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Her peerless face did shine;
Blushing in sweetness; so she seem'd in hue,
But dark Erinnys, in the nuptial hour,
Seated 'midst the feasting throng,
Into the halls of Priam's sons,
But we find tenderer thoughts than these in the Agamemnon, in regard to Helen, though they are introduced only in an indirect manner. Nor are they put into the mouth of any of the principal characters; but are used as a melancholy episode by the chorus-showing the feeling then entertained in Greece, as to the view taken by Menelaus of his wife's abduction. There is a tradition to this day, in Greece, that the minstrels of the bereaved husband daily sang a concert, accompanying themselves with different instruments of music. Be this as it may, there are few elegies more sweetly plaintive and pathetic than the exquisite episode in which Æschylus makes the chorus mourn the absence of λευκώλενος. .
"And wo the halls, and wo the chiefs,
And wo the bridal bed!
The lord whose love she fled!
Shall start the lonely king!
Shall stalk a ghostly thing.
A false and melancholy;
The wish'd for and the holy.
Lost wanderers gliding through the paths of sleep.” But we cannot pursue our comparisons at any further length on the present occasion. Fortunately, it is not necessary that we should, since the main object of our article was, to remind those too apt to forget, if not deny, the fact, that no other poet has ever equalled Homer, and that to maintain the contrary is to exhibit a want of intelligence, as well as want of taste. There is not one of the great poets who has been compared to Homer—declared equal, or superior to him—who would for a moment make any such pretensions himself. Virgil and Dante, as well as Milton and Tasso, knew better; and so did the divine Shakspeare. Those who think the moderns intellectually superior to the ancients, and who do not like the trouble of studying the Iliad, or, rather, of qualifying themselves for the study, will have little hesitation in denouncing our views of Homer as gross exaggerations. But fortunately we are supported in them by the greatest thinkers of modern as well as ancient times. To the verdict of the latter we have already alluded; there is no difference of opinion among them on the subject-at least, among those who have immortalized themselves. There is a world of testimony in the simple fact that Phidias, the greatest sculptor we know to have ever lived, owned that whatever expression of majesty he had been able to give his Jupiter was owing to Homer, whose shield of Achilles is admitted, by the best artists capable of criticising it, to contain all the beauties of picturesque composition that can ever be imagined. And in this, as we have already seen, he merely corroborates the testimony of Plato, Aristotle and Longinus, as Burke represents the opinions of all great modern critics when he says, in his letter to Barry, “I am persuaded that understanding Homer well, especially in his own language, would contribute more towards perfecting taste than all the metaphysical treatises upon the arts that ever were, or ever can be, written, because such treatises can only tell what true taste is, but Homer everywhere shows it.
He shows that the true sublime is always easy and always natural; that it consists more in manner than in subject, and is to be found by a good poet or painter in almost every part of nature.”
In history, ethnology, geography, criticism and even metaphysics, the Homeric poems afford equal instruction, interest and delight. In the boudoir of Helen or Andromache, Homer is as much at home as in the tent of Achilles or Hector. He is as perfect a master in describing the charms, nay, the dress, of the gentler sex, as he is in describing the armor of his warriors, or their prowess in battle. Thus, throughout the Iliad, we find such descriptive epithets as “the white-armed,” “the white-handed,” the deep-bosomed daughters of Troy,” Andromache's “
fragrant bosom,” “the beautiful-ancled Marpessa,” &c. From the time of Pericles and Themistocles to that of Napoleon and Wellington, the greatest generals of all nations have studied his war maxims. We have the testimony of Aristotle to the facts, that Alexander always carried a copy of the Homeric poems about him, and that he studied them more than all other books put together. Nor was it for mere pleasure that he did so, but quite as much for instruction in the art of war. This may seem incredible, since he had the renowned Stagirite for his tutor, but it is not the less true. All his biographers state that at the battle of Arabella he made use of the maxim introduced in the sixth book of the Iliad, when Nestor sees Menelaus ready to spare an enemy for the sake of a ransom. In the heat of battle, when Parmenio was in danger of weakening the main body to defend the baggage, Alexander sent him this message: " Leave the baggage there, for if we gain the victory we shall not only recover what is our own but be master of all that is the enemy's.” This is nearly word for word the advice of Nestor.
Ω φίλοι, ήρωες Δαναοί, 9ευάποντες Αρηος,
νεκρούς αμπεδίον συλησετε τεθνειώτας.-ΙI., VI., 67-71. “O friends, Grecians, servants of Mars, let no one now desirous of spoils remain behind, that he may return to the ships, bringing abundance; but let us slay the men, and afterwards, even at your leisure, shall you despoil the dead bodies over the plain.”
We have quoted these lines, rendering them freely into the vernacular tongue, all the more readily because there are some, even among those who consider themselves capable of instructing others, who tell us that none but professional commanders should undertake to criticise, much less pretend to suggest, military movements in the field. There is not the least evidence that Homer was a military chieftain ; indeed, nothing is more unlikely than that he was. If he ever took any practical part in military affairs at all, it must have been . in a subordinate capacity; yet he was able to instruct the conqueror of the world—the pupil of Aristotle—in the art of war; and Thucydides, the noblest of historians, frequently quotes him accordingly, as an authority. Thus it matters not, in a word, what branch of science or art we mention, that was known to the most enlightened nations of the ancient world, we have the very essence of it in the Homeric Poems.
ART. II.-1. History of Civilization in England. By HENRY THOMAS
BUCKLE. Vol. 1st, pp. 854. London : 1857. 2. History of Civilization in England. By HENRY THOMAS BUCKLE.
Vol. 2d, pp. 601. London: 1861.
It has always been a favorite illusion, that social, like physical changes, do not conform to fixed and ascertainable laws. It is not that philosophers of a certain class have, from the earliest times, explained historical events as instances of the continual interposition of an arbitrary power, exterior to and independent of, the material universe, it is not that thinkers of an opposite school have referred the actions of men to a no less arbitrary power, operative in each individual as an ultimate, inexplicable agent ; but that the mass of men have ever been accustomed to look upon the phenomena of society as upon isolated facts incapable of any scientific explanation whatever. And this is what might be expected from the great abstruseness and complexity of the subject. Since the science of human actions is the most difficult of all, and since it depends on the simpler physical sciences, it was not until these in the course of their development had been purified
from the dreamy obscurities of metaphysics, that the conception of a universal and undeviating regularity in the succession of historic events was rendered possible. Accordingly, when physical science was yet in its infancy, as in ancient times, there could be no social science. The speculations of Plato upon this subject were but profitless reveries ; and even the admirable ở Politics" of Aristotle disclosed " sense of the progressive tendencies of humanity, nor the slightest glimpse of the natural laws of civilization."* Coming down even to modern times, we find, in the seventeenth century, nothing better on the philosophy of history than the puerile “ Discourse" of Bossuet. The profound remarks of Pascal and Leibnitz, in regard to the progress of society, are to be deemed rather presentiments of the truth, than the results of deliberate investigation. Machiavelli was one of the first to subject social phenomena to a careful study ; but he arrived at no broad generalizations, and he suffered, moreover, from the serious deficiency of being too much occupied with the practical utility of his subject.”+ The “Scienza Nuova” of Vico contained many new and startling views of history, and the writings of Montesquieu presented a daring attempt to constitute a social science; but both these great thinkers were crippled by a lack of materials, owing to the imperfect condition of physical knowledge at the time when they wrote. Condorcet, proceeding from the suggestions of his friend Turgot, arrived at the law that the whole human race is in a course of evolution, from the less perfect to the more perfect; but his writings are encumbered with metaphysical notions, and he had no idea of the true nature of human development. Far above all his predecessors stands Voltaire, whose “ Essai sur les Meurs" was an immortal attempt to apply the principles of scientific investigation to the entire history of our race. Nothing more was done in this direction, 'until the unprecedented development of physical knowledge which ushered in the present century was followed by the appearance of the “ Philosophie Positive” of Auguste Comte. In this noble work, social as well as physical changes are shown to conform to invariable laws. Comte thus founded social science, and opened a path for future dis
But he did not perceive, any more than previous
• Comte, Philosophie Positive, tom. IV., p. 240. † Buckle, vol. I, p. 751, note 131.