Page images
PDF
EPUB

determined by the accent or pronunciation, the pronunciation agreeing or not agreeing, as the case may be, with the artificial laws of quantity.

It would appear that in the earliest Latin verses, before the Greek metres were introduced, accent determined the value of the syllables; and so the verses of Commodianus are sometimes regarded as the successors of the versus incompti, versus incompositi, Saturnii, Fescennini, or by whatever other name they are called,—the rude, inartificial productions of early times. Those verses seem to have been irregular in their metres, as well as to have allowed accent to determine the value of the syllables. The same influence of accent prevailed in the old comedians, where we should naturally expect it; as Bentley showed in his Schediasma on the Metres of Terence. Probably at all times the actually spoken language of the people was, in some degree, irrespective of the strict laws of quantity. Still more would this be the case in the decline of the language. Even if there were a time in Rome when quantity and pronunciation were identical; and the laws which determine the length of syllables were but the stereotyping of such an actually received pronunciation, this would pass away in a living language. So that we should consider the verses of Commodianus not to be exactly parallel to the rude productions of early times, but should regard them rather as the natural fruit of that change in the pronunciation of a language, which separates the language as now actually spoken, from the same language as it was spoken when the laws of prosody were framed, when, if ever, the law and the practice corresponded. Hence one class of writers—the more refined and literary class—adhered to the old rules of quantity, and framed their verses accordingly; the other—the more popular, took the language as it was spoken, and framed their verse3 on a measurement of feet, based on the living pronunciation of their own day. Such a change is parallel to that which is observed in the difference between the written Latin, and that which was popularly spoken, in the decline of the empire at least, and most probably at all times. The written language being governed by conventional laws, grounded on the refined usages of the literary classes of the days of Augustus, fixed and unalterable, to be learned by study, very beautiful, but dead; the spoken language varying and changing with the changes of the people, and ultimately issuing in the modern languages of Southern Europe. The passage from Bede which Dom Pitra cites, illustrates this change: —'Rhythmus est verborum modulata compositio, non ratione 'metrica, sed numero syllabarum ad judicium aurium examinata, 'ut sunt carmina vtdgarium poetarum.' The verses of Commodianus, therefore, supply a link in the history of the transition from the Latin to the Roman languages. They are hexameters, like Southey's and Longfellow's, which disregard quantity, except so far as it is expressed in pronunciation; and would be in Latin what the later Greek verses, the productions of Constantinople, versus politici, are to the old Greek, the quantity being determined by the accentuation; whilst the earlier Latin verses, where quantity gives place occasionally to accent, would correspond, in this respect, to what is supposed to be the case occasionally in those of Homer. Some similar departures from the established rules of quantity are found in Prudentius; and still more in Juvencus, a Spanish writer, of whose verses many have been brought to light in the Spicilegium; and some valuable notices of his peculiarities in this respect are given in the notes.

We hope we shall not shock our classical readers by the notion that the Latins did not themselves distinguish quantity in pronunciation. We do not mean that any ordinarily educated Latin would say Imago; but we apprehend that the less refined, the later Latins and the provincials, would not distinguish the quantities of the ultimate and antepenultimate syllables. Muratori' nlleges Quintilian's authority, but we think wrongly, to prove this; we should, however, concur in his conclusion, that macula, canimm, rutilam, Erato, fulgidis, {Achates is, we presume, a misprint,) would be pronounced very much alike by the people; as would ako mala, in all its senses. That this was the case in the time of S. Augustine is certain, from the discussion on the subject at the beginning of his second book 'De Musica.' As to music, he says the quantity of the first syllable of the verb cano is immaterial; but the grammarian insists on its being short, grounding his requirement on authority, 'secundum majorum, ut dictum est, auctoritatem, quorum scripta custodit;' that is, such laws of quantity were not preserved in the ordinary pronunciation, but in books. The whole passage is interesting. Besides this, it is certain that the less refined Latinists, those of the lower classes and of the provinces, were not exact in pronouncing even the penultimate syllables correctly. S. Augustine's statements show this.

We must not therefore be surprised, if we find the quantity of a penult wrong in Commodianus. Indeed, one of the advantages which is to be derived from a more extended knowledge of such verse writing is, that it may assist us in seeing how the language was popularly pronounced, in other points than these, and so throw some light on the transition from the Latin to the Italian, and other modern languages. Though we do not apprehend, that if the text of his verses be correctly restored, we shall find many, if any, instances of this kind; the corrections in the Appendix of the Spicilegium eliminate several. Of course, we must not class in the number of false quantities idola, as at this time the Greek was most probably pronounced as it is accented, and eiBcoXa would make a good dactyl. The case is parallel to that of Anus ("Apeto?), or Helena, from 'E\ei^;.

1 Antiqiiitnt. Med. JEv. iii. 064.

Having said thus much, we must extract some lines from the poem, that our readers may judge for themselves respecting it. We add the notes of the Spicilegium, the first series being printed below the text, the second in an Excursus in the Appendix, of which the observations are very valuable, and the critical taste and discrimination shown in them prove that for once second thoughts are best. They open the interesting field of ascertaining tbe laws which governed the pronunciation and metre of Commodianus. Very much has to be done in this way for the ' Instructions' of the same writer.

We give the following extracts, adding the two series of notes, that which is placed at the foot of the page, distinguished by numerals, and that which is added in the Appendix, by letters. L. 138, p. 25 :—

'Sicut avis Phoenix meditatur a morte renasci,
Dat nobis cxemplum, post funera surgere posse;
Hoc Deus omnipotcns vel maxime credere Buadet,
Quod veniet tempus def&nctorum* vivere rursum;
Scilicet, nunc pulvis, jaceant licet ossa nudatn,
Integratur homo^ut fuerat, qui mortuus olim;
Et gratia major tunc crit istuis tcvi.
Non dolor, aut lacrymse tunc crunt in corpore nostro,
Non caro recipiet ferrum, non pustula surget,
Hoc Deus instituit,1 ut sit illi gloria major.'

We have marked some syllables, as we presume they are to run in the verse, supposing that the text stands as it is in the MS.; defunctorum, 1. 141, and hinc, 1. 144.

Another passage we take from 1. 212, p. 27 :—

'In hisb luxuriis populus primitivus agebat'
Et a lege Dei semper recedebat inermis.

1 'Instituet, in cod.'

2 * In istis I. p. primitibus, in codice.'

* 'Quidni legerim defuncto ? sane melius quam defunctos. Cseterum syllaba una in hoc versu abundat. dum excidit altera in v. 144 ubi forte dehinc supplendum.'

b | In istia codex habet, recte; nam idem hie valet quod modo diximus de ille, i.e. (in the note on I. 178, Adeo constanter prima in ille corripitur, ut earn baud immerito esse Commodiani legem statuendum sit, sicut fuit antiquorum poetarum sconce Latince.)'

Ad quos emundandos ssepe Dcus misit alumnos,
Ut illoB corrigerent depravatos. Denuo Summi'
Excipere nunquam noluerunt • dicta divina:
Sed voluntate sua servierunt semper inepti;
Mactabant justos, redargtlentes illos inique.
Dam nollent ccelestis discipline accipere frenum ' b
Esaiam serraut, lapidant Hieremiam erecti,
Johannem decollant, jugulant Zachariam ad aras.'

We entreat mercy from all masters and correctors of Latin verse, for bringing together such an accumulation of false quantities and transgressions of all their laws of prosody. We plead guilty to the transgression of those laws. But we maintain that Commodianus made his verses by the ear, and as the quantities were observed in the living, spoken African Latin of his own day, and not by the rules of what was virtually a dead language. Commodianus's false quantities are scarcely more offensive to classical ears, than the noble but self-willed Latinity of Tertullian and Augustine. And this is the earliest known specimen of those accent-verses, in which the sweet and noble hymns of the Latin Church were sung, the mould of our modern European poetry.

Those of our readers who may be disposed to pursue the subject, will find much to interest them in the Instructiones of our author, which are published in Gallandi, Bibl. Patr. iii., as well as in the Editio princeps at the end of Eigalt's Cyprian, of 1666, and separately by other editors. That poem is written throughout in acrostics, e.g. the nine lines on Mercurius are an acrostic. The only exceptions are a series of Abecedarian lines, in the middle of the poem, lines 943—964; and the concluding portion, which, when read backwards, is an acrostic of Commodianus Mendicus Christi.

We will only add, that both these writings contain matter which is of use, as exhibiting the opinions of the time; and at that period anything which throws light on the History of the Christian doctrine, is of value.

VII. S. Hilary.—We come now to the most important portion of the Spicilegium; important, not merely on account of the matter now first printed from MS., but also because, if the views and reasonings of the Editor be correct—and they certainly bear a very high degree of probability—he has discovered the true author of some of those early Latin commentaries on the Epistles of S. Paul, which have so long borne the name of Pseudo-Ambrose, and have been attributed to so many different authors. We must remind our readers, that there is a series of Commentaries on S. Paul's Epistles, printed among the spurious works of S. Ambrose, which are certainly not written by S. Ambrose, but which bear his name in the MSS.; they are often called Ambrosiaster's; that there is another, and to a great extent a different series in the Collections of Rhabanus Maurus, also bearing the name of S. Ambrose; and lastly, that portions of a commentary differing from either of the above, on some of the Epistles, are cited by Lanfranc, as Ambrose's. That these were not written by S. Ambrose is allowed by all; and in the case of each series it would appear, indeed it is now shown, that the whole series is not by the same hand. This circumstance had not been observed before, and that cause led to great difficulties in the question of authorship.

1 'Denuo summo, in cod.' 2 'Interturbatusjacet in codice versiculus:

Dum noUent accipere frenum disciplines codestis.' (We think this quite as good a line as in the corrected form, as the Editor admits in the curat eecundce of the Appendix.

* 'Irrepsit apertum spbalma voluerunt pro noluerunt.'

b 'Quod mini jacuit interturbatum, perpensa jam Commodiani indole, idem rectius mihi erit ponendum quam tentata liberius restitutio.' NC. LXXXI.—N.S. R

Now, that S. Hilary composed Commentaries on the Epistles, is the first point to be shown. S. Augustine, in writing against the Letter of Pelagius, iv. 4, expressly cites an exposition of Rom. v. 12, as written by S. Hilary; he speaks of the author Bimply as Sanctm Hilarius; no one then would doubt that he means the Bishop of Poitiers in this place, any more than in any of the three other places in which he mentions Hilary, were there not difficulties in the way of believing that the passage was written by S. Hilary; such difficulties there are; for the very passage is found in the Pseudo-Ambrose's Commentary on Romans, whereas it is quite certain, from divers considerations, that that series of Commentaries could not have been written by S. Hilary; it has, therefore, been supposed that S. Austin meant another Hilary. Dom Pitra, very justly, as it would seem, distinguishes between the Commentaries on the different Epistles in this series. Previous writers, as we have said, had not done so; they took the whole as the work of one and the same writer. It will be observed, however, that S. Austin does not say that S. Hilary wrote a Commentary on the Epistles, but he does cite an exposition of a given passage, which is found in such a Commentary, and so far his citation only goes to identify that Commentary on Romans as the work of S. Hilary, and thus indirectly to prove that he composed Commentaries on the Epistles generally. However, in a Cataloguel of the books in the Monastery of Bobio, in the Duchy of Milan, of the tenth cen

> Muret. Antiq. Med. JEy. iii. 818.

« PreviousContinue »