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PINDAR The odes of Pindar (with few exceptions, and these chiefly in the shorter ones) seem by intention to die away by soft gradations into a languid interest, like most of the landscapes of the great elder painters. Modern ode-writers have commonly preferred a continued rising of interest.
Anima Poetae, p. 168.
PLOTINUS Plotinus was a man of wonderful ability, and some of the sublimest passages I ever read are in his works.
T. 7. Sept. 24, 1830.
SENECA You may get a motto for every sect in religion, or line of thought in morals or philosophy, from Seneca ; but nothing is ever thought out by him.
T. T. June 26, 1830.
CLAUDIAN Claudian deserves more attention than is generally paid to him. He is the link between the old classic and the modern way of thinking in verse. You will observe in him an oscillation between the objective poetry of the ancients and the subjective mood of the moderns. His power of pleasingly reproducing the same thought in different language is remarkable, as it is in Pope. Read particularly the Phønix, and see how the single image of renascence is varied.
T. T. Aug. 1, 1833.
SYMPATHY OF OLD GREEK AND LATIN
WITH ENGLISH If you take Sophocles, Catullus, Lucretius, the better parts of Cicero, and so on, you may, just with two or three exceptions arising out of the different idioms as to cases, translate page after page into good mother English, word by word, without altering the order ; but you cannot do so with Virgil or Tibullus ; if you attempt it, you will make nonsense.
T. T. June 9, 1832.
THUCYDIDES AND TACITUS The object of Thucydides was to show the ills resulting to Greece from the separation and conflict of the spirits or elements of democracy and oligarchy. The object of Tacitus was to demonstrate the desperate consequences of the loss of liberty on the minds and hearts of men.
T. T. Sept. 22, 1830.
ANCIENT HISTORIANS: GIBBON I consider the two works of Sallust which have come down to us entire, as romances founded on facts; no adequate causes are stated, and there is no real continuity of action. In Thucydides, you are aware from the beginning that you are reading the reflections of a man of great genius and experience upon the character and operation of the two great political principles in conflict in the civilised world in his time; his
tinu beginnimelt geniuf the two worl
ANCIENT HISTORIANS: GIBBON
narrative of events is of minor importance, and it is evident that he selects for the purpose of illustration. It is Thucydides himself whom you read throughout under the names of Pericles, Nicias, &c. But in Herodotus it is just the reverse. He has as little subjectivity as Homer; and, delighting in the great fancied epic of events, he narrates them without impressing any thing as of his own mind upon the narrative. It is the charm of Herodotus that he gives you the spirit of his age--that of Thucydides, that he reveals to you his own, which was above the spirit of his age.
The difference between the composition of a history in modern and ancient times is very great ; still there are certain principles upon which the history of a modern period may be written, neither sacrificing all truth and reality, like Gibbon, nor descending into mere biography and anecdote.
Gibbon's style is detestable, but his style is not the worst thing about him. His history has proved an effectual bar to all real familiarity with the temper and habits of imperial Rome. Few persons read the original authorities, even those which are classical ; and certainly no distinct knowledge of the actual state of the empire can be obtained from Gibbon's rhetorical sketches. He takes notice of nothing but what may produce an effect; he skips on from eminence to eminence, without ever taking you through the valleys between : in fact, his work is little else but a disguised collection of all the splendid anecdotes which he could find in any book concerning any persons or nations from the Antonines to the capture of Constantinople. When I read a chapter in Gibbon I seem to be looking through a luminous haze or fog :-figures come and go, I know not how or why, all larger than life, or distorted or discoloured ; 164 ANCIENT HISTORIANS: GIBBON
ultimatiserably de Justiniadoks for Socke the
nothing is real, vivid, true; all is scenical, and as it were, exhibited by candlelight. And then to call it a History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire! Was there ever a greater misnomer ? I protest I do not remember a single philosophical attempt made throughout the work to fathom the ultimate causes of the decline or fall of that empire. How miserably deficient is the narrative of the important reign of Justinian! And that poor scepticism, which Gibbon mistook for Socratic philosophy, has led him to misstate and mistake the character and influence of Christianity in a way which even an avowed infidel or atheist would not and could not have done. Gibbon was a man of immense reading ; but he had no philosophy; and he never fully understood the principle upon which the best of the old historians wrote. He attempted to imitate their artificial construction of the whole work—their dramatic ordonnance of the parts—without seeing that their histories were intended more as documents illustrative of the truths of political philosophy than ás mere chronicles of events.
The true key to the declension of the Roman empire-which is not to be found in all Gibbon's immense work-may be stated in two words :- the imperial character overlaying, and finally destroying, the national character. Rome under Trajan was an empire without a nation.
T. T. Aug. 15, 1833.
GREEK DRAMA In Aeschylus religion appears terrible, malignant, and persecuting : Sophocles is the mildest of the three tragedians, but the persecuting aspect is still maintained : Euripides is like a modern Frenchman, never so happy as when giving a slap at the gods altogether.
T. T. Jan. 4, 1823.
When I was a boy, I was fondest of Aeschylus ; in youth and middle age, I preferred Euripides ; now, in my declining years, I admire Sophocles. I can now at length see that Sophocles is the most perfect. Yet he never rises to the sublime simplicity of Aeschylus -simplicity of design, I mean-nor diffuses himself in the passionate outpourings of Euripides. I understand why the ancients called Euripides the most tragic of their dramatists: he evidently embraces within the scope of the tragic poet many passions, love, conjugal" affection, jealousy, and so on, which Sophocles seems to have considered as incongruous with the ideal statuesqueness of the tragic drama. Certainly Euripides was a greater poet in the abstract than Sophocles. His choruses may be faulty as choruses, but how beautiful and affecting they are as odes and songs ! I think the famous Evítnov, Eéve, in the Edipus Coloneus, cold in comparison with many of the odes of Euripides, as that song of the chorus in the Hippolytus- "Epws, 'Epws, and so on; and I remember a choric ode in the Hecuba, which always struck me as exquisitely rich and finished; I mean, where the chorus speaks of Troy and the night of the capture.
There is nothing very surprising in Milton's preference of Euripides, though so unlike himself. It is very common-very natural—for men to like and even admire an exhibition of power very different in kind from anything of their own. No jealousy arises. Milton preferred Ovid too, and I dare say he admired both as a man of sensibility admires a lovely woman, with a feeling into which jealousy