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her culmination under Per'icles in splendor and power. The age of Pericles is a proverb of prosperity and glory.
But dissensions and wars succeeded. Sparta envied Athens her supremacy, though she did not emulate the generous arts and achievements by which that supremacy was
Mutual rivalry and strife prepared divided Greece to fall, despite the patriot eloquence and statesmanship of Demos'thenes, an easy prey to Macedonian Philip and Alexander.
Greece, however, had always her way of subduing her conquerors. That subtle, penetrating, and subsidizing element in Greek character, which we have already noted, enabled Greece with her ideas and her spirit to vanquish unawares the very nations that overcame her with their
In a true and deep sense, ancient Greece never was conquered. It was Greece in Alexander that rolled back forever from Europe the threatening inundation of Asia. And Greece triumphed even over Rome, after Rome had annexed Greece to her empire. Greece triumphs yet in a dominion still maintained of genius and taste over the realms of letters and of arts.
Such, imperfectly described, was the people over the expanse of whose literature we are here to skim lightly and swiftly, taking dips as we go, like swallows flying above the surface of a lake, broad, pellucid, and deep.
Of all that the Greeks did in the world, nothing remains to us, recognizably in the form given it by their cunning brain and hand, save perhaps a few coins, a few noble architectural ruins, a few inimitable, though mutilated, antique pieces of sculpture, and, last and chief, some masterpieces of literary composition. Good literature is, perhaps, on the whole, the most enduring of all the products of human activity. Dead, we call the languages of Greece and Rome, and it is the fashion now to ridicule the idea of devoting so much time in our schools and colleges to the study of dead Greek and Latin. The "new education," so called, lauds the study of science above the study of the ancient classics—the study of nature, that is to say, above the study of man. But is not man at least a part of nature ? And is not language the noblest outward attribute of man? Science includes, for instance, what used to be called natural history. The devotees of this branch of scientific inquiry think it a not unworthy employment of time to spend years, or perhaps a life, in observing and discussing the habits of some single species of the lower anirnals. It might very well happen that an ichthyologist would reckon it a good account to render of himself if, as the result of investigations covering years of his life, he is able to present to the world at last an approximately exhaustive enumeration, description, classification, of the various fossil and extinct species of fishes that may be found, in faint traces of their prehistoric existence, among the stratified rocks of the planet.
We are far from wishing to disparage the value of such scientific explorations. By all means let us learn the most we can, of whatever there is to be known. But surely man himself also is one, and a not insignificant one, among animals, and it is science-why not?-to study man in the monuments that he has left behind him from the distant ages of his life and activity on the earth. The languages in which the ruling races of mankind did their speaking and their writing, generation after generation, the literatures which embalmed for all future time the thought, the feeling, the fancy, and the recorded actions of those myriad millions of the foremost of our fellow-men-surely, say we, these languages and these literatures are worthy of the attention from us that they have commanded, and that they command, if it be only on the score of their being a part of science itself. Is not man, even as just an interesting animal, an object of study at least equal in importance to fishes ? And shall we not continue, as lovers of science, if no longer as classical linguists, to teach our children how the world's gray fathers spoke and wrote, and what they thought, felt, fancied ? and this, although their languages be now dead, if languages can indeed be dead that live in literatures which are immortal.
The literature of Greece is remarkable equally for its matter and for its form. The Greek mind was curious, bold, enterprising, sagacious, acute, subtle; if it loved light too well to be distinctively deep, as we say, yet it loved light so well as almost always, at least, to be clear; it was extremely hospitable and penetrable to ideas; it was agile, graceful, gay, open to sensuous impression, passionately fond of beauty; as it was gifted with a sense divine of measure, proportion, and harmony, so, too, it was instinctively enamored of the perfect in whatever it attempted, and it was capable of great patience; it was exquisite in taste and judgment, while, by necessary complement and contrast, it was electrically alive to every thing grotesque or ridiculous. These qualities of the Greek mind impressed themselves, as the seal impresses itself upon the wax, upon Greek literature. There never has been, anywhere else in the world, so much writing approaching so nearly to ideal perfection in form as among the Greeks. For the purposes of study in style there is nothing else equal to Greek literature. The French genius and literature are, perhaps, in modern civilization, likest at this point to those of the Greeks. The Greeks, however, enjoyed one immense advantage over the French. The Greek language far surpassed the French as an instrument of expression.
But the ancient Greeks did their work under limitations. They were pagans. They had not the light of the sun to see by. They groped for truth, and they missed it oftener than they found it. This, at least, was the case in their philosopy, mental and moral. So that you will look in vain for the substance of valuable thought, throughout the greater part, for instance, of Pla'to's entrancing pages. It is the form of expression, it is the ineffably light, cxercised, infallible play of reason, of taste, and of fancy, not, alas, the solid gold of truth, that rewards you in reading and studying Plato.
Soc'rates, Plato's master, a man second, perhaps, in interest to no figure whatever in Hellenic history, never wrote a word that has survived. But he was the cause of some of the noblest writing in classical Greek literature. He was the most practical and fruitful of all the Greek philosophers. Still, even Socrates, with his unrivaled common sense, (he brought philosophy down from the clouds to walk among men on the ground,) indulged, if we may trust our best accounts of him, not seldom, in sorry futilities of barren refinement and quibble.
In the Greek poetry, too, we have to forgive at the same time that we admire. Inwoven with all the tissue of the verse there is so much idolatry and mythology, and so much sentiment born of these, which we either cannot understand at all, or, understanding, have to reject with reprobation, or what, for the matter of æsthetic enjoyment, is almost worse, with pity and contempt-in short, there is such a wide margin of allowance to be made for differences of standards between them and us, differences in which we cannot but feel
our own superiority to them, that we are compelled to force our judgment somewhat, or wait to acquire a taste not natural to us, before we can say from our hearts that we thoroughly relish the Greeks in their poetry. But what a testimony it is to the genius of this people that, though what we have now said is true, the names of Ho'mer, of He'siod, of Pindar, of Sappho, (Saf'fo,) of Æs'chylus, and Soph'ocles, and Eurip'ides, of sweet-flowing Theoc'ritus, are yet such charms to our imaginations! Alien to us as, in so many ways, these poets were, they were men, they were men of genius, and we cannot wholly escape their thrall.
In history we find less to check our admiration of the Greeks. Herod'otus fascinates us with his artfully artless, simple, fluent, wonder-loving, yet truth-telling narrative; Thucyd'ides puts us willing pupils to school to learn from him how philosophical history should be written; and Xen'ophon contents and delights us with picturesque journals of march and fight, irreproachably well conceived and composed--all without our needing to lose much from our pleasure, or to abate much from our applause, for any reason of difference between the ancient and the modern, the heathen and the Christian. The heathenism of the Greeks was too humane, or the Christianity of Christians is too far from perfect, to make the contrast of tone and treatment between Thucydides and Macaulay very painfully broad and striking.
In eloquence, and in the literature of rhetoric, of taste, and of criticism, that is, the literature concerning literature, we not merely have not to make allowance for the Greeks in admiring them, but we have without reserve to acknowledge their supremacy. Demosthenes is a synonym for eloquence, and what critic or rhetorician is not a grateful learner at the feet of Aristotle, or, to make a long skip forward in time, of Longi'nus ?
The golden age of Greek literature, as of Greek art and Greek arms, was the age of Pericles. But there was in