and tufts of different shapes, sizes, and colours. Each tax-payer in each district has his place and designation in this string, and the number of dollars, pigs, dogs, pieces of sandal-wood, the quantity of taro-root, and other commodities at which he is rated is exactly defined by marks most ingeniously diversified, -which, though formed upon general principles, can only be understood in their application by the resident collector, who has in baie mind the topographical picture of the island, and all its districts.
To arrive at these, however, we must pass over all the fables of her first ages, borrowed probably from Egyptian mythology, and introduced by Cecrops, the founder of Athens, and perhaps never understood by the Greeks: we must likewise leave behind the generation of heroes which followed that of gods, including among the former the earliest names in profane literature,—Cadmus, who is said to have imported letters from Phenicia; also the poets Orpheus, Musæus, Linus, Amphion, and others, of whom miracles of song are recorded, which may indeed be allegorical representations of the influence of the fine arts, especially poesy (the language of superior beings to a barbarous people), in civilizing manners and transforming characters, by awakening, developing, and expanding the intellectual powers of man.
Homer himself lived so much within the undeterminable limit of that doubtful era, when, though it was no longer night, it was not yet day in Greece, that the only date which can be assigned to him is not that of his actual existence, but that of his resurrection from an obscurity which had gathered round his tomb, and would probably for ever have concealed it and all but his name from posterity. Of course the allusion is to that act of Pisistratus by which he almost redeemed the royal title of tyrant from the obloquy which his usurpation had entailed upon it, when, according to the only history of the period unwritten tradition, he collected the scattered songs of Iomer, and united the loose links into that perfect and inimitable chain in which they have been delivered down to us, most resembling, it may be said, “the golden everlasting chain" celebrated in the Iliad, wherewith the father of the gods bound the earth to his throne; for in like manner hath this father of poets, from his “highest heaven of invention," indissolubly bound the world to the sovereignty of his genius.
Whether the poems of Homer, like the “Orlando Innamorato” of Boiardo, as recomposed by Berni, or our national ballad of “Chevy Chase,” as altered and improved by successive hands, were rude but noble lays, refined gradually or at once; or whether they were originally composed in the form which two thousand five hundred years have not been able to amend or deteriorate—this is a question which it were vain to argue upon here ; suffice it to say, that Greek literature, in poetry at least, had reached a standard which has never been surpassed in the age of Pisistratus, who, as the prototype of Pericles (his imitator both in the career of learning and of ambition), if he deprived his countrymen of their birthright, conferred on them the only earthly ad. vantage that can in any degree be regarded as an honourable compensation for the loss of liberty: he bestowed upon them, by his munificent patronage, the motives and the means of cultivating those elegant arts and useful sciences which, more than all that fortune can give, or valour win besides, adorn, enrich, and dignify any people among whom they find a sanctuary and a home. The glory of Pisistratus in the history of literature is only second to that of Homer; for having gathered the poems of the latter into the most precious volume (the Sacred Scriptures excepted) which time has spared in the devastations of his march, and spared so long that even he cannot destroy it, except in that ruin in which he shall involve himself and all things under the sun.
From the era when the works of Homer were thus revived, and not they only but all the treasures of past and contemporary genius, in the library which Pisistratus first established, were thrown open to all who had leisure, ability, and disposition to avail themselves of the same from that auspicious era, not only Athens, but all the little commonwealths of Greece, Sparta excepted, rose so rapidly in learning and refinement, that thenceforward, till the subversion of their independence by Philip of Macedon, has been justly styled the golden era of that illustrious land, whose heroes, philosophers, poets, historians, orators, and adepts in all that exalts and beautifies man in society remain to this day, and must ever remain, the models and exemplars to the great and the glorious of every kindred and climate. Had they correspondingly excelled in virtue, how had they blessed their own and every other age in which their honour, name, and praise should have been known!
But it is their literature, not their morals, with which we have at present to do, and it is but justice to say distinctly, after intimating that much was amiss, there were among them many not only of the wisest but of the best men, to whom no light but that of natnre had been given, and whose nearest approach to the discovery of eternal truth was the consecration of an altar “to the unknown God.” Within the period above alluded to, but especially after the battles of Marathon and Salamis had raised the reputation of their arms to an equality with the eminence of their arts, the greatest number of their greatest men appeared, and flourished in such thick contiguity and rapid succession, that the mere relics, the floating fragments of the wreck of literature which have been preserved, because they could not sink in the dead sea of oblivion, that ingulfed and stagnated over the buried riches of a hundred argosies,—the mere relics and wreck of literature preserved to us, from that brief period, are of as much value as all that has been inherited, or recovered rather, from the ages before that died—may I say it? without will,--and the ages after, that had comparatively little wealth either to live upon or to bequeath, though the country, under various forms of republican government, and as a province of Rome, continued to be the seat of arts, science, and philosophy through many succeeding centuries.
It was during that brief but illustrious period that Athens, the eye of Greece—the loveliest feature in a face and form of which every line and limb was moulded as exquisitely as her own ideal image of beauty,-it was then that Athens, the eye of Greece, shone forth in all its lustre, and, when it closed, left such a remembrance of its light behind, as continued to cheer the paths both of the Muses and the Graces through the comparative darkness of succeeding times. Athens by day presented the brilliant and vivacious spectacle of a thronging population in the forum, the portico, the grove, the theatres, the temples, the palaces of her heroic yet voluptuous city, -where the gayest, the proudest, the most intellectual people that ever dwelt in such close society, were eagerly pursuing glory under every form of labour, letters, arts, and arms-or pleasure, in all its diversities of pomp, licentiousness, and superstition -superstition so elegantly disguised (and yet so profligate) as to impose on the imaginations, if not to captivate the understandings, of the wisest men. There every street, public edifice, and open space was so crowded with the images of their popular divinities -and their divinities were but the symbols of the worshippers themselves personified, though with superhuman strength and symmetry, in marble, metal, ivory, or wood, -that it was almost a proverb, “You will as easily find a god as a man at Athens.” From this picturesque profusion of sculpture, exposed without injury to the open air in that delightful clime, Athens by night would resemble a city of statues,,I had almost said a city of spirits, -when the cold moon, looking down from a pure blue heaven, beheld, emerging from black shadows,