CHAPTER VII. ROMAN LITERATURE.
I might speak of other celebrated poets, - of Lucan, of Martial, of Petronius; but I only wish to show that the great poets of antiquity, both Greek and Roman, have never been surpassed in genius, in taste, and in art, and few were ever more honored in their lifetime by appreciating admirers showing the advanced state of civilization which was reached in every thing pertaining to the realm of thought.
But the genius of the ancients was displayed in prose composition as well as in poetry, although perfection was not so soon attained. The poets were the great creators of the languages of antiquity. It was not until they had produced their immortal works that the languages were sufficiently softened and refined to admit of great beauty in prose. But prose requires art as well as poetry. There is an artistic rhythm in the writings of the classical authors, like those of Cicero and Herodotus and Thucydides, as marked as in the beautiful measure of Homer and Virgil. Burke and Macaulay are as great artists in style as Tennyson himself. Plato did not write poetry, but his prose is as "musical as Apollo's lyre." And it is seldom that men, either in ancient or modern times, have been distinguished for both kinds of composition, although Voltaire, Schiller, Milton, Swift, and Scott are among the exceptions. Cicero, the greatest prose writer of antiquity, produced only an inferior poem, laughed at by his contemporaries. Bacon could not write poetry, with all his affluence of thought and vigor of imagination and command of language, any easier than Pope could write prose.
All sorts of prose compositions were carried to perfection by both Greeks and Romans, in history, in criticism, in philosophy, in oratory, in epistles.