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of the limitations of the method, never becomes
a materialist in his attitude, is always aware
of the supreme importance of personality
and the intangible reality of inspiration.
His authors, however grouped, remain men
with hearts, temperaments, loves, hates and
dreams, not merely the slaves of literary
influences or the media of tendencies. It is
a long time since I have read a work of literary
history which was at once so sensible, so
fruitful of interesting conclusions, and so
crowded with amusing quotations and frag-
ments of information from the most diverse

Edward Thomas

^T IT THEN Edward Thomas was killed
^y\/ his first book of poems was in the
* T press. There remained over an
equal number of verses, which have now been
collected in a volume, Last Poems. There is
nothing surprising in the book. Every poem
has its kindred amongst those already printed.
The spirit of the man is the spirit already
familiar : a spirit melancholy but not morbid,
conscious of the impermanence of life, but

L 161

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keenly enjoying every transient beauty of the
world, and consoled for every winter by the
renewal of every spring. There are no " songs
of action " ; wars and houses, men and flowers
are all contemplated quietly, sub specie aeter-
nitatis ; the metres flag and droop ; the hues
are sober and the sounds subdued. Yet,
though a poet very uniform in tone and equable
in temperament, Thomas had a genius for
observation that always gave variety to his
writing : he was always looking at things,
and never twice at exactly the same thing.
No man of his time knew and loved the South
of England better than he. And the things
he loved were the things commonest in life
and most unusual in literature : waggons
coming down a lane, raindrops on dust,
nettles in a farmyard corner, ordinary hedges
and ordinary fields. He never sought for the
spectacular ; any English landscape under
any sky of spring or autumn was enough for
him. He knew all our trees, flowers and birds :
the sedge-warbler as well as the thrush,
agrimony and dog's mercury as well as daffodil
and hyacinth. And all awoke emotion in him,
with the result that even the slightest and
the most limping of his poems and some of
them move very awkwardly indeed have
an odour about them that is peculiar and a
truth that never fails to interest. On any
page you come across a picture like this,
imbued with unforced feeling as this is :

Edward Thomas

The thrush on the oak top in the lane
Sang his last song, or last but one ;
And as he ended, on the elm
Another had but just begun
His last ; they knew no more than I
The day was done.

Then past his dark white cottage front

A labourer went along, his tread

Slow, half with weariness, half with ease ;

And, through the silence, from his shed

The sound of sawing rounded all

That silence said.

Or again, But These Things Also :

But these things also are Springs
On banks by the roadside the grass
Long-dead that is greyer now
Than all the Winter it was ;

The shell of a little snail bleached
In the grass ; a chip of flint, and mite
Of chalk ; and the small birds' dung
In splashes of purest white :

All the white things a man mistakes
For earliest violets
Who seeks through Winter's ruins
Something to pay Winter's debts,

While the North blows, and starling flocks

By chattering on and on

Keep their spirits up in the mist,

And Spring's here, Winter's not gone.


Books in General

I can conceive a man's objecting that some
lines here are ungainly and unmusical ; but
the man is blind who will miss the direct
observation, and dense who will miss the
subtlety and tenderness of the feeling. In
Aspens, one of the four or five best things
here, even the technical objection cannot be
urged :

All day and night, save Winter, every weather,
Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop,

The aspens at the cross-roads talk together
Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.

Out of the blacksmith's cavern comes the ringing
Of hammer, shoe and anvil ; out of the inn

The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing
The sounds that for these fifty years have been.

The whisper of the aspens is not drowned,
And over lightless pane and footless road,

Empty as sky, with every other sound

Not ceasing, calls their ghosts from their abode,

A silent smithy, a silent inn, nor fails

In the bare moonlight or the thick-furred gloom,

In tempest or the night of nightingales,
To turn the cross-roads to a ghostly room.

And it would be the same were no house near.

Over all sorts of weather, men, and times,
Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear

But need not listen, more than to my rhymes.

Edward Thomas

Whatever wind blows, while they and I have

We cannot other than an aspen be,
That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves,

Or so men think who like a different tree.

The last line is characteristic. There are
men who like a different tree, and like it so
exclusively that they refuse to appreciate the
aspen. There are also people so meticulous
in their demands for perfection of phrasing or
music that they allow carelessness such as
Thomas was habitually guilty of to obscure
the frequent music of his verse and its invari-
able fullness of content. In urging those who
do not yet know his work to buy this book and
the other, I would recommend them, before
reading, to clear their mind of all preposses-
sions, not to think, " How would Shelley or
Shakespeare have written this ? " not to be
on the watch for flaws and cacophonies ; but
at least at the first reading, to surrender them-
selves, to come to him receptive for what he
can give. I don't think they will be dis-
appointed : he had gifts not exactly to be
paralleled elsewhere, and a personality unlike
any other in our literature.

That personality has already been sufficiently
described in these pages. It was not one
the memory of which dims with the passage
of time. No man who knew Edward Thomas


Books in General

will fail to retain to the end of his days the
vivid image of that tall, contemplative man,
so undemonstrative yet, in his manner, so
impressive. His character is written in his
verses. He was an unworldly man, and little
was necessary to his content. He summarised
his wishes in For These, not one of the best of
his poems, but sincere :

An acre of land between the shore and the hills,
Upon a ledge that shows my kingdoms three,
The lovely visible earth and sky and sea,
Where what the curlew needs not, the farmer tills.

A house that shall love me as I love it,
Well-hedged and honoured by a few ash-trees
That linnets, greenfinches and goldfinches
Shall often visit and make love in and flit :

A garden I need never go beyond

Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one

Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun :

A spring, a brook's bend, or at least a pond :

For these I ask not, but, neither too late
Nor yet too early, for what men call content,
And also that something may be sent
To be contented with, I ask of fate.

Fate robbed him. He enlisted, went to
France, and died. But in his last year of life,
almost unconsciously, he registered what one
1 66

The Lost Classics

may frigidly call his " conclusions " about
English landscape and his own feeling for it,
and registered them immortally. Until the
war he was a sensitive, but largely a frustrate,
student of Nature who wrote prose which
just failed of a wide, and might have just
failed of a permanent, appeal. But he broke
into verse, and his verse will carry his prose
and the memory of himself down the centuries.
It may not be the greatest poetry. But it is
exact in expression and true and sweet in
feeling : it is as English as anything that
exists, and there are preserved in it a thousand
English sights and sounds which have per-
fumed the souls of men, but which have never
entered literature before.

The Lost Classics (1916)

THE other evening, I heard a man
remark that he hoped that a few
dons had been sent with the fleet
to the Dardanelles in view of the possibility
of rescuing ancient manuscripts from the
city, if and when it was attacked. It is
improbable that the Admiral has any academic
A.D.C.'s attached to his staff for Special
Service. But it is quite possible that there
are a few dons in the Dardanelles contingent
of the Naval Brigade (" Churchill's Army "),


Books in General

in which the company (in no detrimental
sense) is understood to be very mixed. If so,
and if an occupation of Stamboul does give
them opportunities of exploration, they may
find something. For romantic rumours have
always been afloat as to piles of " lost classics "
stowed away in crypts and lofts and mosque
libraries, jealously guarded from the Giaour
eye like the Secrets of the Harem. There
may be nothing in it. The eloping Byzantines
who came to Italy with bags full of texts in
the fifteenth century may have brought
away everything that was worth bringing.
Ecclesiastical vandalism was not a peculiarly
Western product, and a race of monks who
expurgated the Anthology according to their
own canons not merely of morality, but also
of taste, may have destroyed by the time of
Constantine XII. much that existed in the
time of Constantine I. It is, however, worth
remembering what we frequently forget
that a really considerable portion not merely
of the minor, but also of the major classics
is still " lost." We may have Homer, Virgil,
and Plato virtually in bulk, and quite enough
Euripides to keep Professor Murray busy ;
but an enormous amount of literature, famous
in its day, has disappeared.

The greater part of the Greek drama and
poetry has gone. Possibly the pre-Homeric
songs and hymns were not known even to

The Lost Classics

the Greeks of classical times ; and unless,
which is doubtful, the " exponents " of " oral
tradition " were in the habit of taking and
burying gramophone records they are beyond
recall. But the epic-writers who, in Mr.
Kipling's elegant phrase, smote the bloomin'
lyre after Omer, have also gone. We have
some names. There was the Little Iliad,
the Nostoi of Agias, and Arctinus' Sack of
Troy ; and there were epics by Strasinus and
Eugammon of Cyrene. Hesiod alone remains
of the Boeotian epic-writers, and we may be
forgiven a sentimental regret for the loss of
the works of Epimenides, the Cretan Rip van
Winkle and Old Parr, who went to sleep for
half a century and lived altogether for nearly
three hundred years, being very deservedly
deified for his feats. Only scraps remain of
Callinus (who is said to have invented elegiacs),
of Tyrtaeus (le Begbie de ses jours), and of the
great lyrist Alcman. The reputation of Archi-
lochus of Paros, who flourished in the seventh
century before Christ, was still very great in
the days of the Roman Empire ; Longinus
(or whoever wrote the Treatise on the Sublime)
had a very high opinion of him, and Horace
and others speak of the poisonous power of
his satire, which is alleged to have driven
his successful rival in love to suicide. He
passed this valuable gift on to his celebrated
disciple Hipponax of Ephesus ; in this case
the victims were sculptors who had made too


Books in General

faithful an image of the bard. The immoral
moral poems of Theognis are gone like the
songs of Arion, that maritime Orpheus.
Anacreon and Sappho, famous as they are, we
have to take almost entirely on trust from
the ancients. What has been found of Sappho's
does not shake her reputation as one of the
greatest lyric poets in the world's history.
The works of her alleged suitor Alcaeus have
disappeared ; Stesichorus and " pure Simon-
ides " are in little better case. What we have
of Pindar is only a torso, if a sublime one.
Leonidas of Tarentum, the contemporary
and fellow-countryman of Theocritus, we know
only from a few exquisite things in the Anth-
ology. Almost the whole of the later lyric
poetry has vanished. Philetas of Cos was
reputed a prince of erotics. The fame of
young Archias spread over the whole Western
world while he was still in his 'teens. Then
there were Lycophron and Callimachus, whose
vast " output " is now represented by a small
residuum. He was both an Alexandrine and
a librarian ; but he came near perfection at
times, as in the well-known lament for Hera-
clitus, so perfectly translated by the late
William Cory. Meleager, whose own epigrams,
delicate and poignant, are amongst the bright-
est flowers in the Anthology, made a collection
of the best short poems of his own time and
the ages before him. We have not even that,
but only an expurgation of an expurgation

The Lost Classics

of it, with much of the original good verse
omitted, and a considerable amount of Byzan-
tine work added which can neither please the
taste nor edify the mind.

It is impossible here to go in detail into all
the departments of literature, but the losses
are everywhere great. Our history of the
Greek theatre is built on hearsay. Aristotle
knew, and considered as the root whence
Greek comedy sprang, a poem called Margites,
which was fathered on Homer, who had a
back of Baconian breadth. A few lines survive.
The first distinguished figure of the great
Attic tragedy was Phrynichus, who was
heavily fined for unmanning his audience by
the devastating terror of his Sack of Miletus.
His tragedies are lost. Of all the tragedies of
^Eschylus but a tenth or a twelfth survive ;
of Sophocles a still smaller proportion ; and
even of Euripides only a third is extant. Of
the other tragedians, Ion at least, whom
Aristophanes and others praised highly, would
be worth recovering. We have no plays by
Susarion, who perhaps founded the old comedy,
or by the very popular Cratinus and Eupolis ;
and of Aristophanes we are only acquainted
with a fifth. The comic playwrights of the
decadence, the pre-Socratic philosophers, the
early prose-writers, the orators, the historians
have all in great part perished. What, in
reality, were the prose and verse of Empedocles


Books in General

like ? Theopompus, the sardonic historian,
was mentioned in the same breath as Herodotus
and Thucydides. Many other historians of
great repute in all periods have disappeared ;
and those we do possess we possess only in
fragments. Some of the most valuable of
Plutarch's Lives have vanished. The greatest
loss from the political scientist's point of view
is undoubtedly that of the vast and exhaustive
account of various constitutions drawn up by
Aristotle and his pupils. They are said to
have collected and arranged particulars of no
fewer than a hundred and fifty of such con-
stitutions, the Polity of Athens being but one
from this vast array. " He made," as Sir
Frederick Pollock has said, " a full and minute
study of the existing constitutions of the
Greek cities, and thus collected a great body
of information and materials, unhappily lost
to us for the most part. And we regret the
loss all the more keenly in that we know how
accurate Aristotle was." Lastly, there are
the romances, books of travels, and pseudo-
scientific works. The Milesian tales were
collected and written down in Greek and trans-
lated into Latin. We have them in neither
tongue, nor the similar short stories emanating
from Ephesus, Cyprus, and elsewhere. The
familiar Widow of Ephesus is probably a
specimen. This tale has been told under
many skies. Pornographic tales are things
that the race does not " willingly let die,"

The Lost Classics

and from what we know of the epidemic
nature and persistence of this kind of story
it seems likely that, what with the mediaeval
French and Italian collections, not to speak
of the Arabian and Chinese tales, we are
familiar with more of the Milesian conies than
we are aware of. The origins of the Greek
novel cannot now be traced owing to the loss
of early fictions. Judging by the quality of
the novels (mostly about love and pirates)
that have been transmitted, we have not
suffered greatly by the disappearance of so
many of the later romances ; but some of the
collections of prodigies and wonders must
have been entertaining.

With the Latins losses are not so numerous,
nor could they be so important. Of Lucillus
the satirist, the friend of Scipio and the admired
of Horace, there remain but a few lines.
Another early lost poet is that P. Lucinius
Tegula, who was considered one of the first of
comic writers. He flourished about 200 B.C. ;
and Livy stirs our imaginations when he
relates how during the Macedonian War the
Decemvirs ordered a hymn by Tegula to be
sung all over Rome by thrice nine virgins.
The immediate reason was that everybody
had beep, alarmed by the birth of a pig with
a human head, a lamb with a pig's head,
a five-footed calf, and several hermaphro-
dites ; certainly an unusual crop. The


Books in General

greatest writers of the great Roman Age
survive bodily, but half Ovid's not very
delightful but extremely informative Fasti
have gone, and Tibullus is very incomplete ;
whilst there are many poets, highly praised
by Horace, Propertius, and others, who sur-
vive only in fragments or not at all. Amongst
these are Mark Antony's prolific son Julius ;
Titius Septimus ; Plotius, and Tucca, who
were given by Augustus the ticklish job of
editing and " cutting " Virgil after he was
dead ; Varius, whom Virgil commended to
Maecenas ; and above all perhaps C. Calvus
Licinius, who died before he was thirty, one
of the most famous men of his time.

Of Latin drama we possess only a skeleton :
a long list of " missing " could be given, but
Ennius, Naevius, and Accius will suffice. In
historical literature there are chasms every-
where. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say
that, were but the most familiar of them
filled up, our knowledge of Roman history
would be doubled, and our knowledge of the
outlying countries very much increased. What
we have of Livy is only a quarter of what
Livy wrote. Several books of Tacitus prob-
ably amongst the most engrossing are miss-
ing ; so also, in varying degrees, the works of
Cornelius Nepos, Sallust, old Cato, Suetonius,
Velleius Paterculus, Mucianus, Varro to men-
tion only the most familiar names. And so


The Lost Classics

on to the end of the catalogue. Much of the
miscellaneous work of the Empire has perished,
and a tear may at least be shed over the absent
portions of Petronius.

There may be nothing to be found in
Constantinople. The legend may also be
baseless that unique manuscripts are possessed
by the monks of Mount Athos, who so pleased
Gibbon by their mystical habit of staring at
their navels and seeing a great light. But
much of value may yet be recovered elsewhere.
After several barren centuries excavations,
principally in Egypt, have in the last twenty
or thirty years recovered a good deal. The
Polity of Athens (attributed to Aristotle) and
the Bibliotheque National speech of Hyperides
have come to light. Th^e poems of Bacchylides
made a " sensation " in 1897. M. Lefebvre's
fragments of Menander (thirteen hundred
lines) were quite enough to weaken the
dramatist's reputation in 1905 ; and since
then there have been beautiful fragments of
Sappho and a satyric drama by Sophocles,
an example of an art-form of which the
Cyclops of Euripides was the only specimen
we previously knew. All this while Drs.
Grenfell and Hunt, and other archaeologists,
have been disinterring vast masses of records
of small literary merit, but of immense value
for the light they shed upon social and economic
organisation and customs. But enormous


Books in General

scope for discovery remains, even outside
Egypt. As in Egypt anything of classical
Greece may lie, so in another place " lost "
Greek and Latin books of the best periods
may be hidden in abundance. " All that is
necessary," said a writer in the Classical
Review a few years ago, " in order to bring
about discoveries greater than those of Poggio
is for the Italian Government to refrain from
building an ironclad, and with the money thus
saved to dig up Herculaneum, where countless
papyri may still be preserved by the friendly
mud which enveloped the town before it was
overwhelmed by the torrents of lava on which
the squalid suburb of Resina now rests."
What digging has been done at Herculaneum
in the past has produced many fine bronzes,
marbles, and paintings, but the particular
Roman whose library has been unearthed had
an unfortunate and unaccountable penchant
for the works of Philodemus of Gadara, a
boring philosopher who would not have left
the world much the poorer had he run down
a steep place into the sea, like so many of his
fellow-citizens. But Vesuvius may have pre-
served much that man has destroyed. Even
a Chestertonian Optimist could scarcely hope
to recover from Herculaneum works written
after Herculaneum was buried. Yet almost
anything of the great Greek and Latin eras
may be there, and the Italian Government
can scarcely be congratulated on refusing


A Frenchman in England

(from parsimony) to do the digging itself
and (from jealousy) to allow foreigners to
undertake it. The expense would no doubt
be considerable, owing to the depth and
hardness of the deposits. But a few hundred
thousand pounds would probably be enough ;
and, at worst, an auction of the " finds "
would certainly recoup the Government. In
the last resort one might have thought that
there would have been enough wealthy persons
in the world interested in archaeological dis-
covery to put up the money even if the Italian
Government does insist as it insisted when
Professor Waldstein formulated his scheme
on keeping the " loot." But possibly not just
at present.

A Frenchman in England

LATE in the war there appeared in
Paris a book called Les Silences du
Colonel Bramble, by Andre Maurois.
It described an English mess in Flanders
from the point of view of a French interpreter,
attached. It was noticed in a few English
papers, including this one. All who saw it
recognised its peculiar qualities as an acute
if slight interpretation of England to France,
and there was a general demand that it
should be translated. The translation, or the
production, has taken rather a long time ;

M 177

Books in General

but at last the English version has appeared
under the title of The Silence of Colonel
Bramble. It is worth further commendation.

I do not know who M. Maurois is. Both
his prose and his verse testify to considerable
practice in the art of writing ; there is conclu-
sive evidence that he was himself an inter-
preter with the British forces ; and he knows
Englishmen and England more intimately,
and feels with them more sympathetically,
than any Frenchman who has recently written.
His mess is the mess of the Lennox, a Scotch
regiment. His principal characters are Colonel
Bramble, Major Parker, Dr. O'Grady, the
Scotch padre, and Aurelle, the Frenchman.
The doctor, an Irishman, talks and argues ;
the major, an educated man who affects
Philistinism, puts the sound conservative
case ; Aurelle reasons mildly in a liberal
way ; the padre tells tall stories ; the colonel
thinks that arguments are tedious, circulates
the bottle, and plays tunes on his gramophone,
the records of which he preserves with tender
solicitude. None of the arguments are con-
ducted very seriously by the arguers or
the author, but you get at the thoughts
under the words just as you get at the emotions
under the silences and the cynical chaff.
And the colonel though a Scot is repre-
sented as the most thoroughly English of the
lot. There is a warm argument about political

A Frenchman in England

institutions. The Irish doctor is alone, of
the British, provided with an explanation
and a defence of the British system. " The
English people," he says :

" who have already given the world Stilton
cheese and comfortable chairs, have invented
for our benefit the Parliamentary system.
Our M.P.'s arrange rebellions and coups d'etat
for us, which leaves the rest of the nation
time to play cricket. The Press completes
the system by enabling us to take our share
in these tumults by proxy. All these things
form a part of modern comfort, and in a
hundred years' time every man white, yellow,
red or black will refuse to inhabit a room
without hot water laid on, or a country
without a Parliament."

Aurelle defends Parliaments, and says that
England owes a great deal to the French
Revolution. In this the colonel sees one
element only, and an admirable one :

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