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Title: Studies of the Greek Poets (Vol II of 2)
Author: Symonds, John Addington
Language: English
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    _Im Ganzen, Guten, Schönen
    Resolut zu leben_









                             CHAPTER XIV.

                    _GREEK TRAGEDY AND EURIPIDES._

Two Conditions for the Development of a National Drama.--The
Attic Audience.--The Persian War.--Nemesis the Cardinal Idea of
Greek Tragedy.--Traces of the Doctrine of Nemesis in Early Greek
Poetry.--The Fixed Material of Greek Tragedy.--Athens in the Age
of Euripides.--Changes introduced by him in Dramatic Art.--The
Law of Progress in all Art.--Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides.--The
Treatment of #eupsychia# by Euripides.--Menoikeus.--The Death of
Eteocles and Polynices.--Polyxena.--Medea.--Hippolytus.--Electra and
Orestes.--Injustice done to Euripides by Recent Critics.          Page 9

                              CHAPTER XV.


Alexandrian and Byzantine Anthologies.--Titles of the Lost Plays
of Æschylus.--The _Lycurgeia_.--The Trilogy on the Story of
Achilles.--The Geography of the _Prometheus Unbound_.--Gnomic Character
of the Sophoclean Fragments.--Providence, Wealth, Love, Marriage,
Mourning.--What is True of the Sophoclean is still more True of the
Euripidean Fragments.--Mutilated Plays.--_Phaëthon_, _Erechtheus_,
_Antiope_, _Danaë_.--Goethe's Restitution of the _Phaëthon_.--Passage
on Greek Athletes in the _Autolycus_.--Love, Women, Marriage, Domestic
Affection, Children.--Death.--Stoical Endurance.--Justice and the
Punishment of Sin.--Wealth.--Noble Birth.--Heroism.--Miscellaneous
Gnomic Fragments.--The Popularity of Euripides.                  Page 74

                             CHAPTER XVI.


Apparent Accident in the Preservation of Greek Poetry.--Criticism
among the Ancients.--Formation of Canons.--Libraries.--The Political
Vicissitudes of Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople.--Byzantine
Scholarship in the Ninth Century.--The Lost MS. of Menander.--Tragic
Fragments preserved by the Comic Poets and their Scholiasts; by
Athenæus, by Stobæus.--Aristotle.--Tragedy before Æschylus.--Fragments
of Aristarchus.--The _Medea_ of Neophron.--Ion.--The _Games_
of Achæus.--Agathon; his Character for Luxurious Living.--The
_Flower_.--Aristotle's Partiality for Agathon.--The Family of
Æschylus.--Meletus and Plato among the Tragic Playwrights.--The
School of Sophocles.--Influence of Euripides.--Family of
Carkinus.--Tragedians Ridiculed by Aristophanes.--The _Sisyphus_
of Critias.--Cleophon.--Cynical Tragedies ascribed to
Diogenes.--Extraordinary Fertility of the Attic Drama.--The Repetition
of Old Plots.--Mamercus and Dionysius.--Professional Rhetoricians
appear as Playwrights.--The School of Isocrates.--The _Centaur_ of
Chæremon.--His Style.--The _Themistocles_ of Moschion.--The Alexandrian
Pleiad.--The _Adonis_ of Ptolemy Philopator.                    Page 113

                             CHAPTER XVII.

                     _ANCIENT AND MODERN TRAGEDY._

Greek Tragedy and the Rites of Dionysus.--A Sketch of its Origin and
History.--The Attic Theatre.--The Actors and their Masks.--Relation
of Sculpture to the Drama in Greece.--The Legends used by the Attic
Tragedians.--Modern Liberty in the Choice of Subjects.--Mystery
Plays.--Nemesis.--Modern Tragedy has no Religious Idea.--Tragic
Irony.--Aristotle's Definition of Tragedy.--Modern Tragedy offers
no #katharsis# of the Passions.--Destinies and Characters.--Female
Characters.--The Supernatural.--French Tragedy.--Five
Acts.--Bloodshed.--The Unities.--Radical Differences in the Spirit of
Ancient and Modern Art.                                         Page 145

                            CHAPTER XVIII.


Heine's Critique on Aristophanes.--Aristophanes as a Poet of the
Fancy.--The Nature of his Comic Grossness.--Greek Comedy in its
Relation to the Worship of Dionysus.--Greek Acceptance of the Animal
Conditions of Humanity.--His Burlesque, Parody, Southern Sense of
Fun.--Aristophanes and Menander.--His Greatness as a Poet.--Glimpses
of Pathos.--His Conservatism and Serious Aim.--Socrates, Agathon,
Euripides.--German Critics of Aristophanes.--Ancient and Modern
Comedy.--The _Birds_.--The _Clouds_.--Greek Youth and Education.--The
Allegories of Aristophanes.--The _Thesmophoriazusæ_.--Aristophanes and
Plato.                                                          Page 171

                             CHAPTER XIX.

                        _THE COMIC FRAGMENTS._

Three Periods in Attic History.--The Three Kinds of Comedy: Old,
Middle, New.--Approximation of Comedy to the Type of Tragedy.--Athenæus
as the Source of Comic Fragments.--Fragments of the Old Comedy.--Satire
on Women.--Parasites.--Fragments of the Middle Comedy.--Critique of
Plato and the Academic Philosophers.--Literary Criticism.--Passages
on Sleep and Death.--Attic Slang.--The Demi-monde.--Theophrastus
and the Later Rhetoricians.--Cooks and Cookery-books.--Difficulty
of Defining the Middle from the New Comedy.--Menander.--Sophocles
and Menander.--Epicureanism.--Menander's Sober Philosophy of
Life.--Goethe on Menander.--Philemon.--The Comedy of Manners culminated
in Menander.--What we mean by Modernism.--Points of Similarity and
Difference between Ancient and Modern Comedy.--The Freedom of Modern
Art.                                                            Page 216

                              CHAPTER XX.

                           _THE IDYLLISTS._

Theocritus: his Life.--The Canon of his Poems.--The Meaning of the
Word Idyl.--Bucolic Poetry in Greece, Rome, Modern Europe.--The
Scenery of Theocritus.--Relation of Southern Nature to Greek
Mythology and Greek Art.--Rustic Life and Superstitions.--Feeling
for Pure Nature in Theocritus.--How Distinguished from the same
Feeling in Modern Poets.--Galatea.--Pharmaceutria.--Hylas.--Greek
Chivalry.--The Dioscuri.--Thalysia.--Bion.--The Lament for
Adonis.--Moschus.--Europa.--Megara.--Lament for Bion.--The Debts of
Modern Poets to the Idyllists.                                  Page 240

                             CHAPTER XXI.

                           _THE ANTHOLOGY._

The History of its Compilation.--Collections of Meleager, Philippus,
Agathias, Cephalas, Planudes.--The Palatine MS.--The Sections
of the Anthology.--Dedicatory Epigrams.--Simonides.--Epitaphs:
Real and Literary.--Callimachus.--Epigrams on Poets.--Antipater
of Sidon.--Hortatory Epigrams.--Palladas.--Satiric
Epigrams.--Lucillius.--Amatory Epigrams.--Meleager, Straton,
Philodemus, Antipater, Rufinus, Paulus Silentiarius, Agathias,
Plato.--Descriptive Epigrams.                                   Page 281

                             CHAPTER XXII.

                          _HERO AND LEANDER._

Virgil's Mention of this Tale.--Ovid and Statius.--Autumnal
Poetry.--Confusion between the Mythical Musæus and the Grammarian.--The
Introduction of the Poem.--Analysis of the Story.--Hallam's Judgment
on Marlowe's _Hero and Leander_.--Comparison of Marlowe and
Musæus.--Classic and Romantic Art.                              Page 345

                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                      _THE GENIUS OF GREEK ART._

Separation between the Greeks and us.--Criticism.--Greek Sense of
Beauty.--Greek Morality.--Greece, Rome, Renaissance, the Modern Spirit.
Page 363

                             CHAPTER XXIV.


Sculpture, the Greek Art _par excellence_.--Plastic Character of the
Greek Genius.--Sterner Aspects of Greek Art.--Subordination of Pain
and Discord to Harmony.--Stoic-Epicurean Acceptance of Life.--Sadness
of Achilles in the _Odyssey_.--Endurance of Odysseus.--Myth of
Prometheus.--Sir H. S. Maine on Progress.--The Essential Relation of
all Spiritual Movement to Greek Culture.--Value of the Moral Attitude
of the Greeks for us.--Three Points of Greek Ethical Inferiority.--The
Conception of Nature.--The System of Marcus Aurelius.--Contrast
with the _Imitatio Christi_.--The Modern Scientific
Spirit.--Indestructible Elements in the Philosophy of Nature.   Page 391

                           THE GREEK POETS.



    Two Conditions for the Development of a National
        Drama.--The Attic Audience.--The Persian War.--Nemesis
        the Cardinal Idea of Greek Tragedy.--Traces of the
        Doctrine of Nemesis in Early Greek Poetry.--The
        Fixed Material of Greek Tragedy.--Athens in the
        Age of Euripides.--Changes introduced by him in
        Dramatic Art.--Law of Progress in all Art.--Æschylus,
        Sophocles, Euripides.--The Treatment of #eupsychia#
        by Euripides.--Menoikeus.--Death of Polyneices and
        and Orestes.--Lustspiele.--The _Andromache_.--The Dramas
        of Orestes.--Friendship and Pylades.--Injustice done to
        Euripides by Recent Critics.

The chapters on Æschylus and Sophocles have already introduced the
reader to some of the principal questions regarding Attic tragedy in
general. Yet the opening of a new volume justifies the resumption
of this subject from the beginning, while the peculiar position of
Euripides, in relation to his two great predecessors, suggests the
systematic discussion of the religious ideas which underlay this
supreme form of national art, as well as of the æsthetical rules which
it obeyed in Greece.

Critics who are contented with referring the origin of the Greek drama
to the mimetic instinct inherent in all humanity are apt to neglect
those circumstances which render it an almost unique phenomenon in
literature. If the mimetic instinct were all that is requisite for
the origination of a national drama, then we might expect to find that
every race at a certain period of its development produced both tragedy
and comedy. This, however, is far from being the case. A certain rude
mimesis, such as the acting of descriptive dances or the jesting of
buffoons and mummers, is indeed common in all ages and nations. But
there are only two races which can be said to have produced the drama
as a fine art originally and independently of foreign influences. These
are the Greeks and the Hindoos. With reference to the latter, it is
even questionable whether they would have composed plays so perfect as
their famous _Sakountala_ without contact with Hellenic civilization.
All the products of the modern drama, whether tragic or comic, must
be regarded as the direct progeny of the Greek stage. The habit of
play-acting, continued from Athens to Alexandria, and from Rome to
Byzantium, never wholly expired. The "Christus Patiens," attributed
to Gregory of Nazianzus, was an adaptation of the art of Euripides
to Christian story; and the representation of "Mysteries" during the
Middle Ages kept alive the dramatic tradition, until the discovery of
classic literature and the revival of taste in modern Europe led to the
great works of the English, Spanish, French, and subsequently of the
German theatre.

Something more than the mere instinct of imitation, therefore, caused
the Greeks to develop their drama. Like sculpture, like the epic,
the drama was one of the artistic forms through which the genius of
the Greek race expressed itself--by which, to use the language of
philosophical mysticism, it fulfilled its destiny as a prime agent
in the manifestation of the World-Spirit. In their realization of
that perfect work of art for which they seem to have been specially
ordained, the drama was no less requisite than sculpture and
architecture, than the epic, the ode, and the idyl.

Two conditions, both of which the Greeks enjoyed in full perfection at
the moment of their first dramatic energy, seem to be requisite for the
production of a great and thoroughly national drama. These are, first,
an era of intense activity or a period succeeding immediately to one
of excitement, by which the nation has been nobly agitated; secondly,
a public worthy of the dramatist spurring him on by its enthusiasm and
intelligence to the creation of high works of art. A glance at the
history of the drama in modern times will prove how necessary these
conditions are. It was the gigantic effort which we English people made
in our struggle with Rome and Spain, it was the rousing of our keenest
thought and profoundest emotion by the Reformation, which prepared us
for the Elizabethan drama, by far the greatest, next to the Greek, in
literature. The nation lived in action, and delighted to see great
actions imitated. Races in repose or servitude, like the Hebrews under
the Roman empire, may, in their state of spiritual exaltation and by
effort of pondering on the mysteries of God and man, give birth to
new theosophies; but it requires a free and active race, in which
young and turbulent blood is flowing, to produce a drama. In England,
again, at that time, there was a great public. All classes crowded to
the theatres. London, in whose streets and squares martyrs had been
burned, on whose quays the pioneers of the Atlantic and Pacific, after
disputing the Indies with Spain, lounged and enjoyed their leisure,
supplied an eager audience, delighting in the dreams of poets which
recalled to mind the realities of their own lives, appreciating the
passion of tragedy, enjoying the mirth of comic incident. The men
who listened to _Othello_ had both done and suffered largely; their
own experience was mirrored in the scenes of blood and struggle set
before them. These two things, therefore--the awakening of the whole
English nation to activity, and the presence of a free and haughty
audience--made our drama great.

In the Spanish drama only one of the requisite conditions was
fulfilled--activity. Before they began to write plays the Spaniards had
expelled the Moors, discovered the New World, and raised themselves to
the first place among European nations. But there was not the same free
audience in Spain as in England. Papal despotism and the tyranny of the
court checked and coerced the drama, so that, with all its richness and
imaginative splendor, the Spanish theatre is inferior to the English.
The French drama suffered still more from the same kind of restriction.
Subject to the canons of scholastic pedants, tied down to an imitation
of the antique, made to reflect the manners and sentiments of a highly
artificial court, animated by the sympathies of no large national
audience, the French playwrights became courtiers, artists obedient
to the pleasures of a king--not, like the dramatists of Greece and
England, the prophets of the people, the leaders of a chorus triumphant
and rejoicing in its mighty deeds.

Italy has no real theatre. In Italy there has been no stirring of a
national, united spirit; no supreme and central audience; no sudden
consciousness of innate force and freedom in the sovereign people.
The requisite conditions have always failed. The German drama, both
by its successes and shortcomings, illustrates the same position.
Such greatness as it achieved in Goethe and Schiller it owed to the
fermentation of German nationality, to the so-called period of "storm
and stress" which electrified the intellects of Germany and made the
Germans eager to assert their manhood among nations. But listen to
Goethe complaining that there was no public to receive his works;
study the petty cabals of Weimar; estimate the imitative and laborious
spirit of German art, and it is clear why Germany produced but
scattered and imperfect results in the drama.

The examples of England, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, all tend
to prove that for the creation of a drama it is necessary that the
condition of national activity should be combined with the condition of
a national audience--not an audience of courtiers or critics or learned
persons. In Greece, both of these conditions were united in unrivalled
and absolute perfection. While in England, during the Elizabethan
period, the public which crowded our theatres were uncultivated, and
formed but a small portion of the free nation they represented, in
Athens the people, collectively and in a body, witnessed the dramatic
shows provided for them in the theatre of Bacchus. The same set of men,
when assembled in the Pnyx, constituted the national assembly; and
in that capacity made laws, voted supplies, declared wars, ratified
alliances, ruled the affairs of dependent cities. In a word, they were
Athens. Every man among them--by intercourse with the greatest spirits
of the Greek world in the agora and porches of the wrestling-grounds,
by contemplation of the sculptures of Pheidias, by familiarity with
Eleusinian processions, by participation in solemn sacrifices and
choric dances, by listening to the recitations of Homer, by attendance
on the lectures of the sophists, by debates in the ecclesia, by
pleadings in the law-courts--had been multifariously educated and
rendered capable of appreciating the subtleties of rhetoric and
argument, as well as of comprehending the æsthetical beauty with
which a Greek play was enriched. It is easy to imagine the influence
which this potent, multitudinous, and highly cultivated audience must
have exercised over the dramatists, and what an impulse it must have
communicated to their genius. In England the playwright and the actor
were both looked down upon with pity or contempt; they wrote and acted
for money in private speculations, and in rivalry with several petty
theatres. In Athens the tragedian was honored. Sophocles was elected a
general with Pericles, and a member of the provisional government after
the dissolution of the old democracy. The actor, too, was respected.
The State itself defrayed the expenses of the drama, and no ignoble
competition was possible between tragedian and tragedian, since all
exhibited their plays to the same audience, in the same sacred theatre,
and all were judged by the same judges.

The critical condition of the Greek people itself at the epoch of the
drama is worth minute consideration. During the two previous centuries,
the whole of Hellas had received a long and careful education: at the
conclusion came the terrible convulsion of the Persian war. After
the decay of the old monarchies, the Greek states seethed for years
in the process of dissolution and reconstruction. The colonies had
been founded. The aristocratic families had striven with the mob in
every city; and from one or the other power at times tyrants had risen
to control both parties and oppress the commonwealth. Out of these
political disturbances there gradually arose a sense of law, a desire
for established constitutions. There emerged at last the prospect
of political and social stability. Meanwhile, in all departments of
art and literature, the Greeks had been developing their genius.
Lyrical, satirical, and elegiac poetry had been carried to perfection.
The Gnomic poets and the Seven Sages had crystallized morality in
apothegms. Philosophy had taken root in the colonies. Sculpture had
almost reached its highest point. The Greek games, practised through
nearly three hundred years, had created a sense of national unity. It
seemed as if all the acquirements and achievements of the race had
been spread abroad to form a solid and substantial base for some most
comprehensive superstructure. Then, while Hellas was at this point of
magnificent but still incomplete development, there followed, first,
the expulsion of the Peisistratids from Athens, which aroused the
spirit of that mighty nation, and then the invasion of Xerxes, which
electrified the whole Greek world. It was this that inflamed the genius
of Greece; this transformed the race of thinkers, poets, artists,
statesmen, into a race of heroes, actors in the noblest sense of the
word. The struggle with Persia, too, gave to Athens her right place.
Assuming the hegemony of Hellas, to which she was fore-destined by her
spiritual superiority, she flashed in the supreme moment which followed
the battle of Salamis into the full consciousness of her own greatness.
It was now, when the Persian war had made the Greeks a nation of
soldiers, and had placed the crown on Athens, that the drama--that form
of art which combines all kinds of poetry in one, which subordinates
sculpture, painting, architecture, music, dancing, to its own use, and
renders all arts subservient to the one end of action--appeared in its
colossal majesty upon the Attic stage.

At this point of history the drama was a necessary product. The
forces which had given birth to all the other forms of art were still
exuberant and unexhausted, needing their completion. At the same time,
nothing but the impassioned presentation of humanity in action could
possibly have satisfied the men who had themselves enacted on the
plains and straits of Attica the greatest and most artistic drama of
real history. It was one of the chief actors of Marathon and Salamis
who composed the _Prometheus_, and personated his own hero on the stage.

If we proceed to analyze the cardinal idea of Greek tragedy, we shall
again observe the close connection which exists between the drama
and the circumstances of the people at the time of its production.
Schlegel, in his _Lectures on the Drama_, defines the prevailing
idea of Greek tragedy to be the sense of an oppressive destiny--a
fate against which the will of man blindly and vainly dashes. This
conception of hereditary destiny seems to be strongly illustrated by
many plays. Orestes, Oedipus, Antigone, are unable to escape their
doom. Beautiful human heroism and exquisite innocence are alike
sacrificed to the fatality attending an accursed house. Yet Schlegel
has not gone far enough in his analysis. He has not seen that this
inflexible fate is set in motion by a superior and anterior power, that
it operates in the service of offended justice. When Oedipus slays his
father, he does so in contempt of oracular warnings. Orestes, haunted
by the Furies, has a mother's blood upon his hands, and unexpiated
crimes of father and of grandsire to atone for. Antigone, the best of
daughters and most loving of sisters, dies miserably, not dogged by
Fate, but having of her own free will exposed her life in obedience to
the pure laws of the heart. It is impossible to suppose that a Greek
would have been satisfied with the bald fate-theory of Schlegel. Not
fate, but Nemesis, was the ruling notion in Greek tragedy. A profound
sense of the divine government of the world, of a righteous power
punishing pride and vice, pursuing the children of the guilty to the
tenth generation, but showing mercy to the contrite--in short, a
mysterious and almost Jewish ideal of offended holiness pervades the
whole work of the tragedians. This religious conception had gradually
defined itself in the consciousness of the Greek race. Homer in both
his epics presents us with the spectacle of crime punished. It is the
sin of Paris and the obstinacy of the Trojan princes which lead to the
fall of Troy. It is the insolence of the suitors in the _Odyssey_ which
brings them to their death. The Cyclical poets seem to have dwelt on
the same theme. The storm which fell on the Achaian fleet, dispersing
or drowning the heroes, was a punishment for their impiety and pride
during the sack of Troy. The madness of Ajax followed his violence upon
Cassandra. When conscious morality begins in Greece the idea is at once
made prominent. Hesiod continually insists on justice, whose law no man
may violate unpunished. The Gnomic poets show how guilt, if unavenged
at the moment, brings calamity upon the offspring of the evil-doer.
This notion of an inheritance of crime is particularly noticeable,
since it tinged the whole tragedy of the Greeks. Solon, again, in his
dialogue with Croesus, develops another aspect of the same idea. With
him the Deity is jealous of all towering greatness, of all insolent
prosperity; his Nemesis punishes the pride of wealth and the lust of
life. Some of the most prominent personages of Greek tragedy--Creon,
Oedipus, Theseus, Agamemnon--illustrate this phase of the idea. In the
sayings of the Seven Sages we trace another shade of the conception.
All of them insist on moderation, modesty, the right proportion, the
due mean. The lyrists take up a somewhat different position. The
vicissitudes of life, both independent of and connected with personal
guilt, fascinate their imagination. They have a deep and awful sense
of sudden catastrophes. Pindar rises to a loftier level: his odes are
pervaded by reverence for a holy power, before whom the insolent are
forced to bow, by whom the humble are protected and the good rewarded.

Such are the traces of a doctrine of Nemesis to be found in all the
literature of the pre-dramatic period. That very event which determined
the sudden splendor of the drama gave a sublime and terrific sanction
to the already existing morality. The Persian war exhibited the
downfall of a haughty and insolent race, cut off in all its pomp and
power. Before the eyes of the men who witnessed the calamities of
Oedipus and Agamemnon on the stage, the glory of godless Asia had
vanished like a dream. Thus the idea of Nemesis quelling the insolent
and smiting the unholy was realized in actual history; and to add to
the impression produced on Greek imagination by the destruction of the
Persian hosts, Pheidias carved his statue of Nemesis to be a monument
in enduring marble of the national morality. Æschylus erected an even
more majestic monument to the same principle in his tragedies.[1]

Nemesis is the fundamental idea of the Greek drama. It appears
strongest in Æschylus, as a prophetic and awful law, mysteriously felt
and terribly revealed. Sophocles uses it to point the deep moralities
which govern human life. In Euripides it degenerates into something
more akin to a sense of vicissitudes; it becomes more sentimental--less
a religious or moral principle than a phenomenon inspiring fear and
pity. This sequence appears to be necessary in the growth and expansion
of a primitive idea. Rugged and superstitious at first, it is next
harmonized and humanized, and ends at last in being merely artistic.

In Æschylus the fundamental moral law of Nemesis, as a part of the
divine government of the world, is set forth in three distinct
manifestations. We find it expressed mythologically, as abstract
and ideal, in the _Prometheus_. The offence of Prometheus against
Zeus, though unselfish and generous, must be expiated by suffering;
the rebellious demi-god must be brought at last to merge his will
in that of Zeus, to bind his brows with the willow of submission,
and to place upon his finger the iron ring of necessity. We find it
expressed typically, as still ideal and almost superhuman, in the
_Oresteia_. Here a whole family is vitiated by the offence of their
first ancestor. The hereditary curse is renewed and fortified from
generation to generation, by the sins of the children, until at last
a reconciliation is effected between the purifying deities and the
infernal powers of vengeance. In the _Persæ_ the same law is exhibited
as a fact of contemporary history. It is no longer a matter of
mythology, as in the _Prometheus_, or a matter of heroic legend, as in
the _Oresteia_, but a matter of actual experience, that the godless
man should suffer and involve the innocent in his disaster. Thus the
law of Nemesis is displayed as an eternal verity in the _Prometheus_;
and in the _Oresteia_ it is actualized and humanized within the region
of heroic legend; in the _Persæ_ it is used for the explanation of
every-day events. The pedigree of inherited crime and vengeance, as
explained in the choruses of the _Oresteia_, and as illustrated by the
whole history of the Tantalidæ, is this.[2] The pride of wealth in the
first instance swells the heart, and inclines its possessor to ungodly
thoughts. This leads to impiety (#to dyssebes#), and in the energetic
language of the _Agamemnon_[3] the arrogant man kicks with his heel
against the altar of Justice. A state of presumptuous insolence
(#hybris#) is the result of the original unholiness. And now the man,
who has been corrupted in his soul, is ready for the commission of
some signal crime. Ate, or a blindness of the reason, which prevents
him from foreseeing the consequences of his acts, is the child of this
presumption. Inspired by Ate, he sheds the blood of his brother, or
defiles his sister's bed; and from this moment the seed is sown which
will spring up and breed fresh mischief for each successive generation.
After the spilling of blood the affair passes into the hands of the
Erinnyes, whose business it is to beset the house of the guilty doer.
They form the bloody revel, which, though glutted with gore, refuse to
quit the palace of Atreus. They leap upon it from above, and rack it
like a tempest. Yet from their power there is escape. The curse of the
house works; but it works only through the impure. Should a man arise
capable of seeing rightly and living purely, he may work off the curse
and become free. Such a man was Orestes. The leading thought in this
system of morality is that pride begets impiety, impiety produces an
insolent habit of mind, which culminates in blindness; the fruit of
this blindness is crime, breeding crime from sire to son. It is only
when the righteous man appears, who performs an act of retributive
justice, in obedience to divine mandates, and without the indulgence of
any selfish passion, that the curse is stayed.

Such is a crude sketch of the Æschylean theory of Nemesis, as set
forth in the great trilogy. To Æschylus, the presentation of the moral
law conceived by him is of even more importance than the exhibition
of the characters of men controlled by it. This is not the case with
Sophocles. He fixes our attention upon the #hamartia#, or error of the
guilty man, interests us in the qualities by which he was betrayed into
sin, and makes us feel that suffering is the inevitable consequence of
arrogant or wilful acts. The weakness of the offender is more prominent
in Sophocles than the vengeance of the outraged deity. Thus, although
there is the sternest religious background to all the tragedies of
Sophocles, our attention is always fixed upon the humanity of his
heroes. The house of Labdacus is involved in hereditary guilt. Laius,
despising an oracle, begets a son by Jocasta, and is slain by that
son. Oedipus, in his youthful recklessness, careless of oracular
warnings, kills his father and weds his mother. Jocasta, through her
levity and impiety, is hurried into marriage with the murderer of her
husband, who is also her own son. All this #authadia#, or headstrong
wilfulness, is punished by the descent of a fearful plague on Thebes;
and Oedipus, whose heat of temper and self-reliance are his only
serious crime, is overpowered by the abyss of misery into which these
faults have plunged his people and his family. The utter prostration
of Oedipus--when his eyes have been opened to the tissue of horrors he
has woven round himself, his mother, his nation, and his children--is
the first step in his moral discipline. He abdicates in favor of the
insolent Creon, and goes forth to wander, an abhorred and helpless
blind man, on the face of the earth. When, at the conclusion of his
pariah life, the citizens of Colonus refuse him harborage, he only
cries: "My deeds were rather sufferings than crimes." His old heroic
haughtiness and headstrong will are tempered to a noble abhorrence of
all baseness, to a fiery indignation. He has been purged and lessoned
to humility before the throne of Zeus. Therefore, in return for his
self-annihilation, the gods at last receive him to their company, and
constitute him a blessed dæmon in the place of his disgrace. It was
the highest triumph of tragic art to exhibit that new phase in the
character of Oedipus which marks the conclusion of the _Tyrannus_ and
is sustained in the _Colonëus_. In both of these plays, Oedipus is
the same man; but circumstances have so wrought upon his temper as to
produce a great change. Still, the change is only commensurate with
the force of the circumstances. We comprehend it, while at the same
time we are forced to marvel at the profound skill of the poet, who,
in the first tragedy, has presented to our eyes the hot-tempered king
reduced to abject humiliation, and in the second has shown us the same
man dignified, and purified by the dealings of the heavy hand of God.
Set aside by his calamity, and severed from the common lot of men,
Oedipus has submitted to the divine will and has communed with unseen
powers. He is therefore now environed with a treble mystery--with the
mystery of his awful past, the mystery of his god-conducted present,
the mystery of his august future. It was by such masterly delineation
of character that Sophocles threw the old Æschylean dogma of Nemesis
into the background, and moralized his tragedy without sacrificing an
iota of its religious force. Aristotle, speaking of the highest tragic
art, says that its object is to represent an #êthos#, a permanent habit
of moral temper. Careless or bad art allows impossible incongruities
in the delineation of character, whereas the true poet maintains
identity throughout. If this be so, Sophocles deserves the title of
#êthikôtatos# in the very highest sense. As a further illustration of
the divergence of Sophocles from the Æschylean dogma of Nemesis, it
is worth while to mention the _Antigone_. This play takes us beyond
the region of hereditary guilt into the sphere of moral casuistry;
its tragic interest depends not upon the evolution of an ancestral
curse, although Antigone is incidentally involved in the crime of her
brothers, but upon the conflict of duties in a single heart. Antigone,
while obeying the law of her conscience, is disobeying the command of
her sovereign. She acted rightly; yet her offence was sufficient to
cause her legal death, and this death she chose with open eyes. It is
in the person of Creon that the old moral of Nemesis is drawn. Like
Oedipus, he treats the warnings of Teiresias with scorn, and persists
in his criminal persecution of the dead Polyneices. Shaken at last
by the seer's vaticinations, he rescinds his orders, but too late.
Antigone has hanged herself in prison; Hæmon curses his father, and
stabs himself upon her corpse; Eurydice, maddened with grief, puts an
end to her own life; and thus the house of the tyrant is left unto him
desolate. It is quite impossible by any phrases of mere criticism to
express the admiration which every student of Sophocles must feel for
the profundity of his design, for the unity of his art, and for the
firmness with which he has combined the essential religious doctrines
of Greek tragedy with his own ethical philosophy.

In passing to Euripides we feel how much we have lost. The religious
foundation has been broken up; the clear intuitive morality of
Sophocles has been exchanged for sophistry, debate, hypothesis, and
paradox. In the delineation of character he wavers; not because he
could not create well-sustained types, since Medea, Hippolytus, and
many other Euripidean personages display sublime and massive unity; but
because, apparently owing to the rapid development of the dramatic art
and the speculative ferment of the age in which he lived, he was more
interested in the creation of plots and situations, in the discussion
of vexed questions, and in the critical rehandling of apparently
exhausted motives, than in the exhibition of the truly tragic #êthos#.
The praise bestowed on him by Aristotle as being #tragikôtatos#, proves
that his contemporaries had recognized this source of both his weakness
and his strength.

While considering the work done by the three great tragic authors, we
must not forget that the Greek dramatists adhered to a fixed body of
legends; the tales of the House of Atreus, of Troy, of the family of
Laius at Thebes, of Herakles, of Jason, and of Theseus, formed the
staple of the plays of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. This fact
helps to account for the early decline of the Greek drama. It was
impossible for the successors of Æschylus and Sophocles to surpass
them in the heroic treatment of the same mythical motives. Yet custom
and tradition, the religious antecedents of tragedy, the cumbrous
apparatus of mask and buskin and Bacchic robe, the conventional
chorus, the very size of the theatre, the whole form, in fact, of Greek
dramatic art, rendered a transition from the heroic to the romantic
tragedy impossible. Those fixed legends which Æschylus had used as the
framework for his religious philosophy of Nemesis and Ate, from which
Sophocles had drawn deep lessons of morality, had to be employed by
Euripides as best he might. On their firmly traced, inflexible outlines
he embroidered his own work of pathos and imagination, losing sight
of the divine element, blurring morality, but producing a world of
fanciful yet living shapes of sentiment and thought and passion.

If we seek to comprehend the position of Euripides in relation to
his predecessors, we must consider the changes which had taken place
in Athens between the period of the Persian war and that in which
he flourished. All the mutations of Greek history were accomplished
with celerity; but in this space of less than half a century the rate
of progress was nothing less than marvellous, and the evolution of
the Attic drama through its three great tragedians was accomplished
with a rapidity which is quite miraculous. Æschylus gained his first
prize in 484 B.C., Sophocles his first in 468 B.C., Euripides his
first in 441 B.C. The _Medea_ of Euripides, a play which exhibits
all the innovations of its author, appeared in 431 B.C. Therefore a
period of fifty-three years sufficed for the complete development of
the greatest work of art the world has ever witnessed. The history
of our own stage offers a parallel to this extraordinary rapidity of
growth. Marlowe produced his _Tamburlaine_ in 1590, Ford his _Lover's
Melancholy_ in 1628: between these two dates--that is to say, within
the compass of thirty-eight years--were composed all the plays of
Marlowe, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Massinger,
Webster, Heywood, Decker, Marston, Chapman, Middleton, and others whom
it would be tedious to mention. Halliwell's _Dictionary of Old English
Plays_ contains two hundred and eighty closely printed pages; yet
very few of the pieces he enumerates are subsequent to what we call
Elizabethan. But, though our drama, in respect of fertility, offers a
parallel to that of Athens, we can show no three poets of paramount
genius corresponding to Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, each of
whom would have been sufficient by himself to mark a century in the
growth of the genius of his nation. Between Æschylus and Sophocles
there is a wide chasm in religion, politics, and art; between Sophocles
and Euripides, again, there is a chasm in religion, politics, art, and
philosophy. Yet Sophocles, after superseding Æschylus, lived to put on
mourning for the death of Euripides. Some of the men of Marathon yet
remained when Aristophanes was writing, both to point his moral against
Euripides, and also to prove by contrast with the generation that had
grown up since how impossible it was for the poet of the present to vie
with the Æschylus of the past. In the first place, Athens had become
the centre of progressive thought. Teachers of rhetoric and reasoning
made her wrestling-grounds and gardens the scene of their disputes and
lectures. The arts of eloquence were studied by the youth who in a
previous age had been contented with Homer. At Athens, Anaxagoras had
questioned the divinity of Helios, and had asserted reason to be the
moving force of the universe. Sophists who taught the arts of life for
money, and philosophers who subjected morals to ingenious analysis,
and explained away on scientific principles the ancient myths of Greek
nature-worship, combined to disturb ethical and religious traditions.
A more solid, because more reasoned, morality was springing up perhaps.
A purer monotheism was being inculcated. But meanwhile the old Hellenic
customs and the fabric of mythic theology were undermined. It could not
be but that the poet of the day should participate in these changes.
In the second place, the Athenian populace had grown to be supreme in
two departments--the high parliament of State and the law-courts. Every
Athenian was now far more than formerly an orator or judge of orators,
an advocate or judge of advocates. Two passions possessed the popular
mind: the passion for the assembly with its stormy debate and pompous
declamation; the passion for the dikastery with its personal interests,
its problems of casuistical law, its momentous tragedies of private
life, its studied eloquence. Talking and listening were the double
function of an Athenian citizen. To speak well on every subject, so as
to gain causes in the courts, and to persuade the people in the Pnyx;
to criticise speeches with acumen, so as not to be deluded by specious
arguments: these were the prime accomplishments of an Athenian youth of
promise. It is obvious that a very peculiar audience was thus formed
for the tragedian--an audience greedy of intellectual subtleties, of
pathetic situations, of splendid oratory, of clever reasoning--an
audience more appreciative of the striking than the true, of the novel
than the natural. In the third place, the Athenians had waxed delicate
and wanton since the Persian war. When Æschylus began to write,
the peril of utter ruin hung like a stone of Tantalus over Hellas.
That removed, the Greeks breathed freely. The Athenians, growing in
wealth and power, neglected the old moderation of their ancestors.
Youths who in earlier days would have fared hardly now drove their
chariots, backed their fighting-cocks, and followed their own sweet
will. Aristotle quaintly enough observes that the flute had become
fashionable after the expulsion of the Persians. The poet of the day
could no longer be austere like Æschylus or sedate like Sophocles.

In all these changes Euripides partook. The pupil in rhetoric of
Prodicus, in philosophy of Anaxagoras and Heraclitus, a book-collector,
a student of painting, the friend of Socrates, cultivated in all
innovations of morality and creed, Euripides belonged essentially to
his own day. As far as a tragic dramatist can be the mouthpiece of
his age, Euripides was the mouthpiece of Athenian decline. For this
reason, because he so exactly expressed the feelings and opinions of
his time, which feelings and opinions produced a permanent national
habit of mind, Euripides became the darling of posterity. Æschylus was
the Titanic product of a bygone period; Sophocles displayed the pure
and perfect ideal; but Euripides was the artist who, without improving
on the spirit of his age, gave it a true and adequate expression. The
only wonder is that during his lifetime Euripides was not more popular
at Athens. His comparative neglect proves him to have been somewhat in
advance of his century, and justifies Aristophanes in the reproach that
he anticipated the Athenians in the break-up of their forms of thought.

At this point we may consider the condition of the tragic art when
Euripides took it up as the business of his life. Though tragedy, as
formed by Æschylus, represented one true and important aspect of Greek
thought--the religious--yet it could never have been adequate to the
life of the whole nation in the same degree as the many-sided drama
of Shakespeare, for example, was to that of our Elizabethan ancestors.
Its regularity and solemnity tended to make it an ideal work of art. It
might arouse the religious feeling, the national pride, the enthusiasm
for a legendary past, which were so powerful among the Athenians of the
Marathonian epoch. But it could not have had much attraction for the
Athenians of the Syracusan expedition. As men subject to the divine
rule, indeed, it had a message fraught with meaning for them; but as
Athenians of to-day it did not touch them. We can well believe that
this lofty, ceremonious art fatigued a large portion of the Attic
audience. After having listened to some seventy plays of Æschylus
and fifty of Sophocles, not to mention Phrynichus and Choerilus, and
scores of minor dramatists, all teaching the same religious morality,
and all obeying the same æsthetic principles, we can conceive that
a merry Greek began to long for novelty. It must have required the
supreme genius of a Sophocles to sustain the attention of the audience
at its ancient altitude. In the hands of inferior poets, the tragic
commonplaces must have appeared insipid. Some change seemed absolutely
necessary. Euripides, a poet of very distinguished originality, saw
that he must adapt his dramatic style to the new requirements of his
audience, and give them what they liked, even though it were not good
for them. The sophistic arguments, the strained situations, the
law-court pleadings, the pathetic touches, the meretricious lyrics, the
philosophical explanations, the sententious epigrams, the theatrical
effects, which mar his tragedies, were deliberate innovations on the
old pure style. Euripides had determined to bring tragedy home to the
hearts and understandings of the spectators. All the peculiarities
of his art flow from this one aim. This is the secret of what may be
described as his romantic realism, his twofold appeal to sympathy by
the invention of startling incident and by the faithful delineation of
vulgar life and common character. Whether he did not pursue this aim on
a false method, whether he might not have aroused the sympathies of his
audience without debasing tragedy, remains a fit matter for debate.

Entirely to eliminate the idea of Nemesis, which gave its character
to Greek tragedy, was what Euripides, had he been so inclined, could
hardly have succeeded in effecting. Though he never impresses on
our minds the dogma of an avenging deity, like Æschylus, or of an
inevitable law, like Sophocles, he makes us feel the chance and change
of human life, the helplessness of man, the stormy sea of passions,
sorrows, and vicissitudes on which the soul is tossed. Conventional
phrases about moderation in all things, retributive justice, and the
like, are used to keep up the old tragic form. In this way he brought
tragedy down to the level of real life, wherein we do not trace the
visible finger of Providence, but where all seems at least confusion
to the natural eye. Euripides no more than Shakespeare sought to be a
prophet or interpreter of the divine operations. In the same spirit he
treated his materials with freedom. Adhering conventionally, and as a
form of art, to the mythical legends of Hellas--that charmed circle
beyond which the tragic muse had never strayed--he adapted them to
his own purposes. He gave new characters to the principal heroes,[4]
mixed up legendary incidents with trivial domestic scenes, lowered
the language of demigods to current Greek talk, hazarded occasional
scepticism, and introduced familiar phrases into ceremonious debates.
The sacred character of the myths disappeared; Euripides used them as
so many masses of entertaining folklore and fiction, fit for tragic
handling. In some instances, as, for example, in the _Ion_ and the
ending of the _Hippolytus_, he may even have intended an attack upon
the ethics they had sanctioned. When we hear Achilles and Orestes
talking like Athenian citizens, wrangling, perorating, subtilizing,
seeking victory in strife of words, trifling with questions of
profoundest import, and settling moral problems by verbal quibbles,
we understand the remark of Sophocles that he had painted men as
they ought to be, Euripides as they are. Medea and Alcestis are not
the mythical Medea or the legendary queen of Pheræ, but an injured
wife, and a devoted wife, just such as Shakespeare or Balzac might
have depicted. Menelaus is invariably a faint-hearted, smooth-spoken,
treasonable, uxorious, vain man. Only in the _Helena_, when fairly
driven to bay, does he show the pluck of a soldier. Nothing can be
more contemptible than the Agamemnon of _Iphigenia in Aulide_. He is a
feeble, double-minded dastard, who has aspired to the commandership in
chief from motives of vulgar ambition, and who finds himself unable to
hold his own against cabal and mutiny. This is perhaps a development of
the Homeric conception, but with all the Homeric radiance, the dignity
that shields a monarch from disgrace, omitted. But unfortunately
for this attempt to make Greek tragedy more real and living, more
representative of the actual world, the cothurnus, the mask, the
chorus, the thymelé, the gigantic stage, remained. All the cumbrous
paraphernalia of the Æschylean theatre environed the men and women of
Euripides, who cut but a poor figure in the garb of demigods. In trying
to adapt the mould of Greek tragedy to real life, Euripides overpassed
the limits of possibility. The mould broke in his hands.

The same inevitable divergence from the Æschylean system is observable
in every department of the tragedy of Euripides. While Sophocles
had diminished the direct interposition of mysterious agencies, so
frequently invoked by Æschylus, and had interested his audience in
human character controlled and tempered by an unseen will of God,
Euripides went further. With him the affairs of life are no longer
based upon a firm foundation of divine law, but gods intervene
mechanically and freakishly, like the magicians in Ariosto or Tasso.[5]
Their agency is valuable, not as determining the moral conduct of the
personages, but as an exhibition of supernatural power which brings
about a sudden revolution of events. Independently of their miraculous
activity, the human agents display all varieties of character: every
shade of virtue and vice is delicately portrayed; pathetic scenes are
multiplied; the tendernesses of domestic life are brought prominently
forward; mixed motives and conflicting passions are skilfully analyzed.
Consequently the plays of Euripides are more rich in stirring incidents
than those of his predecessors. What we lose in gravity and unity is
made up for by versatility. Euripides, to use a modern phrase, is more
sensational than either Æschylus or Sophocles. Aristotle called him
#tragikôtatos#, by which he probably meant that he was most profuse of
touching and exciting scenes.

The same tendencies strike us in the more formal department of
the tragic art. Here, as elsewhere, Euripides moves a step beyond
Sophocles, breaking the perfection of poetic harmony for the sake of
novelty and effect. Euripides condescended to stage tricks. It is
well known how Aristophanes laughed at him for the presentation of
shabby-genteel princes and monarchs out-at-elbow.[6] Having no deep
tragic destiny for the groundwork of his drama, he sought to touch
the spectators by royalty in ruins and wealth reduced to beggary.
The gorgeous scenic shows in which Æschylus had delighted, but which
he had invariably subordinated to his subject, and which Sophocles,
with the tact of a supreme master in beauty, had managed to dispense
with, were lavished by Euripides. One play of his, the _Troades_, has
absolutely no plot. Such attraction as it possesses it owes to the
rapid succession of pathetic situations and splendid scenes, the whole
closing with the burning of the towers of Troy.

By curtailing the function of the Chorus, Euripides separated from the
action of the drama that element which in Æschylus had been chiefly
useful for the inculcation of the moral of the play. On the other hand,
by expanding the function of the Messenger he was able to indulge his
faculty for brilliant description. It has been well said, that the ear
and not the eye was the chosen vehicle of pathos to the Greeks. This
remark is fully justified by the narrative passages in the plays of
Euripides--passages of poetry unsurpassed for radiance, swiftness,
strength, pictorial effect. The account of the Bacchic revels among the
mountains of Cithæron, and of the death of Pentheus in the _Bacchæ_,
that of the death of Glauke in _Medea_, and of Hippolytus in the play
that bears his name, that of the sacrifice of Polyxena in the _Hecuba_,
that of Orestes and Pylades laying hands on Helen in the _Orestes_,
and many others, prove with what consummate skill the third of the
great tragic poets seized upon a field within the legitimate province
of his art as yet but imperfectly occupied by his predecessors.

Another novelty was the use of the prologue. Here, again, Euripides
expanded the already existing elements in Greek tragedy beyond their
power of enduring the strain he put upon them. In their drama the
Greek poets did not aim at surprise; the spectators were expected to
be familiar beforehand with the subject of the play. But when the
plot became more complicated and the incidents more varied under the
hands of Euripides, a prologue was the natural expedient, in perfect
harmony with the stationary character of Greek tragedy, for placing the
audience at the point of view intended by the poets.

The solution of the tragic situation by the intervention of a god at
the conclusion of the play, familiarly known as the _deus ex machinâ_,
was too frequently adopted by Euripides. The speeches of these divine
beings are always formal and uninteresting. Their interference is felt
to be mechanical, and the settlement of human difficulties effected by
them leaves an ineffaceable impression of littleness. It reminds us of
that pinch of dust upon the warring hive which Virgil described with
exquisite irony. The _deus ex machinâ_ existed potentially in previous
Greek tragedy, and Euripides is less to be blamed for the employment of
this device than for the abuse of it. He did not take enough pains to
prepare for the appearance of the deity by dramatic motives, and he had
recourse to it too often. It is probable that the theatrical effect
gratified his audience, and prevented them from calling in question the
artistic justification of so novel and exciting a stage spectacle.

In all these changes it will be evident that Euripides, wisely or
unwisely, obtained originality by carrying his art beyond the point
which it had reached under his predecessors. Using a simile, we might
compare the drama of Æschylus to the sublime but rugged architecture
which is called Norman, that of Sophocles to the most refined and
perfect pointed style, that of Euripides to a highly decorated--florid
and flamboyant--manner. Æschylus aimed at durability of structure, at
singleness and grandeur of effect. Sophocles added the utmost elegance
and finish. Euripides neglected force of construction and unity of
design for ornament and brilliancy of effect. But he added something of
his own, something infinitely precious and enduringly attractive. The
fault of his style consisted in a too exclusive attention to the parts.
We are also often made to feel that he fails by not concentrating his
whole strength upon the artistic motives of his plays. He has too many
side-thrusts at political and ethical questions, too many speculative
and critical digressions, too much logomachy and metaphysical debate.

The object of the foregoing remarks has been to show how and to
what extent Euripides departed from the form and essence of Greek
tragedy. It may sound paradoxical now to assert that it was a merit
in him rather than a defect to have sacrificed the unity of art to
the development of subordinate beauties. Yet it seems to me that in
no other way could the successor of Æschylus and Sophocles have made
himself the true exponent of his age, have expanded to the full the
faculties still latent in Greek tragedy, or have failed to "affect
the fame of an imitator." The law of inevitable progression in art,
from the severe and animated embodiment of an idea to the conscious
elaboration of merely æsthetic motives and brilliant episodes, has
hitherto been neglected by the critics and historians of poetry. They
do not observe that the first impulse in a people towards creativeness
is some deep and serious emotion, some fixed point of religious
enthusiasm or national pride. To give adequate form to this taxes the
energies of the first generation of artists, and raises their poetic
faculty, by the admixture of prophetic inspiration, to the highest
pitch. After the original passion for the ideas to be embodied in art
has somewhat subsided, but before the glow and fire of enthusiasm have
faded out, there comes a second period, when art is studied more for
art's sake, but when the generative potency of the earlier poets is
by no means exhausted. For a moment the artist at this juncture is
priest, prophet, hierophant, and charmer, all in one. More conscious
of the laws of beauty than his predecessors, he makes some sacrifice
of the idea to meet the requirements of pure art; but he never forgets
that beauty by itself is insufficient to a great and perfect work, nor
has he lost his interest in the cardinal conceptions which vitalize
the most majestic poetry. During the first and second phases which
I have indicated, the genius of a nation throws out a number of
masterpieces--some of them rough-hewn and Cyclopean, others perfect in
their combination of the strength of thought with grace and elevated
beauty. But the mine of ideas is exhausted. The national taste has
been educated. Conceptions which were novel to the grandparents have
become the intellectual atmosphere of the grandchildren. It is now
impossible to return upon the past--to gild the refined gold, or to
paint the lily of the supreme poets. Their vigor may survive in their
successors; but their inspiration has taken form forever in their
poems. What, then, remains for the third generation of artists?
They have either to reproduce their models--and this is stifling to
true genius; or they have to seek novelty at the risk of impairing
the strength or the beauty which has become stereotyped. Less deeply
interested in the great ideas by which they have been educated, and
of which they are in no sense the creators, incapable of competing on
the old ground with their elders, they are obliged to go afield for
striking situations, to force sentiment and pathos, to subordinate the
harmony of the whole to the melody of the parts, to sink the prophet in
the poet, the hierophant in the charmer.

This law of sequence is widely applicable. It will be seen to control
the history of all uninterrupted artistic dynasties. Greek sculpture,
for example, passes from the austere, through the perfect, to the
simply elegant. The artist of the Æginetan pediment was wholly intent
upon the faithful representation of heroic incidents. The event
filled his mind: he sought to express it as energetically as he
could. Pheidias stands on the ground of accomplished art. The mythus
selected for treatment is developed with perfect fidelity, but also
with regard to æsthetical effect. Praxiteles neglects the event, the
substance of the mythus. His interest in that has languished, and has
been supplanted by enthusiasm for mere forms of beauty. He lavishes
a Pheidian wealth of genius on separate figures and situations of no
great import except for their consummate loveliness. In architecture,
the genealogy of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders points to
the same law. Take another instance from modern painting. Giotto,
Raphael, Correggio, differ less perhaps in actual calibre than in
relative historical position. Giotto, intent upon the fundamental
ideas of Christian mythology, determines to express them forcibly,
faithfully, earnestly, without regarding aught but the best method of
investing them with harmony, lucidity, and dignity. Raphael ascends a
step, and combines the strength and purity of Giotto with elaborate
beauty and classic finish of style. Correggio at his appearance finds
all the great work done. The Christian mythus has been adequately set
forth by his predecessors. He is driven to become the thaumaturgist
of chiaroscuro, the audacious violator of unity in composition,
the supreme painter of erotic paradise. Further development of the
religious idea beyond that achieved by Raphael was impossible. Already
in Raphael's work a compromise between religious austerity and pagan
grace had been observable. The simplicity of Giotto was gone beyond
recapture. Correggio could only be original by carrying onward to its
ultimate perfection the element of beauty for its own sake introduced
by Raphael. Like Euripides, Correggio was condemned to the misfortune
of separating beauty from the idea, the body from the spirit. With
them the forces inherent in the germs of their respective arts were
exhausted. But those who rightly understand them must, we imagine,
be prepared to accept with gratitude the existence of Correggio and
Euripides, both as complementing Giotto and Æschylus, and also as
accounting for the meridian splendor of Sophocles and Raphael. Without
the cadence of Euripides the majestic aria of Sophocles would hardly be
played out. By studying the Correggiosity of Correggio we comprehend
how much of mere æsthetic beauty is held in solution in the work of
Raphael. It is thus, as it were, that, like projectiles, arts describe
their parabolas and end.

To return in detail to the Greek tragedians. Æschylus determines at
all hazards to exhibit the chosen mythus in its entirety, and to give
full prominence to his religious idea. Hence we have to put up with
much that is tedious--a whole _Choëphoroe_, for example. But hence
the unrivalled majesty of the _Agamemnon_. Sophocles manipulates
his subject more artistically, so as to make it harmonious without
losing sight of its internal source of unity. But he already begins to
disintegrate the colossal work of Æschylus--notably in his separation
of the trilogy and in his moralizing of the idea of Nemesis. With
Euripides the disintegration is complete. He neglects the mythus
altogether. The theosophy of Æschylus, always implicit in Sophocles,
survives as a mere conventionality in the work of Euripides. Finally,
like Praxiteles, he carves single statues of eminent beauty; like
Correggio, he conceals his poverty of design beneath a mass of
redundant elegance. What we have really to regret in the art of
Euripides is that he should have endeavored to compete at all with
Æschylus and Sophocles upon the old ground of the tales of Thebes and
Troy. Where he breaks new ground, as in the _Medea_, the _Hippolytus_,
and the _Bacchæ_, he proves himself a consummate master. Here the
novelty of his method shocks no sense of traditional propriety. He
is not driven to flippant paradox or sarcastic scepticism in dealing
with time-honored myths, or to travesties of well-marked characters,
in order to assert his individuality. These plays exhibit a complete
unity of outward form, and a profound internal unity of passion and
character. They are not surpassed in their own kind by anything that
any other poet had produced; and if "the _chef-d'oeuvre_ be adequate
to the _chef-d'oeuvre_," Euripides may here be pronounced the rival of
Sophocles and Shakespeare.

To enter into an elaborate analysis of Euripides as a poet would be
beyond the scope of this essay, which has for its subject the relation
of the third great dramatist to his predecessors and to Greek tragedy
in general. Yet something must be added to justify the opinion just
expressed, that, though Euripides suffered by the constraint under
which he labored in competition with rivals who had nearly exhausted
the resources of the tragic art, yet he displays beauties of his own
of such transcendent merit as to place him in the first rank of the
poets of the world. It would be a delightful task to attempt to do
him justice in the teeth of a malevolent generation of critics, led
by Schlegel and Müller, who do not understand him--to summon from the
shadows of the Attic stage the "magnificent witch" Medea, pure-souled
Polyxena, wifely Alcestis, fiery-hearted Phædra, chaste and cold
Hippolytus, Andromache upon her chariot a royal slave, Orestes in his
agony soothed by a sister's ministrations, the sunny piety of Ion, the
self-devotion of Menoikeus--intermingling perchance these pictured
forms, pure, statuesque and clear as frescos from Pompeii, with choric
odes and exquisite descriptions. The lyrics of Euripides are among the
choicest treasures of Greek poetry: they flow like mountain rivulets
flashing with sunbeams, eddying in cool, shady places, rustling through
leaves of mint, forget-me-not, marsh-marigold, and dock. His landscapes
are most vivid: in ancient poetry there is nothing to compete with the
pictures of Cithæron, where the Bacchantes lie limb-length beneath
the silver-firs, their snakes asleep, and the mountain air ruffling
their loose curls; or with the cave of Polyphemus, where the satyrs
lead their flocks from pasture up the valley between stone-pine and
chestnut-tree to the lawns that overhang dark purple sea-waves. In the
department of the picturesque Euripides is unrivalled. His paintings
have the truth to nature, the delicately modulated outline, and the
facile grace of the most perfect bass-reliefs or frescos.

But to attempt this labor of criticism would be to write a book upon
Euripides. It must be enough in this place to illustrate one quality
which occupies a large space in the dramatic ethics of Euripides,
and forms the motive of the action of his leading characters. The
old religious basis of Nemesis having been virtually abandoned by
him, Euripides fell back upon the morality of passions and emotions.
For his cardinal virtue he chose what the Greeks call #eupsychia#,
stoutheartedness, pluck in the noblest sense of the word--that temper
of the soul which prepared the individual to sacrifice himself for the
State, and to triumph in pain or death or dogged endurance rather than
give way to feebler instincts. That this quality should be prominent in
Euripides is not without significance. Not only did it enable him to
construct most thrilling scenes: it also harmonized with the advancing
tendencies of Greek philosophy, which already held within itself the
germs of Stoicism--or the theory of #karteria#.[7] But in his dramatic
handling of the motive he softened its harder outlines by touches of
exquisite unselfishness, converting adamantine firmness into almost
tremulous devotion. One of the most pathetic exhibitions of this virtue
occurs in the _Phoenissæ_. The Seven Captains are beleaguering Thebes,
and affairs are going ill with the garrison. Teiresias, however,
prophesies that if Creon's son, Menoikeus, will kill himself, Thebes
must triumph. Creon accepts the prophecy, but seeks to save his son;
he sends for Menoikeus and instructs him how he may escape to Dodona.
Menoikeus pretends to agree with what his father counsels, and, after
true Euripidean fashion, sends Creon to get his journey-money. Then
the boy, left alone upon the stage, turns to the Chorus and begins his

    How well have I my father's fears allayed
    With fraudulent words to compass my own will!
    Lo, he would filch me hence, with shame to me,
    Loss to my fatherland. An old man's heart
    Deserves some pity.--What pity can I claim
    If I betray the land that gave me birth?
    Know then that I shall go and save the state,
    Giving my life and dying for this land.
    For this is shameful; if beneath no ban
    Of oracles, bound by no force of fate,
    But standing to their shields, men dare to die
    Under the ramparts of the town they love;
    While I, untrue to brother and to sire,
    And to my country, like a felon slink
    Far hence in exile! Lo, where'er I roam,
    All men would call me coward! By great Zeus,
    Who dwells among the stars, by bloody Ares,
    Who made the dragon-seed in days of old
    Lords of the land, I swear this shall not be!
    But I will go, and on the topmost towers
    Standing, will dash into the murky den
    Where couched the dragon, as the prophet bade.
    Thus will I free my country. I have spoken.
    See, then, I leave you: it is no mean gift
    In death I give the city; but my land
    I purge of sickness. If all men were bold
    Of their good things to work the public weal,
    I ween our towns had less of ills to bear,
    And more of blessings for all days to be.

With the _Phoenissæ_ in our hands, one other passage may be translated
which displays the power possessed by Euripides of composing a dramatic
picture, and presenting pathos to the eye. Eteocles and Polyneices have
been wounded to the death. Jocasta, their mother, and Antigone, their
sister, go forth to the battlefield to find them:

    Then rushed their wretched mother on the twain;
    And seeing them thus wounded unto death,
    Wailed: "O my sons! too late, too late I come
    To succor you!" Then, clasping them by turns,
    She wept and mourned the long toil of her breasts,
    Groaning; and by her side their sister groaned:
    "O ye who should have been my mother's stay
    In age, O, thoughtless of my maiden years
    Unwedded, dearest brothers!" From his chest
    Heaving a heavy breath, King Eteocles heard
    His mother, and stretched forth a cold damp hand
    On hers, and nothing said, but with his eyes
    Spake to her by his tears, showing kind thoughts
    In symbols. Then the other, who still breathed,
    Looked at his sister, and the queen, and said,
    "We have perished, mother! yea, I pity thee,
    And this my sister, and my brother dead;
    For dear he was--my foe--and yet was dear.
    Bury me, O my mother, and thou, too,
    Sweet sister, in my father's land, I pray;
    And close my dying eyelids with thy hand,
    Mother!"--Upon his eyes he placed her hand--
    "And fare you well! Now darkness clips me round."
    Then both breathed out their weary life together.
    But the queen, when she saw this direful end,
    Maddened with anguish drew the dead man's sword,
    And wrought things horrible; for through her throat
    She thrust the blade; and on her dearest falling
    Dies, and lies stretched, clasping both in her arms.

But to return to the virtue of #eupsychia#. The play of _Hecuba_
contains a still more touching picture of heroism in death than that
displayed by Menoikeus. Troy has been taken. Ulysses is sent by the
Greeks to inform Hecuba that her daughter Polyxena must be sacrificed.
Hecuba reminds him how in former days he had come disguised as a spy
to Troy, and how she had recognized him, and, at his strong entreaty,
spared him from discovery. In return for this, let him now spare her
daughter. Frigidly and politely Ulysses replies, "True, lady, a life
for a life. You saved mine, I would do something to save yours; but
your daughter is quite another person. I have not the pleasure of
having received benefits from her. I must trouble her to follow me."
Then Polyxena breaks silence:

    I see thee, how beneath thy robe, O king,
    Thy hand is hidden, thy face turned from mine,
    Lest I should touch thee by the beard and pray.
    Fear not: thou hast escaped the god of prayers
    For my part. I will rise and follow thee,
    Driven by strong need; yea, and not loath to die.
    Lo! if I should not seek death, I were found
    A cowardly, life-loving, selfish soul!
    For why should I live? Was my sire not king
    Of all broad Phrygia? Thus my life began;
    Then was I nurtured on fair bloom of hope
    To be the bride of kings; no small the suit,
    I ween, of lovers seeking me: thus I
    Was once--ah, woe is me! of Idan dames
    Mistress and queen, 'mid maidens like a star
    Conspicuous, peer of gods, except for death;
    And now I am a slave: this name alone
    Makes me in love with death--so strange it is.

Sheer contempt of life, when life has to be accepted on dishonorable
terms, is the virtue of Polyxena. But, so far, though we may admire
her fortitude, we have not been touched by her misfortune. Euripides
reserves the pathos, after his own fashion, for a picture. Talthybius,
the herald, is telling Hecuba how her daughter died:

    The whole vast concourse of the Achaian host
    Stood round the tomb to see your daughter die.
    Achilleus' son taking her by the hand,
    Placed her upon the mound, and I stayed near;
    And youths, the flower of Greece, a chosen few,
    With hands to check thy heifer, should she bound,
    Attended. From a cup of carven gold,
    Raised full of wine, Achilleus' son poured forth
    Libation to his sire, and bade me sound
    Silence throughout the whole Achaian host.
    I, standing there, cried in the midst these words:
    "Silence, Achaians! let the host be still!
    Hush hold your voices!" Breathless stayed the crowd;
    But he: "O son of Peleus, father mine,
    Take these libations pleasant to thy soul,
    Draughts that allure the dead: come, drink the black
    Pure maiden's blood wherewith the host and I
    Sue thee: be kindly to us; loose our prows,
    And let our barks go free; give safe return
    Homeward from Troy to all, and happy voyage."
    Such words he spake, and the crowd prayed assent.
    Then from the scabbard, by its golden hilt,
    He drew the sword, and to the chosen youths
    Signalled that they should bring the maid; but she,
    Knowing her hour was come, spake thus, and said:
    "O men of Argus who have sacked my town,
    Lo, of free will I die! let no man touch
    My body: boldly will I stretch my throat.
    Nay, but I pray you set me free, then slay;
    That free I thus may perish: 'mong the dead,
    Being a queen, I blush to be called slave."
    The people shouted, and King Agamemnon
    Bade the youths loose the maid, and set her free:
    She, when she heard the order of the chiefs,
    Seizing her mantle, from the shoulder down
    To the soft centre of her snowy waist
    Tore it, and showed her breasts and bosom fair
    As in a statue. Bending then with knee
    On earth, she spake a speech most piteous:
    "See you this breast, oh! youth, if breast you will,
    Strike it; take heart: or if beneath my neck,
    Lo! here my throat is ready for your sword!"
    He willing not, yet willing, pity-stirred
    In sorrow for the maiden, with his blade
    Severed the channels of her breath: blood flowed;
    And she, though dying, still had thought to fall
    In seemly wise hiding what eyes should see not.
    But when she breathed her life out from the blow,
    Then was the Argive host in divers way
    Of service parted; for some bringing leaves,
    Strewed them upon the corpse; some piled a pyre,
    Dragging pine trunks and boughs; and he who bore none,
    Heard from the bearers many a bitter word:
    "Standest thou, villain? Hast thou then no robe,
    No funeral honors for the maid to bring?
    Wilt thou not go and get for her who died
    Most nobly, bravest-souled, some gift?" Thus they
    Spake of thy child in death: "O thou most blessed
    Of women in thy daughter, most undone!"

The quality of #eupsychia# which we have seen in Menoikeus and Polyxena
is displayed by Macaria in the _Heracleidæ_ and by Iphigenia in the
last scene of her tragedy at Aulis. Iphigenia in this play ranks justly
as the most beautiful of Euripidean characters, and as the most truly
feminine among the heroines of the Greek drama. Her first appearance
on the stage enlists our sympathy, when she seems to welcome her
father--the father whom we know to be ignobly and deceitfully planning
her death--with the tenderest words of girlish greeting. Landor, in
his celebrated dialogue between Agamemnon and his daughter, on the
shores of Lethe, was mindful of this passage. But in that masterly
study of Greek style he added a new element of pathos. Iphigenia has
already drunk the waters of oblivion, and all the anguish of the
past, her father's treachery, and the bending of his will in base
compliance with a barbarous superstition, has been forgotten. Meanwhile
Agamemnon has not only his daughter's wrongs upon his conscience, but
Clytemnestra's adultery and vengeance, the price he paid for his old
crime, are still hot in his memory. Therefore the situation is more
complex in the modern poem. At Aulis, Iphigenia is but the loved child
of a weak man, who has to return her pretty speeches and caresses with
constrained phrases hiding a hideous meaning. When the truth is at
last made known to her she pleads passionately for life. "Had I the
tongue of Orpheus," she cries in her agony, "I would melt your heart to
pity, father, with my words. But now my only eloquence is tears. I was
the first who called you father, the first you called your child; the
first who sat upon your knees and took and gave a daughter's kisses."
She reminds him of his promises, the happy life she was to lead, the
comfort she meant to bring to his old age. She asks what Helen and
Paris have to do with her, or she with them, that she should perish in
their quarrel. She makes the little Orestes kneel and clasp his hands
in speechless prayer. At last the whole energy of her grief finds vent
in words more thrilling even than Claudio's when he thinks of death:
"Of all the joys that men can have, the sweetest is to live and see
the light. The dead are nothing; only madmen pray for death; it is
better to live miserably than to die gloriously." The effect of these
passionate entreaties and of the lyrical outburst of anguish which
follows is to make us feel the price of Iphigenia's sacrifice. She is
no forlorn captive like Polyxena, but a princess in the very bloom and
promise of her prime, affianced to Achilles, just entering upon the
sweetness of new life divined "in rich foreshadowings of the world."
How can she leave it all and go forth to dust and endless darkness? Yet
her father has dropped one word which in her first passion of grief
seems to be unheeded. "Hellas requires this of us both, my daughter--of
you as far as in you lies, and of me also, in order that she should be
free." When we next behold Iphigenia, his words had borne noble fruit.
Clytemnestra and Achilles are devising how to save her. She enters,
firm and resolute, but with the rapid utterance of exalted enthusiasm.
Her determination has been taken. The duty laid upon her, the greatness
of the glory, the grandeur of the part she has to play, had reconciled
her to death. "Mother, listen to my words! The whole of mighty Hellas
looks to me for her salvation and her freedom. How, then, should I be
so life-loving as to shrink? And you, you did not bear me for yourself
alone, but for all Greece. I give this my body for our land. Slay me;
destroy the towers of Ilion. This shall be my everlasting monument,
and this my children and my marriage and my fame." What follows in her
dialogue with Clytemnestra and Achilles, Clytemnestra vainly seeking
to overthrow her resolution, and Achilles blending his admiration of
her heroism with regret that he should lose this flower of royalty,
raises the unselfish passion of the girl to still sublimer height. She
is not only firm, but exquisitely gentle. She thinks of her brother,
whom she leaves behind. She entreats her mother to forgive Agamemnon.
And even when she breaks into lamentation, her one sustaining thought
remains, that she, she only, will overwhelm Troy, and bring the light
of safety and of freedom upon Hellas. Here, then, in the #eupsychia#
of Iphigenia, the antique thirst for glory is the determining motive;
and her final resolution contradicts that first outcry of simple nature
uttered to her father. The spiritual element, aflame with hope of
everlasting honor, discards the cruder instincts that make men cling to
life for life's sake only.

Another shade of the same virtue gives a peculiar attraction to
the self-devotion of Alcestis in her death, and of Electra in her
attendance on the brain-sick Orestes. Blending with the despair of
the captive princess and the frenzy of the inspired Pythia, this
sublime unselfishness renders Cassandra's attitude in the _Troades_
heroically tragic. She goes, a bondwoman, an unwilling concubine, with
Agamemnon to Mycenæ. Insult and slavery and a horrible death, clearly
discerned by her prophetic vision, are before her. And yet she triumphs
gloriously; her voice rings like a clarion when she proclaims that
the guerdon of her suffering is the ruin of the house of Atreus. It
is noticeable that Euripides, the so-called woman-hater, has alone
of the Greek poets subsequent to Homer, with the single exception of
Sophocles, devoted his genius to the delineation of female characters.
It is impossible to weigh occasional sententious sarcasms against
such careful studies of heroic virtue in woman as the Iphigenia, the
Electra, the Polyxena, the Alcestis of our poet. Aristophanes, who
was himself the worst enemy Athenian ladies ever met with, describes
Euripides as a foe to women, apparently because he thought fit to treat
them, not as automata, but as active, passionate, and powerful agents
in the play of human life.[8]

But to return to our illustrations of #eupsychia#. In the _Medea_ and
the _Hippolytus_ Euripides again displays this virtue of stern stoicism
in two women. But here the heroines are guilty: their Spartan endurance
of anguish to the death is tempered with crime. These tragedies are
the masterpieces of the poet; in each of them the single passion of
an individual forms the subject of the drama. Separated from all
antecedents of ancestral doom, Medea and Phædra work out the dreadful
consequences of their own tempestuous will. Not _Othello_, and not
_Faust_, have a more complete internal unity of motive. No modern
play has an equal external harmony of form. Medea was one of the
most romantic figures of Greek story. Daughter of the sun-god in the
Colchian land of mystery and magic, she unfolded like some poisonous
flower, gorgeous to look upon, with flaunting petals and intoxicating
scent, but deadly. Terrible indeed in wiles, she learned to love
Jason. By a series of crimes, in which the hero participated as her
accomplice, and of which he reaped the benefits--by the betrayal of
her father's trust, by the murder of her brother, by the butchery of
Pelias--she placed her lover on the throne of Thessaly. Then Jason, at
the height of his prosperity, forgetting the love, as of some tigress,
that the sorceress bore him, forgetting, too, her fatal power of life
and death, cast his eyes on Glauke, the king's daughter of Corinth, and
bade Medea go forth with her sons, a pariah--a dishonored wife. Whither
should she turn? To Colchis, and the father whose son she slew? To
Thessaly, where the friends of Pelias still live? Jason does not care.
His passion for Medea has vanished like a mist. Their common trials
common crimes--trials which should have endeared them to each other;
crimes which were as strong as hell to bind them--have melted from his
mind like dew. He only wishes to be rid of the fell woman, and to live
a peaceful life with innocent home-keeping folk. But on one thing Jason
has not reckoned--on the awful fury of his old love; he forgets how she
wrought by magic and by poison in his need, and how in her own need she
may do things terrible and strange. In the same way we often think that
we will lightly leave some ancient, strong, habitual sin, of old time
passionately cherished, of late grown burdensome; but not so easily may
the new pure life be won. Between our souls and it there stands the
fury of the past.

Medea in her house, like a lioness in her den, has crouched sleepless,
without food, not to be touched or spoken to, since the first news
of Glauke's projected bridal was told. No one knows what she is
meditating. Only the nurse of her children mistrusts her fiery eyes
and thunderous silence, her viperish loose hair and throbbing skin.
The moment is finely prepared. Some Corinthian ladies visit her, and
she, though loath to rise, does so at their prayer, excusing her
reluctance by illness, and by a foreigner's want of familiarity with
their customs. Pale, calm, and terrible, she stands before them. From
this first appearance of Medea to the end of the play, her one figure
occupies the whole space of the theatre. Her spirit is in the air,
and the progress of the action only dilates the impression which she
has produced. The altercations with Creon and with Jason are artfully
conducted so as to arouse our sympathy and make us feel that such a
nature is being driven by the intemperance and selfishness of others
into a _cul-de-sac_ of crime. The facility with which she disposes in
thought of her chief foes, as if they were so many flies that have to
be caught and killed, is eminently impressive. "Many are the ways
of death: I will stretch three corpses in the palace--Creon's, the
bride's, my husband's. My only thought is now of means--whether to burn
them or to cut their throats--perchance the old tried way of poison
were the best. They are dead." #Kai dê tethnasi.# Medea knows _they_
cannot escape her. For the rest, she will consider her own plans. In
the scene with Jason she rises to an appalling altitude. Her words
are winged snakes and the breath of furnaces. There is no querulous
recrimination, no impotence of anger; but her spirit glows and flickers
dragon-like against him, as she stands above him on the pedestal of his
ingratitude. But when he has gone, and she sits down to reconsider her
last act of vengeance--the murder of his sons and hers--then begins the
tragic agony of her own soul. These lines reveal the contest between a
mother's love and the pride of an injured woman, the #eupsychia# of one
who must steel her heart in order to preserve her fame for fortitude
and power:

    O Zeus, and justice of high Jove, and light
    Of Sun, all seeing! Now victorious
    Over my foes shall I pace forth, sweet friends,
    To triumph!
    I shudder at the deed that will be done
    Hereafter: for my children I shall slay--
    Mine; there is none shall snatch them from me now.
    Let no one deem me timid, weak of hand,
    Placidly tame; but of the other temper,
    Harsh to my foes and kindly to my friends.

Then when Glauke, arrayed in the robe Medea sent her, is smouldering
to ashes with her father in slow phosphorescent flame, Medea sends for
her children and makes that last speech which is the very triumph of
Euripidean rhetoric:

    O children, children! you have still a city,
    A home, where, lost to me and all my woe,
    You will live out your lives without a mother!
    But I--lo! I am for another land,
    Leaving the joy of you:--to see you happy,
    To deck your marriage-bed, to greet your bride,
    To light your wedding-torch shall not be mine!
    O me, thrice wretched in my own self-will!
    In vain, then, dear my children! did I rear you;
    In vain I travailed, and with wearing sorrow
    Bore bitter anguish in the hour of childbirth!
    Yea, of a sooth, I had great hope of you,
    That you should cherish my old age, and deck
    My corpse with loving hands, and make me blessed
    'Mid women in my death. But now, ah me!
    Hath perished that sweet dream. For long without you
    I shall drag out a dreary doleful age.
    And you shall never see your mother more
    With your dear eyes: for all your life is changed.
    Woe, woe!
    Why gaze you at me with your eyes, my children?
    Why smile your last sweet smile? Ah! me; ah! me!
    What shall I do? My heart dissolves within me,
    Friends, when I see the glad eyes of my sons!
    I cannot. No: my will that was so steady,
    Farewell to it. They too shall go with me:
    Why should I wound their sire with what wounds them,
    Heaping tenfold his woes on my own head?
    No, no, I shall not. Perish my proud will.
    Yet whence this weakness? Do I wish to reap
    The scorn that springs from enemies unpunished?
    Dare it I must. What craven fool am I,
    To let soft thoughts flow trickling from my soul!
    Go, boys, into the house: and he who may not
    Be present at my solemn sacrifice--
    Let him see to it. My hand shall not falter.
    Ah! ah!
    Nay, do not, O my heart! do not this thing!
    Suffer them, O poor fool; yea, spare thy children!
    There in thy exile they will gladden thee.
    Not so: by all the plagues of nethermost hell
    It shall not be that I, that I should suffer
    My foes to triumph and insult my sons!
    Die must they: this must be, and since it must,
    I, I myself will slay them, I who bore them.
    So it is fixed, and there is no escape.
    Even as I speak, the crown is on her head,
    The bride is dying in her robes, I know it.
    But since this path most piteous I tread,
    Sending them forth on paths more piteous far,
    I will embrace my children. Oh, my sons,
    Give, give your mother your dear hands to kiss!
    Oh, dearest hands, and mouths most dear to me,
    And forms and noble faces of my sons!
    Be happy even there: what here was yours,
    Your father robs you of. Oh, loved embrace!
    Oh, tender touch and sweet breath of my boys!
    Go, go, go, leave me! Lo, I cannot bear
    To look on you: my woes have overwhelmed me!
    Now know I all the ill I have to do:
    But rage is stronger than my better mind,
    Rage, cause of greatest crimes and griefs to mortals.[9]

Phædra, the heroine of the _Hippolytus_, supplies us with a new
conception of the same thirst for #eukleia#--the same #eupsychia,
gennaiotês#, indifference to life when honor is at stake. The pride of
her good name drives Phædra to a crime more detestable than Medea's,
because her victim, Hippolytus, is eminently innocent. I do not want to
dwell upon the pining sickness of Phædra, which Euripides has wrought
with exquisitely painful details, but rather to call attention to
Hippolytus. Side by side with the fever of Phædra is the pure fresh
health of the hunter-hero. The scent of forest-glades, where he pursues
the deer with Artemis, surrounds him; the sea-breeze from the sands,
where he trains his horses, moves his curls. His piety is as untainted
as his purity; it is the maiden-service of a maiden-saint. In his
observance of the oath extorted from him by Phædra's nurse, in his
obedience to his father's will, in his kindness to his servants, in
his gentle endurance of a painful death, and in the joy with which he
greets the virgin huntress when she comes to visit him, Euripides has
firmly traced the ideal of a guileless, tranquil manhood. Hippolytus
among the ancients was the Paladin of chastity, the Percival of their
romance. Nor is any knight of mediæval legend more true and pure than
he. Hippolytus first comes upon the stage with a garland of wild
flowers for Artemis:

    Lady, for thee this garland have I woven
    Of wilding flowers plucked from an unshorn meadow,
    Where neither shepherd dares to feed his flock,
    Nor ever scythe hath swept, but through the mead
    Unshorn in spring the bee pursues her labors,
    And maiden modesty with running rills
    Waters the garden. Sweet queen, take my crown
    To deck thy golden hair: my hand is holy.
    To me alone of men belongs this honor,
    To be with thee and answer when thou speakest;
    Yea, for I hear thy voice but do not see thee.
    So may I end my life as I began.

Even in this bald translation some of the fresh morning feeling,
as of cool fields and living waters, and pure companionship and a
heart at peace, transpires. Throughout the play, in spite of the
usual Euripidean blemishes of smart logic-chopping and pragmatical
sententiousness, this impression is maintained. Hippolytus moves
through it with the athletic charm that belongs to such statues as
that of Meleager and his dog in the Vatican. At the end the young hero
is carried from the sea-beach, mangled, and panting out his life amid
intolerable pain and fever-thirst. His lamentations are loud and deep
as he calls on Death the healer. Then suddenly is he aware of the
presence of Artemis:

    Oh, breath and perfume of the goddess! Lo,
    I feel thee even in torment, and am eased!
    Here in this place is Artemis the queen.

The scent of the forest coolness has been blown upon him. His death
will now be calm.

    _A._ Poor man! she is; the goddess thou most loved.

    _H._ Seest thou me, lady, in what plight I lie?

    _A._ I see thee; but I may not drop a tear.

    _H._ Thou hast no huntsman and no servant now.

    _A._ Nay, truly, since thou diest, dear my friend.

    _H._ No groom, no guardian of thy sculptured shrine.

    _A._ 'Twas Kupris, the arch-fiend, who wrought this woe.

    _H._ Ah, me! Now know I what god made me die.

    _A._ Shorn of her honor, vexed with thy chaste life.

    _H._ Three of us her one spite--behold! hath slain.

    _A._ Thy father, and his wife, and thirdly thee.

    _H._ Yea, and I therefore mourn my sire's ill hap.

    _A._ Snared was he by a goddess's deceit.

    _H._ Oh! for your sorrow in this woe, my father!

    _T._ Son! I have perished: life has now no joy.

    _H._ I mourn this error more for you than me.

    _T._ Would, son, I were a corpse instead of you.

    _A._ Stay! for though earth and gloom encircle thee,
    Not even thus the anger unavenged
    Of Kupris shall devour at will thy body:
    For I, with my own hand, to pay for thee,
    Will pierce of men him whom she mostly dotes on,
    With these inevitable shafts. But thou,
    As guerdon for thine anguish, shalt henceforth
    Gain highest honors in Troezenian land,
    My gift. Unwedded maids before their bridals
    Shall shear their locks for thee, and thou forever
    Shalt reap the harvest of unnumbered tears.
    Yea, and for aye, with lyre and song the virgins
    Shall keep thy memory; nor shall Phædra's love
    For thee unnamed fall in oblivious silence.
    But thou, O son of aged Ægeus, take
    Thy child within thy arms and cherish him;
    For without guile thou slewest him, and men,
    When the gods lead, may well lapse into error.
    Thee too I counsel; hate not thy own father,
    Hippolytus: 'twas fate that ruined thee.

Thus Artemis reconciles father and son. Hippolytus dies slowly in the
arms of Theseus, and the play ends. The appearance of the goddess,
as a lady of transcendent power more than as a divine being--her
vindictive hatred of Aphrodite, and the moral that she draws about the
fate by which Hippolytus died and Theseus sinned, are all thoroughly
Euripidean. Not so would Æschylus the theologian, or Sophocles the
moralist, have dealt with the conclusion of the play. But neither would
have drawn a more touching picture.

The following scene from the opening of the _Orestes_ may be taken as
a complete specimen of the manner of Euripides when working pathos to
its highest pitch, and when desirous of introducing into mythic history
the realities of common life. Electra appears as the devoted sister;
Orestes as the invalid brother; the Chorus are somewhat importunate,
but, at the same time, sympathetic visitors. This extract also serves
to illustrate the Euripidean habit of mingling lyrical dialogue with
the more regular Iambic in passages which do not exactly correspond to
the Commos of the elder tragedians, but which require highly wrought
expression. Helen has just left Electra. As the wife of Menelaus walks
away, the daughter of Agamemnon follows her with her eyes, and speaks

    _El._ O nature! what a curse art thou 'mid men--
    Yea, and a safeguard to the nobly-tempered!

                                          [_Points her finger at Helen._

    See how she snipped the tips of her long hair,
    Saving its beauty! She's the same woman still.--
    May the gods hate thee for the ruin wrought
    On me, on him, on Hellas! Woe is me!

                                           [_Sees the Chorus advancing._

    Here come my friends again with lamentations,
    To join their wails with mine: they'll drive him far
    From placid slumber, and will waste mine eyes
    With weeping when I see my brother mad.

                                              [_Speaking to the Chorus._

    O dearest maidens, tread with feet of wool;
    Come softly, make no rustling, raise no cry:
    For though your kindness be right dear to me,
    Yet to wake him will work me double mischief.

                                                   [_The Chorus enters._

    _Ch._ Softly, softly! let your tread
    Fall upon the ground like snow!
    Every sound be dumb and dead:
    Breathe and speak in murmurs low!

    _El._ Further from the couch, I pray you; further yet, and yet away!

    _Ch._ Even so, dear maid, you see that I obey.

    _El._ Ah, my friend, speak softly, slowly,
          Like the sighing of a rush.

    _Ch._ See I speak and answer lowly
    With a stealthy smothered hush.

    _El._ That is right: come hither now; come boldly forward to my side;
          Come, and say what need hath brought you: for at length
              with watching tried,
          Lo, he sleeps, and on the pillow spreads his limbs and
              tresses wide.

    _Ch._ How is he? Dear lady, say:
          Let us hear your tale, and know
          Whether you have joy to-day,
          Whether sorrow brings you low.

    _El._ He is breathing still, but slightly groaning in his sleep alway.

    _Ch._ O poor man! but tell us plainer what you say.

    _El._ Hush! or you will scare the pleasant
          Sleep that to his eyelid brings
          Brief oblivion of the present.

    _Ch._ Ah, thrice wretched race that springs
          Burdened with the god-sent curses of abhorrèd deeds!

    _El._ Ah, me:
          Guilty was the voice of Phoebus, when enthroned for prophecy,
          He decreed my mother's murder--mother murdered guiltily!

    _Ch._ Look you, lady, on his bed,
          How he gently stirs and sighs!

    _El._ Woe is me! His sleep hath fled,
          Frightened by your noisy cries!

    _Ch._ Nay; I thought he sleeping lay.

    _El._ Hence, I bid you, hence away
          From the bedside, from the house!
          Cease your noise;
          Subdue your voice;
          Stay not here to trouble us!

    _Ch._ He is sleeping, and you rightly caution us.

    _El._ Holy mother, mother Night!
          Thou who sheddest sleep on every wearied wight!
          Arise from Erebus, arise
          With plumy pinions light:
          Hover o'er the house of Atreus; and upon our aching eyes,
          Wearied with woe,
          With grief brought low,
          Solace bring 'mid miseries.
          Silence! Hush! what noise was this?
          Can you ne'er your tongue restrain,
          And allow soft slumber's kiss
          To refresh his fevered brain?

    _Ch._ Tell me, lady, what the close
          Of his grief is like to be?

    _El._ Death. Nought else will end his woes.
          Lo, he fasts continually.

    _Ch._ Alas! Alas! his fate is sure.

    _El._ By the promise to make pure
          Hands a mother's life-blood stained,
          Phoebus brought
          Woe, and wrought
          All the grief that we have gained.

    _Ch._ Just it was to slay the slayer; yet the deed with
              crime was fraught.

    _El._ Thou art dead: oh, thou art dead,
          Mother, who didst bear me! mother, who didst shed
          A father's blood, and slay
          The children of thy bed!
          We are dying, we are dying, like the dead, and weak as they:
          For thou art gone,
          And I am wan,
          Weeping, sighing night and day!
          Look upon me, friends, behold
          How my withered life must run,
          Childless, homeless, sad and cold,
          Comfortless beneath the sun.

    _Ch._ Come hither, maid Electra, to the couch:
          Lest haply he should breathe his life away
          Unheeded: I like not this deep dead languor.

                                                    [_Orestes wakes up._

    _Or._ O soothing sleep! dear friend! best nurse of sickness!
          How sweetly came you in my hour of need.
          Blest Lethe of all woes, how wise you are,
          How worthy of the prayers of wretched men!
          Whence came I to this place? How journeyed I?
          I cannot think: my former mind is vanished.

    _El._ O dearest, how hath your sleep gladdened me!
          Say, can I help to soothe or raise your body?

    _Or._ Yes, take me, take me: with your kind hands wipe
          The foam of fever from my lips and eyes.

    _El._ Sweet is this service to me; I am glad
          To soothe my brother with a sister's hand.

    _Or._ Support me with your breast, and fan my forehead;
          Brush the loose hair: I scarce can see for sickness.

    _El._ Poor head! How rough and tangled are the curls,
          How haggard is your face with long neglect!

    _Or._ Now lay me back upon the bed again:
          When the fit leaves me, I am weak and helpless.

    _El._ Yea; and the couch is some relief in sickness,
          A sorry friend, but one that must be borne with.

    _Or._ Raise me once more upright, and turn my body:
          Sick men are hard to please, through wayward weakness.

    _El._ How would you like to put your feet to earth?
          'Tis long since you stood up; and change is pleasant.

    _Or._ True: for it gives a show of seeming health;
          And shows are good, although there be no substance.

                        [_Orestes changes his posture and sits at ease._

    _El._ Now listen to me, dearest brother mine,
          While the dread Furies leave you space to think.

    _Or._ What have you new to say? Good news will cheer me;
          But of what's bad I have enough already.

    _El._ Menelaus is here, your father's brother:
          His ships are safely moored in Nauplia.

    _Or._ What! Has he come to end your woes and mine?
          He is our kinsman and our father's debtor.

    _El._ He has: and this is surety for my words--
          Helen hath come with him from Troy, is here.

    _Or._ If heaven had saved but him, he'd now be happier:
          But with his wife, he brings a huge curse home.

    _El._ Yea: Tyndareus begat a brood of daughters
          Marked out for obloquy, a shame through Hellas.

    _Or._ Be you, then, other than the bad; you can:
          Make not fine speeches, but be rightly minded!

                                    [_As he speaks, he becomes excited._

    _El._ Ah me, my brother! your eyes roll and tremble--
          One moment sane, and now swift frenzy fires you!

                               [_Orestes speaks to phantoms in the air._

    _Or._ Mother, I sue to thee: nay, mother, hound not
          Those blood-faced, snake-encircled women on me!
          There! There! See there--close by they bound upon me!

    _El._ Stay, wretched brother; start not from the bed!
          For nought you see of what seems clear and certain.

    _Or._ O Phoebus! They will slay me, those dog-faced,
          Fierce-eyed, infernal ministers, dread goddesses!

    _El._ I will not leave you! but with woven arms
          Will stay you from the direful spasm-throes.

                                     [_Orestes hurls Electra, from him._

    _Or._ Let go! Of my damned Furies thou art one,
          That with thy grip wouldst hale me down to hell!

    _El._ Ah, woe is me! what succor shall I find,
          Seeing the very gods conspire against us?

    _Or._ Give me my bow and arrows, Phoebus' gift,
          Wherewith Apollo bade me fight the fiends,
          If they should scare me with wild-eyed delirium.
          Some god shall feel the fury of man's hand,
          Unless ye vanish forth from out my sight!

                                           [_He threatens the phantoms._

    Hear ye not! See ye not the feathery wings
    Of swift, sure-striking shafts, ready to flutter?
    Ha! Ha!
    Why linger here? Go, sweep with outspread pinions
    The windy sky! Hence, and complain of Phoebus!
    Woe's me!

                                         [_Recovering his reason again._

          Why waste I breath, wearying my lungs in vain?
          Where am I? From my bed how leaped I--when?
          'Midmost the waves once more I see fair weather.
          Sister, why weep you? Wherefore veil your head?
          I blush to see you partner of my woe,
          Blush that a girl should suffer in my sickness.
          Nay, do not pine thus, bowed beneath my burden--
          All mine;--you said but yea, 'twas I who shed
          Our mother's blood: but Loxias I blame,
          Who urging me to most unholy deeds
          Helped me with words, in act availed me nothing.
          Yea, and I think my sire, if, face to face,
          I asked him--is it right to slay my mother?
          Would lengthen many prayers, beseeching me
          Never to draw my sword on her who bare me,
          Seeing he might not see the sun again,
          And I am doomed to bear this weight of horrors.--
          But now unveil your face again, dear sister,
          And cease from weeping--even though we be
          Ringed round with sorrows. When you see me downcast,
          Soothe you my terror and my frenzied soul--
          Soothe and caress me; yea, and when you moan,
          'Tis mine to stay and comfort as I can:
          For these kind services of friends are fair,
          But, dear, sad sister, go into the house,
          And give your watchful eyes to sleep, and rest;
          Take food, and with fair water bathe yourself.
          For think, if you should fail me, if by watching
          You take some sickness, then we're lost: 'tis you,
          You only, are my help; all else is vanished.

    _El._ Not so. With you to die I choose, with you
          To live: it is all one; for if you perish,
          What shall I do--a woman? How shall I,
          Brotherless, friendless, fatherless, alone,
          Live on? Nay, if you ask it, I will do
          Your will: but, brother, rest you on your bed;
          Nor take the terror and the startling fear
          For more than phantoms: stay upon the couch.
          For though one is not sick, and only seems,
          Yet is this pain and weariness to mortals.

This scene, for variety of motive and effect, is not excelled by any
passage in ancient tragedy. The scope which it afforded for impressive
acting must have been immense, though it is difficult to understand how
the fixed masks and conventional dresses of the Greek stage could have
been adapted to the violent and frequent changes of mood exhibited
by Orestes. Adequately to render the effect of the lyrical dialogue
between Electra and the Chorus is very difficult. I have attempted to
maintain in some degree the antistrophic pauses, and by the use of
rhyme to hint how very near the tragedy of the Greeks approached, in
scenes like this, to the Italian opera. The entrance of the Chorus
singing "Silence" can only be paralleled by passages in which the spies
or conspirators of Rossini or Mozart appear upon the stage, whispering
"Zitto! Zitto!" to the sound of subdued music. In the same way
Electra's impassioned apostrophe to Night must have been the subject of
an elaborate aria.

The scene which I have translated from the _Orestes_ suggests the
remark that many Euripidean plays were in fact melodramas. This is
true, in a special sense, of the _Troades_, which must have owed its
interest as an acted drama to the music and the _mise en scène_. It is
also worthy of notice that a fair proportion of our extant tragedies
are what the Germans call _Lustspiele_. That is to say, they have no
proper tragic ending, and the element of tragedy contained in them
consists of perils escaped by the chief actors. Thus the _Helena_
and the _Iphigenia in Tauris_ have a joyful climax. The _Orestes_
closes with a reconciliation of all parties, hurriedly effected, that
reminds us of a modern comedy. The _Ion_ is brought to a satisfactory
conclusion. The apotheosis of Iphigenia in her play at Aulis eliminates
the tragic element, though, regarded as the first part of an eminently
tragic series and read by the light of the _Electra_, this play may be
regarded as the prologue to a mighty drama of crime and retribution.
The _Alcestis_ is now universally and rightly classed among the
plays of a semi-satyric character; and the _Andromache_ is not a
genuine tragedy, since the death of Neoptolemus is episodical and
has little to do with the previous action. In all these plays the
key-note is struck by the Greek phrase #metabolê#, which signified a
revolution brought about within the limits of a certain situation.
This probably attracted Euripides to the class of drama in question,
since it enabled him to deal freely with character and to concentrate
his attention upon the working out of striking incidents. From this
point of view the _Andromache_ is so important that it deserves more
than a passing notice. The peculiar faculty and the prevailing faults
of the poet are alike illustrated in its scenes--his fine and sharp
character-making in the chief personages, his powerful rhetoric and
subtle special-pleading, his acute remarks on politics and domestic
relations, no less than his wilful neglect of dramatic unity and wanton
carelessness of construction. Viewed in one light, the _Andromache_
is a bitter satire upon the Spartan type of character, exemplified
in the cruel Hermione and the treacherous Menelaus. From yet another
standpoint of criticism it may be regarded as a dramatic essay on the
choice of wives and the economy of the household. Thus the political
and social theorist overlays the artist proper in this play; and yet
the language is so brilliant, the pathos is so telling, and the
lyrical episodes are so musical that we understand its popularity among
the ancients. At the opening of the drama, Andromache, who has taken
sanctuary at Phthia in the shrine of Thetis, describes the misery
of her situation as bondwoman and concubine to Neoptolemus. Though
warmly attached to herself and the father of her son Molossus, he has
recently married Hermione, the Spartan princess. Thus the true subject
of the play is set before us; for if the _Andromache_ has any unity of
conception, we must find it in the "nuptial choice" of Neoptolemus,
who, after bringing discord into his household by the jealousy of two
women, eventually meets his death as an indirect consequence of this
domestic folly. The elegiac lamentations of the Trojan princess and
the tender remonstrances of the Chorus, which follow the prologue, are
among the most melodious passages of poetry in Euripides. Then the
action begins. Neoptolemus is away at Delphi. Hermione and her father,
Menelaus, remain at home, and use the opportunity for persecuting
Andromache. In a long and agitating scene with Hermione, the heroine
shows that she remains a noble lady, of untamed and royal soul, in
spite of slavery. She disregards all threats, and maintains her station
at the altar, whither she has fled for safety. One menace only makes
her flinch. It is that violence may be done to her child Molossus,
if she will not move. Now Menelaus enters, and the altercations are
repeated, all tending to the same point of proving the odiousness of
the Spartan character and the dignity of Andromache. Meanwhile our
interest in her misfortunes is gradually heightened; and we tremble
for her when at last Menelaus persuades her to leave the sanctuary
by assuring her that the only way of saving Molossus is to sacrifice
her own life. At this point the pathos of the situation becomes
truly Euripidean. We have the spectacle of a tender and helpless
mother in the power of a merciless tyrant, obliged to give her own
life for her son, not shrinking from the sacrifice, but dreading to
leave him unprotected to his future fate amid unkindly aliens. She
rises from the altar; and no sooner is she in the hands of Menelaus,
than he tells her that his promises were fraudulent. Molossus will
be butchered after all. Then follows a great scene of high-wrought
feeling. Andromache and Molossus are kneeling before Menelaus praying
for their lives, when Peleus, the aged grandfather of Neoptolemus,
appears and stays the execution. Euripides has drawn the character
of Peleus with something of the heat and fury of the Sophoclean
Teiresias. The old king does not spare Menelaus, but makes his tongue
a scourge to flay him with invective. The end of the struggle is that
Peleus conveys Andromache and the boy safely away; and during the
rest of the drama we hear nothing of them. Meantime Hermione, who, in
contrast to Andromache's noble firmness and womanhood, is the type of
_impotentia_, as quick to self-abandonment as she was blind in selfish
cruelty, begins to reflect upon her husband's anger. What will he
say and do if he returns and hears of her intention with regard to
Andromache? She is only just prevented from committing suicide, and
lies sunk in contemptible remorse, when a new actor appears upon the
scene. It is Orestes, to whom Hermione had been affianced at Argos.
The treacherous Menelaus preferred to give her to a more fortunate and
respectable husband; but Orestes has a mind to wed her still, and has
resolved to murder Neoptolemus at Delphi because of the insult put upon
himself. He therefore removes Hermione from the palace, and departs
for Delphi. Peleus is now left alone upon the stage, to hear of the
murder of his grandson from a messenger, and to receive instructions
from Thetis as to the future of the realm of Phthia. It will be seen
that the construction of this drama is defective, and that it has two
separate plots, the one relating to Andromache, the other to Hermione
and Orestes, which are only brought into artificial connection by the
death of Neoptolemus. The speedy disappearance of Andromache from the
scene, followed by the flight of Hermione and the escape of Menelaus to
Sparta, leaves Peleus, who is only an accessory character, to bear the
whole burden of the climax. Thus the _Andromache_ lacks both internal
and external unity, the unity of subject and form. Of material it
has plenty, whether we regard the resolutions of fortune effected for
the chief actors, or the variety of incidents, or the richness of
reflective sentences, or the introduction of new "business" to sustain
the flagging interest of the spectators. As a drama, it is second-rate.
As a machine for the exhibition of specifically Euripidean qualities,
it must rank high among the extant tragedies.

The _Iphigenia in Aulide_, the _Electra_, the _Orestes_, and the
_Iphigenia in Tauris_ might be called the Euripidean Oresteia,
since each of these plays treats that portion of the Atridan story
which Æschylus had handled in his three dramas. We miss the final
purification of the hero, and have to infer the climax from the
allusions of the _Andromache_, where, it may be said in passing, the
noble type of his character, maintained without interruption in the
_Electra_, the _Orestes_, and the _Tauric Iphigenia_, is deformed by
a savagery and guile that must have been repellent even to a Greek
audience. In the _Electra_ Euripides comes immediately and without
doubt consciously into competition with both Æschylus and Sophocles.
Like Sophocles, he has painted Electra as of harder nature than her
brother. When Orestes, before engaging in his mother's murder, shows
signs of yielding to his filial feeling and expresses a doubt about
the oracle, she, like Lady Macbeth, reanimates his wavering courage
with argument and taunt. But Euripides seems to have felt that it
was unnatural in the Sophoclean drama to represent both brother and
sister as unterrified by conscience after the successful issue of
their plot. The lyrical dialogue between Orestes and Electra, when
he returns with their mother's blood upon his hands and sword, is
both terribly true to nature and dramatically striking. It needs the
appearance of the Dioscuri to confirm them in the faith that they had
done a righteous, heaven-appointed deed of justice. By this touch
Euripides proved his determination to bring even the most mysterious of
legends within the pale of ordinary human experience. The situation in
which he places Electra at the opening of the play, outcast from her
father's palace and wedded to a farmer, ragged in attire and obliged
to do the hard work of her household, is another and perhaps a less
justifiable instance of his realism. The stirring of compassion by the
exhibition of material misery was one of the points urged against him
by Aristophanes; nor is it possible to feel that Electra's squalor adds
anything essential to her tragedy. We may, however, be thankful to
the poet for the democratic ideal of good manners and true chivalry,
irrespective of blood and accidental breeding, which he has painted
in his portrait of Electra's husband.[10] Not contented with thus
varying the earlier outlines of the legend, Euripides in more than one
passage directs a covert criticism against his predecessors. He shows
that the tests of his identity offered by Orestes to Electra in the
plays of Æschylus and Sophocles were insufficient, and that the murder
of Clytemnestra in her palace, surrounded by the guard of a royal
household, was improbable. The new motives invented by him for the
recognition of Orestes and for the withdrawing of the queen to a place
where she could be conveniently despatched are highly ingenious. Yet in
the latter circumstance, what he gained in realism he lost in dramatic
effect; for it was an incident of appalling terror that Clytemnestra
and her paramour should be smitten in those very recesses of the palace
where they had slaughtered Agamemnon, beneath the influence of those
domestic Furies who, like an infernal revel, occupied the house of
Atreus until all the guilty blood was shed. Throughout the _Electra_
we feel that we are in the presence of a critical, realistic, and at
the same time romantic, poet, who has embroidered the old material of
heroic story with modern casuistry, and has been working less with
a view to producing a masterpiece of art than with the object of
asserting his ingenuity within the narrow field of an exhausted legend.
Had we not the _Choëphoroe_ and the Sophoclean _Electra_ for standards
of comparison, it is possible that we might do simpler justice to the
creative power of "sad Electra's poet" in this drama. As it is, we can
hardly refrain from treating it as a triumph of skill and reflective
ability, rather than as a potent work of original genius.

The _Orestes_ lies open to even more stringent criticism. The whole
conclusion, consisting of the burning of the palace at Argos, the
apotheosis of Helen, the lamentations of the Phrygian slave, and the
betrothal of direst enemies above the ruins of their ancestral home, is
more comic than tragic, and almost justifies the theory that Euripides
intended it to be a parody of some contemporary drama. This portion
of the play, moreover, is a melodrama, and joins on to the first part
by a merely formal link. Such interest as the _Orestes_ possesses,
after the beautiful opening scene, centres in the heroic friendship
of Pylades, who sustains the hero in his suffering and defends him
from the angry folk of Argos. It is far otherwise with the _Tauric
Iphigenia_. Here Euripides comes into no competition with Æschylus or
Sophocles; for he has handled a legend outside the sphere of their
known plays. It is one eminently suited to his powers, involving the
description of romantic scenery, the recognition of brother by sister
in circumstances of deep pathos and extreme improbability, the contest
of the most powerful natural feelings, and in the last place, the
exhibition of dangers impending upon all the chief personages and only
avoided by a thoroughly Euripidean fraud. None of the plots invented
by Euripides are so nicely finished or so rich in incident as this;
and yet there is nothing mechanical in its construction. Few of his
plays have choral passages to match the yearnings of the captive
maidens for their home in Hellas or the praise of young Apollo throned
by Zeus for prophecy beneath Parnassus. Few again are richer or more
truthful in their presentation of emotions--the exquisite delicacy
of a sister's affection, the loyalty of friends, and the passionate
outpouring of a brother's love. Something in the savage circumstances
of the play, the sombre Tauric scenery, the dreadful rites of Artemis,
to whom Iphigenia has been bound, and the watchful jealousy of her
barbarian king, enhances the beautiful humanity of those three Greeks,
burdened with such weight of sorrow on a foreign shore, haunted by
memories of a father's cruelty, a mother's infidelity, pursued by
the Furies of a righteous but abominable deed, yet none the less
enjoying for one moment in the midst of pain and peril the pure
pleasures of companionship. The chorus of Hellenic captives maintains
an undercurrent of sad music that still further helps to heighten
and interpret the situation. It is only at the last, when the knot
of the situation has to be cut, that our sympathy begins to fail us.
Thoas, though a barbarian, had been generous and kind. Yet Iphigenia
employs a heartless device for escaping from his hands with the sacred
image of the Tauri in her possession; nor does she feel a moment's
pang of remorse for the pain she is inflicting or for the lies she
has employed to serve her purpose. It may indeed be said generally
that Euripides justified the Aristophanic reproach of meanness by
his too frequent employment of tricks and subterfuges. These are so
distasteful to modern feeling that we are glad to know that even a
Greek critic regarded them as faulty. With Iphigenia's treason against
Thoas we might compare Helen's plot for deceiving Theoclymenus, the
insidious attack of Orestes upon Neoptolemus at Delphi, the capture of
Helen and Hermione by Orestes and Pylades at Argos, and Agamemnon's
incredibly base lure to Clytemnestra and Iphigenia before Aulis. It
is scarcely a defence of Euripides to urge that the gods themselves,
as in the case of the Tauric Iphigenia, sanction these deceptions.
This only makes the matter worse, and forces us to choose between two
hypotheses--either that Euripides sought to bring the old religion into
contempt, or that he used its morality for merely theatrical purposes
to justify the romantic crimes of his heroes. The latter seems the more
probable theory; for it is clear in some most eminent examples that
he has treated a deeply immoral legend for the sake of its admirable
artistic capabilities. This is undoubtedly the case with the _Ion_,
which presents a marvellous tale of human suffering, adventure, crime,
and final felicity, dependent in all its details upon the fraud of a
deity. Without doing justice to the masterly construction of the plot,
the beautiful poetry, and the sustained interest of the _Ion_, it may
be allowed me here to dwell for one moment on its morality. Phoebus
begets the boy Ion by a rape upon Creusa, and steals the boy away from
Athens to Delphi. The mother is left to bewail not her shame only,
but the loss of her son. In course of time she marries Xuthus and is
childless. They go together to Delphi to inquire of the oracle; and
here Xuthus is lyingly informed that Ion is the son of his youthful
years. Rage and jealousy impel Creusa, on hearing this news, to poison
Ion. She fails, and Ion in revenge attempts to murder her. The danger
of Creusa at last forces Phoebus to reveal the truth through the mouth
of Athene, who tells the queen that Ion is really her lost son, the
offspring of Apollo's crime. Xuthus happens to be absent during this
disclosure, and the goddess advises Creusa to keep the real truth
to herself, since the good man already supposes Ion to be his own
child, and will consequently treat him like a son. Stripped of its
dramatic ornaments, its wonderful scene-painting, pathetic situations,
unexpected recognitions, sudden catastrophes, accidents and dangers and
adventures, this is the plain legend of the _Ion_; and a less ethical
story of the gods could scarcely be found among those which Plato
criticised in the _Republic_.

It is time to return from this digression once more to the plays
which deal with Orestes. In them Euripides painted a virtue dear
in its heroic aspect to the Greeks and celebrated in many of their
legends, but which had not frequently been made the subject of dramatic
presentation. The character of Pylades as the perfect comrade, fierce
as a tiger and cunning as a fox against his foes, but tender as a
woman to his suffering friend, willing to face all dangers in common
with Orestes, enduring for his sake the obloquy of the world and the
mysterious taint of religious impurity, refusing to live in his death
and contending with him for the right to die, must be accepted as a
masterpiece of creative power. There is nothing in common between
Pylades and the confidant of modern tragedy--that _alter ego_ or shadow
of the hero's self, who dogs his path and reflects his sentiments.
Pylades has a distinctly separate personality; in the _Orestes_, when
Electra and her brother have abandoned hope, he takes the initiative
and suggests the scheme that saves them. Yet none the less is sympathy
the main point in his character. Euripides wrote nothing more touching
than the description of his help afforded to Orestes in the council
of the Argives, nothing more sublime than the contest between the two
comrades in the _Tauric Iphigenia_, when it is a question which of
them should stay and by his own death save his friend for Hellas. Had
the Athenians thus always thought of friendship, or had they learned
the enthusiasm of its ideal from Euripides, they might indeed have
bequeathed a new chivalry to the world. The three tragedies in which
Pylades plays a prominent part, the _Electra_, _Orestes_, and _Tauric
Iphigenia_, are storehouses of the noblest sentiments and deepest
truths about heroic friendship.

It is hard, while still beneath the overshadowing presence of so great
a master as Euripides, to have patience with the critics and the
scholars who scorn him--critics who cannot comprehend him, scholars
who have not read him since they were at school. Decadence! is their
cry. Yet what would they have? Would they ask for a second Sophocles,
or a revived Æschylus? That being clearly impossible, beyond all scope
of wish, why will they not be satisfied with beauty as luminous as
that of a Greek statue or a Greek landscape, with feeling as profound
as humanity itself, and with wisdom "musical as is Apollo's lute?"
These are the qualities of a great poet, and we contend that Euripides
possesses them in an eminent degree. It is false criticism, surely,
to do as Schlegel, Müller, and Bunsen have successively done[11]--to
measure Euripides by the standard of the success of his predecessors,
or to ransack his plays for illustrations of pet dramatic theories, and
then, because he will not bear these tests, to refuse to see his own
distinguished merits. It would sometimes seem as if our nature were
exhausted by its admiration of a Sophocles or a Shakespeare. There is
no enthusiasm left for Euripides and Fletcher.

Euripides, after all is said, incontestably displays the quality of
radiancy. On this I should be willing to base a portion of his claim to
rank as a great poet. An admirer of Æschylus or Sophocles might affirm
that neither Æschylus nor Sophocles chose to use their art for the
display of thrilling splendor. However that may be, Euripides, alone
of Greeks, with the exception of Aristophanes, entered the fairyland
of dazzling fancy which Calderon and Shakespeare and Fletcher trod.
The _Bacchæ_, like the _Birds_, proves what otherwise we might have
hardly known, that there lacked not Greeks for whom the _Tempest_ and
_A Midsummer-Night's Dream_ would have been intelligible. Meanwhile,
in making any estimate of the merits of Euripides, it would be unfair
to omit mention of the enthusiasm felt for him by contemporaries
and posterity. Mr. Browning, in the beautiful monument which he has
erected to the fame of Euripides, has chosen for poetical treatment
the well-known story of Athenians rescued from captivity by recitation
of the verses of their poet.[12] There is no reason to doubt a story
which attests so strongly to the acceptation in which Euripides was
held at large among the Greeks. Socrates, again, visited the theatre
on the occasion of any representation of his favorite's plays. By the
new comedians, Menander and Philemon, Euripides was regarded as a
divine miracle. Tragedy and comedy, so dissimilar in their origins,
had approximated to a coalition; tragedy losing its religious dignity,
comedy quitting its obscene though splendid personalities; both meeting
on the common ground of daily life. In the decadence of Greece it was
not Æschylus and Aristophanes, but Euripides and Menander, who were
learned and read and quoted. The colossal theosophemes of Æschylus
called for profound reflection; the Titanic jokes of Aristophanes taxed
the imagination to its utmost stretch. But Euripides "the human, with
his droppings of warm tears," gently touched and soothed the heart.
Menander with his facile wisdom flattered the intellect of worldly
men. The sentences of both were quotable at large and fit for all
occasions. They were not too great, too lofty, too profound for the
paths of common life. We have lost Menander, alas! but we still possess
Euripides. It seems a strange neglect of good gifts to shut our ears
to his pathetic melodies and ringing eloquence--because, forsooth,
Æschylus and Sophocles had the advantage of preceding him, and were
superior artists in the bloom and heyday of the young world's prime.


[1] The terrific lessons of the Persian war seem to have quickened in
the Greeks a spiritual sense beyond what was natural to their genius,
and from the influence of which they speedily recovered.

[2] This pedigree of the House of Tantalus--a family
Upas-tree--illustrates the descent of crime from generation to

                                  TANTALUS [Insolence of immense riches.
                                     |      Steals the nectar and ambrosia
                                     |      of the gods and gives
                                     |      to them Pelops to eat.]
                              |                                      |
          +----------------PELOPS = HIPPODAMEIA.                   NIOBE.
          |          Slays Myrsilus, |
          |            the son of    |
          |            Hermes.       |
          |                     +----+--------------------+
          |                     |                         |
  CHRYSIPPUS,                 ATREUS = ÆROPE.           THYESTES.
  a bastard son,    In revenge upon  |          Incestuous with Ærope
  whom Atreus       Thyestes for his |          and with his own daughter
  and Thyestes      adultery, serves |          Pelopia, by whom he
  kill.             up the children  |          has a son.
                    of Thyestes to   |                     |
                    him at a banquet.|                  ÆGISTHUS.
                            |                              |
                          AGAMEMNON  = CLYTEMNESTRA.     MENELAUS.
                        |            |            |
                      ORESTES.    IPHIGENIA.    ELECTRA.

[3] Line 375; compare _Choëph._ 631, _Eum._ 510-514.

[4] Very notable in this respect is his consistent degradation of

[5] Exception must be made in favor of the _Hippolytus_ and the
_Bacchæ_, where the whole action of the play and the conduct of the
persons are determined by the influences of Aphrodite and Dionysus.
The same exception, but for other reasons, may be made in favor of the

[6] Hecuba, for example, in her play; Electra in hers; Menelaus in the

[7] It may be questioned whether a Dorian type of character was not
in the mind of Euripides when he constructed his ideal of feminine
heroism. What Plutarch in the life of Cleomenes says of Cratesiclea
and the wife of Panteus reads like a commentary on the tragedies of
_Macaria_, _Polyxena_, and _Iphigenia_. Xenophon's partiality for the
Spartans indicates the same current of sympathy. Philosophical analysis
was leading up to an eclectic Hellenism, yet the Euripidean study of
Hermione seems intended as a satire on the Lacedæmonian women.

[8] The real cause of offence was the prominence given by Euripides to
the passion of unholy love in some of his heroines; to the interest and
sympathy he created for Phædra, Sthenoboea, and others.

[9] The whole of this splendid speech should be compared with the
fragment of Neophron's _Medea_, on which it is obviously modelled. See,
below, the chapter on the Tragic Fragments.

[10] Notice especially the speech of Orestes, line 367.

[11] Goethe was very severe on the critics who could not appreciate
Euripides: "To feel and respect a great personality, one must be
something one's self. All those who denied the sublime to Euripides
were either poor wretches incapable of comprehending such sublimity,
or shameless charlatans, who, by their presumption, wished to make
more of themselves, and really did make more of themselves, than they
were" (Eckermann's _Conversations of Goethe_, English ed., vol. ii. p.
377). In another place he indicates the spirit in which any adverse
criticism of Euripides should be attempted: "A poet whom Socrates
called his friend, whom Aristotle lauded, whom Menander admired, and
for whom Sophocles and the city of Athens put on mourning on hearing
of his death, must certainly have been something. If a modern man like
Schlegel must pick out faults in so great an ancient, he ought only to
do it upon his knees" (_ib._, vol. i. p. 378). Again (_ib._, vol. i. p.
260), he energetically combats the opinion that Euripides had caused
the decline of Greek tragedy.

[12] See Balaustion's _Adventure_. Since this chapter was first
published, Mr. Browning has still further enforced his advocacy of
Euripides by Aristophanes' _Apology_, and a version of the _Hercules
Furens_, while the great tragic poet has found a stanch defender from
the carping criticasters of the Schlegel school in Mr. Mahaffy. That
excellent scholar and accomplished student of antiquity has recently
published a little book on Euripides (_Classical Writers_, edited by J.
R. Green, "Euripides." Macmillan. 1879).



    Alexandrian and Byzantine Anthologies.--Titles of the
        Lost Plays of Æschylus.--The _Lycurgeia_.--The
        Trilogy on the Story of Achilles.--The Geography of
        the _Prometheus Unbound_.--Gnomic Character of the
        Sophoclean Fragments.--Providence, Wealth, Love,
        Marriage, Mourning.--What is True of the Sophoclean is
        still more True of the Euripidean Fragments.--Mutilated
        Plays.--_Phaëthon_, _Erechtheus_, _Antiope_,
        _Danaë_.--Goethe's Restitution of the _Phaëthon_.--Passage
        on Greek Athletes in the _Autolycus_.--Love, Women,
        Marriage, Domestic Affection, Children.--Death.--Stoical
        Endurance.--Justice and the Punishment of
        Sin.--Wealth.--Noble Birth.--Heroism.--Miscellaneous Gnomic
        Fragments.--The Popularity of Euripides.

It is difficult to treat the fragments of Æschylus, Sophocles, and
Euripides otherwise than as a golden treasury of saws and maxims
compiled by Alexandrian and Byzantine Greeks, for whom poetic beauty
was of less value than sententious wisdom. The tragic scope and the
æsthetic handling of the fables of their lost plays can scarcely be
conjectured from such slight hints as we possess. Yet some light may be
cast upon the Æschylean method by observing the titles of his dramas.
We have, for example, the names of a complete tetralogy upon the legend
of Lycurgus. The _Edonians_, the _Bassarids_, and the _Young Men_
constituted a connected series of plays--a _Lycurgeia_, with _Lycurgus_
for the satyric supplement. Remembering that Æschylus called his own
tragedies morsels picked up from the great Homeric banquet-table, we
may conclude that this tetralogy set forth the Dionysian fable told by
Diomede to Glaucus in the _Iliad_ (vi. 131):

    No, for not Dryas' son, Lycurgus strong,
    Who the divine ones fought, on earth lived long.
    He the nurse-nymphs of Dionysus scared
    Down the Nyseïan steep, and the wild throng
    Their ritual things cast off, and maddening fared,
    Torn with his goad, like kine; so vast a crime he dared.
    Yea, Dionysus, such a sight was there,
    Himself in fear sank down beneath the seas.
    And Thetis in her breast him quailing bare,
    At the man's cry such trembling shook his knees.
    Then angered were the gods who live at ease,
    And Zeus smote blind Lycurgus, and he fell
    Loathed ere his day.[13]

It appears that the titles of the three dramas composing the trilogy
were taken from the Chorus. In the first play the Edonian Thracians,
subjects of Lycurgus, formed the Chorus; in the second, the Bassarids,
or nurse-nymphs of Dionysus; in the third, the youths whom the wine-god
had persuaded to adopt his worship. The subject of the first play was,
therefore, the advent of Dionysus and his following in Thrace, and
the victory of Lycurgus over the new cult. The second set forth the
captivity of the Bacchantes or Bassarids, together with the madness
sent upon Lycurgus as a punishment for his resistance, whereby he was
driven, according to post-Homeric versions of his legend, to the murder
of his own son Dryas in a fit of fury. The third play carried on the
subject by exhibiting the submission of Lycurgus to the god whom he
had disowned and dishonored, and his death, at the hands of his own
subjects, upon Mount Pangæus. Thus the first Chorus was hostile to
Dionysus; the second was sympathetic, though captive and impotent; the
third was triumphant in his cause. The artistic sequence of thesis,
antithesis, and synthesis which the trilogy required, was developed
through three moments in the life-drama of Lycurgus, and was typified
in the changes of the choric sympathy, according to the law whereby
Æschylus varied the form of his triple dramas and, at the same time,
immediately connected the Chorus with the passion of each piece. The
tragic interest centred in the conflict of Lycurgus and the god, and
the final solution was afforded by the submission, though too late, of
the protagonist's will to destiny. It is probable that the satyric
play of _Lycurgus_ represented the divine honors paid, after his death,
to the old enemy, now become the satellite and subject of Dionysus,
by pastoral folk and dwellers in the woodlands. The unification of
obstinate antagonistic wills in the higher will of Zeus or Fate seems
in all cases to have supplied Æschylus with the _Versöhnung_ tragedy
required, and to have suggested the religious #katharsis# without
which the Greek drama would have failed to point its lesson. Seen in
this light, the _Lycurgeia_ must have been a masterpiece only less
sublime, and even more full, perhaps, of picturesque incidents, than
the Promethean trilogy. The emotional complexion, if that phrase may be
permitted, of each member of the trilogy was determined by the Chorus;
wherein we trace a signal instance of the Æschylean method.

More even to be regretted than the _Lycurgeia_ is a colossal lost
trilogy to which the name of _Tragic Iliad_ has been given. That
Æschylus should have frequently handled the subject-matter of the
_Iliad_ was natural; and many titles of tragedies, quoted singly, point
to his preoccupation with the mythus of Achilles. It has, therefore,
been conjectured, with fair show of reason, that the _Myrmidons_,
the _Nereids_, and the _Phrygians_ formed a triple drama. The first
described the withdrawal of Achilles from the war, the arming of
Patroclus, and the grief which the son of Peleus felt for his friend's
death. No Greek tragedy, had it been preserved, would have been more
precious than this. The second showed how Thetis comforted her child,
and procured fresh armor for him from Hephæstus, and how Achilles slew
Hector. In the third, Priam recovered the dead body of his son and
buried it. Supposing the trilogy to have been constructed upon these
outlines, it must have resembled a gigantic history-play, in which, as
in the _Iliad_ itself, the character of Achilles was sufficient to form
the groundwork of a complicated poem. The theme, in other words, would
have resembled those of the modern and romantic drama, rather than such
as the elder Greek poets were in the habit of choosing. The _Achilleis_
did not in any direct way illustrate the doctrine of Nemesis, or
afford a tragic conflict between the human will and fate. It owed its
lustre to the radiant beauty of the hero, to the pathos of his love
for Patroclus, to the sudden blazing forth of irresistible energy when
sorrow for the dead had driven him to revenge, and to the tranquillity
succeeding tempest that dignified his generous compliance with the
prayers of Priam. The trilogy composed upon it must, therefore, like a
Shakespearian play, have been a drama of character. The fragments of
the _Myrmidones_ have already been pieced together in the essay on the
Homeric Achilles.[14] From the _Nereides_ nothing has survived except
what may be gathered from the meagre remnants of the Latin version
made of it by Attius. The _Phrygians_, also called #Hektoros lytra#,
contained a speech of pleading addressed by Priam to the hero in his
tent, of which the following is a relic:

    #kai tous thanontas ei theleis euergetein,
    to goun kakourgein amphidexiôs echei
    kai mête chairein mête lypeisthai para.
    hêmôn ge mentoi Nemesis esth' hypertera
    kai tou thanontos hê dikê prassei koton.#[15]

The trilogy of which the _Prometheus Bound_ formed probably the middle
play has been sufficiently discussed in the chapter on Æschylus.[16] It
remains in this place only to notice that the gigantic geography of the
poet received further illustration in the lost play of the _Prometheus
Unbound_. "Cette géographie vertigineuse," says Victor Hugo, "est
mêlée à une tragédie extraordinaire où l'on entend des dialogues plus
qu'humains;" and, inverting this observation, we may add that the
superhuman tragedy of the _Prometheis_ owed much of its grandeur to
the soul-dilating prospect of the earth's map, outstretched before the
far-seeing sufferer on the crags of Caucasus.

Two other trilogies--a _Danais_, composed of the _Egyptians_, the
_Suppliants_, and the _Danaides_; and an _Oedipodeia_, composed of
_Laius_, the _Sphinx_, and _Oedipus_--may be mentioned, though to
recover their outlines with any certainty is now hopeless. For the
rest, it must be enough to transcribe and to translate a few fragments
of singular beauty. Here is an invocation uttered in his hour of
anguish by Philoctetes to Death, the deliverer:

    #ô thanate paian mê m' atimasêis molein;
    monos gar ei sy tôn anêkestôn kakôn
    iatros; algos d' ouden haptetai nekrou.#[17]

Another passage on Death, remarkable for the stately grandeur of its
style, may be quoted from the _Niobe_:

    #monos theôn gar thanatos ou dôrôn erâi,
    out' an ti thyôn out' epispendôn anois,
    ou bômos estin oude paiônizetai.
    monou de peithô daimonôn apostatei.#[18]

The sublime speech of Aphrodite in the _Danaides_, imitated more than
once by subsequent poets, must not be omitted:

    #erâi men hagnos ouranos trôsai chthona,
    erôs de gaian lambanei gamou tychein;
    ombros d' ap' eunaentos ouranou pesôn
    ekyse gaian; hê de tiktetai brotois
    mêlôn te boskas kai bion Dêmêtrion;
    dendrôtis hôra d' ek notizontos gamou
    teleios esti; tôn d' egô paraitios.#[19]

Nor, lastly, the mystic couplet ascribed to both Æschylus and his son

    #Zeus estin aithêr, Zeus de gê, Zeus d' ouranos,
    Zeus toi ta panta, chô ti tônd' hyperteron.#[20]

The fragments of Sophocles are, perhaps, in even a stricter sense than
those of Æschylus, a bare anthology, and the best way of dealing with
them is to select those which illustrate the beauty of his style or
the ripeness of his wisdom. Few, indeed, are full enough to afford
materials for reconstructing the plot of a lost play. What, for
instance, can be more tantalizing to the student of Greek manners and
sentiments than to know that Sophocles wrote a drama with the title
_Lovers of Achilles_, and yet to have no means of judging of its fable
better than is given in this pretty simile?

    #nosêm' erôtos tout' ephimeron kakon;
    echoim' an auto mê kakôs apeikasai,
    hotan pagou phanentos aithriou cheroin
    krystallon harpasôsi paides astagê.
    ta prôt' echousin hêdonas potainious,
    telos d' ho chymos outh' hopôs aphêi thelei
    out' en cheroin to ktêma symphoron menein.
    houtô ge tous erôntas hautos himeros
    dran kai to mê dran pollakis proïetai.#[21]

A whole series of plays were written by Sophocles on the tale of
Helen, and all of them have passed, "like shapes of clouds we form,
to nothing." There was, again, a drama of the _Epigoni_, which might,
perhaps, have carried the tale of Thebes still further than the climax
reached in the _Antigone_. Yet Stobæus has only thought fit to treat us
to two excerpts from it, whereof the following, spoken by Alcmæon to
Eriphyle, is the fullest:

    #ô pan sy tolmêsasa kai pera gynai;
    kakion all' ouk estin oud' estai pote
    gynaikos ei ti pêma gignetai brotois.#[22]

The sententious philosophy of life that endeared Euripides to the
compilers of commonplace-books was expressed by Sophocles also, with
sufficient independence of the context to make his speeches valuable
as quarries for quotation. To this accident of his art is probably
due the large number of fragments we possess upon general topics of
morality and conduct. In the following fine passage the poet discusses
the apparent injustice in the apportionment of good and evil fortune to
virtuous and vicious men:

    #deinon ge tous men dyssebeis kakôn t' apo
    blastontas, eita tousde men prassein kalôs,
    tous d' ontas esthlous ek te gennaiôn hama
    gegôtas eita dystycheis pephykenai.
    ou chrên tad' houtô daimonas thnêtôn peri
    prassein; echrên gar tous men eusebeis brotôn
    echein ti kerdos emphanes theôn para,
    tous d' ontas adikous toisde tên enantian
    dikên kakôn timôron emphanê tinein.
    koudeis an houtôs eutychei kakos gegôs.#[23]

The same play furnished Stobæus with an excellent observation on

    #anêr gar hostis hêdetai legôn aei
    lelêthen hauton tois xynousin ôn barys.#[24]

Also with a good remark upon the value of sound common-sense:

    #psychê gar eunous kai phronousa toundikon
    kreissôn sophistou pantos estin heuretis.#[25]

The _Aleadæ_ supplied this pungent diatribe upon the contrast between
poverty and wealth:

    #ta chrêmat' anthrôpoisin heuriskei philous,
    authis de timas eita tês hypertatês
    tyrannidos thakousin aischistên hedran.
    epeita d' oudeis echthros oute phyetai
    pros chrêmath' hoi te phyntes arnountai stygein.
    deinos gar herpein ploutos es te tabata
    kai pros bebêla, chôpothen penês anêr
    mêd' entychôn dynait' an hôn erâi tychein.
    kai gar dyseides sôma kai dysônymon,
    glôssêi sophon tithêsin eumorphon t' idein.
    monôi de chairein kai nosein exousia
    parestin autôi kapikrypsasthai kaka.#[26]

In the _Locrian Ajax_ we find two single lines worth preservation:

    #sophoi tyrannoi tôn sophôn xynousiâi;#[27]


    #anthrôpos esti pneuma kai skia monon.#[28]

This charming description comes from the _Ægeus_, recalling Athens,
where the poplars grow so large and leafy:

    #hôsper gar en phylloisin aigeirou makras,
    kan allo mêden, alla toukeinês kara
    aura kradainei kanakouphizei pteron.#[29]

Some scattered utterances upon women and love may be collected from the
_Phædra_, in which play Sophocles broke the ground trodden by Euripides:

    #erôs gar andras ou monous eperchetai
    oud' au gynaikas alla kai theôn anô
    psychas charassei kapi ponton erchetai.
    kai tond' apeirgein oud' ho pankratês sthenei
    Zeus all' hypeikei kai thelôn enklinetai.

    houtô gynaikos ouden an meizon kakon
    kakês anêr ktêsait' an oude sôphronos
    kreisson; pathôn d' hekastos hôn tychêi legei.#[30]

The next fragment, extracted possibly from the _Colchian Women_,
deserves to be compared with similar Euripidean passages, though in
point of workmanship it is finer, and in profound suggestion more
intense, than is the usual manner of Euripides:

    #ô paides hê toi Kypris ou Kypris monon
    all' esti pollôn onomatôn epônymos.
    estin men Haidês esti d' aphthitos bia
    estin de lyssa mainas esti d' himeros
    akratos est' oimôgmos. en keinêi to pan
    spoudaion hêsychaion es bian agon.
    entêketai gar pneumonôn hosois eni
    psychê. tis ouchi têsde tês theou bora?
    eiserchetai men ichthyôn plôtôi genei
    enesti d' en chersou tetraskelei gonêi;
    nômâi d' en oiônoisi toukeinês pteron
    en thêrsin en brotoisin en theois anô.
    tin' ou palaious' es tris ekballei theôn?
    ei moi themis, themis de talêthê legein,
    Dios tyrannei pneumonôn; aneu doros
    aneu sidêrou panta toi syntemnetai
    Kypris ta thnêtôn kai theôn bouleumata.#[31]

While upon this topic of love and women, I may quote a considerable
fragment of the _Tereus_, marked by more sympathy for women in the
troubles of their married lives than the Greek poets commonly express:

    #nyn d' ouden eimi chôris, alla pollakis
    eblepsa tautêi tên gynaikeian physin,
    hôs ouden esmen; hai neai men en patros
    hêdiston oimai zômen anthrôpôn bion;
    terpnôs gar aei pantas hanoia trephei.
    hotan d' es hêbên exikômeth' euphrones,
    ôthoumeth' exô kai diempolômetha
    theôn patrôiôn tôn te physantôn apo,
    hai men xenous pros andras, hai de barbarous,
    hai d' eis aêthê dômath', hai d' epirrhotha,
    kai taut' epeidan euphronê zeuxêi mia
    chreôn epainein kai dokein kalôs echein.#[32]

The same play contains a fine choric passage upon the equality of
human souls at birth, their after inequality through fortune:

    #hen phylon anthrôpôn mi' edeixe patros kai matros hêmas
    hamera tous pantas; oudeis exochos allos eblasten allou.
    boskei de tous men moira dysamerias tous d' olbos hêmôn
    tous de douleias zygon eschen anankas.#[33]

Among the fragments that deal with the commonplaces of Greek tragedy,
the following, from the _Tyndareus_, may be cited as a brilliant
expression of the Solonian proverb:

    #ou chrê pot' eu prassontos olbisai tychas
    andros prin autôi pantelôs êdê bios
    diekperanthêi kai teleutêsêi bion.
    en gar brachei katheile kôligôi chronôi
    pamplouton olbon daimonos kakou dosis,
    hotan metastêi kai theois dokêi tade.#[34]

A play called the _Scyrian Women_ furnishes two excellent apothegmatic
passages upon the misery of old age and the inutility of mourning:

    #ouden gar algos hoion hê pollê zoê.
    pant' empephyke tôi makrôi gêrâi kaka,
    nous phroudos erg' achreia phrontides kenai.

    all' ei men ên klaiousin iasthai kaka
    kai ton thanonta dakryois anistanai,
    ho chrysos hêsson ktêma tou klaiein an ên.
    nyn d' ô geraie taut' anênytôs echei
    ton men taphôi kryphthenta pros to phôs agein;
    kamoi gar an patêr ge dakryôn charin
    anêkt' an eis phôs.#[35]

Two lines from a lost play on the tale of Odysseus illustrate the
celebrated pun of Ajax on his own name:

    #arthôs d' Odysseus eim' epônymos kakois;
    polloi gar ôdysanto dyssebeis emoi.#[36]

In conclusion, a few single lines or couplets may be strung together
for their proverbial pithiness and verbal delicacy:

    #enesti gar tis kai logoisin hêdonê
    lêthên hotan poiôsi tôn ontôn kakôn.

    to mê gar einai kreisson ê to zên kakôs.

    ponou metallachthentos hoi ponoi glykeis.

    ei sôma doulon all' ho nous eleutheros.

    horkous egô gynaikos eis hydôr graphô.

    ô thnêton andrôn kai talaipôron genos;
    hôs ouden esmen, plên skiais eoikotes,
    baros perisson gês anastrôphômenoi.

    tharsei, gynai; ta polla tôn deinôn onar
    pneusanta nyktos hêmeras malassetai.

    ta men didakta manthanô, ta d' heureta
    zêtô, ta d' eukta para theôn êitêsamên.#[37]

Whenever we compare Euripides with his predecessors, we are led to
remark that he disintegrated the drama by destroying its artistic unity
and revealing the _modus operandi_ of the scientific analyst. All the
elements of a great poem were given as it were in their totality by
Æschylus. Sophocles, while conscious of the effect to be gained by
resolving the drama into its component parts, was careful to recombine
them by his art. It is difficult with either Æschylus or Sophocles
to separate a passage from its context without injuring the whole,
or to understand the drift of a sentence without considering both
circumstance and person. With Euripides the case is somewhat different.
Though he composed dramas supremely good in the aggregate impression
left upon our mind, we feel that he employed his genius with delight
in perfecting each separate part regarded by itself alone. So much
of time and talent might be spent on the elaboration of the plot, so
much on the accentuation of the characters, so much on lyric poetry, so
much on moral maxims, so much on description, and so much on artificial
argument. There is something over-strained in this crude statement;
yet it serves to indicate the analytic method noticeable in Euripides.
It consequently happened that his plays lent themselves admirably to
the scissors and paste-box method of the compilers. He was a master of
gnomes and sentences, and his tragedies were ready-made repertories of
quotations. The good cause and the better were pleaded in his dialogues
with impartial skill, because it was the poet's aim to set forth what
might be said rhetorically--because he took a lively interest in
casuistry for its own sake. These qualities, combined with so much that
is attractive in his fables, radiant in his fancy, tender in his human
sympathy, and romantic in his conduct of a play, endeared him to the
Greeks of all succeeding ages. What they wanted in dramatic poetry he
supplied better than any other playwright, except perhaps Menander,
who, for similar reasons, shared a similar exceptionally lucky fate.
The result is that, besides possessing at least eighteen of the plays
of Euripides, as against seven of Sophocles and seven of Æschylus, our
anthology of Euripidean excerpts is voluminous in the same ratio. The
majority of these we owe to the industry of Stobæus, who always found
something to his purpose in a drama of Euripides, while collecting
wise precepts and descriptive passages to illustrate the nature of
a vice or virtue. We must be careful, amid the medley of sentiments
expressed with equal force and equal ease, to remember that they are
not the poet's own, but put into the mouth of his dramatic personages.
What is peculiar is the impartiality of rhetorical treatment they
display--a quality which, though it may not justify, accounts for,
the Aristophanic hostility to the Euripidean school of talkers on all

In addition to fragments, there remain detached portions of the
_Phaëthon_, the _Erechtheus_, and the _Antiope_, sufficient, if
nothing else had been preserved of the Euripidean drama, to suggest a
better notion of this poet and his style than of Ion or Achæus, his
lost compeers in the Alexandrian Canon. From the catastrophe of the
_Phaëthon_, for example, it appears that Euripides contrived a truly
striking contrast between the reception of the dead youth's corpse into
the palace by his mother, and the advent, immediately following, of
his father with a Chorus chanting bridal hymns. Lycurgus the orator,
quoting the _Erechtheus_, has transmitted a characteristic speech by
Praxithea, who deserves to be added to the list of courageous women
painted with the virtues of #eupsychia# by Euripides. She maintains
that, just as she would gladly send forth sons in the face of death
to fight for their country, so, when the State requires of her the
sacrifice of a daughter, she would be ashamed to refuse this much and
far more. The outlines of the _Antiope_ are more blurred; yet enough
survives of a dialectical contention between Zethus and Amphion, the
one arguing for a life of study and culture, the other for a life of
arms and action, to illustrate this phase of the master's manner.
With regard to the _Phaëthon_, it should be mentioned that Goethe
attempted its restitution. His essay may be studied with interest by
those who seek to understand the German poet's method of approaching
the antique. The reverence with which he handles the precious relics
may possibly astonish scholars, who, through fastidiousness of taste,
have depreciated a dramatist they imperfectly comprehend.[38] English
literature, since the beginning of this year, can boast its own
_Erechtheus_, restored by Swinburne on the model of Æschylus rather
than Euripides. While referring to the mutilated dramas of Euripides,
the opening to the _Danaë_ requires a passing word of comment. It
consists of a prologue in the mouth of Hermes, a chorus, and a couple
of lines spoken by Acrisius. The whole, however, is pretty clearly the
work of some mediæval forger, and has, so far as it goes, the same
kind of interest as the #Christos paschôn#, because it illustrates the
ascendency of Euripides during the later ages of Greek culture.

Irksome as it may be to both writer and reader, I know no better method
of dealing with the fragments of Euripides than that already adopted
with regard to those of Sophocles. The fragments themselves are
precious, and deserve to be presented to the modern student with loving
and reverential care. Yet there is no way of centralizing the interest
of their miscellaneous topics; and to treat them as an anthology of
quotations, selecting the most characteristic and translating these as
far as possible into equivalent lines, is all that I can do.

A peculiarly interesting fragment in its bearing on Greek life shall
be chosen for the first quotation. It comes from the satyric drama of
_Autolycus_, and expresses the contempt felt by cultivated Athenians
for young men who devoted all their energies to gymnastics. It is not
easy to connect the idea of vulgarity with that of the Greek athletes
whose portraits in marble, no less resplendent than the immortal
Apoxyomenos of the Vatican, adorned the peristyles of Altis. Yet there
can be little doubt from the following fragment, taken in connection
with certain hints in Plato, that these muscular heroes of an hour,
for whom wreaths were woven and breaches broken in the city walls,
struck some green-eyed philosophers as the incarnation of rowdyism.
Euripides, if we may trust his biographers, had been educated by his
father as an athlete; and it is not improbable that his early distaste
for an eminently uncongenial occupation, no less than his familiarity
with the manners of its professors, embittered his style in this
sarcastic passage. Such splendid beings as the Autolycus, before whom
the distinguished guests in Xenophon's Symposium were silenced, seemed
to our poet at best but sculptor's models, walking statues, #poleôs
agalmata#, and at worst mere slaves of jaws and belly, #perissai
sarkes#. Early in Greek literature the same relentless light of moral
science, like the gaze of Apollonius undoing Lamia's charm, had been
cast upon the athletes by Xenophanes of Colophon. While listening to
Euripides, we can fancy that the Adikos Logos from the _Clouds_ of
Aristophanes is speaking through his lips to an Athenian audience,
composed of would-be orators and assiduous dikasts:

    #kakôn gar ontôn myriôn kath' Hellada,
    ouden kakion estin athlêtôn genous.
    hoi prôta men zên oute manthanousin eu,
    out' an dynainto; pôs gar hostis est' anêr
    gnathou te doulos nêdyos th' hêssêmenos,
    ktêsait' an olbon eis hyperbolên patros?
    oud' au penesthai kai xynêretmein tychais
    hoioi t'; ethê gar ouk ethisthentes kala
    sklêrôs diallassousin eis tamêchana.
    lamproi d' en hêbêi kai poleôs agalmata
    phoitôs'; hotan de prospesêi gêras pikron
    tribônes ekbalontes oichontai krokas;
    emempsamên de kai ton Hellênôn nomon
    hoi tônd' hekati syllogon poioumenoi
    timôs' achreious hêdonas daitos charin;
    tis gar palaisas eu, tis ôkypous anêr
    ê diskon aras ê gnathon paisas kalôs
    polei patrôiâi stephanon êrkesen labôn?
    potera machountai polemioisin en cheroin
    diskous echontes ê di' aspidôn cheri
    theinontes ekbalousi polemious patras?
    oudeis sidêrou tauta môrainei pelas
    stas. andras oun echrên sophous te kagathous
    phyllois stephesthai, chôstis hêgeitai polei
    kallista, sôphrôn kai dikaios ôn anêr,
    hostis te mythois erg' apallassei kaka
    machas t' aphairôn kai staseis; toiauta gar
    polei te pasêi pasi th' Hellêsin kala.#[39]

Passing from the athletes to a cognate subject, the following fragment
from the _Dictys_ nobly expresses the ideal of friendship. The first
two lines seem to need correction; I have let them stand, though
inclined to propose #kei# for #kai#, and to conjecture the loss of a
line after the second:

    #philos gar ên moi; kai m' erôs heloi pote
    ouk eis to môron oude m' eis Kyprin trepôn.
    all' esti dê tis allos en brotois erôs,
    psychês dikaias sôphronos te kagathês.
    kai chrên de tois brotoisi tond' einai nomon,
    tôn eusebountôn hoitines ge sôphrones
    eran, Kyprin de tên Dios chairein ean.#[40]

About Eros and Aphrodite the poet has supplied us with a good store of
contradictory sentiments. In one long and very remarkable fragment
(No. 839, ed. Dindorf) from an unknown play, Euripides, if he be indeed
the author of the verses, has imitated Æschylus, taking almost word for
word the famous vaunt of Kupris, quoted above from the _Danaides_. The
three next pieces may be also cited among the praises of Love:

    #erôta d' hostis mê theon krinei megan
    kai tôn hapantôn daimonôn hypertaton,
    ê skaios estin ê kalôn apeiros ôn
    ouk oide ton megiston anthrôpois theon.

    hosoi gar eis erôta piptousin brotôn
    esthlôn hotan tychôsi tôn erômenôn
    ouk esth' hopoias leipetai tês hêdonês.

    echô de tolmês kai thrasous didaskalon,
    en tois amêchanoisin euporôtaton,
    erôta pantôn dysmachôtaton theôn.#[41]

Here, again, remembering how much the Greeks included in the term
music, is a pretty compliment:

                    #mousikên d' ara
    erôs didaskei kan amousos êi to prin.#[42]

The next is a graceful expostulation on the lover's part with the god
who can make or mar his happiness in life:

    #sy d' ô tyranne theôn te kanthrôpôn erôs
    ê mê didaske ta kala phainesthai kala,
    ê tois erôsin hôn sy dêmiourgos ei
    mochthousi mochthous eutychôs synekponei.
    kai tauta men drôn timios theois esei,
    mê drôn d' hyp' autou tou didaskesthai philein
    aphairethêsei charitas hais timôsi se.#[43]

Nor is this without its tincture of respect:

    #andros d' horôntos eis kyprin neaniou
    aphylaktos hê têrêsis; ên gar phaulos êi
    tall' eis erôta pas anêr sophôteros.
    ên d' au prosêtai Kypris hêdiston labein.#[44]

But Euripides can turn round and rate Love for his encouragement of
idleness. There is a stern perception of the facts of life in the
following excerpt from the _Danaë_:

    #erôs gar argon kapi tois argois ephy;
    philei katoptra kai komês xanthismata
    pheugei de mochthous. hen de moi tekmêrion.
    oudeis prosaitôn bioton êrasthê brotôn,
    en tois d' echousin hêbêtês pephych' hode.#[45]

Concerning women he is no less impartial. However he may have chosen
to paint their possibilities of heroism, and the force of their
character in hours of passion or of need, no poet has certainly abused
them in stronger terms. The following is an almost laughable example:

    #deinê men alkê kymatôn thalassiôn
    deinai de potamou kai pyros thermou pnoai
    deinon de penia deina d' alla myria;
    all' ouden houtô deinon hôs gynê kakon
    oud' an genoito gramma toiout' en graphêi
    oud' an logos deixeien; ei de tou theôn
    tod' esti plasma dêmiourgos ôn kakôn
    megistos istô kai brotoisi dysmenês.#$1

Nor can the group which I have classed together in the following
extracts be considered as complimentary:

    #plên tês tekousês thêly pan misô genos.

    endon menousan tên gynaik' einai chreôn
    esthlên thyrasi d' axian tou mêdenos.

    estin de mêtêr philoteknos mallon patros;
    hê men gar hautês oiden onth' ho d' oietai.

    ouk estin oute teichos oute chrêmata.
    out' allo dysphylakton ouden hôs gynê.

                anti gar pyros
    pyr allo meizon êde dysmachôteron
    eblaston hai gynaikes.

    gameite nyn gameite kâita thnêskete
    ê pharmakoisin ek gynaikos ê dolois.#[47]

On marriage many pithy sayings might be cited. The one I take first is
eminent for practical brutality combined with sound sense:

    #hosoi gamousi d' ê genei kreissous gamous
    ê polla chrêmat' ouk epistantai gamein.
    ta tês gynaikos gar kratount' en dômasin
    douloi ton andra kouket' est' eleutheros.
    ploutos d' epaktos ek gynaikeiôn gamôn
    anonêtos; hai gar dialyseis ou rhâidiai.#[48]

To the same category belongs the following, though its worldly wisdom
conceals no bitterness:

    #kakon gynaika pros nean zeuxai neon;
    makra gar ischys mallon arsenôn menei,
    thêleia d' hêbê thasson ekleipei demas.#[49]

It answers to our own proverb: "A young man married is a young man

For the sanctities of domestic life, and for the pathetic beauty
of maternal love, no poet had a deeper sense than Euripides. The
following lines, spoken apparently by Danaë, makes us keenly regret
the loss of the tragedy that bore her name; all the tenderness of the
Simonidean elegy upon her fable seems to inspire the maiden's longing
for a child to fill her arms and sport upon her knee:

    #tach' an pros ankalaisi kai sternois emois
    pêdôn athyroi kai philêmatôn ochlôi
    psychên emên ktêsaito; tauta gar brotois
    philtron megiston hai xynousiai pater.#[50]

And where was the charm of children ever painted with more feeling than
in these verses from the same play?

    #gynai, philon men phengos hêliou tode,
    kalon de pontou cheum' idein euênemon,
    gê t' êrinon thallousa plousion th' hydôr,
    pollôn t' epainon esti moi lexai kalôn.
    all' ouden houtô lampron oud' idein kalon
    hôs tois apaisi kai pothôi dedêgmenois
    paidôn neognôn en domois idein phaos.#[51]

In the next quotation, beautiful by reason of its plainness, a young
man is reminded of the sweetness of a mother's love:

    #ouk estin ouden mêtros hêdion teknois.
    erate mêtros paides; hôs ouk est' erôs
    toioutos allos hoios hêdiôn eran.#[52]

The sentiment here expressed seems to be contradicted by a fragment
from an unknown play (No. 887), where a son tells his mother that
he cannot be expected to cling to her as much as to his father. The
Greeks, as we gather from the _Oresteia_ of Æschylus, believed that the
male offspring was specially related by sympathy, duty, and hereditary
qualities to his father. The contrast between women and men in respect
to the paternal home is well conveyed in the following four lines:

    #gynê gar exelthousa patrôiôn domôn
    ou tôn tekontôn estin alla tou lechous;
    to d' arsen hestêk' en domois aei genos
    theôn patrôiôn kai taphôn timaoron.#[53]

Some of the most remarkable excerpts from Euripides turn upon the
thought of death--a doom accepted by him with magnanimous Greek
stoicism. Those which appear to me the most important I have thrown
together for convenience of comparison:

    #tis d' oiden ei zên touth' ho keklêtai thanein,
    to zên de thnêskein esti? plên homôs brotôn
    nosousin hoi blepontes hoi d' olôlotes
    ouden nosousin oude kektêntai kaka.

    echrên gar hêmas syllogon poioumenous
    ton phynta thrênein eis hos' erchetai kaka,
    ton d' au thanonta kai ponôn pepaumenon
    chairontas euphêmountas ekpempein domôn.

    tous zôntas eu dran; katthanôn de pas anêr
    gê kai skia; to mêden eis ouden rhepei.

    thanatos gar anthrôpoisi neikeôn telos
    echei; ti gar toud' esti meizon en brotois?
    tis gar petraion skopelon outizôn dori
    odynaisi dôsei? tis d' atimazôn nekys,
    ei mêden aisthanointo tôn pathêmatôn?#[54]

To these should be added the magnificent words of consolation addressed
by Dictys, in the tragedy that bears his name, to Danaë:

    #dokeis ton Haidên sôn ti phrontizein goôn
    kai paid' anêsein ton son ei thelois stenein?
    pausai; blepousa d' eis ta tôn pelas kaka
    rhâiôn genoi' an, ei logizesthai thelois
    hosoi te desmois ekmemochthêntai brotôn,
    hosoi te gêraskousin orphanoi teknôn,
    tous t' ek megistês olbias tyrannidos
    to mêden ontas; tauta se skopein chreôn.#[55]

Close to the thought of death lies that of endurance; and here is a
fragment from the _Hypsipyle_, which might be placed for a motto on the
title-page of _Epictetus_:

    #ephy men oudeis hostis ou ponei brotôn,
    thaptei te tekna chater' au ktatai nea,
    autos te thnêskei, kai tad' achthontai brotoi
    eis gên pherontes gên; anankaiôs d' echei
    bion therizein hôste karpimon stachyn,
    kai ton men einai ton de mê; ti tauta dei
    stenein, haper dei kata physin diekperan?
    deinon gar ouden tôn anankaiôn brotois.#[56]

On Justice and the punishment of sins we may take the following
passages, expressing, with dramatic energy, the intense moral
conscience of the Greek race:

    #dokeite pêdan tadikêmat' eis theous
    pteroisi, kapeit' en Dios deltou ptychais
    graphein tin' auta, Zêna d' eisorônta nin
    thnêtois dikazein? oud' ho pas an ouranos
    Dios graphontos tas brotôn hamartias
    exarkeseien, oud' ekeinos an skopôn
    pempein hekastôi zêmian; all' hê Dikê
    entautha pou 'stin engys ei boulesth' horan.

    tên toi Dikên legousi paid' einai Dios
    engys te naiein tês brotôn hamartias.#[57]

They stand, however, in somewhat curious opposition to a fragment from
_Bellerophon_ about Divine Justice:

    #phêsin tis einai dêt', en ouranôi theous?
    ouk eisin, ouk eis'. ei tis anthrôpôn legei,
    mê tôi palaiôi môros ôn chrêsthô logôi.
    skepsasthe d' auta mê 'pi tois emois logois
    gnômên echontes; phêm' egô tyrannida
    kteinein te pleistous ktêmatôn t' aposterein,
    horkous te parabainontas ekporthein, poleis,
    kai tauta drôntes mallon eis' eudaimones
    tôn eusebountôn hêsychê kath' hêmeran;
    poleis te mikras oida timôsas theous
    hai meizonôn klyousi dyssebesterôn
    lonchês arithmôi pleionos kratoumenai.#[58]

In which of the fragments just quoted was the poet speaking in his own
person? In neither, perhaps, fully; partly, perhaps, in both. About
wealth he utters in like manner seemingly contradictory oracles:

    #biâi nyn helket' ô kakoi timas brotoi
    kai ktasthe plouton pantothen thêrômenoi
    symmikta mê dikaia kai dikai' homou;
    epeit' amasthe tônde dystênon theros.

    ô chryse, dexiôma kalliston brotois,
    hôs oute mêtêr hêdonas toiasd' echei
    ou paides anthrôpoisin ou philos patêr,
    hoias sy choi se dômasin kektêmenoi.
    ei d' hê Kypris toiouton ophthalmois horâi
    ou thaum' erôtas myrious autên trephein.#[59]

In what he says of noble birth Euripides never wavers. The true
democrat speaks through his verse, and yet no poet has spoken more
emphatically of bravery and honor. We may take the following examples
in their order:

    #eis d' eugeneian olig' echô phrasai kala;
    ho men gar esthlos eugenês emoig' anêr
    ho d' ou dikaios kan ameinonos patros
    Zênos pephykêi dysgenês einai dokei.

    egô men oun ouk oid' hopôs skopein chreôn
    tên eugeneian; tous gar andreious physin
    kai tous dikaious tôn kenôn doxasmatôn
    kan ôsi doulôn eugenesterous legô.

    pheu toisi gennaioisin hôs hapantachou
    prepei charaktêr chrêstos eis eupsychian.

    hapas men aêr aietôi perasimos
    hapasa de chthôn andri gennaiôi patris.#[60]

Further to illustrate his conception of true nobility, using for this
purpose in particular the fragments of the _Antiope_, would be easy.
It appears throughout that Euripides was bent on contrasting the
honor that is won by labor with the pleasures of a lazy life. Against
the hedonism which lay so near at hand to pagans in the license of
the flesh, the Greeks set up an ideal of glory attainable alone by
toil. This morality found expression in the famous lines of Hesiod
on #aretê#, in the action of Achilles, in the proverb #panta ta kala
chalepa#, and in the fable of the choice of Hercules. Euripides varies
the theme in his iambics by a hundred modulations:

    #neanian gar andra chrê tolman aei;
    oudeis gar ôn rhâithymos eukleês anêr.
    all' hoi ponoi tiktousi tên eudoxian.

    ouk estin hostis hêdeôs zêtôn bioun
    eukleian eisektêsat' alla chrê ponein.

    ho d' hêdys aiôn hê kakê t' anandria
    out' oikon oute gaian orthôseien an.

    syn myrioisi ta kala gignetai ponois.

                        eme d' ar' ou
    mochthein dikaion? tis d' amochthos eukleês?
    tis tôn megistôn deilos ôn ôrexato?#[61]

The political morality deduced from this view of life is stern and

    #gnômêi gar andros eu men oikountai poleis,
    eu d' oikos, eis t' au polemon ischyei mega;
    sophon gar hen bouleuma tas pollas cheras
    nikâi; syn ochlôi d' amathia pleiston kakon.

    treis eisin aretai tas chreôn s' askein, teknon,
    theous te timan tous te physantas goneis,
    nomous te koinous Hellados; kai tauta drôn
    kalliston hexeis stephanon eukleias aei.#[62]

Nor is the condemnation of mere pleasure-seeking less severe:

    #anêr gar hostis eu bion kektêmenos
    ta men kat' oikous ameliâi pareis eâi,
    molpaisi d' hêstheis tout' aei thêreuetai,
    argos men oikois kai polei genêsetai
    philoisi d' oudeis; hê physis gar oichetai
    hotan glykeias hêdonês hêssôn tis êi.#[63]

The indifference induced by satiety is well characterized in the
following lines:

    #koros de pantôn; kai gar ek kallionôn
    lektrois ep' aischrois eidon ekpeplêgmenous.
    daitos de plêrôtheis tis asmenos palin
    phaulêi diaitêi prosbalôn hêsthê stoma.#[64]

In the foregoing specimens no selection has been made of lines
remarkable for their æsthetic beauty. This omission is due to Stobæus,
who was more bent on extracting moral maxims than strains of poetry
comparable with the invocation of Hippolytus to Artemis. Two, however,
I have marked for translation on account of their artistic charm; the
first for its pretty touch of picturesqueness, the second for its
sympathy with sculpture:

    #polys d' aneirpe kissos euphyês klados
    chelidonôn mouseion.

    ea; tin' ochthon tond' horô perirrhyton
    aphrôi thalassês, parthenou t' eikô tina
    ex automorphôn laïnôn teichismatôn
    sophês agalma cheiros.#[65]

Some passages, worthy of preservation, yet not easily classified, may
wind up the series. Here is "Envy, eldest born of hell:"

    #tis ara mêtêr ê patêr kakon mega
    brotois ephyse ton dysônymon phthonon?
    pou kai pot' oikei sômatôn lachôn meros?
    en chersin ê splanchnoisin ê par' ommata
    esth' hêmin? hôs ên mochthos iatrois megas
    tomais aphairein ê potois ê pharmakois
    pasôn megistên tôn en anthrôpois nosôn.#[66]

The next couplet is pregnant with a home-truth which most men have had
occasion to feel:

    #hapantes esmen eis to nouthetein sophoi
    autoi d' hotan sphalômen ou gignôskomen.#[67]

The value attached by Greek political philosophers to the #êthos#, or
temperament, of states, and their dislike of demagogy, are accounted
for in these four lines:

    #tropos esti chrêstos asphalesteros nomou.
    ton men gar oudeis an diastrepsai pote
    rhêtôr dynaito, ton d' anô te kai katô
    logois tarassôn pollakis lymainetai.#[68]

One single line, noticeable for its weighty meaning, and Euripidean by
reason of its pathos, shall end the list:

    #neos ponois de g' ouk agymnastos phrenas.#[69]

The lasting title to fame of Euripides consists in his having dealt
with the deeper problems of life in a spirit which became permanent
among the Greeks, so that his poems, like those of Menander, never lost
their value as expressions of current philosophy. Nothing strikes the
student of later Greek literature more strongly than this prolongation
of the Euripidean tone of thought and feeling. In the decline of tragic
poetry the literary sceptre was transferred to comedy, and the comic
playwrights may be described as the true successors of Euripides. The
dialectic method, degenerating into sophistic quibbling, which he
affected, was indeed dropped, and a more harmonious form of art than
the Euripidean was created for comedy by Menander, when the Athenians,
after passing through their disputatious period, had settled down
into a tranquil acceptation of the facts of life. Yet this return to
harmony of form and purity of perception did not abate the influence
of Euripides. Here and there throughout his tragedies he had said once
and for all, and well said, what the Greeks were bound to think and
feel upon important matters, and his sensitive, susceptible temperament
repeated itself over and over again among his literary successors.
The exclamation of Philemon that, if he could believe in immortality,
he would hang himself to see Euripides, is characteristic not only of
Philemon, but also of the whole Macedonian period of Greek literature.


[13] Worsley's translation, _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 154.

[14] See vol. i. pp. 91-123.


    Lo, if thou fain wouldst benefit the dead,
    Or if thou seek to harm them, 'tis all one;
    For they can feel no joy nor suffer pain,
    Nathless high Nemesis is throned above us,
    And Justice doth exact the dead man's due.

[16] See vol. i. pp. 372-435.


    O Death, the savior, spurn me not, but come!
    For thou alone of ills incurable
    Art healer: no pain preyeth on the dead.


    Alone of gods Death loves not gifts; with him
    Nor sacrifice nor incense aught avails;
    He hath no altar and no hymns of gladness;
    Prayer stands aloof from him, Persuasion fails.


    Love throbs in holy heaven to wound the earth;
    And love still prompts the land to yearn for bridals;
    The rain that falls in rivers from the sky,
    Impregnates earth, and she brings forth for men
    The flocks and herds and life of teeming Ceres;
    The bloom of forests by dews hymeneal
    Is perfected: in all which things I rule.


    Zeus is the air, Zeus earth, and Zeus wide heaven:
    Yea, Zeus is all things, and the power above them.


    This love-disease is a delightful trouble;
    Well might I shadow forth its power as thus:
    When the clear, eager frost has fallen, boys
    Seize with their fingers the firm frozen ice,
    And first they feel an unaccustomed pleasure,
    But in the end it melts, and they to leave it
    Or in their hands to hold it know not how;
    Even so the same desire drives wilful lovers
    To do and not to do by frequent changes.


    Woman, that hast dared all, and more than all!
    There is not anything, nor will be ever,
    Than woman worse, let what will fall on men.

It is right to observe that Welcker and Ahrens have conjecturally
pieced together this and many other scattered fragments, and connected
them in such a way as to reconstitute a tragedy with Argos for its
scene, not Thebes.


    'Tis terrible that impious men, the sons
    Of sinners, even such should thrive and prosper,
    While men by virtue moulded, sprung from sires
    Complete in goodness, should be born to suffer.
    Nay, but the gods do ill in dealing thus
    With mortals! It were well that pious men
    Should take some signal guerdon at their hands;
    But evil-doers, on their heads should fall
    Conspicuous punishment for deeds ill-done.
    Then should no wicked man fare well and flourish.

                                                      From the _Aletes_.


    The man who takes delight in always talking
    Is irksome to his friends and does not know it.


    A reasonable soul, by just perception,
    Better than sophists may discover truth.


    Money makes friends for men, and heaps up honors,
    And sets them on the tyrant's hated throne:
    Wealth finds no foes, or none but covert foes,
    Climbs pathless ways, and treads where tracks are beaten;
    While poor men, what luck gives them, may not use:
    A misshaped body, an ill-sounding name,
    Wealth turns by words to beauty, gifts with wisdom;
    For wealth alone hath privilege of freedom
    In joy and sickness, and can hide its sorrow.

[27] Tyrants are wise by wise society.

[28] Man is but wind and shadow, naught besides.


    As in the boughs of a tall poplar-tree,
    If nothing else, at least her shivering top
    Moves 'neath the breeze and waves her leafy pinions.


        Love falls not only on the hearts of men
        Or women, but the souls of gods above
        He furrows, and makes onslaught on the sea:
        Against his force Zeus the all-powerful
        Is impotent--he yields and bends with pleasure.

        Than a bad wife a man can have no greater
        Curse, and no greater blessing than a good one.
        Each after trial speaks by his experience.


    Girls, look you, Kupris is not Kupris only:
    In her one name names manifold are blended;
    For she is Death, imperishable power,
    Frenetic fury, irresistible longing,
    Wailing and groaning. Her one force includes
    All energy, all languor, and all violence.
    Into the vitals of whatever thing
    Hath breath of life, she sinks. Who feeds her not?
    She creeps into the fishes of the sea
    And the four-footed creatures of dry land,
    Shakes mid the birds her own aerial plumes,
    Sways beasts and mortal men and gods above.
    Which of the gods hath she not thrown in wrestling?
    If right allow, and to speak truth is right,
    She rules the heart of Zeus. Without or spear
    Or sword, I therefore bid you know, Dame Kupris
    Fells at a blow of gods and men the counsels.


    Now am I naught--abandoned: oftentimes
    I've noticed how to this we women fall,
    How we are naught. In girlhood and at home
    Our life's the sweetest life men ever know,
    For careless joy is a glad nurse to all:
    But when we come to youth, gleeful and gay,
    Forth are we thrust, and bought and sold and bartered,
    Far from our household gods, from parents far,
    Some to strange husbands, to barbarians some,
    To homes uncouth, to houses foul with shame.
    Yea, let but one night yoke us, all these things
    Must needs forthwith be praised and held for fair.


    Of one race and common lineage all men at the hour of birth
    From the womb are issued equal, sons alike of mother earth;
    But our lots how diverse! Some are nursed by fortune harsh and rude,
    Some by gentle ease, while others bare their necks to servitude.


    To call that man who prospers truly happy
    Were vain before his life be wholly done;
    For in short time and swift great power and riches
    Have fallen by the dower of fate malign,
    When fortune veers and thus the gods decree.


    There is no trouble worse than length of life.
    Old age hath all the ills that flesh is heir to--
    Vain thoughts and powerless deeds and vanished mind.

    If mourners by their cries could cure our misery,
    If tears could raise the dead to life again,
    Gold would be valueless compared with crying.
    But now, old man, these sorrows nought avail
    To bring to light him whom the grave hath covered;
    Else had my father, too, by grace of tears,
    The day revisited.

The second of these extracts finds a close echo in some beautiful lines
on the inutility of tears by Philemon [_Sardius_ fr. i.]


    Rightly do bad men call my name Odysseus,
    For ill folk odious insults heap upon me.


    Even in words there is a pleasure, when
    They bring forgetfulness of present woes.

    'Tis better not to be than to live badly.

    When toil has been well finished, toils are sweet.

    Enslave the body--still the soul is free.

    The oaths of women I on water write.

    O mortals, wretched creatures of a day,
    How truly are we naught but like to shadows
    Rolling superfluous weight of earth around!

    Take courage, lady: many fearful things
    That breathed dark dreams in night, by day are solaced.

    What may be taught, I learn; what may be found,
    I seek; from heaven I ask what may be prayed for.

[38] See Goethe, _Sämmtliche Werke_, 1840, vol. xxxiii, pp. 22-43.


    Of all the thousand ills that prey on Hellas
    Not one is greater than the tribe of athletes;
    For, first, they never learn how to live well,
    Nor, indeed, could they; seeing that a man,
    Slave to his jaws and belly, cannot hope
    To heap up wealth superior to his sire's.
    How to be poor and row in fortune's boat
    They know no better; for they have not learned
    Manners that make men proof against ill luck.
    Lustrous in youth, they lounge like living statues.
    Decking the streets; but when sad old age comes,
    They fall and perish like a threadbare coat.
    I've often blamed the customs of us Hellenes,
    Who for the sake of such men meet together
    To honor idle sport and feed our fill;
    For who, I pray you, by his skill in wrestling,
    Swiftness of foot, good boxing, strength at quoits,
    Has served his city by the crown he gains?
    Will they meet men in fight with quoits in hand,
    Or in the press of shields drive forth the foeman
    By force of fisticuffs from hearth and home?
    Such follies are forgotten face to face
    With steel. We therefore ought to crown with wreaths
    Men wise and good, and him who guides the State,
    A man well-tempered, just, and sound in counsel,
    Or one who by his words averts ill deeds,
    Warding off strife and warfare; for such things
    Bring honor on the city and all Hellenes.


    He was my friend; and may love lead me never
    Aside to folly or to sensual joy!
    Surely there is another sort of love
    For a soul, just, well-tempered, strong, and good.
    And there should be this law for mortal men,
    To love the pure and temperate, and to leave
    Kupris, the daughter of high Zeus, alone.

We find a witty contradiction to the sentiment of these lines in a
fragment of Amphis [_Dithyrambus_, fr. 2]:

    #ti phêis? sy tauti prosdokâis peisein em' hôs
    erôs tis estin hostis hôraion philôn
    tropôn erastês esti tên opsin pareis?
    aphrôn g' alêthôs.#


    Whoso pretends that Love is no great god,
    The lord and master of all deities,
    Is either dull of soul, or, dead to beauty,
    Knows not the greatest god that governs men.

                                                            _Augè_, 269.

    When it befalls poor mortal men to love,
    Should they find worthy objects for their loving,
    Then is there nothing left of joy to long for.

                                                       _Andromeda_, 147.

    Mine is a master of resolve and daring,
    Filled with all craft to do impossible things,
    Love, among gods the most unconquerable.

                                                      _Hippolytus_, 431.


    Music, at least,
    Love teaches men, unmusical before.

                                                      _Stheneboea_, 664.


    O Love, our lord, of gods and men the king,
    Either teach not how beauteous beauty is,
    Or help poor lovers, whom like clay thou mouldest,
    Through toil and labor to a happy end.
    Thus shalt thou gain high honor: otherwise
    The loving lessons that men learn of thee,
    Will rob thee of their worship and good-will.

                                                       _Andromeda_, 135.


    A young man with eyes turned to follow beauty
    May not be governed: yea, though he be weak,
    Yet is he wise and masterful for loving;
    And when Love smiles, what boon surpasseth love?

                                                        _Antigone_, 161.


    Love is a sluggard, and of sloth the twin:
    Mirrors and hair-dyes are his favorite toys;
    Labor he shuns. I take this truth to witness:
    No beggar for his bread was known to love,
    But with rich men his beauty-bloom abounds.


    Dire is the violence of ocean waves,
    And dire the blast of rivers and hot fire,
    And dire is want, and dire are countless things;
    But nothing is so dire and dread as woman.
    No painting could express her dreadfulness,
    No words describe it. If a god made woman,
    And fashioned her, he was for men the artist
    Of woes unnumbered, and their deadly foe.

                                                    _Incert. Fab._, 880.


    Saving my mother, I hate womankind.

                                                     _Melanippide_, 507.

    Good women must abide within the house:
    Those whom we meet abroad are nothing worth.

                                                        _Meleager_, 527.

    Mothers are fonder of their sons than fathers:
    For mothers know they're theirs, while fathers think it.

                                                    _Incert. Fab._, 883.

    There is no fort, there is no money-box,
    Nor aught besides, so hard to guard as woman.

                                                           _Danaë_, 323.

                      Instead of fire,
    Another fire mightier and more invincible
    Is woman.

                                                      _Hippolytus_, 430.

    Marry, go to, yea, marry--and then die
    By poison at a woman's hand or wiles.

                                                    _Cretan Women_, 467.


    Those men who mate with women better born
    Or wed great riches, know not how to wed;
    For when the woman's part doth rule the house,
    The man's a slave; large dowers are worse than none,
    Seeing they make divorce more difficult.

                                                     _Melanippide_, 513.


    To mate a youth with a young wife is ill;
    Seeing a man's strength lasteth, while the bloom
    Of beauty quickly leaves a woman's form.

                                                            _Æolus_, 22.


    He, leaping to my arms and in my bosom,
    Might haply sport, and with a crowd of kisses
    Might win my soul forth; for there is no greater
    Love-charm than close companionship, my father.

                                                           _Danaë_, 325.


    Lady, the sun's light to our eyes is dear,
    And fair the tranquil reaches of the sea,
    And flowery earth in May, and bounding waters;
    And so right many fair things I might praise;
    Yet nothing is so radiant and so fair
    As for souls childless, with desire sore-smitten,
    To see the light of babes about the house.

                                                             _Ib._, 327.


    Naught is more dear to children than their mother.
    Sons, love your mother; for there is no love
    Sweeter than this that can be loved by men.

                                                      _Erechtheus_, 370.


    A woman, when she leaves her father's home,
    Belongs not to her parents, but her bed;
    Men stay within the house, and stand for aye
    Avengeful guardians of its shrines and graves.

                                                           _Danaë_, 330.


    Who knows if that be life which we call death,
    And life be dying?--save alone that men
    Living bear grief, but when they yield their breath
    They grieve no more and have no sorrow then.

                                                    _Incert. Fab._, 821.

    'Twere well for men, when first a babe draws breath,
    To meet and wail the woes that he must bear;
    But to salute the soul that rests from care
    With songs and pæans on the path of death.

                                                     _Cresphontes_, 454.

    Let those who live do right ere death descendeth;
    The dead are dust; mere naught to nothing tendeth.

                                                        _Meleager_, 537.

    In death there dwells the end of human strife;
    For what mid men than death is mightier?
    Who can inflict pain on the stony scaur
    By wounding it with spear-point? Who can hurt
    The dead, when dead men have no sense of suffering?

                                                        _Antigone_, 160.


    Think'st thou that Death will heed thy tears at all,
    Or send thy son back if thou wilt but groan?
    Nay, cease; and, gazing at thy neighbor's grief,
    Grow calm: if thou wilt take the pains to reckon
    How many have toiled out their lives in bonds,
    How many wear to old age, robbed of children,
    And all who from the tyrant's height of glory
    Have sunk to nothing. These things shouldst thou heed.

                                                          _Dictys_, 334.


    No man was ever born who did not suffer.
    He buries children, then begets new sons,
    Then dies himself: and men forsooth are grieved,
    Consigning dust to dust. Yet needs must be
    Lives should be garnered like ripe harvest-sheaves,
    And one man live, another perish. Why
    Mourn over that which nature puts upon us?
    Naught that must be is terrible to mortals.

                                                       _Hypsipyle_, 752.


    Think you that sins leap up to heaven aloft
    On wings, and then that on Jove's red-leaved tablets
    Some one doth write them, and Jove looks at them
    In judging mortals? Not the whole broad heaven,
    If Jove should write our sins, would be enough,
    Nor he suffice to punish them. But Justice
    Is here, is somewhere near us; do but look.

                                                     _Melanippide_, 488.

    Justice, they say, is daughter of high Jove,
    And dwells hard by to human sinfulness.

                                                           _Alopé_, 149.


    Doth some one say that there be gods above?
    There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool,
    Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you.
    Look at the facts themselves, yielding my words
    No undue credence: for I say that kings
    Kill, rob, break oaths, lay cities waste by fraud,
    And doing thus are happier than those
    Who live calm pious lives day after day.
    How many little states that serve the gods
    Are subject to the godless but more strong,
    Made slaves by might of a superior army!

                                                  _Bellerophontes_, 293.


    Go to now, O ye bad men, heap up honors
    By force, get wealth, hunting it whence ye can,
    By indiscriminate armfuls, right and wrong;
    Then reap of all these things the wretched harvest.

                                                             _Ino_, 420.

    Gold! of all welcome blessings thou'rt the best!
    For never had a mother's smile for men,
    Nor son, nor father dear, such perfect charm,
    As thou and they who hold thee for their guest.
    If Kupris darts such glamour from her gaze,
    No wonder that she breeds a myriad loves!

                                                  _Bellerophontes_, 288.


    For mere high birth I have small meed of praise;
    The good man in my sight is nobly born;
    While he who is not righteous, though his sire
    Than Zeus be loftier, seems to me but base.

                                                          _Dictys_, 341.

    I know not how to think of noble blood:
    For men of courage and of virtuous soul,
    Though born of slaves, are far above vain titles.

                                                     _Melanippide_, 496.

    Lo, in all places how the nobly born
    Show their good breed and spirit by brave bearing!

                                                           _Danaë_, 328.

    The whole wide ether is the eagle's way:
    The whole earth is a brave man's fatherland.

                                                    _Incert. Frag._ 866.


    A young man should be always doing, daring;
    For no slack heart or hand was ever famous.
    'Tis toil and danger that beget fair fame.

                                                       _Archelaus_, 233.

    Who seeks to lead a life of unstirred pleasure
    Cannot win fame: fame is the meed of travail.

                                                            _Ibid._ 234.

    A life of pleasure and unmanly sloth
    Could never raise a house or State to honor.

                                                            _Ibid._ 235.

    Fair honor is the child of countless toils.

                                                            _Ibid._ 236.

                        Is it not right that I
    Should toil? Without toil who was ever famous?
    What slothful soul ever desired the highest?

                                                            _Ibid._ 238.


    'Tis judgment that administers the State,
    The household, and in war of force is found;
    For one wise word in season hath more strength
    Than many hands. Crowds and no brains breed ruin.

                                                         _Antiope_, 205.

    There are three virtues to observe, my son:
    Honor the gods, the parents that begot you,
    The laws that govern Hellas. Follow these,
    And you will win the fairest crown of honor.

                                                            _Ibid._ 221.


    The man who, when the goods of life abound,
    Casts to the winds economy, and spends
    His days in seeking after feast and song,
    At home and in the State will be a drone,
    And to his friends be nothing. Character
    Is, for the slaves of honeyed pleasure, gone.

                                                            _Ibid._ 196.


    There is satiety of all things. Men
    Desert fair wives to dote on ugly women;
    With rich meat surfeited, they gladly turn
    To humble fare, and find fresh appetite.

                                                         _Antiope_, 187.


    Much ivy crept around, a comely growth,
    The tuneful haunt of swallows.

                                                          _Alcmene_, 91.

    What! Do I see a rock with salt sea-foam
    Surrounded, and the image of a maiden
    Carved from the stony bastions nature-wrought
    By some wise workman's craft?

                                                       _Andromeda_, 127.


    What mother or what father got for men
    That curse unutterable, odious envy?
    Where dwells it? In what member lies its lair?
    Is it our hands, our entrails, or our eyes
    That harbor it? Full ill would fare the leech
    Who with the knife, or potions, or strong drugs,
    Should seek to clear away this worst disease.

                                                             _Ino_, 418.


    We all are wise for giving good advice,
    But when we fail we have no wisdom left.

                                                     _Incert. Fab._ 862.


    Good ways of feeling are more safe than law:
    No rhetorician can upset the one;
    The other he may tumble upside down
    With words, and do it often grievous wrong.

                                                      _Peirithous_, 598.


    Young, but in spirit not untrained by trouble.

                                                          _Dictys_, 332.



    Apparent Accident in the Preservation of Greek
        Poetry.--Criticism among the Ancients.--Formation of
        Canons.--Libraries.--The Political Vicissitudes of
        Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople.--Byzantine Scholarship
        in the Ninth Century.--The Lost MS. of Menander.--Tragic
        Fragments preserved by the Comic Poets and their
        Scholiasts; by Athenæus, by Stobæus.--Aristotle.--Tragedy
        before Æschylus.--Fragments of Aristarchus.--The _Medea_
        of Neophron.--Ion.--The _Games_ of Achæus.--Agathon; his
        Character for Luxurious Living.--The _Flower_.--Aristotle's
        Partiality for Agathon.--The Family of Æschylus.--Meletus
        and Plato among the Tragic Playwrights.--The School
        of Sophocles.--Influence of Euripides.--Family of
        Karkinos.--Tragedians ridiculed by Aristophanes.--The
        _Sisyphus_ of Critias.--Cleophon.--Cynical Tragedies
        ascribed to Diogenes.--Extraordinary Fertility of the
        Attic Drama.--The Repetition of Old Plots.--Mamercus
        and Dionysius.--Professional Rhetoricians appear as
        Playwrights.--The School of Isocrates.--The _Centaur_ of
        Chæremon.--His Style.--The _Themistocles_ of Moschion.--The
        Alexandrian Pleiad.--The _Adonis_ of Ptolemy Philopator.

Among the losses in Greek literature few are so tantalizing as
the almost absolute extinction of the tragic poets who preceded
and followed the supreme Athenian triumvirate. It would have been
exceedingly interesting to trace the history of the drama from its
rude origins up to the point at which the creative genius of Æschylus
gave it an inalienable character, and again to note the deviation of
the tragic muse from heroic themes to fables of pure fiction under
the influence of Agathon. This pleasant task of analytical criticism,
concordant with the spirit of our age, which is not satisfied with
admiring masterpieces unless it can also understand the law of their
growth and mark the several stages in the process of historical
development, will fall to the lot of no student now, unless, indeed,
Pompeii render up a treasure-house of MSS. as yet undreamed of, and
Signor Fiorelli save the priceless leaflets of charred tinder from

Why is it that out of the seventy plays of Æschylus only seven are
extant; of the Sophoclean one hundred and thirteen (allowing seventeen
others which bore his name to have been spurious) only seven; while
eighteen--or, if we admit the _Rhesus_, nineteen--are the meagre
salvage from the wreck of at least seventy-five dramas by Euripides?
Why is it that of their lost tragedies we possess but inconsiderable
fragments--just enough to prove that the compilers of commonplace books
like Stobæus might, if they had pleased, have gratified our curiosity
beyond the dreams of a Renaissance scholar's covetousness? Why, again,
is it that of Agathon, whose dramatic romance, the _Flower_, was
thought worthy of citation by Aristotle, whom Aristophanes named as
#Agathôn ho kleinos, agathos poiêtês kai potheinos tois philois#,[70]
whose thanksgiving banquet supplied a frame for Plato's dialogue on
Love, and whose style, if faithfully depicted by the philosopher,
was a very "rivulet of olive-oil noiselessly running"--why is it that
of this Agathon we know nothing but what may be inferred from the
caricature of the _Thesmophoriazusæ_, the portrait of the _Symposium_,
and a few critical strictures in the _Poetics_? Why is it that Ion,
who enjoyed a great renown (#periboêtos egeneto#) and ranked as fifth
in the muster-roll of Athenian tragic poets, is now but a mere empty
name? To these questions, which might be rhetorically multiplied _ad
infinitum_ on a hundred tones of querulous and sad expostulation with
the past, there is no satisfactory answer. Not, as Bacon asserted,
has time borne down upon his flood the froth and trash of things;
far rather may we thank fate that the flotsam and the jetsam that
have reached our shore include the best works of antiquity. Yet,
notwithstanding this, "the iniquity of oblivion," in the words of Sir
Thomas Browne, "blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory
of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity."

The students of antiquity attached less value than we do to literature
of secondary importance. It was the object of their criticism,
especially in the schools of Alexandria, to establish canons of
perfection in style. The few great authors who were deemed worthy to
rank as standards received unlimited honor, nor was it thought too
much by Aristarchus or Aristophanes to devote a lifetime to their
service. For inferior poets, whom we should prize as necessary to a
full comprehension of the history of art, they felt less respect, not
having grasped the notion that æsthetics are a branch of science, that
the topmost peaks of Parnassus tower above the plain by gradual ascent
from subordinate mountain-ranges, and that those who seek to scale
the final altitudes must tread the intermediate heights. They were
contented with representative men. Marlowe, according to their laws of
taste, would have been obscured by Shakespeare; while the multitude of
lesser playwrights, whom we honor as explaining and relieving by their
comradeship the grandeur of _the_ dramatist (#ho tragôidopoios# they
might have styled Shakespeare, as their Pindar was #ho lyrikos#), would
have sunk into oblivion, leaving him alone in splendid isolation. Much
might be said for this way of dealing with literature. By concentrating
attention on undeniable excellence, a taste for the noblest things in
art was fostered, while the danger that we run of substituting the
historical for the æsthetic method was avoided.[71] In our own century

Comte has striven to revive the cultus of unique standards and to
re-establish the empire of selective canons.

The scholiasts of Alexandria, working in vast libraries which contained
the whole treasures of Greek literature, decided that only a few
poets were worthy of minute study. The works of these few poets,
again, they classified into masterpieces and inferior productions.
A further selection sifted those that seemed best suited for the
education of youth. Thus it happened that copies were repeated of
certain well-established favorites; and so the treasures of dramatic
poetry inherited by us represent the taste of scholiasts and teachers
rather than the likings of the Attic audience. To judge by references
in the plays of Aristophanes, the lost _Myrmidones_ of Æschylus, the
lost _Andromeda_ of Euripides, enjoyed more popularity at Athens
than even the _Agamemnon_ or the _Medea_. Alexandrian and Byzantine
pedagogues thought otherwise, and posterity was bound to be their
pensioner. The difficulty of multiplying codices must be added as a
most important cause of literary waste. It is doubtful whether we
should now possess more than a few plays of Shakespeare and Jonson out
of the whole voluminous Elizabethan literature, but for the accident
of printing. When we consider the circumstances under which the Attic
dramatists survived, taking into account the famous fraud whereby
Ptolemy Euergetes possessed himself of the MS. of Æschylus,[72] and
remembering the vicissitudes successively of Alexandria, of Rome, and
of Byzantium, perhaps we ought to be surprised that the sum total of
our inheritance is so great. What the public voice of the Athenians had
approved, the scholiasts of Alexandria winnowed. What the Alexandrians
selected found its way to Rome. What the Roman grammarians sanctioned
was carried in the dotage of culture to Byzantium. At each transition
the peril by land and sea to rare codices, sometimes probably to unique
autographs, was incalculable. Then followed the fury of iconoclasts and
fanatics, the firebrands of Omar, the remorseless crusade of Churchmen
against paganism, and the three great conflagrations of Byzantium. It
is humiliating to the nations of Western Europe to compare the wealth
of Greek books enjoyed by Photius in the ninth century, even after the
second burning, with the meagre fragments which seem to have survived
the pillage of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. To this final
disaster we ought probably to assign the destruction of the larger
portion of Greek literature. In addition to all the ruin wrought by
fire and pillage must be reckoned the slow decay of learning during the
centuries of intellectual apathy that preceded the fall of the Eastern
Empire. What the fire and the Frank had spared was still exposed to
the tooth of the worm and to the slow corrosion of dust, damp, and

When the passion for antiquity was rekindled in the fourteenth
century by the Italians, they eagerly demanded from Constantinople
the treasures that the capital of Greece contained; nor is there any
good reason to suppose that the Turkish troops of Mahomet II., in
1453, destroyed many books that had not previously been transferred
in copies to Florence and Venice. During at least a quarter of a
century before the downfall of the Byzantine Empire the princes of
Italy were eagerly competing with each other for the purchase of
Greek manuscripts; and throughout this period it was the immediate
interest of the palæologi to lay them under such obligations as might
enlist their sympathy and call forth a return of friendly service.
For the emperor to have closed the doors of the Byzantine libraries
against the agents of the Medici and the Venetian nobles, at the same
time that he was sending Manuel Chrysoloras as an ambassador for aid
against the Turks to Western Europe, would have been ridiculous. We
must also bear in mind how many eager Italian scholars, supported
by exhibitions from the lords of Florence, and supplied with almost
unlimited credit for the purchase of literary treasures, pursued their
studies at Constantinople, and returned, like bees, book-laden with
the honey of old learning, home; how many Levant merchants, passing to
and fro between Italian and Greek ports, discovered that parchments
were a more profitable freight than gems or spices. Taking all this
into consideration, and duly weighing Curzon's competent opinion--"so
thoroughly were these ancient libraries" (of Athos) "explored in the
fifteenth century that no unknown classic author has been discovered,
nor has any MS. been found of greater antiquity than some already
known in the British Museum and other libraries"--we have the right
to infer that what the printing-press of Aldus made imperishable, was
all, or nearly all, that the degenerate scholars of the later age of
Hellas cared to treasure. The comparative preservation of Neoplatonic
philosophy, for example, when contrasted with the loss of dramatic
literature may be referred to the theological and mystical interests
of Byzantine students. Only one codex of first-rate importance is
supposed to have perished in Italy after importation from Byzantium
and before the age of printing. That was a MS. of Menander, which
Vespasiano, the Florentine bookseller, mentioned among the gems of
the library of Urbino.[73] Little, however, was known about the Greek
dramatic poets at the time when Vespasiano wrote his Lives, and it is
not impossible that what he took for a collection of Menander's plays,
was really a commonplace book of such fragments as we still possess.
Yet the mere mention of this volume raises curious speculation. We know
that when Cesare Borgia possessed himself of Urbino in 1502 he carried
off from the ducal palace a booty in jewels, plate, furniture, and
books to the value of 150,000 ducats. Some of the MSS. found their way
into the Vatican collection; others were restored to Urbino, whence
they were again transferred to Rome after the extinction of the ducal
family in the seventeenth century. It is conceivable that the Menander,
if it existed, may have been lost in the hurry of forced marches and
the confusion that involved the Borgia's career. Had it been stolen,
the thief could hardly have offered it for sale in its splendid
dress of crimson velvet and silver clasps stamped with the arms of
Montefeltro. It may even now be lurking somewhere in obscurity--a
treasure of more value than the Koh-i-noor.

Putting aside the fragments of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, it
may be broadly stated that what survives of the other tragic poets of
the Attic stage, and what we know about their lives, have been derived
in the main from four sources. The plays of Aristophanes and the
fragments of the later comic poets, who were the merciless critics of
contemporary tragedians, have, in the first place, supplied us with
some meagre quotations and with numerous insignificant caricatures.
From these questionable authorities we learn, for instance, that
Agathon was a man of effeminate manners, that Philocles was horribly
ugly, that Morsimus was an indifferent eye-doctor as well as a writer
of tame tragedies, that Meletus had no inspiration, that the whole
family of Carkinus were barbarians, that Pythangelus and Akestor were
no better than slaves, that Gnesippus mismanaged his Choruses, that
Hieronymus delighted in horrors, that Nothippus and Morychus were
gluttons, that Moschion was a parasite, and so forth. To attach very
much weight to comic squibs which dwell exclusively upon personal
defects and foibles, and repeat _ad nauseam_ the stock Athenian
calumnies of drunkenness and debauchery, would be uncritical; though
it must be borne in mind that satire in a Greek city, where all the
eminent burghers were well known to the play-goers, was pointless
unless it contained a grain of truth. Our second great authority is
Athenæus, a man of wide reading and extensive curiosity, whose heart
unhappily was set on trifles. Sauces, unguents, wreaths, the various
ways of dressing fish, the changes of fashion in wine-drinking, formed
the subjects of his profoundest investigations. Therefore the grave
and heightened tragedies of our unfortunate poets were ransacked by
him for rare citations, capable of throwing light upon a flower,
a dish, or a wine-cup. These matters were undoubtedly the veriest
_parerga_ to poets bent on moving the passions of terror and pity;
nor can we imagine a more distressing torment for their souls in
Hades than to know that what remains of a much-pondered and beloved
_Thyestes_ is a couple of lines about a carving-knife or meat-dish.
To be known to posterity through a calumny of Aristophanes and a
citation in the _Deipnosophistæ_, after having passed a long life in
composing tragedies, teaching choruses, and inventing chants, is a
caricature of immortality which might well deter a man of common-sense
from literature, and induce the vainest to go down speechless to the
grave in peace. Those poets who fell under the hands of Stobæus, our
third chief source of information, have fared better. It is more
consistent with the aims and wishes of a tragic artist to survive,
however mangled, in the commonplace book of a moralist, than in the
miscellanies of a literary _bon vivant_. The authors, therefore, of the
Euripidean school,

                            Teachers best
    Of moral prudence, with delight received,
    In brief sententious precepts, while they treat
    Of fate and chance and change in human life,

may be said to have fared better than their predecessors, whose style
rendered them less conveniently subject to the eclectic process of the
Macedonian collector. Much of the difficulty, however, which obscures
the text of these sententious fragments arises from their collector
having in all probability quoted from memory, so that bad grammar,
trivial terminations to otherwise well-worded lines, and passages
ruthlessly compressed by omissions are frequent. In the fourth place
we have to thank Aristotle for a few most precious, though, alas,
laconic, criticisms pronounced in the _Rhetoric_ and the _Poetics_ upon
his contemporaries, and for occasional quotations in the _Ethics_ to
Nicomachus and Eudemus. These criticisms help us to understand the
history of the Greek drama by throwing a dim light upon the serious
art of many defunct poets, who in their day shook the Attic scene.
To Plutarch, to Pausanias, and to the scholiasts we owe similar
obligations, though the value of their critical remarks is slight
compared with that of every word which fell from Aristotle's pen.

This rapid enumeration of the resources at our command will prepare
any one familiar with such matters for spare and disappointing
entertainment. The chief interest of such a survey as that which I
propose to make consists in the variety and extent of the lost dramatic
literature that it reveals. Nothing but a detailed examination of
existing fragments suffices to impress the mind with the quantity of
plays from which malignant fortune has preserved samples, fantastically
inadequate, and, in many cases, tantalizingly uncharacteristic. The
quotations from Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, meanwhile, have
already supplied matter of more sterling and intrinsic value.

When we take up the collection of _Perditorum Tragicorum Omnium
Fragmenta_, published at Paris by the care of M. Ambroise Firmin
Didot, our first sensation, on seeking what may possibly be left of
poets before Æschylus, is one of liveliest disappointment. Thespis, to
begin with, is a name: we know that he made tragedy dramatic instead
of dithyrambic, by introducing monologue in order to support and rest
the Chorus; but that is all. Choerilus is a name: we know that he
exhibited above fifty plays, that he was reckoned worthy by the comic
poet Alexis to be cited together with Hesiod, Homer, and Epicharmus,
and that Aristotle devoted three lost books of critical discussions to
the elucidation of difficult passages in his poems as well as in those
of Archilochus and Euripides. All the rest is obscure, except that we
have reason to believe that Choerilus excelled in the satyric drama.
Pratinas, again, is a name. Dim tradition reports that he invented the
satyric drama; and it has thence been inferred with probability that
the 150 plays ascribed to him were chiefly composed in tetralogies of
one comic and three serious pieces. He was also celebrated for the
excellence of his lyrics; while a story, preserved by Suidas, relates
how an accident that happened to the wooden stage at Athens during the
exhibition of one of his tragedies led to the building of the recently
discovered theatre of Dionysus. A few unimportant fragments have
survived, in two of which Pratinas avows his preference for the Æolian
mood in music. Phrynichus, though his poems have fared no better than
those of his contemporaries, stands before us with a more distinguished
personality. Herodotus tells the famous tale of his tragedy upon the
_Taking of Miletus_, which moved the Athenian audience to tears, and so
angered them by the vivid presentation of a recent disaster that they
fined the author in a sum of 1000 drachmas, and forbade the acting of
his drama. The sweetness of the songs of Phrynichus has reached us like
the echo of a bird's voice in a traveller's narrative. Aristophanes,
who loved the good old music of his youth, delighted in it, and
invented one of his rare verbal conglomerates to express its quality:
#kai minyrizontes melê archaiomelêsidônophrynichêrata# is a phrase he
puts into the mouth of Bdelycleon in the _Wasps_, while in the _Frogs_
he describes Phrynichus as making harvest in the meadows of the Muses.
Agathon, again, in the _Thesmophoriazusæ_ is represented saying:

    And Phrynichus--this surely you have heard--
    Was beautiful, and beautifully dressed;
    And this, we cannot doubt, was why his plays
    Were beautiful; for 'tis a natural law
    That like ourselves our work must ever be.

From the passage just referred to in the _Frogs_ (1298-1307) it is
clear that much of a tragic poet's reputation for originality at
Athens depended upon the invention of melodies; and that the merit of
Phrynichus consisted to some extent in the excellence and sweetness
of his tunes. No real light can now be thrown upon the dark subject
of Greek music in general, and of its relation to lyrical and tragic
poetry in particular. All we know serves to excite our inquisitiveness
without satisfying it. Thus Plutarch informs us that Phrynichus and
Æschylus preferred the harp (#kithara#) and adhered to the enharmonic
scale (#harmonia#) instead of employing chromatic modulations
(#chrôma#). The general drift of this remark is that the early tragic
poets maintained a simple and severe style of music, and avoided the
allurements of what Aristotle termed the most artificial of the Greek
scales. Collateral value is given to Plutarch's observation by the
Aristophanic criticism of the melodies in Agathon and Euripides. For
speculations on its deeper significance, it is impossible to do more
than refer the curious to Professor Donkin, General Perronet Thompson,
and Mr. Chappell, with the reiterated warning that the obscurity of the
subject is impenetrable. Phrynichus, in conclusion, was celebrated as
a ballet-master for his Pyrrhic dances, and, as a practical dramatist,
for the introduction of female characters. One line, among the few
ascribed to him, calls for quotation by reason of its beauty:

    #lampei d' epi porphyreais parêisi phôs erôtos.#

    The light of love burns upon crimson cheeks.

Aristias, the next in order of these lost poets, was a son of Pratinas,
who lived long enough to compete with Sophocles. The names of his
plays, _Antæus_, _Atalanta_, _Cyclops_, _Orpheus_, and _The Fates_,
show, like similar lists which might be quoted from the meagre notices
of his predecessors, that the whole material of Greek mythology was
handled and rehandled by the Attic playwrights.

The tragedians who follow can certainly not be considered older than
Æschylus, and are, all of them, most probably his juniors. Aristarchus,
a native of Tegea, calls for notice because he is reported by Suidas
to have determined the length of tragedies, whatever that may mean.
Ennius translated his drama of _Achilles_ into Latin, which proves that
he retained the fame of a first-rate poet till the beginning of the
Græco-Roman period. His fragments recall the Euripidean style; and the
two best of them have been preserved by Stobæus, the notorious admirer
of Euripides. To omit these, in the dearth of similar heirlooms from
antiquity, would be wasteful, especially as they serve to determine the
date at which he wrote, and to confirm the report of Suidas that he
was a contemporary of Euripides. Here is one that savors strongly of

    #kai taut' ison men eu legein ison de mê;
    ison d' ereunan, ex isou de mê eidenai;
    pleion gar ouden hoi sophoi tôn mê sophôn
    eis tauta gignôskousin; ei d' allou legei
    ameinon allos, tôi legein hyperpherei.#[74]

The second treats of love:

    #erôtos hostis mê pepeiratai brotôn,
    ouk oid' anankês thesmon; hôi peistheis egô
    houtô kratêtheis tasd' apestalên hodous;
    houtos gar ho theos kai ton asthenê sthenein
    tithêsi, kai ton aporon heuriskein poron.#[75]

Next to Aristarchus of Tegea we find Neophron of Sikyon, who claims
particular attention as the author of a tragedy acknowledged by
antiquity to have been the original of the _Medea_ of Euripides. There
are few students of literature who do not recognize in the _Medea_ the
masterpiece of that poet, and who have not wondered why it only won
the third prize at Athens, in the year 431 B.C. Is it possible that
because Euripides borrowed his play from Neophron--#to drama dokei
hypobalesthai para Neophronos diaskeuasas# are the words of the Greek
argument to _Medea_, while Suidas says of Neophron #hou phasin einai
tên tou Euripidou Mêdeian#--therefore the public and the judges thought
some deduction should be made from the merit of the drama?

Stobæus has handed down a long and precious fragment from the speech in
which Neophron's Medea decides to kill her children. A comparison of
this fragment with the splendid rhesis composed for Medea by Euripides
proves the obligation owed by the younger poet to the elder, both in
style and matter.

Here, then, is the monologue of Neophron's Medea:

    #eien; ti draseis thyme? bouleusai kalôs
    prin ê 'xamartein kai ta prosphilestata
    echthista thesthai. poi pot' exêixas talas?
    katische lêma kai sthenos theostyges.
    kai pros ti taut' odyromai, psychên emên
    horôs' erêmon kai parêmelêmenên
    pros hôn echrên hêkista? malthakoi de dê
    toiauta gignomestha paschontes kaka?
    ou mê prodôseis thyme sauton en kakois.
    oimoi dedoktai; paides ektos ommatôn
    apelthet'; êdê gar me phoinia megan
    dedike lyssa thymon; ô cheres, cheres,
    pros hoion ergon exoplizomestha; pheu;
    talaina tolmês, hê polyn ponon brachei
    diaphtherousa ton emon erchomai chronôi.#[76]

It is hardly possible not to recognize in these lines the first sketch
of the picture afterwards worked out so elaborately in detail by

Ion was a native of Chios, who came while still a boy (#pantapasi
meirakion#) to Athens, and enjoyed the honor of supping with Cimon in
the house of a certain Laomedon. Of his life and work very little is
known, although his reputation among the ancients was so great that
the Alexandrians placed him among the first five tragic poets. The
titles of eleven of his plays have been preserved; but these were
only a few out of many that he wrote. He was, besides, a voluminous
prose-author, and practised every kind of lyrical poetry. From the
criticism of Longinus we gather that his dramas were distinguished
for fluency and finish rather than for boldness of conception or
sublimity of style. After praising their regularity, Longinus adds
that he would not exchange the _Oedipus_ of Sophocles for all the
tragedies of Ion put together. Personally, Ion had the reputation of
a voluptuary: #philopotên kai erôtikôtaton# are the words of Athenæus
which describe him. There is also a story that he passed some portion
of his life at Corinth in love-bondage to the beautiful Chrysilla. In
short, both as a man and an artist, Ion was true to his name and race.
It is unfortunate that the few fragments we possess of Ion's tragedies
have been transmitted for the most part by Hesychius and Athenæus in
illustration of grammatical usages and convivial customs. The following
gnomic couplet, preserved by Plutarch, is both interesting in itself
and characteristic of the poet's style:

    #to gnôthi sauton, tout' epos men ou mega,
    ergon d', hoson Zeus monos epistatai theôn.#[77]

Another passage, quoted by Sextus Empiricus, contains an elegant
description of the power of Sparta:

    #ou gar logois Lakaina pyrgoutai polis,
    all' eut' Arês neochmos empesêi stratôi,
    boulê men archei, cheir d' epexergazetai.#[78]

Almost less can be said about Achæus of Eretria, the fifth, with
Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Ion, in the Alexandrian #prôtê
taxis#, or first class of tragic worthies. Diogenes Laertius records
his skill in the satyric drama; Athenæus remarks that his style was
obscure, and that he filled his plays with riddles. The names of some
of his dramas--_Linus_, _The Fates_, _Philoctetes at Troy_, _Omphale_,
_Peirithous_--excite our curiosity; but the fragments are, as usual,
cited for some merely frivolous or pedantic purpose.

The following corrupt passage from a play called #Athloi# or #Athla#,
_The Games_--the loss of which is greatly to be regretted, since it
might have thrown a new light upon the feeling of the Greeks for their
public contests--presents a lively picture of the physical splendor of
trained athletes:

    #gymnoi gar ôthoun phaidimous brachionas
    hêbêi sphrigôntes emporeuontai, neôi
    stilbontes anthei karteras epômidas;
    adên d' elaiou sterna kai podôn kytos
    chriousin, hôs echontes oikothen tryphên.#[79]

Another glimpse of athletes may be got from three lines torn out of the
same play:

    #potera theôrois eit' agônistais legeis?
    poll' esthiousin, hôs epaskountôn tropos.
    podapoi gar eisin hoi xenoi? Boiôtioi.#[80]

In this portrait we recognize the young men satirically described by
Euripides in a fragment, translated above, of the lost _Autolycus_, as
roaming about the city in the radiant insolence of youth, like animated

Mourn as we may the loss of Ion and Achæus, our grief for that of
Agathon must needs be greater. Though he was not placed in the
first class by the Alexandrian critics, it is clear from the notices
of Plato, Aristophanes, and Aristotle that he enjoyed the widest
popularity at Athens, and was, besides, a poet of marked originality.
Personally, he was amiable, delicate, pleasure-loving, and extremely
beautiful. He is always called--even by Plutarch and Athenæus--#Agathôn
ho kalos#, Agathon the beautiful; while the passionate friendship with
which he had inspired Pausanias is celebrated by Plato in _Protagoras_,
by Xenophon in the _Symposium_. Later authors, like Maximus Tyrius,
gave him the title of #habrotatos#, while Lucian compared him to
Cinyras or Sardanapalus. Apparently he was rich enough to indulge
the most luxurious tastes. One of the best comic scenes in the
_Thesmophoriazusæ_ is that in which Aristophanes described Agathon
surrounded by all the appliances of a voluptuary, while engaged in the
composition of an effeminate play. Euripides, entering this study of a
Sybarite, implores him to put on female attire, using these arguments:

    #sy d' euprosôpos, leukos, exyrêmenos,
    gynaikophônos, hapalos, euprepês idein.#[81]

In poetry Agathon adopted innovations consistent with his own voluptuous
temperament. His style was distinguished by melodious sweetness and
rhetorical refinements; in particular, we are told that he affected the
flowery tropes and the antitheses of Gorgias. Sophistry was fashionable
in his youth, and Aristophanes recognized in Agathon the true companion
of Euripides. Leaving the severer music of the elder tragedians, he
invented chromatic melodies, which seem to have tickled the sensuality
of his Athenian audience.[82]

We are therefore justified in regarding Agathon as the creator of a
new tragic style combining the verbal elegances and ethical niceties
of the sophists with artistic charms of a luxurious kind. Aristotle
observes that he separated the Chorus from the action of the drama
to such an extent that his lyrics became mere musical interludes
#embolima#, equally adapted to any tragic fable.[83] He also remarks
that Agathon composed plays upon romantic subjects, inventing the
story for himself, instead of adhering to the old usage of rehandling
mythological material.[84] The title of one of these dramatic romances,
_The Flower_, has been preserved; but unhappily we are told nothing
about its subject, and have no extracts to judge from. That the form of
tragedy suffered other changes at the hands of Agathon may be inferred
from another passage in the _Poetics_, where Aristotle censures him for
having included a whole epic, _The Taking of Troy_, in one play.[85]
This play, it may be said in passing, was hissed off the stage. The
popularity of Agathon may be gathered from the fact that the first
tetralogy he exhibited was crowned in 416 B.C. Plato has chosen the
supper-party which he gave in celebration of this victory for the
scene of the _Symposium_; and it is there that we must learn to know
this brilliant man of letters and of fashion in the wittiest period of
Attic social life. It is not a little curious that the most interesting
fragments of Agathon are embedded in the _Ethics_ and the _Rhetoric_
of Aristotle, who must have made attentive study of his works. While
discussing the subject of free-will, the sage of Stageira quotes this

    #monou gar autou kai theos sterisketai,
    agenêta poiein hass' an êi pepragmena.#[86]

Again, on the topic of art and chance, he cites:

    #technê tychên esterxe kai tychê technên.#[87]

Speaking in the _Eudemian Ethics_ about the true and spurious kinds of
courage, he adds:

            #kathaper kai Agathôn phêsi:
    phauloi brotôn gar tou ponein hêssômenoi
    thanein erôsi.#[88]

Another quotation, for the sake of both the poet and the philosopher,
may be adduced from the _Rhetoric_:

    #kai mên ta men ge têi technêi prassein, ta de
    hêmin anankêi kai tychêi prosgignetai.#[89]

One of the peculiarities to be noticed in the practice of the poetic
art among the Greeks was the formation of schools by families of
artists, in whom talent continued to be hereditary for several
generations. We observe this among the lyrists; but the tragedians
offer even more remarkable instances, proving how thoroughly the most
complicated of all the arts, the tragic drama--including, as it did,
the teaching of music and of dancing to Choruses, the arrangement
of stage effects, and the training of actors--was followed as a
profession at Athens. That Phrynichus founded a school of playwrights
distinguished for their musical rather than their dramatic ability
appears from the nineteenth section of the _Problemata_ of Aristotle;
but we do not know whether the #hoi peri Phrynichon# there mentioned
belonged to the poet's family. It is possible, on the other hand, to
draw the pedigree of Æschylus, in which every name will represent a
tragic poet. Here it is:

  1. Æschylus.                  A daughter, married to Philopeithes.
      |------------|                       |
  2. Bion.    3. Euphorion.        4. Philocles the elder.
                                    5. Morsimus.
                                    6. Astydamas the elder.
      7. Philocles the younger.    8. Astydamas the younger.

The #hoi peri Aischylon#, therefore, of whom the scholiasts often
speak, numbered, together with Æschylus himself, eight dramatists.
Their common characteristic consisted in the adherence to the Æschylean
style, in the presentation of tetralogies, and in the privilege
successively enjoyed by them of bringing out old plays of Æschylus in
competition with the works of younger poets. The dramas of Æschylus
were in fact "a property" to his descendants. The Athenians had
publicly decreed that they might be from year to year produced upon the
scene, and Euphorion, his son, spent his time in preparing them for
exhibition. In this way he gained four prizes, taking the first crown
upon the notable occasion, in 431 B.C., when Sophocles was second,
and Euripides, with the _Medea_, third. It appears that, as time went
on, the original compositions of Æschylus suffered mutilations and
alterations at the hands of his posterity, who pretended to improve
them--after the manner of Davenant, presumably--and adapt them to the
modern taste. At last Lycurgus, about 340 B.C., decreed that after
accurate copies had been taken of the authorized text and deposited
in the public archives, the clerk of the city should collate them
with the acted plays, and see that no deviations from the original
became established. We gather from the comic poets that the family of
Æschylus also produced their own tragedies, none of which, however,
appear to have been very excellent. Philocles the elder was laughed
at by Aristophanes partly because he was an ugly, snub-nosed, little
man, with a head like a hoopoe; partly because he introduced a comic
incident into his tragedy of _Pandionis_ by exhibiting Tereus dressed
out with the feathers of a bird. The scholiasts to Aristophanes, in
like manner, inform us that Morsimus owed a certain celebrity to his
ugliness, to the tameness of his tragic style, and to his want of skill
as a professional oculist. Astydamas the elder achieved the same sad
sort of immortality through the accident of having received the honor
of a public statue before Æschylus. It is lost labor trying to form a
clear conception of poets who are only known to us in anecdotes like

Frederick Wagner, the collector of the tragic fragments, reckons
Meletus, the accuser of Socrates, and Plato, the divine philosopher,
among the school of Æschylus, because it appears that both of them
composed tetralogies. From a passage in the scholiast to Aristophanes
(_Frogs_, 1302) it may be inferred that Meletus the tragedian and
Meletus the informer were one and the same person: #kômôideitai de
kai hôs psychros en têi poiêsei kai hôs ponêros ton tropon#--"he is
satirized both for want of genius as a poet and also for the badness
of his moral character." This sentence constitutes his title to
fame. He is known to have composed a series of plays with the title
_Oedipodeia_, the plot, as sketched by Hyginus,[90] offering some
notable divergences from the Sophoclean treatment of the tale of
Thebes. Plato may be numbered among the tragedians on the strength
of an anecdote in Ælian,[91] according to which he had composed a
tetralogy, and had already distributed the parts to the actors, when he
determined to abandon poetry and gave his verses to the flames.

The school of Sophocles includes two sons of the poet, Iophon and
Ariston, and his grandson Sophocles. In fact, it combines the actors
in that family drama played out before the jury of the tribe, when
the singer of Colonus silenced his accuser by the recitation of the
Chorus from his second _Oedipus_. Iophon exhibited tragedies with
distinguished success during the life of Sophocles, and even entered
into competition with his father. After the old man's death he produced
the posthumous works that formed his heirloom, completing such as
were unfinished or executing those of which the plan was sketched in
outline. He is said to have exhibited fifty plays, and that he was no
mean poet appears from the following passage of the _Frogs_:

    _H._ Is not Iophon a good one?--He's alive, sure?

    _B._ If he's a good one, he's our only good one;
          But it's a question; I'm in doubt about him.

    _H._ There's Sophocles; he's older than Euripides--
          If you go so far for 'em, you'd best bring him.

    _B._ No; first I'll try what Iophon can do
          Without his father, Sophocles, to assist him.[92]

The drift of these lines would be obscure without some explanation to
readers who have not studied Aristophanes. All the good tragic poets
are dead, and Dionysus is journeying to Hades to fetch one back again
to rule the Attic stage. Herakles falls into conversation with him on
the subject, and reminds him that Iophon is living. The doubt expressed
by Dionysus seems to refer to a suspicion prevalent at Athens that
Sophocles helped his son in the composition of his plays. Meanwhile,
the qualified praise awarded him by Dionysus implies considerable
admiration on the part of so severe a castigator of the tragic
dramatists as Aristophanes. Only four and a half lines, and these by no
means noticeable, remain of Iophon. His half-brother Ariston has fared
better, since we possess a long and curious dialogue upon Providence,
quoted by Theophilus of Antioch from an unknown play of his. This
fragment supports the Christian belief that, though the careless seem
to prosper, while the virtuous get no benefit from their asceticism,
justice will eventually be dealt with even hand to all:

    #chôris pronoias ginetai gar oude hen.#

It is right to add that the authorship of these lines must be at least
considered doubtful, and that their versification, as it now stands, is
unworthy of the Attic drama.

By the middle of the fourth century before Christ the whole dramatic
literature of the Athenians, both tragic and comic, was being
penetrated with the Euripidean spirit. It is impossible not to notice
in the style of these later playwrights either the direct influence of
Euripides or else the operation of the laws of intellectual development
he illustrated. We cannot, therefore, treat the Euripidean school
with the definiteness applicable to that of Æschylus or Sophocles. At
the same time it is certain that a son or a nephew bearing his name
continued to exhibit his posthumous dramas.

A stronger instance of histrionic and dramatic talent transmitted
through four generations is presented by the family of Carkinus, some
of whom were famous for mimetic dancing, while others contended in the
theatre as playwrights. What we know about Carkinus and his children
is chiefly derived from the satires of Aristophanes, who was never
tired of abusing them. Their very name serves as a scarecrow, and the
muse is invoked to keep them off the stage. To stir the rubbish-heap
of obscure allusions and pedantic annotations, in order to discover
which of the six Carkinidæ we know by name were poets, and which of
them were dancers, is a weary task not worth the labor it involves.
Suffice it to say that the grandson of Aristophanes's old butt, himself
called Carkinus, produced the incredible number of 160 dramas, was
three times mentioned with respect by Aristotle,[93] and has survived
in comparatively copious quotations. One passage, though not very
remarkable for poetical beauty, is interesting because it describes the
wanderings of Demeter through Sicily in search of Persephone. Diodorus,
who cites it from an unknown play, mentions that Carkinus frequently
visited Syracuse and saw the processions in honor of Demeter.

About the Attic tragedians who lived during the old age of
Aristophanes, the first thing to notice is that they may fairly be
called the Epigoni of Euripides. Æschylus was old-fashioned. The style
of Sophocles did not lend itself to easy imitation. The psychological
analyses, casuistical questions, rhetorical digressions, and pathetic
situations wherein the great poet of the _Hippolytus_ delighted were
exactly suited to the intellectual tastes and temper of incipient
decadence. A nation of philosophers and rhetoricians had arisen; and
it is noteworthy that many of the playwrights of this period were
either professed orators or statesmen. In his own lifetime Aristophanes
witnessed the triumph of the principles against which he fought
incessantly with all the weapons of the comic armory. Listen to the
complaint of Dionysus in the _Frogs_:

    _H._ But have not you other ingenious youths
          That are fit to out-talk Euripides ten times over--
          To the amount of a thousand, at least, all writing tragedy?

    _D._ They're good for nothing--"Warblers of the Grove"--
          "Little, foolish, fluttering things"--poor puny wretches,
          That dawdle and dangle about with the tragic muse,
          Incapable of any serious meaning.[94]

To translate the Greek for modern readers is not possible. The pith of
the passage is found in this emphatic phrase, #gonimon de poiêtên an
ouk heurois eti#, "there's not a sound male poet capable of procreation
left." Accordingly he vents his venom on Pythangelus, Gnesippus,
Akestor, Hieronymus, Nothippus, Morychus, Sthenelus, Dorillus,
Spintharus, and Theognis, without mercy. Not a single fragment remains
to judge these wretched poets by. It is better to leave them in their
obscurity than to drag them forth into the dubious light of comic

Critias, the son of Callæschrus, the pupil of Socrates, who figures
in so many scenes of Xenophon and Plato, and who played a memorable
part in the political crisis of 404 B.C., was a tragic poet of some
talent, if we are to accept a fragment from the _Sisyphus_ as his.
Sextus Empiricus transcribed forty lines of this drama, setting forth
the primitive conditions of humanity. First, says Critias, men began by
living like the brutes, without rewards for virtue or punishment for
vice. Mere might of hand prevailed. Then laws were framed and penalties
affixed to crime. Open violence was thus repressed; but evil-doers
flourished in secret. Fraud and hypocrisy took the place of force. To
invent the dread of gods and to create a conscience was the next step
taken by humanity. Then followed the whole scheme of religion, and
with religion entered superstition, and men began to fear the thunder
and to look with strange awe on the stars. The quotation is obviously
imperfect: yet it may advantageously be compared with the speeches of
Prometheus in Æschylus, and also with the speculations of Lucretius.
The hypothesis of deliberate invention implied in the following phrases,

              #tênikauta moi
    dokei pyknos tis kai sophos gnômên anêr
    gnônai theon thnêtoisin,#[95]

and #to theion eisêgêsato#,[96] sufficed not only for antiquity, but
also for those modern theorists who, like Locke, imagined that language
was produced artificially by wise men in counsel, or who, like Rousseau
and the encyclopedists, maintained that religions were framed by knaves
to intimidate fools.

Cleophon demands a passing notice, because we learn from Aristotle[97]
that he tried to reduce tragedy to the plain level of common life by
using every-day language and not attempting to idealize his characters.
The total destruction of his plays may be regretted, since it is
probable that we should have observed in them the approximation of
tragedy to comedy which ended finally in the new comic style of the
Athenians. About Cleophon's contemporary, Nicomachus, of whom nothing
is known except that he produced a great many tragedies on the stock
subjects of mythology, nothing need be said. The case is somewhat
different with a certain Diogenes who, while writing seven tragedies
under the decorous titles of _Thyestes_, _Helen_, _Medea_, and so
forth, nevertheless contrived to offend against all the decencies of
civilized life. Later grammarians can hardly find language strong
enough to describe their improprieties. Here is a specimen: #arrhêtôn
arrhêtotera kai kakôn pera, kai oute hoti phô peri autôn axiôs echô....
houtô pasa men aischrotês, pasa de aponoia en ekeinais tôi andri
pephilotechnêtai#. To ascribe these impure productions to Diogenes
the Cynic, in spite of his well-known contempt for literature, was a
temptation which even the ancients, though better informed than we
are, could not wholly resist. Yet, after much sifting of evidence,
it may be fairly believed that there were two Diogeneses--the one an
Athenian, who wrote an innocuous play called _Semele_, the other a
native perhaps of Gadara, who also bore the name of Oenomaus, and who
perpetrated the seven indecent parodies. Diogenes of Sinope, meanwhile,
was never among the poets, and the plays that defended cannibalism and
blasphemed against the gods, though conceived in his spirit, belonged
probably to a later period.[98]

Time would fail to tell of Antiphon and Polyeides, of Crates and
Python, of Nearchus and Cleænetus, of the Syracusan Achæus and
of Dikaiogenes, of Apollodorus and Timesitheus and Patrocles and
Alkimenes and Apollonius and Hippotheon and Timocles and Ecdorus
and Serapion--of all of whom it may be briefly said we know a few
laborious nothings. Their names in a list serve to show how the sacred
serpent of Greek tragedy, when sick to death, continued still for many
generations drawing its slow length along. Down to the very end they
kept on handling the old themes. Timesitheus, for instance, exhibited
_Danaides_, _Ixion_, _Memnon_, _Orestes_, and the like. Meanwhile
a few pale shades emerge from the nebulous darkness demanding more
consideration than the mere recording of their names implies. We find
two tyrants, to begin with, on the catalogue--Mamercus of Catana, who
helped Timoleon, and Dionysius of Syracuse. Like Nero and Napoleon
III., Dionysius was very eager to be ranked among the authors. He
spared no expense in engaging the best rhapsodes of the day, and sent
them to recite his verses at Olympia. To deceive a Greek audience
in matters of pure æsthetics was, however, no easy matter. The men
who came together attracted by the sweet tones of the rhapsodes soon
discovered the badness of the poems and laughed them down. Some
fragments from the dramas of Dionysius have been preserved, among which
is one that proves his preaching sounder than his practice:

    #hê gar tyrannis adikias mêtêr ephy.#[99]

The intrusion of professional orators into the sphere of the theatre
might have been expected in an age when public speaking was cultivated
like a fine art, and when opportunities for the display of verbal
cleverness were eagerly sought. We are not, therefore, surprised
to find Aphareus and Theodectes, distinguished rhetoricians of the
school of Isocrates, among the tragedians. Of Theodectes a sufficient
number of fragments survive to establish the general character of
his style; but it is enough in this place to notice the fusion of
forensic eloquence with dramatic poetry, against which Aristophanes had
inveighed, and which was now complete.

Chæremon and Moschion are more important in the history of the Attic
drama, since both of them attempted innovations in accordance with
the literary spirit of their age, and did not, like the rhetoricians,
follow merely in the footsteps of Euripides. Chæremon, the author of
_Achilles Thersitoctonos_ and several other pieces, was mentioned by
Aristotle for having attempted to combine a great variety of metres in
a poem called _The Centaur_,[100] which was, perhaps, a tragi-comedy
or #hilarotragôidia#. He possessed remarkable descriptive powers,
and was reckoned by the critics of antiquity as worthy of attentive
study, though his dramas failed in action on the stage. We may regard
him, in fact, as the first writer of plays to be read.[101] The
metamorphoses through which the arts have to pass in their development
repeat themselves at the most distant ages and under the most diverse
circumstances. It is, therefore, interesting to find that Chæremon
combined with this descriptive faculty a kind of euphuism which
might place him in the same rank as Marini and Calderon, or among
the most refined of modern idyllists. He shrank, apparently, from
calling things by their plain names. Water, for example, became in
his fantastic phraseology #potamou sôma#. The flowers were "children
of the spring," #earos tekna#--the roses, "nurslings of the spring,"
#earos tithênêmata#--the stars, "sights of the firmament," #aitheros
theamata#--ivy, "lover of dancers, offspring of the year," #chorôn
erastês eniautou pais#--blossoms, "children of the meadows," #leimônôn
tekna#, and so forth. In fact, Chæremon rivals Gongora, Lyly, and
Herrick on their own ground, and by his numerous surviving fragments
proves how impossible it is to conclude that the Greeks of even a good
age were free from affectations. Students who may be interested in
tracing the declensions of classic style from severity and purity will
do well to read the seventeen lines preserved by Athenæus from the
tragedy of _Oeneus_.[102] They present a picture of girls playing in a
field, too artful for successful rendering into any but insufferably
ornate English.

The claim of Moschion on our attention is different from that
of his contemporary Chæremon. He wrote a tragedy with the title
of _Themistocles_, wherein he appears to have handled the same
subject-matter as Æschylus in the _Persæ_. The hero of Salamis was,
however, conspicuous by his absence from the history-play of the elder
poet. Lapse of time, by removing the political difficulties under
which the _Persæ_ was composed, enabled Moschion to make the great
Themistocles his protagonist. Two fragments transmitted by Stobæus from
this drama, the one celebrating Athenian liberty of speech, while the
other argues that a small band may get the better of a myriad lances,
seem to be taken from the _concio ad milites_ of the hero:

                #kai gar en napais brachei
    polys sidêrôi keiretai peukês klados,
    kai baios ochlos myrias lonchês kratei.#[103]

Another tragedy of Moschion, the _Pheræi_, is interesting when compared
with the _Antigone_ of Sophocles and the _Sisyphus_ ascribed to
Critias. Its plot seems in some way to have turned upon the duty which
the living owe the dead:

    #kenon thanontos andros aikizein skian;
    zôntas kolazein ou thanontas eusebes.#[104]

And, again, in all probability from the same drama:

    #ti kerdos ouket' ontas aikizein nekrous?
    ti tên anaudon gaian hybrizein pleon?
    epên gar hê krinousa kai thêdiona
    kai taniara phroudos aisthêsis phtharêi,
    to sôma kôphou taxin eilêphen petrou.#[105]

A long quotation of thirty-four iambics, taken apparently in like
manner from the _Pheræi_, sets forth the primitive condition of
humanity. Men lived at first in caverns, like wild beasts. They had
not learned the use of iron; nor could they fashion houses, or wall
cities, or plough the fields, or garner fruits of earth. They were
cannibals, and preyed on one another. In course of time, whether by
the teaching of Prometheus or by the evolution of implanted instincts,
they discovered the use of corn, and learned how to press wine from the
grape. Cities arose and dwellings were roofed in, and social customs
changed from savage to humane. From that moment it became impiety
to leave the dead unburied; but tombs were dug, and dust was heaped
upon the clay-cold limbs, in order that the old abomination of human
food might be removed from memory of men. The whole of this passage,
very brilliantly written, condenses the speculations of Athenian
philosophers upon the origin of civilization, and brings them to the
point which the poet had in view--the inculcation of the sanctity of

Nothing more remains to be said about the Attic tragedians. At the risk
of being tedious, I have striven to include the names at least of all
the poets who filled the tragic stage from its beginning to its ending,
in order that the great number of playwrights and their variety might
be appreciated. The probable date at which Thespis began to exhibit
dramas may be fixed soon after 550 B.C. Moschion may possibly have
lived as late as 300 B.C. These, roughly calculated, are the extreme
points of time between which the tragic art of the Athenians arose
and flourished and declined. When the Alexandrian critics attempted
a general review of dramatic literature, they formed, as we have
seen already, two classes of tragedians. In the first they numbered
five Athenian worthies. The second, called the Pleiad, included seven
poets of the Court of Alexandria; nor is there adequate reason to
suppose that this inferior canon, #deutera taxis#, was formed on any
but just principles of taste. How magnificent was the revival of
art and letters, in all that pertained, at any rate, to scenic show
and pompous ritual, during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, how
superbly the transplanted flowers of Greek ceremonial flourished on
the shores of ancient Nile, and how Hellenic customs borrowed both
gorgeous colors and a mystic meaning from the contact with Egyptian
rites, may be gathered from the chapters devoted by Athenæus in the
fifth book of the _Deipnosophistæ_ to these matters. The Pleiad and
the host of minor Alexandrian stars have fared, however, worse than
their Athenian models. They had not even comic satirists to keep their
names alive "immortally immerded." With the exception of Lycophron,
they offer no firm ground for modern criticism. We only know that, in
this Alexandrian Renaissance, literature, as usual, repeated itself.
Alexandria, like Athens, had its royal poets, and, what is not a little
curious, Ptolemy Philopator imitated his predecessor Dionysius to
the extent of composing a tragedy, _Adonis_, with the same title and
presumably upon the same theme.


[70] Agathon the famous, a good poet, and lovable to his friends.

[71] Aristophanes, the grammarian, and Aristarchus included five
tragic poets--Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ion, and Achæus--in the
first rank. In a second series they placed the works of the so-called
Pleiad, seven tragic poets who at Alexandria revived the style of the
Attic drama. Their names were Homerus, Sositheus, Lycophron, Alexander,
Philiscus, Sosiphanes, and Dionysiades.

[72] The story is told with wonderful vividness by Victor Hugo,
_William Shakespeare_, pp. 176-194.

[73] _Vite di Uomini Illustri_, p. 97. He catalogues "tutte l'opere di
Sofocle; tutte l'opere di Pindaro; tutte l'opere di Menandro."


    Fair speech in such things and no speech are one:
    Study and ignorance have equal value;
    For wise men know no more than simple fools
    In these dark matters; and if one by speaking
    Conquer another, mere words win the day.


    That man who hath not tried of love the might,
    Knows not the strong rule of necessity,
    Bound and constrained whereby, this road I travel.
    Yea, our lord, Love, strengthens the strengthless, teaches
    The craftless how to find both craft and cunning.


    Well, well; what wilt thou do, my soul? Think much
    Before this sin be sinned, before thy dearest
    Thou turn to deadliest foes. Whither art bounding?
    Restrain thy force, thy god-detested fury.
    And yet why grieve I thus, seeing my life
    Laid desolate, despitefully abandoned
    By those who least should leave me? Soft, forsooth,
    Shall I be in the midst of wrongs like these?
    Nay, heart of mine, be not thy own betrayer!
    Ah me! 'Tis settled. Children, from my sight
    Get you away! for now bloodthirsty madness
    Sinks in my soul and swells it. Oh, hands, hands,
    Unto what deed are we accoutred? Woe!
    Undone by my own daring! In one minute
    I go to blast the fruit of my long toil.


    Know thou thyself--the saw is no great thing;
    To do it, Zeus alone of gods is able.


    The town of Sparta is not walled with words;
    But when young Ares falls upon her men,
    Then reason rules and the hand does the deed.

[79] It is clear that #gar ôthoun# is wrong. The best suggestion seems
to be #g' anôthen#, adopting which we may render the lines thus:

    Naked above, their radiant arms displaying,
    In lustihood of ruffling youth, and bloom
    Of beauty bright on stalwart breasts, they fare;
    Their shoulders and their feet in floods of oil
    Are bathed, like men whose homes abound in plenty.


    Ambassadors or athletes do you mean?
    Great feeders are they, like most men in training.
    Of what race are the strangers, then? Boeotians.


    While you are smooth-faced, white-skinned, closely shaven,
    Voiced like a woman, tender, fair to see.

[82] This is strongly expressed in an untranslatable speech of
Mnesilochus (Ar. _Thesmoph._ 130 _et seq._), which reminds one of the
first satire of Persius:

                    Cum carmina lumbum
    Intrant et tremulo scalpuntur ut intima versu.

[83] _Poet._ cap. 18.

[84] _Ibid._ cap. 9.

[85] _Ibid._ cap. 18.


    For from this one thing God himself is barred--
    To make what's done as though it ne'er had been.


    Art is true friend of chance, and chance of art.

[88] Even as saith also Agathon:

    Worsted by suffering cowards dote on death.

[89] I have followed Grotius in transposing #tychêi# and #technêi#, and

    Thus some things we can do by art, while some
    Are thrust on us as fate and fortune will.

[90] _Fab._ 172.

[91] _Varia Historia_, ii. 30. Compare Diog. Laert. iii. 80.

[92] Frere's Translation, p. 229.

[93] _Poet._ cap. 17; _Rhet._ ii. 23, iii. 16.

[94] Frere, p. 229.


                  Then, I think,
    A man of subtle counsel and keen wit
    Discovered God for mortals.

[96] Introduced the notion of deity.

[97] _Poet._ capp. ii., xxii.; _Rhet._ iii. 7.

[98] The whole matter is too obscure for discussion in this place.
Suffice it to add that a certain Philiscus, the friend and follower of
Diogenes, enjoyed a portion of the notoriety attaching to the seven
obnoxious dramas.

[99] The rule of one man is of wrong the parent.

[100] _Poet._ i., xxiv.

[101] See Ar. _Rhet._ iii. 12.

[102] Athen. xiii. p. 608_a_.


            In far mountain vales
    See how one small axe fells innumerous firs;
    So a few men can curb a myriad lances.


    'Tis vain to offer outrage to thin shades;
    God-fearers strike the living, not the dead.


    What gain we by insulting mere dead men?
    What profit win taunts cast at voiceless clay?
    For when the sense that can discern things sweet
    And things offensive is corrupt and fled,
    The body takes the rank of mere deaf stone.



    Greek Tragedy and the Rites of Dionysus.--A Sketch of
        its Origin and History.--The Attic Theatre.--The
        Actors and their Masks.--Relation of Sculpture
        to the Drama in Greece.--The Legends used by the
        Attic Tragedians.--Modern Liberty in the Choice of
        Subjects.--Mystery Plays.--Nemesis.--Modern Tragedy has
        no Religious Idea.--Tragic Irony.--Aristotle's Definition
        of Tragedy.--Modern Tragedy offers no #katharsis#
        of the Passions.--Destinies and Characters.--Female
        Characters.--The Supernatural.--French Tragedy.--Five
        Acts.--Bloodshed.--The Unities.--Radical Differences in the
        Spirit of Ancient and Modern Art.

In order to comprehend the differences between the ancient and the
modern drama--between the tragedy of Sophocles and the tragedy of
Shakespeare--it is necessary to enter into the details of the history
of the Attic stage. In no other department of art is the character of
the work produced so closely dependent upon the external form which the
artist had to adopt.

Both the tragedy and comedy of the Greeks were intimately connected
with the religious rites of Dionysus. Up to the very last, they formed
a portion of the cultus of the vintage-god, to whom the theatre was
consecrated, and at whose yearly festivals the plays were acted. The
Chorus, which originally formed the chief portion of the dramatic
body, took its station at the altar of Bacchus in the centre of the
theatre. Now the worship of Bacchus in Greece had from the first a
double aspect--joyous and sorrowful. The joyous festivals were held
in celebration of the vigor and the force of nature, in the spring
and summer of the year; the sorrowful commemorated the sadness of the
autumn and the winter. There were, therefore, two distinct branches
of musical and choral art connected with the Dionysiac rites--the one
jovial, the other marked by the enthusiasm of a wild grief. From the
former of these, or the revel-song, sprang Comedy; from the latter, or
the dithyramb, sprang Tragedy. Arion is named as the first great poet
who cultivated the dithyramb and wrote elaborate odes for recitation by
the Chorus in their evolutions round the Bacchic altar. His Chorus were
attired like satyrs in goat-skins, to represent the woodland comrades
of the god; hence came the name of tragedy or goat-song. At first the
dithyrambic odes celebrated only the mystical woes of Dionysus: then
they were extended so as to embrace the mythical incidents connected
with his worship; and at last the god himself was forgotten, and the
tragic sufferings of any hero were chanted by the Chorus. This change
is marked by an old tradition concerning Sicyon, where it is said that
the woes of the hero Adrastus were sung by the Bacchic choir, and that
Cleisthenes, wishing to suppress the national mythology, restored the
antique Dionysiac function. It also may explain the Greek proverb:
"What has this to do with Dionysus?"--a question which might reasonably
have been asked when the sacred representation diverged too widely from
the line of Bacchic legend.

Thus the original element of Greek tragedy was the dithyramb, as
cultivated by Arion; and the first step in the progress of the
dithyrambic Chorus towards the Drama was the introduction of heroic
legends into the odes. The next step was the addition of the actor.
It has been ingeniously conjectured that the actor was borrowed from
the guild of rhapsodes. The iambics of Archilochus and other poets
were recited, as we know, at the feasts of Demeter, whose cult had
points of similarity with that of Bacchus. It is not improbable that
when the heroic element was added to the dithyramb, and the subjects
handled by the professional reciters of the Homeric and cyclic epics
began to form a part of the Dionysiac celebration, a rhapsode was
then introduced to help the Chorus in their office. That he declaimed
iambics and not hexameters may be accounted for by the prevalence of
the iambic in the sister-cult of Demeter. This, then, was the third
step in the development of tragedy. To the dithyrambic chorus of Arion
was added an interlocutor, who not only recited passages of narrative,
but also exchanged speech with the Chorus, and who, in course of time,
came to personate the hero whose history was being celebrated. Thus
far had the art advanced in the age of Thespis. The Chorus stood and
danced round the altar of Bacchus. The rhapsode, whom we now begin to
call the actor, stood on a raised stage (#logeion#) above them. The
whole history of Greek tragedy exhibits a regular expansion of these
simple elements. The function of the Chorus, the peculiar nature of the
masks and dresses, and the very structure of the theatres, can only be
explained by reference to this primitive constitution of the dramatic

To Thespis the Athenian, whose first regular exhibition of the tragic
show preceded the birth of Æschylus by about ten years, belongs the
credit of having brought the various elements of tragedy into harmony,
and of having fixed the outlines of the tragic art. The destruction of
Athens by the Persian army, like the burning of London, which inflicted
so severe an injury upon our early dramatic literature, obliterated
the monuments of the genuine Thespian tragedy. Some of the names of
these dramas--_Pentheus_, _Phorbas_, _the Funeral Games of Pelias_,
_the Priests_--have been preserved; from which we may conjecture
that Thespis composed interludes with regular plots, combining
choric passages and monologues uttered by the actor with elucidatory
dialogues. His Chorus was the traditional band of mummers clad in
goat-skins--the #tragoi# of the ancient Dionysiac festival. The poet
himself was the actor, and his portion of the interlude was written
either in iambic or, as we may gather from a passage in the _Poetics_
of Aristotle, in trochaic metre. The next great name after Thespis is
Phrynichus, who composed a tragic interlude on the taking of Miletus by
the Persians. This fact is important, since it proves that even at this
early period a dramatist felt justified not merely in departing from
the myths of Dionysus, but also in treating the events of contemporary
history in his choric tragedy. The Athenians, however, were indignant
at so abrupt a departure from usage, and at the unæsthetical exhibition
of disasters which had recently befallen their race. They fined the
poet, and confirmed their tragedians in the custom of handling only
ancient and religious legends. It is well known that the single
exception to this custom which has been preserved to us is the splendid
triumph of Æschylus composed upon the ruin of the godless Xerxes.
Phrynichus introduced one important change into the Thespian drama: he
established female characters. After him came Pratinas, who altered the
old form of the Chorus. Hitherto, whatever may have been the subject
of the play, the Bacchic #tragoi# stood in their quaint goat-skins
round the thymelé, or altar of the god. Pratinas contrived that in
future the Chorus should be attired to suit the action of the piece. If
the play were written on the fall of Troy, for instance, they appeared
as ancient Trojans; or if it had reference to the house of Laius, they
came forth as senators of Thebes. At the same time special pieces for
the traditional tragic chorus were retained, and these received the
name of satyric dramas. Henceforth it was customary for a tragic author
to produce at the same time three successive dramas on the subject he
selected, together with a satyric play. The only essential changes
which were afterwards made in Greek tragedy were the introduction of
a second actor by Æschylus and of a third actor by Sophocles, the
abandonment of the stricter rule of the tetralogy, and the gradual
diminution of the importance of the Chorus. The choric element, which
had been everything at the commencement, gave way to the dialogue, as
the art of developing dramatic situations and characters advanced;
until in the days of Euripides the Chorus formed a comparatively
insignificant part of the tragic machinery. This curtailment of the
function of the Chorus was a necessary consequence of progress in the
art of exhibiting an imitation of human action and passion. Yet the
Chorus never lost its place in Greek tragedy. It remained to mark the
origin of the drama, and as a symbol of the essentially religious
purpose of the tragic spectacle.

An event is said to have happened during the age of Pratinas which
greatly influenced the future of the Attic drama. The Thespian
interludes had been acted on a wooden scaffolding. This fell down on
one occasion, and caused so much alarm that the Athenians erected a
permanent stone theatre, which they constructed on the southeast side
of the Acropolis. Whether this old story is a fiction, and whether the
time had not naturally arrived for a more substantial building, may
admit of question. At any rate the new theatre was designed as though
it were destined to exist for all time, as though its architects were
prescient that the Attic drama would become the wonder of the world.
The spectators were seated on semicircular tiers scooped out of the
rock of the Acropolis. Their faces turned towards Hymettus and the sea.
The stage fronted the Acropolis; the actors had in view the cliffs upon
which stood the Parthenon and the gleaming statue of Protective Pallas.
The whole was open to the air. Remembering these facts, we are enabled
to understand the peculiar grandeur and propriety of those addresses
to the powers of the earth and sky, to the temples of the gods, to the
all-seeing sun and glittering ocean-waves, which are so common in Greek
tragedy. The Athenian theatre was brought into close connection with
all that was most brilliant in the architecture and the sculpture of
Athens, with all that is most impressive in the natural environments
of the city, with the very deities of the Hellenic worship in their
visible manifestations to the senses of men. This circumstance alone
determined many peculiarities of the Greek drama, which make it wholly
unlike our own. If the hero of a modern play, for instance, calls the
sun to witness, he must point to a tissue-paper transparency in the
centre of a painted scene; if he apostrophizes ocean, he must turn
towards a heaving mass of agitated canvas. But Ajax or Electra could
raise their hands to the actual sun, gilding the statue of Athene with
living rays; Prometheus, when he described the myriad laughter of the
dimpling waves, knew that the sea was within sight of the audience;
and sun and sea were regarded by the nation at large, not merely as
phenomena of our universe, but as beings capable of sympathizing with
humanity in its distress. For the same reason nearly all the scenes
of the Greek tragedies are laid in daytime and in the open air. The
work of art exhibited in an unparalleled combination of æsthetical
definiteness with the actual facts of nature. The imagination is
scarcely more wrought upon than the senses; whereas the tragedy of
Shakespeare makes a direct appeal to the inner eye and to the highly
stimulated fancy of the audience. It is generally before a temple
or a palace that the action of a Greek play proceeds. Nor was there
anything artificial in this custom; for the Greeks lived in the air
of heaven, nor could events of such magnitude as those which their
tragedy represented have been appropriately enacted beneath the shadow
of a private roof. Far different were the conditions which the modern
dramatist undertook to illustrate. The hesitations of Hamlet, the
spiritual conflict of Faustus, the domestic sufferings of the Duchess
of Malfi, are evolved with peculiar propriety within the narrow walls
of palace-chambers, college-cells, and prisons or madhouses. Scenery,
in our sense of the word, was scarcely required by the Greeks. The name
of a tragedy sufficed to determine what palace-gate was represented
by the stage: the statue of a god was enough to show whose temple
was intended. This simplicity of theatrical arrangement led to a
corresponding simplicity of dramatic construction, to rarity of changes
in the scene, and to the stationary character of Greek tragedy in

Hollowed out of the hillside, the seats of the Athenian spectators
embraced rather more than a full semicircle, and this large arc was
subtended by a long straight line--the #skênê#, or background of the
stage. In front of this wall ran a shallow platform, not coextensive
with the #skênê#, but corresponding to the middle portion of it. This
platform was the stage proper. It was, in fact, a development of the
Thespian #logeion#. The stage was narrow and raised a little above
the ground, to which a flight of steps led from it. On the stage,
very long in proportion to its depth, all the action of the play took
place: the actors entered it through three openings in the #skênê#,
of which the central was larger and the two side ones smaller. When
they stood upon the stage, they had not much room for grouping or
for complicated action: they moved and stood like the figures in a
bass-relief, turning their profiles to the audience, and so arranging
their gestures that a continually harmonious series of figures was
relieved upon the background of the #skênê#. The central opening had
doors capable of being thrown back and exhibiting a chamber, in which,
at critical moments of the action, such spectacles as the murdered
body of Agamemnon, or the suicide of Jocasta, were revealed to the
spectators. The Chorus had their own allotted station in the centre of
the whole theatre--the semicircular pit left between the lowest tier
of spectators and the staircase leading to the stage. In the middle
of this pit or orchestra was placed the thymelé, or altar of Bacchus,
round which the Chorus moved on its first entrance, and where it stood
while witnessing the action on the stage. The Chorus entered by side
passages leading from the back of the #skênê#, on a lower level than
that of the stage; nor did they ever leave their orchestra to mount
the stage and mingle with the actors. The dressing-rooms and offices
of the theatre were concealed behind the #skênê#. Above the stage was
suspended an aerial platform for the gods, while subterranean stairs
were constructed for the appearance of ghosts ascending from the nether

These details about the vast size of the theatre, its system of
construction, and its exposure to the air, make it clear that no
acting similar to that of the modern drama could have been possible
on the Attic stage. Any one who has visited the Roman theatre of
Orange, where the #skênê# is still in tolerable preservation, must
have felt that a classical audience could not have enjoyed the subtle
intonations of the voice and the delicate changes in the features,
expressive of varying passions, which constitute the charm of modern
acting. Our intricate and minute effects were out of the question.
Everything in the Greek theatre had to be colossal, statuesque, almost
stationary. The Greeks had so delicate a sense of proportion and of
fitness that they adjusted their art to these necessities. The actors
were raised on thick-soled and high-heeled boots: they wore masks, and
used peculiar mouth-pieces, by means of which their voices were made
more resonant. The dresses which they swept along the stage were the
traditional costumes of the Bacchic festivals--brilliant and trailing
mantles, which added volume to their persons. All their movements
partook of the dignity befitting demigods and heroes. To suppose that
these pompous figures were of necessity ridiculous would be a great
mistake. Everything we know about Greek art makes it certain that in
the theatre, no less than in sculpture and architecture, this nation
of artists achieved a perfectly harmonious effect. How dignified, for
example, were their masks, may be imagined from the sculptured heads of
Tragedy and Comedy preserved in the Vatican--marble faces of sublime
serenity, surmounted by the huge mass of curling hair, which was built
up above the mask to add height to the figure. But in order to maintain
the grandeur of these personages on the stage, it was necessary that
they should never move abruptly or struggle violently. This is perhaps
the chief reason why Greek tragedy was so calm and so processional
in character, why all its vehement action took place off the stage,
why some of its most impassioned expressions of emotion were cadenced
in elaborate lyrics with a musical accompaniment. An actor, mounted
on his buskins, and carrying the weight of the tragic mask, could
never have encountered a similar gigantic being in personal combat
without betraying some awkwardness of movement or exhibiting some
unseemly gesture. It was, therefore, necessary to create the part of
the Messenger as an artistic correlative to the peculiarly artificial
conditions of the stage. We find in the same circumstance a reason why
the tragic situation was sustained with such intensity, why the action
was limited to a short space of time and to a single locality, and why
few changes were permitted in the characters during the conduct of
the same piece. For the mask depicted one fixed cast of features; and
though, as in the case of Oedipus, who tears out his eyes in a play of
Sophocles, the actor might appear twice upon the stage with different
masks, yet he could not be constantly changing them. Therefore the
strong point of the Greek dramatist lay in the construction of such
plots and characters as admitted of sustained and steady passion,
whereas a modern playwright aims at providing parts which shall enable
a great actor to exhibit lights and shades of varying expression. It
still remains a problem how such parts as the Cassandra of Æschylus
and the Orestes of Euripides could have been adequately acted with a
mask to hide the features; but such effects as those for which Garrick,
Rachel, and Talma were celebrated would have been utterly impossible at

In attempting to form any conception of a Greek drama, we must imbue
our minds with the spirit of Greek sculpture, and animate some
frieze or bass-relief, supplying the accompaniment of simple and
magnificent music, like that of Gluck, or like the recitatives of
Porpora. Flaxman's designs for Æschylus are probably the best possible
reconstruction of the scenes of a Greek tragedy, as they appeared
to the eyes of the spectators, relieved upon the background of the
#skênê#. Schlegel is justly indignant with those critics who affirm
that the modern opera affords an exact parallel to the Greek drama. Yet
the combination of music, acting, scenery, and dancing in such an opera
as Gluck's _Orfeo_ or Cherubini's _Medea_ may come nearer than anything
else towards giving us a notion of one of the tragedies of Euripides.
This remark must be qualified by the acknowledgment of a radical
and fundamental difference between the two species of dramatic art.
Music, dancing, acting, and scenery, with the Greeks, were sculptural,
studied, stately; with the moderns they are picturesque, passionate,
mobile. If the opera at all resembles the Greek drama, it is because
of the highly artificial development of the histrionic art which it
exhibits. The expression of passion in a stationary and prolonged aria,
with which we are familiar in the opera, and which is far removed from
nature, was of common occurrence in Greek tragedy.[106]

So far we have been occupied with those characteristics of the ancient
drama which were immediately determined by the external circumstances
of the Attic stage. I have tried to show that some of the most marked
qualities of the work of art were necessitated by the conditions of its
form. But other and not less important points of difference between
the ancient and the modern drama were due to the subject-matter of the
former. The Greek playwrights confined themselves to a comparatively
narrow circle of mythical stories;[107] each in succession had recourse
to Homer and to the poets of the epic cycle. Æschylus, Sophocles, and
Euripides, not to mention their numerous forgotten rivals, handled
and rehandled the same themes. We have, for example, extant three
tragedies, the _Choëphoroe_ of Æschylus, the _Electra_ of Sophocles,
and the _Electra_ of Euripides, composed upon precisely the same
incident in the tale of Agamemnon's children. Modern dramatists, on
the contrary, start with the whole stuff of human history; they seek
out their subjects where they choose, or invent motives with a view to
the exhibition of varied character, force of passion, tragic effect;
nor have they any fixed basis of solid thought like the doctrine
of Nemesis[108] whereon to rear their tragic superstructure. In
this respect the mystery-plays of the Catholic Church offer a close
parallel to the Greek drama. In these dramatic shows the whole body
of Christian tradition--the Bible, the acts of the saints, and the
doctrines of the Church about the Judgment and the final state of the
soul--was used as the material from which to fashion sacred plays.
But between the mysteries and the early Attic tragedies there was one
great point of difference. The sanctity of the Christian tradition,
by giving an immovable form to the legends, precluded all freedom of
the fancy. There could be no inventive action of the poet's mind when
he was engaged in setting forth the mysteries of the Incarnation,
the Atonement, or the final Judgment. His object was to instruct the
people in certain doctrines, and all he could do was to repeat over and
over again the same series of events in which God had dealt with man.
Therefore, when the true dramatic instinct awoke in modern Europe, the
playwrights had to quit this narrow sphere of consecrated thoughts.
Miracle-plays were succeeded by moralities, by histories, and by those
unfettered creations of which Marlowe in England offered the first
illustrious examples. Had the Thespian interludes been as purely
didactic in their object as the early mystery-plays of the Church,
we should either have possessed no Attic drama at all or else have
received from the Greek poets a very different type of tragedy. As it
was, the very essence of Greek religion reached its culminating point
in art. Epical mythology attained to final development in the free
artistic creations of Sophocles. Meanwhile the dramatists were hampered
in their choice of subjects by the artificial restraints imposed upon
them. They were never at liberty to invent. They were always bound
to keep in view the traditional interpretation of legends to which a
semi-religious importance attached.

Many distinctions between the ancient and the modern drama may
be deduced from this original difference in the sources of their
materials. The conception of retributive justice pervades the whole
tragedy of the Greeks; and the maintenance of this one animating idea
is due no doubt in a great measure to the continued treatment of a
class of subjects which not only remarkably exhibited its working, but
which also were traditionally interpreted in its light. The modern
drama has no such central idea. Our tragedy imports no dominant
religious or moral conception into the sphere of art. Even Shakespeare
and Goethe, the most highly moralized of modern dramatists, have been
contented with bringing close before our eyes the manifold spectacle
of human existence, wonderful and brilliant, from which we draw such
lessons only as can be learned from life itself. They do not undertake,
like the Greek tragedians, to supply the solution as well as the
problem. It is enough for them to exhibit humanity in conflict, to
enlist our sympathies on the side of what is noble, or to arouse our
pity by the sight of innocence in misery. The struggle of Lear with
his unnatural daughters, the death of Cordelia when the very doors of
hope have just been opened; Desdemona dying by her husband's hand,
without one opportunity of explanation; Imogen flouted as a faithless
wife; Hamlet wrestling with Laertes in the grave of Ophelia; Juliet
and Romeo brought by a mistake to death in the May-time of their love;
Faust inflicting by his bitter gift of selfish passion woe after woe
on Margaret and her family--these are the subjects of our tragedy. We
have to content ourselves as we can with this "mask and antimask of
impassioned life, breathing, moving, acting, suffering, laughing," and
to moralize it as we may. The case is different with Greek tragedy.
There we always learn one lesson--#tôi drasanti pathein#, the guilty
must suffer. It is only in a few such characters as Antigone or
Polyxena that pure pathos seems to weigh down the balance of the law.

A minor consequence of the fixed nature of Attic tragedy was that the
dramatists calculated on no surprise in order to enlist the interest of
their audience. The name, Oedipus or Agamemnon, informed the spectators
what course the action of the play would take. The art of the poet,
therefore, consisted in so displaying his characters, so preparing
his incidents, and so developing the tragic import of the tale, as to
excite attention. From this arose a peculiar style of treatment, and
in particular that irony of which so much is spoken. The point, for
example, about the _Oedipus Tyrannus_ was that the spectators knew
his horrible story, but that he did not. Therefore, every word he
uttered in his pride of prosperity was charged with sinister irony,
was pregnant with doom. Every minute incident brought him nearer to
the final crash, which all the while was ready waiting for him. In
reading this tragedy of Sophocles we seem to be watching a boatful
of careless persons gliding down a river, and gradually approaching
its fall over a vast cliff. If we take interest in them, how terrible
is our anxiety when they come within the irresistible current of the
sliding water, how frightful is their cry of anguish when at last they
see the precipice ahead, how horror-stricken is the silence with which
they shoot the fall, and are submerged! Of this nature is the interest
of a good Greek tragedy. But in the case of the modern drama all is
different. When our Elizabethan ancestors went to the theatre to hear
_Othello_ for the first time, very few of them knew the story: as the
play proceeded, they could not be sure whether Iago would finally
prevail. At every moment the outcome was doubtful. Tragic irony is,
therefore, not a common element in the modern drama. The forcible
exhibition of a new and striking subject, the gradual development of
passions in fierce conflict, the utmost amount of pathos accumulated
round the victims of malice or ill-luck, exhaust the resources of the
tragedian. The ancient dramatist plays with his cards upon the table:
the modern dramatist conceals his hand. Euripides prefixed a prologue
descriptive of the action to his pieces. Our tragedies open only with
such scenes as render the immediate conduct of the play intelligible.

Aristotle's definition of tragedy, founded upon a vast experience,
we need not doubt, of the best Greek dramas, offers another point
of contrast between the ancient and the modern art. "Tragedy," he
says, "is an imitation of an action that is weighty, complete, and of
a proper magnitude; it proceeds by action and not by narration; and
it effects through pity and terror a purgation of the like passions
in the minds of the spectators." This definition, which has caused
great difficulty for commentators, turns upon the meaning of the
#katharsis#,[109] or purgation, which tragedy is supposed to effect.
It is quite clear that _all_ poetry which stirs the feelings of pity
and terror need not at the same time purge them in or from the souls
of the listeners, except only in so far as true art is elevating and
purifying. Therefore Aristotle must have had some special quality of
the tragic art to which he was accustomed in his mind. His words seem
to express that it is the function of the tragic drama to appeal to our
deepest sympathies and strongest passions, to arouse them, but at the
same time to pacify them, and, as it were, to draw off the dangerous
stuff that lies upon our soul--to resolve the perturbation of the mind
in some transcendental contemplation.[110] This is what the greatest
Greek tragedies achieve. They are almost invariably closed by some
sentence of the Chorus in which the unsearchableness of God's dealings
is set forth, and by which we are made to feel that, after the fitful
strife and fever of human wills, the eternal counsels of Zeus remain
unchanged, while the moral order of the world, shaken and distorted
by the passions of heroic sufferers, abides in the serenity of the
ideal. Furthermore, there is in the very substance of almost all Greek
tragedies a more obvious healing of wounds and restoration of harmony
than this. The trilogy of Prometheus was concluded by the absorption
of the Titan's vehement will in that of Zeus. The trilogy of Orestes
ends with the benediction of Pallas and Phoebus upon the righteous
man who had redeemed the errors of his house. Sophocles allows us a
glimpse of Antigone bringing peace and joy to her father and brothers
in Hades. The old Oedipus, after his life-wanderings and crimes
and woes, is made a blessed dæmon through the mercy of propitiated
deities. Hippolytus is reconciled to his father, and is cheered and
cooled in his death-fever by the presence of the maiden Artemis. Thus
the terror and pity which have been roused in each of these cases are
allayed by the actual climax of the plot which has excited them: grief
itself becomes a chariot for surmounting the sources of grief. But the
modern drama does not offer this #katharsis#: its passions too often
remain unreconciled in their original antagonism: the note on which
the symphony terminates is not unfrequently discordant or exciting.
Where is the #katharsis# in _King Lear_? Are our passions purged in any
definite sense by the close of the first part of _Faust_? We are rather
left with the sense of inexpiable guilt and unalleviated suffering,
with yearnings excited which shall never be quelled. The greatest works
of modern fiction--the novels of Balzac, with their philosophy of
wickedness triumphant; the novels of George Eliot, with their dismal
lesson of the feebleness of human effort; the tragedies of Shakespeare,
with the silence of the grave for their conclusion--intensify and
embitter that "struggle to be what we are not, and to do what we
cannot" which Hazlitt gives as an equivalent for life.[111] The
greatest creative poet of this generation writes #anankê# upon his
title-page. The chief poet of the century makes his hero exclaim:

    Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren.

Such purification of the passions as modern art achieves is to be
found most eminently in the choric movements of Handel, in the
symphonies of Beethoven, in all the great achievements of music.
Ancient art aimed at the perfect within definite limits, because human
life in the ancient world was circumscribed by mundane limitations,
and its conditions were unhesitatingly accepted. Our art aims at the
infinite, because we are forever striving after a completion which
cannot be attained. It was not for nothing that Christianity, with its
widening of spiritual horizons, closed the ancient and inaugurated the
modern age:

    Une immense espérance a traversé la terre;
    Malgré nous vers le ciel il faut lever les yeux.

In that fixed mood of restless expectation, in that persistent attitude
of the soul upraised to sweep the heavens, there lies the secret of
modern art. Life to the Greek belonged to the category of #to peras#,
or the definite: it was like a crystal in its well-defined consistency.
Our life, whether we regard it from the point of view of science or of
religion, belongs to the #apeiron#, or the undetermined: it is only one
term of an infinite series, the significance whereof is relative to
the unknown quantities beyond it. Consequently modern art is nowhere
satisfied with merely æsthetic forms. The soul with its maladies
imperiously demands expression. Michael Angelo was not contented, like
Pheidias or Praxiteles, with carving the serenity of godlike men and
women. In the figures upon the tombs of the Medici he fashioned four
moods of the tortured, aching, anguished soul, to whom the burden of
this life is all but intolerable. His frescos in the Sistine Chapel are
subordinated to the expression of one thought--the doom of God which
will descend upon the soul of man. Christianity destroyed beyond all
possibility of reconstruction the free, frank sensuality of paganism.
It convicted humanity of sin, and taught men to occupy themselves with
the internal warfare of their flesh and spirit as that which is alone
eternally important. Life itself, according to the modern formula,
is a conflict which will be concluded one way or the other beyond
the grave. Meanwhile upon this earth the conflict is undetermined.
Therefore art, which reflects life, represents the battle, and dares
not to anticipate its outcome. In this relation the very pathology
of the soul becomes poetic. #Eran adynatôn#, said the Greek proverb,
#nosos tês psychês#--to desire impossible things is a disease of the
soul. But _l'amour de l'impossible_--the straining of the soul after
the infinite, the desire to approximate in this world to a dream of
the ecstatic fancy--all the rapture of saints, the self-denial of
solitaries, the death in life of penitents--is not defined by us as a
disease. On the contrary, this passion for the impossible has been held
through many centuries of modern history to be the truest sign of the
soul's health; and even where such superstition has not penetrated,
poets like Byron have prided themselves upon the same temper displayed
in their extravagant yearnings. Don Juan, enormous in his appetite for
pleasure, and rebellious on the grave's brink beneath the hand of God;
Faust, insatiable of curiosity, and careless of eternity in his lust
for power; Tannhäuser, pursuing to the end his double life of love too
sweet to be abandoned and of conscience too acutely sensitive to be
stilled; these are our modern legends. These, with so little of mere
action in them, so much of inner meaning and mental experience, yield
the truest materials to our artists. Over and over again have Faust,
Tannhäuser, and Don Juan supplied the poet with subjects wherein no
merely local or temporary tragedy is set forth, but the destiny of
the modern man is shown as in a magic mirror. Nor has the advent of
science as yet restored our mind to that "passionless bride, divine
tranquillity," which the Greeks enjoyed, and which alone could be the
mother of such art as the antique. Although the sublime cheerfulness
of Goethe shows by way of forecast how the scientific mood may lead
to this result hereafter, for the present science has deepened and
complicated our most distressing problems, has rendered the anxiety
of man about his destiny still more cruel, has made him still more
helpless in the effort to comprehend his relations to the universe, by
seeming to prove that his most cherished hypotheses are mere illusions.
Like a spoiled child, who has been taught to expect too much, to think
about himself too much, and to rely too much on flattery, humanity,
shrinking from the cold, calm atmosphere of science, still cries in
feverish accents with St. Paul: "If Christ be not risen, then are we
of men most wretched!" How strange would that sentence have sounded
to Sophocles! How well it suits the tragedy of Shakespeare, which has
for its ultimate Versöhnung the hope, felt, though unexpressed, of St.
Paul's exclamation!

As a corollary to what has hitherto been said about the differences
between the drama of Sophocles and that of Shakespeare, it follows
that the former aims at depicting the destinies, and the latter the
characters of men.[112] Shakespeare exhibits individual wills and
passions clashing together and producing varied patterns in the web
of life. Sophocles unfolds schemes and sequences of doomed events,
where individual wills and passions play indeed their part, but where
they are subordinated to the idea which the tragedian undertakes to
illustrate. A play of Æschylus or Sophocles strikes us by the grandeur
of the whole: a play of Shakespeare or Goethe overwhelms us by the
force and frequence of combined and interacting motives. No analysis
can be too searching or acute for the profound conception which
pervades the _Oresteia_ of Æschylus; but there is no single character
in Æschylus or in Sophocles so worthy of minute investigation as that
of Hamlet or of Faust. If a critic looks to the general effect of a
tragedy, to the power of imagination displayed in its conception as a
single work of art, he will prefer the _Agamemnon_ to _Macbeth_; but
if he seek for the creation of a complete and subtle human soul, he
will abandon Clytemnestra for the Thane of Cawdor's wife. The antique
drama aims at the presentation of tragic situations, determined and
controlled by some mysterious force superior to the agents. The modern
aims at the presentation of tragic situations, immediately produced and
brought about by the free action of the _dramatis personæ_.

One advantage which the modern dramatist has over the ancient is that
he may introduce very numerous persons in concerted action without
the danger of confusion, and that of these many may be female. It
has been ably argued by De Quincey that the Attic tragedians had
small opportunity of studying the female character, and that it would
have been indecorous for them to have painted women with the perfect
freedom of a Cleopatra or a Vittoria Corombona.[113] Consequently their
women are either superficially and slightly sketched like Ismene and
Chrysothemis; or else they are marked by something masculine, as in
the case of Clytemnestra and Medea; or again they move our sympathy
not by the perfection of their womanliness but by the exhibition
of some simple and sublime self-sacrifice--notable examples being
the filial devotion of Antigone, the sisterly affection of Electra,
the uncomplaining submission of Iphigeneia and Polyxena, the wifely
self-abandonment of Alcestis, the almost frigid acquiescence in
death of Makaria. The later Greek drama, and especially the drama of
Euripides, abounded in these characters. They are incarnations of
certain moral qualities. Like the masks which concealed the actor's
face, they show one fixed and sustained mood of emotion: we find in
them no hesitancy and difficult resolve, no ebb and flow of wavering
inclination, but one immutable, magnificent, heroic fixity of purpose.
In a word, they are conformed to the sculptural type of the Greek
tragic art.

Owing to the very structure of the Attic stage, Greek tragedy could
never have recourse to those formless, vague, and unsubstantial sources
of terror and of charm which the modern dramatist has at his command.
How could such airy nothings as the elves of the _Tempest_, the fairies
of _A Midsummer Nights-Dream_, or the witches of _Macbeth_ have been
brought upon that colossal theatre in the full blaze of an Athenian
noon? Figures of Thanatos and of Lyssa did indeed appear: the ghost
of Clytemnestra roused the sleeping Furies in the courts of Delphi:
the phantom of Darius hovered over his grave. But these spectres were
sculpturesque--such as Pheidias might have carved in marble, and
such as we see painted on so-called Etruscan vases. They were not
Banquo-apparitions gliding into visible substance from the vacant gloom
and retiring thitherward again. When such creatures of the diseased
imagination had to be suggested, the seer, like Cassandra, before whose
eyes the phantoms of the children of Thyestes passed, or Orestes, who
drew his arrows upon an unseen cohort of threatening fiends, stared on
vacancy. Shakespeare dares at times to realize such incorporeal beings,
to give to them a voice and a visible form. Yet it may be doubted
whether even in his tremendous supernatural apparatus the voice which
shrieked to Macbeth "Sleep no more!" the mutterings of Lady Macbeth
in her somnambulism, the spectre which Hamlet saw and his mother could
not see, the dream of Clarence with its cry of injured ghosts, are not
really the most appalling.

The Greek drama owed its power to the qualities of regularity
and simplicity: the strength of the modern lies in subtlety and
multiplicity. The external conditions of the Attic theatre, no less
than the prevailing spirit of Greek tragic art, forced this simplicity
and regularity upon the ancient dramatists. These conditions do not
occur in the modern world. We have our little theatres, our limited
audience, our unmasked actors, our scenical illusions, our freedom in
the choice of subjects. Therefore to push the subtlety and multiplicity
of tragic composition to the utmost--to arrange for the most swift
and sudden changes of expression in the actor, for the most delicate
development of a many-sided character, for the most complicated
grouping of contrasted forms, and for the utmost realization of
imaginative incidents--is the glory of a Shakespeare or a Goethe. The
French dramatists made the mistake of clinging to the beggarly elements
of the Attic stage, when they had no means of restoring its colossal
grandeur. When it was open to them to rival the work of the ancients in
a new and truly modern style, they hampered their genius by arbitrary
rules, and thought that they were following the principles of the
highest art, while they submitted to the mere necessities of a bygone
form of presentation. If Racine had believed in Nemesis, if Versailles
had afforded him a theatre and an audience like that of Athens, if his
actors had worn masks, if sculpture had been the dominant art of modern
Europe, he would have been following the right track. As it was, he
became needlessly formal. The same blind enthusiasm for antiquity led
to the doctrine of the unities, to the abstinence from bloodshed on
the stage, and to the restriction of a play to five acts. Horace had
advised a dramatist not to extend his tragedy beyond the fifth act, nor
to allow Medea to murder her children within sight of the audience. All
modern playwrights observe the rule of five acts: nor is there much
to be said against it, except that the third act is apt to be languid
for want of matter. But the Greeks disregarded this division: judging
by the choric songs, we find that some of their tragedies have as many
as seven, and some as few as two acts. Again, as to bloodshed on the
stage, it is probable that if the Greek actors had not been so clumsily
arrayed, we should have had many instances of their violation of this
rule. Æschylus discloses the shambles where Agamemnon and Cassandra
lie weltering in their blood, and hammers a stake through the body of
Prometheus. Sophocles exhibits Oedipus with eyes torn out and bleeding
on his cheeks. Euripides allows the mangled corpse of Astyanax to be
brought upon the stage on his father's shield. There is nothing more
ghastly in an actual murder than in these spectacles of slaughter and
mutilation. With reference to the unities, the French critics demand
that a drama shall proceed in the same place, and the playwrights
are at infinite pains to manage that no change of scene shall occur.
But Aristotle, whose authority they claim, is silent on the point;
while the usage of the Greek drama shows more than one change of
place--especially in the _Ajax_ of Sophocles and in the _Eumenides_ of
Æschylus, where the scene is shifted from the temple of Phoebus at
Delphi to the Areopagus at Athens. Still the exigencies of the Greek
theatre made it advisable to alter the centre of action as little as
possible; and as a matter of convenience this requirement was complied
with. The circumstances of our own stage have removed this difficulty,
and it is only on the childish principle of maintaining an impossible
illusion that the unity of place can be observed with any propriety.
The unity of time has more to say for itself. Aristotle remarks that
it is better to have a drama completed within the space of a day: this
rule flows from his just sense of the proportion of parts; a work
of art ought to be such that the mind can easily comprehend it at a
glance. Yet many Greek plays, such as the _Agamemnon_ of Æschylus,
where Agamemnon has time to return from Troy, or the _Eumenides_, where
Orestes performs the journey from Delphi to Athens, disregard this rule
in cases where it required no strain of the mind to bridge over the
space of a few unimportant days or hours. When in the modern drama we
are introduced to the hero of a play first as a child and then as a
full-grown man, and are forced meanwhile to keep our attention on his
acts in the interval as important to the dramatic evolution, there is
a gross violation of æsthetical unity. About the unity of action all
critics are agreed. It is the same as unity of interest, or unity of
subject, the interest and the subject of a play being its action. A
good tragedy must have but one action, just as a good epic or a good
poem of any sort must have but one subject; for the simple reason
that, as the eye cannot look at two things at once, so the mind cannot
attend to two things at once. Modern poets have been apt to disregard
this canon of common-sense: the underplots of many plays and the
episodes of such epics as the _Orlando_ of Ariosto are not sufficiently
subordinated to the main design or interwoven with it. Aristotle is
also right in saying that the unity of the hero is not the same as the
unity of action: a play, for example, on the labors of Hercules could
only be made a good drama if each labor were shown to be one step in
the fulfilment of one divinely appointed task. Shakespeare has complied
with the canon of the unity of action in all his tragedies. Whether
Goethe has done so in _Faust_ may admit of doubt. The identity of his
hero seems to him sufficient for the tragic unity of his piece; yet
he has given us another centre of interest in Margaret, whose story
is but a mere episode in the experience of Faust. Unity of action in
a tragedy, the very soul of which is action, is the same as organic
coherence in a body; and therefore, as every work of art ought,
according to the energetic metaphor of Plato, to be a living creature,
with head, trunk, and limbs all vitalized by one thought, this unity is
essential. Admitting this point, we may fairly say that the other rules
of French dramatic criticism are not only arbitrary, but also founded
on a mistake with regard to the Greek theatre and a misapprehension
of the proper functions of the modern stage. Composing in obedience
to them is like walking upon stilts in a country where there are no
marshes to make the inconvenience necessary.

In this review of the differences between our own tragedy and that
of the Greeks I have scarcely touched upon those primary qualities
which differentiate all modern from ancient art. The "sentiment of the
infinite," which Renan regards as the chief legacy of mediævalism to
modern civilization, and the preoccupation with the internal spirit
rather than the external form which makes music the essentially modern,
as sculpture was the essentially ancient art, are causes of innumerable
peculiarities in our conception of tragedy. I have hardly alluded to
these, but have endeavored to show that the immersion of Greek tragedy
in religious ideas, the fixed body of mythical matter handled by the
Greek dramatists in succession, and the actual conditions of the Attic
theatre, will account for the greater number of those characteristics
which distinguish Sophocles from Shakespeare, the prince of Greek from
the prince of modern tragic poets.


[106] The scene in which Antigone takes leave of the Chorus within
sight of her tomb is a good instance of this artificial treatment of
passionate situations in the Attic drama. It has been censured by some
critics as being unreasonably protracted. In reality it is in perfect
accordance with the whole spirit of Greek tragedy. The emotions are
brought into artistic relief: the figures are grouped like mourners
on a sculptured monument: the antiphonal dirges of the princess and
her attendants set the pulses of our sympathy in rhythmic movement,
so that grief itself becomes idealized and glorified. The depth of
feeling expressed, and the highly wrought form of its expression,
together tend to rouse and chasten all that is profound and dignified
in our emotions. Strophe after strophe, heart-beat by heart-beat, this
wonderfully cadenced funeral song of her who is the bride of Acheron
proceeds until the marble gates are shut upon Antigone.

[107] See vol. i. p. 34; vol. ii. p. 23.

[108] See vol. ii. p. 15-24.

[109] The word #katharsis# may possibly have been borrowed from
medicine by Aristotle, and his meaning may, therefore, be that the
surplus of the passions of which he speaks is literally purged out
of the mental system by the action of tragedy. This suggestion was, I
think, made by Bernays. It has been pointed out to me by my friend, Mr.
E. Abbot, of Balliol College, that Aristotle, in another passage of the
_Poetics_ (xvii. 8), uses the word in a lustral meaning. The reference
to it in a weighty passage of the _Politics_ (viii. 7, 4) seems to
prove that the purification was for the individual, not, as Goethe
thought, for the passions as exhibited in the work of art itself.

[110] Milton's description of the poet's function in the _Reason of
Church Government urged against Prelacy_ contains a fine expansion
of the phrase #katharsis# in these words: "To allay the perturbation
of the mind and set the affections in right tune." Milton in his own
_Samson Agonistes_ followed the Greek usage closely, and concluded the
whole drama with a choric reflection upon the wisdom of God's dealings
with the race of men. There, again, he expresses in the very last words
of his play the same doctrine of #katharsis#:

    His servants He, with new acquist
    Of true experience from this great event,
    With peace and consolation hath dismissed,
    And calm of mind, all passion spent.

Hegel, in his doctrine of the Versöhnung, or reconciliation of opposite
passions in a contemplation which is above them and includes them,
seems to have aimed at the same law as Aristotle.

[111] In the Greek drama the notion of fate was primarily theological:
the hero was conducted to his end by gods. In Shakespeare Fate is
psychological; Hamlet's own character is his destiny. In Goethe,
Victor Hugo, and George Eliot the conception of Fate has passed
into the region of positivism: the laws of blood, society, and race
rule individuals in the _Elective Affinities_, _Les Misérables_, the
_Spanish Gypsy_. The modern analogue for Greek hereditary destiny,
traceable to some original transgression and tainting all the action
of a doomed family, is to be found in madness, which has as yet been
tragically treated by no dramatist of the first rank.

[112] Character in a Greek play is never so minutely anatomized as in
a modern work of fiction. We do not actually see the secret workings
of the mainsprings of personality. We judge a hero of Sophocles by his
actions and by his relations to other men and women more than by his
soliloquies or by scenes specially constructed to expose his qualities.
In this respect Greek tragedy again resembles Greek sculpture. As in
their sculpture the Greek artists felt the muscular structure of the
human frame with exquisite sensibility, while they did not obtrude it
upon the spectator, so in their tragedy the poets preferred to exhibit
the results rather than to lay bare the process of mental and emotional
activity. The modern tragedian shifts his ground somewhat, but he
chooses an equally legitimate province of poetry when he discloses the
inmost labyrinths in the character of a Hamlet or a Faust.

[113] This seems to have been the gist of one of the grudges of
Aristophanes against Euripides, as I have indicated above, p. 47,
_note_. He made the love of Sthenoboea, the vengeance of Medea, too



    Heine's Critique on Aristophanes.--Aristophanes as
        a Poet of the Fancy.--The Nature of his Comic
        Grossness.--Greek Comedy in its Relation to the Worship
        of Dionysus.--Greek Acceptance of the Animal Conditions
        of Humanity.--His Burlesque, Parody, Southern Sense
        of Fun.--Aristophanes and Menander.--His Greatness as
        a Poet.--Glimpses of Pathos.--His Conservatism and
        Serious Aim.--Socrates, Agathon, Euripides.--German
        Critics of Aristophanes.--Ancient and Modern
        Comedy.--The _Birds_.--The _Clouds_.--Greek Youth
        and Education.--The Allegories of Aristophanes.--The
        _Thesmophoriazusæ_.--Aristophanes and Plato.

"A deep idea of world-destruction (_Weltvernichtungsidee_[114]) lies
at the root of every Aristophanic comedy, and, like a fantastically
ironical magic tree, springs up in it with blooming ornament of
thoughts, with singing nightingales, and climbing, chattering apes."
This is a sentence translated from the German of Heinrich Heine, who,
of all poets, was the one best fitted to appreciate the depth of
Aristophanes, to pierce beneath his smiling comic mask, and to read
the underlying Weltvernichtungsidee with what he calls its "jubilee of
death and fireworks of annihilation." Perhaps, as is common with German
writers of imagination, Heine pushes his point too far, and insists
with too much force upon the "jubilee of death," "the fireworks of

The strong wine of his own paradox intoxicates his judgment, and his
taste is somewhat perverted by the Northern tendency to brood upon the
more fantastic aspects of his subject. It is not so much Aristophanes
himself whom Heine sees, as Aristophanes reflected in the magic mirror
of his own melancholy and ironical fancy. Yet, after making these
deductions, the criticism I have quoted seems to me to be the proper
preface to all serious study of the greatest comic poet of the world.
It strikes the true key-note, and tunes our apprehension to the right
pitch; for, in approaching Aristophanes, we must divest our minds of
all the ordinary canons and definitions of comedy: we must forget what
we have learned from Plautus and Terence, from Molière and Jonson. No
modern poet, except perhaps Shakespeare and Calderon in parts, will
help us to understand him. We must not expect to find the gist of
Aristophanes in vivid portraits of character, in situations borrowed
from every-day life, in witty dialogues, in carefully constructed plots
arriving at felicitous conclusions. All these elements, indeed, he
has; but these are not the main points of his art. His plays are not
comedies in the sense in which we use the word, but scenic allegories,
Titanic farces in which the whole creation is turned upside down;
transcendental travesties, enormous orgies of wild fancy and unbridled
imagination; Dionysiac dances in which tears are mingled with laughter,
and fire with wine; Choruses that, underneath their oceanic merriment
of leaping waves, hide silent deeps of unstirred thought. If Coleridge
was justified in claiming the German word _Lustspiel_ for the so-called
comedies of Shakespeare, we have a far greater right to appropriate
this wide and pregnant title to the plays of Aristophanes. The brazen
mask which crowns his theatre smiles indeed broadly, serenely, as if
its mirth embraced the universe; but its hollow eye-sockets suggest
infinite possibilities of profoundest irony. Buffoonery carried to the
point of paradox, wisdom disguised as insanity, and gayety concealing
the whole sum of human disappointment, sorrow, and disgust, seem
ready to escape from its open but rigid lips, which are moulded to a
proud, perpetual laughter. It is a laughter which spares neither God
nor man--which climbs Olympus only to drag down the immortals to its
scorn, and trails the pall of august humanity in the mire; but which,
amid its mockery and blasphemy, seems everlastingly asserting, as by
paradox, that reverence of the soul which bends our knees to Heaven
and makes us respect our brothers. There is nothing sinister or even
serious in Aristophanes. He did not write in the sarcastic, cynical
old age of his nation or his era. He is rather the voice of its
superabundant youthfulness: his genius is like a young man sporting
in his scorn of danger with the thought of death; like Achilles, in
the sublimity of his beauty, mimicking the gestures of Thersites.
Nor, again, are his thoughts shaded down, concealed, wrapped up in
symbols. On the contrary, the very "Weltvernichtungsidee," of which
Heine speaks, leaps forth and spreads its wings beneath the full blaze
of Athenian noonday, showing a glorious face, as of sculptured marble,
and a comely person unashamed. It is not the morbid manifestation of
sour secretions and unnatural juices, but the healthy product of keen
vitality and perfectly harmonious functions. Into the clear light
his paradoxes, and his irony, and his unblushing satire spring like
song-birds rejoicing in their flight.

Then, again, how miraculously beautiful are "the blooming ornament of
thoughts," "the nightingales and climbing apes," of which we spoke! No
poet--not even Shelley--has exceeded the Choruses of the _Birds_ and
_Clouds_ in swiftness, radiance, and condensed imagination. Shakespeare
alone, in his _Midsummer-Night's Dream_ and the _Tempest_; or Calderon,
in some of his allegorical dramas, carries us away into the same
enchanted land, where the air is purer and the skies seem larger than
in our world; where the stars burn with treble lustre, and where the
flowers harbor visible spirits--elfs and Ariels clinging to the
branches, and dazzling fireflies tangled in the meadow-grass beneath
our feet. Nor is it only by this unearthly splendor of visionary
loveliness that Aristophanes attracts us. Beauty of a more mundane and
sensual sort is his. Multitudes of brilliant ever-changing figures fill
the scene; and here and there we find a landscape or a piece of music
and moonlight glowing with the presence of the vintage god. Bacchic
processions of young men and maidens move before us, tossing inspired
heads wreathed with jasmine flowers and wet with wine. The Mystæ in the
meadows of Elysium dance their rounds with the clash of cymbals and
with madly twinkling snow-white feet. We catch glimpses at intervals
of Athenian banquets, of midnight serenades, of the palæstra with its
crowd of athletes, of the Panathenaic festival as Pheidias carved it,
of all the busy rhythmic colored life of Greece.

The difficulty of treating Aristophanes in an essay is twofold. There
are first of all those obstacles which every writer on so old a subject
has to meet. Aristophanes, like all Greek poets, has been subjected
to prolonged and most minute criticism. He has formed a part of
classical education for centuries, and certain views about his poetry,
substantially correct, have become a fixed element in our literary
consciousness. Thus every fresh writer on the old comedy of Athens must
take a good deal of knowledge for granted in his readers--but what,
and how much, he hardly knows. He may expect them to be acquainted
with the details furnished by scholars like Donaldson about the times
at which comedies were exhibited, the manner of their presentation on
the stage, and the change from the old to the middle and new periods.
He may suppose that they will know that Aristophanes stood in the
same relation to Cratinus as Sophocles to Æschylus; that the _Clouds_
had not so much to do with the condemnation of Socrates as some of
the later Greek gossips attempted to make out; that Aristophanes was
conservative in politics, philosophy, and literature, vehemently
opposing the demagogues, the sophists, and Euripides. Again, he may,
or rather he must, avoid the ground which has been so well trodden
by Schlegel, Müller, and Mitchell, in their familiar criticisms of
Aristophanes; and he may content himself with a passing allusion to
Grote's discussion of the _Clouds_. But though, from this point of
view, Aristophanes is almost stale from having been so much written
about and talked about and alluded to--though in fact there is a _prima
facie_ obligation imposed on every one who makes his plays the subject
of fresh criticism to pretend at least to some originality of view or
statement--still Aristophanes has never yet been fairly dealt with
or submitted to really dispassionate consideration. Thus he shares,
in common with all poets of antiquity, the disabilities of being
hackneyed, while he has the peculiar and private disability of never
having been really appreciated at his worth except by a few scholars
and enthusiastic poets. The reason for this want of intelligence in
the case of Aristophanes is not hard to see. First of all, his plays
are very difficult. Their allusions require much learned illustration.
Their vocabulary is copious and rare. So that none but accomplished
Grecians or devoted students of literature can hope to read him with
much pleasure to themselves. In a translation his special excellence
is almost unrecognizable. Next--and this is the real reason why
Aristophanes has been unfairly dealt with, as well as the source of
the second class of difficulties which meet his interpreters--it is
hard for the modern Christian world to tolerate his freedom of speech
and coarseness. Of all the Greeks, essentially a nude nation, he is
the most naked--the most audacious in his revelation of all that
human nature is supposed to seek to hide. The repugnance felt for his
ironical _insouciance_ and for his profound indelicacy has prevented us
from properly valuing his poetry. Critics begin their panegyrics of him
with apologies; they lift their skirts and tread delicately, passing
over his broadest humor _sicco pede_, picking their way among his
heterogeneous images, winking and blinking, hesitating and condoning,
omitting a passage here, attempting to soften an allusion there, until
the real Aristophanes has almost disappeared. Yet there is no doubt
that this way of dealing with our poet will not do. The time has come
at which any writer on Greek literature, if not content to pass by
Aristophanes in silence, must view him as he is, and casting aside for
a moment at least the veil of modern propriety, must be prepared to
admit that this great comic genius was "far too naked to be shamed."

So important is this point in the whole of its bearing upon
Aristophanes that I may perhaps be allowed to explain the peculiar
position which he occupies, and, without seeking to offer any
exculpation for what offends us in the moral sensibilities of the
Greeks, to show how such a product as the comedy of Aristophanes took
root and grew in Athens. His plays, I have already said, are not
comedies in the modern sense, but Lustspiele--fantastic entertainments,
debauches of the reason and imagination. The poet, when he composed
them, knew that he was writing for an audience of Greeks, inebriated
with the worship of the vintage god, ivy-crowned, and thrilling to
the sound of orgiastic flutes. Therefore, we who read him in the cool
shades of modern Protestantism, excited by no Dionysiac rites, forced
to mine and quarry at his jests with grammar, lexicon, and commentary,
unable, except by the exercise of the historical imagination, to
conceive of a whole nation agreeing to honor its god by frantic
license, must endeavor to check our natural indignation, and by no
means to expect from Aristophanes such views of life as are consistent
with our sober mood. We cannot, indeed, exactly apply to the case of
Aristophanes those clever sophistries by which Charles Lamb defended
the comic poets of our Restoration, when he said that they had created
an unreal world, and that, allowing for their fictitious circumstances,
the perverse morality of their plays was not only pardonable, but
even necessary. Yet it is true that his audacious immodesty forms a
part of that Weltvernichtungsidee, of that total upturn and Titanic
revolution in the universe which he affects; and so far we may plead
in his defence, and in the defence of the Athenian spectators, that
his comedies were consciously exaggerated in their coarseness, and
that beyond the limits of the Dionysiac festival their jokes would
not have been tolerated. To use a metaphor, his plays were offered as
a sacrifice upon the thymelé or orchestral altar of that Bacchus who
was sire by Aphrodite of Priapus: this potent deity protected them;
and the poet, as his true and loyal priest, was bound, in return for
such protection, to represent the universe at large as conquered by
the madness of intoxication, beauty, and desire. Thus the Aristophanic
comedies are in one sense a radiant and pompous show, by which the
genius of the Greek race chose, as it were in bravado, to celebrate an
apotheosis of the animal functions of humanity; and from this point of
view we may fairly accept them as visions, Dionysiac day-dreams, from
which the nation woke and rose and went about its business soberly,
until the Bacchic flutes were heard again another year.

On the religious origin of Greek comedy some words may perhaps be
reckoned not out of place in this connection. It has frequently been
pointed out to what a great extent the character of the Aristophanic
comedy was determined by its sacred nature, and by the peculiar
condition of semi-religious license which prevailed at Athens during
the celebration of the festival of Bacchus. We know that much is
tolerated in a Roman or Venetian carnival which would not be condoned
at other seasons of the year. Yet the Italian carnival, in its palmiest
days, must have offered but a very poor and frigid picture of what
took place in Athens at the Dionysia, nor was the expression of the
crudest sensuality ever thought agreeable to any modern saint. That the
Greeks most innocently and simply wished to prove their piety by these
excesses is quite clear. Aristophanes himself, in the _Acharnians_,
gives us an example of the primitive phallic hymn, which formed the
nucleus of comedy in its rudest stage. The refrain of #phalês, hetaire
Bakchiou, xynkôme, nykteroplanête, moiche# sufficiently indicates
its nature. Again, the Choruses of the Mystæ in the _Frogs_ furnish
a still more brilliant example of the interminglement of debauchery
with a spirit of true piety, of sensual pleasure with pure-souled
participation in divine bliss. Their hymns to Iacchus and Demeter
alternate between the holiest strains of praise and the most scurrilous
satire. At one time they chant the delights of the meadows blooming
with the rose; at another they raise cries of jubilant intoxication
and fierce frenzy. In the same breath with the utterance of sensual
passion they warn all profane persons and impure livers to avoid their
rites, and boast that for them alone the light of heaven is gladsome
who have forsworn impiety and preserved the justice due to friends
and strangers. We must imagine that this phallic ecstasy, if we may
so name it, had become, as it were, organized and reduced to system
in the Aristophanic Lustspiel. It permeates and gives a flavor to the
comic style long after it has been absorbed and superseded by the
weightier interests of developed art. This ecstasy implied a profound
sympathy with nature in her large and perpetual reproductiveness, a
mysterious sense of the sexuality which pulses in all members of the
universe and reaches consciousness in man. It encouraged a momentary
subordination of the will and intellect and nobler feelings to the
animal propensities, prompting the same race which had produced the
sculptures of the Parthenon, the tragedies of Æschylus, the deeds of
Pericles and Leonidas, the self-control of Socrates, the thought of
Plato, to throw aside its royal mantle of supreme humanity, and to
proclaim in a gigantic work of art the irreconcilable incongruity which
exists between the physical nature and the spirit of the man, when
either side of the antithesis is isolated for exclusive contemplation.
We need not here point out how far removed was the phallic ecstasy from
any prurient delight in licentious details, or from the scientific
analysis of passions. Nor, on the other hand, need we indicate the vein
of a similar extravagant enthusiasm in Oriental poetry. It is enough to
remember that it existed latent in all the comic dramas of the earlier
period, throbbing through them as the _sève de la jeunesse_ palpitates
in youthful limbs and adds a glow and glory to the inconsiderate or
unseemly acts of an Alcibiades or Antony. Christianity, by introducing
a new conception of the physical relations of humanity, by regarding
the body as the temple of the spirit, utterly rejected and repudiated
this delirium of the senses, this voluntary acceptance of merely
animal conditions. Christianity taught mankind, what the Greeks had
never learned, that it is our highest duty to be at discord with the
universe upon this point. Man, whose subtle nature might be compared
to a many-stringed instrument, is bidden to restrain the resonance of
those chords which do not thrill in unison with purely spiritual and
celestial harmonies. Hence the theories of celibacy and asceticism,
and of the sinfulness of carnal pleasure, which are wholly alien to
Greek moral and religious notions. Never since the age of Athenian
splendor has a rational and highly civilized nation dared to express
by any solemn act its sense of union with merely physical nature.
Aristophanes is therefore the poet of a past age, the "hierophant of a
now unapprehended mystery," the unique remaining example of an almost
unlimited genius set apart and consecrated to a cultus which subsequent
civilization has determined to annihilate. The only age which offers
anything like a parallel to the Athenian era of Aristophanes is that of
the Italian Renaissance. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, at
Venice, Florence, and Rome, it seemed as if the phallic ecstasy might
possibly revive, as if the animal nature of man might again be deified,
in sentiment at least, and as if the highest arts might stoop once
more to interpret and to consecrate the poetry of the senses. But the
conscience of the world was changed; and this could no longer be. The
image of Christ crowned with thorns had passed across the centuries;
hopes undreamed of by the Greeks had aroused a new spirit in the soul
of man, and had forced him in spite of inclination to lift his eyes
from earth to heaven. Over the joys of the flesh, which were connected
with a future doom of pain unending and disgrace, was shed a hue of
gloom and horror. Conception was looked upon as sin, birth as disaster.
It was even doubted whether for any but for virgins, except by some
special privilege of election, salvation could be hoped. Therefore,
while the Greeks had been innocent in their serene unconsciousness of
sin or shame, the extravagances of the Renaissance were guilty, turbid,
and morbid, because they were committed defiantly, in open reprobacy,
in scorn of the acknowledged law. What was at worst bestial in the
Greeks has become devilish in the Renaissance. How different from a
true Greek is Benvenuto Cellini: how unlike the monsters even of Greek
mythic story is Francesco Cenci: how far more awful in his criminality
is the Borgia than any despot of Greek colony or island! I have been
somewhat led astray from the point in view, which was to prove that
the comedies of Aristophanes embody a peculiar and temporary, though
recurring and recognized, phase of Greek feeling--that they owe their
license in a great measure to their religious origin and to the
enthusiasm of the Bacchic ecstasy.

But what has just been said about the difference between Athenian
Greece and the Italian Renaissance will show that Aristophanes has a
still more solid ground of defence in the fact that he was thoroughly
in harmony with the moral sense of his age and nation, and that the
Bacchic license was only an exaggeration of more ordinary habits, both
of thought and action. It must be acknowledged that the Greeks were
devoid of what we call shame and delicacy in respect of their bodies.
It was only in the extreme old age of the Greek race, and under the
dominion of Oriental mysticism, that the Alexandrian Plotinus was heard
to exclaim that he blushed because he had a body. The true Greeks, on
the contrary, were proud of the body, loved to display their physical
perfections, felt no shame of any physical needs, were not degraded
by the exercise of any animal function, nay poetized the pleasures
of the flesh. Simonides, in his lines on happiness, prays first for
health and next for beauty; and a thousand passages might be quoted
to prove how naturally and sincerely the Greeks reckoned physical
beauty among the chief goods of life, and how freely they exhibited it
in all its splendor. As a slight indication of the popular feeling,
we might quote the reproof for effeminacy which Aristophanes utters
against the young men who thought it necessary to appear clothed at the
Panathenaic festival; from which it is clear that the Greek conscience
connected nudity with purity. The immense value attached to physical
beauty is evident even from their military history--from the record,
for instance, of Callicrates among the heroes of Platæa, simply because
he was the fairest of the Greeks who fought that day. Again, Herodotus
tells of one Philippus, who joined in the expedition of Dorieus against
Eryx, and who, being slain and stripped by the people of Segeste, was
taken up by his foes and nobly buried, and thereafter worshipped as
a hero on account of his exceeding beauty. The influence which the
sight of beauty exercised over the gravest of the Greeks is proved by
the story of Phryne before the Areopagus, and by what Plato tells of
Socrates at the beginning of the _Charmides_. How it could electrify
a nation assembled in the theatre is shown by Plutarch's story of the
slave whom Nicias set free for winning the applause of all Athens when
acting Dionysus, and by Xenophon's tale about another Dorieus whom the
Athenians, though he was their deadly foe, released ransomless and
scathless, after he had been captured and sent to Attica, because he
was a very goodly man. Nor was it the sense of beauty only, or the open
exhibition of the person, which marked the Greeks. Besides this, and
perhaps flowing from it, we find in them an extraordinary callousness
with regard to many things which we think shocking and degrading in the
last degree. The mere fact that Alcibiades, while a minister of the
Athenian people, could have told the tales of his youth, recorded in
Plato's Banquet, or that grave men could have contended without reserve
for the favor of distinguished courtesans, proves that the Athenian
public was ready to accept whatever Aristophanes might set before
them--not to take his jokes scornfully, as a Roman patron trifled with
the _facetiæ_ of his _Græculus esuriens_, but, while enjoying them, to
respect their author.

Nor is Aristophanes without another solid ground of defence on the
score of sincerity and healthiness. In his immodesty there is nothing
morbid, though it is expressed more crudely than suits the moral
dignity of man. Aristophanes is never prurient, never in bad taste or
vulgar. He has none of the obscenity which revolts us in Swift, who
uses filth in order to degrade and violate our feelings; none of the
nastiness of Molière or Pope, whose courtly and polished treatment
of disgusting subjects is a disgrace to literature; none of the
coarseness of Ben Jonson; none of the far more indecent innuendo which
contaminates the writings of humorists like Sterne and satirists like
Voltaire, who seem always trying, childishly or apishly, to tamper
with forbidden things. Aristophanes accepts licentiousness as a fact
which needs no apology: he does not, as the moderns do, mingle it with
sentiment, or indulge in it on the sly. He has no _polissonnerie_: the
_vice égrillard_ of the French (from whom we are obliged to borrow
these phrases) is unknown to him. His license is large, serene,
sane, statuesque, self-approved. His sensuality is nonchalant and
natural--so utterly devoid of shame, so thoroughly at home and well
contented with itself, that it has no perturbation, no defiance, no
mysterious attractiveness. Besides, he is ironical; his #apepsôlêmenoi#
and #euryprôktoi# promenade in noonday, and get laughed at, instead
of being stoned and hooted down. About the audacious scene between
Kinesias and Murrhine, in the _Lysistrata_, there is no Aretine
hircosity. It is merely comic--a farcical incident, selected, not
for the rankness of its details, but for its dramatic capabilities.
The same may be said about the termination of the _Thesmophoriazusæ_
and the scene in the _Ecclesiazusæ_, which so vividly illustrates
the working of one law in the new commonwealth. So innocent in his
unconsciousness is Aristophanes that he rarely condescends even
to satirize the sensual vices. The lines about Ariphrades in the
_Knights_, however, are an instance of his having done this with
more than the pungency of Martial, and it must be admitted that his
pictures of the drunkenness and incontinence of the Athenian women
have something Swiftish in their brutal sarcasm. If we are to seek for
an approximation to Aristophanic humor, we shall find it perhaps in
Rabelais. Rabelais exhibits a similar disregard for decency, combining
the same depth of purpose and largeness of insight with the same
coarse fun. But in Aristophanes there is nothing quite grotesque and
homely, whereas Rabelais is full of these qualities. Even the opening
of the _Peace_, fantastic as it is in absurdity, does not touch the
note of grossness peculiar to French Pantagruelism. Aristophanes is
always Greek, while Rabelais inherits the mediæval spirit. In reading
Aristophanes we seem to have the serene skies of Attica above our
heads; the columns of the Propylæa and the Parthenon look down on us;
noble shapes of youths and maidens are crowding sacred marble steps;
below, upon the mirror of the sea, shine Salamis and Ægina; and far
off, in hazy distance, rise Peloponnesian hills. With these pictures
of the fancy his comedy harmonizes. But Rabelais carries us away to
Gothic courts and monkish libraries; we fill his margin with etchings
in the style of Gustave Doré. What has been said of Rabelais applies
with even greater force to Hogarth, whose absolute sincerity is as
great as that of Aristophanes, but who is never light and careless. His
coarseness is the product of a coarse nature, of coarse manners, of
a period of national coarseness. We tolerate it because of the moral
earnestness beneath: the artist is striving diligently to teach us by
warning us of vice. This is hardly ever the case with Aristophanes.
When he is coarse, we pardon him for very different reasons. In his
wilful degradation of humanity to the level of animals we recognize a
portion of the Weltvernichtungsidee. In the intellectual arrogance of
the Athenian prime a poet could afford thus to turn the world upside
down. But those who cannot subscribe to the following dictum of Taine,
which is very applicable to Aristophanes--"Elevées à cette énormité et
savourées avec cette insouciance, les fonctions corporelles deviennent
poétiques"--those who

    Wink and shut their apprehension up
    From common-sense of what men were and are,
    Who would not know what men must be--

will need to "hurry amain" from the mask of moral anarchy which the
great comedian displays. With these remarks I may finally dismiss what
has to be said about the chief disability under which Aristophanes
labors as a poet.[115]

For the enjoyment of Aristophanic fun a sort of Southern childishness
and swiftness of gleeful apprehension is required. It does not
shine so much in its pure wit as in its overflowing humor and in
the inexhaustible fertility of ludicrous devices by which laughter
is excited. The ascent of Trugaios to heaven upon the dung-beetle's
back, and the hauling of Peace from her well in the _Eirene_, or the
wine-skin dressed up like a baby in the _Thesmophoriazusæ_, may be
mentioned as instances of this broad but somewhat peculiar drollery.
Burlesquing the gods was always a capital resource of the comic poets.
If we in the nineteenth century can find any amusement whatever in
Byron's or Burnand's travesties of Olympus, how exquisitely absurd
to an Athenian mob must have been the figures of Prometheus under
an umbrella, Herakles the glutton, Hermes and Æacus the household
slaves, Bacchus the young fop, and Iris the soubrette. The puns of
Aristophanes, for the most part, are very bad, but the parodies are
excellent. Then the surprises (#para prodokian#), both of language
and of incident, with which his comedies abound, the broad and genial
caricatures which are so largely traced and carried out in detail with
such force, the brilliant descriptions of familiar things seen from odd
or unexpected points of view, and, lastly, the enormous quantity of
mirth-producing matter which the poet squanders with the prodigality
of conscious omnipotence, all contribute to heighten the comic effect
of Aristophanes. Perhaps the most intelligible piece of fun, in the
modern sense of the word, is the last scene in the _Thesmophoriazusæ_,
which owes its effect to parody and caricature more than to allusions
which are hard to seize. A great deal of the fun of Aristophanes must
have depended upon local and personal peculiarities which we cannot
understand: the constant references to the effeminate Cleisthenes, the
skinflint Pauson, miserly Patrocles, cowardly Cleonymus, Execestides
the alien, Agyrrhius the upstart, make us yawn because we cannot catch
the exact point of the jests against them. Indeed, as Schlegel has
said, "we may boldly affirm that, notwithstanding all the explanations
which have come down to us--notwithstanding the accumulation of
learning which has been spent upon it, one half of the wit of
Aristophanes is altogether lost to the moderns."

Having dismissed these preliminary considerations, we may now ask what
has caused the comedy of Aristophanes to triumph over the obstacles to
its acceptance. Why have his plays been transmitted to posterity when
those of Eupolis and Cratinus have perished, and when only scattered
lines from the eight hundred comedies of the middle period read by
Athenæus have survived destruction? No one has asked of Aristophanes
the question which the Alexandrian critic put to Menander: "Oh,
Nature and Menander, which of you copied the other?" Yet Menander is
scarcely more to us than the memory of departed greatness,[116] or at
best an echo sounding somewhat faintly from the Roman theatre, while
Aristophanes survives among the most highly cherished monuments of
antiquity. The answer to this question is, no doubt, that Aristophanes
was more worth preservation than his predecessors or successors.
It is wiser to have confidence in the ultimate good taste and
conservative instinct of humanity than to accept Bacon's half-ironical,
half-irritable saying, that the stream of time lets every solid
substance sink, and carries down the froth and scum upon its surface.
As far, at least, as it is possible to form a judgment, we may be
pretty certain that in the province of the highest art and of the
deepest thought we possess the greater portion of those works which
the ancients themselves prized highly; indeed, we may conjecture that
had the great libraries of Alexandria and Byzantium been transmitted
to us entire, the pure metal would not very greatly have exceeded in
bulk what we now possess, but would have been buried beneath masses
of inferior matter from which centuries would have scarcely sufficed
to disengage it. Aristophanes was preserved in his integrity, we need
not doubt, because he shone forth as a _poet_ transcendent for his
splendor even among the most brilliant of Attic playwrights. Cratinus
may have equalled or surpassed him in keen satire: Eupolis may have
rivalled him in exquisite artistic structure; but Aristophanes must
have eclipsed them, not merely by uniting their qualities successfully,
but also by the exhibition of some diviner quality, some higher
spiritual afflatus. If we analyze his art, we find that he combines the
breadth of humor, which I have already sought to characterize, with the
utmost versatility and force of intellect, with the power of grasping
his subjects under all their bearings, with extraordinary depth of
masculine good sense, with inexhaustible argumentative resources, and
with a marvellous hold on personalities. Yet all these qualities,
essential to a comic poet who pretended also to be the public censor
of politics and morals, would not have sufficed to immortalize him
had he not been essentially a poet--a poet in what we are apt to call
the modern sense of the word--a poet, that is to say, endowed with
original intuitions into nature, and with the faculty of presenting to
our minds the most varied thoughts and feelings in language uniformly
beautiful, as the creatures of an exuberant and self-swayed fancy.
Aristophanes is a poet as Shelley or Ariosto or Shakespeare is a
poet, far more than as Sophocles or Pindar or Lucretius is a poet. In
spite of his profound art, we seem to hear him uttering "his native
wood-notes wild." The subordination of the fancy to the fixed aims
of the reason, which characterizes classical poetry, is not at first
sight striking in Aristophanes; but he splendidly exhibits the wealth,
luxuriance, variety, and subtlety of the fancy working with the reason,
and sometimes superseding it, which we recognize in the greatest modern
poets. If we seek to define the peculiar qualities of his poetic
power, we are led to results not easily expressed, because all general
critical conclusions are barren and devoid of force when worded,
but which may perhaps be stated and accepted as the text for future

The poetry of Aristophanes is always swift and splendid. We watch
its brilliant course as we might watch the flight of a strong, rapid
bird, whose plumage glitters by moments in the light of the sun; for,
to insist upon the metaphor, the dazzling radiance of his fancy only
shines at intervals, capriciously, with fitful flashes, coruscating
suddenly and dying out again. It is as if the neck alone and a portion
of the feathers of the soaring bird were flecked with gold and crimson
grain, so that a turn of the body or a fluttering of the pinions is
enough to bring the partial splendor into light or cast it into shadow.
Aristophanes passes by abrupt transitions from the coarsest or most
simply witty dialogue to passages of pure and plaintive song; he quits
his fiercest satire for refreshing strains of lark-like heaven-aspiring
melody. These, again, he interrupts with sudden ruthlessness, breaking
the melody in the middle of a bar, and dropping the unfinished stanza.
He seems shy of giving his poetic impulse free rein, and prefers to
tantalize[117] us with imperfect specimens of what he might achieve; so
that his splendor is like that of northern streamers in its lambency,
though swift and piercing as forked lightnings in its intensity. Even
his most impassioned and sustained flights of imagination are broken
by digressions into satire, fantastic merriment, or parody, by which
the more dull-witted Athenians must have been sorely puzzled in their
inability to decide on the serious or playful purpose of the poet.
Perhaps the most splendid passages of true poetry in Aristophanes are
the choruses of the initiated in the _Frogs_, the Chorus of the Clouds
before they appear upon the stage, the invitation to the nightingale,
and the parabasis of the Birds, the speech of Dikaios Logos in the
_Clouds_, some of the praises of rustic life in the _Peace_, the
serenade (notwithstanding its coarse satire) in the _Ecclesiazusæ_,
and the songs of Spartan and Athenian maidens in the _Lysistrata_.
The charm of these marvellous lyrical episodes consists in their
perfect simplicity and freedom. They seem to be poured forth as
"profuse strains of unpremeditated art" from the fulness of the poet's
soul. Their language is elastic, changeful, finely tempered, fitting
the delicate thought like a veil of woven air. It has no Pindaric
involution, no Æschylean pompousness, no studied Sophoclean subtlety,
no Euripidean _concetti_. It is always bright and Attic, sparkling
like the many-twinkling laughter of the breezy sea, or like the light
of morning upon rain-washed olive-branches. But this poetry is never
very deep or passionate. It cannot stir us with the intensity of
Sappho, with the fire and madness of the highest inspiration. Indeed,
the conditions of comedy precluded Aristophanes, even had he desired
it, which we have no reason to suspect, from attempting the more
august movements of lyric poetry. The peculiar glories of his style
are its untutored beauties, the improvised perfection and unerring
exactitude of natural expression, for which it is unparalleled by that
of any other Greek poet. In her most delightful moments the muse of
Aristophanes suggests an almost plaintive pathos, as if behind the
comic mask there were a thinking, feeling human soul, as if the very
uproar of the Bacchic merriment implied some after-thought of sadness.

A detailed examination of the structure of the comedies would be the
best illustration of these remarks. At present it will be enough to
bring forward two examples of the tender melodies which may at times
be overheard in pauses of the wild Aristophanic symphony. The first of
these is the well-known Welcome to the Nightingale, sung by the Chorus
before their parabasis:

    #ô philê, ô xouthê, ô
    philtaton orneôn,
    pantôn xynnome tôn emôn
    hymnôn xyntroph' aêdoi;
    êlthes, êlthes, ôphthês,
    hêdyn phthongon emoi pherous'?
    all' ô kalliboan krekous'
    aulon phthegmasin êrinois,
    archou tôn anapaistôn.#

With what a fluent caressing fulness one word succeeds another here!
How each expresses love and joy! Remember, too, that all the birds
are singing together, and that the wild throat of their playfellow,
the nightingale, is ready to return the welcome with its throbbing
song of May-time and young summer. Take another poetic touch, brief
and unobtrusive, yet painting a perfect picture with few strokes, and
transfusing it with the spirit of the scene imagined:

    #all' anamnêsthentes, ôndres,
    tês diaitês tês palaias,
    hên pareich' hautê poth' hêmin,
    tôn te palasiôn ekeinôn,
    tôn te sykôn, tôn te myrtôn,
    tês trygos te tês glykeias,
    tês iônias te tês pros tôi phreati,
    tôn te elaôn, hôn pothoumen--#

"The violet-bed beside the well, and the olives which we long to see
again." Trugaios is reminding his fellow-villagers of the pleasures
of peace and of their country life. Those who from their recollection
of Southern scenery can summon up the picture, who know how cool and
shady are those wells, mirroring maidenhair in their black depth; how
fragrant and dewy are the beds of tangled violets; how dreamy are the
olive-trees, aerial, mistlike, robed with light, will understand the
peculiar #pothos# of these lines.

But we must not dwell too much upon the glimpses of pathetic poetry
in Aristophanes, which, after all, are but few and far between, mere
swallow-flights of song, when compared with the serious business
of his art. It is well known that the old comedy of the Athenians
performed the function of a public censorship. Starting from the
primitive comic song, in which a rude Fescennine license of what we
now call "chaffing" was allowed, and tempering its rustic jocularity
with the caustic bitterness of Archilochian satire, comedy became an
instrument for holding up to public ridicule all things of general
interest. Persons and institutions, nay, the gods themselves, are
freely laughed at. Bacchus seems to have enjoyed the jokes even when
directed against himself: #kai ho theos isôs chairei philogelôs tis
ôn# are the words of Lucian. So no one else had a right to resent
the poet's merriment when the presiding god of the festival approved
of sarcasms against his deity, and trod his own stage as a cowardly,
effeminate young profligate. This being the more serious aim of comedy,
it followed that Aristophanes always had some satiric, and in so far
didactic, purpose underlying his extravagant caricatures. What that
purpose was is too well known to need more than passing mention. From
his earliest appearance under the name of Callistratus, to the last of
his victories, Aristophanes maintained his character as an Athenian
Conservative. He came forward uniformly as a panegyrist of the old
policy of Athens, and a vehement antagonist of the new direction
taken by his nation subsequently to the Persian war. This one theme
he varied according to circumstances and convenience. In the first of
his plays--the _Daitaleis_--he attacked the profligacy and immodesty
of the rising generation, who neglected their Homer for the lessons
of the sophists, and engaged in legal quarrels. The _Acharnians_,
the _Peace_, and the _Lysistrata_ are devoted to impressing on the
Athenians the advantages of peace, and inducing them to lay aside
their enmity against Sparta. In the _Knights_, the demagogues are
attacked through the person of Cleon, with a violence of concentrated
passion that surpasses the most savage onslaughts of Archilochus. The
_Clouds_ and _Wasps_ exhibit different pictures of the insane passion
for litigation and the dishonest arts of rhetoric which prevailed at
Athens, fostered partly by the influence of sophists who professed
to teach a profitable method of public speaking, and partly by the
flattery of the demagogues. The _Birds_ is a fantastic satire upon
the Athenian habit of building castles in the air, and indulging in
extravagant dreams of conquest. In the _Ecclesiazusæ_ Aristophanes
seems bent on ridiculing the visionary Utopias of political theorists
like Plato, and also on caricaturing the social license which prevailed
in Athens, where everything, as he complains, had been tried, except
for women to appear in public like the men. In the _Thesmophoriazusæ_
and the _Frogs_ we exchange politics for literature; but in his
treatment of the latter subject, Aristophanes exhibits the same
conservative spirit. His hostility against Euripides, which is almost
as bitter as his hatred of Cleon, is founded upon the sophistical
nature of his art. Indeed, the demagogues, the sophists, and Euripides
were looked upon by him as three forms of the same poison which was
corrupting the old #êthos# of his nation. We have now indicated the
serious intention of all the plays of Aristophanes except the _Plutus_,
which is an ethical allegory conceived under a different inspiration
from that which gave the impulse to his other creative acts. Yet
it must not be forgotten that the subject-matter of these plays is
often varied: in the _Acharnians_, for example, we have a specimen of
literary criticism, while the _Lysistrata_ is aimed as much at the
follies of women as intended to set forth the advantages of peace. We
must also remember that it was the poet's purpose to keep his serious
ground-plan concealed. His comedy had to be the direct antithesis
to Greek tragedy. If it taught, it was to teach by paradox. In this
respect, Aristophanes realized a very high ideal. Preach as he may
be doing in reality, and underneath his merriment there is hardly a
passage in all his plays, if we except the pleadings of Dikaios Logos
in the _Clouds_, and the personal portions of the Parabases, in which
we catch him revealing his own earnestness. Every ordinary point of
view is so consistently ignored, and all the common relations of things
are so thoroughly reversed, that the topsy-turvy chaos which a play
of Aristophanes presents is quite harmonious. It is, in fact, madness
methodized and with a sober meaning. Perhaps we ought to seek in this
consideration the key to those problems which have occupied historians
when dealing with the Aristophanic criticism of Socrates. How, it is
always asked, could Aristophanes have been so consciously unjust to the
great moralist of Athens? If we keep in sight the intentional absurdity
of everything in one of the Aristophanic comedies, we may perhaps
understand how it was possible for the poet to travesty the friend with
whom he conversed familiarly at supper-parties. That Plato understood
the ridicule of his great master from some such point of view as this
is clear from his express recommendation of the _Clouds_ to Dionysius,
from the portrait which he draws of Aristophanes in the _Symposium_,
and from the eulogistic epigram (if that is genuine) which he composed
upon him. It is curious as a parallel that Agathon should have been
even more ignobly caricatured than Socrates at the beginning of the
_Thesmophoriazusæ_; yet we know from his own lips, as well as from the
dialogue of Plato, that Aristophanes was a friend of the tragic poet,
for he elsewhere calls him

    #agathos poiêtês kai potheinos tois philois.#

The lash applied to Socrates and Agathon is scarcely less stinging
than that applied to Cleon and Euripides. Yet the fact remains that
Aristophanes was the friend of Agathon and a member of the Socratic
circle. Much of the obscurity attending the interpretation of the
_Clouds_ arises from our having lost the finer _nuances_ of Athenian
feeling respecting the persons satirized in the old comedy. _We_
do not, for example, understand Cratinus when he joins the name of
Euripides with that of his great satirist in one epithet descriptive
of the quibbling style of the day--#euripidaristophanizein#.[118] But
to return from this digression, we may observe that it was only in a
democracy that an institution unsparing of friend and foe, like the old
comedy, in which persons were openly exposed to censure and the solemn
acts of the government were called in question, could be tolerated.
Accordingly we find that the early development of comedy, after the
date of Susarion, was checked by the accession of Pisistratus to power,
and that the old comedy itself perished with the extinction of Athenian
liberty. It is only a democracy that likes to criticise itself, that
takes pride in its indifference to ridicule, and in its readiness
to acknowledge its own errors. In this respect, we English are very
democratic: we abuse ourselves and expose our own follies more than
any other nation; the press and the platform do for us, in a barren,
unæsthetic fashion, what Aristophanes did for the Athenian public.

Perhaps we may now be able to see that a middle course must be followed
between the extremes of regarding Aristophanes as an indecent parasite
pandering to the worst inclinations of the Athenian rabble, and of
looking upon him as a profound philosopher and sober patriot. The
former view is maintained by Grote, who, though he is somewhat hampered
by his pronounced championship of all the democratic institutions of
Athens, among which the comedy of Aristophanes must needs be reckoned,
yet clearly thinks that the poet was a meddling monkey, full indeed of
genius, but injurious to the order of the State and to the peace of
private persons. The latter has been advocated by the German scholars
Ranke, Bergk, and Meineke, against whom Grote has directed an able
and conclusive argument in the notes to his eighth volume. Truly, it
is absurd to pretend that Aristophanes was the prudent and far-seeing
moralist described by his German admirers. To imagine him thus would
be to falsify the whole purpose of the Athenian comic drama, and to
test its large extravagance by the narrow standard of modern morality.
We might as well fancy that Alexander was an unselfish worker in the
service of humanity as bring ourselves to see in Aristophanes the
sage of uniformly staid sobriety. Not to mention that such a notion
is at total variance with the only authentic portrait we possess of
him, in the _Symposium_ of Plato, every line of his comedies cries
out against so pedantic and priggish a calumny. For it is a calumny
thus to misrepresent the high-spirited muse of Aristophanes, with
her dishevelled hair and Coan robe of flimsiest gauze, and wild
eyes swimming in the mists of wine. She never pretends to be better
than a priestess of the midnight Bacchus and Corinthian Aphrodite,
though she believes sincerely in the inspiration of these deities.
To see in her a Vestal or a Diotima, to set the owl of Pallas on her
shoulder, and to strap the ægis round her panting breasts is a piece
of elaborate stupidity and painful impertinence which it remained for
German pedagogues to perpetrate. Yet it is equally wrong to think of
Aristophanes merely as a pernicious calumniator, who killed Socrates,
and put an ineffectual spoke in the wheel of progress. Granted that he
was more of a Merry-Andrew than a moralist, more of a #gelôtopoios#
than a #meteôroleschês#, we must surely be blind if we fail to
recognize the deep undernote of good sense and wisdom which gives
eternal value to his jests--worse than blind if we do not honor him for
valiant and unflinching service in the cause which he had recognized
as right. Nor are the enemies of Aristophanes less insensible to his
real merits as an artist than his ponderous German friends. What are we
to think of the imaginative faculties of a man who, after gazing upon
the divine splendors of the genius of Aristophanes, after tracking the
erratic flight of this most radiant poet, "with his singing robes about
him," can descend to earth and wish that he had never existed, or shake
his head and measure him by the moral standards of Quarterly Reviews
and British respectability? Alas, that from the modern world should
have evanesced all appreciation of art that is not obviously useful,
palpably didactic! If we would rightly estimate Aristophanic comedy, we
must be prepared to accept it in the classical spirit, and separating
ourselves from either sect of the Pharisees, refuse to picture its
great poets to ourselves, on the one hand as patriots _eximia morum
gravitate_, or on the other as foul slanderers and irreverent buffoons.
Far beyond and outside the plane of either standing-ground are they.
The old comedy of Athens is a work of art so tempered and so balanced
that he who would appreciate it must submit, for a moment at least, to
forego his modern advantages of improved morality and public decency
and purer taste and parliamentary courtesy, and to become--if he can
bend his moral back to that obliquity--a "merry Greek."

It is now clear that Aristophanic comedy is in the history of art
unique--the product of peculiar and unrepeated circumstances. The
essential differences between it and modern comedy are manifold.
Modern comedy partakes of the tragic spirit; it has a serious purpose,
acknowledged by the poet; a lesson is generally taught in its
catastrophe; it is fond of poetical justice. Aristophanic comedy, as
we have seen, whatever may be its purpose, is always ludicrous to the
spectators and to itself. _Tartuffe_, _A New Way to Pay Old Debts_,
and _Volpone_ are tragedies without bloodshed: you only laugh at them
incidentally. The _Clouds_, the _Knights_, and the _Frogs_ excite
inevitable laughter. Nor is this difference manifest only in the matter
and spirit of the two comedies: it expresses itself externally in their
several forms. The plays of Aristophanes, upon the stage, must have
been like our pantomimes, or rather, like our operas. If we wish to
form a tolerable notion of the appearance of an Aristophanic comedy,
we cannot do better than keep in mind the _Flauto Magico_ of Mozart.
Had Mozart received a good translation of the _Birds_ instead of the
wretched libretto of the _Zauberflöte_, what a really magic drama he
might have produced! Even as it is, with the miserable materials he
had to work upon, the master musician has given us an Aristophanic
specimen of the ludicrous passing by abrupt but delicate transitions to
the serious, of parody and irony playing in and out at hide-and-seek,
of pathos lurking beneath merriment, and of madness leaping by a bound
into the regions of pure reason. And this he has achieved by the
all-subduing witchery of music--by melodies which solve the stiffest
contradictions, by the ebb and flow of measured sound rocking upon
its surface the most varied thoughts and feelings of the soul of man.
In the _Zauberflöte_ we are never surprised by any change, however
sudden--by any incident, however whimsical. After first lamenting over
the stupidity of the libretto, and then resigning ourselves to the
caprices of the fairy story, we are delighted to follow the wanderings
of music through her labyrinth of quaint and contradictory absurdities.
Just so, we fancy, must have been the case with Aristophanes.
Peisthetærus and Euelpides were not more discordant than Papageno;
the Birds had their language as Astrifiammante has hers; nor were
the deeper tones of Aristophanic meaning more out of place than the
bass notes of Sarastro, and the choruses of his attendant priests.
Music, which has harmonized the small and trivial contradictions of
the _Zauberflöte_, harmonized the vast and profound contradictions of
Aristophanic comedy. It was the melodramatic setting of such plays as
the _Birds_ and the _Clouds_ which caused their Weltvernichtungsidee to
blossom forth melodiously into the magic tree, with all its blossoms
and nightingales and merry apes, to which I have so often referred.

With this parallel between the _Birds_ and an opera like the
_Zauberflöte_ in our minds, we may place ourselves among the thirty
thousand Athenian spectators assembled in the theatre about the end
of March, 414 B.C. We must remember that the great expedition had
recently gone forth to Sicily. It was only in the preceding year that
the Salaminian galley had been sent for Alcibiades, who had escaped
to Sparta, where he was now engaged in stirring up evil for his
countrymen. But as yet no disaster had befallen the army of invasion.
Gylippus had not arrived. Lamachus was still alive. Every vessel
brought news to the Athenians of the speed with which their forces were
carrying on the work of circumvallation, and of the despondency of the
Syracusans. The spectators of the plays of Aristophanes and Ameipsias
were nearly the same persons who had listened to the honeyed eloquence
of Alcibiades persuading them to undertake the expedition, and
promising them not merely the supremacy of Hellas, but the empire of
the Mediterranean and the subjugation of Carthage. Alcibiades, indeed,
had turned a traitor to his country; but the charm of his oratory and
the spirit he had roused remained. Each father in the audience might
fairly hope that his son would share in raising Athens to her height
of splendor: not a man but felt puffed up with insolent prosperity.
The only warning voice which spoke while Athens trembled on the very
razor-edge of fortune was that of Aristophanes--but with how sweet and
delicate a satire, with sarcasms that had the sound of flattery, with
prognostications of failure that wore the shape of realized ambitions,
with musical banter and multitudinous jests that seemed to apologize
for folly rather than to censure it! There is no doubt but that
Aristophanes intended in the _Birds_ to ridicule the ambition of the
Athenians and their inveterate gullibility. Peisthetærus and Euelpides
represent in comic caricature the projectors, agitators, schemers,
flatterers, who, led by Alcibiades, had imposed upon the excitable
vanity of the nation. Cloud-cuckootown is any castle in the air or
South Sea bubble which might take the fancy of the Athenian mob. But
it is also more especially the project of Western dominion connected
with their scheme of Sicilian conquest. Aristophanes has treated his
theme so poetically and largely that the interests of the _Birds_ is
not, like that of the _Wasps_ or the _Knights_, almost wholly confined
to the Athens of his day. It transcends those limitations of place and
time, and is the everlasting allegory of foolish schemes and flimsy
ambition. A modern dramatist--Ben Jonson or Molière, for instance,
perhaps even Shakespeare--could hardly have refrained from ending the
allegory with some piece of poetical justice. We should have seen
Peisthetærus disgraced and Cloud-cuckootown resolved into "such stuff
as dreams are made of." But this is not the art of Aristophanes. He
brings Peisthetærus to a successful catastrophe, and ends his comedy
with marriage songs of triumph. Yet none the less pointed is the
satire. The unreality of the vision is carefully maintained, and
Peisthetærus walking home with Basileia for his bride, like some new
sun-eclipsing star, seems to wink and strut and shrug his shoulders,
conscious of the Titanic sham.

To analyze in detail a work of art so well known to all students as the
_Birds_ would be needless. It is enough to notice in passing that it
is quite unique of its kind, combining, as it does, such airy fancies
as we find in the _Midsummer-Night's Dream_ with the peculiar pungency
of Aristophanic satire, untainted by the obscenity which forms an
integral part of the _Ecclesiazusæ_ or _Lysistrata_. Most exquisite
is the art with which Aristophanes has collected all the facts of
ornithology, all the legends and folklore connected with birds, so as
to create a fanciful birdland and atmosphere of true bird life for his
imaginary beings. Not less wonderful is the imagination with which he
has conceived the whole universe from the bird's point of view, his
sympathy with the nightingale, the drollery of his running footman
Trochilus, the pompous gravity of his King Epops, and so on through
the whole of his winged _dramatis personæ_. The triumph of his art is
the Parabasis, in which the birds pour forth melodious compassion for
the transitory earth-born creatures of an hour. Poor men, with their
little groping lives! The epithets of pity which the happier birds
invent to describe man are woven, as it were, of gossamer and dew,
symbols of fragility. Then the music changes as the vision of winged
Eros, up-soaring from the primeval windegg, bursts upon the fancy of
the Chorus. Again it subsides into still more delicate irony, when the
just reign of the birds on earth and over heaven is prophesied; and the
whole concludes with semichorus answering to semichorus in antiphonal
strains of woodland poetry and satire--the sweet notes of the flute
responded to by shouts of Bacchic laughter.

We have seen in dealing with the _Birds_ how Aristophanes converted
the whole world into a transcendental birdland, and filled his play
with airy shapes and frail imaginings. This power of alchemizing and
transmuting everything he touches into the substance of his thought
of the moment is no less remarkable in the comedy of the _Clouds_.
And here we are able to mark the peculiar nature of his allegory more
clearly than in the choruses of the _Birds_, with greater accuracy
to distinguish the play of pure poetry alternating with satire, to
trace the glittering thread of fancy drawn athwart the more fantastic
arabesque of comic caricature. In the _Clouds_ Aristophanes ridicules
the rising school of teachers who professed to train the youth of
Athens in the arts of public speaking and successful litigation. He
aims at the tribe of sophists, who substituted logical discussion for
the old æsthetic education of the Greeks, and who sought to replace
mythological religion by meteorological explanations of natural
phenomena. The pedantry of this dialectic in its boyhood offended the
artistic sense of a conservative like Aristophanes: the priggishness
of upstart science had the air to him of insolent irreligion. Besides
he saw that this new philosophy, while it undermined the #êthos# of
his nation, was capable of lending itself to ignoble ends--that its
possessors sought to make money, that their disciples were eager to
acquire mere technical proficiency, in order to cut a fine figure in
public and to gain their selfish purposes. The sophists professed two
chief subjects: #ta meteôra#, or the science of natural phenomena;
and rhetoric, or the art of conquering by argument. Aristophanes,
in the _Clouds_, satirizes both under the form of allegory by
bringing upon the stage his Chorus of Clouds, who, in their changeful
shapes--heaven-obscuring, appearing variously to various eyes, coming
into being from the nothing of the air, and passing away again by
imperceptible dissolution, usurping upon the functions of Zeus in
the thunder and the rain, hurrying hither and thither at the will of
no divine force, but impelled by the newly discovered abstraction
Vortex--are the very forms and symbols of the airy, misty Proteus of
verbal falseness and intangible irreligion which had begun to possess
the Athenians. In order to understand the force of this allegory, we
must remember the part which the clouds played in the still vital
mythology of the Greeks. It was by a cloud that Hera in her divine
scorn had deluded the impious desires of Ixion, who, embracing hollow
shapes of vapor, begat Centaurs. The rebellious giants who sought to
climb Olympus were forms of mist and tempest invading the serenity of
highest heaven: this Strepsiades indicates when he quotes the words
#plokamous th' hekatonkephala Typhô# as referring to the clouds. It
was in cloudy vision that gods appeared to mortals or escaped their
sight; in cloud that the Homeric heroes were snatched from death by
their Olympian patrons; in clouds that Æolus dwelt and Danaë was
prisoned. The Harpies were wind-tossed films of frothy cloud; the
Sirens daughters of foam and mist. Everything that deceived and
concealed, that shifted and eluded, that stole away "the enchanted
gazer's mind," all Maya or delusion, all fascination and unrealizable
desire, was symbolized by clouds. Nor was it without meaning that the
clouds ascended from Ocean, from the wily parent of wave and storm,
the inscrutable hoarder of secrets locked within the caverns of the
murmuring deep, who might never be taken in any one clear form, who
loved to cozen and betray, whose anger was swift and fretful against
such as caught him in their toils. The clouds were his daughters,
and so was Aphrodite--beautiful, deceitful, soul-subduing--these his
offspring of the air, this his child of the foam--these pouring glamour
on the eyes of men, this folding their hearts in snares. Without being
fanciful, we might follow this analysis through a hundred labyrinths,
all tending to show how exquisite to the apprehension of a Greek
steeped in mythological associations must have been the allegory of the
clouds. We might, moreover, have pointed out the care of Aristophanes
to maintain this mythological propriety. Even in the Parabasis, for
instance, where the Chorus comes forward in its human character as
the representative of the poet, there occurs a semi-choric strain of
great beauty, hymning the elemental deities of Sun, Air, Ocean, and
all-covering Heaven, who are the parents and especial patrons of the
clouds; for the Sun begets them from the fountains of the Sea, the Air
receives and gives them shape as they drift through her yielding realm,
and the great Zeus of the sky compels them to his service, stores them
with his thunder, and makes a palace for them in his adamantine home,
and wreathes their dances round his footstool of the firmament. But
it is enough to have pointed out the main features of the allegory.
The scope which it afforded for the display of splendid poetry was
of course immense. From the first moment of the appearance of the
Chorus to the end we never lose sight of their cloudy splendor, and,
as in the case of the _Birds_, every thought, playful or imaginative,
which can be conceived relating to the world of clouds, is pressed by
Aristophanes into his service.

Early in the play the fount of poetry which they suggest springs pure
and clear from the flinty rock of previous satire. Socrates, who has
just been displayed to us as the insignificant anatomizer of fleas and
gnats, rises suddenly to this height in his invocation:

    "O Sovereign King, immeasurable Air, who keepest the earth
    balanced, and blazing Ether, and sublime goddesses, ye Clouds
    of lightning and of thunder, arise, appear, dread queens, in
    mid-air to your Thinker!"

It is only in the last word, notice, that the comic smile breaks out.

    "Come, then, ye reverend Clouds, honor this neophyte with your
    dread beauty! whether upon Olympus's holy snow-swept peaks ye
    sit, or in the gardens of father Ocean weave the dance with
    nymphs, or in golden pitchers draw the waters of Nile, or in
    Mæotis bide, or on the white eyries of Mimas: listen, receive
    our sacrifice, be gracious to our rites."

With what radiance of imagination the haunts of the clouds are here
enumerated! Sometimes we see them floating in virginal processions
above unfooted snows, sometimes enthroned like queens in solemn silence
on aerial watch-towers, sometimes dissolved in dew far down among the
Oceanides, or brooding, filmy vapors, on the face of broad untroubled

Aristophanes, it may be said in passing, never dwells upon the more
tempestuous functions of the clouds as stormy and angry powers:
that would be to violate his allegory, which must always show them
deceitfully beautiful, spreading illusion over earth and sky.

In answer to the invitation of Socrates, the Clouds are heard behind
the stage chanting a choric hymn;[119] and here it must be remarked
that the poet has revealed subtle instinct, for before exhibiting his
Chorus, arrayed in veils of filmy gauze, to the people, by which he
might have risked the possibility of exciting ludicrous instead of
solemn ideas, he enlists the imagination of the audience by a sublime
strain of preparatory music, vocally realizing the splendor of the
coming Clouds before they strike the eyes of the spectators.

It is to the repeated roll of distant thunder that they sing their
untranslatable entrance hymn. Behold them rising, silent domes and
pinnacles and towers, from the burnished mirror of the noonday sea:
how the sunlight flashes on their pearly slopes and fills their deeply
cloven valleys: how dewy bright and glistening they are! Then watch
them scale the vault of heaven, quitting the horizon with its mists,
marching in tranquil state across the spaces of blue ether, gliding
to their thrones among the mountain pines! There they repose, and at
their feet is heard the clamor of the streams, the deep rebounding
boom of sea waves; but they are seated in serenity, and below them
lies the champaign with its fruits of holy earth, and on their broad
immortal marble fronts the unwearied light of the sun-god plays. From
their girdles to their sandals falls the robe of mist that wrapped them
round, and on the watch-towers of the world they sit, bare in their
beauty, godlike forms.

Such is the vision which this inimitable Chorus evokes. Its truth
has been felt by all who have seen the rising of summer clouds from
the waters of the Mediterranean. Indeed, this Chorus belongs to the
highest order of poetry. Not only does it furnish an example of the
freshness which is peculiar to Aristophanes, but it is in the deepest
sense an intuition into the inmost life of nature. We hear in it the
voice of a true seer or interpreter, who knows by choice of words and
rhythms how to convey his own impressions to our mind. Even Shelley,
when he wrote his _Cloud_, had grasped perhaps the secret of the pomp
and splendor of cloudland less firmly than Aristophanes has done,
though his images are piled so multitudinously, and every thought or
fancy that a cloud suggests is whirled, as it were, in the drift of
brilliant and radiant shapes. Aristophanes has this advantage--that
something of the mythopoeic power still survived in Greece, and that he
shared the sculptural genius of his race. Moreover, his audience were
prepared by their religious associations to conceive of his Clouds as
living creatures, and he was writing for the stage, where the poetry of
personification is made easy by direct appeal to the eyesight.

In the _Clouds_ as it has been transmitted to us, Aristophanes employs
another and more direct form of allegory. He brings upon the stage the
#dikaios logos# in controversy with the #adikos logos#--the former
representing the old conservative education of Athens; the other
the new theories and modes of life which were beginning to spring
up. It has been conjectured that #dikaios logos# wore the mask of
Aristophanes himself, and #adikos logos# that of Thrasymachus the
sophist. If this conjecture hits the truth, it is curious that the
vulgar logician whom Socrates handles so severely in Plato's _Republic_
should have been chosen as the ideal of his doctrine and influence--the
special pleader of the Phrontisterion. The contest between these two
impersonations of modesty and impudence, of manliness and effeminacy,
offers a unique example in Greek comic literature of what was common
on our own stage about three centuries ago. The Just and Unjust Logoi
dispute and wrangle for the favor of Pheidippides precisely like the
abstractions in _Hycke Scorner_ or _Lusty Juventus_. Of course this
kind of allegory is much coarser and affords less scope for poetical
treatment than the exquisite mythus of the _Clouds_. The Logoi are
but masks or hollow automata, from behind which the poet utters his
arguments: there is no illusion of the senses, no enchantment of the
fancy in their presentation. Yet the speech of Dikaios Logos forms
one of the purest and most beautiful passages that Aristophanes has
written, in its simple and affectionate picture of old Athenian life.
The poet, we fear, was very far behind his age: he looked back to the
good times when the sailor only knew enough to sing out "Ahoy!" and
call for biscuit: he wanted the Athenian lads to have broad backs
and sluggish tongues: he was dead to the advantages of dialectic and
Socratic definition: he kept trying to bring back the days of Marathon,
when nothing could avert the coming days of Syracuse and Ægospotami
and Chæronea. We who read the history of Athens by the light of our
Grote, we who are rolling our waves towards the rising instead of the
setting sun, know now how very perverse and un-advanced the poet was.
Yet, for all that, can we fail to be charmed with the picture that
he draws of Greek boyhood in the good old times, and to contrast it
favorably with the acknowledged impudence and profligacy of Critias
and Agathon and Alcibiades--the friends and pupils of Socrates? "In
that blissful time," says Dikaios Logos, "when I flourished, and
modesty and temperance were practised, a boy's voice was never heard;
but he would set off at daybreak, in snow or sunshine, with his
comrades to the school of the harper, where he learned the ballads
of our forefathers in praise of Pallas; and from the harper he would
run to the training-ground and exercise himself with the decorum
befitting virtuous youth." The rules for the behavior of boys which
Aristophanes here enunciates provoke a modern smile; for the morality
of Athens obliged lads to observe the same sort of propriety which we
expect from girls. But for all his modesty, the youth of those days
was not a milksop. He did indeed shun the public baths and the agora,
repel the advances of profligate persons, respect his parents, avoid
Hetairai, and form in his breast an image of Aidos; yet he frequented
the wrestling-ground, and grew fair in form and color with generous
exercises, not "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," nor
bent and jaded by the restless wrangling of the law courts; but among
the sacred olive-trees of the Academy he ran races with his comrade,
"crowned with white reeds, smelling of bindweed and careless hours
and leaf-shedding poplar, rejoicing in the prime of spring, when the
plane-tree whispers to the elm." In these last lines we touch the
very core of Greek aristocratic conservatism--that imperious demand
for leisure, for #scholê tôn anankaiôn#, of which Aristotle speaks as
an essential in the life of free men; that contempt of all serious
time-consuming business which we find in Plato; that respect for the
beauty of the body, and that dislike of every occupation that tended
to degrade its form or spoil the freshness of its color; that sympathy
with nature in her graceful moods; that well-bred nonchalance; that
love of the gymnasium with its poplar sacred to Herakles, the god
of endurance, and its plane-tree of swift Hermes--in a word, those
accumulated æsthetical prejudices which marked the race pre-eminent for
its artistic faculty, the caste of rich and idle citizens supported by
a nation of slaves, the unique and never-again-to-be-imitated people,
who once and for all upon this earth of ours attained perfection,
realized the ideal towards which we vainly strive.

With the last lines of this speech in our memory, we may turn to
the dialogues of Plato, whose Phædrus and Charmides and Lysis are
true children and disciples of Dikaios Logos; or to the Autolycus of
Xenophon's _Symposium_, whose breast is as smooth, and skin as bright,
and shoulders as broad, and tongue as short, as even Aristophanes could
wish; or we may set before us some statue like the Apoxyomenos of
Lysippus, or the Discobolos of Myron, and feel that we have gathered,
in fancy at least, the flower of the perfection of the pride of Hellas.

Much of the allegory of Aristophanes consists of metaphors taken
literally and expressed by appropriate symbolism to the audience. Thus,
Trugaios actually drags the goddess Peace, with her attendants Opora
and Theoria, from the well, the Chorus, while they help him, singing
"Yoho!" like sailors at a capstan. In the same comedy, War and Havoc
are exhibited with a gigantic mortar, in which they bray the States of
Greece. Socrates suspended in his basket is a metaphorical allegory of
this sort, his posture being peculiarly expressive of star-gazing and
abstract speculation at a time when the objects of such contemplations
were called #ta meteôra#. Of the same kind is the balance in which
the lines of Æschylus and Euripides are weighed. Any poet might use
the metaphor (weighed in the balance and found wanting); but it is a
stretch of metaphorical license to exhibit an actual pair of scales
upon the stage. Many of the figurative actions of the Hebrew prophets
were practical appeals to the imagination, similar to these allegories
of Aristophanes. Indeed, such dramatic metaphors may be reckoned
among the most powerful instruments in the hands of a great master.
Had Dante conceived a mask upon the politics of Italy, we doubt not
but that he would have employed some energetic symbols of this sort;
and, in passing, it may be said that no artist has appeared in modern
times so capable of constructing an allegorical drama in the style
of Aristophanes as Dante. The symbolism of the _Wasps_ is somewhat
different from that with which we have been dealing. In this play the
Chorus were armed, no doubt, with lance-like stings; but there was no
attempt on the poet's part, as in the case of the _Clouds_ and _Birds_,
to maintain the illusion of their being wasps. They talk and act like
old men; their waspishness is merely metaphorical, and the allegory
ends in an appeal to the eyesight. The _Plutus_, on the other hand,
presents an example of allegory in the strictly modern sense. It is
a Greek anticipation of our moralities, of such a play as might be
founded on a portion of the _Pilgrim's Progress_. Wealth and Poverty
appear upon the stage, and speak appropriately. Avarice and Prodigality
are satirized. The use and abuse of riches are contrasted in a series
of incidents framed with expressly moral purpose. The whole play is
singularly un-Aristophanic. We have here no "Weltvernichtungsidee"--no
nightingales or climbing apes to speak of. For this very reason it has
been copied in modern times (its inner nature rendering it capable of
adaptation to our tastes) by Ben Jonson in the _Staple of News_, and by
Goethe in the second part of _Faust_.

One word must be devoted to the _Thesmophoriazusæ_. In the history of
dramatic literature, the chief interest of the play is that it differs
from the other works of Aristophanes in its structure. It has a regular
plot--an intrigue and a solution--and its persons are not allegorical,
but real. Thus it approaches the standard of modern comedy. But the
plot, though gigantic in its scale, and prodigious in its wealth of wit
and satire, is farcical. The artifices by which Euripides endeavors
to win Agathon to undertake his cause, the disguise of Mnesilochus in
female attire, the oratory of the old man against the women in the
midst of their assembly, his detection, the momentary suspension of
the dramatic action by his seizure of the supposed baby, his slaughter
of the swaddled wine-jar, his apprehension by Cleisthenes, the devices
and disguises by which Euripides (in parody of his own tragic scenes)
endeavors to extricate his father-in-law from the scrape, and the
final ruse by which he eludes the Scythian bowmen, and carries off
Mnesilochus in triumph--all these form a series of highly diverting
comic scenes. There is no passage in Aristophanes more amusing than
the harangue of Mnesilochus. The other women have abused Euripides for
slandering their sex in his tragedies. Mnesilochus, the humorous and
coarse old rustic, gets up in his flimsy female gear, and eloquently
reminds them of the truths which Euripides _might_ have divulged. One
crime after another is glibly and facetiously recorded, until the
little heap of calumnies uttered by Euripides disappears beneath the
mountain of confessions piled up by the supposed matron. The portrait,
too, of Agathon in the act of composition is exquisitely comic. By
comparing it with that drawn by Plato in the _Banquet_, we may to some
extent estimate the amount of truth in Aristophanic caricature. The
meaningless melodious style--the stream of honeyed words,[120] _summa
delumbe saliva_--with which Agathon and his Chorus greet our ears is
scarcely more a parody of his poetry than the speech on love is of
his prose. Agathon is discovered lying on a sofa, arrayed in female
garments and smelling of cosmetics; when asked why thus attired, he
lisps a languid answer that he is composing a tragedy about women, and
wants to be in character:

    The poet ought to keep in harmony
    With any subject that he has to treat:
    If women be his theme, then must his person
    Be toned and fashioned to a female mood;
    But when he writes of men he has no need
    To study change; 'tis only what we have not
    We seek to supplement by dressing up.
    Besides, how unæsthetic 'tis to see
    A poet coarse and hairy! Just remember
    Famed Ibycus, Anacreon, Alcæus,
    Who made our music and our metres flow,
    Wore caps, and followed soft Ionian fashions:
    And Phrynichus--this surely you have heard--
    Was beautiful and beautifully dressed;
    And this, we cannot doubt, is why his plays
    Were beautiful; for 'tis a natural law
    That like ourselves our work must ever be.

Modern writers upon whose lips _in udo est Mænas et Attis_ might take
some of this satire not inaptly to themselves. But the crowning sport
of the _Thesmophoriazusæ_ is in the last scene, when Mnesilochus
adapts the _Palamedes_ and the _Helen_ of Euripides to his own forlorn
condition, jumbling up the well-known verses of these tragedies with
coarse-flavored rustical remarks; and when at last Euripides himself
acts Echo and Perseus to the Andromeda of his father-in-law, and
both together mystify the policeman by their ludicrous utterance of
antiphonal lamentations.

I have but scanty space for touching on one of the topics which the
_Thesmophoriazusæ_ suggests--the satire of Aristophanes upon Athenian
women, whom he invariably represents as profligate, licentious, stupid,
drunken, thieves, and liars. Whether they were in any sense as bad as
he has painted them--and he has given them a worse character than any
other Greek poet, not even excepting Simonides of Amorgos--or whether
their absence from the comic spectacles encouraged a paradoxical
misrepresentation of their worst and most exceptional qualities, is not
easy to decide. This at least is clear that, while comic exaggeration
is obvious in every detail, the picture, overdrawn and coarse as it may
be, accords with that of other and less copious Greek satirists; nor
could it have been tolerated in a society where women held a station of
respect and honor.[121]

The point of the _Thesmophoriazusæ_, so far as the women are concerned,
is that while Aristophanes pretends to show up Euripides for his
abuse of them, his own satire is far more searching, and penetrates
more deeply into the secrets of domestic life. What are the crimes of
Phædra in comparison with the habits he imputes to Athenian wives and
daughters? The _Lysistrata_ will not bear discussion; but in passing I
may notice the humor of the oath by wine which the inexorable heroine
and her Spartan friend administer. Other oaths might be broken,
but no Athenian wife or maid would incur the penalty of this dread
imprecation: "If I fail, may the bowl be filled with water." Of the
three comedies which treat of women, the _Ecclesiazusæ_ has the most
permanent interest. Indeed, _mutatis mutandis_, its satire might almost
be adapted to the present day, or to the future which our theorists
upon the rights of women are preparing. The Athenian ladies disguise
themselves as men, and crowd the assembly, where they outvote their
husbands, sons, and brothers, and proclaim the supremacy of women in
the State. Praxagora, the agitator of the scheme, is chosen strategis.
She decides that a community of property and free-trade between the
sexes are the two things wanted to insure general felicity. The point
of the satire consists in this: that the arguments by which the women
get the upper-hand all turn on their avowed conservatism; men change
and shift, women preserve their old customs, and will maintain the
#êthos# of the State; but no sooner have they got authority than they
show themselves more democratic than the demagogues, more new-fangled
in their political notions than the philosophers. They upset
time-honored institutions and make new ones to suit their own caprices,
squaring the laws according to the logic of feminine instincts. Of
course speculations like those of Plato's _Republic_ are satirized in
the farcical scenes which illustrate the consequences of this female
revolution. But perhaps the finest point about the comedy is its
humorous insight into the workings of women's minds--its clear sense of
what a topsy-turvy world we should have to live in if women were the
lawgivers and governors.

In quitting Aristophanes I am forced to reflect upon the inadequacy
of my attempts to interpret the secret of his strength and charm.
The epithets which continually rise to our lips in speaking of
him--radiant, resplendent, swift, keen, changeful, flashing,
magical--carry no real notion of the marvellous and subtle spirit, that
animates his comedy with life peculiar to itself. In dealing with no
other poet is the critic or historian so powerless. No other work of
art leaves so incommunicable an impression on the mind of the student.
As for my words about Aristophanes, they are "sound and fury signifying
nothing:" to be known, he must be read with admiration and delight. But
those who have submitted themselves to the influence of his genius will
understand what I mean when, in conclusion, I say that, with Plato and
Aristophanes for guides, we can to some extent reconstruct the life of
the Athenians, animate the statues of Myron and Lysippus, and see the
aisles of the Parthenon or the benches of the Pnyx crowded with real
human beings. Plato introduces us to the graver and more elegant side
of Attic life, to the #kalokagathoi# and #charientes#, to men of sober
tastes and good birth and exquisite breeding. Aristophanes acquaints us
with men of pleasure, vulgar and uneducated characters, haunters of the
law courts and the market-place and the assembly. From Plato we learn
what occupied philosophers and people of distinction. Aristophanes
tells us the popular jokes at Athens, how the political and military
edicts recorded by Thucydides were familiarly discussed, how people
slept and walked and dressed and dined. In Plato's Dialogues the fine
Greek intellect is shown to us trained and tutored into exquisite
forms of elevated culture. In Aristophanes, though art even more
consummate has been used, we see the same refined intellect running
riot and disporting itself with the flexibility of untamable youth. By
Plato we are taught how dignified and humane the Greeks could be, by
Aristophanes how versatile and human they were.


[114] It is almost impossible to translate this word, which will
frequently recur in the essay, and which seems to depend for its
force upon the conception of the satiric spirit, as that which "stets
vernichtet," the Mephistophilistic "verneinender Geist."

[115] Since this chapter was written, Mr. Browning's interesting piece
of criticism in verse, _Aristophanes' Apology_, containing a most
clever caricature of Aristophanes, and a no less clever defence of
Euripides, has appeared. I do not see any reason to alter the view
expressed above concerning Greek Comedy.

[116] See below, chap. xix.

[117] As a minor instance of these sudden transitions from the touching
to the absurd, take Charon's speech (_Frogs_, 185):

    #tis eis anapaulas ek kakôn kai pragmatôn?
    tis eis to Lêthês pedion, ê 's onou pokas,
    ê 's kerberious, ê 's korakas, ê 'pi Tainaron.#

[118] This epithet contains the gist of the objection often brought
against Aristophanes, that he assisted the demoralization which he
denounced. If he did so, it was not by his grossness and indelicacy,
but by his subtilty and refinement and audacity of universal criticism.
The sceptical aqua-fortis of his age is as strong in Aristophanes as in


    #aenaoi Nephelai,
    arthômen phanerai droseran physin euagêton,
    patros ap' Ôkeanou baryacheos
    hypsêlôn oreôn koryphas epi
    dendrokomous, hina
    têlephaneis skopias aphorômetha,
    karpous t' ardomenan hieran chthona,
    kai potamôn zatheôn keladêmata,
    kai ponton keladonta barybromon;
    omma gar aitheros akamaton selageitai
    marmareais en augais.
    all' aposeisamenoi nephos ombrion
    athanatas ideas epidômetha
    têleskopôi ommati gaian.#

                                                          _Clouds_, 275.

[120] Mnesilochus's criticism reminds us of Persius:

    #hôs hêdu to melos ô potniai Genetyllides,
    kai thêlydriôdes kai kateglôtismenon
    kai mandalôton, hôst' emou g' akroômenou
    hypo tên hedran autên hypêlthe gargalos.#

                                                           _Thesm._ 130.

[121] One of the most interesting chapters in Greek history still
remains to be written. It should deal in detail with the legal and
domestic position of free women at Athens, with the relation of their
sons and husbands to Hetairai, and with the whole associated subject
of paiderastia. Since this essay on Aristophanes was first published,
Mr. Mahaffy has done much in his excellent book on _Social Life in
Greece_ towards clearing up our views upon these matters. But the topic
still requires a fuller and more scientific handling. Mr. Mahaffy is
particularly felicitous in marking the distinctions of the Herodotean,
Thucydidean, and Euripidean estimates of women, in bringing into
prominence the _Oeconomicus_ of Xenophon, and in laying stress upon
the warfare of opinion which raged at Athens between conservatives of
the Periclean tradition, represented by Aristophanes, and innovators,
represented in poetry by Euripides, in philosophy by Plato. I cordially
agree with him in his remark that "in estimating women at this time,
the Alcestis and Macaria of Euripides are too high, and the women
of Aristophanes are too low" (_Social Greece_, 2d ed. p. 228). The
great difficulty which must have been felt by all thoughtful students
of Greek literature is how to reconcile the high ideals of female
character presented by the Attic tragedians with the contemptuous
silence of Thucydides, with the verdict of Plato upon women-lovers as
compared with boy-lovers, with the ribaldry allowed to comic poets, and
with the comparative absence of female portraits in the biographies of
great Athenians composed by Plutarch.



    Three Periods in Attic History.--The Three Kinds
        of Comedy: Old, Middle, New.--Approximation of
        Comedy to the Type of Tragedy.--Athenæus as the
        Source of Comic Fragments.--Fragments of the Old
        Comedy.--Satire on Women.--Parasites.--Fragments of
        the Middle Comedy.--Critique of Plato and the Academic
        Philosophers.--Literary Criticism.--Passages on Sleep
        and Death.--Attic Slang.--The Demi-Monde.--Theophrastus
        and the Later Rhetoricians.--Cooks and
        Cookery-books.--Difficulty of Defining the Middle
        from the New Comedy.--Menander.--Sophocles and
        Menander.--Epicureanism.--Menander's Sober Philosophy
        of Life.--Goethe on Menander.--Philemon.--The Comedy
        of Manners culminated in Menander.--What we mean by
        Modernism.--Points of Similarity and Difference between
        Ancient and Modern Comedy.--The Freedom of Modern Art.

The two centuries during which comedy flourished at Athens may be
divided into three marked periods of national and political existence.
Between 448 and 404 B.C., under the Periclean administration and
until the end of the Peloponnesian war, the Demos continued through
all vicissitudes conscious of sovereignty and capable of indefinite
expansion. Then came the dismantlement of Athens by Lysander and the
dismemberment of the old democracy. From 404 to 338 B.C., Athens,
though humbled to the rank of a second-class State, and confused in
foreign and domestic policy, retained her freedom, and exercised an
important influence over the affairs of Hellas. She no longer, however,
felt within herself the force of youth, the ambition of conquest, or
the pride of popular autocracy. Her intellectual activity was turned
from political and constitutional questions inwards to philosophy
and literature. From 338 to about 260 B.C. this metamorphosis of the
nation was carried further and accomplished. Athens ceased to be a
city of statesmen and orators, and became the capital of learning.
She was no longer in any true sense free or powerful, though populous
and wealthy and frequented by cultivated men of all nations. Not only
had public interest declined, but the first fervor for philosophy was
past. A _modus vivendi_ suited to a tranquil, easy, pleasure-loving
people, who rejoiced in leisure and combined refined amusements with
luxury, had been systematized in the Epicurean view of life. To accept
the conditions of existence and to make the best of them, to look on
like spectators at the game of the world, and to raise no troublesome
insoluble questions, was the ideal of this period. Fifty years after
the last date mentioned, the Romans set their foot on Hellas, and Greek
culture began to propagate itself with altered forms in Italy.

To these three periods in the national existence of Athens the three
phases through which comedy passed correspond with almost absolute
accuracy. Emerging from the coarse Megarian farces and the phallic
pageants of the Dionysian Komos, the old comedy, as illustrated
by Aristophanes, allowed itself the utmost license. It incarnated
the freedom of democracy, caricaturing individuals, criticising
constitutional changes, and, through all its extravagances of burlesque
and fancy, maintaining a direct relation to politics. Only a nation in
the plenitude of self-contentment, conscious of vigor and satisfied
with its own energy, could have tolerated the kind of censorship these
comic poets dared to exercise. The glaring light cast by Aristophanes
upon abuses in the State reminded his audience of the greatness and
the goodness that subsisted with so much of mean and bad. From their
high standpoint of security they could afford, as they imagined, to
laugh, and to enjoy a spectacle that travestied their imperfections.
At the same time an undercurrent of antagonism to the Aristophanic
comedy made itself felt from time to time. Laws were passed prohibiting
this species of the drama in general (#mê kômôidein#), or restricting
its personality (#mê kômôidein onomasti#), or prohibiting the graver
functionaries of the State from exhibiting comic plays. These laws,
passed, abrogated, and repassed between 440 and 404 B.C., mark the ebb
and flow of democratic liberty. After the humiliation of Athens at
the close of the Peloponnesian war, the political subject-matter of
the old comedy was withdrawn, and the attitude of the audience was so
altered as to render its peculiar censorship intolerable. Meanwhile,
the speculative pursuits to which the Athenians since the days of the
sophists had addicted themselves began to tell upon the character of
the nation, now ripe for the second or literary stage of comedy. The
poets of this period had not yet arrived at the comedy of manners
which presents a close and faithful picture of domestic life. They
directed their wit and humor against classes rather than characters.
Philosophers and poets, parasites and hetæræ, took the place of the
politicians. Nor did they abandon the old art-form of Attic comedy,
for it is clear that the Chorus still played an important part in
their plays. At the same time, in comedy as in tragedy, the Chorus
came to be less and less an integral part of the drama; and while more
attention was paid to plot and story, the grotesque allegories of the
first period were dropped. The transition from the old to the middle
comedy is signalized by the _Frogs_ of Aristophanes, which, maintaining
the peculiar character of the elder form of art, relinquished politics
for literature. The new comedy, known to us through the fragments of
Menander and the Latin imitations, abandoned the Chorus altogether,
and produced a form of art corresponding to what we know as the
comedy of character and manners in the modern world. Interest was
concentrated on the fable, and the skill of the poet was displayed
in accurate delineations of domestic scenes. The plot seems to have
almost invariably turned on love-adventures. Certain fixed types of
character--the parasite, the pimp, the roguish servant, the severe
father, the professional captain, the spendthrift son, the unfortunate
heroine, and the wily prostitute--appeared over and over again. To vary
the presentation of these familiar persons taxed the ingenuity of the
playwright, as afterwards in Italy and France, during the tyranny of
pantaloon and matamore, Leandre and prima amorosa.

Tragedy and comedy, though they began so differently, had been
gradually approximating to one type, so that between Menander and the
latest followers of Euripides there was scarcely any distinction of
form and but little difference of subject-matter. The same sententious
reflection upon life seasoned both species of the drama. The religious
content of the elder tragedy and the broad burlesque of the elder
comedy alike gave place to equable philosophy. The tragic climax was
sad; the comic climax gay: more license was allowed in the comic
than in the tragic iambic: comedy remained nearer to real life and
therefore more interesting than tragedy. Such, broadly speaking, were
the limits of their differences now. In this approximation toward
artistic similarity comedy rather than tragedy was a gainer. It is
clear that the Aristophanic comedy could not have become permanent. To
dissociate it from the peculiar conditions of the Athenian democracy
was impossible. Therefore the process by which the old comedy passed
into the middle, and the middle into the new, must be regarded as a
progression from the local and the accidental to the necessary and the
universal. The splendor that may seem to have been sacrificed belonged
less to the old comedy itself than to the genius of Aristophanes,
who succeeded in engrafting the most brilliant poetry upon the rough
stock of the Attic farce. Tragedy, on the contrary, lost all when she
descended from the vantage-ground of Æschylus. It must not, however,
be imagined that the change in either case depended upon chance. It
was necessitated by the internal transmutation of the Athenians into
a nation of students, and by the corresponding loss of spontaneity
in art. For the full development of the comedy of manners a critical
temper in the poet and the audience, complexity of social customs, and
inclination to reflect upon them, together with maturity of judgment,
were required. These conditions, favorable to art which seeks its
motives in a spirit of tolerant, if somewhat cynical, philosophy, but
prejudicial to the highest serious poetry, account for the decline
of tragedy and the contemporaneous ascent of comedy in the fourth
century B.C. The comedy of Menander must therefore be considered as
an advance upon that of Cratinus, though it is true that this comedy
is the art of refined and senescent, rather than of vigorous and
adolescent, civilization, and though it flourished in the age of tragic
dissolution. In the Vatican may be seen two busts, of equal size and
beauty, wrought apparently by the same hand, and finished to the point
of absolute perfection. One of these is Tragedy, the other Comedy. The
two faces differ chiefly in the subtle smile that plays about the lips
of Comedy, and in the slight contraction of the brows of Tragedy. They
are twin sisters, born alike to royalty, distinguished by such traits
of character as tend to disappear beneath the polish of the world.
There is no suggestion of the Cordax in the one or of the Furies in the
other. Both are self-restrained and dignified in ideality. It was thus
that the two species of the drama appeared to the artists of the later
ages of Hellenic culture.

The student of Greek fragments may not inaptly be compared to a man who
is forming a collection of sea-weeds. Walking along the border of the
unsearchable ocean, he keeps his eyes fixed upon the pools uncovered
at low tide, and with his foot turns up the heaps of rubbish cast upon
the shore. Here and there a rare specimen of colored coralline or
delicately fibred alga attracts his attention. He stoops, and places
the precious fragment in his wallet, regretting that all his wealth is
but the alms of chance, tossed negligently to him by the fretful waves
and wilful storms. To tread the submarine gardens where these weeds and
blossoms flourish is denied him. Even so the scholar can do no more
than skirt the abysses of the past, the unsearchable sea of oblivion,
garnering the waifs and strays offered him by accident.

As Stobæus provides the most extensive repertory of extracts from the
later Greek tragedians, so it is to Athenæus we must turn for comic
fragments. This _helluo librorum_ boasted that he had read eight
hundred plays of the middle comedy, and it is obvious that he was
familiar with the whole dramatic literature of Athens. Yet the use he
made of this vast knowledge was comparatively childish. Interested for
the most part in deipnosophy, or the wisdom of the dinner-table, he
displayed his erudition by accumulating passages about cooks, wines,
dishes, and the Attic market. From an exclusive study, therefore,
of the extracts he transmitted, we might be led to imagine that the
Greek comedians exaggerated the importance of eating and drinking
to a ridiculous extent. This, however, would be a false inference.
The ingenuity of the deipnosophist was shown in bringing his reading
to bear upon a single point, and in adorning the philosophy of the
kitchen with purple patches torn from poetry. We ought, in truth,
rather to conclude that Attic comedy was an almost inexhaustible mine
of information on Attic life in general, and that illustrations,
infinitely various, of the manners, feelings, prejudices, literature,
and ways of thinking of the ancient Greeks might have been as liberally
granted to us as the culinary details which amused the mind of Athenæus.

When so much remains intact of Aristophanes, it is not worth while
to do more than mention a few of the fragments preserved from the
other playwrights of the old comedy. The first of these in Meineke's
collection may be translated, since it stands, like a motto, on the
title-page of all Greek comedy:[122] "Hear, O ye people! Susarion says
this, the son of Philinus, the Megarian, of Tripodiscus: Women are an
evil; and yet, my countrymen, one cannot set up house without evil;
for to be married or not to be married is alike bad." In turning over
the pages of Meineke,[123] we feel inclined to call attention to the
beauty of some lines on flowers written by Pherecrates (_Metalles_,
fr. 2, and _Persai_, fr. 2), and to a curious passage on the changes
wrought by Melanippides, Kinesias, and Timotheus in Attic music
(_Cheiron_, fr. 1). The comic description of the Age of Gold by
Telecleides (_Amphictyones_, fr. 1) might be paralleled by Heine's
picture of heaven, where the geese flew about ready roasted with ladles
of sweet sauce in their bills. What Hermippus says about the Attic
market (_Phormophoroi_, fr. 1) is interesting for a different reason,
since it throws real light upon the imports into Attica. The second
fragment from the same comedy yields curious information about Greek
wines. After mentioning the peculiar excellences of several sorts,
the poet gives the palm to Saprias, so called because of its old,
mellow, richly scented ripeness. "When the jar is opened, a perfume
goes abroad of violets and roses and hyacinths, a wonderful scent that
fills the house. This nectar is ambrosia and nectar in one. Keep it for
my friends, but to my enemies give Peparethian." Eupolis supplies a
description of parasites (_Kolakes_, fr. 1), the first detailed picture
of a class that played a prominent part in Attic social life.[124] We
may also mention, in passing, the fragment of a parabasis (_Incert.
Fab._ fr. 1) which censures the Athenian audience for preferring
foreign to native poets, and contains a reference to Aristophanes.
Phrynichus yields the beautiful epitaph on Sophocles (_Mousai_, fr. 1)
already quoted;[125] nor must his amusing caricature of a bad musician
be passed over (_Incert. Fab._ fr. 1), for the sake of this line:

    #Mousôn skeletos, aêdonôn êpialos, hymnos Haidou,#

"Mummy of Muses, ague of nightingales, hymn of Hades." Those who are
curious about Greek games will do well to study the description of the
cottabos in Plato (_Zeus Kakoumenos_, fr. 1) and to compare with it a
fuller passage from Antiphanes[126] (_Aphrodites Gonai_). Plato, again,
presents us with a lively picture of a Greek symposium (_Lacones_,
fr. 1), as well as a very absurd extract from a cookery-book, whereof
the title was #Philoxenou kainê tis Opsartysia#, "A new Sauce-science
by Philoxenus" (_Phaon_, fr. 1). From Ameipsias might be selected
for passing notice an allusion to Socrates (_Konnos_, fr. 1) and a
scolion in two lines upon life and pleasure, sung to the flute at a
drinking-party (_Incert. Fab._ fr. 1). Finally, Lysippus has spoken the
praises of Athens in three burlesque iambics[127] (_Incert. Fab._ fr.
1): "If you have never seen Athens, you are a stock; if you have seen
her, and not been taken captive, a donkey; if you are charmed and leave
her, a pack-ass."

On quitting the old for the middle comedy we find ourselves in a
different intellectual atmosphere. The wit is more fine-spun, the humor
more allusive; language, metre, and sententious reflections begin alike
to be Euripidean. The fertility of the playwrights of this period was
astounding. Antiphanes, one of the earliest, produced, according to
some authorities, 260, and Alexis, one of the latest, 245 comedies
on a great variety of subjects. It is doubtful, however, whether the
authorship of these plays was accurately known by the Byzantine Greeks,
from whom our information is derived. The fragments show that a strong
similarity of style marked the whole school of poets, and that the
younger did not scruple to pilfer freely from the elder. On the whole,
the question of authorship is of less interest than the matters brought
to light by such extracts as we possess. It has been remarked above
that ridicule of the philosophers and parodies of the tragic poets
were standing dishes in the middle comedy. Antiphanes has a fling at
the elegant attire of the academic sages (_Antaios_), while Ephippus
describes a philosophical dandy of the same school (_Nauagos_, fr. 1,
p. 493). Their doctrines are assailed with mild sarcasm. A man, when
asked if he has a soul, replies: "Plato would tell me I don't know,
but I rather think I have" (Cratinus, _Pseudupobolimaios_, p. 516).
In another play some one is gently reminded that he is talking of
things about which he knows nothing--like Plato (Alexis, _Ankylion_,
p. 518). Again, Plato is informed that his philosophy ends in knowing
how to frown[128] (Amphis, _Dexidemides_, p. 482). In another place
it is discovered that his _summum bonum_ consists in refraining from
marriage and enjoying life (Philippides, _Ananeosis_, fr. 2, p. 670).
Other philosophers, the Pythagoreans (Alexis, _Tarantini_, frs. 1,
2, 3, pp. 565, 566), and Aristippus (_Galatea_, fr. 1, p. 526), for
example, come in for their share of ridicule. The playwrights not
unfrequently express their own philosophy, sad enough beneath the mask
of mirth. Very gloomy, for example, is the view of immortality recorded
by Antiphanes (_Aphrodisios_, fr. 2, p. 358); while the comparison by
Alexis of human life to a mad pastime enjoyed between two darknesses
(p. 566) has something in it that reminds one of a dance of death. Very
seldom has the insecurity of all things, leading to devil-may-care
self-indulgence, been more elegantly expressed than by Antiphanes
(_Stratiotes_, fr. 1, p. 397). Anaxandrides, for his part, formulates
theological agnosticism in words memorable for their pithy brevity
(_Canephorus_, p. 422):

    #hapantes esmen pros ta thei' abelteroi
    kouk ismen ouden;#

    We're all mere dullards in divinity
    And know just nothing.

One thing is clear in all such utterances, that the deeper speculations
of Plato and Aristotle had taken no hold on the minds of the people at
large, and that such philosophy as had penetrated Athenian society was
a kind of hedonistic scepticism. Epicurus, in the next age, had nothing
to do but to give expression to popular convictions. Take, for one
instance more, these lines from Amphis (_Gynæcocratia_, p. 481):

    #pine, paize; thnêtos ho bios; oligos houpi gêi chronos.
    athanatos d' ho thanatos estin, an hapax tis apothanêi.#

    Drink and play, for life is fleeting; short our time beneath the sky:
    But for death, he's everlasting, when we once have come to die.

Occasionally, the same keen Attic wit is exercised upon old-fashioned
Greek proverbs. Simonides had said that health, beauty, and moderate
wealth were the three best blessings. Anaxandrides demurs (_Thesaurus_,
fr. 1, p. 421): the poet was most certainly mad; for a handsome man, if
he be poor, is but an ugly beast.

A few of the fragments throw some light upon dramatic literature.
Antiphanes (_Poesis_, fr. 1, p. 392) compares tragedy and comedy with
covert irony: Blest indeed is the lot of a tragic play, for, to begin
with, the spectators know the whole legend by the name it bears, and
then, when the poet gets tired, he has only to lift the machine like
his finger, and, hocus-pocus, all is ended; but in a comedy everything
must be made from the beginning and explicitly set forth--persons,
previous circumstances, plot, catastrophe, and episode--and if a jot
or tittle is overlooked, Tom or Jerry in the pit will hiss us off
the stage. The cathartic power of tragedy is described by Timocles
(_Dionysiazusæ_, p. 614) in lines that sound like a common-sense
version of Aristotle: Man is born to suffer, and there are many painful
things in life; accordingly he has discovered consolation for his sad
thoughts in tragedies, which lure the mind away to think of greater
woes, and send the hearer soothed, and at the same time lessoned,
home--the poor man, for example, finds that Telephus was still more
poor, the sick man sees Alcmæon mad, the lame man pities Philoctetes
and forgets himself; if one has lost a son, Niobe is enough to teach
him resignation; and so on through all the calamities of life: gazing
at sufferings worse than our own, we are forced to be contented.

Some of the most charming of the comic fragments are descriptions of
sleep. A comedy variously ascribed to Antiphanes and Alexis bears the
name of Sleep, and contains a dialogue (p. 570), of which the following
is a version:

    _A._ Not mortal, nor immortal, but of both
      Blent in his being, so that gods nor men
      Can claim him for their own; but ever fresh
      He grows, and then dies off again to nothing,
      Unseen by any, but well known to all.

    _B._ Lady, you always charm me thus with riddles.

    _A._ Yet what I say is clear and plain enough.

    _B._ What boy is this that has so strange a nature?

    _A._ Sleep, O my daughter, he that cures our ills.

Scarcely less delicate are the two following lines (pp. 749, 607):

    #ho ti proika monon edôkan hêmin hoi theoi,
    ton hypnon,#


    #hypnos ta mikra tou thanatou mystêria.#[129]

In this connection I may quote a beautiful fragment from Diphilus
(_Incert. Fab._ fr. 5, p. 647) on Death and Sleep:

    There is no life without its share of evil,
    Griefs, persecutions, torments, cares, diseases:
    Of these death comes to cure us, a physician
    Who gives heart's ease by filling us with slumber.

Before engaging in a group of fragments more illustrative of common
Greek life, I will call attention to the examples of Attic slang
furnished by Anaxandrides (_Odysseus_, fr. 2, p. 424). To translate
them into equivalent English would tax the ingenuity of Frere; but it
is worth noticing that this _argot_, like that of our universities
or public schools, is made up of the most miscellaneous material.
Religious ritual, the theatre, personal peculiarities, the dust that is
the plague of Athens, articles of dress, and current fables all supply
their quota. It is, in fact, the slang of cultivated social life.

Next to cooks, parasites, and fishwives, the _demi-monde_ of Athens
plays the most prominent part in comedy of the middle period.[130] The
following couplet from a play of Philetærus (_Kunegis_, fr. 3, p. 477)
might be chosen as a motto for an essay on this subject:

    #ouk etos hetairas hieron esti pantachou,
    all' ouchi gametês oudamou tês Hellados.#

This pithily expresses the pernicious relation in which the mistress,
dignified by the name of companion, stood in Attic Hellas towards the
married wife. The superiority of the former over the latter in popular
appreciation is set forth with cynical directness by Amphis (_Athamas_,
fr. 1, p. 480).

The Greeks had no sort of shame about intersexual relations; and
of this perfect freedom of speech the comic poets furnish ample
illustration in their dealing with the subject of adultery. There is
not here the faintest trace of French romance. Sentiment of some kind
is required to season the modern breaches of the seventh commandment.
To the Greeks, who felt the minimum of romance in intersexual love,
adultery appeared both dangerous and silly, when the laws of Solon
had so well provided safety-valves for vice.[131] At the same time,
the pages of the comic poets abound in violent invectives against
licentious and avaricious women who were the ruin of young men.
Anaxilas (_Neottis_, fr. 1, p. 501), in a voluble invective against
"companions" of this sort, can find no language strong enough.
They are serpents, fire-breathing chimeras, Charybdis and Scylla,
sea-dogs, sphinxes, hydras, winged harpies, and so forth. Alexis
describes the arts whereby they make the most of mean attractions,
and suit their style to the current fashion (_Isostasion_, fr. 1, p.
537). Epicrates paints the sordid old age of once-worshipped Lais in
language that might serve as a classic pendant to Villon's _Regrets
de la belle Héaulimiere_ (_Antilaïs_, fr. 2, p. 510). In no point
does the civilized society of great cities remain so constant as in
the characteristics of Bohemian life. In this respect Athens seems to
have been much the same as Venice in the sixteenth, and Paris in the
nineteenth century.

What these playwrights say of love in general scarcely differs from the
opinions already quoted from the tragic poets. Amphis (_Dithyrambus_,
fr. 2, p. 482) and Alexis (_Helene_, p. 532; _Traumatias_, fr. 2, p.
569; _Phædrus_, fr. 1, p. 571; _Incert. Fab._ fr. 38, p. 582) may be
referred to by the curious. It is worth while at this point to mention
that some valuable illustrations of the later Attic comedy are to
be drawn from the collectors of characteristics, like Theophrastus,
and from rhetoricians who condensed the matter of the comic drama in
their prose. The dialogues of Lucian, the letters of Alciphron, the
moral treatises of Plutarch and Maximus Tyrius, and the dissertations
of Athenæus are especially valuable in this respect. Much that we
have lost in its integrity is filtered for us through the medium of
scholastic literature, performing for the middle comedy imperfectly
that which Latin literature has done more completely for the new.

In dealing with the old comedy, one reference has been already made to
cooks and cookery-books. In the middle comedy they assume still more
importance, and in the secondary authors of the new comedy they occupy
the foreground of the picture, thanks to Athenæus. Cooks at Athens
formed a class apart. They had their stations in the market, their
schools, their libraries of culinary lore, their pedantries and pride
and special forms of knavery. The Roman custom of keeping slaves to
cook at home had not yet penetrated into Greece. If a man wanted to
entertain his guests at a dinner-party, or to prepare a wedding-feast,
he had to seek the assistance of a professional _cordon bleu_, and the
great _chef_ ensconced himself for the day, with his subordinates,
in the house of his employer. It is clear that these customs offered
situations of rare comic humor to the playwright. Everybody had at
some time felt the need of the professional cook, and everybody had
suffered under him. In an age, moreover, which was nothing if it was
not literary, the cooks caught the prevailing tone, and professed their
art according to the rules of rhetoric.

    #eis tous sophistas ton mageiron engraphô#[132]

exclaims one of the characters of Alexis (_Milesia_, fr. 1, p. 551),
after a scientific demonstration of the sin of letting sauces cool. A
paterfamilias in a play of Strato (_Phoenikides_, p. 703) complains
that he has brought a "male sphinx" in the shape of a cook into his
house. The fellow will not condescend to use any but Homeric language,
and the master is quite puzzled. It is in vain that he takes down the
Homeric glossary of Philetas. Even this does not mend matters. The
cook is a more recondite scholar than the grammarian. A professor
of the culinary art in a play of Nicomachus (_Eileithuia_, p. 717)
explains to his employer the broad scientific basis upon which the art
of cooking rests. Astrology, geometry, medicine, and natural history
are all necessary. Another, in Damoxenus (_Syntrophi_, p. 697),
discusses various schools of philosophy from the culinary point of
view. He begins by saying that he has spent four talents and nearly
three years in the school of Epicurus, and has learned that a cook who
has not mastered metaphysics is worthless. He must have Democritus
and Epicurus at his fingers' ends, understand the elements of fire
and water, comprehend the laws of harmony, and arrive at a profound
contempt for Stoical self-discipline.[133] The study of cookery-books
employs as much time and demands as much enthusiasm as the study of
the sages. A cook in Baton (_Euergetæ_, p. 685) shakes off sleep and
trims the midnight oil that he may meditate the weighty precepts of
his masters in the art.[134] Another, in Euphron (_Adelphi_, p. 679),
expounds the various virtues of his predecessors, and remarks that his
own peculiar merit consists in clever larceny. The same author makes
a cook explain to his pupil the distinctions he ought to observe in
catering for a club and for a wedding-party (_Synephebi_, p. 682). One
of the fragments of Menander turns, finally, upon the art of treating
guests of different nationalities to different dishes (_Trophonius_,
p. 46). In this passage Menander seems to have had in mind some lines
of Diphilus (_Apolipousa_, fr. 1, p. 633). Another curious extract
from the latter poet (_Zographus_, fr. 2, p. 638) consists of a long
harangue delivered by a master-cook to his _protégé_, a waiter,
concerning the advantages and disadvantages of various houses into
which he gains admittance by his art. A merchant just returned from
sea, a spendthrift heir, and a leader of the _demi-monde_ are good
customers because of their prodigality. On the whole, the impression
left upon our minds is that, what with democracy, all-pervading
pedantry, and professional pride, high life below stairs in Athens was
even more difficult to tolerate than it is in England.

To draw a firm line of demarcation between the middle and the new
comedy would be impossible. I have already expressed my opinion that
the comic drama culminated, within the limits determined for it by
antique society, in the art of Menander. The modulations through which
it passed before attaining to this final stage were numerous, and there
are indications that the types invented for the middle comedy persisted
in the new. What really created the third manner, and carried the comic
art to its perfection, was the appearance of a truly original genius in
the person of Menander. The playwrights who succeeded could not fail
to feel his influence, and plied their craft within the sphere he had

Menander was the nephew of Alexis, the pupil of Theophrastus, the
exact contemporary and intimate friend of Epicurus. From his uncle he
received the traditions of dramatic art; from his master he learned
the peripatetic method of analysis; together with his friend he put
in practice the philosophy of #ataraxia# which passes by the name
of Epicureanism. His adequacy to the spirit of his own age can only
be paralleled by that which we observe in Sophocles. As Sophocles
exactly represents the period of Attic perfection, so the sadder and
more sober years of disillusionment and premature decay find full
expression in Menander. His personal beauty, the love of refined
pleasure that distinguished him in life, the serene and genial temper
of his wisdom, the polish of his verse, and the harmony of parts he
observed in composition, justify us in calling Menander the Sophocles
of comedy. Like Sophocles, he showed the originality of his genius
by defining the limits of his art. He perfected the comic drama by
restricting it more closely to real life. The love-tales--#erôtes kai
parthenôn phthorai#--which Anaxandrides is said to have introduced,
became the fixed material of the new comedy. Menander, however, used
this subject-matter less for sensational effect or sentimental pathos
than for the expression of a deep and tranquil wisdom. If we were
to judge by the fragments transmitted to us, we should have to say
that Menander's comedy was ethical philosophy in verse; so mature is
their wisdom, so weighty their language, and so grave their tone. The
brightness of the beautiful Greek spirit is sobered down in him almost
to sadness. Middle age, with its maturity, has been substituted for
youth with its passionate intensity. Taking Menander for our guide,
we cannot cry: "You Greeks are always children." Yet the fact that
Stobæus found him a fruitful source of sententious quotations, and that
alphabetical anthologies were made of his proverbial sayings, ought not
to obscure his fame for drollery and humor. The highest praise awarded
by the Romans to Terence is contained in the apostrophe _dimidiate
Menander_; and it appears that what the Latin critics thought their
poet wanted was the salt of Attic wit, the playful ease and lively
sparkle of his master. It is certain that well-constructed plots,
profound analysis of character, refined humor, and ripe philosophy were
blent and subordinated to the harmony of beauty by Menander. If old
men appreciated his genial or pungent worldly wisdom, boys and girls
read him, we are told, for his love-stories. One thing at least he
never could have been--loud or vulgar. And for this reason, perhaps, we
learn less from Menander about parasites and cooks than from his fellow

Speaking broadly, the philosophy in vogue at Athens during the period
of the new comedy was what in modern days is known as Epicureanism.
This is proved by the frequent references made by playwrights to
pleasure as the _sumum bonum_,[135] as well as by their view of life in
general. Yet it would be unjust to confound the grave and genial wisdom
of Menander with so trivial a philosophy as that which may be summed up
in the sentence "Eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."[136] A fragment
from an unknown play of his expresses the pathos of human existence
with a depth of feeling that is inconsistent with mere pleasure-seeking
(p. 56):

    When thou wouldst know thyself, what man thou art,
    Look at the tombstones as thou passest by:
    Within those monuments lie bones and dust
    Of monarchs, tyrants, sages, men whose pride
    Rose high because of wealth, or noble blood,
    Or haughty soul, or loveliness of limb;
    Yet none of these things strove for them 'gainst time:
    One common death hath ta'en all mortal men.
    See thou to this, and know thee who thou art.

Such moralizing sounds commonplace to us who have been lessoned by
the _memento mori_ of the Middle Ages. Yet it should be remembered
that, coming from a Greek of Menander's age, it claims originality of
insight, and even now a ring of freshness as well as of truth marks
its absolute sincerity. The following fragment (p. 58) again expresses
Stoical, rather than Epicurean, philosophy of life:

    Being a man, ask not release from pain,
    But strength to bear pain, from the gods above;
    If thou wouldst fain escape all woe for aye,
    Thou must become god, or, if not, a corpse.

The exquisite lines in which the life of man is compared to a fair,
wherefrom, when he has once seen the shows, he should be glad to pass
away again in quiet, might be adduced to prove, if it were necessary,
that Menander was no mere hedonist. To the same end might be quoted
the passage upon destiny, which explains that chance and providence
are only two names for one controlling power, face to face with which
human forethought is but smoke and nonsense.[137] There is something
even almost awful in the placid acquiescence of Menander. He has come
to the end of passions and pleasures; he expects pain and is prepared
to endure it; his happiness consists in tranquil contemplation of life,
from which he no longer hopes for more than what Balzac calls the _à
peu près_ of felicity.[138] This tranquillity does not diminish, but
rather increases, his power of enjoyment and the clearness of his
vision. He combines the exact knowledge of the scientific analyst
with judicial impartiality; and yet his worldly wisdom is not cold or
dry. To make selections from fragments, every word whereof is golden,
would be weary work; nor is it possible to preserve in translation
the peculiar savor of this Attic salt. Menander should be spared
this profanation. Before we leave him, let us remember what Goethe,
a man as like Menander as a modern man can be, has said of him: "He
is thoroughly pure, noble, great, and cheerful, and his grace is
unattainable. It is to be lamented that we possess so little of him,
but that little is invaluable."

The name of Philemon will always be coupled with that of Menander.
In their lifetime they were competitors, and the Athenian audience
preferred Philemon to his rival. Posterity in ancient days reversed
this judgment--with justice, if our scanty fragments may be taken as
sufficient basis for comparison. The lines in which Philemon praises
peace as the good vainly sought by sages, and declares that no painter
or statuary can compete with truth, are fair examples of his fluent
and at the same time polished style.[139] So are the comparison of
men with animals to the disadvantage of the former, and the invective
against Prometheus for dividing human nature into complex varieties
of character.[140] Yet there is an element of sophistry in these
examples, placing them below the pithy sayings of Menander. If I were
to choose one fragment as illustrative of Philemon, and at the same
time favorable to his reputation, it should be the following:[141]

    Have faith in God and fear; seek not to know him;
    For thou wilt gain naught else beyond thy search:
    Whether he is or is not, shun to ask:
    As one who is, and sees thee, always fear him.

The comedy of Menander determined the form of the drama in Rome, and,
through the influence of Plautus and Terence upon the renascent culture
of the sixteenth century, fixed the type of comedy in modern Europe.
We are often struck, in reading his fragments, with their modern tone
of thought and feeling. We recognize that here, as in the case of
Molière, is a man who "chastised men by drawing them as they are," and
that the men whom he chastised, the social follies he ridiculed, are
among us at the present day. This observation leads us to consider what
we mean by modernism, when we say we find it in ancient literature.
Sometimes the phrase is loosely used to indicate the permanent and
invariable qualities of human nature emergent from local and temporary
conditions. The chorus in the _Agamemnon_ upon the beautiful dead
warriors in the Trojan war is called modern because it comes home
directly to our own experience. Not their special mode of sepulture,
or the lamentation of captive women over their heaped-up mounds, or
the slaughter of human victims, or the trophies raised upon their
graves, are touched upon. Such circumstances would dissociate them,
if only accidentally, from our sympathies. It is the grief of those
who stay at home and mourn, the pathos of youth and beauty wasted,
that Æschylus has chosen for his threnos. This grief and this pathos
are imperishable, and are therefore modern, inasmuch as they are not
specifically ancient. Yet such use of the phrase is inaccurate. We come
closer to the true meaning through the etymology of the word modern,
derived perhaps from _modo_, or _just now_; so that what is modern is,
strictly speaking, that which belongs to the present moment. From this
point of view modernism must continually be changing, for the moment
now is in perpetual flux. Still, there is one characteristic of the now
which comprehends the modern world, that does not and cannot alter: we
are never free from the consciousness of a long past. _Nous vieillards
nés d'hier_ is essentially true of us; and to this characteristic may
be referred what we mean to express by modernism. When nations have
reached a certain growth and pitch of culture, certain sentiments,
affectations, ways of thinking, modes of self-expression, habits of
life, fashions, and the like, appear as the outcome of complex and
long-established social conditions. Whatever may be the political
groundwork of the national existence, the phase in question is sure to
manifest itself, if only the nation lasts for a sufficient length of
time. We, who have assuredly arrived at the climacteric in question,
when we recognize the signs of it elsewhere, call them modern; and
nowhere can we find them more emphatically marked than in the age of
Attic ripeness that produced Menander. "O Menander and life," said the
grammarian of Alexandria, "which of you is the imitator of the other?"
This apostrophe might also have been addressed to Homer; but what
made it more specially applicable to Menander was that, while Homer
invested the profound truths of passion and action with heroic dignity,
Menander drew a no less faithful picture of human life together with
the accidents of civilized and social circumstance. His delicate
delineation of Attic society seemed nearer to the Alexandrian scholar,
because it reproduced, not the remote conditions of the prehistoric
age, but those which are common to periods of advanced culture. For
a like reason he seems to us more obviously modern than Homer. He
contemplates the drama of human life with eyes and mind not very
differently trained from ours, and from a point of view close to ours.
As a single instance, take this fragment. He is quietly laughing at the
pompous and pretentious sages who said in Athens, as they say now, that
a man must go into the wilderness to discover truth:

    #heuretikon einai phasi tên erêmian
    hoi tas ophrys airontes.#

We must not, however, be blinded by the modernism of Menander to the
fact that ancient comedy differed in many most important respects from
the comedy of modern Europe. If we only regard dramas of intrigue and
manners, such as the _Mandragola_ of Machiavelli, the _Volpone_ of
Ben Jonson, or the _Fourberies de Scapin_ of Molière, we are indeed
dealing with a type of comedy derived directly through the Latin from
the Greek. But modern comedy does not remain within these narrow
limits. Its highest products are either works of pure creative fancy,
like Shakespeare's _Midsummer-Night's Dream_ and Fletcher's _Pilgrim_,
or are so closely allied to tragedy, as in the case of Massinger's
_A New Way to Pay Old Debts_ and Molière's _Avare_, that only a
nominal difference divides the two species. Nothing remains, either
in fragments or in critical notices, to justify us in believing that
the ancients developed either the serious comedy, essentially tragic
in its ruthless revelation of a hell of evil passion, or the comedy of
pure imagination. Their strict sense of the requirements of external
form excluded the former kind of drama, while for the creation of the
latter the free play of the romantic fancy was absolutely necessary.
The total loss of Agathon, Chæremon, and other tragic poets of the
post-Euripidean period, forces us to speak with reservation on this
topic. There are many indications of a confusion of types at Athens
during the fourth century B.C. analogous to that which characterizes
modern dramatic poetry. Yet it may be asserted with tolerable
confidence that, while the Greeks understood by comedy a form of art
that aimed at exciting mirth and was confined within the limits of
domestic life, modern comedy has not unfrequently in her higher flights
excited the passions of terror and pity, and has quitted the region
of diurnal prose for the dream-world of fairyland. An ancient critic
would have probably observed that Molière's _Avare_ was too seriously
sinister to be rightly called comic, and that the absence of parody or
burlesque in Shakespeare's _Tempest_ excluded that play from comparison
with the _Birds_ of Aristophanes. Here, then, as elsewhere, we have
to notice the greater freedom demanded by the modern fancy in dealing
with the forms of art, together with the absence of those firmly traced
critical canons to which the antique genius willingly submitted. Modern
art in general, when it is not directly and consciously imitative of
antique models, demands a more complete liberation of the spiritual
element. We cannot avoid _les défauts de nos qualités_. This superior
freedom involves a bewildering complexity and intermixture of the
serious and the ludicrous, the lyrical and the dramatic, the positive
and the fanciful, defying classification, and in its very caprice
approximating to the realities of existence.


[122] Compare Anaxandrides (_Incert. Fab._ fr. 1), Eubulus
(_Chrysilla_, fr. 2; _Nannion_, fr. 1), Alexis (_Manteis_, fr. 1;
_Incert. Fab._ fr. 34, 39), and the anonymous fragments on p. 756 of
Didot's _Comici Græci_.

[123] I shall use the edition of Didot, one vol., 1855, for reference.

[124] Compare Antiphanes (_Didumoi_, fr. 2; _Progonoi_, fr. 1),
Alexis (_Kubernetes_, fr. 1), Diodorus (_Epikleros_, fr. 1), Timocles
(_Drakontion_, fr. 1), the long passage from an uncertain play of
Nicolaus. The invention of the part of the Parasite is usually ascribed
to Alexis, but this is clearly a mistake. That he developed it and made
it a fixed character of comedy is probable enough. The _Symposium_
of Xenophon furnishes curious matter on the professional joker and
diner-out as he existed at Athens.

[125] See above, vol. i. p. 442.

[126] The following anonymous line (Didot's _Comici Græci_, p. 732),
#synepinomen te kai synekottabizomen#, "together we drank, and played
at cottabos together," seems to point to the good fellowship of the

[127] Compare the praises of Athens quoted from anonymous comic poets
by Athenæus, i. 20, B., and by Dio Chrysost., 64, p. 334, Reisk
(Didot's _Comici Græci_, pp. 723, 729).

[128] Compare Alexis (_Hippeus_, p. 536; _Meropis_, p. 550;
_Olympiodorus_, p. 552; _Parasitus_, fr. 3, p. 558).


    The only free gift which the gods gave men,
    To sleep.

    Sleep, that prepares our souls for endless night.

[130] The great subject of cooks I leave for discussion in relation to
the New Comedy. See below, pp. 229-231.

[131] The passages alluded to above are Eubulus (_Nannion_, fr.
1, p. 449), Xenarchus (_Pentathlos_, fr. 1, p. 624), and Philemon
(_Adelphoi_, fr. 1).

[132] Mid the philosophers I count the cook.

[133] Compare Sosipater (_Katapseudomenos_, p. 677) for a similar
display of science; Euphron (_Incert. Fab._ fr. 1, p. 682), for a
comparison of cooks with poets; Hegesippus (_Adelphi_, p. 676), for an
egregious display of culinary tall-talk.

[134] Pollux mentions a list of celebrated authors on cookery.

[135] See in particular Hegesippus (_Philetæri_, p. 676); Baton
(_Androphonus_, fr. 1, p. 684, and _Synexapaton_, fr. 1, p. 686), and
Damoxenus (_Syntrophi_, pp. 697, 698).

[136] The fragment from the #Halieis#, p. 3 of Didot's _Menander_, is
clearly dramatic, and cannot be taken as an expression of the poet's

[137] Those fragments are from the #Hypobolimaios#, pp. 48, 49.

[138] Compare #Boiôtia#, fr. 2, p. 9; #Misogynês#, fr. 1, p. 32;
#Plokion#, fr. 8, p. 42.

[139] Pp. 114, 115.

[140] Pp. 118, 119.

[141] _Incert. Fab._ fr. 26, p. 122. Cf. ib. fr. 86.



    Theocritus; his Life.--The Canon of his Poems.--The Meaning
        of the Word Idyl.--Bucolic Poetry in Greece, Rome,
        Modern Europe.--The Scenery of Theocritus.--Relation of
        Southern Nature to Greek Mythology and Greek Art.--Rustic
        Life and Superstitions.--Feeling for Pure Nature in
        Theocritus.--How Distinguished from the same Feeling in
        Modern Poets.--Galatea.--Pharmaceutria.--Hylas.--Greek
        Chivalry.--The Dioscuri.--Thalysia.--Bion.--The Lament for
        Adonis.--Moschus.--Europa.--Megara.--Lament for Bion.--The
        Debts of Modern Poets to the Idyllists.

Of the lives of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus there is very little
known, and that little has been often repeated. Theocritus was a
Syracusan, the son of Praxagoras and Philinna. Some confusion as to
his parentage arose from the fact that in the seventh idyl Theocritus
introduced himself under the artificial name of Simichidas, which
led early critics to suppose he had a father called Simichus. It is,
however, quite clear that the concurrent testimony of Suidas and of
an epigram in the anthology, which distinctly asserts his descent
from Praxagoras and Philinna, is to be accepted in preference to all
conjectures founded on a _nom de plume_. Theocritus flourished between
283 and 263 B.C., but the dates and circumstances of his birth and
death are alike unknown. We may gather, inferentially or directly
from his poems, that he sought the patronage of Ptolemy Philadelphus
at Alexandria, and lived for some time among the men of letters at
his court. Indeed, Theocritus was the most brilliant ornament of that
somewhat artificial period of literature; he above all the Alexandrian
poets carried the old genius of Greece into new channels instead of
imitating, annotating, and rehandling ancient masterpieces. The sixth
and seventh idyls prove that Aratus, the astronomer, was a familiar
friend of the Syracusan bard; probably the frequent allusions to
meteorology and the science of the stars which we trace in the poems of
Theocritus may be referred to this intimacy. From the idyls, again, we
learn that the poet left Alexandria wearied with court life, and, like
Spenser, unwilling

    To lose good nights that might be better spent,
    To waste long days in pensive discontent,
    To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow,
    To feed on hope, and pine with fear and sorrow.

He seems, however, to have once more made trial of princely favor at
the Syracusan court of Hiero, and to have been as much offended with
the want of appreciation and good taste as with the illiberality that
he found there. Among his friends were numbered Nicias, the physician
of Miletus, and his wife Theugenis, to whom he addressed the beautiful
little poem called #êlakatê#, or _The Distaff_--a charming specimen of
what the Greek muse could produce by way of _vers de société_. The end
of his life is buried in obscurity. We can easily believe that he spent
it quietly among the hills and fields of Sicily, in close communion
with the nature that he loved so well. His ill success as a court poet
does not astonish us; the panegyrics of Hiero and Ptolemy are among
his worst poems--mere pinchbeck when compared with the pure gold of
the idyls proper. It was in scenes of natural beauty that he felt at
home, and when he died he left a volume of immortal verse, each line of
which proclaims of him--"Et ego in Arcadia." We cannot give him a more
fitting epitaph than that of his own Daphnis:

                        #eba rhoon; eklyse dina
    ton Môsais philon andra, ton ou Nymphaisin apechthê.#[142]

If we know little of Theocritus, less is known of Bion. Suidas says
that he was born at Smyrna, and the elegy written on his death leads
us to suppose that he lived in Sicily, and died of poison wilfully
administered by enemies. Theocritus, though his senior in age and
his predecessor in bucolic poetry, seems to have survived him.
Bion's elegist, from which the few facts which we have related with
regard to the poet of Smyrna's life and untimely death are gathered,
has generally been identified with Moschus. Ahrens, however, with
characteristic German scepticism, places the #Epitaphios Biônos#
upon a list of _Incertorum Idyllia_. Nor can it be denied that the
author of this poem leads us to believe that he was a native of Magna
Græcia, whereas Moschus is known to have been a Syracusan. The third
and last of the Sicilian idyllists, he stands at a great distance
from Theocritus in all essential qualities of pastoral composition.
He has more of the grammarian or man of erudition about him; and we
can readily conceive him to have been, according to the account of
Suidas, a friend of Aristarchus. Of the dates of his life nothing can
be recorded with any certainty. He seems to have lived about the end of
the third century B.C.

During the short period in which bucolic poetry flourished under
Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, Syracuse remained beneath the sceptre
of Hiero. While the bloody strife was being waged between Rome and
Carthage for the empire of the Mediterranean, Syracuse, intermediate
between the two great combatants, was able not only to maintain a
splendid independence under the sway of her powerful tyrant, but also
to afford the Romans signal aid upon the battle-fields of Sicily. In
Sicily the sun of Greece still shone with some of its old radiance on
the spots where, before Athens had assumed the intellectual supremacy
of Hellas, poetry, philosophy, and all the arts of life had first
displayed their splendid spring-time. The island in which the April of
the Greek spirit had disclosed its earliest flowers now bore the last
but not least lovely wreath of autumn. The winter was soon coming.
Rome and her Verres were already looking upon Trinacria as their prey;
and the idyllic garland was destined to crown with exotic blossoms the
brows of Virgil.

About the authenticity of many of the idyls grave questions have been
raised. It is hard to believe that all the thirty which bear the
name of Theocritus were really written by him. The twenty-third and
twenty-fifth, for instance, are not in his style; while the nineteenth
reminds us more of the Anacreontic elegance of Bion or Moschus than of
his peculiarly vigorous workmanship. The twenty-ninth, again, though
admitted as genuine by Ahrens, might well pass for the work of an
earlier Æolic writer. But, without some shock to my feelings, I cannot
entertain the spuriousness of the twenty-first idyl, which Ahrens
places among the productions of some doubtful author. The whole series
after the eighteenth have been questioned. These, however, include
the epical compositions of Theocritus, who might well have assumed a
different manner when treating of Hercules or the Dioscuri from that in
which he sang the loves of Lycidas and Daphnis. That they are inferior
to his pastorals is not to be wondered at; for he who blows his own
flute with skill may not be, therefore, strong enough to sound the
trumpet of Homer. Ahrens, as observed above, extends his criticism to
the lament for Bion, which, I confess, appears to me more full of fire
and inventive genius than any other of the poems attributed to Moschus.

Yet in these matters of minute evidence too much depends upon mere
conjecture and comparison of styles for us to remove old landmarks
with certainty. Suppose all records of Raphael's works had been lost,
and a few fragments of the Cartoons, together with the Transfiguration
and the little picture of the Sleeping Knight alone remained of all
his paintings, would not some Ahrens be inclined to attribute the
Sleeping Knight to a weaker if not less graceful artist of the Umbrian
school? The _Allegro_ and _Penseroso_ might, by a similar process of
disjunctive criticism, be severed from the _Paradise Lost_. On the
other hand, nothing can be more doubtful than assertions in favor of
authenticity. It is almost impossible for a foreigner to perceive
minute differences of style in the works of two contemporary poets,
and infinitely more difficult for a modern to exercise the same exact
discrimination in deciding on the monuments of classic art. Schlegel,
in his _History of Dramatic Literature_, asserts that he discovers no
internal difference between Massinger and Fletcher. Yet an English
student is struck by the most marked divergences of feeling, language,
natural gifts, and acquired habits of thought in these two dramatists.
Thus the difficulty of such criticism is twofold. If a Syracusan of
200 B.C. could discuss our lucubrations on the text of the bucolic
poets, he would probably in one case express astonishment at our having
ascribed two dissimilar idyls to Theocritus, and in another case
explain away our scepticism by enumerating the three or four successive
manners of the poet. Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus are the eponyms of
idyllic poetry. To each belongs a peculiar style. It is quite possible
that some idyls of successful imitators whose names have been lost may
have been fathered upon the three most eminent founders of the school.

The name of the idyl sufficiently explains its nature. It is a little
picture. Rustic or town life, legends of the gods, and passages of
personal experience supply the idyllist with subjects. He does not
treat them lyrically, following rather the rules of epic and dramatic
composition. Generally there is a narrator, and in so far the idyl is
epic; its verse, too, is the hexameter. But occasionally the form of
dramatic monologue, as in the _Pharmaceutria_, or that of dramatic
dialogue, as in the _Adoniazusæ_, takes the place of narrative. Bion's
lament for Adonis, again, is a kind of sacred hymn; while the dirge
on Bion's death is elegiac. Two idyls of Theocritus are encomiastic;
several celebrate the deeds of ancestral Doric heroes--Herakles and
the Dioscuri. One is an epistle. Many of Bion's so-called idyls differ
little, except in metre, from the Anacreontics, while one at least
of the most highly finished pieces of Theocritus must be ranked with
erotic poetry of the purely lyrical order. It will be seen from these
instances that the idyllic genus admitted many species, and that
the idyllists were far from being simply pastoral poets. This form
of composition was, in fact, the growth of a late age of Greek art,
when the great provinces had been explored and occupied, and when the
inventor of a new style could legitimately adopt the tone and manner
of his various predecessors. Perhaps the plastic arts determined the
direction of idyllic poetry, suggesting the name and supplying the
poet with models of compact and picturesque treatment. In reading the
idyls it should never be forgotten that they are pictures, so studied
and designed by their authors. They ought to affect us in the same way
as the bass-reliefs and vases of Greek art, in which dramatic action
is presented at one moment of its evolution, and beautiful forms are
grouped together with such simplicity as to need but little story to
enhance their value. If we approach the idyls from this point of view,
and regard them as very highly finished works of decorative art, we
shall probably be able to enjoy their loveliness without complaining
that the shepherds and shepherdesses are too refined, or that the
landscapes have not been drawn from nature.

Without discussing the whole hackneyed question of bucolic poetry, a
word must be said about its origin, and about the essential difference
between Theocritus and modern pastorals. It is natural to suppose that
country folk, from the remotest period of Greek history, refreshed
themselves with dance and song, and that music formed a part of their
religious ceremonials. The trials of strength which supply the _motive_
of so many Theocritean idyls were quite consistent with the manners
of the Greeks, who brought all rival claims of superiority to the
touchstone of such contests. Their antiquity in the matter of music
may be gathered from the legends of Pan and Apollo, and of Apollo and
Marsyas. Phoebus, in the character of shepherd to Admetus, gave divine
sanction to bucolic minstrelsy. In respect of bodily strength, the
gymnastic rivalry of Olympia and other great Hellenic centres was so
important as to determine the chronology of Greece, while even claims
to personal beauty were decided by the same trial: the three goddesses
submitted to the arbitration of Paris; and there were in many states
#aristeia# of physical charms, not to mention the boys' prize for
kisses at Nisæan Megara. Bucolic poetry may therefore be referred to
the pastoral custom of shepherds singing together and against each
other at festivals or on the green.

It was the genius of Theocritus in all probability which determined the
Doric and Sicilian character of the idyls we possess. He, a Syracusan
and a Dorian, perfected the _genre_, and was followed by his imitators.
Nothing can be more simple and lifelike than the conversations of
his rustics, or more nicely discriminated than the pedestrian style
of their dialogue and the more polished manner of their studied
songs. The poet has, no doubt, invested these rural encounters with
the imaginative beauty which belongs to art. He has attributed to
Corydon and Thyrsis much of his own imagination and delicate taste and
exquisite sense of natural loveliness. Had he refrained from doing
so, his idyls would not have challenged the attention and won the
admiration of posterity. As it is, we find enough of rustic grossness
on his pages, and even complain that his cowherds and goatherds savor
too strongly of their stables. Of his appreciation of scenery it is
difficult to speak in terms of exaggerated praise. As I purpose to
discuss this subject more minutely further on, it may here be enough to
remark that he alone of pastoral poets drew straight from nature, and
fully felt the charm which underlies the facts of rustic life.

In comparison with Theocritus, Bion and Moschus are affected and
insipid. Their pastorals smack of the study more than of the fields.
Virgil not only lacks his vigor and enthusiasm for the open-air life of
the country, but, with Roman bad taste, he commits the capital crime of
allegorizing. Virgil's pernicious example infected Spenser, Milton, and
a host of inferior imitators, flooding literature with dreary pastorals
in which shepherds discussed politics, religion, and court-gossip, so
that at last bucolic poetry became a synonym for everything affected
and insipid. Poetry flourishes in cities, where rustic song must
always be an exotic plant. To analyze Poliziano, Sanazaro, Guarini,
Tasso, Spenser, Fletcher, Jonson, Barnfield, Browne, Pope, etc., and
to show what strains of natural elegance adorn their imitations of the
ancients, would be a very interesting but lengthy task. As society
became more artificial, especially at Florence, Paris, and Versailles,
the taste for pseudo-pastorals increased. Court-ladies tucked up
their petticoats and carried crooks with ribbons at their tops, while
court-poets furnished aristocratic Corydons with smooth verses about
pipes and pine-trees, and lambs and wattled cotes. The whole was a
dream and a delusion; but this mirage of rusticity appropriated the
_name_ of pastoral, and reflected discredit even on the great and
natural Theocritus. At length this _genre_ of composition, in which
neither invention nor observation nor truth nor excellence of any kind
except inglorious modulation of old themes was needed, died a natural
death; and the true bucolic genius found fresh channels. Crabbe revived
an interest in village life; Burns sang immortal lyrics at the plough;
Goethe achieved a masterpiece of idyllic delineation; Wordsworth
reasserted the claims of natural simplicity; Keats expressed the
sensuous charms of rustic loveliness; Tennyson and Barnes have written
rural idyls in the dialects of Lincolnshire and Dorsetshire; while
other writers are pursuing similar lines of composition. Theocritus,
it is true, differs widely from these poets both in his style and
matter. But he deserves to rank among the most realistic artists of the
nineteenth century on account of his simplicity and perfect truth to
nature. In reading him we must divest ourselves of any prejudices which
we have acquired from the perusal of his tasteless imitators. We must
take his volume with us to the scenes in which he lived, and give him a
fair trial on his own merits.

It is on the shores of the Mediterranean--at Sorrento, at Amalfi,
or near Palermo, or among the valleys of Mentone--that we ought to
study Theocritus, and learn the secret of his charm.[143] Few of us
pass middle life without visiting one or other of these sacred spots,
which seem to be the garden of perpetual spring. Like the lines of
the Sicilian idyllist, they inspire an inevitable and indescribable
#pothos#, touching our sense of beauty with a subtle power, and
soothing our spirits with the majesty of classical repose. Straight
from the sea-beach rise mountains of distinguished form, not capped
with snow or clothed with pines, but carved of naked rock. We must
accept their beauty as it is, nude, well defined, and unadorned, nor
look in vain for the mystery or sublimity or picturesqueness of the
Alps. Light and color are the glory of these mountains. Valleys divide
their flanks, seaming with shadow-belts and bands of green the broad
hillside, while lower down the olives spread a hoary grayness and
soft robe of silver mist, the skirts of which are kissed by tideless
waves. The harmony between the beauty of the olive-boughs and the
blue sea can be better felt than described. Guido, whose subtlety of
sentiment was very rare, has expressed it in one or two of his earliest
and best pictures by graduated tones of silver, azure and cool gray.
The definite form and sunny brightness of the olive-tree suits our
conception of the Greek character. It may well have been the favorite
plant of the wise and calm Athene. Oaks with their umbrageous foliage,
pine-trees dark and mournful upon Alpine slopes, branching limes, and
elms in which the wind sways shadowy masses of thick leaves, belong,
with their huge girth and gnarled boles and sombre roof-age, to the
forests of the North, where nature is rather an awful mother than a
kind foster-nurse and friend of man. In northern landscapes the eye
travels through vistas of leafy boughs to still, secluded crofts and
pastures, where slow-moving oxen graze. The mystery of dreams and the
repose of meditation haunt our massive bowers. But in the South, the
lattice-work of olive boughs and foliage scarcely veils the laughing
sea and bright blue sky, while the hues of the landscape find their
climax in the dazzling radiance of the sun upon the waves, and the
pure light of the horizon. There is no concealment and no melancholy
here. Nature seems to hold a never-ending festival and dance, in
which the waves and sunbeams and shadows join. Again, in Northern
scenery, the rounded forms of full-foliaged trees suit the undulating
country, with its gentle hills and brooding clouds; but in the South
the spiky leaves and sharp branches of the olive carry out the defined
outlines which are everywhere observable through the broader beauties
of mountain and valley and sea-shore. Serenity and intelligence
characterize this Southern landscape, in which a race of splendid men
and women lived beneath the pure light of Phoebus, their ancestral god.
Pallas protected them, and golden Aphrodite favored them with beauty.
Nations as great and noble have arisen among the oak and beech woods
of the North; strong-sinewed warriors, heroic women, counsellors with
mighty brains, and poets on whose tongue the melody of music lingers
like a charm. But the Greeks alone owned the gift of innate beauty
and unerring taste. The human form, upon those bare and sunny hills,
beneath those twinkling olive-boughs, beside that sea of everlasting
laughter, reached its freedom; and the spirit of human loveliness was
there breathed fully into all the forms of art. Poetry, sculpture,
architecture, music, dancing, all became the language of that moderate
and lucid harmony which we discover in the landscape of the Greeks.

Olives are not, however, by any means the only trees which play a part
in idyllic scenery. The tall stone-pine is even more important; for,
underneath its shade the shepherds loved to sing, hearing the murmur in
its spreading roof, and waiting for the cones with their sweet fruit to
fall. Near Massa, by Sorrento, there are two gigantic pines so placed
that, lying on the grass beneath them, one looks on Capri rising from
the sea, Baiæ, and all the bay of Naples sweeping round to the base
of Vesuvius. Tangled growths of olives, oranges, and rose-trees fill
the garden-ground along the shore, while far away in the distance pale
Inarime sleeps, with her exquisite Greek name, a virgin island on the
deep. In such a place we realize Theocritean melodies, and find a new
and indestructible loveliness in the opening line of his first idyl:

    #hady ti to psithyrisma kai ha pitys, aipole, têna.#

These pines are few and far between. Growing alone or in pairs, they
stand like monuments upon the hills, their black forms sculptured on
the cloudlike olive-groves, from which at intervals spring spires and
columns of slender cypress-trees.

Here and there in this bright garden of the age of gold white
villages are seen, and solitary cottage roofs high up among the
hills--dwellings, perhaps, of Amaryllis, whom the shepherds used to
serenade. Huge fig-trees lean their weight of leaves and purple fruit
upon the cottage walls, while cherry-trees and apricots snow the grass
in spring with a white wealth of April blossoms. The stone walls and
little wells in the cottage gardens are green with immemorial moss
and ferns, and fragrant with gadding violets that ripple down their
sides and checker them with blue. On the wilder hills you find patches
of ilex and arbutus glowing with crimson berries and white waxen
bells, sweet myrtle rods and shafts of bay, frail tamarisk and tall
tree-heaths that wave their frosted boughs above your head. Nearer the
shore the lentisk grows, a savory shrub, with cytisus and aromatic
rosemary. Clematis and polished garlands of tough sarsaparilla wed the
shrubs with clinging, climbing arms; and here and there in sheltered
nooks the vine shoots forth luxuriant tendrils bowed with grapes
stretching from branch to branch of mulberry or elm, flinging festoons
on which young loves might sit and swing, or weaving a lattice-work
of leaves across the open shed. Nor must the sounds of this landscape
be forgotten--sounds of bleating flocks, and murmuring bees, and
nightingales, and doves that moan, and running streams, and shrill
cicadas, and hoarse frogs, and whispering pines. There is not a single
detail which a patient student may not verify from Theocritus.

Then, too, it is a landscape in which sea and country are never
sundered. This must not be forgotten of idyllic scenery; for it was
the warm seaboard of Sicily, beneath protecting heights of Ætna, that
gave birth to the bucolic muse. The intermingling of pastoral and sea
life is exquisitely allegorized in the legend of Galatea; and on the
cup which Theocritus describes in his first idyl the fisherman plays
an equal part with the shepherd youths and the boy who watches by the
vineyard wall. The higher we climb upon the mountain-side the more
marvellous is the beauty of the sea, which seems to rise as we ascend
and stretch into the sky. Sometimes a little flake of blue is framed
by olive-boughs, sometimes a turning in the road reveals the whole
broad azure calm below. Or after toiling up a steep ascent we fall upon
the undergrowth of juniper, and lo! a double sea, this way and that,
divided by the sharp spine of the jutting hill, jewelled with villages
along its shore, and smiling with fair islands and silver sails. Upon
the beach the waves come tumbling in, swaying the corallines and green
and purple sea-weeds in the pools. Ceaseless beating of the spray has
worn the rocks into jagged honeycombs, on which lazy fishermen sit
perched, dangling their rods like figures in Pompeian frescos.

In landscapes such as these we are readily able to understand the
legends of rustic gods; the metamorphoses of Syrinx, Narcissus, Echo,
Hyacinthus, and Adonis; the tales of slumbering Pan and horned satyrs
and peeping fauns with which the idyllists have adorned their simple
shepherd songs. Here, too, the Oread dwellers of the hills and dryads
and sylvans and water-nymphs seem possible. They lose their unreality
and mythic haziness; for men themselves are more a part of Nature here
than in the North, more fit for companionship with deities of stream
and hill. Their labors are lighter and their food more plentiful.
Summer leaves them not, and the soil yields fair and graceful crops.
There is surely some difference between hoeing turnips and trimming
olive-boughs, between tending turkeys on a Norfolk common and leading
goats to browse on cytisus beside the shore between the fat pasturage
and bleak winters of our midland counties and the spare herbage of
the South dried by perpetual sunlight. It cannot be denied that men
assimilate something from their daily labor, and that the poetry of
rustic life is more evident upon Mediterranean shores than in England.

Nor must the men and women of classical landscape be forgotten. When we
read the idyls of Theocritus, and wish to see before us Thestylis and
Daphnis and Lycidas, we have but to recall the perfect forms of Greek
sculpture. We may, for instance, summon to our mind the Endymion of
the Capitol, nodding in eternal slumber, with his sheep-dog slumbering
by: or Artemis stepping from her car; her dragons coil themselves
between the shafts and fold their plumeless wings: or else Hippolytus
and Meleager booted for the boar-chase: or Bacchus finding Ariadne
by the sea-shore; mænads and satyrs are arrested in their dance;
flower-garlands fall upon the path; or a goat-legged satyr teaches a
young faun to play; the pipe and flute are there, and from the boy's
head fall long curls upon his neck. Or Europa drops anemone and crocus
from her hand, trembling upon the bull as he swims onward through
the sea: or tritons blow wreathed shells, and dolphins splash the
water: or the eagle's claws clasp Ganymede, and bear him up to Zeus:
or Adonis lies wounded, and wild Aphrodite spreads hungry arms, and
wails with rent robes tossed above her head. From the cabinet of gems
we draw a Love, blind, bound, and stung by bees; or a girl holding an
apple in her hand; or a young man tying on his sandal. Then there is
the Praxitelean genius of the Vatican who might be Hylas, or Uranian
Eros, or Hymenæus, or curled Hyacinthus--- the faun who lies at Munich
overcome with wine, his throat bare, and his deep chest heaving with
the breath of sleep--Hercules strangling the twin snakes in his cradle,
or ponderous with knotty sinews and huge girth of neck--Demeter,
holding fruits of all sorts in one hand and cornstalks in the other,
sweeping her full raiment on the granary floor. Or else we bring again
the pugilist from Caracalla's bath--bruised faces and ears livid with
unheeded blows--their strained arms bound with thongs, and clamps of
iron on their fists. Processions move in endless line, of godlike
youths on prancing steeds, of women bearing baskets full of cakes
and flowers, of oxen lowing to the sacrifice. The Trojan heroes fall
with smiles upon their lips; the athlete draws the strigil down his
arm; the sons of Niobe lie stricken, beautiful in death. Cups, too,
and vases help us, chased with figures of all kinds--dance, festival,
love-making, rustic sacrifice, the legendary tales of hate and woe, the
daily idyls of domestic life.

Such are some of the works of Greek art which we may use in our attempt
to realize Theocritus. Nor need we neglect the monuments of modern
painting--Giorgione's pastoral pictures of piping men and maidens
crowned with jasmine-flowers, Raphael's Triumph of Galatea, and
Tintoretto's Marriage of Ariadne, or the Arcadians of Poussin reading
the tale of death upon the gravestone, and its epitaph--"Et ego."

To reconstruct the mode of life of the Theocritean _dramatis personæ_
is not a matter of much difficulty. Pastoral habits are singularly
unchangeable, and nothing strikes us more than the recurrence of
familiar rustic proverbs, superstitions, and ways of thinking which we
find in the idyllic poets. The mixture of simplicity and shrewdness, of
prosaic interest in worldly affairs and of an unconscious admiration
for the poetry of nature, which George Sand has recently assigned with
delicate analysis to the bucolic character in her Idyls of Nohant,
meets us in every line of the Sicilian pastorals. On the Mediterranean
shores, too, the same occupations have been carried on for centuries
with little interruption. The same fields are being ploughed, the
same vineyards tilled, the same olive-gardens planted, as those in
which Theocritus played as a child. The rocks on which he saw old
Olpis watching for the tunnies, with fishing-reed and rush basket
are still haunted through sunny hours by patient fishermen. Perhaps
they cut their reeds and rushes in the same river-beds; certainly
they use the same sort of #kalamos#. The goats have not forgotten
to crop cytisus and myrtle, nor have the goatherds changed their
shaggy trousers and long crooks. You may still pick out a shepherd
lad among a hundred by his skin and cloak. It is even said that the
country ditties of the Neapolitans are Greek; and how ancient is the
origin of local superstitions who shall say? The country folk still
prefer, like Comatas in the fifth idyl, garden-grown roses to the
wild eglantine and anemones of the hedgerow, scorning what has not
required some cost or trouble for its cultivation. Gretchen's test
of love by blowing on thistle-down does not differ much from that of
the shepherd in the third idyl. Live blood in the eye is still a sign
of mysterious importance (Idyl iii. 36). To spit is still a remedy
against the evil eye (vii. 39). Eunica, the town girl, still turns up
her nose at the awkward cowherd; city and country are not yet wholly
harmonized by improved means of locomotion. Then the people of the
South are perfectly unchanged--the fisher boys of Castellamare; the
tall, straight girls of Capri singing as they walk with pitchers on
their heads and distaffs in their hands; the wild Apulian shepherds;
the men and maidens laughing in the olive-fields or vineyards; the
black-browed beauties of the Cornice trooping to church on Sundays with
gold earrings, and with pink tulip-buds in their dark hair. One thing,
however, is greatly altered. Go where we will, we find no statues of
Priapus and the Nymphs. No lambs are sacrificed to Pan. No honey or
milk is poured upon the altars of the rustic muse. The temples are in
ruins. Aloes and cactuses have invaded the colonnades of Girgenti, and
through the halls of Pæstum winds whistle and sunbeams stream unheeded.
But though the gods are gone, men remain unaltered. A little less
careless, a little more superstitious they may be; but their joys and
sorrows, their vices and virtues, their loves and hates, are still the

Such reflections are trite and commonplace. Yet who can resist the
force of their truth and pathos?

    #ouch hamin ton Erôta monois etech', hôs edokeumes,
    Nikia, hôitini touto theôn poka teknon egento;
    ouch hamin ta kala pratois kala phainetai êmes,
    hoi thnatoi pelomestha, to d' aurion ouk esorômes#[144]--

said Theocritus, looking back into the far past, and remembering
that the gifts of love and beauty have belonged to men and gods from
everlasting. With what redoubled force may we, after the lapse of
twenty centuries, echo these words, when we tread the ground he knew
and read the songs he sang! His hills stir our vague and yearning
admiration, his sea laughs its old laugh of waywardness and glee,
his flowers bloom yearly, and fade in the spring, his pine and olive
branches overshadow us; we listen to the bleating of his goats, and
taste the sweetness of the spring from which he drank; the milk and
honey are as fresh upon our lips, the wine in winter by the wood fire,
when the winds are loud is just as fragrant; youth is still youth, nor
have the dark-eyed maidens lost their charm. Truly #ouch hamin ta kala
pratois kala phainetai êmes#. In this consists the power of Theocritean
poetry. It strikes a note which echoes through our hearts by reason
of its genuine simplicity and pathos. The thoughts which natural
beauty stirs in our minds find their embodiment in his sweet, strong
verse; and though since his time the world has grown old, though the
gods of Greece have rent their veils and fled with shrieks from their
sanctuaries, though in spite of ourselves we turn our faces skyward
from the earth, though emaciated saints and martyrs have supplanted
Adonis and the Graces, though the cold, damp shades of Calvinism have
chilled our marrow and our blood, yet there remain deep down within our
souls some primal sympathies with nature, some instincts of the faun or
satyr or sylvan, which education has not quite eradicated. "The hand
which hath long time held a violet doth not soon forego her perfume,
nor the cup from which sweet wine had flowed his fragrance."

I have dwelt long upon the peculiar properties of classical landscape
as described by the Greek idyllists, and as they still exist for
travellers upon the more sheltered shores of the Mediterranean, because
it is necessary to understand them before we can appreciate the _truth_
of Theocritus. Of late years much has been written about the difference
between classical and modern ways of regarding landscape. Mr. Ruskin
has tried to persuade us that the ancients only cared for the more
cultivated parts of nature, for gardens or orchards, from which food or
profit or luxurious pleasure might be derived. And in this view there
is no doubt some truth. The Greeks and Romans paid far less attention
to inanimate nature than we do, and were beyond all question repelled
by the savage grandeur of marine and mountain scenery, preferring
landscapes of smiling and cultivated beauty to rugged sublimity or
the picturesqueness of decay. In this they resembled all Southern
nations. An Italian of the present day avoids ruinous places and
solitudes however splendid. Among the mountains he complains of the
_brutto paese_ in which he has to live, and is always longing for town
gayeties and the amenities of civilized society.[145] The ancients,
again, despised all interests that pretended to rival the paramount
interest of civic or military life. Seneca's figurative expression
_circum flosculos occupatur_ might be translated literally as applied
to a trifler to denote the scorn which thinkers, statesmen, patriots,
and generals of Greece and Rome felt for mere rural prettiness; while
Quintilian's verdict on Theocritus (whom, however, he allows to be
_admirabilis in suo genere_), _musa illa rustica et pastoralis non
forum modo verum ipsam etiam urbem reformidat_, characterizes the
insensibility of urban intellects to a branch of art which we consider
of high importance. But it is very easy to overstrain this view, and
Mr. Ruskin, perhaps, has laid an undue stress on Homer in his criticism
of the classics, whereas it is among the later Greek and Roman
poets that the analogy of modern literature would lead us to expect
indications of a genuine taste for unadorned nature. These signs the
idyllic poets amply supply; but in seeking for them we must be prepared
to recognize a very different mode of expression from that which
we are used to in the florid poets of the modern age. Conciseness,
simplicity, and an almost prosaic accuracy are the never-failing
attributes of classical descriptive art. Moreover, humanity was always
more present to their minds than to ours. Nothing evoked sympathy
from a Greek unless it appeared before him in a human shape, or in
connection with some human sentiment. The ancient poets do not describe
inanimate nature as such, or attribute a vague spirituality to fields
and clouds. That feeling for the beauty of the world which is embodied
in such poems as Shelley's _Ode to the West Wind_ gave birth in their
imagination to definite legends, involving some dramatic interest
and conflict of passions. We who are apt to look for rhapsodies and
brilliant outpourings of eloquent fancy can scarcely bring ourselves to
recollect what a delicate sense of nature and what profound emotions
are implied in the conceptions of Pan and Hyacinthus and Galatea. The
misuse which has been made of mythology by modern writers has effaced
half its vigor and charm. It is only by returning to the nature which
inspired these myths that we can reconstruct their exquisite vitality.
Different ages and nations express themselves by different forms of
art. Music appears to be dominant in the present period; sculpture
ruled among the Greeks, and struck the key-note for all other arts.
Even those sentiments which in our mind are most vague, the admiration
of sunset skies, or flowers or copsewoods in spring, were expressed by
them in the language of definite human form. They sought to externalize
and realize as far as possible, not to communicate the inmost feelings
and spiritual suggestions arising out of natural objects. Never
advancing beyond corporeal conditions, they confined themselves to
form, and sacrificed the charm of mystery, which is incompatible with
very definite conception. It was on this account that sculpture, the
most exactly imitative of the arts, became literally architectonic
among the Greeks. And for a precisely similar reason music, which is
the most abstract and subjective of the arts, the most evanescent in
its material, and the vaguest, assumes the chief rank among modern
arts. Sculpture is the poetry of the body, music the language of the

Having once admitted their peculiar _mode_ of feeling Nature, no
one can deny that landscape occupies an important place in Greek
literature. Every line of Theocritus is vital with a strong passion for
natural beauty, incarnated in myths. But even in descriptive poetry
he is not deficient. His list of trees and flowers is long, and the
epithets with which they are characterized are very exquisite--not,
indeed, brilliant with the inbreathed fancy of the North, but so
perfectly appropriate as to define the special beauty of the flower
or tree selected. In the same way, a whole scene is conveyed in a few
words by mere conciseness of delineation, or by the artful introduction
of some incident suggesting human emotion. Take for example this
picture of the stillness of the night:

    #ênide sigâi men pontos, sigônti d' aêtai;
    ha d' ema ou sigâi sternôn entosthen ania,
    all' epi tênôi pasa kataithomai, hos me talainan
    anti gynaikos ethêke kakan kai aparthenon êmen.#[146]

                                                       _Idyl_ ii. 38-41.

Or this:

    #alla ty men chairoisa pot' ôkeanon trepe pôlous
    potni', egô d' oisô ton emon ponon, hôsper hypestan.
    chaire, Selanaia liparochroe; chairete d', alloi
    asteres, eukêloio kat' antyga Nyktos opadoi.#[147]

                                                _Idyl_ ii. 163 _et seq._

Or this of a falling star:

                          #katêripe d' es melan hydôr
    athroos, hôs hoka pyrsos ap' ouranô êripen astêr
    athroos en pontôi, nautais de tis eipen hetairois:
    kouphoter', ô paides, poieisth' hopla; pleustikos ouros.#[148]

                                                     _Idyl_ xiii. 49-52.

Or the sea-weeds on a rocky shore (vii. 58), or the summer bee (iii.
15), or the country party at harvest time (vii. 129 to the end). In all
of these a peculiar simplicity will be noticed, a self-restraint and
scrupulosity of definite delineation. To Theocritus the shadowy and
iridescent fancies of modern poetry would have been unintelligible. The
creations of a Keats or Shelley would have appeared to be monstrous
births, like the Centaurs of Ixion, begotten by lawless imaginations
upon cloud and mist. When the Greek poet wished to express the
charm of summer waves he spoke of Galatea, more fickle and light
than thistle-down, a maiden careless of her lover and as cruel as
the sea. The same waves suggested to Shakespeare these lines, from
_Midsummer-Night's Dream_:

                        Thou rememberest
    Since once I sat upon a promontory,
    And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
    Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
    That the rude sea grew civil at her song;
    And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
    To hear the sea-maid's music;

and to Weber the ethereal "mermaid's song" in _Oberon_. No one
acquainted with Shakespeare and Weber can deny that both have expressed
with marvellous subtlety the magic of the sea in its enchanting calm,
whereas the Greek poet works only by indirect suggestion, and presents
us with a human portrait more than a phantom of the glamour of the
deep. What we have lost in definite projection we have gained in truth,
variety, and freedom. The language of our art appeals immediately to
the emotions, disclosing the spiritual reality of things, and caring
less for their form than for the feelings they excite in us. Greek art
remains upon the surface, and translates into marble the humanized
aspects of the external world. The one is forever seeking to set
free, the other to imprison, thought. The Greek tells with exquisite
precision what he has observed, investing it perhaps with his own
emotion. He says, for instance:

                                  #aithe genoiman
    ha bombeusa melissa, kai es teon antron hikoiman,
    ton kisson diadys kai tan pterin, hâi ty pikasdêi.#[149]

The modern poet, to use Shelley's words,

          Will watch from dawn to gloom
    The lake-reflected sun illume
    The yellow bees in the ivy bloom;
    Nor heed nor see what shapes they be,
    But from these create he can
    Forms more real than living man,
    Nurslings of immortality,

endeavoring to look through and beyond the objects of the outer
world, to use them as the starting-points for his creative fancy, and
to embroider their materials with the dazzling _fioriture_ of his
invention. Metamorphosis existed for the Greek poet as a simple fact.
If the blood of Adonis turned to anemones, yet the actual drops of
blood and the flowers remained distinct in the poet's mind; and even
though he may have been sceptical about the miracle, he restrained
his fancy to the reproduction of the one old fable. The modern poet
believes in no metamorphosis but that which is produced by the alchemy
of his own brain. He loves to confound the most dissimilar existences,
and to form startling combinations of thoughts which have never before
been brought into connection with each other. Uncontrolled by tradition
or canons of propriety, he roams through the world, touching its
various objects with the wand of his imagination. To the west wind he

    Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
    Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
    Shook from the tangled boughs of heaven and ocean,
    Angels of rain and lightning; there are spread
    On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
    Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
    Of some fierce Mænad, e'en from the dim verge
    Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
    The locks of the approaching storm....

Imagine how astonished even Æschylus would have been at these violent
transitions and audacious transformations. The Greeks had few
conceits:[150] they did not call the waves "nodding hearse-plumes" like
Calderon, or the birds "winged lyres" like Marini, or daisies "pearled
Arcturi of the earth" like Shelley, or laburnums "dropping wells of
fire" like Tennyson. If they ventured on such licenses in their more
impassioned lyrics, they maintained the metaphor with strict propriety.
One good instance of the difference in this respect between the two
ages is afforded by Ben Jonson, who translates Sappho's

    #êros himerophônos angelos aêdôn,#

by "the dear glad angel of the spring, the nightingale." Between
#angelos# and _angel_ there is the distance of nearly twenty centuries;
for though Ben Jonson may have meant merely to Anglicize the Greek
word, he could not but have been glad of the more modern meaning.

So much of this essay has already been devoted to the consideration of
Theocritean poetry in general that I cannot here afford to enter into
the details of his several idyls. A few, however, may be noticed of
peculiar beauty and significance. None are more true to local scenery
than those which relate to the story of Galatea. In this brief tale,
the life of the mountains and the rivers and the sea is symbolized--the
uncouth and gigantic hills rude in their rusticity; the clear and
lovable stream; the merry sea, inconstant and treacherous, with
shifting waves. The mountain stands forever unremoved; love as he will,
he can but gaze upon the dancing sea, and woo it with gifts of hanging
trees, and cool shadowy caverns, and still sleeping-places in sheltered
bays. But the stream leaps down from crag to crag, and gathers strength
and falls into the arms of the expectant nymph--a fresh lover fair
and free, and full of smiles. Supposing this marriage of the sea and
river to have been the earliest idea of the mythus, in course of time
the persons of Acis and Galatea, and the rejected lover Polyphemus,
became more and more humanized, until the old symbolism was lost in a
pastoral romance. Polyphemus loves, but never wins: he may offer his
tall bay-trees and slender cypresses and black ivy and sweet-fruited
vines and cold water flowing straight--a drink divine--from the white
snows of wooded Ætna; he may sit whole days above the sea, and gaze
upon the smiling waves, and tell the nymph of all his flocks and herds,
and lure her with promises of flowers and fawns and bear's whelps, to
leave the sea to beat upon its shore and come and live with him, and
feed his sheep. It is of no use. Galatea heeds him not, and Polyphemus
has to shepherd his love as best he can. Poetry in this idyl is blended
with the simplest country humor. The pathos of Polyphemus is really
touching, and his allusions to the sweetness of a shepherd's life
among the hills abound in unconscious poetry, side by side with which
are placed the most ludicrous expressions of uncouth disappointment,
together with shrewd observations on the value of property and
other prosaic details. If I mistake not, this is true of the rustic
character, in which, though stirred by sorrow into sympathy with
nature, habitual caution and shrewdness survive. The meditations of the
shepherd in the third idyl exhibit the same mixture of sentiments.

As a specimen of the idyls which illustrate town life I select the
second, the humor of its rival, the fifteenth, being of that perfect
sort which must be read and laughed over, but which cannot well
be analyzed. The subject of the _Pharmaceutria_ is an incantation
performed in the stillness of the night by a proud Syracusan lady who
has been deserted by her lover. In delineating the fierceness of her
passion and the indomitable resolution of her will Theocritus has
produced a truly tragic picture. Simætha, maddened by vehement despair,
resorts to magic arts. Love, she says, has sucked her life-blood like
a leech, and parched her with the fever of desire. She cannot live
without the lover for whose possession she has sacrificed her happiness
and honor. If she cannot charm him back again, she will kill him.
There are poisons ready to work her will in the last resort. Meanwhile
we see her standing at the magic wheel, turning it round before the
fire, and charging it to draw false Delphis to her home. A hearth with
coals upon it is at hand, on which her maid keeps sprinkling the meal
that typifies the bones of Delphis, the wax by which his heart is to
be consumed, and the laurel-bough that stands for his body. At the
least sign of laziness Simætha scolds her with hard and haughty words.
She stands like a Medea, seeking no sympathy, sparing no reproaches,
tiger-like in her ferocity of thwarted passion. When the magic rites
have been performed, and Thestylis has gone to smear an ointment on the
doors of Delphis, Simætha leaves the wheel and addresses her soliloquy
to the Moon, who has just risen, and who is journeying in calm and
silver glory through the night. There is something sublime in the
contrast between the moonlight on the sea of Syracuse and the fierce
agony of the deserted lioness. To the Moon she confides the story of
her love: "Take notice of my love, whence it arose, dread Queen." It
is a vivid and tragic tale of Southern passion: sudden and consuming,
recklessly gratified, and followed by desertion on the one side and by
vengeance on the other.[151] Simætha has no doubt many living parallels
among Sicilian women. The classical reader will find in her narration a
description of the working of love hardly to be surpassed by Sappho's
Ode or Plato's _Phædrus_. The wildness of the scene, the magic rites,
the august presence of the Moon, and the murderous determination of
Simætha heighten the dramatic effect, and render the tale excessively

As a picture of classical sorcery this idyl is very curious. Nothing
can be more erroneous than to imagine that witchcraft is a Northern
invention of the Middle Ages, or that the Brocken is its headquarters.
With the exception of a few inconsiderable circumstances, all the
terrible or loathsome rites of magic were known to the ancients, and
merely copied by the moderns. Circe in Homer, Simætha in Theocritus,
Canidia in Horace, the Libyan sorceress of Virgil, the Saga of
Tibullus, Medea in Ovid, Erichtho in Lucan, and Megæra in Claudian
(to mention no more), make up a list of formidable witches to whom
none of the hideous details of the black art were unknown. They sought
for poisonous herbs at night; lived in ruinous places; ransacked
charnel-houses for dead bodies; killed little children to obtain their
fat for unguents; compelled the spirits of the dead to rise, and, after
entering a fresh corpse, to reveal the mysteries of fate; devoured
snakes; drank blood; raised storms at sea; diverted the moon from her
course; muttered spells of fearful import; and loved above all things
to "raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life."
Even in the minutest details of sorcery they anticipated the witches
of the Middle Ages. Hypsipyle in Ovid mentions a waxen portrait stuck
full of needles, and so fashioned as to waste the life of its original.
The witch in the _Golden Ass_ of Apuleius anoints herself, and flies
about like a bird at night. Nor were were-wolves, those most ghastly
creations of diseased imagination, unfamiliar to the Greeks and
Romans, as may be proved from Herodotus, Virgil, Ovid, Petronius, and
Apuleius. Those who care to pursue this subject will find a vast amount
of learning collected on the point by Ben Jonson in his annotations
to _The Masque of Queens_. One fact, however, must be always borne in
mind: the ancients regarded witchcraft either as a hideous or a solemn
exercise of supernatural power, not recognizing any Satanic agency or
compact with Hell. _Hecate triviis ululata per urbes_, the "Queen of
the Night and of the Tombs," assisted sorcerers; but this meant merely
that they trafficked in the dark with the foul mysteries of death and
corruption. The classical witches were either grave and awful women,
like the Libyan priestess in the _Æneid_, or else loathsome pariahs,
terrible for their malignity, like Lucan's Erichtho. Mediævalism added
a deeper horror to this superstitious and ghoulish conception by the
thoughts of spiritual responsibility and of league with God's enemies.
Damnation was the price of magic power; witchcraft being not merely
abominable in the eyes of men, but also unpardonable at the bar of
divine justice.

Several poems of Theocritus are written on the theme of Doric chivalry,
and illustrate the heroic age of Greece. They may be compared to the
_Idyls of the King_, for their excellence consists in the consummate
art with which episodes from the legendary cycles of a bygone age are
wrought into polished pictures by a cultivated poet. The thirteenth
idyl is especially remarkable for the exquisite finish of its style
and also for the light it throws on the mutual relations of knight and
squire in early Greek warfare. Theocritus chooses for the subject of
this poem an episode in the life of Herakles, the Dorian hero, when he
and other foremost men of Hellas, #theios aôtos hêrôôn#, followed Jason
in the Argo to the Colchian shores, and he took young Hylas with him;
"for even," says Theocritus, "the brazen-hearted son of Amphitryon,
who withstood the fierceness of the lion, loved a youth, the charming
Hylas, and taught him like a father everything by which he might become
a good and famous man; nor would he leave the youth at dawn or noon or
evening, but sought continually to fashion him after his own heart,
and to make him a right yoke-fellow with him in mighty deeds." How he
lost Hylas on the Cianian shore, and in the wildness of his sorrow let
Argo sail without him, and endured the reproach of desertion, is well
known. Theocritus has wrought the story with more than his accustomed
elegance. But I wish to confine attention to the ideal of knighthood
and knightly education presented in the passage quoted. Herakles was
not merely the lover, but the guardian also and tutor, of Hylas. He
regarded him not only as an object of tenderness, but also as a future
friend and helper in the business of life. His constant aim was to form
of him a brave and manly warrior, a Herculean hero. And in this respect
Herakles was the eponym and patron of an order which existed throughout
Doric Hellas. This order, protected by religious tradition and public
favor, regulated by strict rules, and kept within the limits of honor,
produced the Cretan lovers, the Lacedæmonian "hearers" and "inspirers,"
the Theban immortals who lay with faces turned so stanchly to their
foes that vice seemed incompatible with so much valor. Achilles was
another eponym of this order. In the twenty-ninth idyl, the phrase
#Achillêïoi philoi# is used to describe the most perfect pair of manly
friends. The twelfth idyl is written in a similar if a weaker and more
wanton vein. The same longing retrospect is cast upon the old days
"when men indeed were golden, when the love of comrades was mutual,"
and constancy is rewarded with the same promise of glorious immortality
as that which Plato holds out in the _Phædrus_. Bion, we may remark
in passing, celebrates with equal praise the friendships of Theseus,
Orestes, and Achilles. Without taking some notice of this peculiar
institution, in its origin military and austere, it is impossible to
understand the chivalrous age of Greece among the Dorian tribes. In the
midst of brute force and cunning, and an almost absolute disregard of
what we are accustomed to understand by chivalry--gentleness, chastity,
truth, regard for women and weak persons--this one anomalous sentiment

Passing to another point in which Greek differed from mediæval
chivalry, we notice the semi-divine nature of the heroes: #theios
aôtos# is the name by which they are designated, and supernatural
favor is always showered upon them. This indicates a primitive
society, a national consciousness ignorant of any remote past. The
heroes whom Theocritus celebrates are purely Dorian--Herakles, a Jack
the Giant-Killer in his cradle, brawny, fearless, of huge appetite,
a mighty trainer, with a scowl to frighten athletes from the field;
Polydeuces, a notable bruiser; Castor, a skilled horseman and a man of
blood. In one point the twin sons of Leda resembled mediæval knights.
They combined the arts of song with martial prowess. Theocritus
styles them #hippêes kitharistai, aethlêtêres aoidoi#--harp-playing
riders of horses, athlete poets. Their achievements, narrated in
the twenty-second idyl, may be compared with those of Tristram and
Lancelot. The gigantic warrior whom they find by the well in the
land of the Bebrycians, gorgeously armed, insolent, and as knotty
as a brazen statue, who refuses access to the water and challenges
them to combat, exactly resembles one of the lawless giants of the
_Mort d'Arthur_. The courtesy of the Greek hero contrasts well with
the barbarian's violence; and when they come to blows, it is good to
observe how address, agility, training, nerve, enable Polydeuces to
overcome with ease the vast fury and brute strength of the Bebrycian
bully. As the fight proceeds, the son of Leda improves in flesh and
color, while Amycus gets out of breath, and sweats his thews away.
Polydeuces pounds the giant's neck and face, reducing him to a hideous
mass of bruises, and receiving the blows of Amycus upon his chest
and loins. At the end of the fight he spares his prostrate foe, on
the condition of his respecting the rites of hospitality and dealing
courteously with strangers. Throughout it will be noticed how carefully
Theocritus maintains the conception of the Hellenic as distinguished
from the barbarian combatant. Christian and pagan are not more distinct
in a legend of the San Graal. But Greek chivalry has no magic, no
monstrous exaggeration. All is simple, natural, and human. Bellerophon,
it is true, was sent after the Chimæra, and Perseus freed Andromeda
like St. George from a dragon's mouth. But these fancies of Greek
infancy formed no integral part of artistic mythology; instead of being
multiplied, they were gradually winnowed out, and the poets laid but
little stress upon them.

The achievement of Castor is not so favorable to the character of
Hellenic chivalry. Having in concert with Polydeuces borne off by guile
the daughters of Leucippus from their affianced husbands, Castor kills
one of the injured lovers who pursues him and demands restitution. He
slays him, though he is his own first cousin, ruthlessly; and while the
other son of Aphareus is rushing forward to avenge his brother's death,
Zeus hurls lightning and destroys him. Theocritus remarks that it is no
light matter to engage in battle with the Tyndarids; but he makes no
reflection on what we should call "the honor" of the whole transaction.

Of all the purely pastoral idyls by which Theocritus is most widely
famous, perhaps the finest is the seventh, or Thalysia. It glows with
the fresh and radiant splendor of Southern beauty. In this poem the
idyllist describes the journey of three young men in summer from the
city to the farm of their friend Phrasidamus, who has asked them to
take part in the feast with which he proposes to honor Demeter at
harvest-time. On their way they meet with a goatherd, Lycidas, who
invites them, "with a smiling eye," to recline beneath the trees and
while away the hours of noontide heat with song. "The very lizard,"
he says, "is sleeping by the wall; but on the hard stones of the
footpath your heavy boots keep up a ceaseless ringing." Thus chided
by the goatherd they resolve upon a singing-match between Simichidas,
the teller of the tale, and Lycidas, who offers his crook as the prize
of victory. Lycidas begins the contest with that exquisite song to
Ageanax, which has proved the despair of all succeeding idyllists,
and which furnished Virgil with one of the most sonorous lines in his
_Georgics_. No translation can do justice to the smooth and liquid
charm of its melodious verse, in which the tenderest feeling mingles
gracefully with delicate humor and with homely descriptions of a
shepherd's life. The following lines, forming a panegyric on Comatas,
some famed singer of the rustic muse, may be quoted for their pure
Greek feeling. Was ever an unlucky mortal envied more melodiously, and
yet more quaintly, for his singular fortune?

    #aisei d', hôs pok' edekto ton aipolon eurea larnax
    zôon eonta kakêisin atasthaliêisin anaktos;
    hôs te nin hai simai leimônothe pherbon ioisai
    kedron es hadeian malakois anthessi melissai;
    houneka hoi glyky Moisa kata stomatos chee nektar.
    ô makariste Komata, ty thên tade terpna peponthês,
    kai ty kateklasthês es larnaka, kai ty, melissan
    kêria pherbomenos, etos hôrion exetelessas.#[152]

The song with which Simichidas contends against his rival is not of
equal beauty; but the goatherd hands him the crook "as a gift of
friendship from the Muses." Then he leaves the three friends, who
resume their journey till they reach the house of Phrasidamus. There
elms and poplar-trees and vines embower them with the pleasant verdure
of rustling leaves and the perfumes of summer flowers and autumn
fruits. The jar of wine as sweet as that which made the Cyclops dance
among his sheepfold spreads its fragrance through the air; while the
statue of Demeter, with her handfuls of corn and poppy-heads, stands
smiling by.

This seventh idyl, of which no adequate idea can be conveyed by mere
description, may serve as the type of those purely rustic poems which
since the days of Theocritus have from age to age been imitated by
versifiers emulous of his gracefulness. If space allowed, it would
not be uninteresting to analyze the idyl of the two old fishermen,
who gossip together so wisely and contentedly in their hut by the
sea-shore, mending their nets the while, and discoursing gravely of
their dreams. In this idyl, which is, however, possibly the work of
one of Theocritus's imitators, and in the second, which consists of a
singing-match between two harvest-men, the native homeliness of the
idyllic muse appears to best advantage.

With this brief and insufficient notice I must leave Theocritus in
order to say a few words about his successors. Bion's poetry, when
compared with that of Theocritus, declines considerably from the
bucolic type. His idyls are for the most part fragments of delicately
finished love-songs, remarkable for elegance and sweetness more than
for masculine vigor or terse expression. In Bion the artificial style
of pastoral begins. Theocritus had made cows and pipes and shepherds
fashionable. His imitators followed him, without the humor and natural
taste which rendered his pictures so attractive. We already trace
the frigid affectation of bucolic interest in the elegy on Bion: "He
sang no song of wars or tears, but piped of Pan and cowherds, and
fed flocks, singing as he went; pipes he fashioned, and milked the
sweet-breathed heifer, and taught kisses, and cherished in his bosom
love, and stole the heart of Aphrodite." As it happens, the most
original and powerful of Bion's remaining poems is a "Song of Tears,"
of passionate lamentation, of pathetic grief, composed, not as a
pastoral ditty, but on the occasion of one of those splendid festivals
in which the Syrian rites of slain Adonis were celebrated by Greek
women. The #epitaphios Adônidos# is written with a fiery passion and a
warmth of coloring peculiar to Bion. The verse bounds with tiger leaps,
its full-breathed dactyls panting with the energy of rapid flight. The
tender and reflective beauty of Theocritus, the concentrated passion of
his Simætha, and the flowing numbers of his song to Adonis are quite
lost and swallowed up in the Asiatic fury of Bion's lament. The poem
begins with the cry #Aiazô ton Adônin#, which is variously repeated in
idyllic fashion as a refrain throughout the lamentation.[153] After
the prelude, having, as it were, struck the key-note to the music, the
singer cries:

    #mêketi porphyreois eni pharesi Kypri katheude;
    egreo deilaia kyanostole kai platagêson
    stathea, kai lege pasin, apôleto kalos Adônis.#[154]

Notice how the long words follow one another with quick pulses
and flashes of sound. The same peculiar rhythm recurs when, after
describing the beautiful dead body of Adonis, the poet returns to

                            #ha d' Aphrodita
    lysamena plokamidas ana drymôs alalêtai
    penthalea, nêplektos, asandalos; hai de batoi nin
    erchomenan keironti kai hieron haima drepontai
    oxy de kôkyoisa di' ankea makra phoreitai,
    Assyrion booôsa posin, kai paida kaleusa.#[155]

There are few passages of poetical imagery more striking than this
picture of the queen of beauty tearing through the forest, heedless
of her tender limbs and useless charms, and calling on her Syrian
lover. What follows is even more passionate; after some lines of mere
description, the ecstasy again descends upon the poet, and he bursts
into the wildest of most beautiful laments:

    #hôs iden, hôs enoêsen Adônidos ascheton helkos,
    hôs ide phoinion haima marainomenôi peri mêrôi,
    pacheas ampetasasa kinyreto; meinon Adôni,
    dyspotme meinon Adôni, k.t.l.#[156]

The last few lines of her soliloquy are exquisitely touching,
especially those in which Aphrodite deplores her immortality, and
acknowledges the supremacy of the queen of the grave over Love and
Beauty. What follows is pitched at a lower key. There is too much of
merely Anacreontic prettiness about the description of the bridal bed
and the lamenting Loves. Aphrodite's passion reminds us of a Neapolitan
_Stabat Mater_, in which the frenzy of love and love-like piety are
strangely blended. But the concluding picture suggests nothing nobler
than a painting of Albano, in which _amoretti_ are plentiful, and there
is much elegance of composition. This remark applies to the rest of
Bion's poetry. If Theocritus deserves to be illustrated by the finest
of Greek bass-reliefs, Bion cannot claim more than an exquisitely
chiselled gem. Certainly the second and third fragments are very
charming; and the lines to Hesper (fragment 16) have so much beauty
that I attempt a version of them:

    Hesper, thou golden light of happy love,
    Hesper, thou holy pride of purple eve,
    Moon among stars, but star beside the moon,
    Hail, friend! and since the young moon sets to-night
    Too soon below the mountains, lend thy lamp
    And guide me to the shepherd whom I love.
    No theft I purpose; no wayfaring man'
    Belated would I watch and make my prey;
    Love is my goal, and Love how fair it is,
    When friend meets friend sole in the silent night,
    Thou knowest, Hesper!

In Moschus we find less originality and power than belong to Bion.
His _Europa_ is an imitation of the style in which Theocritus wrote
_Hylas_; but the copy is frigid and affected by the size of its
model. Five-and-twenty lines for instance are devoted to an elaborate
description of a basket, which leaves no very definite impression
on the mind;[157] whereas every leaf and tendril on the cup which
Theocritus introduces into the first idyl stands out vividly before us.
Nothing, moreover, could be more unnatural and tedious than the long
speech which Europa makes when she is being carried out to sea upon
the bull's back. Yet we must allow that there is spirit and beauty in
the triumph of sea monsters who attend Poseidon and do honor to the
chosen bride of Zeus; Nereids riding on dolphins, and Tritons, "the
deep-voiced minstrels of the sea, sounding a marriage-song on their
long-winding conchs."[158] The whole of this piece is worthy of Ovid's
_Metamorphoses_. Moschus is remarkable for occasional felicities of
language. In this line, for example,

    #eute kai atrekeôn poimainetai ethnos oneirôn,#

an old thought receives new and subtle beauty by its expression. If
_Megara_ (Idyl iv.) be really the work of Moschus, which is doubtful,
it reflects more honor on him. The dialogue between the wife and mother
of the maddened Herakles, after he has murdered his children and gone
forth to execute fresh labors, is worthy of their tragic situation.
#Erôs drapetês# (Runaway Love), again, is an exquisite little poem in
the Anacreontic style of Bion, fully equal to any of its models. The
fame of Moschus will, however, depend upon the elegy on Bion. I have
already hinted that its authorship is questioned. In my opinion it far
surpasses any of his compositions in respect of definite thought and
original imagination. Though the bucolic commonplaces are used with
obvious artificiality, and much is borrowed from Theocritus's _Lament
for Daphnis_, yet so true and delicate a spirit is inbreathed into the
old forms as to render them quite fresh. The passage which begins #ai
ai tai malachai# every dabbler in Greek literature knows by heart. And
what can be more ingeniously pathetic than the _nuances_ of feeling
expressed in these lines?

    #pharmakon êlthe, Biôn, poti son stoma; pharmakon eides.
    pôs teu tois cheilessi potedrame kouk eglykanthê?
    tis de brotos tossouton anameros ê kerasai toi
    ê dounai laleonti to pharmakon?#[159]


    #tis pote sâi syringi melixetai, ô tripothête?
    tis d' epi sois kalamois thêsei stoma? tis thrasys houtôs?
    eiseti gar pneiei ta sa cheilea kai to son asthma;
    achô d' en donakessi teas epibosket' aoidas.#[160]

Or again:

    #achô d' en petrêisin odyretai hotti siôpêi,
    kouketi mimeitai ta sa cheilea.#[161]

There is also something very touching in the third line of this strophe:

    #keinos ho tais agelaisin erasmios ouketi melpei,
    ouket' erêmaiêisin hypo drysin hêmenos âidei,
    alla para Ploutêi melos Lêthaion aeidei,#[162]

and in the allusion made to the Sicilian girlhood of grim Persephone
(126-129). This vein of tender and melodious sentiment, which verges
on the _concetti_ of modern art, seems different from the style of

To English readers, the three elegies, on Daphnis, on Adonis, and on
Bion, severally attributed to Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, will
always be associated with the names of Milton and Shelley. There is
no comparison whatever between Lycidas and Daphnis. In spite of the
misplaced apparition of St. Peter, and of the frigidity which belongs
to pastoral allegory, Lycidas is a richer and more splendid monument
of elegiac verse. The simplicity of the Theocritean dirge contrasts
strangely with the varied wealth of Milton's imagery, the few ornaments
of Greek art with the intricate embroideries of modern fancy. To quote
passages from these well-known poems would be superfluous; but let a
student of literature compare the passages #pâi pok' ar' êsth'# and
#ô Pan Pan# with Milton's paraphrase "Where were ye, nymphs--," or
the concise paragraphs about the flowers and valleys that mourned for
Daphnis with the luxuriance of Milton's invocation "Return, Alpheus."

When Shelley wrote _Adonais_ his mind was full of the elegies on Bion
and Adonis. Of direct translation in his Lament there is very little;
but he has absorbed both of the Greek poems, and transmuted them into
the substance of his own mind. Urania takes the place of Aphrodite--the
heavenly queen, "most musical of mourners," bewails the loss of her
poetical consort. Instead of loves, the couch of Adonais is surrounded
by the thoughts and fancies of which he was the parent; and, instead
of gods and goddesses, the power of nature is invoked to weep for
him and take him to herself. Whatever Bion and Moschus recorded as a
fact becomes, consistently with the spiritualizing tendency of modern
genius, symbolical in Shelley's poem. His art has alchemized the whole
structure, idealizing what was material and disembodying the sentiments
which were incarnated in simple images. _Adonais_ is a sublime
rhapsody; its multitudinous ideas are whirled like drops of golden
rain, on which the sun of the poet's fancy gleams with ever-changing
rainbow hues. In drifts and eddies they rush past, delighting us with
their rapidity and brilliancy; but the impression left upon our mind
is vague and incomplete, when compared with the few and distinct ideas
presented by the Doric elegies. At the end of _Alastor_ there occurs a
touching reminiscence of Moschus, but the outline is less faint than in
_Adonais_, the transmutation even more complete.

Tennyson, among the poets of the nineteenth century, owes much to
the Greek idyllists. His genius appears to be in many respects akin
to theirs, and the age in which he lives is not unlike the Ptolemaic
period. Unfitted, perhaps, by temperament for the most impassioned
lyrics, he delights in minutely finished pictures, in felicities of
expression, and in subtle harmonies of verse. Like Theocritus, he
finds in nature and in the legends of past ages subjects congenial to
his muse. _Oenone_ and _Tithonus_ are steeped in the golden beauty of
Syracusan art. "Come down, O maid," transfers, with perfect taste,
the Greek idyllic feeling to Swiss scenery; it is a fine instance of
new wine being poured successfully into old bottles, for nothing can
be fresher, and not even the _Thalysia_ is sweeter. It would be easy
enough to collect minor instances which prove that the laureate's mind
is impregnated with the thoughts and feelings of the poems I have been
discussing. For instance, both the figure "softer than sleep," and the
comparison of a strong man's muscles to the smooth rush of running
water over sunken stones, which we find in _Enid_, occur in Theocritus.

At the end of this chapter I cannot refrain from once more recommending
all lovers of pure verse and perfect scenery to study the Greek
idyllists upon the shores of the Mediterranean. Nor would it be
possible to carry a better guide-book to the statue-galleries of Rome
and Naples. For in the verses of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, the
æsthetic principles of the Greeks, in the age to which our relics of
their statuary for the most part belong, are feelingly and pithily
expressed; while the cold marble, that seems to require so many
commentaries, receives from their idyllic coloring new life.



    Down the dark stream he went; the eddies drowned
    The muses' friend, the youth the nymphs held dear.

[143] I may refer my readers to the chapter on the Cornice in my
_Sketches in Italy and Greece_ for a fuller treatment of this landscape.

[144] Not for us alone, as we once thought, friend Nicias, did Love's
parent, whosoever among gods that was, beget Lord Eros. Not for us did
fair things first reveal their fairness; we who are mortal men, and
have no vision of to-morrow.

[145] One bright morning in the first week of June I went out into the
fields at Borca below Macugnaga, which were then full of brilliant
and sweet flowers. There I met an old woman, with whom I talked about
her life in what seemed to me a terrestrial Paradise. She threw her
arms and eyes to heaven, and looking round her, cried, "_Che brutto
paese!_"--"Ah, what an ugly country to live in!" Compare Browning's _Up
at a Villa, Down in the City_.


    Now rests the deep, now rest the wandering winds,
    But in my heart the anguish will not rest,
    While for his love I pine who stole my sweetness,
    And made me less than virgin among maids.


    Adieu, dread queen, thou to the ocean turn
    Thy harnessed steeds; but I abide and suffer:
    Adieu, resplendent moon, and all you stars
    That follow on the wheels of night, adieu!


                          Into the black wave
    Fell headlong as a fiery star from heaven
    Falls headlong to the deep, and sailors cry
    One to another, Lighten sail; behold,
    The breeze behind us freshens!


                                Would I were
    The murmuring bee, that through the ivy screen
    And through the fern that hides thee, I might come
    Into thy cavern!

[150] Perhaps this is over-stated. In the later Greek literature of
the Sophists we find many very exquisite _concetti_. Philostratus,
for example, from whom Jonson translated "Drink to me only with thine
eyes," calls the feet of the beloved one #erêreismena philêmata#, or
"kisses pressed upon the ground." Even Empedocles (see vol. i. p.
220) and Pindar (see vol. i. p. 369) are not free from the vice of
artificial metaphor. Compare, too, the labored metaphors and compound
epithets quoted from Chæremon above, chap. xvi., and the specimens
quoted below from Meleager, chap. xxi.

[151] How wonderfully beautiful is her description of Delphis and
his comrade Eudamnippus: "Their cheeks and chin were yellower than
helichrysus; their breasts more radiant far than thou, O Moon, as
having lately left the fair toil of the wrestling-ground."


                                    How of old
    The goatherd by his cruel lord was bound,
    And left to die in a great chest; and how
    The busy bees, up coming from the meadows,
    To the sweet cedar, fed him with soft flowers,
    Because the Muse had filled his mouth with nectar.
    Yes, all these sweets were thine, blessed Comatas;
    And thou wast put into the chest, and fed
    By the blithe bees, and passed a pleasant time.

                           LEIGH HUNT'S _Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla_.

[153] This ought probably to be printed, after Ahrens, #aiaz' ô ton
Adônin#. The exclamation occurs in a fragment of Sappho (Bergk, No.
63), whose lyric on the legend of Adonis may have suggested Bion's idyl.


    Sleep, Cypris, no more, on thy purple-strewed bed;
      Arise, wretch stoled in black--beat thy breast unrelenting,
    And shriek to the worlds, "Fair Adonis is dead."

                                 _Translation by_ Mrs. BARRETT BROWNING.


    And the poor Aphrodite, with tresses unbound,
    All dishevelled, unsandalled, shrieks mournful and shrill
      Through the dusk of the groves. The thorns, tearing her feet,
    Gather up the red flower of her blood, which is holy,
      Each footstep she takes; and the valleys repeat
    The sharp cry which she utters, and draw it out slowly.
      She calls on her spouse, her Assyrian.--_Ibid._


    When, ah! ah!--she saw how the blood ran away
    And empurpled the thigh; and, with wild hands flung out,
      Said with sobs, "Stay, Adonis! unhappy one, stay!"

                                 _Translation by_ Mrs. BARRETT BROWNING.

[157] This basket for holding flowers, the work of Hephæstus, had
the tale of Io carved upon it. So Catullus, in the counterpane of
Thetis, has wrought in needlework the story of Ariadne; and Statius,
in the mantle given by Adrastus to Admetus, has woven that of Hero and
Leander. Both of these Roman poets excel Moschus in picturesque effect.

[158] Italian art of the Renaissance in the designs of Mantegna and
Raphael and Giulio Romano did full justice to these marine triumphs.


    There came, O Bion, poison to thy mouth,
    Thou didst feel poison! how could it approach
    Those lips of thine, and not be turned to sweet?

                                                             LEIGH HUNT.


    Who now shall play thy pipe, oh! most desired one;
    Who lay his lips against thy reeds? who dare it?
    For still they breathe of thee, and of thy mouth,
    And Echo comes to seek her voices there.--_Ibid._


    Echo too mourned among the rocks that she
    Must hush, and imitate thy lips no longer.--LEIGH HUNT.


    No longer pipes he to the charmèd herds,
    No longer sits under the lonely oaks,
    And sings; but to the ears of Plato now
    Tunes his Lethean verse.--_Ibid._



    The History of its Compilation.--Collections of Meleager,
        Philippus, Agathias, Cephalas, Planudes.--The Palatine
        MS.--The Sections of the Anthology.--Dedicatory
        Epigrams.--Simonides.--Epitaphs: Real and
        Literary.--Callimachus.--Epigrams on Poets.--Antipater
        of Sidon.--Hortatory Epigrams.--Palladas.--Satiric
        Epigrams.--Lucillius.--Amatory Epigrams.--Meleager,
        Straton, Philodemus, Antipater, Rufinus, Paulus
        Silentiarius, Agathias, Plato.--Descriptive Epigrams.

The Anthology may from some points of view be regarded as the most
valuable relic of antique literature which we possess. Composed
of several thousand short poems, written for the most part in the
elegiac metre, at different times and by a multitude of authors, it is
coextensive with the whole current of Greek history, from the splendid
period of the Persian war to the decadence of Christianized Byzantium.
Many subjects of interest in Greek life, which would otherwise have had
to be laboriously illustrated from the historians or the comic poets,
are here fully and melodiously set forth. If we might compare the study
of Greek literature to a journey in some splendid mountain region,
then we might say with propriety that from the sparkling summits where
Æschylus and Sophocles and Pindar sit enthroned we turn in our less
strenuous moods to gather the meadow flowers of Meleager, Palladas,
Callimachus. Placing them between the leaves of the book of our memory,
we possess an everlasting treasure of sweet thoughts, which will serve
in after-days to remind us of those scenes of Olympian majesty through
which we travelled. The slight effusions of these minor poets are
even nearer to our hearts than the masterpieces of the noblest Greek
literature. They treat with a touching limpidity and sweetness of the
joys and fears and hopes and sorrows that are common to all humanity.
They introduce us to the actual life of a bygone civilization, stripped
of its political or religious accidents, and tell us that the Greeks
of Athens or of Sidon thought and felt exactly as we feel. Even the
_Graffiti_ of Pompeii have scarcely more power to reconstruct the past
and summon as in dreams the voices and the forms of long-since-buried
men. There is yet another way in which the Anthology brings us
closer to the Greeks than any other portion of their literature.
The lyrists express an intense and exalted mood of the race in its
divine adolescence. The tragedians exhibit the genius of Athens in its
maturity. The idyllists utter a rich nightingale note from the woods
and fields of Sicily. But the Anthology carries us through all the
phases of Hellenic civilization upon its uninterrupted undercurrent
of elegiac melody. The clear fresh light of the morning, the splendor
of noonday, the mellow tints of sunset, and the sad gray hues of
evening are all there. It is a tree which bears the leaves and buds
and blossoms and fruitage of the Greek spirit on its boughs at once.
Many intervals in the life of the nation which are represented by no
other portion of its literature--the ending, for example, of the first
century before Christ--here receive a brilliant illustration. Again,
there is no more signal proof of the cosmopolitan nature of the later
Greek culture than is afforded by the Anthology. From Rome, Alexandria,
Palestine, Byzantium, no less than from the isles and continent of
Greece, are recruited the poets, whose works are enshrined in this
precious golden treasury of fugitive pieces.

The history of the Anthology is not without interest. By a gradual
process of compilation and accretion it grew into its present form
from very slight beginnings. The first impulse to collect epigrams
seems to have originated in connection with archæology. From the very
earliest the Greeks were in the habit of engraving sentences, for the
most part in verse, upon their temples, statues, trophies, tombs, and
public monuments of all kinds. Many of these inscriptions were used
by Herodotus and Thucydides as authorities for facts and dates. But
about 200 B.C. one Polemon made a general collection of the authentic
epigrams to be found upon the public buildings of the Greek cities.
After him Alcetas copied the dedicatory verses at Delphi. Similar
collections are ascribed to Mnestor and Apellas Ponticus. Aristodemus
is mentioned as the compiler of the epigrams of Thebes. Philochorus
performed the same service for Athens. Neoptolemus of Paros and the
philosopher Euhemerus are also credited with similar antiquarian
labors. So far, the collectors of epigrams had devoted themselves
to historical monuments; and of their work, in any separate form at
least, no trace exists. But Meleager of Gadara (B.C. 60) conceived the
notion of arranging in alphabetical order a selection of lyric and
erotic poetry, which he dedicated to his friend Diocles. He called
this compilation by the name of #stephanos#, or wreath, each of the
forty-six poets whom he admitted into his book being represented by
a flower. Philip of Thessalonica, in the time of Trajan, following
his example, incorporated into the garland of Meleager those epigrams
which had acquired celebrity in the interval. About the same time or
a little later, Straton of Sardis made a special anthology of poems
on one class of subjects, which is known as the #mousa paidikê#, and
into which, besides ninety-eight of his own epigrams, he admitted
many of the compositions of Meleager, Philip, and other predecessors.
These collections belong to the classical period of Greek literature.
But the Anthology, as we possess it, had not yet come into existence.
It remained for Agathias, a Byzantine Greek of the age of Justinian,
to undertake a comprehensive compilation from all the previous
collections. After adding numerous poems of a date posterior to
Straton, especially those of Paulus Silentiarius, Macedonius, Rufinus,
and himself, he edited his #kyklos epigrammatôn#, divided into seven
books. The first book contained dedicatory epigrams, the second
descriptive poems, the third epitaphs, the fourth reflections on the
various events of life, the fifth satires, the sixth erotic verses,
the seventh exhortations to enjoyment. Upon the general outline of
the Anthology as arranged by Agathias two subsequent collections were
founded. Constantinus Cephalas, in the tenth century, at Byzantium,
and in the reign of Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, undertook a complete
revision and recombination of all pre-existing anthologies. With the
patience of a literary bookworm, to whom the splendid libraries of the
metropolis were accessible, he set about his work, and gave to the
Greek anthology that form which it now bears. But the vicissitudes of
the Anthology did not terminate with the labors of Cephalas. Early
in the fourteenth century a monk, Planudes, set to work upon a new
edition. It appears that he contented himself with compiling and
abridging from the collection of Cephalas. His principal object was to
expurgate it from impurities and to supersede it by what he considered
a more edifying text. Accordingly he emended, castrated, omitted,
interpolated, altered, and remodelled at his own sweet will: "non
magis disposuit quam mutilavit et ut ita dicam castravit hunc librum,
detractis lascivioribus epigrammatis, ut ipse gloriatur," says Lascaris
in the preface to his edition of the Planudean Anthology.[163] He
succeeded, however, to the height of his desire; for copies ceased to
be made of the Anthology of Cephalas; and when Europe in the fifteenth
century awoke to the study of Greek literature, no other collection
but that of Planudes was known. Fortunately for this most precious
relic of antiquity, there did exist one exemplar of the Anthology
of Cephalas. Having escaped the search of Poggio, Aurispa, Filelfo,
Poliziano, and of all the emissaries whom the Medici employed in
ransacking the treasure-houses of Europe, this unique manuscript was at
last discovered in 1606 by Claude de Saumaise, better known as Milton's
antagonist Salmasius, in the Palatine Library at Heidelberg. A glance
at this treasure assured the young scholar--for Saumaise was then aged
only twenty-two--that he had made one of the most important discoveries
which remained within the reach of modern students. He spent years in
preparing a critical edition of its text; but all his work was thrown
away, for the Leyden publishers to whom he applied refused to publish
the Greek without a Latin version, and death overtook him before he had
completed the requisite labor. Meanwhile the famous Palatine MS. had
been transferred, after the sack of Heidelberg in 1623, to the Vatican,
as a present to Pope Gregory XV. Isaac Voss, the rival of Saumaise,
induced one Lucas Langermann to undertake a journey to Rome, in order
that he might make a faithful transcript of the MS. and publish it,
to the annoyance of the great French scholar. But Saumaise dying in
1653, the work, undertaken from motives of jealousy, was suspended.
The MS. reposed still upon the shelves of the Vatican Library; and in
1776 the Abbé Giuseppe Spalletti completed a trustworthy copy of its
pages, which was bought by Ernest, Duke of Gotha and Altenburg, for his
library. In the year 1797 the MS. itself was transferred to Paris after
the treaty of Tolentino; and in 1815 it was restored to Heidelberg,
where it now reposes. Meanwhile Brunck had published, from copies of
this MS., the greater portion of the Anthology in his _Analecta Veterum
Poetarum Græcorum_; and Jacobs, between 1794 and 1814, had edited the
whole collection with minutest accuracy upon the faith of the Abbé
Spalletti's exemplar. The edition of Didot, to which I shall refer
in my examination of the Anthology,[164] is based not only on the
labors of Brunck and Jacobs, but also upon the MSS. of the unfortunate
Chardon de la Rochette, who, after spending many years of his life in
the illustration of the Anthology of Cephalas, was forced in old age
to sell his collections for a small sum. They passed in 1836 into the
possession of the (then) Imperial Library.

The Palatine MS., which is our sole authority for the Anthology as
arranged by Cephalas, is a 4to parchment of 710 pages. It has been
written by different hands, at different times, and on different plans
of arrangement. The index does not always agree with the contents, but
seems to be that of an older collection, of which the one we possess
is an imperfect copy. Yet Cephalas is often mentioned, and always with
affectionate reverence, by the transcribers of the MS. In one place he
is called #ho makarios kai aeimnêstos kai tripothêtos anthrôpos#, "the
blessed man, who is ever to be held in thrice affectionate and longing
recollection," the sentiment of which words we in the middle of this
nineteenth century may most cordially echo.

The first section of the Anthology is devoted to Christian epigrams
upon the chief religious monuments and statues of Byzantium. However
these may interest the ecclesiastical student, they have no value for
a critic of Greek poetry. The second section consists of a poem in
hexameters upon the statues which adorned the gymnasium of Zeuxippus.
Some conception may be formed, after the perusal of this very
pedestrian composition, of the art treasures which Byzantium contained
in the fifth century. Authentic portraits of the great poets and
philosophers of Greece, as well as works of imagination illustrative
of the _Iliad_ and the Attic tragedies, might then be studied in one
place of public resort. Byzantium had become a vast museum for the
ancient world. The third section is devoted to mural inscriptions from
the temple of Apollonis in Cyzicus. The fourth contains the prefaces
of Meleager, Philip, and Agathias, to their several collections. The
fifth, which includes 309 epigrams, is consecrated to erotic poetry.
The sixth, which numbers 358, consists of a collection of inscriptions
from temples and public monuments recording the illustrious actions of
the Greeks or votive offerings of private persons. In the seventh we
read 748 epitaphs of various sorts. The eighth carries us again into
the dismal region of post-pagan literature: it contains nothing but 254
poems from the pen of Saint Gregory the Theologian. The 827 epigrams
of the ninth section are called by their collector #epideiktika#;
that is to say, they are composed in illustration of a variety of
subjects, anecdotical, rhetorical, and of general interest. Perhaps
this part of the whole Anthology has been the favorite of modern
imitators and translators. Passing to the tenth section, we find 126
semi-philosophical poems, most of which record the vanity of human
life and advise mortals to make the best of their brief existence by
enjoyment. The eleventh is devoted to satire. It is here that the
reflex influence of Latin on Greek literature is most perceptible. The
twelfth section bears the name of Straton, and exhibits in its 258
epigrams the morality of ancient Hellas under the aspect which has
least attraction for modern readers. The thirteenth embraces a few
epigrams in irregular metres. The fourteenth is made up of riddles and
oracles. The fifteenth, again, has half a century of poems which could
not well be catalogued elsewhere. The sixteenth contains that part
of the Planudean collection which does not occur in our copy of the
Anthology of Cephalas. It may be mentioned in conclusion that, with
one or two very inconsiderable exceptions, none of the poems of the
early Greek lyrists and Gnomic writers are received into the so-called

To the student of Greek history and Greek customs no section of the
Anthology is more interesting than that which includes the #epigrammata
anathêmatika#, the record of the public and the private votive
offerings in Hellas. Here, as in a scroll spread out before us, in the
silver language of the great Simonides,[165] may be read the history
of the achievements of the Greeks against Xerxes and his hosts. The
heroes of Marathon, the heroes of Thermopylæ, Megistias the soothsayer,
Leonidas the king, Pausanias the general, the seamen of Salamis, the
Athenian cavalry, the Spartans of Platæa--all receive their special
tribute of august celebration at the hands of the poet who best knew
how to suit simple words to splendid actions. Again, the #stêlê# which
commemorated in Athens the patriotic tyrannicide of Aristogeiton, the
statue of Pan which Miltiades after Marathon consecrated in honor of
his victory, the trophies erected by Pausanias at Delphi to Phoebus,
the altar to Zeus Eleutherios dedicated in common by all the Greeks,
the tripod sent to Delphi by Gelon and the other tyrants of Sicily
after their victory over the Carthaginians, for each and all of these
Simonides was called on to compose imperishable verse. Our heart
trembles even now when we read such lines as these:

    #ô xein' angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti têide
      keimetha tois keinôn rhêmasi peithomenoi.#[166]

And who does not feel that the grandeur of the occasion exalts above
all suspicion of prosiness the frigid simplicity of the following?

    #tonde poth' Hellênes rhômêi cheros, ergôi Arêos,
      eutolmôi psychês lêmati peithomenoi,
    Persas exelasantes, eleutheron Helladi kosmon
      hidrysanto Dios bômon Eleutheriou.#[167]

But it is not merely within the sphere of world-famous history that the
dedicatory epigrams are interesting. Multitudes of them introduce us
to the minutest facts of private life in Greece. We see the statues of
gods hung round with flowers and scrolls, the shrines filled with waxen
tablets, wayside chapels erected to Priapus or to Pan, the gods of the
shore honored with dripping clothes of mariners, the Paphian home of
Aphrodite rich with jewels and with mirrors and with silks suspended by
devout adorers of both sexes. A fashionable church in modern Italy--the
Annunziata at Florence, for example, or St. Anthony at Padua--is not
more crowded with pictures of people saved from accidents, with silver
hearts and waxen limbs, with ribbons and artificial flowers, with
rosaries and precious stones, and with innumerable objects that only
tell their tale of bygone vows to the votary who hung them there, than
were the temples of our Lady of Love in Cneidos or in Corinth. In the
epigrams before us we read how hunters hung their nets to Pan, and
fishermen their gear to Poseidon; gardeners their figs and pomegranates
to Priapus; blacksmiths their hammers and tongs to Hephæstus. Stags
are dedicated to Artemis and Phoebus, and corn-sheaves to Demeter, who
also receives the plough, the sickle, and the oxen of farmers. A poor
man offers the produce of his field to Pan; the first-fruits of the
vine are set aside for Bacchus and his crew of satyrs; Pallas obtains
the shuttle of a widow who resolves to quit her life of care and turn
to Aphrodite; the eunuch Alexis offers his cymbals, drums, flutes,
knife, and golden curls to Cybele. Phoebus is presented with a golden
cicada, Zeus with an old ash spear that has seen service, Ares with
a shield and cuirass. A poet dedicates roses to the maids of Helicon
and laurel-wreaths to Apollo. Scribes offer their pens and ink and
pumice-stone to Hermes; cooks hang up their pots and pans and spits to
the Mercury of the kitchen. Withered crowns and revel-cups are laid
upon the shrine of Lais; Anchises suspends his white hair to Aphrodite,
Endymion his bed and coverlet to Artemis, Daphnis his club to Pan.
Agathias inscribes his _Daphniaca_ to the Paphian queen. Prexidike has
an embroidered dress to dedicate. Alkibie offers her hair to Here,
Lais her mirror to Aphrodite, Krobylus his boy's curls to Apollo,
Charixeinos his long tresses to the nymphs. Meleager yields the lamp of
his love-hours to Venus; Lucillius vows his hair after shipwreck to the
sea-gods; Evanthe gives her thyrsus and stag's hide to Bacchus. Women
erect altars to Eleithuia and Asclepius after childbirth. Sophocles
dedicates a thanksgiving shrine for poetic victories. Simonides
and Bacchylides record their triumphs upon votive tablets. Gallus,
saved from a lion, consecrates his hair and vestments to the queen
of Dindymus. Prostitutes abandon their ornaments to Kupris on their
marriage. The effeminate Statullion bequeaths his false curls and
flutes and silken wardrobe to Priapus. Sailors offer a huge cuttlefish
to the sea-deities. An Isthmian victor suspends his bit, bridle, spurs,
and whip to Poseidon. A boy emerging into manhood leaves his petasos
and strigil and chlamys to Hermes, the god of games. Phryne dedicates
winged Eros as the first-fruits of her earnings. Hadrian celebrates the
trophies erected by Trajan to Zeus. Theocritus writes inscriptions for
Uranian Aphrodite in the house of his friend Amphicles, for the Bacchic
tripod of Damomenes, and for the marble muse of Xenocles. Erinna
dedicates the picture of Agatharkis. Melinna, Sabæthis, and Mikythus
are distinguished by poems placed beneath their portraits. There is
even a poem on the picture of a hernia dedicated apparently in some
Asclepian shrine; and a traveller erects the brazen image of a frog in
thanksgiving for a draught of wayside water. Cleonymus consecrates the
statues of the nymphs:

                          #hai tade benthê
    ambrosiai rhodeois steibete possin aei.#

    Ambrosial nymphs, who always tread these watery deeps with
        roseate feet.

It will be seen by this rapid enumeration that a good many of the
dedicatory epigrams are really epideictic or rhetorical; that is to
say, they are written on imaginary subjects. But the large majority
undoubtedly record such votive offerings as were common enough in
Greece with or without epigrams to grace them.

What I have just said about the distinction between real and literary
epigrams composed for dedications applies still more to the epitaphs.
These divide themselves into two well-marked classes: 1. Actual
sepulchral inscriptions or poems written immediately upon the death of
persons contemporary with the author; and, 2. Literary exercises in the
composition of verses appropriate to the tombs of celebrated historical
or mythical characters. To the first class belong the beautiful
epitaphs of Meleager upon Clearista (i. 307), upon Heliodora (i. 365),
upon Charixeinos, a boy twelve years old (i. 363), upon Antipater of
Sidon (i. 355), and the three which he designed for his own grave (i.
352). Callimachus has left some perfect models in this species of
composition. The epitaph on Heracleitus, a poet of Halicarnassus, which
has been exquisitely translated by the author of _Ionica_, has a grace
of movement and a tenderness of pathos that are unsurpassed:

    #eipe tis, Hêrakleite, teon moron, es de me dakry
      êgagen, emnêsthên d' hossakis amphoteroi
    hêlion en leschêi katedysamen; alla sy men pou,
      xein' Halikarnêseu, tetrapalai spodiê;
    hai de teai zôousin aêdones, hêisin ho pantôn
      harpaktês Aïdês ouk epi cheira balei.#[168]

His epitaph on the sea-wrecked Sopolis (i. 325), though less touching,
opens with a splendid note of sorrow:

    #ôphele mêd' egenonto thoai nees; ou gar an hêmeis
      paida Diokleidou Sôpolin estenomen;
    nyn d' ho men ein hali pou pheretai nekys; anti d' ekeinou
      ounoma kai keneon sêma parerchometha.#[169]

The following couplet upon Saon (i. 360) is marked by its perfection of

    #tâide Saôn ho Dikônos Akanthios hieron hypnon
      koimatai; thnaskein mê lege tous agathous.#[170]

Among the genuine epitaphs by the greatest of Greek authors, none is
more splendid than Plato's upon Aster (i. 402):

    #Astêr prin men elampes eni zôoisin Heôios;
      nyn de thanôn lampeis Hesperos en phthimenois.#[171]

To Plato is also ascribed a fine monumental epigram upon the Eretrian
soldiers who died at Ecbatana (i. 322):

    #hoide pot' Aigaioio barybromon oidma lipontes
      Ekbatanôn pediôi keimeth' eni mesatôi.
    chaire klytê pote patris Eretria; chairet' Athênai
      geitones Euboiês; chaire thalassa philê.#[172]

Erinna's epitaph on Baucis (i. 409) deserves quotation, because it
is one of the few pieces accepted by the later Greeks, but probably
without due cause, as belonging to a girl whose elegiacs were rated by
the ancients above Sappho's:

    #stalai kai Seirênes emai kai penthime krôsse
      hostis echeis Aïda tan oligan spodian,
    tois emon erchomenoisi par' êrion eipate chairein,
      ait' astoi telethônt' aith' heteras polios;
    chôti me nymphan eusan echei taphos eipate kai to;
      chôti patêr m' ekalei Baukida chôti genos
    Tênia, hôs eidônti; kai hotti moi ha synetairis
      Êrinn' en tymbôi gramm' echaraxe tode.#[173]

Sappho herself has left the following lament for the maiden Timas (i.

    #Timados hade konis, tan dê pro gamoio thanousan
      dexato Phersephonas kyaneos thalamos,
    has kai apophthimenas pasai neothagi sidarôi
      halikes himertan kratos ethento koman.#[174]

In each of these epitaphs the untimely fading of a flower-like maiden
in her prime has roused the deepest feeling of the poetess. This,
indeed, is the chord which rings most truly in the sepulchral lyre of
the Greeks. Their most genuine sorrow is for youth cut off before the
joys of life were tasted. This sentiment receives, perhaps, its most
pathetic though least artistic expression in the following anonymous
epitaph on a young man. The mother's love and anguish are set forth
with a vividness which we should scarcely have expected from a Greek
(i. 336):

    #nêlees ô daimon, ti de moi kai phengos edeixas
      eis oligôn eteôn metra minynthadia?
    ê hina lypêsêis di' emên biotoio teleutên
      mêtera deilaiên dakrysi kai stonachais,
    hê m' etech' hê m' atitêle kai hê poly meizona patros
      phrontida paideiês ênysen hêmeterês?
    hos men gar tytthon te kai orphanon en megaroisi
      kallipen; hê d' ep' emoi pantas etlê kamatous.
    ê men emoi philon êen eph' hagnôn hêgemonêôn
      emprepemen mythois amphi dikaspolias;
    alla moi ou genyôn epedexato kourimon anthos
      hêlikiês eratês, ou gamon, ou daïdas;
    ouch hymenaion aeise periklyton, ou tekos eide,
      dyspotmos, ek geneês leipsanon hêmeterês,
    tês polythrênêtou; lypei de me kai tethneôta
      mêtros Pôlittês penthos aexomenon,
    Phrontônos goerais epi phrontisin, hê teke paida
      ôkymoron, keneon charma philês patridos.#$1

The common topic of consolation in these cases of untimely death is
the one which Shakespeare has expressed in the dirge for Fidele, and
D'Urfey in his dirge for Chrysostom by these four lines:

    Whilst we that pine in life's disease,
      Uncertain-blessed, less happy are.

Lucian, speaking of a little boy who died at five years of age (i.
332), makes him cry:

    #alla me mê klaiois; kai gar biotoio meteschon
      paurou kai paurôn tôn biotoio kakôn.#

A little girl in another epitaph (i. 366) says to her father:

                      #ischeo lypas,
    Theiodote; thnatoi pollaki dystychees.#

A young man, dying in the prime of life, is even envied by Agathias (i.

    #empês olbios houtos, hos en neotêti marantheis
      ekphyge tên biotou thasson alitrosynên.#

But it is not often that we hear in the Greek Anthology a strain of
such pure and Christian music as this apocryphal epitaph on Prote:

    #ouk ethanes, Prôtê, metebês d' es ameinona chôron,
    kai naieis makarôn nêsous thaliêi eni pollêi,
    entha kat' Êlysiôn pediôn skirtôsa gegêthas
    anthesin en malakoisi, kakôn ektosthen hapantôn;
    ou cheimôn lypei s', ou kaum', ou nousos enochlei,
    ou peinêis, ou dipsos echei s'; all' oude potheinos
    anthrôpôn eti soi biotos; zôeis gar amemptôs
    augais en katharaisin Olympou plêsion ontos.#[176]

Death at sea touched the Greek imagination with peculiar vividness.
That a human body should toss, unburied, unhonored, on the waves,
seemed to them the last indignity. Therefore the epitaphs on Satyrus
(i. 348), who exclaims,

    #keinôi dinêenti kai atrygetôi eti keimai
      hydati mainomenôi memphomenos Boreêi,#

and on Lysidike (i. 328), of whom Zenocritus writes,

    #chaitai sou stazousin eth' halmyra dysmore kourê
      nauêge phthimenês ein hali Lysidikê,#

and on the three athletes who perished by shipwreck (i. 342), have a
mournful wail of their own. Not very different, too, is the pathos of
Therimachus struck by lightning (i. 306):

    #automatai deilêi poti taulion hai boes êlthon
      ex oreos pollêi niphomenai chioni;
    aiai, Thêrimachos de para dryï ton makron heudei
      hypnon; ekoimêthê d' ek pyros ouraniou.#[177]

It is pleasant to turn from these to epitaphs which dwell more upon the
qualities of the dead than the circumstances of their death. Here is
the epitaph of a slave (i. 379):

    #Zôsimê hê prin eousa monôi tôi sômati doulê
      kai tôi sômati nyn heuren eleutheriên.#[178]

Here is a buffoon (i. 380):

    #Nêleiês Aïdês; epi soi d' egelasse thanonti,
      Tityre, kai nekyôn thêke se mimologon.#[179]

Perhaps the most beautiful of all the sepulchral epigrams is one by an
unknown writer, of which I here give a free paraphrase (_Anth. Pal._
vii. 346):

    Of our great love, Parthenophil,
    This little stone abideth still
              Sole sign and token:
    I seek thee yet, and yet shall seek,
    Though faint mine eyes, my spirit weak
              With prayers unspoken.

    Meanwhile, best friend of friends, do thou,
    If this the cruel fates allow
              By death's dark river,
    Among those shadowy people, drink
    No drop for me on Lethe's brink:
              Forget me never!

Of all the literary epitaphs, by far the most interesting are those
written for the poets, historians, and philosophers of Greece.
Reserving these for separate consideration, I pass now to mention a few
which belong as much to the pure epigram as to the epitaph. When, for
example, we read two very clever poems on the daughters of Lycambes
(i. 339), two again on a comically drunken old woman (i. 340, 360),
and five on a man who has been first murdered and then buried by his
murderer (i. 340), we see that, though the form of the epitaph has been
adopted, clever rhetoricians, anxious only to display their skill, have
been at work in rivalry. Sardanapalus, the eponym of Oriental luxury,
furnishes a good subject for this style of composition. His epitaph
runs thus in the Appendix Planudea (ii. 532):

    #eu eidôs hoti thnêtos ephys, ton thymon aexe
    terpomenos thaliêisi; thanonti soi outis onêsis;
    kai gar egô spodos eimi, Ninou megalês basileusas.
    toss' echô hoss' ephagon kai ephybrisa, kai met' erôtos
    terpn' edaên; ta de polla kai olbia keina leleiptai.
    hêde sophê biotoio parainesis anthrôpoisin.#[180]

We find only the fourth and fifth lines among the sepulchral epigrams
of the Anthology of Cephalas (i. 334), followed by a clever parody
composed by the Theban Crates. Demetrius, the Spartan coward, is
another instance of this rhetorical exercise. Among the two or three
which treat of him I quote the following (i. 317):

    #hanik' apo ptolemou tressanta se dexato matêr,
      panta ton hoplistan kosmon olôlekota,
    auta toi phonian, Damatrie, autika lonchan
      eipe dia plateôn ôsamena lagonôn;
    katthane, mêd' echetô Sparta psogon; ou gar ekeina
      êmplaken, ei deilous toumon ethrepse gala.#[181]

Agathias writes a very characteristic elegy on Lais (i. 315):

    #herpôn eis Ephyrên taphon edrakon amphi keleuthon
      Laïdos archaiês, hôs to charagma legei;
    dakry d' epispeisas, chairois gynai, ek gar akouês;
      oikteirô se g', ephên, hên paros ouk idomên;
    a poson êïtheôn noon êkaches; all' ide Lêthên
      naieis, aglaïên en chthoni katthemenê.#[182]

An epitaph on the inutility of epitaphs is an excellent novelty,
especially when the witty poet (Paulus Silentiarius) has the humor to
make the ghost eager to speak while the wayfarer is inattentive (i.

    #ounoma moi. ti de touto? patris de moi. es ti de touto?
      kleinou d' eimi genous. ei gar aphaurotatou?
    zêsas d' endoxôs elipon bion. ei gar adoxôs?
      keimai d' enthade nyn. tis tini tauta legeis?#[183]

The value of the epitaphs on poets and great men of Greece is
this--that, besides being in many cases of almost perfect beauty,
they contain the quintessence of ancient criticism. Every epithet is
carefully so chosen as to express what the Greeks thought peculiar and
appropriate to the spirit and the works of their heroes.

Orpheus is the subject of the following exquisite elegy by Antipater of
Sidon (i. 274):

    #ouketi thelgomenas, Orpheu, dryas, ouketi petras
      axeis, ou thêrôn autonomous agelas;
    ouketi koimaseis anemôn bromon, ouchi chalazan,
      ou niphetôn syrmous ou patageusan hala.
    ôleo gar; se de polla katôdyranto thygatres
      Mnamosynas, matêr d' exocha Kalliopa;
    ti phthimenois stonacheumen eph' hyiasin, hanik' alalkein
      tôn paidôn Aïdên oude theois dynamis?#[184]

Sophocles receives a gift of flowers and ivy, and quiet sleep from
Simmias the Theban (i. 277):

    #êrem' hyper tymboio Sophokleos, êrema, kisse,
      herpyzois, chloerous ekprocheôn plokamous,
    kai petalon pantê thalloi rhodon, hê te philorrhôx
      ampelos, hygra perix klêmata cheuamenê,
    heineken euepiês pinytophronos, hên ho melichros
      êskêsen Mouseôn ammiga kak Charitôn.#[185]

Among the nine epitaphs on Euripides none is more delicate than the
following by Ion (i. 282):

    #chaire melampetalois, Euripidê, en gyaloisi;
      Pierias ton aei nyktos echôn thalamon;
    isthi d' hypo chthonos ôn, hoti soi kleos aphthiton estai
      ison Homêreiais aenaois charisin.#[186]

Where could a poet be better lulled to rest than among the black-leaved
hollows of Pieria? But the most touching tribute to Euripides is from
the pen of a brother dramatist, the comic poet Philemon (ii. 94):

    #ei tais alêtheiaisin hoi tethnêkotes
    aisthêsin eichon, andres hôs phasin tines,
    apênxamên an hôst' idein Euripidên.#[187]

Aristophanes is praised by Antipater of Thessalonica (ii. 37) as the
poet who laughed and hated rightly:

    #kômike kai styxas axia kai gelasas.#

His plays are characterized as full of fearful graces, #phoberôn
plêthomenoi charitôn#. Over the grave of Anacreon, who receives more
tributes of this kind than any other poet, roses are to bloom, and wine
is to be poured, and the thoughts of Smerdies, Bathyllus, and Megistias
are to linger. Antipater of Sidon in particular paid honor to his grave
(i. 278):

    #thalloi tetrakorymbos, Anakreon, amphi se kissos
      habra te leimônôn porphyreôn petala;
    pêgai d' arginoentos anathlibointo galaktos,
      euôdes d' apo gês hêdy cheoito methy,
    ophra ke toi spodiê te kai ostea terpsin arêtai,
      ei dê tis phthimenois chrimptetai euphrosyna,
    ô to philon sterxas, phile, barbiton, ô syn aoidâi
      panta diaplôsas kai syn erôti bion.#[188]

The same poet begins another epitaph thus:

    #tymbos Anakreiontos; ho Têïos enthade kyknos
      heudei chê paidôn zôrotatê maniê.#

Less cheerful are the sepulchres of the satirists. We are bidden not to
wake the sleeping wasp upon the grave of Hipponax (i. 350):

    #ô xeine, pheuge ton chalazepê taphon
    ton phrikton Hippônaktos, houte cha tephra
    iambiazei Boupaleion es stygos,
    mê pôs egeirêis sphêka ton koimômenon,
    hos oud' en hâidêi nyn kekoimiken cholon,
    skazousi metrois ortha toxeusas epê.#[189]

The same thought is repeated with even more of descriptive energy in an
epitaph on Archilochus (i. 287):

    #sêma tod' Archilochou parapontion, hos pote pikrên
      mousan echidnaiôi prôtos ebapse cholôi,
    haimaxas Helikôna ton hêmeron; oide Lykambês
      myromenos trissôn hammata thygaterôn;
    êrema dê parameipson, hodoipore, mê pote toude
      kinêsêis tymbôi sphêkas ephezomenous.#[190]

Diogenes offers similar opportunities for clever writing. The best of
his epitaphs is this well-known but anonymous dialogue (i. 285):

    #eipe, kyon, tinos andros ephestôs sêma phylasseis?
      tou kynos. alla tis ên houtos anêr ho Kyôn?
    Diogenês. genos eipe. Sinôpeus. hos pithon ôikei?
      kai mala; nyn de thanôn asteras oikon echei.#[191]

The epitaphs on Erinna, who died when she was only nineteen, are
charged with the thought which so often recurs when we reflect on
poets, like Chatterton, untimely slain--what would not they have done,
if they had lived? (i. 275):

    #ho glykys Êrinnês houtos ponos, ouchi polys men
      hôs an parthenikas enneakaideketeus,
    all' heterôn pollôn dynatôteros; ei d' Aïdas hoi
      mê tachys êlthe, tis an talikon esch' onoma?#[192]

Sappho rouses a louder strain of celebration (i. 276):

    #Sapphô toi keutheis chthôn Aioli tan meta Mousais
      athanatais thnatan Mousan aeidomenan,
    han Kypris kai Erôs syn ham' etraphon, has meta Peithô
      eplek' aeizôon Pieridôn stephanon,
    Helladi men terpsin, soi de kleos; ô trielikton
      Moirai dineusai nêma kat' êlakatas,
    pôs ouk eklôsasthe panaphthiton êmar aoidôi
      aphthita mêsamena dôr' Helikôniadôn?#[193]

This is the composition of Antipater of Sidon, who excels in this
special style. Without losing either the movement or the passion of
poetry, he is always delicate and subtle in his judgments. His epigrams
on Pindar are full of fire (i. 280):

    #Pierikan salpinga, ton euageôn baryn hymnôn
      chalkeutan, katechei Pindaron hade konis,
    hou melos eisaïôn phthenxaio ken, hôs pote Mousôn
      en Kadmou thalamois smênos aneplasato.#[194]

The very quintessence of criticism is contained in the phrases
#salpinx#, #chalkeutas#. The Appendix Planudea (ii. 590) contains
another epitaph on Pindar by Antipater, which for its beautiful
presentation of two legends connected with his life deserves to be

    #nebreiôn hoposon salpinx hyperiachen aulôn,
      tosson hyper pasas ekrage seio chelys;
    oude matên hapalois peri cheilesin esmos ekeinos
      eplase kêrodeton, Pindare, seio meli.
    martys ho Mainalios keroeis theos hymnon aeisas
      ton seo kai nomiôn lêsamenos donakôn.#[195]

It is impossible to do justice to all these utterances on the early
poets. Æschylus (i. 281):

    #ho tragikon phônêma kai ophryoessan aoidên
      pyrgôsas stibarêi prôtos en euepiêi.#

Alcman (i. 277):

    #ton charient' Alkmana, ton hymnêtêr' hymenaiôn
      kyknon, ton Mousôn axia melpsamenon.#

Stesichorus (ii. 36):

            #Homêrikon hos t' apo rheuma
    espasas oikeiois, Stêsichor', en kamatois.#

Ibycus (ii. 36):

                        #hêdy te Peithous,
    Ibyke, kai paidôn anthos amêsamene.#

Enough has been quoted to show the delicate and appreciative criticism
of the later and lighter Greek poets for the earlier and grander. It is
also consolatory to find that almost no unknown great ones are praised
in these epigrams; whence we may conclude that the masterpieces of
Greek literature are almost as numerous now as they were in the age of
Nero. The philosophers receive their due meed of celebration. Plato can
boast of two splendid anonymous epitaphs (i. 285):

    #gaia men en kolpois kryptei tode sôma Platônos,
      psychê d' athanaton taxin echei makarôn.#


    #aiete, tipte bebêkas hyper taphon? ê tinos, eipe,
      asteroenta theôn oikon aposkopeeis?
    psychês eimi Platônos apoptamenês es Olympon
      eikôn; sôma de gê gêgenes Atthis echei.#[196]

It is curious to find both Thucydides (ii. 119) and Lycophron (ii. 38)
characterized by their difficulty.

Closely allied in point of subject to many of the epitaphs are the
so-called hortatory epigrams, #epigrammata protreptika#. These consist
partly of advice to young men and girls to take while they may the
pleasures of the moment, partly of wise saws and maxims borrowed from
the Stoics and the Cynics, from Euripides and the comic poets. Lucian
and Palladas are the two most successful poets in this style. Palladas,
whose life falls in the first half of the fifth century, a pagan, who
regarded with disgust the establishment of Christianity, attained
by a style of "elegant mediocrity" to the perfection of proverbial
philosophy in verse. When we remember that the works of Euripides,
Menander, Philemon, Theophrastus, and the Stoics were mines from which
to quarry sentiments about the conduct of life, we understand the
general average of excellence below which he rarely falls and above
which he never rises. Yet in this section, as in the others of the
Anthology, some of the anonymous epigrams are the best. Here is one
(ii. 251):

    #eis aïdên itheia katêlysis, eit' ap' Athênôn
    steichois, eite nekys, niseai ek Meroês;
    mê se g' aniatô patrês apotêle thanonta;
    pantothen heis ho pherôn eis aïdên anemos.#[197]

Here is another, which repeats the old proverb of the cup and the lip
(ii. 257):

    #polla metaxy pelei kylikos kai cheileos akrou.#

And another, on the difference between the leaders and the followers in
the pomp of life (ii. 270):

    #polloi toi narthêkophoroi pauroi de te bakchoi.#

Equally without author's name is the following excellent prayer (ii.

    #Zeu basileu ta men esthla kai euchomenois kai aneuktois
    ammi didou; ta de lygra kai euchomenôn aperykois.#[198]

Lucian gives the following good advice on the use of wealth (ii. 256):

    #hôs tethnêxomenos tôn sôn agathôn apolaue,
      hôs de biôsomenos pheideo sôn kteanôn;
    esti d' anêr sophos houtos hos amphô tauta noêsas
      pheidoi kai dapanêi metron ephêrmosato.#[199]

Agathias asks why we need fear death (ii. 264):

    #ton thanaton ti phobeisthe, ton hêsychiês genetêra,
      ton pauonta nosous kai peniês odynas?
    mounon hapax thnêtois paraginetai, oude pot' auton
      eiden tis thnêtôn deuteron erchomenon;
    hai de nosoi pollai kai poikilai, allot' ep' allon
      erchomenai thnêtôn kai metaballomenai.#[200]

The remainder of my quotations from this section will all be taken from
Palladas. Here is his version of the proverb attributed to Democritus
that life's a stage (ii. 265):

    #skênê pas ho bios kai paignion; ê mathe paizein
      tên spoudên metatheis ê phere tas odynas.#[201]

Here, again, is the old complaint that man is Fortune's plaything (ii.

    #paignion esti tychês meropôn bios, oiktros, alêtês,
      ploutou kai peniês messothi rhembomenos.
    kai tous men katagousa palin sphairêdon aeirei,
      tous d' apo tôn nephelôn eis aïdên katagei.#[202]

Here again, but cadenced in iambics, is the Flight of Time (ii. 266):

    #ô tês bracheias hêdonês tês tou biou;
    tên oxytêta tou chronou penthêsate;
    hêmeis kathezomestha kai koimômetha,
    mochthountes ê tryphôntes; ho de chronos trechei,
    trechei kath' hêmôn tôn talaipôrôn brotôn,
    pherôn hekastou tôi biôi katastrophên.#[203]

The next epigram is literally bathed in tears (ii. 267):

    #dakrycheôn genomên kai dakrysas apothnêskô;
      dakrysi d' en pollois ton bion heuron holon.
    ô genos anthrôpôn polydakryton, asthenes, oiktron,
      phainomenon kata gês kai dialyomenon.#[204]

When he chooses to be cynical, Palladas can present the physical
conditions of human life with a crude brutality which is worthy of a
monk composing a chapter _De contemptu humanæ miseriæ_. It is enough
to allude to the epigrams upon the birth (ii. 259) and the breath (ii.
265) of man. To this had philosophy fallen in the death of Greece. One
more quotation from Palladas has a touch of pathos. The old order has
yielded to the new: Theodosius has closed the temples: the Greeks are
in ashes: their very hopes remain among the dead (ii. 268):

    #Hellênes esmen andres espodômenoi,
    nekrôn echontes elpidas tethammenas;
    anestraphê gar panta nyn ta pragmata.#

With this wail the thin, lamentable voice of the desiccated rhetorician

Akin to these hortatory epigrams, in their tone of settled melancholy,
are some of the satiric and convivial. It is necessary, when we think
of the Greeks as the brightest and sunniest of all races, to remember
what songs they sang at their banquets, and to comfort ourselves with
the reflection that between their rose-wreaths and the bright Hellenic
sky above them hung for them, no less than for ourselves, the cloud of

What more dismal drinking-song can be conceived than this? (i. 337):

    #ouden hamartêsas genomên para tôn me tekontôn;
      gennêtheis d' ho talas erchomai eis Aïdên;
    ô mixis goneôn thanatêphoros; ômoi anankês
      hê me prospelasei tôi stygerôi thanatôi;
    ouden eôn genomên; palin essomai hôs paros ouden;
      ouden kai mêden tôn meropôn to genos;
    leipon moi to kypellon apostilbôson, hetaire,
      kai lypês akonên ton Bromion pareche.#[205]

The good sense of Cephalas placed it among the epitaphs; for, in truth,
it is the quintessence of the despair of the grave. Yet its last
couplet forces us to drag it from the place of tombs, and put it into
the mouth of some late reveller of the decadence of Hellas. It has to
my ear the ring of a drinking-song sung in a room with closed shutters,
after the guests have departed, by some sad companion who does not
know that the dawn has gone forth and the birds are aloft in the air.
The shadow of night is upon him. Though Christ be risen and the sun of
hope is in the sky, he is still as cheerless as Mimnermus. If space
sufficed, it would be both interesting and profitable to compare this
mood of the epigrammatists with that expressed by Omar Khayyám, the
Persian poet of Khorassan, in whose quatrains philosophy, melancholy,
and the sense of beauty are so wonderfully mingled that to surpass
their pathos is impossible in verse.[206] Here is another of the same
tone (ii. 287):

    #êôs ex êous parapempetai, eit' amelountôn
      hêmôn exaiphnês hêxei ho porphyreos,
    kai tous men têxas, tous d' optêsas, enious de
      physêsas axei pantas es hen barathron.#[207]

And another with a more delicate ring of melancholy in the last couplet
(ii. 289):

    #hypnôeis ô 'taire; to de skyphos auto boâi se;
      egreo, mê terpou moiridiêi meletêi;
    mê pheisêi Diodôre; labros d' eis Bakchon olisthôn
      achris epi sphalerou zôropotei gonatos;
    esseth' hot' ou piomestha, polys polys; all' ag' epeigou.
      hê synetê krotaphôn haptetai hêmeterôn.#[208]

And yet another (ii. 294), which sounds like the Florentine Carnival
Song composed by Lorenzo de' Medici--

    Chi vuol esser lieto sia;
    Di doman non è certezza--

    #pine kai euphrainou; ti gar aurion ê ti to mellon
      oudeis ginôskei; mê treche, mê kopia;
    hôs dynasai, charisai, metados, phage, thnêta logizou;
      to zên tou mê zên ouden holôs apechei;
    pas ho bios toiosde rhopê monon; an prolabêis sou
      an de thanêis heterou panta; sy d' ouden echeis.#[209]

But the majority of the #epigrammata skôptika#, or jesting epigrams,
are not of this kind. They are written for the most part, in Roman
style, on ugly old women, misers, stupid actors, doctors to dream of
whom is death, bad painters, poets who kill you with their elegies,
men so light that the wind carries them about like stubble, or so thin
that a gossamer is strong enough to strangle them; vices, meannesses,
deformities of all kinds. Lucillius, a Greek Martial of the age of
Nero, is both best and most prolific in this kind of composition.
But of all the sections of the Anthology this is certainly the least
valuable. The true superiority of Greek to Latin literature in all
its species is that it is far more a work of pure beauty, of unmixed
poetry. In Lucillius the Hellenic muse has deigned for once to assume
the Roman toga, and to show that if she chose she could rival the
hoarse-throated satirists of the empire on their own ground. But she
has abandoned her lofty eminence, and descended to a lower level. The
same may be said in brief about the versified problems and riddles
(ii. pp. 467-490), which are not much better than elegant acrostics
of this or the last century. It must, however, be remarked that the
last-mentioned section contains a valuable collection of Greek oracles.

Of all the amatory poets of the Anthology, by far the noblest is
Meleager. He was a native of Gadara in Palestine, as he tells us in an
epitaph composed in his old age:

                        #patra de me teknoi
    Atthis en Assyriois naiomena, Gadara.#[210]

It is curious to think of this town, which from our childhood we have
connected with the miracle of the demoniac and the swine, as a Syrian
Athens, the birthplace of the most mellifluous of all erotic songsters.
Meleager's date is half a century or thereabouts before the Christian
era. He therefore was ignorant of the work and the words of One who
made the insignificant place of his origin world-famous. Of his history
we know really nothing more than his own epigrams convey; the two
following couplets from one of his epitaphs record his sojourn during
different periods of his life at Tyre and at Ceos:

    #hon theopais êndrôse Tyros Gadarôn th' hiera chthôn;
      Kôs d' eratê Meropôn presbyn egêrotrophei.
    All' ei men Syros essi, Salam; ei d' oun syge Phoinix,
      Naidios; ei d' Hellên, chaire; to d' auto phrason.#[211]

This triple salutation, coming from the son of Gadara and Tyre and
Ceos, brings us close to the pure humanity which distinguished
Meleager. Modern men, judging him by the standard of Christian
morality, may feel justified in flinging a stone at the poet who
celebrated his Muiscos and his Diocles, his Heliodora and his
Zenophila, in too voluptuous verse. But those who are content to
criticise a pagan by his own rule of right and wrong will admit that
Meleager had a spirit of the subtlest and the sweetest, a heart of the
tenderest, and a genius of the purest that has been ever granted to
an elegist of earthly love. While reading his verse, it is impossible
to avoid laying down the book and pausing to exclaim: How modern
is the phrase, how true the passion, how unique the style! Though
Meleager's voice has been mute a score of centuries, it yet rings
clear and vivid in our ears; because the man was a real poet, feeling
intensely, expressing forcibly and beautifully, steeping his style in
the fountain of tender sentiment which is eternal. We find in him none
of the cynicism which defiles Straton, or of the voluptuary's despair
which gives to Agathias the morbid splendor of decay, the colors of
corruption. All is simple, lively, fresh with joyous experience in his

The first great merit of Meleager as a poet is limpidity. A crystal
is not more transparent than his style; but the crystal to which we
compare it must be colored with the softest flush of beryl or of
amethyst. Here is a little poem in praise of Heliodora (i. 85):

    #plexô leukoïon, plexô d' hapalên hama myrtois
      narkisson, plexô kai ta gelônta krina,
    plexô kai krokon hêdyn; epiplexô d' hyakinthon
      porphyreên, plexô kai philerasta rhoda,
    hôs an epi krotaphois myrobostrychou Hêliodôras
      euplokamon chaitên anthobolêi stephanos.#[212]

Nothing can be more simple than the expression, more exquisite than
the cadence of these lines. The same may be said about the elegy on
Cleariste (i. 307):

    #ou gamon all' Aïdan epinymphidion Klearista
      dexato, parthenias hammata lyomena;
    arti gar hesperioi nymphas epi diklisin acheun
      lôtoi kai thalamôn eplatageunto thyrai;
    êôioi d' ololygmon anekragon, ek d' Hymenaios
      sigatheis goeron phthegma metharmosato;
    hai d' autai kai phengos edâidouchoun para pastôi
      peukai, kai phthimenâi nerthen ephainon hodon.#[213]

The thought of this next epigram recalls the song to Ageanax in
Theocritus's seventh idyl (ii. 402):

    #ourios empneusas nautais Notos, ô dyserôtes,
      hêmisy meu psychas harpasen Andragathon;
    tris makares naes, tris d' olbia kymata pontou,
      tetraki d' eudaimôn paidophorôn anemos;
    eith' eiên delphis hin' emois bastaktos ep' ômois
      porthmeutheis esidêi tan glykypaida Rhodon.#[214]

These quotations are sufficient to set forth the purity of Meleager's
style, though many more examples might have been borrowed from his
epigrams on the cicada, on the mosquitoes who tormented Zenophila, on
Antiochus, who would have been Eros if Eros had worn the boy's petasos
and chlamys. The next point to notice about him is the suggestiveness
of his language, his faculty of creating the right epithets and turning
the perfect phrase that suits his meaning. The fragrance of the second
line in this couplet is undefinable but potent:

    #ô dyserôs psychê pausai pote kai di' oneirôn
      eidôlois kalleus kôpha chliainomenê.#[215]

It is what all day-dreamers and castle-builders, not to speak of the
dreamers of the night, must fain cry out in their despair. The common
motive of a lover pledging his absent mistress is elevated to a region
of novel beauty by the passionate repetition of words in this first

    #enchei kai palin eipe palin palin Hêliodôras.#[216]

In the same way a very old thought receives new exquisiteness the last
couplet of the epitaph on Heliodora:

    #alla se gounoumai Ga pantrophe tan panodyrton
      êrema sois kolpois mater enankalisai.#[217]

The invocation to Night, which I will next quote, has its own beauty
derived from the variety of images which are subtly and capriciously

    #hen tode pammêteira theôn litomai se philê Nyx
      nai litomai kômôn symplane potnia Nyx.#[218]

But Meleager's epithets for Love are, perhaps, the triumphs of his
verbal coinage:

    #esti d' ho pais glykydakrys aeilalos ôkys atarbês
      sima gelôn pteroeis nôta pharetrophoros.#[219]

Again he calls him #habropedilos erôs# (delicate-sandalled Love) and
fashions words like #psychapatês#, #hypnapatês# (soul-cheating and
sleep-cheating), to express the qualities of the treacherous god. In
some of his metaphorical descriptions of passion he displays a really
fervid imagination. To this class of creation belong the poem on the
Soul's thirst (ii. 414), on the memory of beauty that lives like a
fiery image in the heart (ii. 413), and the following splendid picture
of the tyranny of Love. He is addressing his Soul, who has once again
incautiously been trapped by Eros:

                        #ti matên eni desmois
      spaireis? autos erôs ta ptera sou dedeken,
    kai s' epi pyr estêse, myrois d' errane lipopnoun,
      dôke de dipsôsêi dakrya therma piein.#[220]

Surely a more successful marriage of romantic fancy to classic form was
never effected even by a modern poet. This line again contains a bold
and splendid metaphor:

    #kômazô d' ouk oinon hypo phrena pyr de gemistheis.#[221]

Meleager had a soul that inclined to all beautiful and tender things.
Having described the return of spring in a prolonged chant of joy, he
winds up with words worthy of a troubadour on Minnesinger in the April
of a new age:

    #pôs ou chrê kai aoidon en eiari kalon aeisai?#[222]

The cicada, #droserais stagonessi methystheis# (drunken with
honey-drops of dew), the #autophyes mimêma lyras# (nature's own
mimic of the lyre)--a conceit, by the way, in the style of Marini
or of Calderon--the bee whom he addresses as #anthodiaite melissa#
(flower-pasturing bee), and all the flowers for which he has found
exquisite epithets, the #philombros narkissos# (narcissus that loves
the rain of heaven), the #philerasta rhoda# (roses to lovers dear),
the #ouresiphoita krina# (lilies that roam the mountain-sides), and
again #ta gelônta krina# (laughing lilies), testify to the passionate
love and to the purity of heart with which he greeted and studied
the simplest beauties of the world.[223] In dealing with flowers he
is particularly felicitous. Most exquisite are the lines in which he
describes his garland of the Greek poets and assigns to each some
favorite of the garden or the field, and again those other couplets
which compare the boys of Tyre to a bouquet culled by love for
Aphrodite. #Baia men alla rhoda# (slight things perhaps, but roses):
these are the words in which Meleager describes the too few but
precious verses of Sappho, and for his own poetry they have a peculiar
propriety. #Teai zôousin aêdones#, (thy nightingales still live) we may
say, quoting Callimachus, when we take leave of him. His poetry has the
sweetness and the splendor of the rose, the rapture and full-throated
melody of the nightingale.

Next in artistic excellence to Meleager among the amatory poets is
Straton, a Greek of Sardis, who lived in the second century. But
there are few readers who, even for the sake of his pure and perfect
language, will be prepared to put up with the immodesty of his
subject-matter. Straton is not so delicate and subtle in style as
Meleager; but he has a masculine vigor and _netteté_ of phrase peculiar
to himself. It is not possible to quote many of his epigrams. He
suffers the neglect which necessarily obscures those men of genius who
misuse their powers. Yet the story of the garland-weaver (ii. 396), and
the address to schoolmasters (ii. 219), are too clever to be passed by
without notice. The following epigram on a picture of Ganymede gives a
very fair notion of Straton's style (ii. 425):

    #steiche pros aithera dion, apercheo paida komizôn
      aiete, tas diphyeis ekpetasas pterygas,
    steiche ton habron echôn Ganymêdea, mêde metheiês
      ton Dios hêdistôn oinochoon kylikôn;
    pheideo d' haimaxai kouron gampsônychi tarsôi
      mê Zeus algêsêi touto barynomenos.#[224]

To this may be added an exhortation to pleasure in despite of death
(ii. 288).[225]

Callimachus deserves mention as a third with Meleager and Straton. His
style, drier than that of Meleager, more elevated than Straton's, is
marked by a frigidity of good scholarship which only at intervals warms
into the fire of passionate poetry. In writing epigrams Callimachus was
careful to preserve the pointed character of the composition. He did
not merely, as is the frequent wont of Meleager, indite a short poem in
elegiacs. This being the case, his love poems, though they are many,
are not equal to his epitaphs.

To mention all the poets of the amatory chapters would be impossible.
Their name is legion. Even Plato the divine, by right of this epigram
to Aster:

    #asteras eisathreis astêr emos; eithe genoimên
      ouranos hôs pollois ommasin eis se blepô--#[226]

and of this to Agathon:

    #tên psychên Agathôna philôn epi cheilesin eschon;
      êlthe gar hê tlêmôn hôs diabêsomenê--#[227]

takes rank in the erotic cycle. Yet we may touch in passing on the
names of Philodemus and Antipater, the former a native of Gadara, the
latter a Sidonian, whose epitaph was composed by Meleager. Their poems
help to complete the picture of Syrian luxury and culture in the cities
of North Palestine, which we gain when reading Meleager. Of Philodemus
the liveliest epigram is a dialogue, which seems to have come straight
from the pages of some comedy (i. 68); but the majority of his verses
belong to that class of literature which finds its illustration in the
Gabinetto Segreto of the Neapolitan Museum. Occasionally he strikes a
true note of poetry, as in this invocation to the moon:

    #nykterinê dikerôs philopannyche phaine selênê,
      phaine di' eutrêtôn ballomenê thyridôn;
    augaze chryseên Kallistion; es ta phileuntôn
      erga katopteuein ou phthonos athanatêi.
    olbizeis kai tênde kai hêmeas oida selênê;
      kai gar sên psychên ephlegen Endymiôn.#[228]

Antipater shines less in his erotic poems than in the numerous epigrams
which he composed on the earlier Greek poets, especially on Anacreon,
Erinna, Sappho, Pindar, Ibycus. He lived at a period when the study of
the lyrists was still flourishing, and each of his couplets contains a
fine and thoughtful piece of descriptive criticism.

Another group of amatory poets must be mentioned. Agathias, Macedonius,
and Paulus Silentiarius, Greeks of Byzantium about the age of
Justinian, together with Rufinus, whose date is not quite certain,
yield the very last fruits of the Greek genius, after it had been
corrupted by the lusts of Rome and the effeminacy of the East. Very
pale and hectic are the hues which give a sort of sickly beauty to
their style. Their epigrams vary between querulous lamentations over
old age and death and highly colored pictures of self-satisfied
sensuality. Rufinus is a kind of second Straton in the firmness of
his touch, the cynicism of his impudicity. The complaint of Agathias
to the swallows that twittered at his window in early dawn (i. 102),
his description of Rhodanthe and the vintage feast (ii. 297),[229] and
those lines in which he has anticipated Jonson's lyric on the kiss
which made the wine within the cup inebriating (i. 107), may be quoted
as fair specimens of his style. Of Paulus Silentiarius I do not care
to allude to more than the poem in which he describes the joy of two
lovers (i. 106). What Ariosto and Boiardo have dwelt on in some of
their most brilliant episodes, what Giorgione has painted in the eyes
of the shepherd who envies the kiss given by Rachel to Jacob, is here
compressed into eighteen lines of great literary beauty. But a man
need be neither a prude nor a Puritan to turn with sadness and with
loathing from these last autumnal blossoms on the tree of Greek beauty.
The brothel and the grave are all that is left for Rufinus and his
contemporaries. Over the one hangs the black shadow of death; the other
is tenanted by ghosts of carnal joy:

                                  When lust,
    By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk,
    But most by lewd and lavish acts of sin,
    Lets in defilement to the inward parts,
    The soul grows clotted by contagion,
    Imbodies, and imbrutes, till she quite lose
    The divine property of her first being.
    Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp
    Oft seen in charnel-vaults and sepulchres,
    Lingering, and sitting by a new-made grave,
    As loath to leave the body that it loved,
    And linked itself by carnal sensuality
    To a degenerate and degraded state.[230]

Before taking leave of the erotic poets of the Anthology, I shall
here insert a few translations made by me from Meleager, Straton, and
some anonymous poets. The first epigram illustrates the Greek custom
of going at night, after drinking, with lighted torches to the house
of the beloved person, and there suspending garlands on the door. It
is not easy to find an equivalent for the characteristic Greek word
#kômarein#. I have tried to deal with it by preserving the original
allusion to the revel:

    The die is cast! Nay, light the torch!
      I'll take the road! Up, courage, ho!
    Why linger pondering in the porch?
      Upon Love's revel we will go!

    Shake off those fumes of wine! Hang care
      And caution! What has Love to do
    With prudence? Let the torches flare!
      Quick, drown the doubts that hampered you!

    Cast weary wisdom to the wind!
      One thing, but one alone, I know:
    Love bent e'en Jove and made him blind!
      Upon Love's revel we will go!

The second, by Meleager, turns upon the same custom; but it is here
treated with the originality of imagination distinctive of his style:

    I've drunk sheer madness! Not with wine
      But old fantastic tales I'll arm
    My heart in heedlessness divine,
      And dare the road nor dream of harm!

    I'll join Love's rout! Let thunder break,
      Let lightning blast me by the way!
    Invulnerable Love shall shake
      His ægis o'er my head to-day.

In a third, Meleager recommends hard drinking as a remedy for the pains
of love:

    Drink, luckless lover! Thy heart's fiery rage
    Bacchus who gives oblivion shall assuage:
    Drink deep, and while thou drain'st the brimming bowl,
    Drive love's dark anguish from thy fevered soul.

Two of these little compositions deal with the old comparison between
love and the sea. In the first, the lover's journey is likened to a
comfortless voyage, where the house of the beloved will be for him safe
anchorage after the storm:

    Cold blows the winter wind: 'tis Love,
      Whose sweet eyes swim with honeyed tears,
    That bears me to thy doors, my love,
      Tossed by the storm of hopes and fears.

    Cold blows the blast of aching Love;
      But be thou for my wandering sail,
    Adrift upon these waves of love,
      Safe harbor from the whistling gale!

In the second, love itself is likened to the ocean, always shifting,
never to be trusted:

    My love is like an April storm
      Upon a false and fickle sea:
    One day you shine, and sunny warm
      Are those clear smiles you shower on me;
    Next day from cloudy brows you rain
    Your anger on the ruffled main.

    Around me all the deeps are dark;
      I whirl and wander to and fro,
    Like one who vainly steers his bark
      Mid winds that battle as they blow:--
    Then raise the flag of love or hate,
    That I at last may know my fate!

The peculiar distinction of Meleager's genius gives its special quality
to the following dedication, in which the poet either is, or feigns
himself to be, made captive by Love upon first landing in a strange

    The Lady of desires, a goddess, gave
              My soul to thee;
    To thee soft-sandalled Love hath sent, a slave,
              Poor naked me:
    A stranger on a stranger's soil, tight-bound
              With bands of steel:--
    I do but pray that we may once be found
              Firm friends and leal!

    Yet thou dost spurn my prayers, refuse my love,
              Still stern and mute;
    Time will not melt thee, nor the deeds that prove
              How pure my suit.

    Have pity, king, have pity! Fate hath willed
              Thee god and lord:
    Life in thy hands and death, to break or build,
              For me is stored!

The next specimen is an attempt to render into English stanzas one of
Meleager's most passionate poems:

    Did I not tell you so, and cry:
      "Rash soul, by Venus, you'll be caught!
    Ah, luckless soul, why will you fly
      So near the toils that Love had wrought?"

    Did I not warn you? Now the net
      Has tangled you, and in the string
    You vainly strive, for Love hath set
      And bound your pinions, wing to wing;

    And placed you on the flames to pine,
      And rubbed with myrrh your panting lip,
    And when you thirsted given you wine
      Of hot and bitter tears to sip.

    Ah, weary soul, fordone with pain!
      Now in the fire you burn, and now
    Take respite for a while again,
      Draw better breath and cool your brow!

    Why weep and wail? What time you first
      Sheltered wild Love within your breast,
    Did you not know the boy you nursed
      Would prove a false and cruel guest?

    Did you not know? See, now he pays
      The guerdon of your fostering care
    With fire that on the spirit preys,
      Mixed with cold snow-flakes of despair!

    You chose your lot. Then cease to weep:
      Endure this torment: tame your will:
    Remember, what you sowed, you reap:
      And, though it burns, 'tis honey still!

Here, lastly, is an Envoy, slightly altered in the English translation
from Straton's original:

    It may be in the years to come
    That men who love shall think of me,
    And reading o'er these verses see
    How love was my life's martyrdom.

    Love-songs I write for him and her,
    Now this, now that, as Love dictates;
    One birthday gift alone the Fates
    Gave me, to be Love's scrivener.

One large section of the Anthology remains to be considered. It
contains what are called the #epigrammata epideiktika#, or poems upon
various subjects chosen for their propriety for rhetorical exposition.
These epigrams, the favorites of modern imitators, display the Greek
taste in this style of composition to the best advantage. The Greeks
did not regard the epigram merely as a short poem with a sting in its
tail--to quote the famous couplet:

    Omne epigramma sit instar apis: sit aculeus illi:
      Sint sua mella: sit et corporis exigui.[231]

True to the derivation of the word, which means an inscription or
superscription, they were satisfied if an epigram were short and gifted
with the honey-dews of Helicon.[232] Meleager would have called his
collection a beehive, and not a flower-garland, if he had acknowledged
the justice of the Latin definition which has just been cited. The
epigrams of which I am about to speak are simply little occasional
poems, fugitive pieces, _Gelegenheitsgedichte_, varying in length from
two to twenty lines, composed in elegiac metre, and determined, as to
form and treatment, by the exigencies of the subject. Some of them, it
is true, are noticeable for their point; but point is not the same as
sting. The following panegyric of Athens, for example, approximates to
the epigram as it is commonly conceived (ii. 13):

    #gêi men ear kosmos polydendreos, aitheri d' astra,
      Helladi d' hêde chthôn, hoide de têi poleï.#[233]

The same may be said about the lines upon the vine and the goat (ii.
15; compare 20):

    #kên me phagêis epi rhizan homôs eti karpophorêsô
      hosson epispeisai soi trage thyomenôi#:[234]

and the following satire, so well known by the parody of Porson (ii.

    #pantes men Kilikes kakoi aneres; en de Kilixin
      heis agathos Kinyrês, kai Kinyrês de Kilix.#[235]

Again the play of words in the last line of this next epigram (ii. 24)
gives a sort of pungency to its conclusion:

    #atthi kora melithrepte, lalos lalon harpaxasa
      tettiga ptanois daita phereis tekesin,
    ton lalon ha laloessa, ton eupteron ha pteroessa,
      ton xenon ha xeina, ton therinon therina?
    kouchi tachos rhipseis? ou gar themis oude dikaion
      ollysth' hymnopolous hymnopolois stomasin.#[236]

The Greek epigram has this, in fact, in common with all good poems,
that the conclusion should be the strongest and most emphatic portion.
But in liberty of subject and of treatment it corresponds to the
Italian sonnet. Unquestionably of this kind is the famous poem of
Ptolemy upon the stars (ii. 118), which recalls to mind the saying of
Kant, that the two things which moved his awe were the stars of heaven
above him and the moral law within the soul of man:

    #oid' hoti thnatos egô kai ephameros; all' hotan astrôn
      masteuô pykinas amphidromous helikas,
    ouket' epipsauô gaiês posin, alla par' autôi
      Zêni theotrepheos pimplamai ambrosiês.#[237]

The poem on human life, which has been attributed severally to
Poseidippus and to Plato Comicus, and which Bacon thought worthy of
imitation, may take rank with the most elevated sonnets of modern
literature (ii. 71):

    #poiên tis biotoio tamêi tribon? ein agorêi men
      neikea kai chalepai prêxies; en de domois
    phrontides; en d' agrois kamatôn halis; en de thalassêi
      tarbos; epi xeinês d', ên men echêis ti, deos;
    ên d' aporêis, aniêron; echeis gamon? ouk amerimnos;
      esseai; ou gameeis? zêis et' erêmoteros;
    tekna ponoi, pêrôsis apais bios; hai neotêtes
      aphrones, hai poliai d' empalin adranees;
    ên ara toin dissoin henos hairesis, ê to genesthai
      mêdepot' ê to thanein autika tiktomenon.#[238]

The reverse of this picture is displayed with much felicity and
geniality, but with less force, by Metrodorus (ii. 72):

    #pantoiên biotoio tamois tribon; en agorêi men
      kydea kai pinytai prêxies; en de domois
    ampaum'; en d' agrois physios charis; en de thalassêi
      kerdos; epi xeinês, ên men echêis ti, kleos;
    ên d' aporêis monos oidas; echeis gamon? oikos aristos
      essetai; ou gameeis? zêis et' elaphroteros;
    tekna pothos, aphrontis apais bios; hai neotêtes
      rhômaleai, poliai d' empalin eusebees;
    ouk ara tôn dissôn henos hairesis, ê to genesthai
      mêdepot' ê to thanein; panta gar esthla biôi.#[239]

Some of the epigrams of this section are written in the true style of
elegies. The following splendid threnody by Antipater of Sidon upon the
ruins of Corinth, which was imitated by Agathias in his lines on Troy,
may be cited as perfect in this style of composition (ii. 29):

    #pou to periblepton kallos seo, Dôri Korinthe?
      pou stephanoi pyrgôn, pou ta palai kteana,
    pou nêoi makarôn, pou dômata, pou de damartes
      Sisyphiai, laôn th' hai pote myriades?
    oude gar oud' ichnos, polykammore, seio leleiptai,
      panta de symmarpsas exephagen polemos;
    mounai aporthêtoi Nêrêïdes, Ôkeanoio
      kourai, sôn acheôn mimnomen halkyones.#[240]

It is a grand picture of the queen of pleasure in her widowhood and
desolation mourned over by the deathless daughters of the plunging
sea. Occasionally the theme of the epigram is historical. The finest,
perhaps, of this sort is a poem by Philippus on Leonidas (ii. 59):

    #pouly Leônideô katidôn demas autodaïkton
      Xerxês echlainou phareï porphyreôi;
    kêk nekyôn d' êchêsen ho tas Spartas polys hêrôs;
      ou dechomai prodotais misthon opheilomenon;
    aspis emoi tymbou kosmos megas; aire ta Persôn
      chêxô keis aïdên hôs Lakedaimonios.#[241]

Few, however, of the epigrams rise to the altitude of those I have been
lately quoting. Their subjects are for the most part simple incidents,
or such as would admit of treatment within the space of an engraved
gem. The story of the girls who played at dice upon the house-roof is
told very prettily in the following lines (ii. 31):

    #hai trissai pote paides en allêlaisin epaizon
      klêrôi, tis proterê bêsetai eis aïdên;
    kai tris men cheirôn ebalon kybon, êlthe de pasôn
      es mian; hê d' egela klêron opheilomenon;
    ek tegeos gar aelpton epeit' ôlisthe pesêma
      dysmoros, es d' aïdên êlythen, hôs elachen;
    apseudês ho klêros hotôi kakon; es de to lôion
      out' euchai thnêtois eustochoi oute cheres.#[242]

Not the least beautiful are those which describe natural objects. The
following six lines are devoted to an oak-tree (ii. 14):

    #klônes apêiorioi tanaês dryos, euskion hypsos
      andrasin akrêton kauma phylassomenois,
    eupetaloi, keramôn steganôteroi, oikia phattôn,
      oikia tettigôn, endioi akremones,
    kême ton hymeteraisin hypoklinthenta komaisin
      rhysasth', aktinôn hêeliou phygada.#[243]

Here again is a rustic retreat for lovers, beneath the spreading
branches of a plane (ii. 43):

    #ha chloera platanistos id' hôs ekrypse phileuntôn
      orgia, tan hieran phyllada teinomena;
    amphi d' ar' akremonessin heois kecharismenos hôrais
      hêmeridos larês botrys apokrematai;
    houtôs, ô plataniste, phyois; chloera d' apo seio
      phyllas aei keuthoi tous Paphiês oarous.#[244]

Of the same sort is this invitation (ii. 529):

    #hypsikomon para tande kathizeo phônêessan
      phrissousan pykinois kônon hypo Zephyrois,
    kai soi kachlazousin emois para namasi syrinx
      thelgomenôn axei kôma kata blepharôn.#[245]

And this plea from the oak-tree to the woodman to be spared (ii. 63):

    #ôner tan balanôn tan matera pheideo koptein,
      pheideo; gêralean d' ekkeraïze pityn,
    ê peukan, ê tande polystelechon paliouron,
      ê prinon, ê tan aualean komaron;
    têlothi d' ische dryos pelekyn; kokyai gar elexan
      hamin hôs proterai materes enti dryes.#[246]

Among the epigrams which seem to have been composed in the same spirit
as those exquisite little _capricci_ engraved by Greek artists upon
gems, few are more felicitous than the three following. The affection
of the Greeks for the grasshopper is one of their most charming
_naïvetés_. Everybody knows the pretty story Socrates tells about these
#Mousôn prophêtai#, or Prophets of the Muses, in the _Phædrus_--how
they once were mortals who took such delight in the songs of the Muses
that, "Singing always, they never thought of eating and drinking,
until at last they forgot and died: and now they live again in the
grasshoppers, and this is the return the Muses make to them--they
hunger no more, neither thirst any more, but are always singing from
the moment that they are born, and never eating or drinking." Thus
the grasshoppers were held sacred in Greece, like storks in Germany
and robins in England. Most of the epigrams about them turn on
this sanctity. The following is a plea for pity from an imprisoned
grasshopper to the rustics who have caught him (ii. 76):

    #tipte me ton philerêmon anaideï poimenes agrêi
      tettiga droserôn helket' ap' akremonôn,
    tên Nymphôn paroditin aêdona, kêmati messôi
      ouresi kai skierais xoutha laleunta napais?
    ênide kai kichlên kai kossyphon, ênide tossous
      psaras, arouraiês harpagas euporiês;
    karpôn dêlêtêras elein themis; ollyt' ekeinous;
      phyllôn kai chloerês tis phthonos esti drosou?#[247]

Another epigram on the same page tells how the poet found a grasshopper
struggling in a spider's web and released it with these words: "Go safe
and free with your sweet voice of song!" But the prettiest of all is
this long story (ii. 119):

    #Eunomon, ôpollon, sy men oistha me, pôs pot' enikôn
      Spartin ho Lokros egô; peuthomenois d' enepô.
    aiolon en kitharâi nomon ekrekon, en de meseusâi
      ôidâi moi chordan plaktron apekremasen;
    kai moi phthongon hetoimon hopanika kairos apêitei,
      eis akoas rhythmôn tôtrekes ouk enemen;
    kai tis ap' automatô kitharas epi pêchyn epiptas
      tettix eplêrou toullipes harmonias;
    neura gar hex etinasson; hoth' hebdomatas de meloiman
      chordas, tan toutô gêryn ekichrametha;
    pros gar eman meletan ho mesambrinos ouresin ôidos
      têno to poimenikon phthegma methêrmosato,
    kai men hote phthengoito, syn apsychois toka neurais
      tôi metaballomenôi summetepipte throôi;
    touneka symphônôi men echô charin; hos de typôtheis
      chalkeos hameteras hezeth' hyper kitharas.#[248]

So friendly were the relations of the Greeks with the grasshoppers. We
do not wonder when we read that the Athenians wore golden grasshoppers
in their hair.

Baths, groves, gardens, houses, temples, city-gates, and works of art
furnish the later epigrammatists with congenial subjects. The Greeks of
the Empire exercised much ingenuity in describing--whether in prose,
like Philostratus, or in verse, like Agathias--the famous monuments of
the maturity of Hellas. In this style the epigrams on statues are at
once the most noticeable and the most abundant. The cow of Myron has at
least two score of little sonnets to herself. The horses of Lysippus,
the Zeus of Pheidias, the Rhamnusian statue of Nemesis, the Praxitelean
Venus, various images of Eros, the Niobids, Marsyas, Ariadne,
Herakles, Alexander, poets, physicians, orators, historians, and all
the charioteers and athletes preserved in the museums of Byzantium or
the groves of Altis, are described with a minuteness and a point that
enable us to identify many of them with the surviving monuments of
Greek sculpture. Pictures also come in for their due share of notice. A
Polyxena of Polycletus, a Philoctetes of Parrhasius, and a Medea, which
may have been the original of the famous Pompeian fresco, are specially
remarkable. Then again cups engraved with figures in relief of Tantalus
or Love, seals inscribed with Phoebus or Medusa, gems and intaglios of
all kinds, furnish matter for other epigrams. The following couplet on
the amethyst turns upon an untranslatable play of words (ii. 149):

    #hê lithos est' amethystos, egô d' ho potês Dionysos;
      peisatô ê nêphein m', ê mathetô methyein.#

Amid this multitude of poems it is difficult to make a fair or
representative selection. There are, however, four which I cannot well
omit. The first is written by Poseidippus on a lost statue of Lysippus
(ii. 584):

    #tis pothen ho plastês? Sikyônios; ounoma dê tis?
      Lysippos. sy de tis? Kairos ho pandamatôr;
    tipte d' ep' akra bebêkas? aei trochaô. ti de tarsous
      possin echeis diphyeis? hiptam' hypênemios;
    cheiri de dexiterêi ti phereis xyron? andrasi deigma
      hôs akmês pasês oxyteros telethô.
    hê de komê ti kat' opsin? hypantiasanti labesthai.
      nê Dia taxopithen d' eis ti phalakra pelei?
    ton gar hapax ptênoisi parathrexanta me possin
      outis eth' himeirôn draxetai exopithen.
    tounech' ho technitês se dieplasen? heineken hymôn,
      xeine; kai en prothyrois thêke didaskaliên.#[249]

The second describes the statue of Nemesis erected near Marathon by
Pheidias--that memorable work by which the greatest of sculptors
recorded the most important crisis in the world's history (ii. 573):

    #chioneên me lithon palinauxeos ek periôpês
      laotypos tmêxas petrotomois akisi
    Mêdos epontoporeusen, hopôs andreikela teuxêi,
      tês kat' Athênaiôn symbola kammoniês;
    hôs de daïzomenois Marathôn antektype Persais
      kai nees hygroporoun cheumasin haimaleois,
    exesan Adrêsteian aristôdines Athênai,
      daimon' hyperphialois antipalon meropôn;
    antitalanteuô tas elpidas; eimi de kai nyn
      Nikê Erechtheidais, Assyriois Nemesis.#[250]

The third celebrates the Aphrodite of Praxiteles in Cnidos, whose
garden has been so elegantly described by Lucian (ii. 560):

    #hê Paphiê Kythereia di' oidmatos es Knidon êlthe
      boulomenê katidein eikona tên idiên;
    pantê d' athrêsasa periskeptôi eni chôrôi,
      phthenxato: pou gymnên eide me Praxitelês?#[251]

The fourth is composed with much artifice of style upon a statue of
Love bound by his arms to a pillar (ii. 567):

    #klaie dysekphyktôs sphinchtheis cheras, akrite daimon,
      klaie mala, stazôn psychotakê dakrya,
    sôphrosynas hybrista, phrenoklope, lêista logismou,
      ptanon pyr, psychas traum' aoraton, Erôs;
    thnatois men lysis esti goôn ho sos, akrite, desmos;
      hôi sphinchtheis kôphois pempe litas anemois;
    hon de brotois aphylaktos enephleges en phresi pyrson
      athrei nyn hypo sôn sbennymenon dakryôn.#[252]

In bringing this review of the Anthology to a close, I feel that I have
been guilty of two errors. I have wearied the reader with quotations;
yet I have omitted countless epigrams of the purest beauty. The very
riches of this flower-garden of little poems are an obstacle to its
due appreciation. Each epigram in itself is perfect, and ought to be
carefully and lovingly studied. But it is difficult for the critic
to deal in a single essay with upwards of four thousand of these
precious gems. There are many points of view which with adequate space
and opportunity might have been taken for the better illustration of
the epigrams. Their connection with the later literature of Greece,
especially with the rhetoricians, Philostratus, Alciphron, and
Libanius, many of whose best compositions are epigrams in prose--as
Jonson knew when he turned them into lyrics; their still more intimate
æsthetic harmony with the engraved stones and minor bass-reliefs, which
bear exactly the same relation to Greek sculpture as the epigrams to
the more august forms of Greek poetry; the lives of their authors; the
historical events to which they not unfrequently allude--all these are
topics for elaborate dissertation.

Perhaps, however, the true secret of their charm is this: that in their
couplets, after listening to the choric raptures of triumphant public
art, we turn aside to hear the private utterances, the harmoniously
modulated whispers of a multitude of Greek poets telling us their
inmost thoughts and feelings. The unique melodies of Meleager, the
chaste and exquisite delicacy of Callimachus, the clear dry style of
Straton, Plato's unearthly subtlety of phrase, Antipater's perfect
polish, the good sense of Palladas, the fretful sweetness of Agathias,
the purity of Simonides, the gravity of Poseidippus, the pointed
grace of Philip, the few but mellow tones of Sappho and Erinna, the
tenderness of Simmias, the biting wit of Lucillius, the sunny radiance
of Theocritus--all these good things are ours in the Anthology. But
beyond these perfumes of the poets known to fame is yet another. Over
very many of the sweetest and the strongest of the epigrams is written
the pathetic word #adespoton#--without a master. Hail to you, dead
poets, unnamed, but dear to the Muses! Surely with Pindar and with
Anacreon and with Sappho and with Sophocles the bed of flowers is
spread for you in those "black-petalled hollows of Pieria" where Ion
bade farewell to Euripides.


[163] He mutilated and, so to speak, castrated this book quite as
much as he arranged its contents, by withdrawing the more lascivious
epigrams according to his own boast.

[164] Paris, 1864-1872. The translations quoted by me are taken
principally from the collections of Wellesley (_Anthologia Polyglotta_)
and Burgess (Bohn's Series), and from the Miscellanies of the late J.
A. Symonds, M.D. The versions contributed by myself have no signature.

[165] I have spoken of these compositions of Simonides as though they
all belonged to the dedicatory epigrams. A large number of them are,
however, incorporated among the epitaphs proper.


    To those of Lacedæmon, stranger, tell,
    That, as their laws commanded, here we fell.

                                                          JOHN STERLING.

There is no very good translation of this couplet. The difficulty lies
in the word #rhêmasi#. Is this equivalent to #rhêtrais#, as Cicero, who
renders it by _legibus_, seems to think? Or is it the same as _orders_?


    What time the Greeks with might and warlike deed,
    Sustained by courage in their hour of need,
    Drove forth the Persians, they to Zeus that frees
    This altar built, the free fair pride of Greece.


    They told me, Heracleitus, they told me you were dead;
    They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
    I wept, as I remembered how often you and I
    Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

    And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
    A handful of gray ashes, long, long ago at rest,
    Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake,
    For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.


    Would that swift ships had never been; for so
    We ne'er had wept for Sopolis: but he
    Dead on the waves now drifts; while we must go
    Past a void tomb, a mere name's mockery.


    Here lapped in hallowed slumber Saon lies,
    Asleep, not dead; a good man never dies.

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    Thou wert the morning star among the living,
      Ere thy fair light had fled;
    Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus giving
      New splendor to the dead.



    We who once left the Ægean's deep-voiced shore,
      Lie 'neath Ecbatana's champaign, where we fell.
    Farewell Eretria, thou famed land of yore,
      And neighbor Athens, and loved sea, farewell.


    Pillars of death, carved sirens, tearful urns,
      In whose sad keeping my poor dust is laid,
    To him, who near my tomb his footsteps turns,
      Stranger or Greek, bid hail; and say a maid
    Rests in her bloom below; her sire the name
      Of Baucis gave; her birth and lineage high;
    And say her bosom friend Erinna came
      And on this tomb engraved her elegy.



    This is the dust of Timas, whom unwed
      Persephone locked in her darksome bed:
    For her the maids who were her fellows shore
      Their curls and to her tomb this tribute bore.
    Sleep, poor youth, sleep in peace,
      Relieved from love and mortal care;


    Merciless heaven! why didst thou show me light
    For so few years and speedy in their flight?
    Was it to vex by my untimely death
    With tears and wailings her who gave me breath?
    Who bore me, and who reared me, and who wrought
    More for my youth with many a careful thought
    Than my dead sire: he left me in his hall
    An orphan babe: 'twas she alone did all.
    My joy it was beneath grave men of laws,
    Just pleas to urge and win approved applause;
    But from my cheek she never plucked the flower
    Of charming youth, nor dressed my bridal bower,
    Nor sang my marriage hymn, nor saw, ah me!
    My offspring shoot upon our ancient tree,
    That now is withered. Even in the tomb
    I wail Politta's woe, the gloom on gloom
    That swells her grief for Phronton; since a boy
    In vain she bore, his country's empty joy.


    Thou art not dead, my Prote! thou art flown
    To a far country better than our own;
    Thy home is now an island of the blest;
    There 'mid Elysian meadows take thy rest:
    Or lightly trip along the flowery glade,
    Rich with the asphodels that never fade!
    Nor pain, nor cold, nor toil shall vex thee more,
    Nor thirst, nor hunger on that happy shore;
    Nor longings vain (now that blest life is won)
    For such poor days as mortals here drag on;
    To thee for aye a blameless life is given
    In the pure light of ever-present Heaven.

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    Home to their stalls at eve the oxen came
    Down from the mountain through the snow-wreaths deep;
    But ah! Therimachus sleeps the long sleep
    'Neath yonder oak, lulled by the levin-flame.


    She who was once but in her flesh a slave
    Hath for her flesh found freedom in the grave.


    Hades is stern; but when you died, he said,
    Smiling, "Be jester still among the dead."


    Know well that thou art mortal: therefore raise
    Thy spirit high with long luxurious days.
    When thou art dead, thou hast no pleasure then.
    I too am earth, who was a king of men
    O'er Nineveh. My banquets and my lust
    And love-delights are mine e'en in the dust;
    But all those great and glorious things are flown.
    True doctrine for man's life is this alone.


    When homeward cowering from the fight you ran
    Without or sword or shield, a naked man,
    Your mother then, Demetrius, through your side
    Plunged her blood-drinking spear, nor wept, but cried:
    Die; let not Sparta bear the blame; but she
    Sinned not, if cowards drew their life from me!


    Travelling to Ephyre, by the road-side
    The tomb and name of Lais I espied:
    I wept and said: "Hail, queen, the fame of thee,
    Though ne'er I saw thee, draws these tears from me;
    How many hearts for thee were broken, how
    By Lethe lustreless thou liest now!"


    My name, my country--what are they to thee?
    What, whether base or proud my pedigree?
    Perhaps I far surpassed all other men;
    Perhaps I fell below them all; what then?
    Suffice it, stranger! that thou seest a tomb;
    Thou know'st its use; it hides--no matter whom.

                                                              W. COWPER.


    Orpheus! No more the rocks, the woods no more,
    Thy strains shall lure; no more the savage herds,
    Nor hail, nor driving clouds, nor tempest's roar,
    Nor chafing billows list thy lulling words;
    For thou art dead: and all the Muses mourn,
    But most Calliope, thy mother dear.
    Shall we then, reft of sons, lament forlorn,
    When e'en the gods must for their offspring fear?

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    Wind, gentle evergreen, to form a shade,
    Around the tomb where Sophocles is laid;
    Sweet ivy, wind thy boughs, and intertwine
    With blushing roses and the clustering vine:
    Thus will thy lasting leaves, with beauties hung,
    Prove grateful emblems of the lays he sung;
    Whose soul, exalted like a god of wit,
    Among the muses and the graces writ.--_Anon._


    Hail, dear Euripides, for whom a bed
    In black-leaved vales Pierian is spread:
    Dead though thou art, yet know thy fame shall be,
    Like Homer's, green through all eternity.


    If it be true that in the grave the dead
    Have sense and knowledge, as some men assert,
    I'd hang myself to see Euripides.


    Around the tomb, O bard divine!
      Where soft thy hallowed brow reposes,
    Long may the deathless ivy twine,
      And summer pour his waste of roses!

    And many a fount shall there distil,
      And many a rill refresh the flowers;
    But wine shall gush in every rill,
      And every fount yield milky showers.

    Thus, shade of him whom nature taught
      To tune his lyre and soul to pleasure,
    Who gave to love his warmest thought,
      Who gave to love his fondest measure;

    Thus, after death, if spirits feel,
      Thou mayest, from odors round thee streaming,
    A pulse of past enjoyment steal,
      And live again in blissful dreaming.

                                                               T. MOORE.


    Stranger, beware! This grave hurls words like hail:
    Here dwells the dread Hipponax, dealing bale.
    E'en 'mid his ashes, fretful, poisonous,
    He shoots iambics at slain Bupalus.
    Wake not the sleeping wasp: for though he's dead,
    Still straight and sure his crooked lines are sped.


    Here sleeps Archilochus by the salt sea;
    Who first with viper's gall the muse did stain,
    And bathed mild Helicon with butchery.
    Lycambes weeping for her daughters three
    Learned this. Pass then in silence: be not fain
    To stir the wasps that round his grave remain.


    Tell me, good dog, whose tomb you guard so well?
    The Cynic's. True: but who that Cynic, tell.
    Diogenes, of fair Sinope's race.
    What! He that in a tub was wont to dwell?
    Yes: but the stars are now his dwelling-place.

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    These are Erinna's songs: how sweet, though slight!--
    For she was but a girl of nineteen years:--
    Yet stronger far than what most men can write:
    Had Death delayed, whose fame had equalled hers?


    Does Sappho then beneath thy bosom rest,
    Æolian earth? that mortal Muse confessed
    Inferior only to the choir above,
    That foster-child of Venus and of Love;
    Warm from whose lips divine Persuasion came,
    Greece to delight, and raise the Lesbian name?
    O ye, who ever twine the threefold thread,
    Ye Fates, why number with the silent dead
    That mighty songstress, whose unrivalled powers
    Weave for the Muse a crown of deathless flowers?

                                                        FRANCIS HODGSON.


    Piera's clarion, he whose weighty brain
    Forged many a hallowed hymn and holy strain,
    Pindar, here sleeps beneath the sacred earth:
    Hearing his songs a man might swear the brood
    Of Muses made them in their hour of mirth,
    What time round Cadmus' marriage-bed they stood.


    As the war-trumpet drowns the rustic flute,
    So when your lyre is heard all strings are mute:
    Not vain the labor of those clustering bees
    Who on your infant lips spread honey-dew;
    Witness great Pan who hymned your melodies,
    Pindar, forgetful of his pipes for you.


    Earth in her breast hides Plato's dust: his soul
    The gods forever 'mid their ranks enroll.


    Eagle! why soarest thou above the tomb?
    To what sublime and starry-paven home
            Floatest thou?

    I am the image of swift Plato's spirit,
    Ascending heaven: Athens does inherit
            His corpse below.



    Straight is the way to Acheron,
    Whether the spirit's race is run
    From Athens or from Meroë:
    Weep not, far off from home to die;
    The wind doth blow in every sky,
    That wafts us to that doleful sea.

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    God, grant us good, whether or not we pray;
    But e'en from praying souls keep bad away.


    Your goods enjoy, as if about to die;
    As if about to live, use sparingly.
    That man is wise, who, bearing both in mind,
    A mean, befitting waste and thrift, can find.



    Why shrink from Death, the parent of repose,
    The cure of sickness and all human woes?
    As through the tribes of men he speeds his way,
    Once, and but once, his visit he will pay;
    Whilst pale diseases, harbingers of pain,
    Close on each other crowd--an endless train.

                                                            W. SHEPHERD.


    All life's a scene, a jest: then learn to play,
    Dismissing cares, or bear your pains alway.


    This wretched life of ours is Fortune's ball;
    'Twixt wealth and poverty she bandies all:
    These, cast to earth, up to the skies rebound;
    These, tossed to heaven, come trembling to the ground.

                                                          GOLDWIN SMITH.


    Oh for the joy of life that disappears!--
    Weep then the swiftness of the flying years:
    We sit upon the ground and sleep away,
    Toiling or feasting; but time runs for aye,
    Runs a fell race against poor wretched man,
    Bringing for each the day that ends his span.


    Tears were my birthright; born in tears,
        In tears too must I die;
    And mine has been, through life's long years,
        A tearful destiny.

    Such is the state of man; from birth
        To death all comfortless:
    Then swept away beneath the earth
        In utter nothingness.

                                                          EDWARD STOKES.


    My sire begat me; 'twas no fault of mine:
    But being born, in Hades I must pine:
    O birth-act that brought death! O bitter fate
    That drives me to the grave disconsolate!
    To naught I turn, who nothing was ere birth;
    For men are naught and less than nothing worth.
    Then let the goblet gleam for me, my friend;
    Pour forth care-soothing wine, ere pleasures end.

[206] See Fitzgerald's faultless translation of the _Rubáiyát_ of Omar
Khayyám, published by Quaritch.


    Morn follows morn; till while we careless play
    Comes suddenly the darksome king, whose breath
    Or wastes or burns or blows our life away,
    But drives us all down to one pit of death.


    Thou sleepest, friend: but see, the beakers call!
    Awake, nor dote on death that waits for all.
    Spare not, my Diodorus, but drink free
    Till Bacchus loose each weak and faltering knee.
    Long will the years be when we can't carouse--
    Long, long: up then ere age hath touched our brows.


    Drink and be merry. What the morrow brings
    No mortal knoweth: wherefore toil or run?
    Spend while thou mayst, eat, fix on present things
    Thy hopes and wishes: life and death are one.
    One moment: grasp life's goods; to thee they fall:
    Dead, thou hast nothing, and another all.

                                                          GOLDWIN SMITH.

[210] The country that gave birth to me is Gadara, an Attic city on
Assyrian shores.

[211] Who grew to man's estate in Tyre and Gadara, and found a fair
old age in Cos. If then thou art a Syrian, Salaam! if a Phoenician,
Naidios! if a Hellene, Hail!


    I'll twine white violets, and the myrtle green;
    Narcissus will I twine, and lilies sheen;
    I'll twine sweet crocus, and the hyacinth blue;
    And last I twine the rose, love's token true:
    That all may form a wreath of beauty meet
    To deck my Heliodora's tresses sweet.

                                                          GOLDWIN SMITH.


    Poor Cleariste loosed her virgin zone
    Not for her wedding, but for Acheron;
    'Twas but last eve the merry pipes were swelling,
    And dancing footsteps thrilled the festive dwelling;
    Morn changed those notes for wailings loud and long,
    And dirges drowned the hymeneal song;
    Alas! the very torches meant to wave
    Around her bridal couch, now light her to the grave!

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    Fair blows the breeze: the seamen loose the sail:--
    O men that know not love, your favoring gale
    Steals half my soul, Andragathos, from me!
    Thrice lucky ships, and billows of the sea
    Thrice blessed, and happiest breeze that bears the boy!
    Oh would I were a dolphin, that my joy,
    Here on my shoulders ferried, might behold
    Rhodes, the fair island thronged with boys of gold!

[215] "O soul too loving, cease at length from even in dreams thus idly
basking in the warmth of Beauty's empty shapes."

[216] "Pour forth; and again cry, again, and yet again, 'to Heliodora!'"

[217] "I pray thee, Earth, all-nourishing, in thy deep breast, O
mother, to enfold her tenderly, for whom my tears must flow for aye."

[218] "This one boon I ask of thee, great mother of all gods, beloved
Night! Nay, I beseech thee, thou fellow wanderer with Revelry, O holy

[219] "The boy is honey-teared, tireless of speech, swift, without
sense of fear, with laughter on his roguish lips, winged, bearing
arrows in a quiver on his shoulders."

[220] "Why vainly in thy bonds thus pant and fret? Love himself bound
thy wings and set thee on a fire, and rubbed thee, when thy breath grew
faint with myrrh, and when thou thirstedst gave thee burning tears to

[221] "A reveller I go freighted with fire not wine beneath the region
of my heart."

[222] "How could it be that poet also should not sing fair songs in

[223] Those who on the shores of the Mediterranean have traced out beds
of red tulips or anemones or narcissus from terrace to terrace, over
rocks and under olive-branches, know how delicately true to nature is
the thought contained in the one epithet #ouresiphoita#--roaming like
nymphs along the hills, now single and now gathered into companies, as
though their own sweet will had led them wandering.


    Soar upward to the air divine:
    Spread broad thy pinions aquiline:
    Carry amid thy plumage him
    Who fills Jove's beaker to the brim:
    Take care that neither crookèd claw
    Make the boy's thigh or bosom raw;
    For Jove will wish thee sorry speed
    If thou molest his Ganymede.


    Drink now, and love, Democrates; for we
    Shall not have wine and boys eternally:
    Wreathe we our heads, anoint ourselves with myrrh,
    Others will do this to our sepulchre:
    Let now my living bones with wine be drenched;
    Water may deluge them when I am quenched.


    Gazing at stars, my star? I would that I were the welkin,
      Starry with infinite eyes, gazing forever at thee!

                                                       FREDERICK FARRAR.


    Kissing Helena, together
      With my kiss, my soul beside it
    Came to my lips, and there I kept it--
    For the poor thing had wandered thither,
      To follow where the kiss should guide it,
        Oh cruel I to intercept it!



    Shine forth, night-wandering, horned, and vigilant queen,
    Through the shy lattice shoot thy silver sheen;
    Illume Callistion: for a goddess may
    Gaze on a pair of lovers while they play.
    Thou enviest her and me, I know, fair moon,
    For thou didst once burn for Endymion.


    We trod the brimming wine-press ankle-high,
    Singing wild songs of Bacchic revelry:
    Forth flowed the must in rills; our cups of wood
    Like cockboats swam upon the honeyed flood:
    With these we drew, and as we filled them, quaffed,
    With no warm Naiad to allay the draught:
    But fair Rhodanthe bent above the press,
    And the fount sparkled with her loveliness:
    We in our souls were shaken; yea, each man
    Quaked beneath Bacchus and the Paphian.
    Ah me! the one flowed at our feet in streams--
    The other fooled us with mere empty dreams!

[230] _Comus_, 463, etc.


    Three things must epigrams, like bees, have all;
    A sting and honey and a body small.


[232] A certain Cyril gives this as his definition of a good epigram
(ii. 75; compare No. 342 on p. 69):

    #pankalon est' epigramma to distichon; ên de parelthêis
      tous treis, rhapsôideis kouk epigramma legeis.#

    Two lines complete the epigram--or three:
    Write more; you aim at epic poetry.

Here the essence of this kind of poetry is said to be brevity. But
nothing is said about a sting. And on the point of brevity, the Cyril
to whom this couplet is attributed is far too stringent when judged by
the best Greek standards. The modern notion of the epigram is derived
from a study of Martial, whose best verses are satirical and therefore
of necessity stinging.


    Spring with her waving trees
    Adorns the earth: to heaven
    The pride of stars is given:
    Athens illustrates Greece:
    She on her brows doth set
    Of men this coronet.


    Though thou shouldst gnaw me to the root,
    Destructive goat, enough of fruit
    I bear, betwixt my horns to shed,
    When to the altar thou art led.



    The Germans at Greek
    Are sadly to seek,
    Not five in five-score,
    But ninety-five more;
    All--save only Hermann;
    And Hermann's a German.



    Attic maid! with honey fed,
      Bear'st thou to thy callow brood
    Yonder locust from the mead,
      Destined their delicious food?

    Ye have kindred voices clear,
      Ye alike unfold the wing,
    Migrate hither, sojourn here,
      Both attendant on the spring.

    Ah! for pity drop the prize;
      Let it not with truth be said,
    That a songster gasps and dies,
      That a songster may be fed.

                                                              W. COWPER.


    Though but the being of a day,
    When I yon planet's course survey,
        This earth I then despise;
    Near Jove's eternal throne I stand,
    And quaff from an immortal hand
        The nectar of the skies.

                                                           PHILIP SMYTH.

[238] Bacon's version, "The world's a bubble, and the life of man--,"
is both well known and too long to quote. The following is from the pen
of Sir John Beaumont:

    What course of life should wretched mortals take?
    In courts hard questions large contention make:
    Care dwells in houses, labor in the field,
    Tumultuous seas affrighting dangers yield.
    In foreign lands thou never canst be blessed;
    If rich, thou art in fear; if poor, distressed.
    In wedlock frequent discontentments swell;
    Unmarried persons as in deserts dwell.
    How many troubles are with children born;
    Yet he that wants them counts himself forlorn.
    Young men are wanton, and of wisdom void;
    Gray hairs are cold, unfit to be employed.
    Who would not one of these two offers choose,
    Not to be born, or breath with speed to lose?


    In every way of life true pleasure flows:
    Immortal fame from public action grows:
    Within the doors is found appeasing rest;
    In fields the gifts of nature are expressed.
    The sea brings gain, the rich abroad provide
    To blaze their names, the poor their wants to hide:
    All household's best are governed by a wife;
    His cares are light, who leads a single life:
    Sweet children are delights which marriage bless;
    He that hath none disturbs his thoughts the less.
    Strong youth can triumph in victorious deeds;
    Old age the soul with pious motions feeds.
    All states are good, and they are falsely led
    Who wish to be unborn or quickly dead.

                                                      SIR JOHN BEAUMONT.


    Where, Corinth, are thy glories now,
    Thy ancient wealth, thy castled brow,
    Thy solemn fanes, thy halls of state,
    Thy high-born dames, thy crowded gate?
    There's not a ruin left to tell
    Where Corinth stood, how Corinth fell.
    The Nereids of thy double sea
    Alone remain to wail for thee.

                                                          GOLDWIN SMITH.


    Seeing the martyred corpse of Sparta's king
            Cast 'mid the dead,
    Xerxes around the mighty limbs did fling
            His mantle red.
    Then from the shades the glorious hero cried:
    "Not mine a traitor's guerdon. 'Tis my pride
    This shield upon my grave to wear.
    Your Persian gifts; a Spartan I will go
            To Death below."


    One day three girls were casting lots in play,
    Which first to Acheron should take her way;
    Thrice with their sportive hands they threw, and thrice
    To the same hand returned the fateful dice;
    The maiden laughed when thus her doom was told:
    Alas! that moment from the roof she rolled!
    So sure is Fate whene'er it bringeth bale,
    While prayers and vows for bliss must ever fail.

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS. M.D.


    Aerial branches of tall oak, retreat
    Of loftiest shade for those who shun the heat,
    With foliage full, more close than tiling, where
    Dove and cicada dwell aloft in air,
    Me, too, that thus my head beneath you lay,
    Protect, a fugitive from noon's fierce ray.

                                                          GOLDWIN SMITH.


    Wide-spreading plane-tree, whose thick branches meet
    To form for lovers an obscure retreat,
    Whilst with thy foliage closely intertwine
    The curling tendrils of the clustered vine,
    Still mayst thou flourish, in perennial green,
    To shade the votaries of the Paphian queen.

                                                            W. SHEPHERD.


    Come sit you down beneath this towering tree,
      Whose rustling leaves sing to the zephyr's call;
    My pipe shall join the streamlet's melody,
      And slumber on your charmèd eyelids fall.

                                                     J. A. SYMONDS, M.D.


    Spare the parent of acorns, good wood-cutter, spare!
      Let the time-honored fir feel the weight of your stroke,
    The many-stalked thorn, or acanthus worn bare,
      Pine, arbutus, ilex--but touch not the oak!
    Far hence be your axe, for our grandams have sung
      How the oaks are the mothers from whom we all sprung.



    Why, ruthless shepherds, from my dewy spray
    In my lone haunt, why tear me thus away?
    Me, the Nymphs' wayside minstrel, whose sweet note
    O'er sultry hill is heard and shady grove to float?
    Lo! where the blackbird, thrush, and greedy host
    Of starlings fatten at the farmer's cost!
    With just revenge those ravages pursue;
    But grudge not my poor leaf and sip of grassy dew.



    Phoebus, thou know'st me--Eunomus, who beat
    Spartis: the tale for others I repeat;
    Deftly upon my lyre I played and sang,
    When 'mid the song a broken harp-string rang,
    And seeking for its sound, I could not hear
    The note responsive to my descant clear.
    Then on my lyre, unasked, unsought, there flew
    A grasshopper, who filled the cadence due;
    For while six chords beneath my fingers cried,
    He with his tuneful voice the seventh supplied:
    The midday songster of the mountains set
    His pastoral ditty to my canzonet;
    And when he sang, his modulated throat
    Accorded with the lifeless strings I smote.
    Therefore I thank my fellow-minstrel: he
    Sits on a lyre in brass, as you may see.


    The sculptor's country? Sicyon. His name?
    Lysippus. You? Time, that all things can tame.
    Why thus a-tiptoe? I have halted never.
    Why ankle-winged? I fly like wind forever.
    But in your hand that razor? 'Tis a pledge
    That I am keener than the keenest edge.
    Why falls your hair in front? For him to bind
    Who meets me. True: but then you're bald behind?
    Yes, because when with winged feet I have passed
    'Tis vain upon my back your hands to cast.
    Why did the sculptor carve you? For your sake
    Here in the porch I stand; my lesson take.


    My snowy marble from the mountain rude
    A Median sculptor with sharp chisel hewed,
    And brought me o'er the sea, that he might place
    A trophied statue of the Greeks' disgrace.
    But when the routed Persians heard the roar
    Of Marathon, and ships swam deep in gore,
    Then Athens, nurse of heroes, sculptured me
    The queen that treads on arrogance to be:
    I hold the scales of hope: my name is this--
    Nike for Greece, for Asia Nemesis.


    Bright Cytherea thought one day
        To Cnidos she'd repair,
    Gliding across the watery way
        To view her image there.
    But when, arrived, she cast around
        Her eyes divinely bright,
    And saw upon that holy ground
        The gazing world's delight,
    Amazed, she cried--while blushes told
        The thoughts that swelled her breast--
    Where did Praxiteles behold
        My form? or has he guessed?

                                                         J. H. MERIVALE.


    Weep, reckless god; for now your hands are tied:
    Weep, wear your soul out with the flood of tears,
    Heart-robber, thief of reason, foe to pride,
    Winged fire, thou wound unseen the soul that sears!
    Freedom from grief to us these bonds of thine,
    Wherein thou wailest to the deaf winds, bring:
    Behold! the torch wherewith thou mad'st us pine,
    Beneath thy frequent tears is languishing!



    Virgil's Mention of this Tale.--Ovid and Statius.--Autumnal
        Poetry.--Confusion between the Mythical Musæus and the
        Grammarian.--The Introduction of the Poem.--Analysis of
        the Story.--Hallam's Judgment on Marlowe's _Hero and
        Leander_.--Comparison of Marlowe and Musæus.--Classic and
        Romantic Art.

    Quid juvenis, magnum cui versat in ossibus ignem
    Durus amor? Nempe abruptis turbata procellis
    Nocte natat cæca serus freta; quem super ingens
    Porta tonat cæli, et scopulis inlisa reclamant
    Æquora; nec miseri possunt revocare parentes,
    Nec moritura super crudeli funere virgo.[253]

This is the first allusion to a story, rather Roman than Greek, which
was destined to play an important part in literature. The introduction
of the fable without names into a poem like the third Georgic shows,
however, that the pathetic tale of Hero and Leander's love had already
found familiar representation in song or sculpture or wall-painting
before Virgil touched it with the genius that turned all it touched
to gold. Ovid went further, and placed the maiden of Sestos among
the heroines for whom he wrote rhetorical epistles in elegiac verse.
In Statius, again, we get a glimpse of the story translated from
the sphere of romance into the region of antique mythology. To the
hero Admetus, Adrastus gives a mantle dyed with Tyrian purple, and
embroidered with Leander's death. There flows the Hellespont; the youth
is vainly struggling with the swollen waves; and there stands Hero on
her tower; and the lamp already flickers in the blast that will destroy
both light and lives at once. It still remained for a grammarian of the
fifth century, Musæus, of whom nothing but the name is known, to give
the final form to this poem of love and death. The spring-tide of the
epic and the idyl was over. When Musæus entered the Heliconian meadows
to pluck this last pure rose of Greek summer, autumn had already set
its silent finger on "bare, ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds
sang." His little poem of three hundred and forty hexameters is both an
epic and an idyl. While maintaining the old heroic style of narrative
by means of repeated lines, it recalls the sweetness of Theocritus in
studied descriptions, dactylic cadences, and brief reflective sayings
that reveal the poet's mind. Like some engraved gems, the latest
products of the glyphic art, this poem adjusts the breadth of the grand
manner to the small scale required by jewelry, treating a full subject
in a narrow space, and in return endowing slight motives with dignity
by nobleness of handling.

Calm mornings of sunshine visit us at times in early November,
appearing like glimpses of departed spring amid the wilderness of
wet and windy days that lead to winter. It is pleasant, when these
interludes of silvery light occur to ride into the woods and see
how wonderful are all the colors of decay. Overhead, the elms and
chestnuts hang their wealth of golden leaves, while the beeches darken
into russet tones, and the wild-cherry glows like blood-red wine.
In the hedges crimson haws and scarlet hips are wreathed with hoary
clematis or necklaces of coral briony berries; the brambles burn with
many-colored flames; the dog-wood is bronzed to purple; and here and
there the spindle-wood puts forth its fruit, like knots of rosy buds,
on delicate frail twigs. Underneath lie fallen leaves, and the brown
brake rises to our knees as we thread the forest paths. Everything is
beautiful with beauty born of over-ripeness and decline. Green summer
comes no more this year, at any rate. In front are death and bareness
and the winter's frost.

Such a day of sunlight in the November of Greek poetry is
granted to us by _Hero and Leander_. The grace of the poem is
soul-compelling--indescribable for sweetness. Yet every epithet, each
exquisite conceit, and all the studied phrases that yield charm, remind
us that the end has come. There is peculiar pathos in this autumnal
loveliness of literature upon the wane. In order to appreciate it fully
we must compare the mellow tints of Musæus with the morning glory of
Homer or of Pindar. We then find that, in spite of so much loss, in
spite of warmth and full light taken from us, and promise of the future
exchanged for musings on the past, a type of beauty unattainable by
happier poets of the spring has been revealed. Not to accept this grace
with thanksgiving, because, forsooth, December, that takes all away, is
close at hand, would be ungrateful.[254]

Yet, though clearly perceptible by the æsthetic sense, it is far less
easy to define its quality than to miss it altogether. We do not
gain much, for example, by pointing to the reminiscences of bygone
phraseology curiously blended with new forms of language, to the
artificial subtleties of rhythm wrung from well-worn metres, to the
richness of effect produced by conscious use of telling images, to
the iridescent shimmer of mixed metaphors, compound epithets, and
daring tropes, contrasted with the undertone of sadness which betrays
the "idle singer of an empty day," although these elements are all
combined in the autumnal style. Nor will it profit us to distinguish
this kind of beauty from the _beauté maladive_ of morbid art. So
difficult, indeed, is it to seize its character with any certainty,
that in the case of _Hero and Leander_ the uncritical scholars of the
Greek Renaissance mistook the evening for the morning star of Greek
poetry, confounding Musæus the grammarian with the semi-mythic bard
of the Orphean age. When Aldus Manutius conceived his great idea of
issuing Greek literature entire from the Venetian press, he put forth
_Hero and Leander_ first of all in 1498, with a preface that ran as
follows: "I was desirous that Musæus, the most ancient poet, should
form a prelude to Aristotle and the other sages who will shortly be
imprinted at my hands." Marlowe spoke of "divine Musæus," and even the
elder Scaliger saw no reason to suspect that the grammarian's studied
verse was not the first clear woodnote of the Eleusinian singer. What
renders this mistake pardonable is the fact that, however autumnal
may be the poem's charm, no point of the genuine Greek youthfulness
of fancy has been lost. Through conceits, confusions of diction, and
oversweetness of style emerges the clear outline which characterized
Greek art in all its periods. Both persons and situations are
plastically treated--subjected, that is to say, to the conditions
best fulfilled by sculpture. The emotional element is adequate to the
imaginative presentation; the feeling penetrates the form and gives it
life, without exceeding the just limits which the form imposes. The
importance of this observation will appear when we examine the same
poem romantically handled by our own Marlowe. If nothing but the _Hero
and Leander_ of Musæus had survived the ruin of Greek literature, we
should still be able to distinguish how Greek poets dealt with their
material, and to point the difference between the classic and the
modern styles.

What is truly admirable in this poem, marking it as genuinely Greek,
is the simplicity of structure, clearness of motives, and unaffected
purity of natural feeling. The first fifteen lines set forth, by way of
proem, the whole subject:

    #eipe, thea, kryphiôn epimartyra lychnon erôtôn,
    kai nychion plôtêra thalassoporôn hymenaiôn,
    kai gamon achlyoenta, ton ouk iden aphthitos Êôs,
    kai Sêston kai Abydon hopê gamos ennychos Hêrous.#[255]

Here, perhaps, a modern poet might have stayed his hand: not so Musæus;
he has still to say that he will tell of Leander's death, and, in
propounding this part of his theme, to speak once more about the lamp:

    #lychnon, erôtos agalma, ton ôphelen aitherios Zeus
    ennychion met' aethlon agein es homêgyrin astrôn
    kai min epiklêsai nymphostolon astron erôtôn.#[256]

Seven lines were enough for Homer while explaining the subject of the
_Iliad_. Musæus, though his poem is so short, wants more than twice as
many. He cannot resist the temptation to introduce decorative passages
like the three lines just quoted, which are, moreover, appropriate in a
poem that aims at combining the idyllic and epic styles.

After the proem we enter on the story. Sestos and Abydos are divided by
the sea, but Love has joined them with an arrow from his bow:

    #êïtheon phlexas kai parthenon; ounoma d' autôn
    himeroeis te Leandros eên kai parthenos Hêrô.#[257]

Hero dwelt at Sestos; Leander lived at Abydos; and both were "exceeding
fair stars of the two cities." By the sea, outside the town of Sestos,
Hero had a tower, where she abode in solitude with one old servant,
paying her daily orisons to Dame Kupris, whose maiden votary she was,
and sprinkling the altars of Love with incense to propitiate his
powerful deity. "Still even thus she did not shun his fire-breathing
shafts;" for so it happened that when the festival of Adonis came
round, and the women flocked into the town to worship, and the youths
to gaze upon the maidens, Hero passed forth that day to Venus's temple,
and all the men beheld her beauty, and praised her for a goddess, and
desired her for a bride. Leander, too, was there; and Leander could not
content himself, like the rest, with distant admiration:

    #heile de min tote thambos, anaideiê, tromos, aidôs;
    etreme men kradiên, aidôs de min eichen halônai;
    thambee d' eidos ariston, erôs d' apenosphisen aidô;
    tharsaleôs d' hyp' erôtos anaideiên agapazôn
    êrema possin ebaine kai antion histato kourês.#[258]

He met the maiden face to face, and his eyes betrayed his passion; and
she too felt the power of love in secret, and repelled him not, but by
her silence and tranquillity encouraged him to hope:

                          #ho d' endothi thymon ianthê
    hotti pothon syneêke kai ouk apeseisato kourê.#[259]

So far one hundred and nine lines of the poem have carried us. The
following one hundred and eleven lines, nearly a third of the whole,
are devoted to the scene in the temple between Hero and her lover. This
forms by far the most beautiful section of the tale; for the attention
is concentrated on the boy and girl between whom love at first sight
has just been born. In the twilight of early evening, in the recesses
of the shrine, they stand together, like fair forms carved upon a
bass-relief. Leander pleads and Hero listens. The man's wooing, the
maiden's shrinking; his passionate insistance, her gradual yielding,
are described in a series of exquisite and artful scenes, wherein the
truth of a natural situation is enhanced by rare and curious touches.
With genuine Greek instinct the poet has throughout been mindful
to present both lovers clearly to the eye, so that a succession of
pictures support and illustrate the dialogue, which rises at the climax
to a love-duet. The descriptive lines are very simple, like these:

    #êrema men thlibôn rhodoeidea daktyla kourês
    byssothen estonachizen athesphaton. hê de siôpêi,
    hoia te chôomenê, rhodeên exespase cheira.#[260]

Or again:

    #parthenikês d' euodmon eüchroon auchena kysas.#[261]

Or yet again:

    #ophra men oun poti gaian echen neuousan opôpên,
    tophra de kai Leiandros erômaneessi prosôpois
    ou kamen eisoroôn hapalochroon auchena kourês.#[262]

We do not want more than this: it is enough to animate the plastic
figures presented to our fancy. Meanwhile Hero cannot resist the
pleadings of Leander, and her yielding is described with beautiful
avoidance of superfluous sentiment:

    #êdê kai glykypikron edexato kentron erôtôn,
    thermeto de kradiên glykerôi pyri parthenos Hêrô
    kalleï d' himeroentos aneptoiêto Leandrou.#[263]

A modern poet would have sought to spiritualize the situation: in the
hands of the Greek artist it remains quite natural; it is the beauty of
Leander that persuades and subdues Hero to love, and the agitations of
her soul are expressed in language which suggests a power that comes
upon her from without. At the same time there is no suspicion of levity
or sensuality. Hero cannot be mistaken for a light of love. When the
time comes, she will break her heart upon the dead body of the youth
who wins her by his passion and his beauty. Leander has hitherto been
only anxious to possess her for his own. Hero, as soon as she perceives
that he has won the fight, bethinks her with a woman's wisdom of ways
and means. Who is the strange man to whom she must abandon herself
in wedlock; and what does he know about her; and how can they meet?
Therefore she tells him her name and describes her dwelling:

    #pyrgos d' amphiboêtos emos domos ouranomêkês
    hôi eni naietaousa syn amphipolôi tini mounêi
    Sêstiados pro polêos hyper bathykymonas ochthas
    geitona ponton echô stygerais boulêisi tokêôn.
    oude moi engys easin homêlikes, oude choreiai
    êïtheôn pareasin; aei d' ana nykta kai êô
    ex halos ênemoentos epibremei ouasin êchê.#[264]

Having said so much, shame overtakes her; she hides her face, and
blames her over-hasty tongue. But Leander, pondering how he shall
win the stakes of love proposed to him--#pôs ken erôtos aethleuseien
agôna#--is helped at last by Love himself, the wounder and the healer
of the heart in one. He bursts into a passionate protestation: "Maiden,
for the love of thee I will cross the stormy waves; yea, though the
waters blaze with fire, and the sea be unsailed by ships. Only do thou
light a lamp upon thy tower to guide me through the gloom:

                                          #ophra noêsas
    essomai holkas Erôtos echôn sethen astera lychnon.#[265]

Seeing its spark, I shall not need the north star or Orion. And now,
if thou wouldst have my name, know that I am Leander, husband of the
fair-crowned Hero."

Nothing now remains for the lovers but to arrange the signs and seasons
of their future meeting. Then Hero retires to her tower, and Leander
returns to Abydos by the Hellespont:

    #pannychiôn d' oarôn kryphious potheontes aethlous
    pollakis êrêsanto molein thalamêpolon orphnên.#[266]

It may be said in passing that this parting scene, though briefly
narrated, is no less well conducted, _wohl motivirt_, as Goethe would
have phrased it, than are all the other incidents of the poem (lines
221-231). The interpretation of the passage turns upon the word
#pannychidas#, in line 225, which must here be taken to mean the vigil
before marriage.

At this point the action turns. Musæus, having to work within a narrow
space, has made the meeting and the dialogue between the lovers
disproportionate to the length of the whole piece. In this way he
secures our sympathy for the youth and maid, whom we learn to know
as living persons. He can now afford to drop superfluous links, and
to compress the tale within strict limits. The cunning of his art is
shown by the boldness of the transition to the next important incident.
The night and the day are supposed to have passed. We hear nothing of
the impatience of Leander or of Hero's flux and reflux of contending
feelings. The narrative is resumed just as though the old thread had
been broken and another had been spun; and yet there is no sense of

    #êdê kyanopeplos anedrame nyktos omichlê
    andrasin hypnon agousa kai ou potheonti Leandrôi.#[267]

The lover's attitude of suspense, waiting at nightfall on the beach
for Hero's lamp to burn, is so strongly emphasized in the following
lines that we are made to feel how anxiously and yearningly the hours
of daylight had been spent by him. No sooner does the spark shine forth
than Leander darts forward to the waves, and, having prayed to Love,
leaps lively in:

    #hôs eipôn meleôn eratôn apedysato peplon
    amphoterais palamêisin, heôi d' esphinxe karênôi,
    êïonos d' exôrto, demas d' errhipse thalassêi,
    lampomenou d' espeuden aei katenantia lychnou
    autos eôn eretês autostolos automatos nêus.#[268]

Hero meanwhile is on the watch, and when her bridegroom gains the
shore, breathless and panting, he finds himself within her arms:

                          #ek de thyraôn
    nymphion asthmainonta periptyxasa siôpêi
    aphrokomous rhathamingas eti stazonta thalassês
    êgage nymphokomoio mychous epi partheneônos.#[269]

There she washes the stain and saltness of the sea from his body,
and anoints him with perfumed oil, and leads him with tender words
of welcome to the marriage-bed. The classic poet feels no need of
apologizing for the situation, nor does he care to emphasize it. The
whole is narrated with Homeric directness, contrasting curiously with
the romantic handling of the same incident by Marlowe. Yet the point
and pathos of clandestine marriage had to be expressed; and to a Greek
the characteristic circumstance was the absence of customary ritual.
This defect, while it isolated the lovers from domestic sympathies and
troops of friends, attracted attention to themselves, and gave occasion
to some of the best verses in the poem:

    #ên gamos all' achoreutos; eên lechos all' ater hymnôn;
    ou Zygiên Hêrên tis epeuphêmêsen aoidos;
    ou daïdôn êstrapte selas thalamêpolon eunên;
    oude polyskarthmôi tis epeskirtêse choreiêi,
    ouch hymenaion aeise patêr kai potnia mêtêr;
    alla lechos storesasa telessigamoisin en hôrais
    sigê paston epêxen, enymphokomêse d' omichlê,
    kai gamos ên apaneuthen aeidomenôn hypemaiôn.
    nyx men eên keinoisi gamostolos, oude pot' êôs
    nymphion eide Leandron arignôtois eni lektrois;
    nêcheto d' antiporoio palin poti dêmon Abydou
    ennychiôn akorêtos eti pneiôn hymenaiôn.
    Hêrô d' helkesipeplos, heous lêthousa tokêas,
    parthenos hêmatiê nychiê gynê. Amphoteroi de
    pollakis êrêsanto katelthemen es dysin êô.#[270]

So the night passed, and through many summer nights they tasted the
sweets of love, #chloeroisin iainomenoi meleessin#. But soon came
winter, and with winter the sea grew stormy, and ships were drawn up on
the beach, and the winds battled with each other in the Hellespontine
Straits; and now Hero should have refrained from lighting her lamp,
#minyôrion astera lektrôn#: but love and fate compelled her, and the
night of tempest and of destiny arrived. Manfully Leander wrestled
with the waves; yet the storm grew stronger; his strength ebbed away,
an envious gust blew out the guiding lamp; and so he perished in
the waters. The picture of his death-struggle is painted with brief
incisive touches. The last two lines have a strange unconscious pathos
in them, as though the life and love of a man were no better than a

    #kai dê lychnon apiston apesbese pikros aêtês
    kai psychên kai erôta polytlêtoio Leandrou.#[271]

What remains to be told is but little. The cold gray dawn went forth
upon the sea; how gray and comfortless they know who, after lonely
watching through night hours, have seen discolored breakers beat upon a
rainy shore. Hero from her turret gazed through the twilight; and there
at her feet lay dead Leander, bruised by the rocks and buffeted by
slapping waves. She uttered no cry; but tore the embroidered raiment on
her breast, and flung herself, face downward, from the lofty tower. In
their death, says the poet after his own fashion, they were not divided:

    #allêlôn d' aponanto kai en pymatôi per olethrôi.#[272]

This line ends the poem.

This is but a simple story. Yet for that very reason it is one of those
stories which can never grow old. As Leigh Hunt, after some unnecessary
girding at scholars and sculptors, has sung:

    I never think of poor Leander's fate,
    And how he swam, and how his bride sat late,
    And watched the dreadful dawning of the light,
    But as I would of two that died last night.
    So might they now have lived, and so have died;
    The story's heart, to me, still beats against its side.

What makes it doubly touching is, that this poem of young love and
untimely fate was born, like a soul "beneath the ribs of death," in the
dotage and decay of Greek art. I do not know whether it has often been
noticed that the qualities of romantic grace and pathos were chiefly
appreciated by the Greeks in their decline. It is this circumstance,
perhaps, which caused the tales of _Hero and Leander_ and _Daphnis and
Chloe_ to attract so much attention at the time of the Renaissance.
Modern students found something akin to their own modes of feeling in
the later classics. Are not the colors of the autumn in harmony with
the tints of spring?

The judicious Hallam, in a famous passage of the _History of
Literature_, records his opinion that "it is impossible not to wish
that Shakespeare had never written" the sonnets dedicated to Mr. W. H.
With the same astounding #apeirokalia#, or insensibility to beauty, he
ventures to dismiss the _Hero and Leander_ of Marlowe as "a paraphrase,
in every sense of the epithet, of the most licentious kind." Yet this
severe high-priest of decorum has devoted three pages and a half to the
analysis of _Romeo and Juliet_, in which play we have, as he remarks
with justice, "more than in any other tragedy, the mere passion of
love; love, in all its vernal promise, full of hope and innocence,
ardent beyond all restraint of reason, but tender as it is warm." What
can be said of the critical perceptions of one who finds so strongly
marked a moral separation between the motives of Marlowe's poem and
Shakespeare's play?

The truth is that the words used by Hallam to characterize the subject
of _Romeo and Juliet_ are almost exactly applicable to _Hero and
Leander_, after due allowance made for the distinction between the
styles of presentation proper to a tragedy in the one case, and in
the other to a narrative poem. Reflecting upon this, it is probable
that the impartial student will side with Swinburne when he writes:
"I must avow that I want, and am well content to want, the sense,
whatever it be, which would enable me to discern more offence in that
lovely picture of the union of two lovers in body as in soul than I can
discern in the parting of Romeo and Juliet."

To discuss the morality of Marlowe's muse is, however, alien to
the present purpose. What has to be brought plainly forward is the
artistic difference between the methods of Marlowe and Musæus. Hallam,
in calling the English _Hero and Leander_ a "paraphrase," was hardly
less wrong than Warton, who called it a "translation." It is, in
fact, a free and independent reproduction of the story first told
by Musæus. Without the poem of Musæus the poem of Marlowe would not
have existed; but though the incidents remain unchanged, the whole
manner of presenting them, of selecting characteristic details, and of
guiding the sympathy and imagination of the reader is altered. In other
words, the artistic consciousness had shifted its point of gravity
between the ages of Musæus and Marlowe, and a new poem was produced
to satisfy the new requirements of the æsthetic ideal. Musæus, as we
have already seen, thought it essential to set forth the whole of his
subject at the opening in its minutest details: Sestos and Abydos, the
marriage-bed on which the morning never shone, the swimming feat of
Leander, and the lamp, which was the star of love, till envious fate
blew out both love and light and life itself together, all find their
proper place in the proemium. In conducting the narrative he is careful
to present each motive, as it were, from the outside, to cast the
light of his imagination upon forms rendered as distinct as possible
in their plasticity, just as the sun's light falls upon and renders
visible a statue. There is no attempt to spiritualize the subject, to
flood it with emotion, thought, and passion, to pierce into its inmost
substance, to find the analogue to its implicit feeling in the depth
of his own soul, and, by expressing that, to place his readers at the
point of view from which he contemplates the beauty of the fable. The
poet withdraws his personality, leaving the animated figures he has
put upon the stage of fancy, the carefully prepared situations that
display their activity, and the words invented for them, to tell the
tale. He can therefore afford to be both simple and direct, brief in
descriptive passages, and free from psychological digressions. A few
gnomic sentences, here and there introduced, suffice to maintain the
reflective character of a meditated work of art. All this is in perfect
concord with the Greek conception of art, the sculpturesque ideal.

Marlowe takes another course. The three hundred and forty lines which
were enough for Musæus are expanded into six sestiads or cantos, each
longer than the whole Greek poem.[273] Yet to this lengthy narrative
no prelude is prefixed. Unlike Musæus, Marlowe rushes at once into the
story. He does not wait to propound it, or to talk about the fatal
lamp, or to describe Hero's tower. That Hero lived in a tower at all we
only discover by accident on the occasion of her visit to the shrine
of Venus, and Leander makes his first appearance there, guided by no
lamp, but by his own audacity. On the other hand, all descriptions that
set free the poet's feeling are enormously extended. The one epithet
#himeroeis#, or love-inspiring, for instance, which satisfied Musæus,
is amplified by Marlowe through forty lines throbbing with his own
deep sense of adolescent beauty. The temple of Venus, briefly alluded
to by Musæus, is painted in detail by Marlowe, with a luminous account
of its frescos, bass-reliefs, and pavements. The first impassioned
speech of Leander runs at one breath over ninety-six verses, while
mythological episodes and moral reflections are freely interpolated.
All the situations, however delicate, so long as they have raised the
poet's sense of beauty to enthusiasm, are treated with elaborate and
loving sympathy. In presenting them with their fulness of emotion to
the reader, Marlowe taxes his inexhaustible invention to the utmost,
and permits the luxuriance of his fancy to run riot. The passion which
carries this soul of fire and air up to the empyrean, where it moves at
ease, sometimes betrays him into what we know as faults of taste. It is
as though the love-ache, grown intense, had passed over for a moment
into pain, as though the music, seeking for subtler and still more
subtle harmonies, had touched at times on discord.

Compared with the Greek poem, this _Hero and Leander_ of Marlowe is
like some radiant double-rose placed side by side with the wild-brier
whence it sprang by cultivation. The petals have been multiplied,
the perfume deepened and intensified, the colors varied in their
modulations of a single tint. At the same time something in point of
simple form has been sacrificed. The first thing, then, that strikes
us in turning from Musæus to Marlowe is that what the Greek poet
considered all-important in the presentation of his subject has been
dropped or negligently handled by the English, while the English poet
has been prodigal in places where the Greek displayed his parsimony.
On looking further, we discover that the modern poet, in all these
differences, aims at effects not realized by ancient art. The life and
play and actual pulsations of emotion have to be revealed, both as
they exist in the subject of the poem and as the poet finds them in
his own soul. Everything that will contribute to this main achievement
is welcomed by the poet, and the rest rejected. All the motives which
had an external statuesque significance for the Greek must palpitate
with passion for the English. Those that cannot clothe themselves with
spirit as with a garment are abandoned. He wants to make his readers
feel, not see: if they see at all, they must see through their emotion;
whereas the emotion of the Greek was stirred in him through sight. We
do not get very far into the matter, but we gain something, perhaps, by
adding that as sculpture is to painting and music, so is the poetry of
Musæus to that of Marlowe. In the former, feeling is subordinate, or,
at most, but adequate, to form; in the latter, _Gefühl ist alles_.

What has just been advanced is stated broadly, and is therefore only
accurate in a general sense. For while the Greek _Leander_ contains
exquisite touches of pure sentiment, so the English _Leander_ offers
fully perfected pictures of Titianesque beauty. Still, this does not
impair the strength of the position: what is really instructive in the
comparative study of the two tales of _Hero and Leander_ will always be
that the elder poem, in spite of its autumnal quality, is classical;
the younger, in spite of its most utter paganism, is romantic. To
enter into minute criticism of Marlowe's poem would be out of place
here; and, were it included in my programme, I should shrink from
this task as a kind of profanation. Those who have the true sense of
ideal beauty, and who can rise by sympathy above the commonplaces
of every-day life into the free atmosphere of art, which is nature
permeated with emotion, will never forget the prolonged, recurring,
complex cadences of that divinest dithyramb poured forth from a young
man's soul. Every form and kind of beauty is included in his adoration,
and the whole is spiritualized with imagination, ardent and passionate
beyond all words.


[253] "What of the youth, whose marrow the fierceness of Love has
turned to flame? Late in the dark night he swims o'er seas boiling with
bursting storms; and over his head the huge gates of the sky thunder;
and the seas, dashing on the rocks, call to him to return: nor can the
thought of his parents' agony entice him back, nor of the maiden doomed
to a cruel death upon his corpse."--Virg. _Georg._ iii. 258. Translated
by an Oxford graduate.

[254] It is not only in Musæus that we trace a fascination comparable
to that of autumn tints in trees. The description by Ausonius of Love
caught and crucified in the garden of Proserpine, which contains the
two following lines,

    Inter arundineasque comas gravidumque papaver
    Et tacitos sine labe lacus sine murmure rivos,

might be quoted as an instance of the charm. Indeed, it pervades the
best Latin poetry of the silver age, the epistles of Philostratus, many
of the later Greek epigrams, and all the Greek romances, with _Daphnis
and Chloe_ at their head.

[255] Tell, goddess, of the lamp, the confidant of secret love, and of
the youth who swam by night to find his bridal-bed beyond the sea, and
of the darkened marriage on which immortal morning never shone, and of
Sestos and Abydos, where was the midnight wedding of Hero.

[256] Love's ornament, which Zeus in heaven, after the midnight
contest, should have brought into the company of stars and called it
the bride-adorning star of love.

[257] By setting on fire a youth and a maiden, of whom the names were
love-inspiring Leander and virgin Hero.

[258] Then came upon him astonishment, audacity, trembling, shame;
in his heart he trembled, and shame seized him at having been made
captive: yet he marvelled at the faultless form, and love kept shame
away; then manfully by love's guidance he embraced audacity, and gently
stepped and stood before the girl.

[259] And he within himself was glad at heart, because the maiden
understood his love, and cast it not from her.

[260] Gently pressing the rosy fingers of the maiden, from the depths
of his breast he sighed; but she, in silence, as though angered, drew
her rosy hand away.

[261] Kissing the fair perfumed maiden's neck.

[262] The while she bent her glance upon the ground, Leander tired not
with impassioned eyes of gazing at the maiden's neck.

[263] Now she, too, received into her soul the bitter-sweet sting of
love, and the heart of maiden Hero was warmed with delicious fire, and
before the beauty of love-inspiring Leander she quailed.

[264] A tower, beset with noises of the sea, and high as heaven, is
my home: there I dwell, together with one only servant, before the
city walls of Sestos, above the deep-waved shore, with ocean for my
neighbor: such is the stern will of my parents. Nor are there maidens
of my age to keep me company, nor dances of young men close by; but
everlastingly at night and morn a roaring from the windy sea assails my

[265] Minding it, I shall be a ship of love, having thy lamp for star.

[266] In their desire for the hidden lists of midnight converse they
oftentimes prayed that darkness should descend and lead them to the

[267] Now the dark-mantled gloom of night rose over earth, bringing to
mortals sleep, but not to longing Leander.

[268] So having said, he withdrew from his lovely limbs the mantle with
both bands, and bound it on his head, and leaped from the shore, and
cast his body on the sea, and ever fared face-forward to the burning
lamp, himself the oarsman, self-impelled, a self-directed ship.

[269] From the door she passed, and silently embraced her panting
bridegroom, dripping with the foamy sprinklings of the sea, and led him
to the bride-adorning chamber of her maiden hours.

[270] There was wedding, but without the ball; there was bedding but
without the hymn: no singer invoked bridal Here; no blaze of torches
lit the nuptial couch, nor did the youths and maidens move in myriad
mazes of the dance: father and mother sang no marriage chant. But
silence spread the bed and strewed the couch, and darkness decked
the bride; without hymns of Hymen was the wedding. Night was their
bridesmaid, nor did dawning see Leander in the husband's room. He swam
again across the straits to Abydos, still breathing of bridal in his
soul unsatisfied of joy. Hero, meanwhile, by day a maid, at night a
wife, escaped her parents' eyes: both bride and bridegroom oftentimes
desired that day should set.

[271] And so the bitter blast extinguished the faithless lamp and the
life and love of suffering Leander.

[272] They enjoyed each other even thus in the last straits of doom.

[273] Marlowe lived to write only the first two sestiads.



    Separation between the Greeks and us.--Criticism.--Greek Sense
        of Beauty.--Greek Morality.--Greece, Rome, Renaissance, the
        Modern Spirit.

The Greeks had no past, "no hungry generations trod them down;" whereas
the multitudinous associations of immense antiquity envelop all our
thoughts and feelings.[274] "O Solon, Solon," said the priest of Egypt,
"you Greeks are always children!" The world has now grown old; we are
gray from the cradle onwards, swathed with the husks of outworn creeds,
and rocked upon the lap of immemorial mysteries. The travail of the
whole earth, the unsatisfied desires of many races, the anguish of
the death and birth of successive civilizations, have passed into our
souls. Life itself has become a thousandfold more complicated and more
difficult for us than it was in the spring-time of the world. With the
increase of the size of nations, poverty and disease and the struggle
for bare existence have been aggravated. How can we, then, bridge over
the gulf which separates us from the Greeks? How shall we, whose souls
are aged and wrinkled with the long years of humanity, shake hands
across the centuries with those young-eyed, young-limbed, immortal
children? Can we make criticism our Medea--bid the magnificent witch
pluck leaves and flowers of Greek poetry and art and life, distilling
them for us to bathe therein and regenerate our youth like Æson?

Like a young man newly come from the wrestling-ground, anointed,
chapleted, and very calm, the Genius of the Greeks appears before
us. Upon his soul there is as yet no burden of the world's pain; the
creation that groaneth and travaileth together has touched him with no
sense of anguish, nor has he yet felt sin. The pride and the strength
of adolescence are his--audacity and endurance, swift passions and
exquisite sensibilities, the alternations of sublime repose and boyish
noise, grace, pliancy, and stubbornness and power, love of all fair
things and radiant in the world, the frank enjoyment of the open air,
free merriment, and melancholy well beloved. Of these adolescent
qualities, of this clear and stainless personality, this conscience
whole and pure and reconciled to nature, what survives among us now?
The imagination must be strained to the uttermost before we can begin
to sympathize with such a being. The blear-eyed mechanic, stifled in
a hovel of our sombre Northern towns, canopied through all the year
with smoke, deafened with wheels that never cease to creak, stiffened
by toil in one cramped posture, oblivious of the sunlight and green
fields, could scarcely be taught even to envy the pure, clear life of
art made perfect in humanity, which was the pride of Hellas. His soul
is gladdened, if at all, by a glimpse of celestial happiness far off.
The hope that went abroad across the earth so many centuries ago has
raised his eyes to heaven. How can he comprehend a mode of existence in
which the world itself was adequate to all the wants of the soul, and
when to yearn for more than life affords was reckoned a disease?

We may tell of blue Ægean waves, islanded with cliffs that seem less
real than clouds, whereon the temples stand, burning like gold in
sunset or turning snowy fronts against the dawn. We may paint high
porches of the gods, resonant with music and gladdened with choric
dances; or describe perpetual sunshine and perpetual ease--no work from
year to year that might degrade the body or impair the mind, no dread
of hell, no yearning after heaven, but summer-time of youth and autumn
of old age and loveless death bewept and bravely borne.[275] The life
of the schools, the theatre, the wrestling-ground, the law-courts;
generous contests on the Pythian or Olympian plains; victorious
crowns of athletes or of patriots; Simonidean epitaphs and funeral
orations of Pericles for fallen heroes; the prize of martial prowess
or poetic skill; the honor paid to the pre-eminence of beauty--all
these things admit of scholar-like enumeration. Or we may recall by
fancy the olive-groves of the Academy; discern Hymettus pale against
the burnished sky, and Athens guarded by her glistening goddess of
the mighty brow--Pallas, who spreads her shield and shakes her spear
above the labyrinth of peristyles and pediments in which her children
dwell. Imagination can lead us to the plane-trees on Cephisus's shore,
the labors of the husbandmen who garner dues of corn and oil, the
galleys in Peiræan harborage. Or, with the Lysis and the Charmides
beneath our eyes, we may revisit the haunts of the wrestlers and the
runners, true-born Athenians, fresh from the bath and crowned with
violets--chaste, vigorous, inured to rhythmic movements of the passions
and the soul.

Yet, after all, when the process of an elaborate culture has thus been
toilsomely accomplished, when we have trained our soul to sympathize
with that which is so novel and so strange and yet so natural, few of
us can fairly say that we have touched the Greeks at more than one or
two points. _Novies Styx interfusa coercet_: between us and them crawls
the nine times twisted stream of death. The history of the human race
is one; and without the Greeks we should be nothing. But just as an old
man of ninety is not the same being as the boy of nineteen--nay, cannot
even recall to memory how and what he felt when the pulse of manhood
was yet gathering strength within his veins--even so now civilized
humanity looks back upon the youth of Hellas and wonders what she was
in that blest time.

A few fragments yet remain from which we strive to reconstruct the
past. Criticism is the product of the weakness as well as of the
strength of our age. In the midst of our activity we have so little
that is artistically salient or characteristic in our life that we are
not led astray by our own individuality or tempted to interpret the
past wrongly by making it square with the present. Impartial clearness
of judgment in scientific research, laborious antiquarian zeal,
methodic scrupulousness in preserving the minutest details of local
coloring, and an earnest craving to escape from the dreary present of
commonplace routine and drudgery into the spirit-stirring freedom of
the past--these are qualities of the highest value which our century
has brought to bear upon history. They make up in some measure for
our want of the creative faculties which more productive but less
scientific ages have possessed, and enable those who have but little
original imagination to enjoy imaginative pleasures at second hand by
living as far as may be in the clear light of antique beauty.

The sea, the hills, the plains, the sunlight of the South, together
with some ruins which have peopled Europe with phantoms of dead art,
and the relics of Greek literature, are our guides in the endeavor to
restore the past of Hellas. Among rocks golden with broom-flowers,
murmurous with bees, burning with anemones in spring and oleanders
in summer, and odorous through all the year with thyme, we first
assimilate the spirit of the Greeks. It is here that we divine the
meaning of the myths, and feel those poems that expressed themselves
in marble mid the temples of the gods to have been the one right
outgrowth from the sympathy of man, as he was then, with nature. In
the silence of mountain valleys thinly grown with arbutus and pine and
oak, open at all seasons to pure air, and breaking downwards to the
sea, we understand the apparition of Pan to Pheidippides, we read the
secret of a nation's art that aimed at definition before all things.
The bay of Naples, the coast of Sicily, are instinct with the sense
of those first settlers, who, coasting round the silent promontories,
ran their keels upon the shelving shore, and drew them up along the
strand, and named the spot Neapolis or Gela. The boys of Rome were yet
in the wolf's cavern. Vesuvius was a peaceful hill on which the olive
and the vine might slumber. The slopes of Pozzuoli were green with
herbs, over which no lava had been poured. Wandering about Sorrento,
the spirit of the _Odyssey_ is ours. Those fishing-boats with lateen
sail are such as bore the heroes from their ten years' toil at Troy.
Those shadowy islands caught the gaze of Æneas straining for the
promised land. Into such clefts and rents of rock strode Herakles and
Jason when they sought the golden apples and the golden fleece. Look
down. There gleam the green and yellow dragon-scales, coiled on the
basement of the hills, and writhing to each curve and cleavage of the
chasm. Is it a dream? Do we in fact behold the mystic snake, or in the
twilight do those lustrous orange-trees deceive our eyes? Nay, there
are no dragons in the ravine--only thick boughs and burnished leaves
and snowy bloom and globes of glittering gold. Above them on the cliff
sprout myrtle-rods, sacred to Love, myrtle-branches, with which the
Athenians wreathed their swords in honor of Harmodius. Lilies and
jonquils and hyacinths stand, each straight upon his stem--a youth, as
Greeks imagined, slain by his lover's hand, or dead for love of his
own loveliness, or cropped in love's despite by death that is the foe
of love. Scarlet and white anemones are there, some born of Adonis's
blood, and some of Aphrodite's tears. All beauty fades; the flowers
of earth, the bloom of youth, man's strength, and woman's grace, all
wither and relapse into the loveless and inexorable grave. This the
Greeks knew, mingling mirth with melancholy, and love with sadness,
their sweetest songs with elegiac melodies.

Beneath the olive-trees, among the flowers and ferns, move stately
maidens and bare-chested youths. Their eyes are starry-softened or
flash fire, and their lips are parted to drink in the breath of life.
Some are singing in the fields an antique, world-old monotone of song.
Was not the lay of Linus, the burden of #makrai tai dryes ô Menalka#
(High are the oak-trees, O Menalcas), some such canzonet as this? These
late descendants of Greek colonists are still beautiful--like moving
statues in the sunlight and the shadow of the boughs. Yonder tall,
straight girl, whose pitcher, poised upon her head, might have been
filled by Electra or Chrysothemis with lustral waters for a father's
tomb, carries her neck as nobly as a Fate of Pheidias. Her body sways
upon the hips, where rests her modelled arm; the ankle and the foot
are sights to sit and gaze at through a summer's day. And where, if
not here, shall we meet with Hylas and Hyacinth, with Ganymede and
Hymenæus, in the flesh? As we pass the laughter and the singing die
away. Bright dresses and pliant forms are lost. We stray onward through
the sheen and shade of olive-branches.

The olive was Athene's gift to Hellas, and Athens carved its leaves
and berries on her drachma with the head of Pallas and her owl. The
light which never leaves its foliage, silvery beneath and sparkling
from the upper surface of burnished green, the delicacy of its stem,
which in youth and middle and old age retains the distinction of finely
accentuated form, the absence of sombre shadow on the ground beneath
its branches, might well fit the olive to be the symbol of the purity
of classic art. Each leaf is cut into a lance-head of brilliancy, not
jagged or fanciful or woolly like the foliage of Northern trees. There
is here no mystery of darkness, no labyrinth of tortuous shade, no
conflict of contrasted forms. Excess of light sometimes fatigues the
eye amid those airy branches, and we long for the repose of gloom to
which we are accustomed in our climate. But gracefulness, fertility,
power, radiance, pliability, are seen in every line. The spirit of
the Greeks itself is not more luminous and strong and subtle. The
color of the olive-tree, again, is delicate. Its pearly grays and
softened greens in nowise interfere with the lustre which is the true
distinction of the tree. Clear and faint like Guido's colors in the
Ariadne of St. Luke's at Rome, distinct as the thought in a Greek
epigram, the olive-branches are relieved against the bright blue of the
sea. The mountain slopes above are clothed by them with light as with
a raiment; clinging to knoll and vale and winding creek, rippling in
hoary undulations to the wind, they wrap the hills from feet to flank
in lucid haze. Above the olives shine bare rocks in steady noon or
blush with dawn and evening.[276] Nature is naked and beautiful beneath
the sun--like Aphrodite, whose raiment falls waist-downward to her
sandals on the sea, but whose pure breasts and forehead are unveiled.

Nature is thus the first, chief element by which we are enabled to
conceive the spirit of the Greeks. The key to their mythology is here.
Here is the secret of their sympathies, the well-spring of their
deepest thoughts, the primitive potentiality of all they have achieved
in art. What is Apollo but the magic of the sun whose soul is light?
What is Aphrodite but the love-charm of the sea? What is Pan but the
mystery of nature, the felt and hidden want pervading all? What, again,
are those elder, dimly discovered deities, the Titans and the brood of
Time, but forces of the world as yet beyond the touch and ken of human
sensibilities? But nature alone cannot inform us what that spirit was.
For though the Greeks grew up in scenes which we may visit, they gazed
on them with Greek eyes, eyes different from ours, and dwelt upon them
with Greek minds, minds how unlike our own! Unconsciously, in their
long and unsophisticated infancy, the Greeks absorbed and assimilated
to their own substance that loveliness which it is left for us only to
admire. Between them and ourselves--even face to face with mountain,
sky, and sea, unaltered by the lapse of years--flow the rivers of Death
and Lethe and New Birth, and the mists of thirty centuries of human
life are woven like a veil. To pierce that veil, to learn even after
the most partial fashion how they transmuted the splendors of the world
into æsthetic forms, is a work which involves the further interrogation
of their sculpture and their literature.

The motives of that portion of Greek sculpture which bring us close
to the incidents of Greek life are very simple. A young man binding
a fillet round his head; a boy drawing a thorn from his foot; a girl
who has been wounded in the breast raising her arm to show where
the sword smote her; an athlete bending every sinew to discharge
the quoit; a line of level-gazing youths on prancing horses, some
faring forward with straight eyes, one turning, with bridle-hand held
tightly, to encourage his companion, another with loose mantle in the
act to mount, others thrown back to rein upon their haunches chafing
steeds; a procession of draped maidens bearing urns; a maiden, draped
from neck to ankle, holding in both hands a lustral vase--such are
the sculptured signs by which we read the placid physical fulfilment
of Greek life. That the serenity of satisfied existence is an end
in itself, and that death in the plenitude of vigor is desirable,
the reliefs of Pheidias and the Æginetan marbles teach us. In these
simple but consummate works of art the beauty of pure health, physical
enjoyment, temperance, mental vigor, and heroic daring mingle and
create one splendor of a human being sensitive to all influences and
vital in every faculty. Excess can nowhere be discovered. Compare with
these forms for a moment the Genii painted by Michael Angelo upon the
roof of the Sistine Chapel. Over them has passed the spirit with its
throes: _la maladie de la pensée_ is there. Of no Phoebus and no Pallas
are they the servants; but ministers of prophets and sibyls, angels
of God fulfilling his word, they incarnate the wrestlings and the
judgments and the resurrections of the soul. Now take a banquet-scene
from some Greek vase. Along the cushioned couch lie young men, naked,
crowned with myrtles; in their laps are women, and at their sides broad
jars of honeyed wine. A winged Eros hovers over them, and their lips
are opened to sing a song of ancient love. Yet this is no forecast of
Borgia revels in Rome, or of the French Regent's Parc aux Cerfs. When
Autolycus entered the symposium of Xenophon, all tongues were stricken
dumb; man gazed at man in wonder at his goodliness. When Charmides,
heading the troop of wrestlers, joined Socrates in the palæstra, the
soul of the philosopher was troubled; such beauty was for him a sacred,
spirit-shaking thing. Simætha, in the _Pharmaceutria_ of Theocritus,
beheld the curls of youths on horseback like laburnum-flowers, and
their bosoms whiter than the moon.

We need not embark on antiquarian or metaphysical or historical
discussions in order to understand the sense of beauty which was
inherent in the Greeks. Little hints scattered by the wayside are
far more helpful. Take, for example, the _Clouds_ of Aristophanes;
and after reading the speech of the Dikaios Logos, stand beneath
the Athlete of Lysippus,[277] in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican.
"Fresh and fair in beauty-bloom you shall pass your days in the
wrestling-ground, or run races beneath the sacred olive-trees, crowned
with white reed, in company with a pure-hearted friend, smelling of
bindweed and leisure hours and the white poplar that sheds her leaves,
rejoicing in the prime of spring, when the plane-tree whispers to
the lime." This life the Dikaios Logos offers to the young Athenian
if he will forego the law-courts and the lectures of the sophists
and the house of the hetaira. This life rises above us imaged in the
sculptor's marble. The athlete, tall and stately, tired with healthy
exercise, lifts one arm, and with his strigil scrapes away the oil
with which he has anointed it. His fingers hold the die that tells his
number in the contest. Upon his features there rests no shade of care
or thought, but the delicious languor of momentary fatigue, and the
serenity of a nature in harmony with itself. A younger brother of the
same lineage is the Adorante of the Berlin Museum. His eyes and arms
are raised to heaven. Perfect in humanity, beneath the lightsome vault
of heaven he stands and prays--a prayer of joy and calm thanksgiving, a
Greek prayer--no Roman adoration with veiled eyes and muttering lips,
no Jewish prostration with the putting-off of sandals on the holy
ground, no Christian genuflection like the bending of wind-smitten
reeds beneath the spirit-breath of sacraments. The whirlwind of the
mightiest religions, born in the mystic East, has not passed over him;
he has not searched their depths of awe, their heights of ecstasy,
nor felt their purifying fires. Iamos in the mid-waves of Alpheus
might have prayed thus when he heard the voice of Phoebus calling to
him and promising the twofold gift of prophecy. All the statues of
the athletes bear the seal and blossom of #sôphrosynê#--that truly
Greek virtue, the correlative in morals to the passion for beauty.
"When I with justice on my lips flourished," says the Dikaios Logos,
"and modesty was held in honor, then a boy's voice was not heard; but
they went orderly through the streets in bands together from their
quarters to the harp-player's school, uncloaked and barefoot, even
though it snowed like meal." Of this sort are the two wrestling boys
at Florence, whose strained muscles exhibit the chord of masculine
vigor vibrating with tense vitality. If we in England seek some living
echo of this melody of curving lines we must visit the water meadows
where boys bathe in early morning, or the playgrounds of our public
schools in summer, or the banks of the Isis when the eights are on
the water, or the riding-schools of soldiers. We cannot reconstitute
the elements of Greek life; but here and there we may gain hints for
adding breath and pulse and movement to Greek sculpture. What for the
Greeks was a permanent and normal condition is for us an accident.
Therefore our conception of existence--more intense in emotion, more
profound, perhaps, in thought--contains an element of strife and pain,
an interruption of the purely physical harmony, which the Greek ideal

The charm which the simplest things acquired under the hand of a Greek
artificer may be seen in the adornment of a circular hand-mirror.[278]
Ivy-branches, dividing both ways from the handle, surround its rim with
a delicate tracery of sharp-cut leaf and corymb. The central space is
occupied by four figures--on the right, the boy Dionysus, who welcomes
his mother in heaven; on the left, Phoebus and a young Paniscus playing
on the double pipes. Grace can go no further than in the attitude and
the expression of this group. Dionysus is thrown backward; both his
arms are raised to encircle the neck of Semele, who bends to kiss his
upturned lips. A necklace with pendent balls defines the throat of the
stripling where it meets his breast, suggesting by some touch beyond
analysis the life that pulses in his veins. He has armlets too below
the elbow, and his hair ripples in ringlets between cheek and shoulder.
The little Paniscus is seated, attending only to his music, with such
childish earnestness as shows that his whole soul goes forth in piping.
Phoebus, half-draped and lustrous, stands erect beside a slender shaft
of laurel planted on the ground. Such are the delights of Paradise to
which, as Greeks imagined, a deity might welcome his earthly mother,
leading her by the hand from Hades. It would be easy enough to fill
a volume with such descriptions--to unlock the cabinets of gems and
coins, or to linger over vases painted with the single figure of a
winged boy in tender red upon their blackness, and showing the word
#KALOS# negligently written at the side.

But it is more to the purpose to note in passing that delicate
perception of associated qualities which led the Greeks to maintain
a sympathy between cognate deities, while distinguishing to the
utmost their specific attributes. Aphrodite, Eros, Dionysus, Hermes,
Hermaphrodite, the Graces, the Nymphs, the Genius of Death--these, for
example, though carefully individualized, are still of one kindred.
They blend and mingle in a concord of separate yet interpenetrating
beauties. Between the radiant Aphrodite of Melos, who in her triumphant
attitude seems to be an elder sister of the brazen-winged Victory
of Brescia, and the voluptuous Aphrodite Callipygos,[279] a whole
rhythm of finely modulated forms may be drawn out, each one of which
corresponds to some mood or moment of the enamoured soul. Her immortal
son in the Eros of Pheidias[280] is imagined as the "first of gods,"
#theôn prôtistos#, upstarting in his slenderness of youth from
Chaos--the keen, fine light of dawn dividing night from day. In the
Praxitelean Cupid--

                That most perfect of antiques,
    They call the Genius of the Vatican,
    Which seems too beauteous to endure itself
    In this rough world--

he becomes the deity described by Plato in the _Phædrus_, an
incarnation of passion, tinged, in spite of his own radiance, with
sadness. What thought has made him sorrowful and bowed his head?
Perhaps Theognis can tell us:

    #aphrones anthrôpoi kai nêpioi, hoite thanontas
      klaious' oud' hêbês anthos apollymenon.#[281]

The winged boy, again, bending his bow against the hearts of lovers,
with his lion's skin beside him,[282] is the Eros of Agathon--he who
delights to walk delicately upon the tender places of the soul. Next
we find him asleep upon his folded pinions, the mischievous child who
rewarded Anacreon's hospitality by wounding him, and who gave to the
thirsty heart of Meleager scalding tears to drink. How, in the last
place, are we to distinguish Love from Harpocrates, the silent, with
one finger on his lip?

Turn next to Hermes. When the herald of Olympus met Priam midway
between Troy-town and Achilles' tent, he was, says Homer,

                      #neêniêi andri eoikôs,
    prôton hypênêtêi, touper chariestatê hêbê#,

"like a young man, with budding beard, whose bloom is in the prime of
grace." This adolescent loveliness belongs throughout to Hermes. As
the genius of the gymnasium,[283] he is a deified athlete, scarcely to
be distinguished from the quoit-throwers and the runners he protects.
The Hermes, who woos a nymph with his arm around her waist,[284] has
Persuasion for his parent. Again, the seated Hermes, with wings upon
his ankles, is the swiftness of auroral light incarnate.[285] Nor
lastly, when, with chlamys thrown upon his shoulder and petasos slung
from his neck, he leads souls to Hades, caduceus in hand, has he
lost this quality of youth and lustre.[286] He upon Aphrodite begat
Hermaphrodite. Their union--the union of athletic goodliness and
consummate womanhood--produced a blending of two beauties forgotten by
an oversight of nature.

How various again is Bacchus, passing from the stately mildness of the
bearded Indian god to the wantonness of Phales, the "night-wandering
reveller!" At one time you can scarcely distinguish him from young
Apollo or young Herakles; at another his brows and tresses have the
chastity of Love; again he assumes the voluptuous form which befits
the sire by Aphrodite of Priapus. The fascination of the grape-juice
lends itself to all qualities that charm the soul of man. Yet another
of these cognate deities may be mentioned. That is the Genius of
Eternal Slumber,[287] reclining with arms folded above his head,
upright against a tree. To judge by his attitude, he might be Bacchus,
wine-drowsy, as in a statue of the gallery at Florence. Looking at his
long tresses, we call him Love: and what deities are of closer kin
than Love and Death? His stately form, not unlike that of Phoebus,
makes us exclaim in Æschylean language, #ô thanate paian# (O Death, the
healer!). But he is stronger and more enduring, less swift to move,
less light of limb, than any of these. It was a deep and touching
intuition of the Greeks which prompted them to ascribe these kinships
to Death. Who knows even now whether the winged and sworded genius of
the Ephesus column be Love or Death? To trace such analogies further
would be fanciful: it is enough to pluck at random a few blossoms, and
to scatter them for lovers. To Winckelmann and the antiquaries may be
left the accurate distinctions of the Greek deities. Without seeking
to confound these, but rather studying them most carefully, we may yet
discern by passing hints that purity of tact which enabled the Greeks
to interpret in their statuary every _nuance_ of feeling and of fancy,
and to mark by subtlest suggestions their points of agreement as well
as of divergence.

When Hippolytus in Euripides first appears upon the scene, he greets
Artemis with these words:

    Lady, for thee this garland have I woven
    Of wilding flowers, plucked from an unshorn meadow,
    Where neither shepherd dares to feed his flock,
    Nor ever scythe hath swept, but through the grasses
    Unshorn in spring the bee pursues her labors,
    And maiden modesty with running rills
    Waters the garden.

Before the Meleager of the Vatican, so calm and strong and redolent of
forest odors, this orison rings in our memory, and the Diana of the
Louvre seems ready to spring forth and loose her hind and call on the
hero to hunt with her. The life of woods and mountains was divined and
interpreted with fine sensibility by the Attic sculptors. Children
of the earth, and conscious of their own recent birth from the bosom
of the divine in nature, they loved all fair and fresh things of the
open world fraternally. Therefore they could carve the mystery of the
Praxitelean Faun,[288] whose subtle smile is a lure for souls, and the
profound sleep of the Barberini Faun,[289] who seems to have but half
escaped from elemental existence, and still to own some kindred with
unconscious things. The joy of the shepherd who carries on his back a
laughing child at Naples; the linked arms of Bacchus and Ampelus; the
young Triton[290] who blows his horn over the crests of the waves, and
calls upon his brethren the billows to rejoice with him, as he bears
his nymph away; the subtle charm of double life in Hermaphrodite,
in whom two sexes are hidden, like a bitter and a sweet almond in
one beautiful but barren husk; the frank sensuality of Silenus and
Priapus; the dishevelled hair and quivering flanks of Mænads; the
laughter of Eros wreathed around with coils of the enamoured dolphin's
tail;[291] the pride of the eagle soaring heavenward with Ganymede
among his plumes: from tokens like these, together with the scenes of
the Bacchæ and the Cyclops of Euripides, the idyls of Theocritus, and
the dedicatory epigrams of the Anthology, we learn of what sort was
the sympathy of the Greeks for nature. Their beautiful humanity is so
close to the mother ever youthful of all life, to the full-breasted
earth, that they seem calling through their art to the woods and
waves and rivers, crying to their brethren that still tarry: "Come
forth, and be like us; begin to feel and know your happiness; put on
the form of flesh in which the world's soul reaches consciousness!"
Humanity defined upon the borderland of nature is the life of all Greek
sculpture. Even the gods are films of fleshly form emergent on the
surface of the elements. The circle of the sun dilates, and Phoebus
grows into distinctness with the glory round him; out of the liquid
ether gaze the divine eyes of Zeus; Poseidon rises breast-high from the
mirrors of the sea. Man, for the first time conscious of his freedom,
yet clinging still to the breasts that gave him suck, like a flower
rooted to the kindly earth, expresses all his thought and feeling in
the language of his own shape. "The Greek spirit," says Hegel, "is the
plastic artist forming the stone into a work of art." And this work
of art is invariably the image of a man or woman. The most sublime
aspirations, the subtlest intuitions, the darkest forebodings, the
audacities of passion, the freedom of the senses, put on personality
in Hellas and assume a robe of carnal beauty. In Egypt and the Orient
humanity lay still upon "the knees of a mild mystery." The Egyptians
had not discovered the magic word by means of which the world might
be translated into the language of mankind: their art still remained
within the sphere of symbolism which excludes true sympathy. The Jews
had concentrated their thought upon moral phenomena: in their jealousy
of the abstract purity of the soul they banned the arts as impious.

Theognis tells us that when the Muses and the Graces came down from
Olympus to the marriage-feast of Cadmus and Harmonia, they sang a song
with this immortal burden:

    #hotti kalon, philon esti; to d' ou kalon ou philon estin.#[292]

This strikes the key-note to the music of the Greek genius. Beauty is
the true province of the Greeks, their indefeasible domain. But their
conception of beauty was both more comprehensive and more concrete than
any which a modern race, perturbed by the division of the flesh and
spirit, conscious of Jewish no less than Greek tradition, can attain
to. When Goethe expressed his theory of life in the following couplet,

    Im Ganzen, Guten, Schönen
    Resolut zu leben,[293]

he supplied us with a correct definition of the spirit which governed
Hellas. Beauty to the Greeks was one aspect of the universal synthesis,
commensurate with all that is fair in manners and comely in morals.
It was the harmony of man with nature in a well-balanced and complete
humanity, the bloom of health upon a conscious being, satisfied, as
flowers and stars are satisfied, with the conditions of temporal
existence. It was the joy-note of the whole world, heard and echoed by
the sole being who could comprehend it--man. That alone was beautiful
which uttered a sound in unison with the whole, and all was good which
had this quality of concord. To be really beautiful was to be an
integral part of the world's symphony, to be developed fully in all
parts, without an undue preference for the soul before the body or for
the passions before the reason--to maintain the rhythm and the measure
and the balance of those faculties which characterize man, nature's
masterpiece. The profounder reaches of this thought were explored by
philosophers, who figured the soul as a harmony, who conceived of God
as the Idea of Beauty, or who, like Marcus Aurelius, defined virtue
to be a living and enthusiastic sympathy with nature. In the region
of social life it led the Greeks to treat the State as an organic
whole, which might be kept in preservation by the balance of its
several forces. In the sphere of religion it produced a race of gods,
each perfect in his individuality, distinct and self-contained, but
blending, like the colors of the prism, in the white light of Zeus,
who was the whole.[294] In actual life it facilitated the development
of characters which, by the free expansion of personality and by a
conscious culture, were themselves consummate works of art. Just as the
unity of the Greek religion was not the unity of the one, but of the
many, blent and harmonized in the variety that we observe in nature,
so the ideal of Greek life imposed no commonplace conformity to one
fixed standard on individuals, but each man was encouraged to complete
and realize the type of himself to the utmost. Pericles devoted his
energy to the perfecting of statesmanship, and became the incarnation
of the Athenian spirit; Pindar was a poet through and through; for
the Olympian victor it was enough to be physically complete; Pheidias
lived in concord with the universe by his exclusive devotion to his
art. Thus formed and modelled to the utmost perfection each of his own
kind, these characters, when contemplated together from a distance,
like the deities of Olympus, present, in the harmony that springs from
difference, an ideal of humanity. The Greek no less than the Christian
might need to cut off his right hand--to debar himself like Pericles
from the pleasures of society, or to cast aside the sin that doth so
easily beset us, like Socrates, who trampled under foot his sensual
instincts--for the attainment of that self-evolution which gave him
the right to be one note in the concord of the whole, one color in the
prism of humanity. The one thing needful to him was, not belief in the
unseen, nor of necessity holiness, but a firm resolve to comprehend and
cultivate his own capacity, and thus to add his quota to the sum of
beauty in the world.

The Greeks were essentially a nation of artists. Of the infinite
attributes of God, of the infinite qualities of the whole, they clearly
apprehended beauty. _That_ they conceived largely and liberally, not
narrowly and partially, as we are wont to do. And, like consummate
craftsmen, they did thoroughly whatsoever in the region of things
plastic their hands found to do--so thoroughly that men have only done
the work again in so far as they have followed the Greek rule. When
we speak of the Greeks as an æsthetic nation, this is what we mean.
Guided by no supernatural revelation, with no Mosaic law for conduct,
they trusted their #aisthêsis#, delicately trained and preserved in a
condition of the utmost purity. This tact is the ultimate criterion in
all matters of art--a truth which we recognize in our use of the word
æsthetic, though we too often attempt to import the alien elements of
metaphysical dogmatism and moral prejudice into the sphere of beauty.
This tact was also for the Greeks the ultimate criterion of ethics.
#Hygiainein men ariston andri thnatôi#, says Simonides.[295] A man in
perfect health of mind and body, enjoying the balance of mental, moral,
and physical qualities which health implies, carried within himself the
norm and measure of propriety. Those were the days when "love was an
unerring light, and joy its own security." What we call the conscience,
our continual reference to the standard of the divine will, scarcely
existed for the Greek. To that further stage in the education of the
world, where moral instincts are deepened and enforced by spiritual
religion, he had not advanced. But instead of it he had for a guide
this true artistic sensibility, developed by centuries of training,
fortified by traditional canons of good taste and prudence, and subject
to continual correction by reciprocal comparison and dialectical
debate. The lawgiver, the sculptor, the athlete, the statesman, the
philosopher, the poet, the warrior, the musician, each added something
of his own to the formation of a #koinê aisthêsis#, or common taste, by
which the individual might regulate his instincts.

To suppose that the Greeks were not a highly moralized race is perhaps
the strangest misconception to which religious prejudice has ever
given rise. If their morality was æsthetic and not theocratic, it was
none the less on that account humane and real. The difficulty for the
critic is to seize exactly that which is Hellenic--enduring and common
to the race, not transient and due to individuals--in their religion
and their ethics. In order to appreciate the first fine flavor of the
Greek intellect, it is necessary to go back to Homer, who represents a
period when the instincts of the Hellenes had not been sophisticated by
philosophical reflection or vitiated by contact with Asiatic luxury.
Homer joins hands with Pheidias and Aristophanes and Sophocles in a
chain of truly Greek tradition. But side by side with them there runs
a deeper and more mystic strain. The blood-justice of the Eumenides,
the asceticism of Pythagoras, the purificatory rites of Empedocles and
Epimenides, the dreadful belief in a jealous God, and the doctrine
of hereditary guilt in Theognis, Herodotus, and Solon, are fragments
of primitive or Asiatic superstition unharmonized with the serene
element of the Hellenic spirit. At the same time the orgiastic cult
of Dionysus and the voluptuous worship of the Corinthian Aphrodite
are intrusions from without. To eliminate such cruder moral and
religious notions was the impulse of the vigorous Greek mind. Yet at
one critical moment of history mysticism attained undue development
and bid fair to force the Hellenic genius into uncongenial regions.
The Persian war, by its lesson of a mortal peril escaped miraculously,
quickened the spiritual convictions of the race.[296] It was then
that Æschylus conceived his tragic doctrine of Retribution, whereof
the motto is #tôi drasanti pathein#, and Pindar sounded with an awful
sense of mystery the possible abysses of a future life. Greece,
after the struggle with Xerxes, passed through a period of feverish
exaltation, in which her placid contemplation of the beauty of the
world was interrupted. She, whose vocation it was to see only by the
light of the serene and radiant sun, seemed on the verge of becoming a
clairvoyant. But the balance was soon righted. Even in Pindar, moral
mysticism is, as it were, encysted, like an alien deposit, in the
more vital substance of æsthetic conceptions. Sophocles corrects the
gloomy extravagance of Æschylus. The law of tragedy in Sophocles is no
longer that the doer of a deed must suffer, but that he who offends
unwittingly will be accounted innocent. Euripides shifts the ground
of moral interest from religious beliefs to sophistical analysis.
Meanwhile Aristophanes, the true Athenian conservative, is equally
opposed to metaphysical subtleties and to superstitious fancies;
while Socrates directs his polemic against sciolism in philosophy and
childishness in mythology, without thinking it worth while to attack
the superstition of the mystics. In Plato's ethics the highest altitude
of sane Greek speculation is attained; and here we see how much akin,
in all essential matters of morality, the intuition of the Greeks was
to the revealed doctrine of the Christians. Aristophanes reflects the
clearest image of Greek versatility and cheerfulness. Pericles, freed
by Anaxagoras from foolish fears, realizes the genuine Greek life of
steadfast, self-reliant activity. The drama of Sophocles sets forth
a complete view of human destiny as conceived by the most perfect
of Greek intellects. Antigone dares to trust her own #aisthêsis#,
her moral tact, in opposition to unnatural law. Oedipus suffers no
further than his own quality of rashness justifies. When we arrive
at Aristotle, who yields the abstract of all that previously existed
in the Greek mind, we see that the scientific spirit has achieved a
perfect triumph. His science is the correlative in the region of pure
thought to the art which in sculpture had pursued an uninterrupted
course of natural evolution.

In the adolescent age of the Greek genius, mankind, not having yet
fully arrived at spiritual self-consciousness, was still as sinless and
simple as any other race that lives and dies upon the globe, forming a
part of the natural order of the world. The sensual impulses, within
reasonable limits, like the intellectual and the moral, were then
held void of crime and harmless. Health and good taste controlled
the physical appetites of man, just as the appetites of animals
are regulated by unerring instinct. In the same way a standard of
moderation determined moral virtue and intellectual excellence. But
in addition to this protective check upon the passions, a noble sense
of the beautiful, as that which is balanced and restrained within
limits, prevented the Greeks of the best period from diverging into
Asiatic extravagance of pleasure. License was reckoned barbarous,
and the barbarians were slaves by nature, #physei douloi#: Hellenes,
born to be free men, took pride in temperance. Their #sôphrosynê#, or
self-restraint, coextensive as a protective virtue with the whole of
their #to kalon#, or ideal of form, was essentially Greek--the quality
beloved by Phoebus, in whom was no dark place nor any flaw. With the
Romans, humanity, not having yet transcended the merely natural order,
remaining unconscious of a higher religious ideal, and at the same
time uncontrolled by exquisite Greek sense of fitness, began to wax
wanton. To the state of paradisal innocence succeeded the fall. The
bestial side of our mixed nature encroached upon the spiritual, and
the sense of beauty was perturbed by lust. That true health, without
which the unassisted tact is a false guide, failed; no fine law of
taste corrected appetite. It was at this moment that Christianity
convicted mankind of sin. The voice of God was heard crying in the
garden. The unity of man with nature was abruptly broken. Flesh and
spirit were defined and counterpoised. Man, abiding far from God in his
flesh, sought after God in his spirit. His union with God was no longer
an actual state of mundane innocence, but a distant, future, dim,
celestial possibility, to be achieved by the sacrifice of this fair
life of earth. "Your lives are hid with Christ in God." Together with
this separation of the flesh and spirit wrought by Christianity, came
the abhorrence of beauty as a snare, the sense that carnal affections
were tainted with sin, the unwilling toleration of sexual love as a
necessity, the idealization of celibacy and solitude. At the same time
humanity acquired new faculties and wider sensibilities, those varied
powers which make the modern man more complex and more mighty both for
good and evil than the ancient. A profounder and more vital feeling of
the mysteries of the universe arose. Our life on earth was seen to be
a thing by no means rounded in itself and perfect, but only one term
of an infinite and unknown series. It was henceforward impossible to
translate the world into the language of purely æsthetic form. This
stirring of the spirit marks the transition of the ancient to the
modern world.

At the time of the Renaissance the travail was well-nigh over; the
lesson had been learned and exaggerated; mankind began to resent the
one-sidedness of monastic Christianity, and to yearn once more for the
fruit and flowers of the garden which was Greece. Yet the spirit and
the flesh still remained in unreconciled antagonism. Over the gate
of Eden the arm of the seraph waved his terrible sword. But humanity
in rebellion, while outcast from God and convicted of sin, would not
refrain from plucking the pleasure of the sense. This was the time of
the insolence of the flesh, when antichrist sat in St. Peter's chair,
and when man, knowing his nakedness, submitted to the fascinations
of the siren, Shame. The old health of the Greeks, their simple and
unerring tact, was gone: to recover that was impossible. Christ crowned
with thorns, the Sabbaths and ablutions of the Jews, the "thunderous
vision" of St. Paul, had intervened and fixed a gulf between Hellas and
modern Europe. In that age the love of beauty became a tragic disease
like the plague which Aphrodite sent in wrath on Phædra. Even Michael
Angelo, at the end of a long life spent in the service of the noblest
art, felt constrained to write:

    Now hath my life across a stormy sea,
      Like a frail bark, reached that wide port where all
      Are bidden ere the final judgment fall,
      Of good and evil deeds to pay the fee.
    Now know I well how that fond fantasy,
      Which made my soul the worshipper and thrall
      Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal
      Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
    Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed,
      What are they when the double death is nigh?
      The one I know for sure, the other dread.
    Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
      My soul, that turns to his great love on high,
      Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.

In his work sculpture is forced to express what lies beyond its
province--the throes and labor of the spirit. Michael Angelo was not
a plastic character in the sense in which Hegel used this phrase.
His art reflects the combat of his nature and his age; whence comes
what people call its extravagance and emphasis. Raphael from the
opposite side introduced pagan form and feeling into his purely
religious work of art; whence came what people call his decadence.
Puritan England, inquisition-ridden Spain, and critical Germany offer
still more permanent signs of this deep-seated division in the modern
world between the natural instincts and the spiritual aspirations of
humanity. Even to the present day this division distorts our sense of
beauty and prevents our realizing an ideal of art.

After all, the separation between the Greeks and us is due to something
outside us rather than within--principally to the Hebraistic culture we
receive in childhood. We are taught to think that one form of religion
contains the whole truth, and that one way of feeling is right, to the
exclusion of the humanities and sympathies of races no less beloved of
God and no less kindred to ourselves than were the Jews. At the same
time, the literature of the Greeks has for the last three centuries
formed the basis of our education; their thoughts and sentiments,
enclosed like precious perfumes in sealed vases, spread themselves
abroad and steep the soul in honey-sweet aromas. Some will always be
found, under the conditions of this double culture, to whom Greece is a
lost fatherland, and who, passing through youth with the _mal du pays_
of that irrecoverable land upon them, may be compared to visionaries,
spending the nights in golden dreams and the days in common duties.

Has, then, the modern man no method for making the Hellenic tradition
vital instead of dream-like--invigorating instead of enervating?
There is, indeed, this one way only--to be natural. We must imitate
the Greeks, not by trying to reproduce their bygone modes of life and
feeling, but by approximating to their free and fearless attitude
of mind. While frankly recognizing that much of their liberty would
for us be license, and that the moral progress of the race depends
on holding with a firm grasp what the Greeks had hardly apprehended,
we ought still to emulate their spirit by cheerfully accepting the
world as we find it, acknowledging the value of each human impulse,
and aiming after virtues that depend on self-regulation rather than
on total abstinence and mortification. To do this in the midst of our
conventionalities and prejudices, our interminglement of unproved
expectations and unrefuted terrors, is no doubt hard. Yet if we fail of
this, we miss the best the Greeks can teach us. Nor need we fear lest,
in the attempt, we should lose what Christianity has given us. Those
who believe sincerely in the divine life of the world, who recognize
the truth that there can be nothing vitally irreconcilable between the
revelations made to the great races that have formed our past, will
dismiss such fears with a smile. It was not against the spirit of the
Greeks that St. Paul preached, but against the vices of a decadent
society in Hellas. It is not against the spirit of Christianity that
modern reformers lift their voices, but against the corruption and
exaggeration of its precepts in monasticism and Puritanism. The problem
of the present and the future is to bring both spirits into due accord,
to profit by both revelations while avoiding their distortion and abuse.

In the struggle of the adverse forces, felt so strongly ever since the
reactionary age of the Renaissance, there is, however, now at least a
hope of future reconciliation. The motto

    Im Ganzen, Guten, Schönen
    Resolut zu leben,

is not a strictly Christian sentence. St. Paul had said: "To me to
live is Christ, and to die is gain." But it is essentially human.
The man who lives by it is restored to that place in the world which
he has a right to occupy, instead of regarding himself as an alien
and an outcast from imagined heaven. Science must be our redeemer.
Science which teaches man to know himself, and explains to him his
real relation to nature. The healthy acceptance of the physical laws
to which we are subordinated need not prevent our full consciousness
of moral law. It is true that the beautiful Greek life, as of leopards
and tiger-lilies and eagles, cannot be restored. Yet neither need we
cling to the convent or the prison life of early Catholicity. The new
freedom of man must consist of submission to the order of the universe
as it exists. The final discovery that there is no antagonism between
our physical and spiritual constitution, but rather a most intimate
connection, must place the men of the future upon a higher level and
a firmer standing-ground than the Greeks. They by experience and
demonstration will know what the Greeks felt instinctively. Their
#aisthêsis#, permeated and strengthened by the ever-during influence of
Christianity, will be further fortified by the recognition of immutable
law. The tact of healthy youth will be succeeded by the calm reason of


[274] This chapter was written with the purpose of simply illustrating
the _æsthetic_ spirit of the Greeks. I had no intention of writing
a complete essay on the spirit of the Greeks as displayed in
their history and philosophy. Nor did I, in what I said about the
illustrative uses of Greek sculpture, seek to sketch the outlines of a
systematic study of that art. Therefore I chose examples freely from
all periods without regard to chronology or antiquarian distinctions.

[275] But, while we tell of these good things, we must not conceal the
truth that they were planted, like exquisite exotic flowers, upon the
black, rank soil of slavery. That is the dark background of Greek life.
Greek slaves may not have been worse off than other slaves--may indeed
most probably have been better treated than the serfs of feudal Germany
and Spanish Mexico. Yet who can forget the stories of Spartan helotry,
or the torments of Syracusan stone-quarries, or the pale figure of
Phædon rescued, true-born Elean as he was, by Socrates from an Athenian
house of shame?

[276] See the introduction to my chapter on Athens in _Sketches in
Italy and Greece_ for the characteristic quality given to Attic
landscapes by gray limestone mountain ranges.

[277] This statue, usually called the Apoxyomenos, may possibly be a
copy in marble of the Athlete of Lysippus which Tiberius wished to
remove from the Baths of Agrippa. The Romans were so angry at the
thought of being deprived of their favorite that Tiberius had to leave
it where it stood.

[278] Engraved in Müller's _Denkmäler der alten Kunst_, plate xli.

[279] Neapolitan Museum.

[280] British Museum.


    Ah, vain and thoughtless men, who wail the dead,
    But not one tear for youth's frail blossom shed!

[282] Of this statue there are many slightly different copies. The best
is in the Vatican.

[283] See the Mercury of the Belvedere.

[284] Engraved in Clarac, _Musée de Sculpture_, Planches, vol. iv. pl.
666 c.

[285] Bronze, at Naples.

[286] Drum of column from Ephesus, British Museum.

[287] Louvre.

[288] The Capitol.

[289] Glyptothek, Munich.

[290] The Vatican.

[291] Naples.

[292] See vol. i. p. 268, note, for an English version of this line.

[293] "To live with steady purpose in the whole, the Good, the
Beautiful." These two lines are sometimes misquoted--_Schönen_ being
exchanged for _Wahren_, Beauty for Truth.

[294] The Greek Pantheon, regarded from one point of view, represents
an exhaustive psychological analysis. Nothing in human nature is
omitted; but each function and each quality of man is deified. To Zeus
as the supreme reason all is subordinated.

[295] See vol. i. p. 302 for a translation of this scolion attributed
to Simonides, and vol. i. p. 337 for a translation of a Hymn to Health,
which develops the same theme.

[296] I have already touched on this point in the chapters on the
Attic drama. It is, indeed, very interesting to trace the growth of
the morality of Nemesis and the divine #phthonos# in the earlier Greek
authors--its purification by Æschylus, and still further subsequent
refinement by Sophocles; finally its rejection by Plato, who says
emphatically: "Envy has no place in the heavenly choir." A childish
fear of the divine government pervaded the Greeks of the age of
Herodotus. This by the dramatists was exalted to a conception of the
holy and the jealous God. But the good sense of the Greeks led the
philosophers to eliminate from their theory of the world even the
sublime theosophy of Æschylus. The soul of man, as analyzed by Plato in
the _Republic_, has only to suffer from the inevitable consequences of
its own passions. Plato theorizes the humanity implicit in Homer.



    Sculpture, the Greek Art _par excellence_.--Plastic
        Character of the Greek Genius.--Sterner Aspects of
        Greek Art.--Subordination of Pain and Discord to
        Harmony.--Stoic-Epicurean Acceptance of Life.--Sadness of
        Achilles in the _Odyssey_.--Endurance of Odysseus.--Myth of
        Prometheus.--Sir H. S. Maine on Progress.--The Essential
        Relation of all Spiritual Movement to Greek Culture.--Value
        of the Moral Attitude of the Greeks for us.--Three
        Points of Greek Ethical Inferiority.--The Conception
        of Nature.--The System of Marcus Aurelius.--Contrast
        with the _Imitatio Christi_.--The Modern Scientific
        Spirit.--Indestructible Elements in the Philosophy of

I may, perhaps, be allowed in this last chapter to quit the impersonal
style of the essayist and to refer to some strictures passed upon
earlier chapters of these studies. Critics for whose opinion I feel
respect have observed that, in what I wrote about the genius of Greek
art, I neglected to notice the sterner and more serious qualities of
the Greek spirit, that I exaggerated the importance of sculpture as the
characteristic Hellenic art, and that I did not make my meaning clear
about the value of the study of Greek modes of thought and feeling for
men living in our scientific age. To take up these topics in detail,
and to answer some of these indictments, is my purpose in the present
chapter. They are so varied that I may fairly be excused for adopting
a less methodical and connected development of ideas than ought to be
demanded from a man who is not answering objections, but preferring

To take the least important of these questions first: why is sculpture
selected as the most eminent and characteristic art of the Hellenic
race, when so much remains of their poetry and of prose work in the
highest sense artistic? To my mind the answer is simple enough. One
modern nation has produced a drama which can compete with that of
Athens. Another has carried painting to a perfection we have little
reason to believe it ever reached in Greece. A third has satisfied the
deepest and the widest needs of our emotional nature by such music
as no Greek, in all probability, had any opportunity of hearing. In
the last place, Gothic architecture, the common heritage of all the
European nations of the modern world, is at least as noble as the
architecture of the ancients. The Greeks alone have been unique in
sculpture: what survives of Pheidias and Praxiteles, of Polycletus
and Scopas, and of their schools, transcends in beauty and in power,
in freedom of handling and in purity of form, the very highest work
of Donatello, Della Quercia, and Michael Angelo. We have, therefore,
a _prima facie_ right to lay great stress on sculpture as a Greek
art, just as we have the _prima facie_ right to select painting as
an Italian art. The first step taken from this position leads to the
reflection that, within the sphere of art at any rate, the one art
which a nation has developed as its own, to which it has succeeded in
giving unique perfection, and upon which it has impressed the mark of
its peculiar character, will lend the key for the interpretation of its
whole æsthetic temperament. The Italians cannot have been singularly
and pre-eminently successful in painting without displaying some of
the painter's qualities in all their artistic products. The Greeks
cannot have made sculpture unapproachably complete without possessing a
genius wherein the sculptor's bent of mind was specially predominant,
and thus infusing somewhat of the sculpturesque into the sister arts.
Painting for Italy and sculpture for Greece may be fairly taken as
the fully formed and flawless crystals in a matrix of congenial, but
not equally developed, matter. The ideal to which either race aspired
instinctively in all its art was realized to the fullest, by the one
in sculpture, by the other in painting. So we are justified in testing
the whole of their æsthetic products by the laws of painting and of
sculpture respectively. This, broadly stated, without economy of phrase
or cautious reservation, is the reason why a student who has tried,
however imperfectly, to assimilate to himself the spirit displayed in
the surviving monuments of Greek art, is brought back at every turn to
sculpture as the norm and canon of them all.

Whatever knowledge he may gain about the circumstances of Greek life
and the peculiar temper of Greek thought will only strengthen his
conviction. The national games, the religious pageants, the theatrical
shows, and the gymnastic exercises of the Greeks were sculpturesque.
The conditions of their speculative thought in the first dawn of
civilized self-consciousness, when spiritual energy was still conceived
as incarnate only in a form of flesh, and the soul was inseparable
from the body except by an unfamiliar process of analysis, harmonized
with the art which interprets the mind in all its movements by the
features and the limbs. Their careful choice of distinct motives in
poetry, their appeal in all imaginative work to the inner eye that
sees, no less than to the sympathies that thrill, their abstinence
from descriptions of landscape and analyses of emotion, their clear
and massive character-delineation, point to the same conclusion.
Everything tends to confirm the original perception that the simplicity
of form, the purity of design, the self-restraint, and the parsimony
both of expression and material, imposed by sculpture on the artist,
were observed as laws by the Greeks in their mental activity, and more
especially in their arts. It is this which differentiates them from the
romantic nations. When, therefore, we undertake to speak of the genius
of Greek art, we are justified in giving the first place to sculpture
and in assuming that sculpture strikes the key-note of the whole music.

To take a far more serious objection next. It is true that, while
gazing intently upon the luminous qualities of the Greek spirit, we are
tempted to neglect its sterner and more sombre aspect. Not, indeed,
that the shadows are not there, patent to superficial observers, and
necessary even to the sublimity of the ideal we admire in its serene
beauty; but they are so consistently subordinated to light and lustre
that he who merely seeks to seize predominant characteristics may find
it difficult to appreciate them duly without missing what is even more
essential. A writer on the arts of the Greeks is not bound to take
into consideration the defects of their civil and domestic life, the
discords and disturbance of their politics, the pains they felt and
suffered in common with humanity at large, the incomplete morality of a
race defined by no sharp line but that of culture from barbarians. It
is rather his duty to note how carefully these things, which even we
discern as discords, were excluded by them from the sphere of beauty;
since it is precisely this that distinguishes the Greeks most decidedly
from the modern nations, who have used pain, perplexity, and apparent
failure as subjects for the noblest æsthetic handling. The world-pain
of our latter years was felt, as a young man may feel it, by the
Greeks of the best age; but their artists did not, like Shakespeare
and Michael Angelo, Goethe and Beethoven, make this the substance of
their mightiest works. Ancient Hellas contained nothing analogous to
Hamlet, or the tombs of the Medici to Faust or the C minor symphony.
The desolation of humanity adrift upon a sea of chance and change finds
expression here and there in a threnos of Simonides or an epigram of
Callimachus. The tragic poets are never tired of dwelling upon destiny,
inherent partly in the transmitted doom of ancestors, and partly in the
moral character of individuals. The depth of Pindar's soul is stirred
by the question that has tried all ages: "Creatures of a day! What
are we and what are we not?" Such strains, however, are, as it were,
occasional and accidental in Greek poetry. The Greek artist, not having
a background of Christian hope and expectation against which he could
relieve the trials and afflictions of this life, aimed at keeping them
in a strictly subordinate place. He sought to produce a harmony in his
work which should correspond to health in the body and to temperance
in the soul, to present a picture of human destiny, not darkened by
the shadows of the tomb, but luminous beneath the light of day. It was
his purpose, as indeed it is of all good craftsmen, not to weaken, but
to fortify, not to dispirit and depress, but to exalt and animate. The
very imperfect conceptions he had formed of immortality determined the
course he pursued. He had no hell to fear, no heaven to hope for. It
was in no sense his duty to cast a gloom over the only world he knew
by painting it in sombre colors, but rather to assist the freedom of
the spirit, and to confirm the energies of men by bringing what is glad
and beautiful into prominence. In this way, the Greeks, after their
own fashion, asserted that unconquerable faith in the goodness of the
universe, and in the dignity of the human race, without which progress
would be impossible. Though the life of man may be hard and troublous,
though diseases and turbulent passions assail his peace, though the
history of nations be but a tale that is told, and the days of heroes
but a dream between two sleeps, yet the soul is strong to rise above
these vapors of the earth into a clearer atmosphere. The real way of
achieving a triumph over chance and of defying fate is to turn to good
account all fair and wholesome things beneath the sun, and to maintain
for an ideal the beauty, strength, and splendor of the body, mind, and
will of man. The mighty may win fame, immortal on the lips of poets
and in the marble of the sculptor. The meanest may possess themselves
in patience and enjoy. Thus the Greeks adopted for their philosophy
of life what Clough described as a "Stoic-Epicurean acceptance" of
the world. They practised a genial accommodation of their natures to
the facts which must perforce regulate the existence of humanity. To
ascertain the conditions of nature, and to adapt themselves thereto by
training, was the object of their most serious schemes of education.
Later on, when the bloom began to pass from poetry and art, and the
vigor of national life declined, this attitude of simple manliness
diverged into hedonism and asceticism. Let us eat and drink, for
to-morrow we die, said one section of the thinkers. Let us bear all
hardness, lest we become the slaves of chance and self, said the other.
But neither proposition expressed the full mind of the Greeks of the
best age. They clearly saw that, in spite of disaster and disease,
life was a good thing for those who maintained the balance of moral
and physical health. Without asceticism they strove after well-ordered
conduct. Without hedonism they took their frugal share of the
delightful things furnished by the boon earth in prodigal abundance.
The mental condition of such men, expectant, grateful, and serenely
acquiescent, has been well expressed by Goethe in lines like these:

    That naught belongs to me I know
    Save thoughts that never cease to flow
        From founts that cannot perish,
    And every fleeting shape of bliss
    That kindly fortune lets me kiss
        And in my bosom cherish.

It is this mental attitude which I think must be regained by us who
seek firm foothold in the far more complicated difficulties of the
present age. While it is easy, therefore, to omit the darker shadows
from our picture of Greek life, because, although they are there, they
are almost swallowed up in brightness, it is not easy to exaggerate the
tranquil and manly spirit with which the Greeks faced the evils of the
world and rose above them. Owing to this faculty for absorbing all sad
things and presenting, through art, only the splendor of accomplished
strength and beauty, the Greeks have left for the world a unique
treasure of radiant forms in sculpture, of lustrous thoughts in poetry,
of calm wisdom in philosophy and history. Their power upon all arts
and sciences is the power of a harmonizing and health-giving spirit.
This it is which, in spite of their perception of the sterner problems
of the world, obliges us to describe their genius as adolescent; for
adolescence has of strength and sorrow and reflection so much only
as is compatible with beauty. This, again, it is which makes their
influence so valuable to us now, who need for our refreshening the
contact with unused and youthful forces.

At the same time, while insisting upon the truth of all this, many
of the chapters in my two volumes have forced upon our minds what is
severe and awful in the genius of the Greeks. The Chthonian deities
form a counterpart to the dwellers on Olympus. The voice of the people
in the Hesiodic poems rises like the cry of Israel from Pharaoh's
brickfields rather than the song-like shout of Salaminian oarsmen. Who,
again, in reading the _Iliad_, has not felt that the glory of Achilles,
coruscating like a star new-washed in ocean waves, detaches itself from
a background of impenetrable gloom? He blazes in his godlike youth for
one moment only above the mists of Styx, the waters of Lethe; and it is
due to the triumphant imagination of his poet that the consciousness of
impending fate adds lustre to his heroism instead of dooming him to the
pathetic pallor of the Scandinavian Balder. When we meet Achilles in
Hades, and hear him sigh,

    Rather would I in the sun's warmth divine
    Serve a poor churl who drags his days in grief,
    Than the whole lordship of the dead were mine,

we touch the deepest sorrow of the Greek heart, a sorrow lulled to
rest in vain by anodynes of Eleusinian mysteries and Samotracian
rites, a sorrow kept manfully in check by resolute wills and burning
enthusiasms, but which recurred continually, converting their dream of
a future life into a nightmare of unsubstantial ennui. If the story
of Achilles involves a dreary insight into the end of merely human
activity, that of Odysseus turns immediately upon the troubles of our
pilgrimage through life. Exquisitely beautiful as are all the outlines,
surface touches, and colors in the _Odyssey_, as of some Mediterranean
landscape crowded with delicate human forms, yet beneath the whole
there lies an undertone of sombreness. The energy of the hero is
inseparable from endurance.

    #tetlathi dê kradiê; kai kynteron allo pot' etlês.#

That is the exclamation of no light-hearted youngling, but of one who
has sounded all the deeps and shallows of the river of experience. And
if we have to speak thus of the heroes, what shall we say about the
countless common people following their lords to Troy in the cause of
a strange woman, those beautiful dead warriors over whom the Æschylean
chorus poured forth the most pathetic of lamentations? To pretend
that the Greeks felt not the passion and the pain of human agony and
strife would be a paradox implying idiocy in him who put it forth.
Still, it were scarcely less feeble to forget that their strength lay
in restraining the expression of this feeling and in subduing its
vehemence. The wounded heroes on the Æginetan pediment are dying with
smiles upon their lips; and this may serve as a symbol for the mode of
treatment reserved by the Greek artists for what is dark and terrible.

Enough has been already said while dealing with the dramatists about
the profound morality and the stern philosophy of the Greek tragic
poets. It is not necessary again to traverse that ground. Yet for
a moment we may once more remember here what depths of pity and of
pathos lie hidden in the legend of Prometheus, whether we think of
him as the divine champion of erring men at war with envious deities,
or as personified humanity struggling against the forces of niggardly
nature. Prometheus and Epimetheus and Pandora dramatize a legend
of life supremely sad--so sad, indeed, that the calm genius of the
Greeks regarded it with half-averted eyes, and chose rather to blur
its outlines than to define what it contained--enough of sorrow to
unman the stoutest. Poets of a Northern race would have brooded over
this mythus until it became for them the form of all the anguish and
revolt and aspiration of the soul of man. Not so the Greeks. Hesiod
leaves the Saga in obscurity. Æschylus employs it to exhibit the spirit
unperturbed by menaces of mere brute force, and wisely pliant in the
end to unavoidable fate. Subsequent poets and philosophers remember
Prometheus together with Orpheus only as the founders of the arts and
sciences that make men happy. To eliminate the mysterious and the
terrible, to accentuate the joyous and the profitable for humane uses,
was the truest instinct of the Greeks. Even the tale of Herakles, who
chose the hard paths of life, and ascended at last only through flames
to clasp Hebe, eternal youth, upon Olympus, "with joy and bliss in
over-measure forever," in spite of its severe lesson of morality, is a
poem of beautiful human heroism from which the discordant elements are
purged away.

To recover, if that be possible, this "Stoic-Epicurean acceptance,"
and to face the problems of the world in which we live with Greek
serenity, concerns us at the present time. Having said thus much, I
am brought to touch upon the third topic mentioned at the outset of
this chapter. Owing to insufficient exposition, I did not in my first
series of _Studies of Greek Poets_, as originally published, make it
clear in what way I thought the Greeks could teach those of us for
whom the growth of rationalism and the discoveries of science have
tended to remove old landmarks. What we have to win for ourselves is
a theory of conduct which shall be human, and which shall be based
upon our knowledge of nature. Greek morality was distinguished by
precisely these two qualities. In its best forms, moreover, it was not
antagonistic to the essence of Christianity, but thoroughly in accord
with that which is indestructible in Christian teaching. It therefore
contained that vital element we now require.

A remarkable passage in Sir H. S. Maine's Rede Lecture for 1875 will
force itself upon the attention of all who believe that there are
still lessons to be learned from the Greeks by men of the nineteenth
century. "Whatever may be the nature and value of that bundle of
influences which we call progress," he writes, "nothing can be more
certain than that, when a society is once touched by it, it spreads
like a contagion. Yet, so far as our knowledge extends, there was only
one society in which it was endemic; and putting that aside, no race
or nationality, left entirely to itself, appears to have developed any
very great intellectual result, except, perhaps, poetry. Not one of
those intellectual excellences which we regard as characteristic of
the great progressive races of the world--not the law of the Romans,
not the philosophy and sagacity of the Germans, not the luminous order
of the French, not the political aptitude of the English, not that
insight into physical nature to which all races have contributed--would
apparently have come into existence if those races had been left to
themselves. To one small people, covering in its original seat no
more than a hand's-breadth of territory, it was given to create the
principle of progress, of movement onward and not backward or downward,
of destruction tending to construction. That people was the Greek.
Except the blind forces of nature, nothing moves in this world which
is not Greek in its origin. A ferment spreading from that source has
vitalized all the great progressive races of mankind, penetrating
from one to another, and producing results accordant with its hidden
and latent genius, and results of course often far greater than any
exhibited in Greece itself."

It may be difficult to form an accurate notion of what the eloquent
lecturer meant by progress: it may be easy to object that the secret
of progressive growth in politics, at least, was not possessed by the
Greeks themselves, and that Christianity, which has certainly moved
in this world far more efficiently than any other spiritual force
whatever, was as certainly neither one of the blind forces of nature,
nor yet Hellenic in its origin. Still, there is a truth in this
passage which remains unimpaired. It expresses largely, and without
due reservation, perhaps, what the students of the Greeks in relation
to the universal history of civilization must feel to be a sweeping
truth. The advance of the human intellect is measured by successive
points of contact with the Greek spirit--in Rome before the birth of
Christ, in Islam during the exhaustion of the Roman Empire, in the
schools of Paris and Seville during the Middle Ages, when Averroes
and Aristotle kept alive the lamp of science, in Italy at the period
of the Renaissance, when Greek philosophy and poetry and art restored
life to the senses, confidence to the reason, and freedom to the soul
of man. All civilized nations, in all that concerns the activity of
the intellect, are colonies of Hellas. The flame that lives within our
Prytaneia was first kindled on Athene's hearth in Attica; and should it
burn dim or be extinguished, we must needs travel back to the sacred
home of the virgin goddess for fresh fire. This we are continually
doing. It is this which has made Greek indispensable in modern
education. And at the present moment we may return with profit to the
moralists of Greece.

At this point I feel that my former critics will exclaim against me:
"This is the very same offence repeated--ignoring the moral inferiority
of the Greeks, he holds them up as an example to nations improved by
Christianity." I reply that I am far from forgetting the substantial
advance made by the world in morality during the last eighteen
centuries. The divine life and the precepts of Christ are as luminous
as ever; and I, for one, have no desire to replant pseudo-paganism
on the modern soil. I know full well that, in addition to its being
undesirable, this is utterly impossible. I know, moreover, that new
virtues, unrecognized by the Greeks, have been revealed to the world
by Christianity, and that a new cogency and new sanctions have been
given by it to that portion of ethics which it had in common with
Greek philosophy. It is not the morality, but the moral attitude, of
the Greeks that seems to my mind worthy of our imitation. In order to
make this distinction clear, and to save myself, if that may be, from
seeming to advocate a retrograde movement, through sentimental sympathy
with impossible anachronisms, or through blind hostility to all that
makes our modern life most beautiful, I must be permitted to embark
upon a somewhat lengthy exposition of my meaning. With no desire to
be aggressive or polemical, I want to show what, in my judgment, even
Christians have still to learn from Greeks.

The three points in which the morality of the Greeks was decidedly
inferior to that of the modern races were slavery, the social
degradation of women, and paiderastia. No panegyrist of the Greeks can
attempt to justify any one of these customs, which, it may be said
in passing, were closely connected and interdependent in Hellenic
civilization. An apologist might, indeed, argue that slavery, as
recognized by the Athenians, was superior to many forms of the
same evil till lately tolerated by the Christian nations. Mediæval
villeinage and Russian serfdom, the Spanish enslavement of Peruvians
and Mexicans, and the American slave-trade flourished in spite of the
theoretical opposition of Christianity, and have only succumbed to the
advance of rational humanity. The same advocate could show, as Mr.
Mahaffy has already done, that in Greece there existed a high ideal
of womanhood. All students of history will, however, admit that in
relation to the three important points above mentioned the Greeks were
comparatively barbarous. At the same time it cannot be contended that
these defects were the necessary and immediate outcome of the Hellenic
philosophy of life. It is rather proper to regard them as crudities
and immaturities belonging to an early period of civilization. During
the last two thousand years the world has advanced in growth, and its
moral improvement has been due to Christian influences. Still the
higher standing-ground we have attained, our matured and purified
humanity, all that elevates us ethically above the Jews and Greeks,
can be ascribed to Christianity without the implication that it is
inextricably bound up with Christian theology, or that it could not
survive the dissolution of the orthodox fabric. The question before
us at the present moment is whether, admitting the comparatively
rude ethics of the ancient Greeks and fully recognizing the moral
amelioration effected for the human race by Christianity, we, without
ceasing to be Christians in all essential points of conduct, may not
profitably borrow from the Greeks the spirit which enabled them to live
and do their duty in a world whose laws as yet are but imperfectly
ascertained. Was there not something permanently valuable in their view
of the ethical problem which historical Christianity, especially in
its more ascetic phases, tends to overlook, but which approves itself
to the reason of men who have been influenced by the rapidly advancing
mutations of religious thought during the last three centuries? The
real point to ascertain, with regard to ourselves and to them, is
the basis upon which the conceptions of morality in either period
have rested. Modern morality has hitherto been theological: it has
implied the will of a divine governor. Greek morality was radically
scientific: the faith on which it eventually leaned was a belief in
#physis#, in the order of the universe, wherein gods, human societies,
and individual human beings had their proper places. The conception of
morality as the law for man, regarded as a social being forming part
and parcel of the Cosmos, was implicit in the whole Greek view of life.
It received poetical expression from the tragedians; it transpired in
the conversations of Socrates, in the speculations of Plato, and in the
more organized system of Aristotle. #zên kata physin# could be written
for a motto on the title-page of a collected corpus of Greek moralists.
It may be objected that "to live according to nature" is a vague
command, and also that it is easier said than done, or, again, that
the conception of nature does not essentially differ from that of God
who made nature. All that is true; but the ethics whereof that maxim
is the sum have this advantage, that they do not place between us and
the world in which we have to live and die the will of a hypothetical
ruler, to whom we may ascribe our passions and our fancies, enslaving
ourselves to the delusions of our own soul. Nor, again, do they involve
that monstrous paradox of all ascetic systems, that human nature is
radically evil and that only that is good in us which contradicts our
natural appetites and instincts. Evil and sin are recognized, just
as fevers and serpents are recognized; but while the latter are not
referred to a vindictive Creator, so the former are not ascribed to the
wilful wickedness of his creatures. In so far as we gain any knowledge
of nature, that knowledge is something solid: the whole bearing of a
man who feels that his highest duty consists in conforming himself to
laws he may gradually but surely ascertain, is certainly different
from that of one who obeys the formulas invented by dead or living
priests and prophets to describe the nature of a God whom no man has
either seen or heard. It makes no difference that the highest religious
systems are concordant with the best-established principles of natural
science, that the Mosaic ordinances, for example, are based on
excellent hygienic rules. That the #aisthêsis# of the great Nomothetæ
should be verified is both intelligible and, _a priori_, highly
probable. The superiority of scientific over theological morality
consists meanwhile in its indestructibility.

The ethics of man regarded as a member of the universe, and answerable
only to its order for his conduct, though they underlay the whole
thought of the Greeks on moral subjects, did not receive their final
exposition till the age of the Roman Stoics. The _Meditations_ of
Marcus Aurelius have, therefore, a peculiar retrospective value, owing
to the light they cast upon the ethical perception of the Greek race,
while at the same time they illustrate that which is unalterable and
indestructible in the spirit of Greek morality. What Marcus Aurelius
enunciated as an intuition is what must daily become more binding upon
us in proportion as we advance in scientific knowledge. It will not,
therefore, be out of place to sketch the main points of his system in
a separate paragraph, keeping always in mind that this system was the
final outgrowth of Greek speculation after prolonged contact with the
Romans. Marcus Aurelius forces to the very utmost a view of human life
and duty which could have been but unconsciously implicit in the minds
of men of the Periclean age. Yet this view was but the theory logically
abstracted from the conduct and the perceptions of a race which started
with refined nature-worship, which recognized the duty to the State as
paramount, and which put to philosophy the question, What is the end of

The central notion of Marcus Aurelius is nature. He regards the
universe as a #zôon#, or living creature, animated by a principle of
life to which he sometimes gives the title of #theos#, or the deity.
It is a body with a #logos#, or reason, attaining to consciousness in
human beings. Every man participates in the #koinos logos#, or common
reason of the Cosmos, a portion of whose wisdom forms his intellect. In
other words, our consciousness reflects the order of the universe, and
enables us to become more than automatically partakers in its movement.
To obey this reason is the end of all philosophy, the fulfilment of the
purpose for which man exists. By doing so we are in harmony with the
world, and take our proper place in the scale of beings. Nothing can
happen to us independent of this order; and therefore nothing, rightly
understood, can happen to our hurt. If disease and affliction fall upon
us, we must remember that we are the limbs and organs of the whole,
and that our suffering is necessary for its well-being. We are thus
the citizens of a vast state, members of the universal economy. What
affects the whole for good is good for us, and even when it seems to be
evil, we must hold fast to the faith that it is good beyond our ken.
Our selfishness is swallowed up in the complete and total interest. Our
virtues are social and not personal. Our happiness is relative to the
general welfare, not contained in any private pleasure or indulgence of
an individual caprice.

The motto of this large philosophy is Goethe's often-quoted distich:

    Im Ganzen, Guten, Schönen
    Resolut zu leben.

If we seek a motto for the _Imitatio Christi_, which may be accepted
here as the Christian encheiridion, we find it in the text, "For me
to live is Christ, and to die is gain." The author of that manual of
conduct regarded the universe not as a coherent whole, good and sound
in all its parts, to live in harmony with the laws whereof is the
duty of man, but as a machine created out of nothing by the will of
God, made fair at first, but changed to foul by sin, wherein men live
an evil life, to escape from which brings happiness, to confound the
existing laws of which is virtue, and a remedy against the anarchy and
tyranny of which can only be found in the cross and death of Christ. To
the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius, man was not merely a citizen of the
dear city of God, but a member, not merely a #meros#, but a #melos#, of
the divine life of the universe. To the Christianity of the _Imitatio_,
man was an exile from his home, a wanderer and out of place. It is not
my present purpose to push to their ultimate and logical conclusions
the divergences between the Stoicism of the _Meditations_ and the
Christianity of the _Imitatio_, but rather to recall attention to the
philosophy developed by Marcus Aurelius from his conception of man's
place in nature, and to show that the ethics resulting from it are
specially adapted to an age in which the scientific habit of mind is
the strongest. When the whole mass of new knowledge we are continually
accumulating forces upon our consciousness the conviction that humanity
is a part of the universal whole, it is impossible to cling to dogmas
that start from the assumption of original sin and creation vitiated
at the very moment of its commencement. So much of the Christian
programme, whatever else is left as indestructible, must be abandoned.
Nature, with all its imperfections in the physical and moral orders,
both of them to be as far as can be conquered and eradicated, must be
accepted as it is, as that which was intended so to be. Nor need we
adopt the obsolete tactics of the French deists, or depreciate the
essence of Christianity, because a great part of its mythology and
metaphysics seems untenable. On the contrary, we may reasonably hold
that the most perfect man would live the life of Christ in obedience to
the maxims of the Roman emperor, and that Christianity provides us with
precisely what was wanting in the Aurelian system. Faith, love, purity,
obedience, humility, subordination of self, benevolence--all these are
Christian virtues, raised to the height of passionate enthusiasm by
their exemplification in the life of Christ. Stoicism stood in need of
a criterion. What is reason? what is the true character of truth and
goodness? Christianity appears with a criterion which approves itself
to our intuitive apprehension. The life of Christ is the perfect life.
Learn that, and follow that, and you will reach the height of human
nature. To live in harmony with the universe is to live as Christ
lived. It is the wrong done in the name of Christ, the figments falsely
stamped with Christ's superscription, the follies of Bibliolatry and
dogmatic orthodoxy, that must be abjured; and I maintain that in our
present mood the best hope of not casting away the wheat together with
the chaff, of retaining what is fit for human use in Christianity,
consists in first assuming the scientific standpoint of Aurelius.

From this digression on the Aurelian system, regarded as the final word
of Græco-Roman morality, I pass to a consideration of those urgent
needs of modern thought which have to be met in the spirit and with
the courage of Mark Antonine. Not his theism, nor his metaphysic, nor
his detailed maxims for conduct, but his attitude and temper have to
be adopted. And here it must be said once more, by way of preface,
that however human progress is ruled by thesis and antithesis, by
antagonism and repulsion in its several moments, still nothing can
be lost that has been clearly gained. Each synthesis, though itself
destined to apparent contradiction, combines the indestructible, the
natural and truly human, elements of the momenta which preceded it,
excluding only that in them which was the accident of time and place
and circumstance. Thus the Greek conception of life was posed; the
Christian conception was counterposed; the synthesis, crudely attempted
in the age of the Renaissance, awaits mature accomplishment in the
immediate future. The very ground-thought of science is to treat man as
part of the natural order--not, assuredly, on that account excluding
from its calculation the most eminent portion of man, his reason and
his moral being--and to return from the study of nature with profit to
the study of man. It does not annihilate or neutralize what man has
gained from Christianity; on the contrary, the new points of morality
developed by the Christian discipline are of necessity accepted as data
by the scientific mind. Our object is to combine both the Hellenic
and the Christian conceptions in a third, which shall be more solid
and more rational than any previous manifestation of either, superior
to the Hellenic as it is no longer a mere intuition, superior to the
ecclesiastical inasmuch as it relies on no mythology, but seeks to
ascertain the law.

The positive knowledge about the world possessed at any period by
the human race cannot fail to modify both theology and metaphysic.
Theology, while philosophizing the immediate data of faith, professes
to embrace and account for all known facts in a comprehensive system,
which includes the hypotheses of revelation; while popular religion
rests upon opinions and figurative conceptions formed concerning
the first cause of the phenomena observed around us and within us.
The systems of theology and the opinions of popular religion must,
therefore, from time to time in the world's history, vary according as
more or less is actually known, and according as the mind has greater
or lesser power of analyzing and co-ordinating its stores of knowledge.
Metaphysic is the critical examination and construction into a
connected scheme of the results obtained by experience--mental, moral,
and physical--subjected to reflection, and regarded in their most
abstract form as thoughts. It follows of necessity that any revolution
in the method of observation and analysis, like that which has been
going on during the last three centuries, whereby our conception of
the world as a whole is altered, must supply metaphysic with new
subject-matter and new methods, and force it to the reconsideration of
important problems. Meanwhile, the faculty of thought itself undergoes
no essential transformation; our mental and moral nature remains
substantially the same. What has always happened, and what alone can
happen, is that fresh pabulum is offered to the thinking being, which
has to be assimilated to its organism and digested for its nourishment.
Consequently we cannot expect to have a sudden and illuminating
revolution in psychology and ethics. But, while we learn fresh facts
about the universe, our notions concerning the nature of the first
cause and the relation of man to his environments, whether expressed in
systems by theology and philosophy, or in opinions by popular religion,
must of necessity be exposed to alteration. To adjust ourselves to this
change without sacrificing what is vitally important in religion as the
basis of morality is our difficulty.

Physical science, to begin with, has destroyed that old conception of
the universe which made this globe central and of paramount importance.
The discoveries of Galileo and Newton first led to a right theory
of the planetary movements. The chemists of the last hundred years
have substituted an accurate analysis of primitive substances for
rough guesses at the four elements. The establishment of the law of
the conservation of force has demonstrated the unity of all cosmical
operations from the most gigantic to the most minute. Geology, together
with the speculations of comparative anatomists and naturalists, has
altered all our notions with regard to the age of the world, and to
the antecedents and early history of the human race. The results
gathered during the last three centuries in these and other fields
of investigation render it certain that mankind has occupied but a
brief moment in the long life of our globe, and tend to prove that
our duration here will, at an enormously but not incalculably distant
period, be rendered impossible by the action of those very forces which
called us into being. The years of humanity are therefore "a scape in
oblivion." Man, for whom, according to the author of Genesis, the sun
and moon and stars were made, is shown to be among the less important
products of the cosmical system. We are no permanent owners, but the
brief tenants of our tiny globe. Nor need this terrify or startle us.
Each man expects the certainty of his own dissolution. The race must
learn that it also is ephemeral. For this our religions have already
prepared us. But what is new in the prospect revealed by science is
that, not by a sudden tempest of vindictive fire from heaven, but in
the tranquil course of the long life of nature, such euthanasia is
prepared for men. As the universe subsisted countless æons before our
birth, so will it survive our loss, and scarcely keep a trace of our

At the same time the spiritual conditions of humanity remain unaltered.
Men we are; men we must be: to find out what is truly human, essential
to the highest type and utmost happiness of man, is still our most
absorbing interest. Nor need we abandon that noblest of all formulas:
"To fear God and to keep his commands is the whole duty of man;"
provided we are careful to accept the word God as the name of a
hitherto unapprehended energy, the symbol of that which is the life
and thought and motion of the universe whereof we are a part, the
ideal towards which we are forever struggling on the toilsome path of
spiritual evolution, the unknown within us and without us which is
the one vital, irremovable reality. Science, which consists in the
determination of laws,[297] compels us to believe that, as in the
physical world invariable sequences are observed, so also in the moral
nature of man must comprehensive rules and explanations of phenomena
be observable. It is but the refusal to apply to moral problems the
scientific method with unflinching logic which leads certain otherwise
positive thinkers to recognize "the freedom of human volition" as an
incalculable and arbitrary element, and thus to withdraw human conduct
from the sphere of exact investigation. To know God in the physical
order is to know what has been, and what is, and what will be in the
economy of primeval forces. To know God in the moral order is to know
what has been, and what is, and what will be within the region of the
human consciousness. To obey God in the physical order is to control
those forces for our own use as far as our constitution will permit;
for thus we energize in harmony with the universe. To obey God in the
moral order is to act in accordance with those hitherto discovered laws
which have carried the race onward from barbarism to self-knowledge and
self-control, and with all our might and main to strive for further
precision in their determination. But even here is the debatable
ground; here is the point at issue; here confessedly is the region that
has never yet been subjected to science.

The analogy of scientific discovery forces us to look no longer for
the actual fiats of a divine voice on Sinai, but to expect that by
interrogating humanity itself we shall ultimately demonstrate those
unchangeable decrees by conforming to which our race may pass from
strength to strength. We must cease to be clairvoyants and become
analysts, verifying our intuitions by positive investigation. For
the old term Commandment, which implies the will of a sovereign, our
present condition of knowledge leads us to substitute the new term Law
as defined above.[298] This, although the subject-matter and even the
practical result remain unchanged, is no slight alteration. It implies
a new motion, both popular and scientific, of the divine in nature, a
new criterion of what is right and wrong, and in the last resort a new

But with a view to this end we have to introduce a more stringent
and painstaking method into ethics. We must be content to abandon
dogmatism upon insoluble questions, however fascinating and imperious;
we must above all things quit delusions, however sanctioned by ancient
reverence. And here both faith and courage are needed. To believe that
the moral laws are within us, requiring to be disentangled, without
the aid of an authentic revelation, from the mass of phenomena, in the
same way as physical laws have been abstracted from facts by scientific
reasoning, demands a virile and firm confidence in the order of the
universe and in the intellectual faculty of man.

Hitherto in ethics we have proceeded on the _a priori_ road; we
have assumed certain hypotheses, or supposed fixed starting-points,
concerning the origin and the destiny of mankind, about both of which
things we know absolutely nothing for sure. Starting with a theological
system, which accounted for the creation of man and the nature of evil
in close connection with a definite but delusive cosmogony, taking a
future state of happiness or misery for granted, we have brought our
dreams to bear upon the springs of conduct. It is precisely at this
point that science, partly by the revolution effected in cosmical
theory, partly by the exhibition of the true method of analysis, helps
to free us from what is fanciful, and to indicate the right way for the
future. It has proved in one realm of knowledge that an advance towards
truth must not be expected from systems professing to set forth the
causes of phenomena, but from a gradual and patient exploration of the
phenomena themselves. Not matter, but the qualities of what we call
matter as subject to our senses are the object of physical science. Not
God, but human conduct, must be the object of moral science, albeit
the ideal that guides human conduct will continue to be worshipped
as our God. Nor will it here avail to demur that the human will is
essentially free, and therefore not subject to law in the strictly
scientific sense. Each step we make in the investigation of heredity,
and all the other conditions to which man is subject, forces us more
and more plainly to the conclusion that the very seat of our supposed
liberty, our desires and personal peculiarities, distinctive tastes
and special predilections, are determined for us in great measure by
circumstances beyond our own control. The force of these circumstances,
separately and in combination, could be estimated if we possessed
but the complete data for forming such a calculation; nor does this
certainty destroy the fact that each new personality introduces a new
element into the sequence. It narrows the field wherein volition can
move freely, but leaves the soul still self-determining and capable of
being shaped. What is really incalculable is not the sphere of action
for the individual, but the source of energy in the universe, in vital
connection with which we live both physically and mentally. We are
what we are, each of us, by no freak of chance, by no act of arbitrary
spontaneity; and our prayers must take the form dictated by Cleanthes:

    Lead thou me, God, Law, Reason, Motion, Life!
    All names alike for thee are vain and hollow.
    Lead me; for I will follow without strife;
    Or if I strive, still must I blindly follow.

For many centuries physical science itself suffered from the dead
weight of abstract notions accepted as data, and was inert for want
of a true method. Its recent successes are an index to the advance
which moral science might make if it could adopt the right way of
investigation, comparison, and reflective reasoning. At the same time
it must be confessed that for moral science this method has not as
yet been made either easy of application or fruitful of results. Our
subject-matter is so complex and so apparently distinct from sensible
existence as to seem intangible. Both thought and language are the
heritage of countless generations, wherein a medley of guesses and
confused conceptions are stored. Of general laws in ethics we have as
yet but instinctive, and as it were æsthetic, perceptions, fortified
and enforced by theological beliefs, or converted into intellectual
notions by philosophy. Still, this need not disturb us, when we reflect
how long it was before the true method of scientific discovery in
the analysis of matter was brought to light, and what a continuous
progress from one determination to another followed upon the single
law established in explanation of terrestrial gravity. The scientific
solution of one ethical problem, whether that be ultimately effected
through physiology by the establishment of correspondences between
the physical and moral functions of humanity, or through comparative
history and the study of evolution, may prove as fruitful for ethics
as the discovery of Galileo was for physics. It is impossible to
utter dogmatic predictions at this point of our knowledge. Yet we
may indulge in hopes that are of the nature of dreams. Can we not in
this way venture to anticipate that the men of the future may obtain
demonstrated certainty with regard to man considered as an integral
portion of the universe; that they may understand the conditions of
his conduct as clearly as we now apprehend the behavior of certain
gases; and that their problem will be, not how to check healthy normal
appetites, but how to multiply and fortify faculties? Can we not dream
that morality will be one branch of the study of the world as a whole,
a department of #ta physika#, when #physis#, regarded as a total
unity, that suffers no crude radical distinction of mind and body, has
absorbed our scientific attention?

We need not fear that either the new notion of Deity forced upon us
by the extension of our knowledge, even should this destroy the last
vestige of anthropomorphism, or the involved application of a positive
method to ethics, will lead to what is dreaded as materialism. If
materialism be not a mere name, it is feared because it is thought to
imply egotism, immersion in sensuality, and indifference to ideas. But
what is the prospect unrolled before us by science?[299] What is, in
effect, the new intellectual atmosphere to which we must acclimatize
our moral and religious sensibilities? Surely the most sublime, the
most ideally imaginative, which it has ever been given to man to
contemplate. The spectacle of the infinitely great and the infinitely
small, alike of the mental and the physical, the natural and the
supersensible, subordinated to unchangeable laws, and permeated by one
single energy, revealed to us by science, contains nothing that need
drive us to a stolid atheism, but rather such considerations as give
the value of positive certainty to Christ's words about the sparrow.
We _know_ now that the whole past history of the universe is involved
in the blood-beats of the smallest animalcule discernible by the
microscope, that the farthest fixed star to which our telescopes have
any access obeys the laws that determine the action of our muscles,
that our thought holds in solution the experience of all preceding
ages. If the religion of the future is to be founded on scientific
bases of this nature, there is surely less room for the extravagances
of egoism and sensuality than there was in the Catholic system from
which emerged a Sixtus IV. and an Alexander VI. What St. Paul conceived
but dimly, the physicist declares to us: we are all parts and members
of the divine whole. It is the business of science not to make God
nowhere in the universe, but everywhere, and to prove, what previous
moralists have guessed, that the happiness and the freedom of man
consist in his self-subordination to the laws of the world, whereof he
is an essential, though an insignificant, part. Against the decrees of
God, conceived as a sovereign subject to like fluctuations of emotion
with ourselves, it was possible to offend again and again without
losing the hope that at some facile moment, some _mollia tempora
fandi_, he might be propitiated. The laws of the world are inexorable;
they alone enforce with absolute equity the maxim #tôi drasanti

Instead of materialism, it might be more reasonable, perhaps, to dread
fatalism; but fatalism is a rock on which all systems, philosophical
and religious, when carried to abstract conclusions, have tended to
drift. Science cannot be more fatalistic than Calvinism; yet the
instinctive belief in the liberty of the individual has survived all
logic, and is likely still to do so till such time as the prevailing
intuition shall be positively proved. And even were the conviction that
we are not free agents in the old sense of the phrase to be forced
upon us, the sting of fatalism would be extracted together with the
belief in an omnipotent personality, framing men of set purpose for
honor and dishonor. It was the clash of the human and the divine wills,
both equally finite, though the latter was isolated by abstraction and
ticketed with the epithet of infinity--in other words, the fiction of a
despot ruling over slaves--that gave its terror to necessity.

Before the latest discoveries of physical science, as before the
highest philosophical analysis, the cruder distinctions of soul and
body, spirit and matter, tend to disappear. The nature of the universe
is proved too subtle for this dichotomy. Only a coarse intelligence
will, therefore, run to the conclusion that so-called matter, with its
supposed finality, is absolute; or that so-called thought, with its
supposed infinity, is universal. The finer intelligence, convinced
of the correlation between these apparently antagonistic moments,
must pause to contemplate the everlasting sequences of time past
extended into time to come, and in the end must feel persuaded of its
own indissoluble connection with that, whatever it may be, which is
permanent in the universe. The moment Now is a potential eternity. That
we are is a sufficient proof that we have been and that we shall be.
Each act, as it has had immeasurable and necessary antecedents, will
be fruitful of immeasurable and necessary consequents; for the web
of the world is ever weaving, and to drop a thread in it is utterly
impossible. That we are such or such is, again, the proof that our
qualities have in them something significant, both for that which has
been, and for that which will be for everlasting. We have been, we are,
we shall be, a part of the eternal complex. Not, therefore, are we at
liberty to assume definite propositions concerning what is called the
immortality of the soul. To do so in the present state of knowledge
would be as much a begging of the question as to dogmatize upon the
so-called personality of God. Suspension of judgment is as imperatively
required of us by science as faith in the unintelligible was demanded
by the Catholic Church. As then trial of the faith wrought patience, so
now wise abstinence from dogmatism is the attitude of faith.

Following this course of thought into particulars, we have no reason
to apprehend that personal license should result from a system of
purely positive ethics based upon that conception of our relation
to the universe which science is revealing. On the contrary, we may
expect from the establishment of such a system a code of conduct more
stringent in all that can concern the well-being of the individual
than any that has yet been conceived. In the future, sensual excess
will surely be reckoned a form of madness, and what we now dignify by
the name of vice will be relegated, shorn of Satanic lustre, to the
lazar-house. Nor need we fear that purely mental problems should lose
their value or become less interesting. No amount of demonstration
that the mind is dependent on the brain can so confuse the reason of
a lucid thinker as to make him conclude that, therefore, there is no
mind. Reduce all our emotions, our habits, our thoughts, to modes
of cell-existence--prove that thinking and feeling are functions of
nerve-centres--the mystery has only shifted its centre of gravity;
we are still ourselves for better or for worse; thought and feeling
are still the essential part of us; man remains, in spite of all, the
only known being to whom the command #gnôthi seauton# has been given,
together with the faculty of obeying this command. Physical Science
does not exclude her elder sisters Philosophy and Religion, though
she may compel religion to abandon mythology, and supply philosophy
with new worlds for analysis. What she does is to substitute solid, if
slowly discovered, knowledge for guesses, and a patient but progressive
method for the systems which ontologist after ontologist has built and
pulled to pieces. Will not the men of the future look back with wonder
on the ages in which religion, philosophy, and the science of nature
were supposed to be at war, instead of being, as they will be then, one


[297] "General conceptions in which a series of similarly recurring
natural processes may be embraced."--Helmholtz.

[298] Page 411, note.

[299] By science here and elsewhere, when used without a qualifying
epithet, I mean to include what is also known as philosophy. In
science, thus understood, thought embraces the whole field of knowledge
in a survey that has less in common with the metaphysics of the
schoolmen than with the analytic method of the natural sciences.

                                THE END.





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       *       *       *       *       *


    Transcriber's Notes:

    Simple spelling, grammar, and typographical errors were

    Anachronistic and non-standard spellings retained as printed.

    P. 81 assigned the first footnote to the first anchor.

    Italics markup is enclosed in _underscores_.

    Greek text is transliterated and enclosed in #number signs#.

    Manicule is denoted by @manicule@.

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