By chance a copy of Addison's Spectator fell into his hands. He turned at once from French and Italian culture to admire English classics. The first German to appreciate Milton and Shakespeare (the latter he called the English Sophocles), he never wavered in his devotion to the English school. With his faithful friend, Johann Jakob Breitinger, a conscientious scholar, he started in Zuerich a critical weekly paper on the plan of the Spectator. It was called Discoursen der Mahlern (Discourses of the Painters), and its essays embody the first literary effort of the Swiss as a nation. A little weekly coterie soon gathered about Bodmer to discuss the conduct of the paper; but much of the spirit and enthusiasm of these councils evaporated in print, the journal being subjected to a rigid censorship. Not alone art and literature came under discussion, but social subjects. All contributions were signed with the names of famous painters, and dealt with mistakes in education, the evils of card-playing, the duties of friendship, love and matrimony, logic, morality, pedantry, imagination, self-consciousness, and the fear of death. These discourses were chiefly written by Bodmer and his colleague Breitinger. The earlier papers, awkwardly expressed, often in Swiss dialect, masqueraded as the work of Holbein, Duerer, Raphael, or Michael Angelo. Although intended at first for Swiss readers only, the little weekly soon captured a German public. Its purpose was to kindle the imagination, and to suggest a parallel between the art of painting and the art of literature. Bodmer only dimly outlined what an infinitely greater mind defined with unerring precision some twenty years later in the 'Laocoon.' But the service of the older man to literature is not therefore to be undervalued. Bodmer created the function of analytic and psychological criticism in Germany. Hitherto no writer had been called to account for any literary offense whatever. Bodmer maintained that the man who demanded a hearing from the public must show good cause for this demand.
After two years the Discourses were discontinued; but Bodmer had gained great influence over the young writers of the time. He increased his reputation by translating Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' which he considered "a masterpiece of poetic genius, and the leading work of modern times." He deplores, however, the low standard of public taste, which, delighting in inferior poets, cannot at once rise to the greatest works. Already there existed in Leipzig a sort of literary centre, where Gottsched was regarded as a dictator in matters of taste. This literary autocrat praised Bodmer's translation of 'Paradise Lost' more than the original poem, in which he condemned the rhymeless metre. A sharp controversy soon divided the literary world into two hostile parties, known in German literature as the "conflict between Leipzig and Zuerich." Gottsched followed Voltaire in considering the English style rude and barbarous; whereas Bodmer, with keener artistic perception and deeper insight, defended Milton and Shakespeare. The quarrel, in which Zuerich prevailed, called the attention of Germany to the English literature, so closely affiliated to the German mind and taste, and hastened its liberation from the French yoke. Besides these services, Bodmer showed untiring zeal in rescuing from oblivion the beautiful poems and epics of the Middle Ages. In his essay 'The Excellent Conditions for Poetic Production under the Rule of the Swabian Emperors,' he directs public attention to the exquisite lyrics of the Minnesaenger. It was he who revealed that hidden treasure of German literature, the Nibelungenlied. By his studies and translations of Middle High German, he opened the vast and important field of Germanic philology. To the end of his eighty-five years he was occupied with preparing selections from the Minnesaenger, and his joy was unbounded when his half-century of work was crowned with success, and the first volume of these poems was placed in his hands.
Notwithstanding his true appreciation of poetry, he could not write it. He placed the religious above all other poetic productions, and valued the fable highly.
His hospitable roof in Zuerich had an ever cordial welcome for all writers, and many were the poets who sojourned in the "Dichterherberge" (poets' inn); among them Klopstock, Wieland, and Goethe. He held the esteem of the nation long after his own writings had been crowded into forgetfulness by the new men whose way he had prepared,—for the genius of Herder and Lessing may be said to have completed the work that was so courageously begun by Bodmer.
THE KINSHIP OF THE ARTS
When I consider the close relationship of the arts that are represented by the pen, brush, and chisel, I am inclined to think that the manes of these excellent painters and sculptors whose names our contributors have assumed would probably not be displeased with the liberty we have taken. Provided these departed spirits still feel a passionate interest in our worldly affairs, they might wish to instruct these painting writers to follow nature as closely and skillfully with their pens as they themselves had done with delicate brush or chisel. Nature is indeed the one universal teacher of all artists. Painter, sculptor, author, not one can succeed unless he hold counsel with her. The writer who does not respect her is a falsifier, and the painter or sculptor who departs from her is a dabbler. The highest place in art belongs to the writer, for his field comprehends most. With one stroke of the pen he will describe more than a painter can represent in a succession of pictures. On the other hand, the painter appeals more to the imagination, and leaves a stronger impression than description can possibly awaken.
POETRY AND PAINTING
A true poet will try to paint pictures on the imagination, which at a man's birth is devoid of impressions, I hold that the imagination is a vast plain, capable of comprehending all that nature may bring forth, besides innumerable illusions, fancies, and poetic figures. A writer's pen is his brush, and words are his colors, which he must blend, heighten, or tone down, so that each object may assume a natural living form. The best poet will so paint his pictures that his readers will see the originals reflected as in a mirror. If his imagination be vivid, words grow eloquent, he feels all that he sees: he is impelled onward like a madman, and he must follow whither his madness leads. This frenzy need not be inspired by any real object, but it must kindle his imagination to arouse a real emotion. A new conception delights the fancy. The newest is the most marvelous. To this must be given a semblance of probability, and to probability a touch of the marvelous. The poet must portray to the imagination the struggles of passion and the emotions of the human heart. His diction must be splendid and emphatic. Casting aside all earthly love, he must depict the love that springs from the soul, the love felt by him whose thoughts soar towards heaven, where God is the source of eternal beauty. The most artistic ode is that in which art is concealed, and in which the poet, unfettered, is driven by his own ardor.
A TRIBUTE TO TOBACCO
Whoever excels in any direction desires to be considered an extraordinary personage. Even the coquettish Phryne, fearing that the arts in which she really excelled might be forgotten, offered to rebuild the walls of Thebes on condition that the following inscription were cut thereon:—"The great Alexander razed these walls, but the hetaira Phryne rebuilt them." Gentlemen, I adore tobacco, and I appeal to the world for recognition. The floor of my room is strewn with tobacco ashes, on which my footsteps fall like those of the priests in the temple of Babylon. Pipes that I have buried in this tobacco desert lift their bowls here and there like stones in a cemetery. I shall make a pyramid of these relics, yellow, brown, and black, from which I shall reap renown as others win it with trophies gained on the battle-field. Besides books, which I love best after tobacco, my shelves and walls hold pipes collected from all nations, and grouped as if they were guns or sabres. My favorite pipe I never fill except on birthdays or festivals. A Frenchman who brought this from Canada swore that it was an Iroquois pipe of peace. Certain people take me for an alchemist, and my pipes for retorts with chimneys; but they do me wrong. Not only do I draw smoke but food from my distilling apparatus. I should be hailed rather as a philosopher, for while I watch the floating smoke I meditate on the vanity of man and his fleeting occupations. The moral of my tale is moderation; for my pipe is food and drink at once, and I know no better example of Nature's frugality than the fact that an ounce of tobacco provides me with a meal. Women delight in tea even as men prize tobacco. This difference in taste leads to friction of temper. Drinkers of tea inhale many a disagreeable whiff of tobacco, and lovers of tobacco are driven to accept many an unwelcome cup of tea. I, as a sufferer, would gladly set on foot a formal league which should compel an armed neutrality, and protect the one belligerent from the odor of the delicious pipe and the other from the complaisance of the tyrannous tea-cup.
Breath is smoke, and reason is but a spark in our hearts. When the spark is extinguished, our body perishes like smoldering ashes, and our breath floats away like the smoke.
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boetius was born about 475 A. D. His father was Flavius Manlius Boetius, a patrician of great wealth and influence, who was trusted by the Emperor Odoacer and held the consulship in 487. The father died before his son reached manhood; and the youth was left to the guardianship of his kinsmen Festus and Symmachus, by whom he was carefully educated. He was remarkable early in life for his scholarship, and especially for his mastery of the Greek language, an accomplishment unusual for a Roman of this period. He entered public life when about thirty years of age, but duties of State were not permitted to put an end to his studies. He had married Rusticiana, the daughter of his guardian Symmachus.
The Roman world was now ruled by Theodoric the Ostrogoth. This leader had succeeded to the headship of the Ostrogoths on the death of his father Theodomir in 474. For a time he was a pensioner of the Byzantine court, with the duty of defending the lower Danube; but in 488 he determined to invade Italy and become a sovereign subordinate to no one. By the defeat of Odoacer in 489 he accomplished that end; and desiring to conciliate the Senatorial party at Rome, he called Boetius from his studious retirement, as one who by his position and wealth could reconcile his countrymen to the rule of a barbarian chief.
In 510 Boetius was made consul, and he continued in the public service till after his sons Symmachus and Boetius were elevated to the consulship in 522. Thus far he had enjoyed the full confidence of Theodoric; but in 523 he was thrown into prison in Pavia and his property confiscated, and the Senate condemned him to death. Two years later he was executed. Unfortunately, the only account we have of the causes which led to this downfall is Boetius's own in the 'Consolations.' According to this, he first incurred Theodoric's displeasure by getting the province of Campania excepted from the operation of an edict requiring the provincials to sell their corn to the government, and otherwise championing the people against oppression; was the victim of various false accusations; and finally was held a traitor for defending Albinus, chief of the Senate, from the accusation of holding treasonable correspondence with the Emperor Justin at Constantinople. "If Albinus be criminal, I and the whole Senate are equally guilty, Boetius reports himself to have said. There is no good reason to doubt his truthfulness in any of these matters; but he does not tell the whole truth, except in a sentence he lets slip later. Theodoric's act was no outbreak of barbarian suspicion and ferocity. Boetius and the whole Senate were really guilty of holding an utterly untenable political position, which no sovereign on earth would endure: they wished to make the Emperor at Constantinople a court of appeal from Theodoric, as though the latter were still a subordinate prince. This may not have been technical treason, but it was practical insubordination; and under any other barbarian ruler or any one of fifty native ones, Rome would have flowed with blood. Theodoric contented himself with executing the ringleader, and the following year put to death Boetius's father-in-law Symmachus in fear of his plotting revenge. Even so, the executions were a bad political mistake: they must have enraged and thoroughly alienated the Senatorial party,—that is, the chief Italian families,—and made a fusion of the foreign and native elements definitively out of the question. We need not blame Boetius or the Senate for their very natural aspiration to live under a civilized instead of a barbarian jurisdiction, even though they had their own codes and courts; but the de facto governing power had its rights also.
In 996 Boetius's bones were removed to the church of St. Augustine, where his tomb may still be seen. As time elapsed, his death was considered a martyrdom, and he was canonized as St. Severinus.
Boetius was a thorough student of Greek philosophy, and formed the plan of translating all of Plato and Aristotle and reconciling their philosophies. This work he never completed. He wrote a treatise on music which was used as a text-book as late as the present century; and he translated the works of Ptolemy on astronomy, of Nicomachus on arithmetic, of Euclid on geometry, and of Archimedes on mechanics. His great work in this line was a translation of Aristotle, which he supplemented by a commentary in thirty books. Among his writings are a number of works on logic and a commentary on the 'Topica' of Cicero. In addition to these, five theological tracts are ascribed to him, the most important being a discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity.
The work which has done most to perpetuate his name is the 'Consolations of Philosophy,' in five books,—written during his imprisonment at Pavia,—which has been called "the last work of Roman literature." It is written in alternate prose and verse, and treats of his efforts to find solace in his misfortune. The first book opens with a vision of a woman, holding a book and sceptre, who comes to him with promises of comfort. She is his lifelong companion, Philosophy. He tells her the story of his troubles. In the second book, Philosophy tells him that Fortune has the right to take away what she has bestowed, and that he still has wife and children, the most precious of her gifts; his ambition to shine as statesman and philosopher is foolish, as no greatness is enduring. The third book takes up the discussion of the Supreme Good, showing that it consists not in riches, power, nor pleasure, but only in God. In the fourth book the problems of the existence of evil in the world and the freedom of the will are examined; and the latter subject continues through the fifth book. During the Middle Ages this work was highly esteemed, and numerous translations appeared. In the ninth century Alfred the Great gave to his subjects an Anglo-Saxon version; and in the fourteenth century Chaucer made an English translation, which was published by Caxton in 1480. Before the sixteenth century it was translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Greek.
It is now perhaps best known for the place it occupies in the spiritual development of Dante. He turned to it for comfort after the death of his Beatrice in 1291. Inspired by its teachings, he gave himself up for a time to the study of philosophy, with the result of his writing the 'Convito,' a book in which he often refers to his favorite author. In his 'Divine Comedy' he places Boetius in the Heaven of the Sun, together with the Fathers of the Church and the schoolmen.
OF THE GREATEST GOOD
From the 'Consolations of Philosophy'
Every mortal is troubled with many and various anxieties, and yet all desire, through various paths, to arrive at one goal; that is, they strive by different means to attain one happiness: in a word, God. He is the beginning and the end of every good, and he is the highest happiness. Then said the Mind:—This, methinks, must be the highest good, so that men should neither need, nor moreover be solicitous, about any other good besides it; since he possesses that which is the roof of all other good, inasmuch as it includes all other good, and has all other kinds within it. It would not be the highest good if any good were external to it, because it would then have to desire some good which itself had not. Then answered Reason, and said:—It is very evident that this is the highest happiness, for it is both the roof and the floor of all good. What is that then but the best happiness, which gathers the other felicities all within it, and includes and holds them within it; and to it there is a deficiency of none, neither has it need of any, but they come all from it and again all to it, as all waters come from the sea and again all come to the sea? There is none in the little fountain, which does not seek the sea, and again from the sea it returns into the earth, and so it flows gradually through the earth, till it again comes to the same fountain that it before flowed from, and so again to the sea.
Now, this is an example of the true good, which all mortal men desire to obtain, though they by various ways think to arrive at it. For every man has a natural good in himself, because every mind desires to obtain the true good; but it is hindered by the transitory good, because it is more prone thereto. For some men think that it is the best happiness that a man be so rich that he have need of nothing more, and they choose their life accordingly. Some men think that this is the highest good, that he be among his fellows the most honorable of his fellows; and they with all diligence seek this. Some think that the supreme good is in the highest power. These strive either themselves to rule, or else to associate themselves to the friendship of rulers. Some persuade themselves that it is best that a man be illustrious and celebrated and have good fame; they therefore seek this both in peace and in war. Many reckon it for the greatest good and for the greatest happiness that a man be always blithe in this present life, and follow all his lusts. Some indeed who desire these riches are desirous thereof because they would have the greater power, that they may the more securely enjoy these worldly lusts, and also the riches. Many there are who desire power because they would gather money; or again, they are desirous to spread their name.
On account of such and other like frail and perishing advantages, the thought of every human mind is troubled with anxiety and with care. It then imagines that it has obtained some exalted good when it has won the flattery of the people; and to me it seems that it has bought a very false greatness. Some with much anxiety seek wives, that thereby they may above all things have children, and also live happily. True friends, then, I say, are the most precious things of all these worldly felicities. They are not indeed to be reckoned as worldly goods, but as divine; for deceitful fortune does not produce them, but God, who naturally formed them as relations. For of every other thing in this world, man is desirous, either that he may through it obtain power, or else some worldly lust; except of the true friend, whom he loves sometimes for affection and for fidelity, though he expect to himself no other rewards. Nature joins and cements friends together with inseparable love. But with these worldly goods, and with this present wealth, men make oftener enemies than friends. From these, and from many such proofs, it may be evident to all men that all the bodily goods are inferior to the faculties of the soul. We indeed think that a man is the stronger, because he is great in his body. The fairness, moreover, and the strength of the body, rejoices and invigorates the man, and health makes him cheerful. In all these bodily felicities men seek one single happiness, as it seems to them. For whatsoever every man chiefly loves above all other things, that, he persuades himself, is best for him, and that is his highest good. When therefore he has acquired that, he imagines that he may be very happy. I do not deny that these goods and this happiness are the highest good of this present life. For every man considers that thing best which he chiefly loves above other things, and therefore he deems himself very happy if he can obtain what he then most desires. Is not now clearly enough shown to thee the form of the false goods; namely, riches, and dignity, and power, and glory, and pleasure? Concerning pleasure, Epicurus the philosopher said, when he inquired concerning all those other goods which we before mentioned: then said he, that pleasure was the highest good, because all the other goods which we before mentioned gratify the mind and delight it, but pleasure chiefly gratifies the body.
But we will still speak concerning the nature of men, and concerning their pursuits. Though, then, their mind and their nature be now obscured, and they are by that descent fallen to evil and inclined thither, yet they are desirous, so far as they can and may, of the highest good. As the drunken man knows that he should go to his house and to his rest, and yet is not able to find the way thither, so is it also with the mind, when it is weighed down by the anxieties of this world. It is sometimes intoxicated and misled by them, so far that it cannot rightly find out good. Nor yet does it appear to those men that they aught mistake who are desirous to obtain this, namely, that they need labor after nothing more. But they think that they are able to collect together all these goods, so that none may be excluded from the number....
Two things may dignity and power do, if they come to the unwise. It may make him honorable and respectable to other unwise persons. But when he quits the power, or the power him, then is he to the unwise neither honorable nor respectable. Has power, then, the custom of exterminating and rooting out vices from the minds of great men and planting therein virtues? I know, however, that earthly power never sows the virtues, but collects and gathers vices; and when it has gathered them, then it nevertheless shows and does not conceal them. For the vices of great men many men see; because many know them and many are with them. Therefore we always lament concerning power, and also despise it, when we see that it comes to the worst, and to those who are to us most unworthy.
Every virtue has its proper excellence; and the excellence and the dignity which it has, it imparts immediately to every one who loves it. Thus, wisdom is the highest virtue, and it has in it four other virtues; of which one is prudence, another temperance, the third is fortitude, the fourth justice. Wisdom makes its lovers wise, and prudent, and moderate, and patient, and just; and it fills him who loves it with every good quality. This they who possess the power of this world cannot do. They cannot impart any virtue to those who love them, through their wealth, if they have it not in their nature. Hence it is very evident that the rich in worldly wealth have no proper dignity; but the wealth is, come to them from without, and they cannot from without have aught of their own. Consider now, whether any man is the less honorable because many men despise him. But if any man be the less honorable, then is every foolish man the less honorable, the more authority he has, to every wise man. Hence it is sufficiently clear that power and wealth cannot make its possessor the more honorable. But it makes him the less honorable, when it comes to him, if he were not before virtuous. So is also wealth and power the worse, if he who possesses it be not virtuous. Each of them is the more worthless, when they meet with each other.
But I can easily instruct you by an example, so that you may clearly enough perceive that this present life is very like a shadow, and in that shadow no man can attain the true good. If any very great man is driven from his country, or goes on his lord's errand, and so comes to a foreign people, where no man knows him, nor he any man, nor even knows the language, do you think his greatness can make him honorable in that land? Of course it cannot. But if dignity were natural to wealth and were its own, or again if wealth were the rich man's own, then it could not forsake him. Let the man who possessed them be in whatsoever land he might, then his wealth and his dignity would be with him. But because the wealth and the power are not his own, they forsake him; and because they have no natural good in themselves, they go away like a shadow or smoke. Yet the mistaken opinion and fancy of unwise men judge that power is the highest good. It is entirely otherwise. When a great man is either among foreigners, or among wise men in his own country, his wealth counts nothing to either one when they learn that he was exalted for no virtue, but through the applause of the ignorant. But if his power arose from any personal merit, he would keep that even if he lost the power. He would not lose the good that came from nature; that would always follow him and always make him honorable, whatever land he was in....
Worthless and very false is the glory of this world! Concerning this a certain poet formerly sung. When he contemned this present life, he said:—O glory of this world! wherefore do erring men call thee, with false voice, glory, when thou art none!—For man more frequently has great renown, and great glory, and great honor, through the opinion of the unwise, than he has through his deserts. But tell me now, what is more unmeet than this; or why men may not rather be ashamed of themselves than rejoice, when they hear that any one belies them. Though men even rightly praise any one of the good, he ought not the sooner to rejoice immoderately at the people's words. But at this he ought to rejoice, that they speak truth of him. Though he rejoice at this, that they spread his name, it is not the sooner so extensively spread as he persuades himself; for they cannot spread it over all the earth, though they may in some land; for though it be to one known, yet it is to another unknown. Though he in this land be celebrated, yet is he in another not celebrated. Therefore is the people's favor to be held by every man for nothing; since it comes not to every man according to his deserts, nor indeed remains always to any one. Consider first concerning noble birth. If any one boast of it, how vain and how useless is the boast; for every one knows that all men come from one father and from one mother. Or again, concerning the people's favor, and concerning their applause, I know not why we rejoice at it. Though they whom the vulgar applaud be illustrious, yet are they more illustrious and more rightly to be applauded who are dignified by virtues. For no man is really the greater or the more praiseworthy for the excellence of another, or for his virtues, if he himself has it not. Are you ever the fairer for another man's beauty? A man is little the better though he have a good father, if he himself is incapable of anything. Therefore I advise that you rejoice in other men's good and their nobility, but so far only that you ascribe it not to yourself as your own; because every man's good, and his nobility, is more in the mind than in the flesh. This only, indeed, I know of good in nobility: that it shames many a man if he is worse than his ancestors were, and he therefore endeavors with all his power to imitate the manners of some one of the best, and his virtues.
The name of Louis XIV. suggests ultra-lavishness in life and taste; a time when French society, surfeited with pleasure, demanded a stimulus of continual novelty in current literature. The natural result was preciosite, hyperbole, falsetto sentiment, which ranked the unusual above the natural, clever conceit above careful workmanship. It was tainted with artificiality, and now seems mawkish and superficial.
But Boileau changed all that. Perhaps no author unendowed with genius has ever so influenced literature,
Aside from his work, the man and his life seem essentially commonplace. Nicholas Boileau, who, adding another name to his own,—quite a fashion then,—was usually called Despreaux by his contemporaries, was born in Paris, in the palace court, nearly opposite the royal Sainte Chapelle. He rarely went farther from the city than to the little house at Auteuil, where he spent twenty summers. So he knew his Paris very intimately, and was limited too by knowing only her life and thought. To his repressed youth, guarded by a strict father and a cross servant,—for his mother died in his babyhood,—is sometimes attributed his lack of emotional quality. But his was not an intense nature, and probably no training could have made the didactic poet lyric or passionate. Sincerity and common-sense were his predominating qualities, and he had the rare faculty of obedience to his own instincts. He first studied for the priesthood, but anything like mysticism was too repellent to his matter-of-fact mind. Then, as many of his family had been lawyers, he naturally turned toward that career. But the practice as taught him seemed senseless and arbitrary. Its rational basis upon a logical theory only dawned upon him later. In spite of his literary tastes, there was something extremely mundane about the pleasure-loving bachelor, so fond of good eating and of jovial cafe revels with Racine, Furetiere, Ninon de L'Enclos, and other witty Bohemians. With them he was much happier than in the more fastidious society of the Hotel Rambouillet, from which he retired after reading aloud a satiric poem not favorably received. Neither was he happy at court, in spite of the favor of Louis XIV., who, entertained by his rough honesty, gave him a pension of two thousand francs. Later, when appointed with Racine to write a history of the reign,—that unfortunate history which was accidentally burned,—we find him an unwilling follower on royal expeditions, his ungainly horsemanship the mock of high-bred courtiers. In fact, he was bourgeois through and through, and not at ease with the aristocrats. He was thrifty bourgeois too; so often called miserly as well as malicious that it is pleasant to remember certain illustrations of his nobler side. The man who offered to resign his own pension if that of old disfavored Corneille might be continued, and when the latter was forced to sell his library, paid him its full value and then left him in lifelong possession,—was generous if he did love to save sous. His was a fine independence, which felt his art too lofty for purchase, and would accept nothing from the booksellers.
He had always wished to be a poet. Feeble of body, asthmatic, and in later life deaf and almost deprived of voice, he found in writing all the charm of a brilliant and ingenious game. Then too he had something definite to say, as all his work consistently testifies. Neither rich nor poor, without family cares, he could give himself unreservedly to authorship. In 1660 he published a satire upon the vices of Paris, which inaugurated his great success. Seven satires appeared in 1666, and he afterward added five others. Their malicious wit, their novel form, the harmonious swing of the couplet rhyme, forced immediate attention. They held up contemporary literary weaknesses to scorn, and indulged in the most merciless personalities, sparing not even his own brother, the poet Gilles Boileau. All retorts upon himself the author bore with complacent superiority which forced his adversaries to feel worsted.
From 1666 to 1774 most of the 'Epistles' were written; and also his best known work, 'L'Art poetique' (The Art of Poetry). In the satires he had been destructive, but he was too practical to be negative. The 'Art of Poetry,' modeled after Horace's work of that name, offers the theory of poetic composition. It is a work in four cantos of couplets: the first setting forth general rules of metrical composition; the second a dissertation upon different forms—ode, sonnet, pastoral, and others; the third treating tragedy, comedy, and epic poetry; and the last consisting of general reflections and advice to authors. Briefly stated, Boileau's desire was to establish literature upon a foundation of unchanging laws. Why did some works speedily die while others endure through the centuries? Because works akin to the eternal classics did not, like much contemporary writing, reflect the trivial and evanescent. They contained what is perennially true of humanity; and stated this in a simple, interesting, and reasonable way. Above all, Boileau demands truth in subject, and the conscientious workmanship which finds the most suitable form of expression. To see a word at the end of a couplet only because it rhymes with the word above it, he finds inexcusable. Without a method resulting in unity, clearness, and proportion, writing is not literature. Later, in his 'Reflections upon Longinus,' Boileau repeated and emphasized these views.
His mock-heroic poem 'Le Lutrin' (The Reading-Desk), ridiculing clerical pettinesses, was strong in realistic descriptions, and was perhaps his most popular work.
A modern poet's definition of poetry as "the heat and height of sane emotion" would have been unintelligible to Boileau. Deficient in imagination, he always saw life on its material side, and was irritated by any display of emotion not reducible to logic. So his poetry is sensible, clear argument in exquisitely careful metre. His great strength lay in a taste which recognized harmony and fitness instinctively. To us his quality is best translated by the dainty, perfect couplets of his imitator Pope. His talent, essentially French in its love of effect and classification, has strewn the language with clever saws, and his works have been studied as authoritative models by generation after generation of students.
But after all, it is less as a poet than as a critic, "the lawgiver of the French Parnassus," that the world has always known Boileau, Before him the art of criticism had hardly existed. Authors had received indiscriminate praise or blame, usually founded upon interested motives or personal bias; but there had been little comparison with an acknowledged standard. This "slashing reviewer in verse," as Saintsbury calls him, was a severe pedagogue, but his public did learn their lesson. He made mistakes, was neither broad-minded nor profound in attainments, was occasionally unjust; but he showed readers why they should praise or blame; taught them appreciation of his greater friends Moliere and Racine; and pointed out to authors what their purpose should be. With a greater creative power seeking self-expression, he might have accomplished less in literary reform.
ADVICE TO AUTHORS
From 'The Art of Poetry'
There is a kind of writer pleased with sound, Whose fustian head with clouds is compassed round— No reason can disperse them with its light; Learn then to think, ere you pretend to write As your idea's clear, or else obscure, The expression follows, perfect or impure; What we conceive with ease we can express; Words to the notions flow with readiness.
Observe the language well in all you write, And swerve not from it in your loftiest flight. The smoothest verse and the exactest sense Displease if uncouth language give offense; A barbarous phrase no reader can approve; Nor bombast, noise, or affectation love. In short, without pure language, what you write Can never yield us profit or delight.
Take time for thinking; never work in haste; And value not yourself for writing fast; A rapid poem, with such fury writ, Shows want of judgment, not abounding wit. More pleased we are to see a river lead His gentle streams along a flowery mead, Than from high banks to hear loud torrents roar, With foamy waters, on a muddy shore. Gently make haste, of labor not afraid; A hundred times consider what you've said; Polish, repolish, every color lay, And sometimes add, but oftener take away.
'Tis not enough, when swarming faults are writ, That here and there are scattered sparks of wit; Each object must be fixed in the true place, And differing parts have corresponding grace; Till, by a curious art disposed, we find One perfect whole of all the pieces joined. Keep to your subject close in all you say, Nor for a sounding sentence ever stray.
The public censure for your writings fear, And to yourself be critic most' severe; Fantastic wits their darling follies love, But find you faithful friends that will reprove, That on your works may look with careful eyes, And of your faults be zealous enemies. Lay by an author's pride and vanity, And from a friend a flatterer descry, Who seems to like, but means not what he says; Embrace true counsel, but suspect false praise.
A sycophant will everything admire; Each verse, each sentence, sets his soul on fire; All is divine! there's not a word amiss! He shakes with joy and weeps with tenderness; He overpowers you with his mighty praise.
Truth never moves in those impetuous ways. A faithful friend is careful of your fame, And freely will your heedless errors blame; He cannot pardon a neglected line, But verse to rule and order will confine, Reprove of words the too-affected sound,— "Here the sense flags, and your expression's bound, Your fancy tires, and your discourse grows vain; Your term's improper;—make it just and plain." Thus 'tis a faithful friend will freedom use. But authors partial to their darling muse Think to protect it they have just pretense, And at your friendly counsel take offense. "Said you of this, that the expression's flat? Your servant, sir, you must excuse me that," He answers you. "This word has here no grace, Pray leave it out."—"That, sir, 's the properest place."
"This term I like not."—"'Tis approved by all." Thus, resolute not from one fault to fall, If there's a symbol as to which you doubt, 'Tis a sure reason not to blot it out. Yet still he says you may his faults confute, And over him your power is absolute. But of his feigned humility take heed: 'Tis a bait laid to make you hear him read; And when he leaves you, happy in his muse, Restless he runs some other to abuse.
And often finds; for in our scribbling times No fool can lack a fool to praise his rhymes; The flattest work has here within the court Met with some zealous ass for its support; And in all times a forward scribbling fop Has found some greater fool to cry him up.
THE PASTORAL, THE ELEGY, THE ODE, AND THE EPIGRAM From 'The Art of Poetry'
As A fair nymph, when rising from her bed, With sparkling diamonds dresses not her head, But without gold, or pearl, or costly scents, Gathers from neighboring fields her ornaments: Such, lovely in its dress, but plain withal, Ought to appear a perfect Pastoral. Its humble method nothing has of fierce, But hates the rattling of a lofty verse; There native beauty pleases and excites, And never with harsh sounds the ear affrights.
But in this style a poet, often spent In rage, throws by his rural instrument, And vainly, when disordered thoughts abound, Amidst the eclogue makes the trumpet sound; Pan flies alarmed into the neighboring woods, And frighted nymphs dive down into the floods.
Opposed to this, another, low in style, Makes shepherds speak a language low and vile; His writings, flat and heavy, without sound, Kissing the earth and creeping on the ground; You'd swear that Randal, in his rustic strains, Again was quavering to the country swains, And changing, without care of sound or dress, Strephon and Phyllis into Tom and Bess.
'Twixt these extremes 'tis hard to keep the right: For guides take Virgil and read Theocrite; Be their just writings, by the gods inspired, Your constant pattern, practiced and admired. By them alone you'll easy comprehend How poets without shame may condescend To sing of gardens, fields, of flowers and fruit, To stir up shepherds and to tune the flute;
Of love's rewards to tell the happy hour, Daphne a tree, Narcissus make a flower, And by what means the eclogue yet has power To make the woods worthy a conqueror; This of their writings is the grace and flight; Their risings lofty, yet not out of sight.
The Elegy, that loves a mournful style, With unbound hair weeps at a funeral pile; It paints the lover's torments and delights, A mistress flatters, threatens, and invites; But well these raptures if you'll make us see, You must know love as well as poetry.
I hate those lukewarm authors, whose forced fire In a cold style describes a hot desire; That sigh by rule, and raging in cold blood, Their sluggish muse whip to an amorous mood. Their transports feigned appear but flat and vain; They always sigh, and always hug their chain, Adore their prisons and their sufferings bless, Make sense and reason quarrel as they please. 'Twas not of old in this affected tone That smooth Tibullus made his amorous moan; Nor Ovid, when, instructed from above, By nature's rule he taught the art of love. The heart in elegies forms the discourse.
The Ode is bolder and has greater force; Mounting to heaven in her ambitious flight, Amongst the gods and heroes takes delight; Of Pisa's wrestlers tells the sinewy force, And sings the lusty conqueror's glorious course; To Simois's streams does fierce Achilles bring, And makes the Ganges bow to Britain's king. Sometimes she flies like an industrious bee, And robs the flowers by nature's chemistry; Describes the shepherd's dances, feasts, and bliss, And boasts from Phyllis to surprise a kiss, When gently she resists with feigned remorse, That what she grants may seem to be by force. Her generous style at random oft will part, And by a brave disorder shows her art.
Unlike those fearful poets whose cold rime In all their raptures keeps exactest time; That sing the illustrious hero's mighty praise— Lean writers!—by the terms of weeks and days, And dare not from least circumstances part, But take all towns by strictest rules of art. Apollo drives those fops from his abode; And some have said that once the humorous god, Resolving all such scribblers to confound, For the short Sonnet ordered this strict bound, Set rules for the just measure and the time, The easy-running and alternate rime; But above all, those licenses denied Which in these writings the lame sense supplied, Forbade a useless line should find a place, Or a repeated word appear with grace. A faultless sonnet, finished thus, would be Worth tedious volumes of loose poetry. A hundred scribbling authors, without ground, Believe they have this only phoenix found, When yet the exactest scarce have two or three, Among whole tomes, from faults and censure free; The rest, but little read, regarded less, Are shoveled to the pastry from the press. Closing the sense within the measured time, 'Tis hard to fit the reason to the rime.
The Epigram, with little art composed, Is one good sentence in a distich closed. These points, that by Italians first were prized, Our ancient authors knew not, or despised; The vulgar, dazzled with their glaring light, To their false pleasures quickly they invite; But public favor so increased their pride, They overwhelmed Parnassus with their tide.
The Madrigal at first was overcome, And the proud Sonnet fell by the same doom; With these grave Tragedy adorned her flights, And mournful Elegy her funeral rites, A hero never failed them on the stage: Without his point a lover durst not rage; The amorous shepherds took more care to prove True to his point, than faithful to their love. Each word, like Janus, had a double face, And prose, as well as verse, allowed it place; The lawyer with conceits adorned his speech, The parson without quibbling could not preach. At last affronted reason looked about, And from all serious matters shut them out; Declared that none should use them without shame, Except a scattering, in the epigram— Provided that by art, and in due time, They turned upon the thought, and not the rime. Thus in all parts disorders did abate; Yet quibblers in the court had leave to prate, Insipid jesters and unpleasant fools, A corporation of dull, punning drolls. 'Tis not but that sometimes a dextrous muse May with advantage a turned sense abuse, And on a word may trifle with address; But above all, avoid the fond excess, And think not, when your verse and sense are lame, With a dull point to tag your epigram.
From 'The Satires'
Unequaled genius, whose warm fancy knows No rhyming labor, no poetic throes; To whom Apollo has unlocked his store; Whose coin is struck from pure Parnassian ore; Thou, dextrous master, teach thy skill to me, And tell me, Moliere, how to1 rhyme like thee!
You never falter when the close comes round, Or leave the substance to preserve the sound; You never wander after words that fly, For all the words you need before you lie. But I, who—smarting for my sins of late— With itch of rhyme am visited by fate, Expend on air my unavailing force, And, hunting sounds, am sweated like a horse. In vain I often muse from dawn till night: When I mean black, my stubborn verse says white; If I should paint a coxcomb's flippant mien, I scarcely can forbear to name the Dean; If asked to tell the strains that purest flow, My heart says Virgil, but my pen Quinault; In short, whatever I attempt to say, Mischance conducts me quite the other way.
At times, fatigued and fretted with the pain, When every effort for relief is vain, The fruitless chase I peevishly give o'er, And swear a thousand times to write no more: But, after thousand vows, perhaps by chance, Before my careless eyes the couplets dance. Then with new force my flame bursts out again, Pleased I resume the paper and the pen; And, all my anger and my oaths forgot, I calmly muse and resolutely blot.
Yet, if my eager hand, in haste to rhyme, Should tack an empty couplet at a time, Great names who do the same I might adduce; Nay, some who keep such hirelings for their use. Need blooming Phyllis be described in prose By any lover who has seen a rose? Who can forget heaven's masterpiece, her eye, Where, within call, the Loves and Graces lie? Who can forget her smile, devoid of art, Her heavenly sweetness and her frozen heart? How easy thus forever to compound, And ring new changes on recurring sound; How easy, with a reasonable store Of useful epithets repeated o'er, Verb, substantive, and pronoun, to transpose, And into tinkling metre hitch dull prose. But I—who tremble o'er each word I use, And all that do not aid the sense refuse, Who cannot bear those phrases out of place Which rhymers stuff into a vacant space—Ponder my scrupulous verses o'er and o'er, And when I write five words, oft blot out four.
Plague on the fool who taught us to confine The swelling thought within a measured line; Who first in narrow thraldom fancy pent, And chained in rhyme each pinioned sentiment. Without this toil, contentment's soothing balm Might lull my languid soul in listless calm: Like the smooth prebend how might I recline, And loiter life in mirth and song and wine! Roused by no labor, with no care opprest, Pass all my nights in sleep, my days in rest. My passions and desires obey the rein; No mad ambition fires my temperate vein; The schemes of busy greatness I decline, Nor kneel in palaces at Fortune's shrine. In short, my life had been supremely blest If envious rhyme had not disturbed my rest: But since this freakish fiend began to roll His idle vapors o'er my troubled soul, Since first I longed in polished verse to please, And wrote with labor to be read with ease, Nailed to my chair, day after day I pore On what I write and what I wrote before; Retouch each line, each epithet review, Or burn the paper and begin anew. While thus my labors lengthen into years, I envy all the race of sonneteers.
Hail, happy Scudere! whose prolific brain Brings forth a monthly volume without pain; What though thy works, offending every rule, Proclaim their author an insipid fool; Still have they found, whate'er the critic says, Traders to buy and emptier fools to praise.
And, truly, if in rhymes the couplets close, What should it matter that the rest is prose? Who stickles now for antiquated saws, Or cramps his verses with pedantic laws? The fool can welcome every word he meets, With placid joy contemplating his feats; And while each stanza swells his wondering breast Admires them all, yet thinks the last the best. But towering Genius, hopeless to attain That unknown summit which he pants to gain, Displeased himself, enchanting all beside, Scorns each past effort that his strength supplied, And filling every reader with delight, Repents the hour when he began to write.
To you, who know how justly I complain, To you I turn for medicine to my pain! Grant me your talent, and impart your store, Or teach me, Moliere, how to rhyme no more.
Marie Louis Gaston Boissier is known in Paris as one of the most prominent professors of the College de France, and to the outside world as the author of a number of scholarly books of essays, most of them on Roman subjects. Born at Nimes in 1823, his life has been devoted entirely to literature. Soon after his graduation from the Ecole Normale he was made professor of rhetoric at Angouleme, and later held the same position at Nimes. He has received the degree of Doctor, and occupied a number of high positions, culminating in that of professor of Latin poetry in the College de France, which he still holds. His works have a high value in the world of scholars, and have won him the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor, as well as a seat in the Academie Francaise, which he entered in 1876. His best known works, 'Cicero et ses Amis' (Cicero and His Friends), was crowned by the Academie; and 'Promenades Archeologiques, Rome et Naples,' written in 1880, has been translated into English, as has also his life of Madame de Sevigne, which contains many charming bits of comment on the seventeenth century. As a biographer, and also as a historian, he is quiet and accurate—never dry. He has great charm of style, and writes with elegance, correctness, clearness, and originality. He contributes largely, also, to the Revue des Deux Mondes and to scientific publications.
MADAME DE SEVIGNE AS A LETTER-WRITER
From the 'Life of Madame de Sevigne'
The passages just cited appear so simple, and utter so naturally what we all experience, that they are read the first time without surprise. There seems nothing remarkable about them except this very simplicity and naturalness. Now, these are not the qualities which attract attention. It is difficult to appreciate them in works where they occur, and it is only by reading works where they are lacking that we realize all their importance. But here, as soon as we reflect, we are astonished to perceive that this great emotion is expressed in language strong, confident, and correct, with no hesitation and no bungling. The lively sequence of these complaints implies that they were poured forth all at once, in a single outburst; and yet the perfection of the style seems impossible of attainment without some study and some retouching. It is sometimes said that a strong passion at once creates the language to express it. I greatly doubt this. On the contrary, it seems to me that when the soul is violently agitated, the words by which we try to express our feelings always appear dull and cold; we are tempted to make use of exaggerated and far-fetched expressions in order to rise to the level of our sorrow or joy. Hence come sometimes excessive terms, discordant metaphors. We might be inclined to regard these as thought out at leisure and in cold blood, while on the contrary they are the product of the first impulse of the effort we instinctively make to find an expression corresponding to the intensity of our passion. There is nothing of this kind in Madame de Sevigne's letters; and however violent her grief may be, it always speaks in accurate and fitting language. This is a valuable quality, and one extremely rare. That we may not be surprised at finding it so highly developed in her, we need only remember what has just been said of the way in which she was unconsciously prepared to become a great writer.
Another characteristic of Madame de Sevigne's letters, not less remarkable, is that generally her most loving messages are cleverly expressed. I do not refer merely to certain isolated phrases that have sometimes appeared rather affected. "The north wind bound for Grignan makes me ache for your chest." "My dear, how the burden within you weighs me down!" "I dare not read your letters for fear of having read them." These are only occasional flashes; but almost always, when on the point of giving way to all her emotion, she gives her phrase an ingenious turn, she makes witty observations, is bright, pleasing, elegant. All this seems to some readers to proceed from a mind quite self-possessed, and not so far affected by passion as to be inattentive to elegant diction.
Just now I placed naturalness among Madame de Sevigne's leading qualities. There are those who are not of this opinion, and contend that naturalness is just the merit she most lacks; but we must define our meaning. Naturalness for each one is what is conformable to his nature; and as each one of us has a nature of his own very different from that of his neighbors, naturalness cannot be exactly the same in every instance. Moreover, education and habit give us each a second nature which often has more control over us than the original one. In the society in which Madame de Sevigne lived, people made a point of speaking wittily. The first few times one appeared in this society, it required a little study and effort to assume the same tone as the rest. One had to be on the watch for those pleasant repartees that, among the frequenters of the Rambouillet and Richelieu houses, gave the new-comer a good reputation; but after a while these happy sayings came unsought. To persons trained in such a school, what might at first sight appear subtle and refined is ordinary and natural. Whether they speak or write, their ideas take a certain form which is not the usual one; and bright, witty, and dainty phrases, which would require labor from others, occur to them spontaneously.
To be sure, I do not mean that Madame de Sevigne wrote well without knowing it. This is a thing of which a witty woman always has an inkling; and besides, her friends did not permit her to be ignorant of it. "Your letters are delightful," they told her, "and you are like your letters." It was all the easier to believe this, because she paid to herself in a whisper such compliments as others addressed to her aloud. One day, when she had recently written to her friend Dr. Bourdelot, she said to her daughter, "Brava! what a good answer I sent him! That is a foolish thing to say, but I had a good, wide-awake pen that day." It is very delightful to feel that one has wit, and we can understand how Madame de Sevigne might sometimes have yielded to this feeling with some satisfaction. In her most private correspondence, that in which she least thought of the public, we might note certain passages in which she takes pleasure in elaborating and decorating her thought, and in adding to it new details more and more dainty and ingenious. This she does without effort, to satisfy her own taste and to give herself the pleasure of expressing her thought agreeably. It has been remarked that good talkers are not sensitive to the praises of others only: they also wish to please themselves, independently of the public around them; and like to hear themselves talk. It might be said in the same sense that Madame de Sevigne sometimes likes to see herself write. This is one of those pretty artifices which in women do not exclude sincerity, and which may be united with naturalness. Copyrighted by A.C. McClurg and Company, Chicago.
FRENCH SOCIETY IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
From the (Life of Madame de Sevigne)
Studying the seventeenth century in the histories is one thing, and seeking to become acquainted with it by reading contemporary letters is another and a far different thing. The two procedures give rise to conflicting impressions. Historians, taking a bird's-eye view of their subject, portray its most general characteristics; they bring out only the prominent features, and sacrificing all the rest, draw pictures whose precision and simplicity captivate our minds. We finally get into the habit of seeing an epoch as they have painted it, and cannot imagine there was anything in it besides the qualities they specify. But when we read letters relating, without alteration or selection, events as they took place, the opinions of men and things we have drawn from the historians are greatly modified. We then perceive that good and evil are at all times mingled, and even that the proportions of the mixture vary less than one would think. Cousin says somewhere, "In a great age all is great." It is just the contrary that is true: there is no age so great that there is not much littleness about it; and if we undertake to study history we should expect this, so as not to reckon without our host. No epoch has been more celebrated, more admired, than the reign of Louis XIV.; there is danger lest the correspondence of Madame de Sevigne may much abate the warmth of our admiration. She is constantly telling strange stories that compel us to pause and reflect. When, in a society represented as so noble, so delicate, so regular, we meet with so many shameful disorders, so many ill-assorted households, so many persons whose fortunes are sustained only by dishonest expedients, with great lords buying and not paying, promising and not keeping their word, borrowing and never returning, kneeling before ministers and ministers' mistresses, cheating at play like M. de Cessac, living like Caderousse at the expense of a great lady, surrendering like Soubise a wife to the king, or like Villarceaux a niece, or insisting with Bussy that "the chariest of their honor should be delighted when such a good fortune befalls their family,"—it seems to me we have a right to conclude that people then were hardly our superiors; that perhaps in some points we are better than they were; and that in any case it is not worth while to set them up as models to the disparagement of our own times.
In one respect, however, they were unlike us. In those days there were certain subjects on which people were generally agreed, and these were precisely the subjects that now give rise to the greatest divisions,—religion and politics. Not that all were pious then,—far from it,—but almost all were believers, and almost none contested the principle of royal authority. To-day, religious belief and belief in monarchy are well-nigh extinct; and there are hardly any left of those commonly received opinions, escaped by none, impregnating all, breathed in like the air, and always found at the bottom of the heart on occasions of grave need, despite all the inward changes that experience has wrought. Is this a good or an evil? Should we rejoice at it or regret it? Each one will answer according to his character and inclinations. Daring minds that feel strong enough to form their own convictions are glad to be delivered from prejudices interfering with independence of opinion, glad to have free scope. But the rest, who form the vast majority, who are without such high aims, and whose life is moreover taken up with other cares, are troubled, uncertain, ill at ease, when they have to settle these great problems independently. They regret that they can no longer find the solutions all worked out, and sadly repeat with Jocelyn:—
"Ah, why was I born in days stormy and dread, When the pilgrim of life hath no rest for his head; When the way disappears; when the spent human mind, Groping, doubting, still strives some new pathway to find, Unable to trust in the hopes of the Old Or to strike out a New from its perishing mold!"
This sort of anguish of spirit was unknown in the seventeenth century, as Madame de Sevigne's letters clearly show.
HOW HORACE LIVED AT HIS COUNTRY HOUSE
From 'The Country of Horace and Virgil'
It is very annoying that Horace, who has described with so many details the employment of his days while he remained in Rome, should not have thought it necessary to tell us as clearly how he spent his life in the country. The only thing we know with certainty is that he was very happy there: he for the first time tasted the pleasure of being a proprietor. "I take my meals," said he, "before household gods that are mine own" ("ante larem proprium vescor"). To have a hearth and domestic gods, to fix his life in a dwelling of which he was the master, was the greatest happiness that could befall a Roman. To enjoy it, Horace had waited until he was more than thirty years of age. We have seen that his domain, when he took possession of it, was very much neglected, and that the house was falling into ruins. He first had to build and plant. Do not let us pity him; these cares have their charms. One loves one's house when one has built or repaired it, and the very trouble our land costs us attaches us to it. He came to it as often as he could, and always with pleasure. Everything served him as a pretext to leave Rome. It was too hot there, or too cold; the Saturnalia were approaching—an unbearable time of the year, when all the town was out of doors; it was the moment to finish a work which Maecenas had pressingly required. Well, how could anything good be done at Rome, where the noises of the street, the bustle of intercourse, the troublesome people one has to visit or receive, the bad verses one has to listen to, take up the best part of your time? So he put Plato with Menander into his portmanteau, took with him the work he had begun, promising to do wonders, and started for Tibur. But when he was at home, his good resolutions did not hold out. He had something to do quite different from shutting himself up in his study. He had to chat with his farmer, and superintend his laborers. He went to see them at work, and sometimes lent a hand himself. He dug the spade into the field, took out the stones, etc., to the great amusement of the neighbors, who marveled both at his ardor and his clumsiness:—
"Rident vicini glebas et saxa moventem."
In the evening he received at his table a few of the neighboring proprietors. They were honest folk, who did not speak ill of their neighbors, and who, unlike the fops of Rome, had not for sole topic of conversation the races or the theatre. They handled most serious questions, and their rustic wisdom found ready expression in proverbs and apologues. What pleased Horace above all at these country dinners was that etiquette was laughed at, that everything was simple and frugal, that one did not feel constrained to obey those silly laws which Varro had drawn up, and which had become the code of good company. Nobody thought of electing a king of the feast, to fix for the guests the number of cups that must be drained. Every one ate according to his hunger and drank according to his thirst. "They were," said Horace, "divine repasts" ("O noctes cenaeque Deum").
Yet he did not always stay at home, however great the pleasure he felt in being there. This steady-going, regular man thought it right from time to time to put a little irregularity into one's life. Does not a Grecian sage—Aristotle, I think—recommend that one excess per month be indulged in, in the interest of health? It serves at least to break the round of habit. Such also was the opinion of Horace. Although the most moderate of men, he found it pleasant to commit an occasional wildness ("dulce est desipere in loco"). With age these outbursts had become less frequent, yet he still loved to break the sage uniformity of his existence by some pleasure jaunt. Then he returned to Praeneste, to Baiae, or to Tarentum, which he had loved so much in his youth. Once he was unfaithful to these old affections, and chose for the goal of his journey spots that were new to him. The occasion of the change was this: Antonius Musa, a Greek physician, had just cured Augustus of a dangerous illness, which it had been thought must prove fatal, by means of cold water. Hydrotherapeutics at once became fashionable. People deserted the thermal springs, formerly so much sought after, to go off to Clusium, to Gabii, into the mountains, where springs of icy water were found. Horace did like the rest. In the winter of the year 730, instead of going as usual towards Baiae, he turned his little steed towards Salerno and Velia. This was the affair of a season. Next year Marullus, the Emperor's son-in-law and heir, falling very ill, Antonius Musa was hastily sent for, and applied his usual remedy. But the remedy no longer healed, and hydrotherapeutics, which had saved Augustus, did not prevent Marullus from dying. They were at once forsaken, and the sick again began following the road to Baiae.
When Horace started on these extraordinary journeys, he took a change of diet. "At home," said he, "I can put up with anything; my Sabine table wine seems to me delicious; and I regale myself with vegetables from my garden seasoned with a slice of bacon. But when I have once left my house, I become more particular, and beans, beloved though they be of Pythagoras, no longer suffice me." So before starting in the direction of Salerno, where he did not often go, he takes the precaution to question one of his friends as to the resources of the country; whether one can get fish, hares, and venison there, that he may come back home again as fat as a Phaeacian. Above all, he is anxious to know what is drunk in those parts. He wants a generous wine to make him eloquent, and "which will give him strength, and rejuvenate him in the eyes of his young Lucanian sweetheart." We see he pushes precaution a considerable length. He was not rich enough to possess a house of his own at Baiae, Praeneste, or Salerno, the spots frequented by all the Roman fashionable world, but he had his wonted lodgings ("deversoria nota"), where he used to put up. When Seneca was at Baiae, he lived above a public bath, and he has furnished us a very amusing account of the sounds of all kinds that troubled his rest. Horace, who liked his ease and wished to be quiet, could not make a very long stay in those noisy places. His whim gratified, he returned as soon as possible to his peaceful house amid the fields, and I can well imagine that those few fatiguing weeks made it seem more pleasant and more sweet to him.
One cannot read his works carefully without noticing that his affection for his country estate goes on constantly increasing. At first, when he had passed a few weeks there, the memory of Rome used to re-awaken in his thoughts. Those large towns, which we hate when we are forced to live in them, have only to be left in order to be regretted! When Horace's slave, taking an unfair advantage of the liberty of the Saturnalia, tells his master so many unpleasant things, he reproaches him with never being pleased where he is:—
"Romae rus optas, absentem villicus urbem Tollis ad astra levis?"
He was himself very much vexed at his inconstancy, and accused himself of "only loving Rome when he was at Tibur, and only thinking of Tibur from the moment he found himself in Rome." However, he cured himself at last of this levity, which annoyed him so much. To this he bears witness in his own favor in the letter addressed to his farmer, where he strives to convince him that one may be happy without having a public-house next door. "As for me," he tells him, "thou knowest that I am self-consistent, and that each time hated business recalls me to Rome I leave this spot with sadness." He doubtless arranged matters so as to live more and more at his country house. He looked forward to a time when it would be possible for him scarcely ever to leave it, and counted upon it to enable him to bear more lightly the weight of his closing years.
They are heavy, whatever one may do, and age never comes without bringing many griefs. Firstly, the long-lived must needs leave many friends upon the way. Horace lost some to whom he was very tenderly attached. He had the misfortune to survive Virgil and Tibullus ten years. What regrets he must have felt on the death of the great poet, of whom he said he "knew no soul more bright, and had no better friend"! The great success of Virgil's posthumous work could only have half consoled him for his loss, for he regretted in him the man as well as the poet. He had also great cause to grieve for Maecenas, whom he so dearly loved. This favorite of the Emperor, this king of fashion, whose fortune all men envied, finished by being very unhappy. It is all very well to take every kind of precaution in order to insure one's happiness—to fly from business, to seek pleasure, to amass wealth, to gather clever men about one, to surround one's self with all the charms of existence; however one may try to shut the door on them, troubles and sorrows find a way in. The saddest of it all is that Maecenas was first unhappy through his own fault. Somewhat late in life this prudent, wise man had been foolish enough to marry a coquette, and to fall deeply in love with her. He had rivals, and among them the Emperor himself, of whom he dared not be jealous. He who had laughed so much at others afforded the Romans a comedy at his own expense. His time was passed in leaving Terentia and taking her back again. "He has been married more than a hundred times," said Seneca, "although he has had but one wife." To these domestic troubles illness was added. His health had never been good, and age and sorrows made it worse. Pliny tells us that he passed three whole years without being able to sleep. Enduring pain badly, he grieved his friends beyond measure by his groans. Horace, with whom he continually conversed about his approaching end, answered him in beautiful verses:—
"Thou, Maecenas, die first! Thou, stay of my fortune, adornment of my life! The gods will not allow it, and I will not consent. Ah! if Fate, hastening its blows, should tear from me part of myself in thee, what would betide the other? What should I henceforth do, hateful unto myself, and but half of myself surviving?"
In the midst of these sorrows, Horace himself felt that he was growing old. The hour when one finds one's self face to face with age is a serious one. Cicero, when approaching it, tried to give himself courage in advance, and being accustomed to console himself for everything by writing, he composed his 'De Senectute,' a charming book in which he tries to deck the closing years of life with certain beauties. He had not to make use of the consolations which he prepared for himself, so we do not know whether he would have found them sufficient when the moment came. That spirit, so young, so full of life, would I fear have resigned itself with difficulty to the inevitable decadences of age. Nor did Horace love old age, and in his 'Ars Poetica' he has drawn a somewhat gloomy picture of it. He had all the more reason to detest it because it came to him rather early. In one of those passages where he so willingly gives us the description of his person, he tells us that his hair whitened quickly. As a climax of misfortune he had grown very fat, and being short, his corpulence was very unbecoming to him. Augustus, in a letter, compares him to one of those measures of liquids which are broader than they are high. If, in spite of these too evident signs which warned him of his age, he had tried to deceive himself, there was no lack of persons to disabuse him. There was the porter of Neaera, who no longer allowed his slave to enter; an affront which Horace was obliged to put up with without complaining. "My hair whitening," said he, "warns me not to quarrel. I should not have been so patient in the time of my boiling youth, when Plancus was consul." Then it was Neaera herself who declined to come when he summoned her, and again resigning himself with a good enough grace, the poor poet found that after all she was right, and that it was natural love should prefer youth to ripened age.
"Ahi, Quo blandae juvenum te revocant preces."
Fortunately he was not of a melancholy disposition, like his friends Tibullus and Virgil. He even had opinions on the subject of melancholy which differ widely from ours. Whereas, since Lamartine, we have assumed the habit of regarding sadness as one of the essential elements of poetry, he thought on the contrary that poetry has the privilege of preventing us from being sad. "A man protected by the Muses," said he, "flings cares and sorrows to the winds to bear away." His philosophy had taught him not to revolt against inevitable ills. However painful they be, one makes them lighter by bearing them. So he accepted old age because it cannot be eluded, and because no means have yet been found of living long without growing old. Death itself did not frighten him. He was not of those who reconcile themselves to it as well as they can by never thinking about it. On the contrary, he counsels us to have it always in mind. "Think that the day which lights you is the last you have to live. The morrow will have more charm for you if you have not hoped to see it:"—
"Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum; Grata superveniet quae non sperabitur hora."
This is not, as might be supposed, one of those bravadoes of the timid, who shout before Death in order to deaden the sound of his footsteps. Horace was never more calm, more energetic, more master of his mind and of his soul, than in the works of his ripe age. The last lines of his that remain to us are the firmest and most serene he ever wrote.
Then, more than ever, must he have loved the little Sabine valley. When we visit these beautiful tranquil spots, we tell ourselves that they appear made to shelter the declining years of a sage. It seems as if with old servants, a few faithful friends, and a stock of well-chosen books, the time must pass there without sadness. But I must stop. Since Horace has not taken us into his confidence respecting his last years, and nobody after him has told us of them, we are reduced to form conjectures, and we should put as few of them as possible into the life of a man who loved truth so well.
Copyrighted by G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York.
GEORGE H. BOKER
Mr. Boker was a man of leisure by inheritance, and a scholar and author by training and choice. His work is usually deliberate, careful, and polished: the work of a man of solid culture, of much experience and knowledge of the world; of a man of dignity and social position, not a Bohemian. It is thoughtfully planned and carefully executed, but not written through inspiration or prompted by passion. Yet it does not lack vigor, nor are his puppets merely automata. His plays have life and force; and they are moreover good acting dramas. 'Francesca da Rimini' especially, with Lawrence Barrett in the role of Lanciotto, was decidedly successful on the stage. In keeping with the character of his work, the scenes of his plays are all laid in foreign countries and in other times: Portugal, England, Spain, and Italy are the fields in which his characters play their parts. His personages have an individuality of their own and are consistently drawn; the action is lively, the humor is natural and a needful foil to the tragedy.
Mr. Boker was fond of the sonnet, as poets are apt to be who have once yielded to its attraction, and he used it with much effect. But chiefly his poems of the Civil War will make his name remembered. His lyre responded sympathetically to the heroic deeds which characterized that conflict—not always with the smoothness and polish of his more studied work, but worthily, and in the spirit of the time.
He was born in Philadelphia, October 6th, 1823, and died there January 2d, 1890. He was graduated from Princeton in 1842, and after studying law and traveling for a number of years in Europe, settled down in his native city, where most of his life was spent. He was Minister to Turkey from 1871 to 1875, and Minister to Russia from 1875 to 1879. His first volume, 'The Lesson of Life and other Poems,' was published in 1847, and was followed by various plays.—'Calaynos,' 'Anne Boleyn,' 'The Betrothal,' 'Leonor de Guzman,' 'Francesca da Rimini,' etc., which, with some shorter pieces, were collected in 'Plays and Poems,' published in 1856. His 'Poems of the War' appeared in 1864, and still later a number of other volumes: 'Street Lyrics,' 'Our Heroic Themes' (1865), 'Koenigsmark' (1869), 'The Book of the Dead' (1882), a very close imitation of 'In Memoriam' in both matter and form, and 'Sonnets' (1886).
THE BLACK REGIMENT
From 'Plays and Poems'
Port Hudson, May 27th, 1863.
Dark as the clouds of even, Ranked in the western heaven, Waiting the breath that lifts All the dread mass, and drifts Tempest and falling brand Over a ruined land;— So still and orderly, Arm to arm, knee to knee, Waiting the great event, Stands the black regiment.
Down the long dusky line Teeth gleam and eyeballs shine; And the bright bayonet, Bristling and firmly set, Flashed with a purpose grand, Long ere the sharp command Of the fierce rolling drum Told them their time had come, Told them what work was sent For the black regiment.
"Now," the flag-sergeant cried, "Though death and hell betide, Let the whole nation see If we are fit to be Free in this land; or bound Down, like the whining hound,— Bound with red stripes of pain In our old chains again!" Oh, what a shout there went From the black regiment!
"Charge!" Trump and drum awoke, Onward the bondmen broke; Bayonet and sabre-stroke Vainly opposed their rush. Through the wild battle's crush, With but one thought aflush, Driving their lords like chaff, In the guns' mouths they laugh; Or at the slippery brands Leaping with open hands, Down they tear man and horse, Down in their awful course; Trampling with bloody heel Over the crashing steel, All their eyes forward bent, Rushed the black regiment.
"Freedom!" their battle-cry,— Freedom! or leave to die!" Ah! and they meant the word,— Not as with us 'tis heard, Not a mere party shout: They gave their spirits out; Trusted the end to God, And on the gory sod Rolled in triumphant blood. Glad to strike one free blow, Whether for weal or woe; Glad to breathe one free breath, Though on the lips of death.
Praying—alas! in vain!— That they might fall again, So they could once more see That bust to liberty! This was what "freedom" lent To the black regiment.
Hundreds on hundreds fell; But they are resting well; Scourges and shackles strong Never shall do them wrong. Oh, to the living few, Soldiers, be just and true!
Hail them as comrades tried; Fight with them side by side; Never, in field or tent, Scorn the black regiment!
Copyright: permission of George Boker, Esq.
From 'Poems of the War'
March 8th, 1862
Brave Morris saw the day was lost; For nothing now remained, On the wrecked and sinking Cumberland, But to save the flag unstained.
So he swore an oath in the sight of Heaven,— If he kept it the world can tell:— "Before I strike to a rebel flag, I'll sink to the gates of hell!
"Here, take my sword; 'tis in my way; I shall trip o'er the useless steel; For I'll meet the lot that falls to all With my shoulder at the wheel."
So the little negro took the sword; And oh, with what reverent care, Following his master step by step, He bore it here and there!
A thought had crept through his sluggish brain, And shone in his dusky face, That somehow—he could not tell just how— 'Twas the sword of his trampled race.
And as Morris, great with his lion heart, Rushed onward from gun to gun, The little negro slid after him, Like a shadow in the sun.
But something of pomp and of curious pride The sable creature wore, Which at any time but a time like that Would have made the ship's crew roar.
Over the wounded, dying, and dead, Like an usher of the rod, The black page, full of his mighty trust, With dainty caution trod.
No heed he gave to the flying ball, No heed to the bursting shell; His duty was something more than life, And he strove to do it well.
Down, with our starry flag apeak, In the whirling sea we sank, And captain and crew and the sword-bearer Were washed from the bloody plank.
They picked us up from the hungry waves;— Alas! not all!—"And where, Where is the faithful negro lad?"— "Back oars! avast! look there!"
We looked; and, as Heaven may save my soul, I pledge you a sailor's word, There, fathoms deep in the sea, he lay, Still grasping the master's sword!
We drew him out; and many an hour We wrought with his rigid form, Ere the almost smothered spark of life By slow degrees grew warm.
The first dull glance that his eyeballs rolled Was down towards his shrunken hand; And he smiled, and closed his eyes again As they fell on the rescued brand.
And no one touched the sacred sword, Till at length, when Morris came, The little negro stretched it out, With his eager eyes aflame.
And if Morris wrung the poor boy's hand, And his words seemed hard to speak, And tears ran down his manly cheeks, What tongue shall call him weak?
This and the sonnets on next page are copyrighted, and used by permission of George Boker, Esq.
Either the sum of this sweet mutiny Amongst thy features argues me some harm, Or else they practice wicked treachery Against themselves, thy heart, and hapless me. For as I start aside with blank alarm, Dreading the glitter which begins to arm Thy clouded brows, lo! from thy lips I see A smile come stealing, like a loaded bee, Heavy with sweets and perfumes, all ablaze With soft reflections from the flowery wall Whereon it pauses. Yet I will not raise One question more, let smile or frown befall, Taxing thy love where I should only praise, And asking changes that might change thee all.
Oh for some spirit, some magnetic spark, That used nor word, nor rhyme, nor balanced pause Of doubtful phrase, which so supinely draws My barren verse, and blurs love's shining mark With misty fancies!—Oh! to burst the dark Of smothered feeling with some new-found laws, Hidden in nature, that might bridge the flaws Between two beings, end this endless cark, And make hearts know what lips have never said! Oh! for some spell, by which one soul might move With echoes from another, and dispread Contagious music through its chords, above The touch of mimic art: that thou might'st tread Beneath thy feet this wordy show of love!
Here let the motions of the world be still!— Here let Time's fleet and tireless pinions stay Their endless flight!—or to the present day Bind my Love's life and mine. I have my fill Of earthly bliss: to move is to meet ill. Though lavish fortune in my path might lay Fame, power, and wealth,—the toys that make the play Of earth's grown children,—I would rather till The stubborn furrows of an arid land, Toil with the brute, bear famine and disease, Drink bitter bondage to the very lees, Than break our union by love's tender band, Or drop its glittering shackles from my hand, To grasp at empty glories such as these.
BY THOMAS DAVIDSON
Saint Bonaventura, whose original name was Giovanni di Fidenza, was born at Bagnarea in Tuscany in 1221. At the age of four he was attacked by a severe illness, during which his mother appealed to St. Francis for his prayers, promising that if the child recovered, he should be devoted to God and become one of Francis's followers. When the child did recover, the saint, seeing him, exclaimed "O bona ventura!" a name which clung to the boy ever afterwards, and under which he entered religion and the order of St. Francis in 1243.
Soon after, he went to the then world-renowned university of Paris, where he had for his teacher an Englishman, Alexander of Hales, the first of the schoolmen who studied the whole of Aristotle's works, and attempted to construct a Christian theology on the basis of them. Even at this time the young Italian's life was so saintly that his master (so it is reported) said of him that he seemed to have been born without the taint of original sin. He graduated in the same year as Thomas Aquinas, and immediately afterward began his career as a public teacher under the auspices of the Franciscan order, while Thomas did the same under those of the Dominican. These two men, the greatest of the schoolmen, and the sweetest and sanest of the mystics, were bosom friends; and one can hardly imagine a loftier friendship.
In 1256, at the early age of thirty-five, he became general of his order, a post which he held till his death. He did much to ennoble and purify the order, and to bring it back to orthodoxy, from which then, as nearly always, it was strongly inclined to swerve. In 1265 Clement V. nominated him to the see of York; but Bonaventura, unwilling probably to face so rude a climate and people, persuaded the Pope to withdraw the nomination. A few years later, under Gregory X., he was raised to the cardinalate and appointed bishop of Albano. In 1274 he attended the Council of Lyons, and must have been deeply affected when he learned that Thomas Aquinas had died on his way thither. The success of the efforts of the council to come to terms with the Greeks was mainly due to him.
This was Bonaventura's last work on earth. He died before the council was over, and was honored with a funeral whose solemnity and magnificence have seldom been equaled. It was attended by the Pope, the Eastern Emperor, the King of Aragon, the patriarchs of Antioch and Constantinople, and a large number of bishops and priests. His relics were preserved with much reverence by the Lyonnese until the sixteenth century, when the Huguenots threw them into the Saone. In 1482 he was canonized by Sixtus IV., and in 1588 declared a doctor of the Church by Sixtus V. Dante places him in the Heaven of the Sun.