Page images



Bef. Ch. 549.



THEOGNIS was born in the city of Megara, or Alcathoe, in Achaia. Some ancient authors accuse him of disseminating immoral voluptuousness in the guise of moral precept. Nothing of this kind appears in those relics of his poetry, which have reached us though little can be said for many of his notions of morality. His verses, indeed, like those of Hesiod, were learned by rote in the schools; but with this application of them a modern moralist would readily dispense. A tutor would

scarcely impress upon his pupil the maxim, that "it is a disgrace to be sober, where others are drunken," or the advice" to treat your enemy with fair and smooth words; but when you get him into your power, revenge yourself, and take no excuse." The style of Theognis, with the exception of some few passages, is dry and jejune: his verses consist of successive, desultory maxims, plainly and pithily expressed: and this is the general character of, what are called, the Gnomic, or Sententious, Poets.



CARESS me not with words, while far away
Thy heart is absent, and thy feelings stray.
But, if thou love me with a faithful breast,
Be that pure love with zeal sincere exprest:
And, if thou hate, thy bold aversion show
With open strife, avow'd and known my foe.
Who, with one tongue, has, yet, a double mind,
In him, be sure, a slippery friend we find,
And better as a foe: who, in thy sight,

Can bid his speech in wanton praise delight; But, parted from thee, rails with sland'rous tongue;

If, while his lips with honied words are hung, Another spirit in his thoughts contend,

That friend, be sure, is but a hollow friend. Let none thy mind, by false inducement, move To view the wicked with an eye of love.

How should a bad man's friendship profit thee?
Who nor from deep distress will set thee free,
Nor of his prosperous fortunes yield a share;
Thankless are benefits; an empty care
Would this, thy kindness to the wicked, be;
Go, rather sow the hoary-foaming sea;
Scant were thy harvest from the barren main,
Nor kindness from the bad returns again.
Unsatisfied they crave; if, once, thou fail,
Their friendship fades like a forgotten tale.
But, with the good, the fruits of kindness

And, still repaid, in memory survive.
Let not the wicked thy companion be;
From him, as from a dangerous harbour flee.
Many the friends of cup and board; but few
They, whom thy earnest need in succour drew.
Arduous the task, and, on the warning bend
Thy serious thought, to know the painted friend.
Of gold's base mixture we may bear the loss,
And eyes sagacious can detect the dross.
But, if a friend's most base and worthless heart
Lurk in his breast, beneath the mask of art,

« PreviousContinue »