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even of the public at large, the sufferer is beheld with a feeling of sanctity and love, which atones, in a great measure, for all that he has lost of personal activity and independence.
It is thus that round the mighty names of HOMER, Ossian, and MILTON, with the admiration due to their superior genius, is thrown, at the same time, in consequence of their deprivation of sight, a pathetic and endearing association, which not only during their existence most assuredly operated as a source of consolation to these immortal bards, but has descended with their fame to all succeeding times.
So greatly, indeed, have these aspiring spirits risen from the force of genius, beyond the common range of human effort, that, were it not for these touches of infirmity, we should be apt to consider them, dazzled by the splendour of their intellectual powers, as beings of an order superior to man, and, consequently, however entitled to our admiration, as little capable of exciting either sympathy or affection. But blindness, and more especially blindness when united, as in these instances, with old age, at once places them in connection with ourselves; and while we stand astonished at the majesty and sublimity of mind which they exhibit, we behold in their misfortunes the common bond which unites us, and we love while we venerate their memory
We contemplate them, in fact, with emotions somewhat similar to those with which we trace the course of the magnificent sun. We have been dazzled and overpowered by the effulgence of his meridian glory, and though he be now declining, though the evening of his day has arrived, and though the clouds have gathered round his steps, we feel greater attachment for his milder and more varied light; we watch with keen regret his setting beams, and our tears flow as his orb, more deeply interesting in its close than in its noon-day splendour, seems sinking into darkness and the grave.
As the sun, thus departing in dignity and beauty, majestic though in decay, and though fast fading into night, surrounded by every association which is calculated to affect the heart and excite the imagination, appears the closing scene of our three great epic bards, descending
to their place of rest enveloped in the clouds of night, and full of years, but finishing their race with glory, and followed by the ever-during love and sympathy of an admiring world.
Of a privation thus associated with the first among the sons of men, and which, while felt as the heaviest of inflictions, was yet endured with singular magnanimity and resignation, the circumstances, both moral and physical, must ever be considered as affording a subject of peculiar interest. That HOMER was blind in his old
has been the tradition and the belief of all antiquity, nor is there wanting testimony, both direct and indirect, in the works of the poet himself, to the truth of the popular ascription.
In the Hymn to Apollo, of all the minor poems attributed to Homer, the one which carries with it the strongest evidence of authenticity, the bard has expressly mentioned his own blindness. It is of this hymn, which the accurate Thucydides has quoted, in the first book of his history, as a genuine production of Homer, that the judicious Bergler has observed, in the pre
face to his edition of the Odyssey and smaller poems, 6 that no one can render it suspected by me, unless he could persuade me, that his authority was of more weight than that of Thucydides; a writer of all others the farthest from vanity, nor very remote from the time of Homer."
In this beautiful composition, worthy of the genius of the venerable bard, occurs the following passage, immediately addressed to Latona and her offspring, Apollo and Diana, whose festival, annually held at Delos, was frequented by a vast concourse of people from every quarter of Ionia and its neighbouring islands.
“ Hail, heavenly powers, whose praises I sing; let me also hope to be remembered in the ages to come: and when any one born of the tribes of men, comes hither a weary traveller, and enquires, Who is the sweetest of the singingmen that resort to your feasts, and whom you most delight to hear ? Then do you make answer
* It should also be stated, that Pausanius has likewise cited this hymn as an undoubted work of the Grecian bard.
me, it is the blind man that dwells in Chios. His songs
excel all that can e'er be sung." As it may be satisfactory to my readers, to see the original of the lines marked by italics in this literal translation, I shall insert them, together with a passage from a nearly contemporary poet, and which must be deemed strikingly illustrative of their import and authenticity.
Τίς δ' ύμμιν ανηρ ήδιστος ΑΟΙΔΩΝ
T8 πάσαι μετόπιθεν αειςευάσιν 'Αοιδαί. It appears to me, that there cannot be a more decisive comment on this question and reply, than what is contained in the following lines just alluded to from Hesiod, preserved by an anonymous scholiast on Pindar. They assert, in fact, that Homer was in the habit of making voyages to Delos, for the very purpose mentioned in the hymn; and that such an hymn, and of Homer's composition, was then in existence.
* Translated by Blackwell, in his “ Enquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer,” 2d edition, p. 110.