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C. L. S. C. REQUIRED BOOKS FOR 1892-93.
GRECIAN HISTORY. J. R. Joy,
CLASSIC GREEK COURSE IN ENGLISH.
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 animals. 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 millions on 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 philosophy, 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, exercised, 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