Andrew Lang.

The International library of famous literature : selections from the world's great writers, ancient, mediaeval, and modern, with biographical and explanatory notes and with introductions (Volume ONE (1)) online

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The Abduction of Helen

From the painting by Rudolph von Deutsch



Enternational Hibrary


^amous Literature

Selections from the World's Great Writers, Ancient, Medi/eval and
Modern, with Biographical and Explanatory Notes

with introductions by


(iK marvel)





C \v c n t g U 1 u m e 3




JEMtton &e Xuie

Limited to 500 Copies

Copyright, 1898

This Edition de Luxe of The International
Library of Famous Literature is limited
to five hundred complete sets, of which this
copy is number. kJ.. /../..



Ancient Indian Hymns

The Stupid Rakshas ....

Prince SiddS.rlha's Marriage

The Cup of Water ....

The Clay Cart

Tubal Cain

The Princess of the Madras

The Mother

Hymn to the God Merodach

Manners and Customs of the Egyptians

The Mirage in Egypt ....

The Oldest Story in the World .

The Seventh Plague of Egypt .

The Burial of Moses .

The Temples of Rameses

Eros and Psyche

A Happy Life

The Conduct of Life

Aphorisms on Life

The Death of a Son

Sohrab and Rustum

After Reading Arnold's " Sohrab and
Rustum "

The Story of Damon and Pythias

Homer and his Translators


Greek Wit

The Heroes at Troy

A Dialogue of the Dead ....

The Contention of Achilles and Agamem-

On Translatioas of Homer ....

On first looking into Chapman's Homer

Achilles and Helena

Menelaus and Helen at Troy

Circe's Palace

Sir Monier Monier- Williams
John Thackray Bunce
Sir Edicin Arnold
Charlotte M. Tonge
King Sudraka
Charles Mackay .
From the Mahdhhdrata
Trans, by George Borrow

Charles Bollin
Theodore Watts-Dunton

George Croly

Mrs. C. F. Alexander

John Thackray Bunce .
Charles Merivale .
From the Mahdhhdrata
Francis Bacon
From the Rdmayana .
Matthew Arnold .

Edith M. Thomas
Charlotte M. Yonge
Matthew Arnold .

Aristippus and Bias
William Shakespeare .
Anna Letitia Barbauld

Homer (Iliad)

Alfred Tennyson .

John Keats .

Walter Savage Landor

Walter Savage Landor

Nathaniel Hawthorne .



























The Strayed Reveler Matthew Arnold . . . 257

The Parting of Odysseus and Calypso . Homer 264

The Song of Phseacia Andrew Lang . . . 277

Odysseus and the Princess Nausicaa . . Homer 277

Ulysses Alfred Tennyson . . . 306

Greek Wit 308

Translations of Homer .... Butcher and Lang . . 310

The Odyssey Andrew Lang . . . 313

Odysseus describes his Adventure with the

Cyclops Homer 313

The Cyclops Virgil . . . . .325

The Splendor of Greek .... Frederick W. H. Myers . 329

The Cyclops in Love Theocritus .... 333

The Story of Acis, Polyphemus, and Gala-
tea Ovid 335

The Love of Achilles Bio7i 341

Dido in Love Virgil 342

Virgil's Dido Walter Savage Landor . 360

Pisidice Andrew Lang . . . 361

The Labors of Hercules 362

Hyperion John Keats .... 367

The Golden Fleece Nathaniel Hawthorne . . 375

Babylon Charles Bollin . . . 406

Athene Sir Lewis Morris . . . 410

The Greatness of Athens .... Thucydides .... 412

The Pass of Thermopylae .... Charlotte M. Tonge . . 416

The Spartans and the Laws of Lycurgus . Charles Bollin . . . 423

Greek Myths John Buskin . . . 430

Sapphics Algernon Charles Swinburne 436

Horatius Thomas Babington Macaulay 438

Virginia Thomas Babington Macaulay 456

The Story of Lucretia .... Livy 469

"War Songs Tyrtmus .... 473

Of Feminine Subtlety From the Qesta Bomanorum 476

Nymphs Thomas Wade . . . 479




Sophocles Frontispiece

Buddha 10

Sir Edwin Arnold 19

Charlotte Mary Yonge 27

Building the Pyramids 65

Moses 85

Psyche and Charon 93

Matthew Arnold 120

Reading from Homer 145

Hector 165

Ulysses 180

Juno 19&

Theseus 201

Thetis bearing the Armor of Achilles 217

Helen of Troy 229*

" The gods were gathering to session " 265

The Goodly Odysseus 281

Zeus 30!

" And once again he lifted a stone " 324

Acis, Polyphemus, and Galatea 337

Mneas at the Court of Dido 342

Hercules 362

Orpheus 393

Homer 416

"Forth went the dauntless three" 447

Death of Virginia 466

Lucretia and Sextus Tarquin 473

Nymphs 479



This is not the introduction to a book, or even to a
series of books : one might call it rather an introduction
to Literature itself — or to a goodly portion of that vast
literary tide drift of the centuries, which certain honest
purveyors and explorers have here brought to shore, and
spread out in cleanly type, for whosoever will — to read,
to ponder, and enjoy.

From earliest recorded times there has lived a disposition
to engarland together songs that have touched the heart —
chants that have wakened valor — fables that have exploited
truth — maxims that have worded justice. There was reason
enough for this before yet printing or types were known,
and when some Homer — whose notes we shall find by and by,
a-thrill along these pages — lifted up his voice to gathering
crowds, that he might bring together his chants, and the
chants of many another, to round out the composite tales
about Troy, Helen, and Agamemnon.

Again, when manuscripts were fairly plentiful, and printed
leaves — more timorously than now — began to show them-
selves, there was abundant reason why those who could not
command numerous books, or the songs of numerous singers,
should desire — between two covers — a taste of many. Hence
came "garlands," Analecta Veterum, and such Recueil of old
talk and story, with Dictes and Sayings^ as tempted our first
English printer Caxton.

But if the paucity of books, and the old dearness of them,

provoked the assemblage of their best parts into manageable



and purchasable form, what, pray, shall be said for the mass-
ing of good reading qualities under one set of covers, in
these days when books pave our highways, and are so lowered
to the penny's worth — as to make old bookmakers blush ?

Only this — that readers cannot wrestle with the ever-
increasing multitude of authors, from cover to cover, and
so must plead for some such segregation of their best parts
or chapters as will permit one to test their winningest fea-
tures, without being muddled or overrun by their throng.
And, whereas in times gone by, the costliness of books
demanded wise selections, and excerpta from them — so, now,
their damaging cheapness and multitude make readers cry
out for some winnowing process that shall spare us confu-
sion of tongues, and bait us with tempting flavors.

Of Collects in General and this in Particular.

Whether the present purveyors of the tokens and speci-
mens of that great literary "spread" — which began with
earliest history, and which, we fear, will outlast us all —
have always judged wisely, who shall say ? No two lovers
of flowers and of woodcraft will bring home the same spoils
from whatever great reaches of field and forest. 'Tis well
there should be differences ; what is needful only, is that
choice should be fairly representative of growth and bloom ;
that there should be no wanton neglects — no petulant reti-
cence — no slavish subjection to special fads of color or of
form. And though it may well happen that some dainty
critical observers may find somewhat in these collectanea which
shall give them qualms, yet nothing, I think, will be found
which has not at some past date had its eager readers, and
so given a tinge of its coloring (whether melodramatic, or
flighty, or illogical) to the large literary complexion of its

Why may I not liken these books — light to the hand and
sparkling in print — to one of those great megaphones,, with


which the reporters on Cuban ships have made us familiar,
set up to catch, through whatever storm or shine, a world of
sounds, coming from afar ; and which, with ear-tubes (like our
lines of type) are judiciously adjusted to hold and treasure
only those sweet or strong notes, which carry in them comfort
or wisdom ?

Just what rules of progression and of selection may have
governed the providers of this enwrapment of literary treas-
ures it is not needful to set forth; indeed, methinks one should
enjoy it all the more, knowing only that love and respect and
care and a good sound conscience have gone to the choosings.
I do not want to foreknow by what elaborate scheme of search
the seeker after floral beauties is to govern his steps : 'twould
weaken interest if he said loudly and presumingly, " I shall go
only into such or such well-known fields, or grand domains,"
and so miss of a hundred quiet haunts which a more plodding
and modest wanderer might love better. By all odds, I liave
a happier confidence in those seekers for the jewels of thought
or feeling who do not scorn broad thoroughfares — known of
all men — along whose dusty and beaten waysides many poor
souls (as needs must be) gather up their most delightsome

Keep your doors shut, you mincers of phrase and misers of
learning I Slaver as you will, over your fleshpots of Egypt :
there grow outside of your palaces, and your shaven terraces,
— pot-herbs, daisies, small-fruit, red roses, — that we love and
will evermore cherish, though all the critics in the world gird
at us with their pedagogic rods !

Early Foregatherings.

In all those early records, which every explorer and every
flower gatherer on the fields of literature must broach, there
are gods and demigods, fairies, spirits of evil and of good —
a Jupiter, a Pan, a Vulcan, an Eros, — these, or somewhat to
correspond with these. So, too, there are courts of paradise,


where celestial beatitudes reign ; and pits of darkness, where
Evil wallows in some one of its many lairs. Long before
Christian records begin, there are in letters — Coptic, Baby-
Ionic, Semitic (how shall we describe them ?) — records of
great and benign influences that shot rays of joy, of hope, of
warning over the minds and thought of created beings, and
soothed or darkened their journey along the multitudinous
ways of life. Always a " great white throne " has arisen out
of the dimness that veiled the beginnings, — which was the
eternal symbol of what was good and what was true, — and
always this great throne (perhaps by reason of its vastness
and solidity) cast a shadow — its negative, its opposite —
which represented the bad. These are the eternal com-
batants ; these cry out, now with hope and now with warning,
from all the history and all earnest utterance of a bewildered
and struggling humanity. Traditions, myths, fantasies, give
their twists to the great story (as different narrators will vary
the wordings or lights and shadows of a tale), but always the
great counter-currents of dark and white dominate the record ;
and literature, in its largest sense, is the weaving or unwind-
ing of those counter-threads — white or black — which guide
the march or feed the courage of all those who toil amid the
pitfalls where darkness frowns, toward the Delectable Moun-
tains where brightness reigns.

First things are not always the best things : and I can con-
ceive that there may be those ease-loving readers who will
falter as they glimpse the pale lights which in such chronologic
fasciculus of letters — filter through Vedic hymns, or the
teachings of the Upanishads — notwithstanding the wordy
aids and enlightenments of a Miiller or Monier- Williams. Nor
does the light upon Hindu or Persian fable and Hebraic wis-
dom beam only through the kindly words of translators and
expositors : the poetic work of many a modern has found its
excuse and its warmest glow in the adornment and illustration
of misty Orientalisms — as the reader of these volumes will find.


What should one ask for better than the masculine measure
and swing of Matthew Arnold's verse to put a glory upon the
old Persian tradition of Sohrab and Rustam? And who with
an easier pace, or a more amiable and sugared dalliance, than
Sir Edwin Arnold's, can set us upon the track of the domes-
ticities of Buddha — all laid bare in the multiplied and prettily-
refracted " Light of Asia " ?

Even Tubal Cain — first of forgers and workers in metal —
who belongs to Bible story by so short a genealogy as would
shock a colonial dame — finds in our record a blazon of fire-
sparks and an echo of booming hammers in one little verselet
of Charles Mackay.

Miss Yonge, too, who forty years since made all good
young women bow to her " Heir of Redclyffe," has done us a
pleasant service in stretching the broidery of her afiluent and
engaging narrative over many a rescript of religious motif,
dating from Bethlehem, and in revision of such Plutarchian
stories as that of " Damon and Pythias."

These names float us out upon those classic tides which are
surging through many pages of these volumes, and which will
surge through the thought of scholarly men and women for a
great many decades to come.


What large or open-minded reader does not, odd whiles,
want to steep himself — were it only for a half-hour — in the
old Greek tales of Helen, Ajax, and Achilles? No Spanish
fights in these lusty days of ours will make the Trojan stories
and war gods grow dim. Such glimpses of Homeric battle as
filtrate through those pages of Pope or the English prose of
Conington, in this — our mosaic of letters — are, I should say,
the least quantum of classicism which will put a reader well
" up " in the sort of war news that is good for centuries.
Translation counts for more in our Greek or Latin foregather-
ings, than in those misty Orientalisms, where a happy wordist


by a mere sniff at the roses of Bendemeer will load their
petals with sententious talk, and crowd the "Gulistan" of Sadi
with poetic dreams and the veiled wisdom of the prophets.
There is more need in Epictetus or in Marcus Aurelius to pin
ourselves to the line ; and so of the poetry and legends which
cry out for the simplicities in which they were bred — except
indeed (as in Swinburne's " Atalanta " ) a man can immerse a
Greek tradition in musical and imaginative felicities of his
own, and so float it to a fame of its own. Many another bit
of translated classicism sings its own Saxon way; and will
wear its English warble — away from the Greek — for many a

Ovid himself would, I think, have nodded approval of the
fashion in which Dryden has dashed into his dulcet and daring
couplets the old story of Ganymede and of the hirsute Poly-
phemus ; while Professor Conington, in his repeat of Dido's
sufferings, has narrated in very significant prose all the woes
of wanderers and of widows.

And what a beautiful byplay of modern lights and shadows
is thrown upon all that classic period — whether Attic or
Roman — which is represented in this large mosaic ! There is
Shakespeare, with the great Achilles "lolling" on his couch, or
striding giant- wise over the lines of Troilus and Cressida ; and
Chaucer with his Englished Cresseide strewing a fire into
those loves and jealousies which makes the story wholly his
own. Walter Landor thrusts a British sword into the hand of
Menelaus, and a Saxon bitterness into his vengeful speech;
while poor Keats, catching first the Homeric story in the
language "loud and bold" of a brother Britisher, brilliantly
confesses —

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken.

And what shall be said of those American interpretations
of the fable of the Golden Fleece, or of the witching work of
Circe, drawn from the " Wonder Book " of Hawthorne, to


illumine these pages ? For myself, I hardly ever give a half-
hour to the refreshment of one of his stories about Jason, or
abouu the Gorgon, but I have a regret that the same master
had not remodeled for us all the Parallel Lives of great Greeks
and Romans, and so given to us a Puritan Plutarch.

As the classic din recedes, or loses itself in that other din
which belongs to the downfall of Rome and the struggles of
Christianism against Paganism, — all made noisy and brilliant
by the pen that wrought the startling and overnaked scenes of
"Quo Vadis," — the Horatian odes fall away from notice; and
so do stories of the brave Horatius and of the rueful Virginia.
Then, in our easy-going chronology, the great brazen gates
swing open upon mediaeval times.


But here there be Christian preludes or interludes which
take on Latin form. The " Dies Irae," very properly, gets its
place in vivid translation on these pages ; and a certain Ber-
nard de Morlaix (by the gracious aid of a warm-blooded Eng-
lish hymnologist, who made music for " Jerusalem, the
Golden ") has place in our record ; and his Christian exultation
wells up serenely through Latin "longs and shorts," as he
dwells, in beatific vision, on —

The home of fadeless splendor

Of flowers that fear no thorn,
Where they shall dwell as children

Who here as exiles mourn.

Shall we loiter here for a scaling of the walls of Jerusalem
on the wonderful rhetorical ladders of Gibbon, or shall we put
back to the Levantine seas, in the days when the old blind
Doge Dandolo officered his whole fleet of Venetian galleys, and
laid low the power and the pride of Byzantium ? We can find
a rich story of both in the ensuing volumes — either at the
hand of that august historian of the Roman Empire whom we


have named, or at the second-hand of that adroit and indus-
trious lady (Mrs. Oliphant), who has just now died in her
Scottish home, and who has made a vast number of eager
readers beholden to her for her pleasant pictures of the makers
of Venice, and of the makers of Florence. Again, there comes
to mind as we turn over the mediaeval pages that rare tale of
"The Crusaders," where Saladin the Great and Richard the
Lion-hearted try forces, and with a large chivalry weigh and
admit their respective merits — as a Sampson might or a

The same master romancer takes us upon a trans-conti-
nental gallop into the dungeons of middle France, where a
rancorous, ungainly Louis XL (whom we know as Sir Henry
Irving, with Satan's mask on him) tortures his prisoners,
and rages in the background of those Burgundian scenes,
where the blithe and adventurous Quentin Durward comes to
his own. It is a large refreshment on book journeys through
the Middle Ages to come upon such bouncing romance — as
shrewd, as lavish of byplay, as piquant, and as entertaining
as the charmingest novel of to-day or yesterday I

Then there are Romola and Savonarola : who should not
wish for a new half-hour's snatch of dalliance with that
gracious, filial, high-minded daughter of the Bardi — out-
growing her girl love for a recreant Greek — and posing with
Christian altitudes amid the terrors of a plague ? Savonarola,
notwithstanding all the eloquent preachments which Villari
tells us of, — under the shadows of the Piazza dei' Signori, —
made no nobler figure, nor was blessed with a serener trust.

I name here, too, that story of King Arthur (by Sir
Thomas Malory) which belongs to these times, and has pre-
sentment in these volumes — with the swift realism of flesh
and blood reflected upon it by the living lines of Tennyson's
"Merlin and Vivien."

Chaucer, too, is now in regal presence, and strews those
pearls of " Canterbury Tales " which will be caught up always,
and strung anew, on every page where jewels are gathered.


Nor shall that quiet, serene book-lover and God-lover Thomas
a Kempis be forgotten. A little man, of quiet conversation,
placid, kindly, with soft brown eyes — by virtue of his simple
rules of life, living tiU ninety ; genial and plodding ; copying
psalms and singing them, in days when Europe was all ablaze
with the fire that Huss had kindled in Bohemia ; writing
that little book about the " Imitation of Christ "(as most author-
ities agree) and putting into it such teachings of love, of
self-denial, of charity, as to make of it a sort of Christian
handbook of the heart — more widely translated and printed
than any book, save the Bible. '

Dante and Boccaccio will, or should, have their pictures
here ; but we must hie away to that wider field of vision,
where those English letters which make up the bulk of
these volumes begin to pile together monumentally — in
shapes of history or fiction — and when the art of writing
deploys its forces under the governance of rhetorical law,
and dares not any longer to exploit itself, — as in the case
of Thomas a Kempis — in a joyous ebullition of Christian
faith and love.

Later Times.

It was some time within a month of our present writing
that the Hon. John Morley (one of the most scholarly among
British political leaders) said, in inaugurating a free library in
some Scottish town, — " The purpose [of good reading] is to
bring sunshine into our hearts, and to drive moonshine out of
our heads " — to which we say, bravo ! for Mr. Morley.

There was a good deal of head moonshine in the days when
Madame Scudery was writing, and when Rousseau, Voltaire,
Diderot and the rest were formulating designs for remodel-
ing human nature. Cervantes, indeed, had indulged at a
thwack upon earlier " moonshiners," with a better result than
Don Quixote found in his battle with the windmills (some-
where set forth on these pages of ours) : everybody knows how
that battle came out ; and yet Spanish knighthood still capari-


sons itself to fight — vainly — against the revolution of forces
which are set a-going, and kept a-going, by all the winds of
Heaven !

If there was a good deal of moonshine in the " Midsummer
Night's Dream " that found its way into the heads of readers,
and played there with Thisbe, through " a hole in the wall," it
was an imported Greek moonshine ; while all up and down,
from the pages of this play actor of Stratford, there streams a
sunshine that is altogether English, and is good for English
and American hearts. And what shall we say of that other
master of English verse, who gave his bolstering to the repub-
lican measures of Cromwell ? What would such a set of vol-
umes be worth without their dashes, here and there, of the
high organry of Milton, or without some masterly " stops "
at command of him who " set up " " Comus," and who, so
wisely and deftly, governed all the harmonies of poetic con-

It counts not a little toward the values of such an assem-
blage of chapters and fragments as this series of books presents,
that one — within the limits of a morning's reading — can
make direct and easy comparisons between those we know and
honor. On one page, for instance, we delight in the rhetorical
roll and lingual felicities of Dry den; and on the next we fasten
upon the grip and sparkle and burning brevities of Pope :
here, it is Milton who convoys us, under classic oar, into the
reddened scenes of Pandemonium ; and by the twirling of a
few leaves only, we cool ourselves in the quietudes of Words-
worth's " Tintern Abbey," or in the rush of Southey's story of
the " Waters at Lodore. "

Without rising from our chair, we can match the humor of
" John Gilpin " with the fun of Thomas Hood — clinking them
together — as suspicious shopkeepers clink doubtful coin.
Again, it will be profitable (and easy) for those brooding over
such books as these, to weigh the dignified and simple meas-
ures of Hume's " Episodes of Early English History " against
Macaulay's impassioned advocacy of Whiggism, or the rhetori-


cal lusters of Froude's learning and aplomb. As for Gibbon,
we shall find here a taste — if only a taste — of those magnilo-
quent and sonorous periods on which his story of the " Fall of
Rome " caracoled in stately fashion to its end.

Here, again, in a platoon of pages — not too many, as
whoso reads shall find — are set forth two or three great crises

Online LibraryAndrew LangThe International library of famous literature : selections from the world's great writers, ancient, mediaeval, and modern, with biographical and explanatory notes and with introductions (Volume ONE (1)) → online text (page 1 of 44)