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the only two epigrams by her which time spares us, has a little Elegy, addressed to Aphrodité of the Golden House, upon one of those simple religious offerings which constantly meet us in the Anthology; a poem true womanly in its feeling, and worthy of Sappho in musical tenderness
O vine-cluster, full of the juice of Dionysus, thou liest in the golden portico of Aphrodite: nor ever more shall thy mother vine, twining round thee her fair tendril, above thy head put forth her fragrant leaf.1
How modern is this in its gentle human sentiment ! Yet not more, perhaps, so than a fragment from the gifted and lost dramatist Menander, which, in its breadth of view, suggesting at the same time a strange likeness in unlikeness to the great Hebrew Psalm of Creation, may here find a fit place in this imperfect notice of the Greek poetry of Nature.
That man I hold happiest who, having without sense of pain beheld these holy wonders, the common sun, stars, sea, clouds, fire, has gone quickly thither whence he came. Should he live a hundred years, these sights will never fail him; or should he live but few days, never [elsewhere] will he see things more wonderful.2
1 Κεῖσαι δὴ χρυσέαν ὑπὸ παστάδα τὰν ̓Αφροδίτας,
οὐδ ̓ ἔτι τοι μάτηρ ἐρατὸν περὶ κλῆμα βαλοῦσα
τοῦτον εὐτυχέστατον λέγω
Gray was so deep and delicate a student, and so given to adorn his operosa carmina with flowers gathered from all gardens, that I am tempted to find here the lovely phrase of his Vicissitude Ode, painting the delight of a sick man's recovery:
The common sun, the air, the skies,
Two gracious little ditties, probably for girls or children, shall close my Greek specimens. It is sad that so few such songs have been preserved for us
Where are my roses, where are my violets, where are my beautiful parsley leaves?
Here are your roses, here are your violets, here are your beautiful parsley leaves.1
Now the Rhodian carol, while the children went about begging nice presents—
Here, here is the swallow, bringing happy hours, happy years ; white below is she, black above. . . . But if you will not give, we will not put up with it, [we may carry off] the little wife who is sitting indoors, little she is, easily we shall carry her. . . . Open, open the door to the swallow !2
-But it is time to make the great transition from Hellas to Latium.
1 ποῦ μοι τὰ ῥόδα, ποῦ μοι τὰ ἴα, ποῦ μοι τὰ καλὰ σέλινα ;
2 ἦλθ ̓, ἦλθε χελιδών,
εἰ δὲ μή, οὐκ ἐάσομεν,
τὰν γυναῖκα τὰν ἔσω καθημέναν· μικρὰ μέν ἐστι, ῥᾳδίως μὶν οἴσομεν· ἄνοιγ ̓, ἄνοιγε τὰν θύραν χελιδόνι.
LANDSCAPE IN LUCRETIUS, VERGIL, AND OTHER
It may here be useful briefly to compare the general tone of Greek and Latin literature, with their remoteness or kinship to our own, as it will be found to have some bearing upon our special task.
In one sense the Greek is nearer to us than any literature dating earlier than the sixteenth century. Iliad and Odyssey, which we may with probability regard as three or four hundred years anterior to the epoch 800 B.C. assigned by Herodotus,1 have such a freshness of feeling, so complete a humanity, a force in drawing character or rendering passion so sheer, direct, and simple, that they speak with us, face to face as it were, even nearer at times than some of our latest poets. Plato, in prose more perfect and finished than any one since has mastered, shows a depth of reflection, a penetrative insight revealing soul to soul, such that we feel it true for all time-in advance, one might almost say, of any to-morrow. Yet in Greek literature at all times we come occasionally upon certain elements which divide it more than the Latin from modern thought and feeling. These elements, strangely alien from us, cropping out suddenly in myth and image, thought and passion, I would venture in some degree to refer
1 The Greeks, having no history or clear tradition of their own past, naturally had not the power to look boldly back, when dating their antiquities: as the modern world has a difficulty in accepting the far-off dates now assigned to Egyptian or Assyrian monuments-not to speak of pre-glacial man.
to the fact that, unlike any other Western literatures, the sources of Hellenic art and thought, the long centuries of development, the great previous civilisations, are but faintly known to us. That oriental ideas and beliefs were strongly felt we do know; yet they seem to remain inextricably immanent in the Greek mind, despite the labour and the learning which mythologists have devoted to their special province.
It may, however, be feared that a greater bar lies between us and Hellenism, especially during its great period, in the very qualities which give their special charm, their magic, to Greek art and Greek poetry,—the dominant sensitiveness, equally delicate and vivid, of the leading Hellenic races; the inseparable presence in their work of grace, of flexibility; the love, the worship, the deification of beauty. The conquest of the ancient civilisations by the Teutonic races, the consequent infusion, wide and deep, of a temper of mind more gloomily serious than the Greek, while far less sensitive to or fruitful in art,—-Christianity, with eye and soul set on the further life, the new interests of physical science, ever enlarging, ever more absorbing,—the mechanical tone and ways of the modern world in every region,-all these things are against art, against fruitful repose, against individuality, in a word, against beauty as the sine qua non, the final end of poetry. It is not meant that these hostile elements can wholly exclude a true initiation into the Hellenic spirit, but they narrow the sphere of its influence, but they are a cloud over the sun. An Athenian of the Periclean age, anywhere in modern civilised lands, would feel the sky as iron above him.
In Roman literature, on the other hand, as in the Roman mind and character, we feel ourselves at once in the atmosphere of a sterner morality, of more practical aims, of the Roman gravitas, of the Imperial majesty; yet, at the same time, of a greater homeliness, a profounder passion for country life. The beautiful, however, as such, in their poetry is largely derived, not from unknown sources, but from the Grecian fountains, happily still flowing for those who have the good sense and good taste to frequent them. Though in some manner Greek literature in Byzantium really long survived
Roman, yet Rome has inevitably become nearer us than Athens; has influenced us, if less in regard to poetry and beauty, yet more deeply-often far more deeply-in law, politics, ethics. "It will," in fact, "be generally conceded that the ideas and "institutions of modern Europe are derived by more direct "filiation from those of Rome than of Greece." 1
Hence, to turn to our own subject, the expression of Nature which appears in Latin poetry is, on the whole, closer to us than the Greek; it touches the heart more intimately; it has even at last, we shall find, a certain accent as if of romanticism before its time. But the loss of almost all nondramatic Roman verse before Lucretius and Catullus, and the rapid declension of poetry after the fifty years (say 44 B.C.-17 A.D.) of Augustan splendour, greatly limits our field when compared with the many centuries of Greek productivity.
Yet a somewhat earlier date supplies one little country vignette. It is found in a fragment of the Oenomaus of the dramatist, L. Attius (born 170 B.C.)—
By chance [it was] before Dawn, harbinger of burning rays, when husbandmen pack off the horned creatures from their sleep to the meadow, to cleave the red dew-sprinkled earth with the ploughshare, and turn up the clods from the soft soil.2
The fresh breath of an Italian-of a Devon-daybreak (note the red soil) is truly in these simple rustic lines.
Passing now to that splendid outburst above named, among the four first-rate poets of the period-Catullus, Horace, Lucretius, Vergil 3-I shall mainly take the last two for our brief survey. Indeed, this may be called a prescribed and natural order, owing to the peculiar relation of Vergil to Lucretius—a relation, as we shall see, at once of indebtedness and of protest.
1 Merivale, History of the Romans. And we may just note that it is the same in regard to architecture.
2 forte ante Auroram, radiorum ardentum indicem,
proscindant, glebasque arvo ex molli exsuscitent.
3 Why not correct a long-established blunder, and spell the name as he assuredly spelt it—the sound remaining unchanged?