Still, he could not console himself. Reaching his palace, he went to his secret chamber to weep alone, and he wept night and day, in spite of the efforts of his ministers to comfort him. But at last one of them said, "O my king, in the hall beneath your garden there has appeared a wonderful statue upon the seventh pedestal; perchance if you go to see it, your heart will become more joyful."
Then with great reluctance the king properly dressed himself, and went to the subterranean hall.
There indeed was the statue, the gift of the Spirit-king; and very beautiful it was. But it was not made of diamond, and it looked so strangely like the girl whom he had lost, that the king's heart leapt in his breast for astonishment. He put out his hand and touched the statue, and found it warm with life and youth. And a sweet voice said to him, "Yes, it is really I—have you forgotten?"
Thus she was given back to him; and the Spirit-king came to their wedding, and thus addressed the bridegroom, "O my son, for your dead father's sake I did this thing. For it was meant to teach you that the worth of a really pure and perfect woman is more than the price of any diamond or any treasure that the earth can yield."
Now you can see at once the beauty of this story; and the moral of it is exactly the same as that of the famous verse, in the Book of Proverbs, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." But it is simply a story from the "Arabian Nights"—one of those stories which you will not find in the ordinary European translations, because it is written in such a way that no English translator except Burton would have dared to translate it quite literally. The obscenity of parts of the original does not really detract in the least from the beauty and tenderness of the motive of the story; and we must remember that what we call moral or immoral in style depends very much upon the fashion of an age and time.
Now it is exactly the same kind of moral charm that distinguishes the best of the old English romances—a charm which has nothing to do with the style, but everything to do with the feeling and suggestion of the composition. But in some of the old romances, the style too has a very great charm of quaintness and simplicity and sincerity not to be imitated to-day. In this respect the older French romances, from which the English made their renderings, are much the best. And the best of all is said to be "Amis and Amile," which the English rendered as "Amicus and Amelius." Something of the story ought to interest you.
The whole subject of this romance is the virtue of friendship, though this of course involves a number of other virtues quite as distinguished. Amis and Amile, that is to say Amicus and Amelius, are two young knights who at the beginning of their career become profoundly attached to each other. Not content with the duties of this natural affection, they imposed upon themselves all the duties which chivalry also attached to the office of friend. The romance tells of how they triumphed over every conceivable test to which their friendship was subjected. Often and often the witchcraft of woman worked to separate them, but could not. Both married, yet after marriage their friendship was just as strong as before. Each has to fight many times on account of the other, and suffer all things which it is most hard for a proud and brave man to bear. But everything is suffered cheerfully, and the friends are such true knights that, in all their trials, neither does anything wrong, or commits the slightest fault against truth—until a certain sad day. On that day it is the duty of Amis to fight in a trial by battle. But he is sick, and can not fight; then to save his honour his friend Amile puts on the armour and helmet of Amis, and so pretending to be Amis, goes to the meeting place, and wins the fight gloriously. But this was an act of untruthfulness; he had gone into battle under a false name, and to do anything false even for a good motive is bad. So heaven punishes him by afflicting him with the horrible disease of leprosy.
The conditions of leprosy in the Middle Ages were of a peculiar kind. The disease seems to have been introduced into Europe from Asia—perhaps by the Crusaders. Michelet suggests that it may have resulted from the European want of cleanliness, brought about by ascetic teachings—for the old Greek and Roman public bath-houses were held in horror by the mediaeval Church. But this is not at all certain. What is certain is that in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries leprosy became very prevalent. The disease was not then at all understood; it was supposed to be extremely contagious, and the man afflicted by it was immediately separated from society, and not allowed to live in any community under such conditions as could bring him into contact with other inhabitants. His wife or children could accompany him only on the terrible condition of being considered lepers. Every leper wore a kind of monk's dress, with a hood covering the face; and he had to carry a bell and ring it constantly to give notice of his approach. Special leper-houses were built near every town, where such unfortunates might obtain accommodation. They were allowed to beg, but it was considered dangerous to go very near them, so that in most cases alms or food would be thrown to them only, instead of being put into their hands.
Now when the victim of leprosy in this romance is first afflicted by the disease, he happens to be far away from his good friend. And none of his own family is willing to help him; he is regarded with superstitious as well as with physical horror. There is nothing left for him to do but to yield up his knighthood and his welfare and his family, to put on the leper's robe, and to go begging along the roads, carrying a leper's bell. And this he does. For long, long months he goes begging from town to town, till at last, by mere chance, he finds his way to the gate of the great castle where his good friend is living—now a great prince, and married to the daughter of the king. And he asks at the castle gate for charity and for food.
Now the porter at the gate observes that the leper has a very beautiful cup, exactly resembling a drinking cup belonging to his master, and he thinks it his duty to tell these things to the lord of the castle. And the lord of the castle remembers that very long ago he and his friend each had a cup of this kind, given to them by the bishop of Rome. So, hearing the porter's story, he knew that the leper at the gate was the friend who "had delivered him from death, and won for him the daughter of the King of France to be his wife." Here I had better quote from the French version of the story, in which the names of the friends are changed, but without changing the beauty of the tale itself:
"And straightway he fell upon him, and began to weep greatly, and kissed him. And when his wife heard that, she ran out with her hair in disarray, weeping and distressed exceedingly—for she remembered that it was he who had slain the false Ardres. And thereupon they placed him in a fair bed, and said to him, 'Abide with us until God's will be accomplished in thee, for all that we have is at thy service.' So he abode with them."
You must understand, by the allusion to "God's will," that leprosy was in the Middle Ages really considered to be a punishment from heaven—so that in taking a leper into his castle, the good friend was not only offending against the law of the land, but risking celestial punishment as well, according to the notions of that age. His charity, therefore, was true charity indeed, and his friendship without fear. But it was going to be put to a test more terrible than any ever endured before. To comprehend what followed, you must know that there was one horrible superstition of the Middle Ages—the belief that by bathing in human blood the disease of leprosy might be cured. Murders were often committed under the influence of that superstition. I believe you will remember that the "Golden Legend" of Longfellow is founded upon a mediaeval story in which a young girl voluntarily offers up her life in order that her blood may cure the leprosy of her king. In the present romance there is much more tragedy. One night while sleeping in his friend's castle, the leper was awakened by an angel from God—Raphael—who said to him:
"I am Raphael, the angel of the Lord, and I am come to tell thee how thou mayst be healed. Thou shalt bid Amile thy comrade that he slay his two children and wash thee in their blood, and so thy body shall be made whole." And Amis said to him, "Let not this thing be, that my comrade should become a murderer for my sake." But the angel said, "It is convenient that he do this." And thereupon the angel departed.
The phrase, "it is convenient," must be understood as meaning, "it is ordered." For the mediaeval lord used such gentle expressions when issuing his commands; and the angel talked like a feudal messenger. But in spite of the command, the sick man does not tell his friend about the angel's visit, until Amile, who has overheard the voice, forces him to acknowledge whom he had been talking with during the night. And the emotion of the lord may be imagined, though he utters it only in the following gentle words—"I would have given to thee my man servants and my maid servants and all my goods—and thou feignest that an angel hath spoken to thee that I should slay my two children. But I conjure thee by the faith which there is between me and thee and by our comradeship, and by the baptism we received together, that thou tell me whether it was man or angel said that to thee."
Amis declares that it was really an angel, and Amile never thinks of doubting his friend's word. It would be a pity to tell you the sequel in my own words; let me quote again from the text, translated by Walter Pater. I think you will find it beautiful and touching:
"Then Amile began to weep in secret, and thought within himself, 'If this man was ready to die before the King for me, shall I not for him slay my children? Shall I not keep faith with him who was faithful to me even unto death?' And Amile tarried no longer, but departed to the chamber of his wife, and bade her go to hear the Sacred Office. And he took a sword, and went to the bed where the children were lying, and found them asleep. And he lay down over them and began to weep bitterly and said, 'Has any man yet heard of a father who of his own will slew his children? Alas, my children! I am no longer your father, but your cruel murderer.'
"And the children awoke at the tears of their father, which fell upon them; and they looked up into his face and began to laugh. And as they were of age about three years, he said, 'Your laughing will be turned into tears, for your innocent blood must now be shed'; and therewith he cut off their heads. Then he laid them back in the bed, and put the heads upon the bodies, and covered them as though they slept; and with the blood which he had taken he washed his comrade, and said, 'Lord Jesus Christ! who hast commanded men to keep faith on earth, and didst heal the leper by Thy word! cleanse now my comrade, for whose love I have shed the blood of my children.'" And of course the leper is immediately and completely cured. But the mother did not know anything about the killing of the children; we have to hear something about her share in the tragedy. Let me again quote, this time giving the real and very beautiful conclusion—
"Now neither the father nor the mother had yet entered where the children were, but the father sighed heavily because they were dead, and the mother asked for them, that they might rejoice together; but Amile said, 'Dame! let the children sleep.' And it was already the hour of Tierce. And going in alone to the children to weep over them, he found them at play in the bed; only, in the place of the sword-cuts about their throats was, as it were, a thread of crimson. And he took them in his arms and carried them to his wife and said, 'Rejoice greatly! For thy children whom I had slain by the commandment of the angel, are alive, and by their blood is Amis healed.'"
I think you will all see how fine a story this is, and feel the emotional force of the grand moral idea behind it. There is nothing more to tell you, except the curious fact that during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that the story was really true, Amis and Amile—or Amicus and Amelius—were actually considered by the Church as saints, and people used to pray to them. When anybody was anxious for his friend, or feared that he might lose the love of his friend, or was afraid that he might not have strength to perform his duty as friend—then he would go to church to implore help from the good saints Amicus and Amelius. But of course it was all a mistake—a mistake which lasted until the end of the seventeenth century! Then somebody called the attention of the Church to the unmistakable fact that Amicus and Amelius were merely inventions of some mediaeval romancer. Then the Church made investigation, and greatly shocked, withdrew from the list of its saints those long-loved names of Amicus and Amelius—a reform in which I cannot help thinking the Church made a very serious mistake. What matter whether those shadowy figures represented original human lives or only human dreams? They were beautiful, and belief in them made men think beautiful thoughts, and the imagined help from them had comforted many thousands of hearts. It would have been better to have left them alone; for that matter, how many of the existent lives of saints are really true? Nevertheless the friends are not dead, though expelled from the heaven of the Church. They still live in romance; and everybody who reads about them feels a little better for their acquaintance.
What I read to you was from the French version—that is much the more beautiful of the two. You will find some extracts from the English version in the pages of Ten Brink. But as that great German scholar pointed out, the English story is much rougher than the French. For example, in the English story, the knight rushes out of his castle to beat the leper at the gate, and to accuse him of having stolen the cup. And he does beat him ferociously, and abuses him with very violent terms. In fact, the English writer reflected too much of mediaeval English character, in trying to cover, or to improve upon, the French story, which was the first. In the French story all is knightly smooth, refined as well as simple and strong. And where did the mediaeval imagination get its material for the story? Partly, perhaps, from the story of Joseph in the Bible, partly from the story of Abraham; but the scriptural material is so admirably worked over that the whole thing appears deliciously original. That was the great art of the Middle Ages—to make old, old things quite new by the magic of spiritual imagination. Men then lived in a world of dreams. And that world still attracts us, for the simple reason that happiness chiefly consists in dreams. Exact science may help us a great deal no doubt, but mathematics do not make us any happier. Dreams do, if we can believe them. The Middle Ages could believe them; we, at the best, can only try.
I am going now to talk about a very rare kind of poetry in a very rare little book, like fine wine in a small and precious flask. The author never put his name to the book—indeed for many years it was not known who wrote the volume. We now know that the author was a school teacher called William Johnson who, later in life, coming into a small fortune, changed his name to William Cory. He was born sometime about 1823, and died in 1892. He was, I believe, an Oxford man and was assistant master of Eton College for a number of years. Judging from his poems, he must have found pleasure in his profession as well as pain. There is a strange sadness nearly always, but this sadness is mixed with expressions of love for the educational establishment which he directed, and for the students whose minds he helped to form. He must have been otherwise a very shy man. Scarcely anything seems to be known about him after his departure from educational circles, although everybody of taste now knows his poems. I wish to speak of them because I think that literary graduates of this university ought to be at least familiar with the name "Ionica." At all events you should know something about the man and about the best of his poems. If you should ask why so little has yet been said about him in books on English literature, I would answer that in the first place he was a very small poet writing in the time of giants, having for competitors Tennyson, Browning and others. He could scarcely make his small pipe heard in the thunder of those great organ tones. In the second place his verses were never written to please the public at all. They were written only for fine scholars, and even the titles of many of them cannot be explained by a person devoid of some Greek culture. So the little book, which appeared quite early in the Victorian Age, was soon forgotten. Being forgotten it ran out of print and disappeared. Then somebody remembered that it had existed. I have told you that it was like the tone of a little pipe or flute as compared with the organ music of the larger poets. But the little pipe happened to be a Greek pipe—the melody was very sweet and very strange and old, and people who had heard it once soon wanted to hear it again. But they could not get it. Copies of the first edition fetched extraordinary sums. Some few years ago a new edition appeared, but this too is now out of print and is fetching fancy prices. However, you must not expect anything too wonderful from this way of introducing the subject. The facts only show that the poems are liked by persons of refinement and wealth. I hope to make you like some of them, but the difficulties of so doing are considerable, because of the extremely English character of some pieces and the extremely Greek tone of others. There is also some uneven work. The poet is not in all cases successful. Sometimes he tried to write society verse, and his society verse must be considered a failure. The best pieces are his Greek pieces and some compositions on love subjects of a most delicate and bewitching kind.
Of course the very name "Ionica" suggests Greek work, a collection of pieces in Ionic style. But you must not think that this means only repetitions of ancient subjects. This author brings the Greek feeling back again into the very heart of English life sometimes, or makes an English fact illustrate a Greek fable. Some delightful translations from the Greek there are, but less than half a dozen in all.
I scarcely know how to begin—what piece to quote first. But perhaps the little fancy called "Mimnermus in Church" is the best known, and the one which will best serve to introduce us to the character of Cory. Before quoting it, however, I must explain the title briefly. Mimnermus was an old Greek philosopher and poet who thought that all things in the world are temporary, that all hope of a future life is vain, that there is nothing worth existing for except love, and that without affection one were better dead. There are, no doubt, various modern thinkers who tell you much the same thing, and this little poem exhibits such modern feeling in a Greek dress. I mean that we have here a picture of a young man, a young English scholar, listening in church to Christian teaching, but answering that teaching with the thought of the old Greeks. There is of course one slight difference; the modern conception of love is perhaps a little wider in range than that of the old Greeks. There is more of the ideal in it.
MIMNERMUS IN CHURCH
You promise heavens free from strife, Pure truth, and perfect change of will; But sweet, sweet is this human life, So sweet, I fain would breathe it still; Your chilly stars I can forego, This warm kind world is all I know.
You say there is no substance here, One great reality above: Back from that void I shrink in fear And child-like hide myself in love; Show me what angels feel. Till then I cling, a mere weak man, to men.
You bid me lift my mean desires From faltering lips and fitful veins To sexless souls, ideal choirs, Unwearied voices, wordless strains; My mind with fonder welcome owns One dear dead friend's remembered tones.
Forsooth the present we must give To that which cannot pass away; All beauteous things for which we live By laws of time and space decay. But oh, the very reason why I clasp them, is because they die.
The preacher has been talking to his congregation about the joys of Heaven. There, he says, there will be no quarrelling, no contest, no falsehood, and all evil dispositions will be entirely changed to good. The poet answers, "This world and this life are full of beauty and of joy for me. I do not want to die, I want to live. I do not wish to go to that cold region of stars about which you teach. I only know this world and I find in it warm hearts and precious affection. You say that this world is a phantom, unsubstantial, unreal, and that the only reality is above, in Heaven. To me that Heaven appears but as an awful emptiness. I shrink from it in terror, and like a child seek for consolation in human love. It is no use to talk to me about angels until you can prove to me that angels can feel happier than men. I prefer to remain with human beings. You say that I ought to wish for higher things than this world can give, that here minds are unsteady and weak, hearts fickle and selfish, and you talk of souls without sex, imaginary concerts of perfect music, tireless singing in Heaven, and the pleasure of conversation without speech. But all the happiness that we know is received from our fellow beings. I remember the voice of one dead friend with deeper love and pleasure than any images of Heaven could ever excite in my mind."
The last stanza needs no paraphrasing, but it deserves some comment, for it is the expression of one great difference between the old Greek feeling in regard to life and death, and all modern religious feeling on the same subject. You can read through hundreds of beautiful inscriptions which were placed over the Greek tombs. They are contained in the Greek Anthology. You will find there almost nothing about hope of a future life, or about Heaven. They are not for the most part sad; they are actually joyous in many cases. You would say that the Greek mind thought thus about death—"I have had my share of the beauty and the love of this world, and I am grateful for this enjoyment, and now it is time to go to sleep." There is actually an inscription to the effect, "I have supped well of the banquet of life." The Eastern religions, including Christianity, taught that because everything in the world is uncertain, impermanent, perishable, therefore we ought not to allow our minds to love worldly things. But the Greek mind, as expressed by the old epigraphy in the cemeteries, not less than by the teaching of Mimnermus, took exactly the opposite view. "O children of men, it is because beauty and pleasure and love and light can last only for a little while, it is exactly because of this that you should love them. Why refuse to enjoy the present because it can not last for ever?" And at a much later day the Persian poet Omar took, you will remember, precisely the same view. You need not think that it would be wise to accept such teaching for a rule of life, but it has a certain value as a balance to the other extreme view, that we should make ourselves miserable in this world with the idea of being rewarded in another, concerning which we have no positive knowledge. The lines with which the poem concludes at least deserve to be thought about—
But oh, the very reason why I clasp them, is because they die.
We shall later on take some of the purely Greek work of Cory for study, but I want now to interest you in the more modern part of it. The charm of the following passage you will better feel by remembering that the writer was then a schoolmaster at Eton, and that the verses particularly express the love which he felt for his students—a love the more profound, perhaps, because the circumstances of the teacher's position obliged him to appear cold and severe, obliged him to suppress natural impulses of affection and generosity. The discipline of the masters in English public schools is much more severe than the discipline to which the students are subjected. The boys enjoy a great deal of liberty. The masters may be said to have none. Yet there are men so constituted that they learn to greatly love the profession. The title of this poem is "Reparabo," which means "I will atone."
The world will rob me of my friends, For time with her conspires; But they shall both, to make amends, Relight my slumbering fires.
For while my comrades pass away To bow and smirk and gloze, Come others, for as short a stay; And dear are these as those.
And who was this? they ask; and then The loved and lost I praise: "Like you they frolicked; they are men; Bless ye my later days."
Why fret? The hawks I trained are flown; 'Twas nature bade them range; I could not keep their wings half-grown, I could not bar the change.
With lattice opened wide I stand To watch their eager flight; With broken jesses in my hand I muse on their delight.
And oh! if one with sullied plume Should droop in mid career, My love makes signals,—"There is room, O bleeding wanderer, here."
This comparison of the educator to a falconer, and of the students to young hawks eager to break their jesses seems to an Englishman particularly happy in reference to Eton, from which so many youths pass into the ranks of the army and navy. The line about bowing, smirking and glozing, refers to the comparative insincerity of the higher society into which so many of the scholars must eventually pass. "Smirking" suggests insincere smiles, "glozing" implies tolerating or lightly passing over faults or wrongs or serious matters that should not be considered lightly. Society is essentially insincere and artificial in all countries, but especially so in England. The old Eton master thinks, however, that he knows the moral character of the boys, the strong principles which make its foundation, and he trusts that they will be able in a general way to do only what is right, in spite of conventions and humbug.
As I told you before, we know very little about the personal life of Cory, who must have been a very reserved man; but a poet puts his heart into his verses as a general rule, and there are many little poems in this book that suggest to us an unhappy love episode. These are extremely pretty and touching, the writer in most cases confessing himself unworthy of the person who charmed him; but the finest thing of the kind is a composition which he suggestively entitled "A Fable"—that is to say, a fable in the Greek sense, an emblem or symbol of truth.
An eager girl, whose father buys Some ruined thane's forsaken hall, Explores the new domain and tries Before the rest to view it all.
I think you have often noted the fact here related; when a family moves to a new house, it is the child, or the youngest daughter, who is the first to explore all the secrets of the new residence, and whose young eyes discover things which the older folks had not noticed.
Alone she lifts the latch, and glides, Through many a sadly curtained room, As daylight through the doorway slides And struggles with the muffled gloom.
With mimicries of dance she wakes The lordly gallery's silent floor, And climbing up on tiptoe, makes The old-world mirror smile once more.
With tankards dry she chills her lips, With yellowing laces veils the head, And leaps in pride of ownership Upon the faded marriage bed.
A harp in some dark nook she sees Long left a prey to heat and frost, She smites it; can such tinklings please? Is not all worth, all beauty, lost?
Ah, who'd have thought such sweetness clung To loose neglected strings like those? They answered to whate'er was sung, And sounded as a lady chose.
Her pitying finger hurried by Each vacant space, each slackened chord; Nor would her wayward zeal let die The music-spirit she restored.
The fashion quaint, the timeworn flaws, The narrow range, the doubtful tone, All was excused awhile, because It seemed a creature of her own.
Perfection tires; the new in old, The mended wrecks that need her skill, Amuse her. If the truth be told, She loves the triumph of her will.
With this, she dares herself persuade, She'll be for many a month content, Quite sure no duchess ever played Upon a sweeter instrument.
And thus in sooth she can beguile Girlhood's romantic hours, but soon She yields to taste and mood and style, A siren of the gay saloon.
And wonders how she once could like Those drooping wires, those failing notes, And leaves her toy for bats to strike Amongst the cobwebs and the motes.
But enter in, thou freezing wind, And snap the harp-strings, one by one; It was a maiden blithe and kind: They felt her touch; their task is done.
In this charming little study we know that the harp described is not a harp; it is the loving heart of an old man, at least of a man beyond the usual age of lovers. He has described and perhaps adored some beautiful person who seemed to care for him, and who played upon his heart, with her whims, caresses, smiles, much as one would play upon the strings of a harp. She did not mean to be cruel at all, nor even insincere. It is even probable that she really in those times thought that she loved the man, and under the charms of the girl the man became a different being; the old-fashioned mind brightened, the old-fashioned heart exposed its hidden treasures of tenderness and wisdom and sympathy. Very much like playing upon a long forgotten instrument, was the relation between the maiden and the man—not only because he resembled such an instrument in the fact of belonging emotionally and intellectually to another generation, but also because his was a heart whose true music had long been silent, unheard by the world. Undoubtedly the maiden meant no harm, but she caused a great deal of pain, for at a later day, becoming a great lady of society, she forgot all about this old friendship, or perhaps wondered why she ever wasted her time in talking to such a strange old-fashioned professor. Then the affectionate heart is condemned to silence again, to silence and oblivion, like the harp thrown away in some garret to be covered with cobwebs and visited only by bats. "Is it not time," the old man thinks, "that the strings should be broken, the strings of the heart? Let the cold wind of death now come and snap them." Yet, after all, why should he complain? Did he not have the beautiful experience of loving, and was she not in that time at least well worthy of the love that she called forth like music?
There are several other poems referring to what would seem to be the same experience, and all are beautiful, but one seems to me nobler than the rest, expressing as it does a generous resignation. It is called "Deteriora," a Latin word signifying lesser, inferior, or deteriorated things—not easy to translate. Nor would you find the poem easy to understand, referring as it does to conditions of society foreign to anything in Japanese experience. But some verses which I may quote you will like.
If fate and nature screen from me The sovran front I bowed before, And set the glorious creature free, Whom I would clasp, detain, adore,— If I forego that strange delight, Must all be lost? Not quite, not quite.
Die, Little Love, without complaint, Whom honour standeth by to shrive: Assoiled from all selfish taint, Die, Love, whom Friendship will survive. Not hate nor folly gave thee birth; And briefness does but raise thy worth.
This is the same thought which Tennyson expressed in his famous lines,
'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.
But it is still more finely expressed to meet a particular personal mood. One must not think the world lost because a woman has been lost, he says, and such a love is not a thing for any man to be ashamed of, in spite of the fact that it has been disappointed. It was honourable, unselfish, not inspired by any passion or any folly, and the very brevity of the experience only serves to make it more precious. Observe the use of the words "shrive" and "assoiled." These refer to the old religious custom of confession; to "shrive" signifies to forgive, to free from sin, as a priest is supposed to do, and "assoiled" means "purified."
If this was a personal experience, it must have been an experience of advanced life. Elsewhere the story of a boyish love is told very prettily, under the title of "Two Fragments of Childhood." This is the first fragment:
When these locks were yellow as gold, When past days were easily told, Well I knew the voice of the sea, Once he spake as a friend to me. Thunder-rollings carelessly heard, Once that poor little heart they stirred, Why, Oh, why? Memory, memory! She that I wished to be with was by.
Sick was I in those misanthrope days Of soft caresses, womanly ways; Once that maid on the stair I met Lip on brow she suddenly set. Then flushed up my chivalrous blood, Like Swiss streams in a mid-summer flood. Then, Oh, then, Imogen, Imogen! Hadst thou a lover, whose years were ten.
This is evidently the charming memory of a little sick boy sent to the seaside for his health, according to the English custom, and unhappy there, unable to play about like stronger children, and obliged to remain under the constant care of nurses and female relatives. But in the same house there is another family with a beautiful young daughter, probably sixteen or eighteen years old. The little boy wishes, wishes so much that the beautiful lady would speak to him and play with him, but he is shy, afraid to approach her—only looks at her with great admiring loving eyes. But one day she meets him on the stairs, and stoops down and kisses him on the forehead. Then he is in Heaven. Afterward no doubt she played with him, and they walked up and down by the shore of the sea together, and now, though an old man, whenever he hears the roar of the sea he remembers the beautiful lady who played with him and caressed him, when he was a little sick child. How much he loved her! But she was a woman, and he was only ten years old. The reference to "chivalrous blood" signifies just this, that at the moment when she kissed him he would have given his life for her, would have dared anything or done anything to show his devotion to her. No prettier memory of a child could be told.
We can learn a good deal about even the shyest of the poets through a close understanding of his poetry. From the foregoing we know that Cory must have been a sickly child; and from other poems referring to school life we can not escape the supposition that he was not a strong lad. In one of his verses he speaks of being unable to join in the hearty play of his comrades; and in the poem which touches on the life of the mature man we find him acknowledging that he believed his life a failure—a failure through want of strength. I am going to quote this poem for other reasons. It is a beautiful address either to some favourite student or to a beloved son—it is impossible to decide which. But that does not matter. The title is "A New Year's Day."
Our planet runs through liquid space, And sweeps us with her in the race; And wrinkles gather on my face, And Hebe bloom on thine: Our sun with his encircling spheres Around the central sun careers; And unto thee with mustering years Come hopes which I resign.
'Twere sweet for me to keep thee still Reclining halfway up the hill; But time will not obey the will, And onward thou must climb: 'Twere sweet to pause on this descent, To wait for thee and pitch my tent, But march I must with shoulders bent, Yet further from my prime.
I shall not tread thy battlefield, Nor see the blazon on thy shield; Take thou the sword I could not wield, And leave me, and forget. Be fairer, braver, more admired; So win what feeble hearts desired; Then leave thine arms, when thou art tired, To some one nobler yet.
How beautiful this is, and how profoundly sad!
I shall return to the personal poetry of Cory later on, but I want now to give you some examples of his Greek work. Perhaps the best of this is little more than a rendering of Greek into English; some of the work is pure translation. But it is the translation of a very great master, the perfect rendering of Greek feeling as well as of Greek thought. Here is an example of pure translation:
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead, They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed. I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky. And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest, Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake; For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
What are "thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales"? They are the songs which the dear dead poet made, still sung in his native country, though his body was burned to ashes long ago—has been changed into a mere handful of grey ashes, which, doubtless, have been placed in an urn, as is done with such ashes to-day in Japan. Death takes away all things from man, but not his poems, his songs, the beautiful thoughts which he puts into musical verse. These will always be heard like nightingales. The fourth line in the first stanza contains an idiom which may not be familiar to you. It means only that the two friends talked all day until the sun set in the West, and still talked on after that. Tennyson has used the same Greek thought in a verse of his poem, "A Dream of Fair Women," where Cleopatra says,
"We drank the Libyan sun to sleep."
The Greek author of the above poem was the great poet Callimachus, and the English translator does not think it necessary even to give the name, as he wrote only for folk well acquainted with the classics. He has another short translation which he accompanies with the original Greek text; it is very pretty, but of an entirely different kind, a kind that may remind you of some Japanese poems. It is only about a cicada and a peasant girl, and perhaps it is twenty-four or twenty-five hundred years old.
A dry cicale chirps to a lass making hay, "Why creak'st thou, Tithonus?" quoth she. "I don't play; It doubles my toil, your importunate lay, I've earned a sweet pillow, lo! Hesper is nigh; I clasp a good wisp and in fragrance I lie; But thou art unwearied, and empty, and dry."
How very human this little thing is—how actually it brings before us the figure of the girl, who must have become dust some time between two and three thousand years ago! She is working hard in the field, and the constant singing of the insect prompts her to make a comical protest. "Oh, Tithonus, what are you making that creaking noise for? You old dry thing, I have no time to play with you, or to idle in any way, but you do nothing but complain. Why don't you work, as I do? Soon I shall have leave to sleep, because I have worked well. There is the evening star, and I shall have a good bed of hay, sweet-smelling fresh hay, to lie upon. How well I shall sleep. But you, you idle noisy thing, you do not deserve to sleep. You have done nothing to tire you. And you are empty, dry and thirsty. Serves you right!" Of course you recognize the allusion to the story of Tithonus, so beautifully told by Tennyson. The girl's jest has a double meaning. The word "importunate" has the signification of a wearisome repetition of a request, a constant asking, impossible to satisfy. Tithonus was supposed to complain because he was obliged to live although he wanted to die. That young girl does not want to die at all. And she says that the noise of the insect, supposed to repeat the complaint of Tithonus, only makes it more tiresome for her to work. She was feeling, no doubt, much as a Japanese student would feel when troubled by the singing of semi on some very hot afternoon while he is trying to master some difficult problem.
That is pure Greek—pure as another mingling of the Greek feeling with the modern scholarly spirit, entitled "An Invocation." Before quoting from it I must explain somewhat; otherwise you might not be able to imagine what it means, because it was written to be read by those only who are acquainted with Theocritus and the Greek idylists. Perhaps I had better say something too, about the word idyl, for the use of the word by Tennyson is not the Greek use at all, except in the mere fact that the word signifies a picturing, a shadowing or an imagining of things. Tennyson's pictures are of a purely imaginative kind in the "Idyls of the King." But the Greek poets who first invented the poetry called idyllic did not attempt the heroic works of imagination at all; they only endeavoured to make perfectly true pictures of the common life of peasants in the country. They wrote about the young men and young girls working on the farms, about the way they quarrelled or rejoiced or made love, about their dances and their songs, about their religious festivals and their sacrifices to the gods at the parish temple. Imagine a Japanese scholar of to-day who, after leaving the university, instead of busying himself with the fashionable studies of the time, should go out into the remoter districts or islands of Japan, and devote his life to studying the existence of the commoner people there, and making poems about it. This was exactly what the Greek idylists did,—that is, the best of them. They were great scholars and became friends of kings, but they wrote poetry chiefly about peasant life, and they gave all their genius to the work. The result was so beautiful that everybody is still charmed by the pictures or idyls which they made.
Well, after this disgression, to return to the subject of Theocritus, the greatest of the idylists. He has often introduced into his idyls the name of Comatas. Who was Comatas? Comatas was a Greek shepherd boy, or more strictly speaking a goatherd, who kept the flocks of a rich man. It was his duty to sacrifice to the gods none of his master's animals, without permission; but as his master was a very avaricious person, Comatas knew that it would be of little use to ask him. Now this Comatas was a very good singer of peasant songs, and he made many beautiful poems for the people to sing, and he believed that it was the gods who had given him power to make the songs, and the Muses had inspired him with the capacity to make good verse. In spite of his master's will, Comatas therefore thought it was not very bad to take the young kids and sacrifice to the gods and the Muses. When his master found out what had been done with the animals, naturally he became very angry, and he put Comatas into a great box of cedar-wood in order to starve him to death—saying, as he closed and locked the lid, "Now, Comatas, let us see whether the gods will feed you!" In that box Comatas was left for a year without food or drink, and when the master, at the end of the year, opened the box, he expected to find nothing but the bones of the goatherd. But Comatas was alive and well, singing sweet songs, because during the year the Muses had sent bees to feed him with honey. The bees had been able to enter the box through a very little hole. I suppose you know that bees were held sacred to the Muses, and that there is in Greek legend a symbolic relation between bees and poetry.
If you want to know what kind of songs Comatas sang and what kind of life he represented, you will find all this exquisitely told by Theocritus; and there is a beautiful little translation in prose of Theocritus, Bion and Moschus, made by Andrew Lang, which should delight you to read. Another day I shall give you examples of such translations. Then you will see what true idyllic poetry originally signified. These Greeks, although trained scholars and philosophers, understood not only that human nature in itself is a beautiful thing, but also that the best way to study human nature is to study the life of the peasants and the common people. It is not to the rich and leisurely, not to rank and society, that a poet must go for inspiration. He will not find it there. What is called society is a world in which nobody is happy, and in which pure human nature is afraid to show itself. Life among the higher classes in all countries is formal, artificial, theatrical; poetry is not there. Of course no kind of human community is perfectly happy, but it is among the simple folk, the country folk, who do not know much about evil and deceit, that the greater proportion of happiness can be found. Among the youths of the country especially, combining the charm of childhood with the strength of adult maturity, the best possible subjects for fine pure studies of human nature can be found. May I not here express the hope that some young Japanese poet, some graduate of this very university, will eventually attempt to do in Japan what Theocritus and Bion did in ancient Sicily? A great deal of the very same kind of poetry exists in our own rural districts, and parallels can be found in the daily life of the Japanese peasants for everything beautifully described in Theocritus. At all events I am quite sure of one thing, that no great new literature can possibly arise in this country until some scholarly minds discover that the real force and truth and beauty and poetry of life is to be found only in studies of the common people—not in the life of the rich and the noble, not in the shadowy life of books.
Well, our English poet felt with the Greek idylists, and in the poem called "An Invocation" he beautifully expresses this sympathy. All of us, he says, should like to see and hear something of the ancient past if it were possible. We should like, some of us, to call back the vanished gods and goddesses of the beautiful Greek world, or to talk to the great souls of that world who had the experience of life as men—to Socrates, for example, to Plato, to Phidias the sculptor, to Pericles the statesman. But, as a poet, my wish would not be for the return of the old gods nor of the old heroes so much as for the return to us of some common men who lived in the Greek world. It is Comatas, he says, that he would most like to see, and to see in some English park—in the neighbourhood of Cambridge University, or of Eton College. And thus he addresses the spirit of Comatas:
O dear divine Comatas, I would that thou and I Beneath this broken sunlight this leisure day might lie; Where trees from distant forests, whose names were strange to thee, Should bend their amorous branches within thy reach to be, And flowers thine Hellas knew not, which art hath made more fair, Should shed their shining petals upon thy fragrant hair.
Then thou shouldst calmly listen with ever-changing looks To songs of younger minstrels and plots of modern books, And wonder at the daring of poets later born, Whose thoughts are unto thy thoughts as noontide is to morn; And little shouldst them grudge them their greater strength of soul, Thy partners in the torch-race, though nearer to the goal.
* * * * *
Or in thy cedarn prison thou waitest for the bee: Ah, leave that simple honey and take thy food from me. My sun is stooping westward. Entranced dreamer, haste; There's fruitage in my garden that I would have thee taste. Now lift the lid a moment; now, Dorian shepherd, speak; Two minds shall flow together, the English and the Greek.
A few phrases of these beautiful stanzas need explanation. "Broken sunlight" refers, of course, to the imperfect shade thrown by the trees under which the poet is lying. The shadow is broken by the light passing through leaves, or conversely, the light is broken by the interposition of the leaves. The reference to trees from distant forests no doubt intimates that the poet is in some botanical garden, a private park, in which foreign trees are carefully cultivated. The "torch race" is a simile for the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Greek thinkers compare the transmission of knowledge from one generation to another, to the passing of a lighted torch from hand to hand, as in the case of messengers carrying signals or athletes running a mighty race. As a runner runs until he is tired, or until he reaches the next station, and then passes the torch which he has been carrying to another runner waiting to receive it, so does each generation pass on its wisdom to the succeeding generation, and disappear. "My sun is stooping westward" is only a beautiful way of saying, "I am becoming very old; be quick, so that we may see each other before I die." And the poet suggests that it is because of his age and his experience and his wisdom that he could hope to be of service to the dear divine Comatas. The expression, "there is fruitage in my garden," refers to no material garden, but to the cultivated mind of the scholar; he is only saying, "I have strange knowledge that I should like to impart to you." How delightful, indeed, it would be, could some university scholar really converse with a living Greek of the old days!
There is another little Greek study of great and simple beauty entitled "The Daughter of Cleomenes." It is only an historical incident, but it is so related for the pleasure of suggesting a profound truth about the instinct of childhood. Long ago, when the Persians were about to make an attack upon the Greeks, there was an attempt to buy off the Spartan resistance, and the messenger to the Spartan general found him playing with his little daughter, a child of six or seven. The conference was carried on in whispers, and the child could not hear what was being said; but she broke up the whole plot by a single word. I shall quote a few lines from the close of the poem, which contain its moral lessons. The emissary has tried to tempt him with promises of wealth and power.
He falters; for the waves he fears, The roads he cannot measure; But rates full high the gleam of spears And dreams of yellow treasure. He listens; he is yielding now; Outspoke the fearless child: "Oh, Father, come away, lest thou Be by this man beguiled." Her lowly judgment barred the plea, So low, it could not reach her. The man knows more of land and sea, But she's the truer teacher.
All the little girl could know about the matter was instinctive; she only saw the cunning face of the stranger, and felt sure that he was trying to deceive her father for a bad purpose—so she cried out, "Father, come away with me, or else that man will deceive you." And she spoke truth, as her father immediately recognized.
There are several more classical studies of extraordinary beauty; but your interest in them would depend upon something more than interest in Greek and Roman history, and we can not study all the poems. So I prefer to go back to the meditative lyrics, and to give a few splendid examples of these more personal compositions. The following stanzas are from a poem whose Latin title signifies that Love conquers death. In this poem the author becomes the equal of Tennyson as a master of language.
The plunging rocks, whose ravenous throats The sea in wrath and mockery fills, The smoke that up the valley floats, The girlhood of the growing hills;
The thunderings from the miners' ledge, The wild assaults on nature's hoard, The peak that stormward bares an edge Ground sharp in days when Titans warred;
Grim heights, by wandering clouds embraced Where lightning's ministers conspire, Grey glens, with tarns and streamlet laced, Stark forgeries of primeval fire.
These scenes may gladden many a mind Awhile from homelier thoughts released, And here my fellow men may find A Sabbath and a vision-feast.
I bless them in the good they feel; And yet I bless them with a sigh; On me this grandeur stamps the seal Of tyrannous mortality.
The pitiless mountain stands so sure. The human breast so weakly heaves, That brains decay while rocks endure. At this the insatiate spirit grieves.
But hither, oh ideal bride! For whom this heart in silence aches, Love is unwearied as the tide, Love is perennial as the lakes.
Come thou. The spiky crags will seem One harvest of one heavenly year, And fear of death, like childish dream, Will pass and flee, when thou art here.
Very possibly this charming meditation was written on the Welsh coast; there is just such scenery as the poem describes, and the grand peak of Snowdon would well realize the imagination of the line about the girlhood of the growing hills. The melancholy of the latter part of the composition is the same melancholy to be found in "Mimnermus in Church," the first of Cory's poems which we read together. It is the Greek teaching that there is nothing to console us for the great doubt and mystery of existence except unselfish affection. All through the book we find the same philosophy, even in the beautiful studies of student life and the memories of childhood. So it is quite a melancholy book, though the sadness be beautiful. I have given you examples of the sadness of doubt and of the sadness of love; but there is yet a third kind of sadness—the sadness of a childless man, wishing that he could have a child of his own. It is a very pretty thing, simply entitled "Scheveningen Avenue"—probably the name of the avenue where the incident occurred. The poet does not tell us how it occurred, but we can very well guess. He was riding in a street car, probably, and a little girl next to him, while sitting upon her nurse's lap, fell asleep, and as she slept let her head fall upon his shoulder. This is a very simple thing to make a poem about, but what a poem it is!
Oh, that the road were longer A mile, or two, or three! So might the thought grow stronger That flows from touch of thee.
Oh little slumbering maid, If thou wert five years older, Thine head would not be laid So simply on my shoulder!
Oh, would that I were younger, Oh, were I more like thee, I should not faintly hunger For love that cannot be.
A girl might be caressed Beside me freely sitting; A child on knee might rest, And not like thee, unwitting.
Such honour is thy mother's, Who smileth on thy sleep, Or for the nurse who smothers Thy cheek in kisses deep.
And but for parting day, And but for forest shady, From me they'd take away The burden of their lady.
Ah thus to feel thee leaning Above the nursemaid's hand, Is like a stranger's gleaning Where rich men own the land;
Chance gains, and humble thrift, With shyness much like thieving, No notice with the gift, No thanks with the receiving.
Oh peasant, when thou starvest Outside the fair domain, Imagine there's a harvest In every treasured grain.
Make with thy thoughts high cheer, Say grace for others dining, And keep thy pittance clear From poison of repining.
There is an almost intolerable acuity of sadness in the last two mocking verses, but how pretty and how tender the whole thing is, and how gentle-hearted must have been the man who wrote it! The same tenderness reappears in references to children of a larger growth, the boys of his school. Sometimes he very much regrets the necessity of discipline, and advocates a wiser method of dealing with the young. How very pretty is this little verse about the boy he loves.
Sweet eyes, that aim a level shaft, At pleasure flying from afar, Sweet lips, just parted for a draught Of Hebe's nectar, shall I mar By stress of disciplinal craft The joys that in your freedom are?
But a little reflection further on in the same poem reminds us how necessary the discipline must be for the battle of life, inasmuch as each of those charming boys will have to fight against evil—
yet shall ye cope With worlding wrapped in silken lies, With pedant, hypocrite, and pope.
One might easily lecture about this little volume for many more days, so beautiful are the things which fill it. But enough has been cited to exemplify its unique value. If you reread these quotations, I think you will find each time new beauty in them. And the beauty is quite peculiar. Such poetry could have been written only under two conditions. The first is that the poet be a consummate scholar. The second is that he must have suffered, as only a great mind and heart could suffer, from want of affection.
OLD GREEK FRAGMENTS
The other day when we were reading some of the poems in "Ionica," I promised to speak in another short essay of Theocritus and his songs or idyls of Greek peasant life, but in speaking of him it will be well also to speak of others who equally illustrate the fact that everywhere there is truth and beauty for the mind that can see. I spoke last week about what I thought the highest possible kind of literary art might become. But the possible becoming is yet far away; and in speaking of some old Greek writers I want only to emphasize the fact that modern literary art as well as ancient literary art produced their best results from a close study of human nature.
Although Theocritus and others who wrote idyls found their chief inspiration in the life of the peasants, they sometimes also wrote about the life of cities. Human nature may be studied in the city as well as in the country, provided that a man knows how to look for it. It is not in the courts of princes nor the houses of nobles nor the residences of the wealthy that such study can be made. These superior classes have found it necessary to show themselves to the world very cautiously; they live by rule, they conceal their emotions, they move theatrically. But the ordinary, everyday people of cities are very different; they speak their thoughts, they keep their hearts open, and they let us see, just as children do, the good or the evil side of their characters. So a good poet and a good observer can find in the life of cities subjects of study almost as easily as in the country. Theocritus has done this in his fifteenth idyl. This idyl is very famous, and it has been translated hundreds of times into various languages. Perhaps you may have seen one version of it which was made by Matthew Arnold. But I think that the version made by Lang is even better.
The scene is laid in Alexandria, probably some two thousand years ago, and the occasion is a religious holiday—a matsuri, as we call it in Japan. Two women have made an appointment to go together to the temple, to see the festival and to see the people. The poet begins his study by introducing us to the chamber of one of the women.
GORGO. "Is Praxinoe at home?"
PRAXINOE. "Dear Gorgo, how long is it since you have been here! She is at home. The wonder is that you have got here at last! Eunoe, come and see that she has a chair and put a cushion on it!"
G. "It does most charmingly as it is."
P. "Do sit down."
How natural this is. There is nothing Greek about it any more than there is Japanese; it is simply human. It is something that happens in Tokyo every day, certainly in houses where there are chairs and where it is a custom to put a cushion on the chair for the visitor. But remember, this was two thousand years ago. Now listen to what the visitor has to say.
"I have scarcely got to you at all, Praxinoe! What a huge crowd, what hosts of carriages! Everywhere cavalry boots, everywhere men in uniform! And the road is endless; yes, you really live too far away!"
"It is all for that mad man of mine. Here he came to the ends of the earth and took a hall, not a house, and all that we might not be neighbours. The jealous wretch, always the same, ever for spite."
She is speaking half in jest, half in earnest; but she forgets that her little boy is present, and the visitor reminds her of the fact:
"Don't talk of your husband like that, my dear girl, before the little boy,—look how he is staring at you!—Never mind, Zaphyrion, sweet child, she is not speaking about papa."
P. "Our Lady! (Persephone) The child takes notice!"
Then the visitor to comfort the child says "Nice papa," and the conversation proceeds. The two talk about their husbands, about their dresses, about the cost of things in the shops; but in order to see the festival Praxinoe must dress herself quickly, and woman, two thousand years ago, just as now, takes a long time to dress. Hear Praxinoe talking to her maid-servant while she hurries to get ready:
"Eunoe, bring the water and put it down in the middle of the room,—lazy creature that you are. Cat-like, always trying to sleep soft! Come, bustle, bring the water; quicker! I want water first,—and how she carries it! Give it me all the same;—don't pour out so much, you extravagant thing! Stupid girl! Why are you wetting my dress? There, stop, I have washed my hands as heaven would have it. Where is the key of the big chest? Bring it here."
This is life, natural and true; we can see those three together, the girlish young wife hurrying and scolding and chattering naturally and half childishly, the patient servant girl smiling at the hurry of her mistress, and the visitor looking at her friend's new dress, wondering how much it cost and presently asking her the price. At last all is ready. But the little boy sees his mother go out and he wants to go out too, though it has been decided not to take him, because the crowd is too rough and he might be hurt. Here the mother first explains, then speaks firmly:
"No, child, I don't mean to take you. Boo! Bogies! There is a horse that bites! Cry as much as you please, but I cannot have you maimed."
They go out, Praxinoe and Gorgo and the maid-servant Eunoe. The crowd is tremendous, and they find it very hard to advance. Sometimes there are horses in the way, sometimes wagons, occasionally a legion of cavalry. We know all this, because we hear the chatter of the women as they make their way through the press.
"Give me your hand, and you, Eunoe, catch hold of Eutychis,—for fear lest you get lost.... Here come the kings on horses! My dear man, don't trample on me. Eunoe, you fool-hardy girl, will you never keep out of the way? Oh! How tiresome, Gorgo, my muslin veil is torn in two already.... For heaven's sake, sir, if you ever wish to be fortunate, take care of my shawl!"
STRANGER. "I can hardly help myself, but for all that I will be as helpful as I can."
The strange man helps the women and children through the pushing crowd, and they thank him very prettily, praying that he may have good fortune all his life. But not all the strangers who come in contact with them happen to be so kind. They come at last into that part of the temple ground where the image of Adonis is displayed; the beauty of the statue moves them, and they utter exclamations of delight. This does not please some of the male spectators, one of whom exclaims, "You tiresome women, do cease your endless cooing talk! They bore one to death with their eternal broad vowels!"
They are country women, and their critic is probably a purist—somebody who has studied Greek as it is pronounced and spoken in Athens. But the women bravely resent this interference with their rights.
GORGO. "Indeed! And where may this person come from? What is it to you if we are chatterboxes? Give orders to your own servants, sir. Do you pretend to command the ladies of Syracuse? If you must know, we are Corinthians by descent, like Bellerophon himself, and we speak Peloponnesian. Dorian women may lawfully speak Doric, I presume."
This is enough to silence the critic, but the other young woman also turns upon him, and we may suppose that he is glad to escape from their tongues. And then everybody becomes silent, for the religious services begin. The priestess, a comely girl, chants the psalm of Adonis, the beautiful old pagan hymn, more beautiful and more sensuous than anything uttered by the later religious poets of the West; and all listen in delighted stillness. As the hymn ends, Gorgo bursts out in exclamation of praise:
"Praxinoe! The woman is cleverer than we fancied! Happy woman to know so much!—Thrice happy to have so sweet a voice! Well, all the same, it is time to be making for home; Diocleides has not had his dinner, and the man is all vinegar,—don't venture near him when he is kept waiting for dinner. Farewell, beloved Adonis—may you find us glad at your next coming."
And with this natural mingling of the sentimental and the commonplace the little composition ends. It is as though we were looking through some window into the life of two thousand years ago. Read the whole thing over to yourselves when you have time to find the book in the library, and see how true to human nature it is. There is nothing in it except the wonderful hymn, which does not belong to to-day as much as to the long ago, to modern Tokyo as much as to ancient Greece. That is what makes the immortality of any literary production—not simply truth to the life of one time, but truth to the life of every time and place.
Not many years ago there was discovered a book by Herodas, a Greek writer of about the same period. It is called the "Mimes," a series of little dramatic studies picturing the life of the time. One of these is well worthy of rank with the idyl of Theocritus above mentioned. It is the study of a conversation between a young woman and an old woman. The young woman has a husband, who left her to join a military expedition and has not been heard of for several years. The old woman is a go-between, and she comes to see the young person on behalf of another young man, who admires her. But as soon as she states the nature of her errand, the young lady becomes very angry and feigns much virtuous indignation. There is a quarrel. Then the two become friends, and we know that the old woman's coming is likely to bring about the result desired. Now the wonder of this little study also is the play of emotion which it reveals. Such emotions are common to all ages of humanity; we feel the freshness of this reflection as we read, to such a degree that we cannot think of the matter as having happened long ago. Yet even the city in which these episodes took place has vanished from the face of the earth.
In the case of the studies of peasant life, there is also value of another kind. Here we have not only studies of human nature, but studies of particular social conditions. The quarrels of peasants, half good natured and nearly always happily ending; their account of their sorrows; their gossip about their work in the fields—all this might happen almost anywhere and at almost any time. But the song contest, the prize given for the best composition upon a chosen subject, this is particularly Greek, and has never perhaps existed outside of some place among the peasant folk. It was the poetical side of this Greek life of the peasants, as recorded by Theocritus, which so much influenced the literatures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in France and in England. But neither in France nor in England has there ever really been, at any time, any life resembling that portrayed by Theocritus; to-day nothing appears to us more absurd than the eighteenth century habit of picturing the Greek shepherd life in English or French landscapes. What really may have existed among the shepherds of the antique world could not possibly exist in modern times. But how pretty it is! I think that the tenth idyl of Theocritus is perhaps the prettiest example of the whole series, thirty in number, which have been preserved for us. The plan is of the simplest. Two young peasants, respectively named Battus and Milon, meeting together in the field, talk about their sweethearts. One of them works lazily and is jeered by the other in consequence. The subject of the jeering acknowledges that he works badly because his mind is disturbed—he has fallen in love. Then the other expresses sympathy for him, and tells him that the best thing he can do to cheer himself up will be to make a song about the girl, and to sing it as he works. Then he makes a song, which has been the admiration of the world for twenty centuries and lifts been translated into almost every language possessing a literature.
"They all call thee a gipsy, gracious Bombyca, and lean, and sunburnt;—'tis only I that call thee honey-pale.
"Yea, and the violet is swart and swart the lettered hyacinth; but yet these flowers are chosen the first in garlands.
"The goat runs after cytisus, the wolf pursues the goat, the crane follows the plough,—but I am wild for love of thee.
"Would it were mine, all the wealth whereof Croesus was lord, as men tell! Then images of us, all in gold, should be dedicated to Aphrodite, thou with thy flute, and a rose, yea, or an apple, and I in fair attire and new shoon of Amyclae on both my feet.
"Ah, gracious Bombyca, thy feet are fashioned like carven ivory, thy voice is drowsy sweet, and thy ways—I can not tell of them."
Even through the disguise of an English prose translation, you will see how pretty and how simple this little song must have been in the Greek, and how very natural is the language of it. Our young peasant has fallen in love with the girl who is employed to play the flute for the reapers, as the peasants like to work to the sound of music. His comrades do not much admire Bombyca; one calls her "a long grasshopper of a girl"; another finds her too thin; a third calls her a gipsy, such a dark brown her skin has become by constant exposure to the summer sun. And the lover, looking at her, is obliged to acknowledge in his own mind that she is long and lean and dark and like a gipsy; but he finds beauty in all these characteristics, nevertheless. What if she is dark? The sweetest honey is darkish, like amber, and so are beautiful flowers, the best of all flowers, flowers given to Aphrodite; and the sacred hyacinth on whose leaves appear the letters of the word of lamentation "Ai! Ai!"—that is also dark like Bombyca. Her darkness is that of honey and flowers. What a charming apology! He cannot deny that she is long and lean, and he remains silent on these points, but here we must all sympathize with him. He shows good taste. It is the tall slender girl that is really the most beautiful and the most graceful, not the large-limbed, strong-bodied peasant type that his companions would prefer. Without knowing it, he has fallen in love like an artist. And he is not blind to the, grace of slenderness and of form, though he cannot express it in artistic language. He can only compare the shape of the girl's feet to the ivory feet of the divinities in the temples—perhaps he is thinking of some ivory image of Aphrodite which he has seen. But how charming an image does he make to arise before us! Beautiful is the description of the girl's voice as "drowsy sweet." But the most exquisite thing in the whole song is the final despairing admission that he can not describe her at all—"and thy ways, I can not tell of them"! This is one of the most beautiful expressions in any poem ancient or modern, because of its supreme truth. What mortal ever could describe the charm of manner, voice, smile, address, in mere words? Such things are felt, they can not be described; and the peasant boy reaches the highest height of true lyrical poetry when he cries out "I can not tell of them." The great French critic Sainte-Beuve attempted to render this line as follows—"Quant a ta maniere, je ne puis la rendre!" This is very good; and you can take your choice between it and any English translation. But good judges say that nothing in English of French equals the charm of the original.
You will find three different classes of idyls in Theocritus; the idyl which is a simple song of peasant life, a pure lyric expressing only a single emotion; the idyl which is a little story, usually a story about the gods or heroes; and lastly, the idyl which is presented in the form of a dialogue, or even of a conversation between three or four persons. All these forms of idyl, but especially the first and the third, were afterward beautifully imitated by the Roman poets; then very imperfectly imitated by modern poets. The imitation still goes on, but the very best English poets have never really been able to give us anything worthy of Theocritus himself.
However, this study of the Greek model has given some terms to English literature which every student ought to know. One of these terms is amoebaean,—amoebaean poetry being dialogue poetry composed in the form of question and reply. The original Greek signification was that of alternate speaking. Please do not forget the word. You may often find it in critical studies in essays upon contemporary literature; and when you see it again, remember Theocritus and the school of Greek poets who first introduced the charm of amoebaean poetry. I hope that this little lecture will interest some of you in Theocritus sufficiently to induce you to read him carefully through and through. But remember that you can not get the value of even a single poem of his at a single reading. We have become so much accustomed to conventional forms of literature that the simple art of poetry like this quite escapes us at first sight. We have to read it over and over again many times, and to think about it; then only we feel the wonderful charm.
[Transcriber's note: Page numbers have been converted to chapter numbers in this index.]
"A dry cicale chirps to a lass making hay," 14 Aicard, Jean, 11 Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 4 "Along the garden ways just now," 2 "Amaturus," 3 "A Ma Future," 3 "Amelia," 2 "Amis and Amile," Introduction, 13 "Amphibian," 10 Andrews, Bishop Lancelot, 6 "Angel in the House, The," 2 "An Invocation," 14 "Appreciations of Poetry," Introduction "Arabian Nights, The," 13 "Arachne," 10 Arnold, Sir Edwin, 3 Arnold, Matthew, 7, 15 "Art of Worldly Wisdom, The," 7 Ashe, Thomas, 3 "A simple ring with a simple stone," 3 "Atalanta in Calydon," 12 "Atalanta's Race," 2
"Bhagavad-Gita, The," 6 Bible, The, Introduction, 3, 6, 12, 13 Bion, 14 Blake, William, 6, 10 Book of Common Prayer, The, 12 Breton, Jules, 11 "Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art," 2 Browning, Robert, 2, 3, 10, 14 "Burly, dozing humble bee," 10 "Busy, curious thirsty fly," 10 Byron, George Gordon, Lord, 2, 3
Carew, Thomas, 3 Carlyle, Thomas, 5, 6 Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Fourth Earl of, 7 Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 2 Coleridge, Hartley, 3 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 2, 6, 10 "Conservative, A," 10 Cooke, Rose Terry, 10 Cory, William, Introduction, 3, 14 Crashaw, Richard, 3
Dante Alighieri, 2 "Daughter of Cleomenes, The," 14 Descartes, Rene, 10 "Deteriora," 14 Dickens, Charles, Introduction "Djins, Les," 4 "Dream of Fair Women, A," 14
"Emaux et Camees," 11 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 4, 10 "Epigramme Funeraire," 11 "Evelyn Hope," 3
"Fable, A," 14 "Fifine at the Fair," 10 Francis of Assisi, Saint, 10 Freneau, Philip, 10
Gautier, Theophile, 11 "Gazing on stars, my star?" 2 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 4 "Golden Legend, The," 13 Gracian, Baltasar, 7 "Grasshopper, The," 11 Gray, Thomas, 10 "Greater Memory," 2 Greek Anthology, Introduction, 4, 14 "Grillon solitaire," 11
"Havamal, The," Introduction, 6 Hearn, Lafcadio, Introduction Heredia, Jose, Maria de, Introduction, 5, 11 Herodas, 15 Herrick, Robert, 4 "He that loves a rosy cheek," 3 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 10 Hood, Thomas, 3 Hugo, Victor, 2, 2, 4, 5, 11
"Idyls of the King," 14 "I love to hear thine earnest voice," 10 "In a branch of willow hid," 10 "Interpretations of Literature," Introduction "Ionica," Introduction, 3 "I strove with none, for none was worth my strife," 4 "It is a golden morning of the spring," 2
Jonson, Ben, 3, 4
"Kalevala, The," Introduction, 12 Keats, John, Introduction, 2, 6, 10 "King Solomon and the Ants," 10
"La Demoiselle," 11 "Lady of Shalott, The," 11 Landor, Walter Savage, 4 Lang, Andrew, Introduction, 15 Lamartine, 11 Lamb, Charles, 10 "Le Daimio," 5 Lemerre, Alphonse, 10 "Le Samourai," 5 "Les Cigales," 11 "Life and Literature," Introduction de Lisle, Leconte, 87 "Lives there whom pain has evermore passed by," 4 Locker-Lampson, Frederic, 3, 10 "Locksley Hall," 2 Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13 Loennrot, 12 Lovelace, Richard, 11 Lubbock, Sir John, 8
Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 10 "Ma Libellule," 11 "Maud," 2 Meredith, George, Introduction, 7 "Mimes," 15 "Mimnermus in church," 14 Moschus, 14
"Nay but you, who do not love her," 3 "Never the time and the place," 2 "New Ethics, The," Introduction "New Year's Day, A," 14 Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 8 "Njal-Saga, The." 1
"Ode on the Spring," 10 Oldys, William, 10 O'Shaughnessy, Arthur, 2
"Pansie," 3 "Patchwork," 3 Pater, Walter, Introduction, 13 Patmore, Coventry, 2, 10 "Pause, A," 2 Plato, 2 Poe, Edgar Allan, 12 "Poems of Places," 5 Porson, Richard, 10 Powell, Frederick York, 7 "Princess, The," Introduction
Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur Thomas, 10
"Reparabo," 14 Rossetti, Christina, 2, 3 Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 2, 11 Ruskin, John, 6, 9 "Ruth," 3
"Saga of King Olaf, The," 7 Sainte-Beuve, 15 Saintsbury, Professor George, 6 "Scheveningen Avenue," 14 Scott, Sir Walter, 7 Shakespeare, William, 11 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 2 "She walks in beauty, like the night," 3 "She was a phantom of delight," 3 "Solitary-Hearted, The," 3 "Somewhere or other," 3 "Song in time of Revolution, A," 12 "Song of Hiawatha, The," 12 "Song of Songs," 10 Spencer, Herbert, 2, 7, 8 "Stay near me, do not take thy flight" 10 Stetson, Charlotte Perkins, 10 Stevenson, Robert Louis, 2 "Story of Burnt Njal, The," 1 "Studies in Greek Poets," 4 "Such Kings of shreds have wooed and won her," 4 "Sudden Light," 2 Sully-Prudhomme, Rene, Francois Armande, 5 "Summum Bonum," 3 Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 12 Symonds, John Addington, 2, 4
Ten Brink, Bernhard Egidius Konrad, 13 Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, Introduction, 2, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14 Tennyson, Frederick, 2 Thackeray, William Makepeace, Introduction "The butterfly the ancient Grecians made," 10 Theocritus, Introduction, 14, 15 "The poetry of earth is never dead," 10 "The thousand painful steps at last are trod," 4 "The trembling arm I pressed," 2 "They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead," 14 "Think not thy wisdom can illume away," 4 Thompson, Maurice, 2 "Thou canst not wave thy staff in air," 4 "To Lucasta, on Going to the Wars," 11 "Two Fragments of Childhood," 14 "Two Voices, The," 10
"Unknown Eros, The," 2
Vigfusson, Gudbrandt, 7 "Voice of the summer wind," 10
Watson, William, 4, 10 "When spring grows old," 2 "White Moth, The," 10 Whittier, John Greenleaf, 10 "Wishes to the Supposed Mistress Wordsworth, William, 2, 3, 6, 10 Wycliffe, John, 6