John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 1 of 29)
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[The names of translators are given in italics.']




Introductory Note 1

V^ Iliad. Bryant.

Meeting of Hector and Andromache 2

The Death of Hector 6

The Mourning for Hector . . . ... . . 19

Odyssey. Worsley.

Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus 22


Introductory Note . . 46

Martial Elegy. Campbell . 46


Introductory Note 48

To His Soul. Hay 48


Introductory Note 50

A ScoLiON OF Callistratus. Conington . . . .50

A ScoLiON OF Hybrias the Cretan. Campbell . . 51
The Swallow Song. Symonds . . ... .51


Introductory Note ........ 53

Winter. Symonds 53


Introductory Note .55

Hymn to Venus. Merivale 55

To A Loved One. Phillips 56

"Inter Ignes Luna Minores." Arnold . . . .57
To AN Uncultured Lesbian Woman. Symonds . .57

A Girl in Love. Moore 58

One Girl. Bossetti 58

To Evening. Appleton 59


Introductory Note .••••••• 60

Anacreontics. Moore.

Old Age 60



Tho Wiser Part 61

To a Swallow 62

Love's Assault 62

The Pet Dove 63

The Portrait . 65

Drinking- Song 66

Music and Love 67

Nature's Gifts * 68


Introductory Note 69

Danab and her Babe adrift. Symonds ... 70
On those who died at Thermopylae. Sterling . . 71

Introductory Note 72

First Pythian Ode. West 74

From Pindar's Fourth Pythian Ode. Myers . . 82

Introductory Note . . / 85

I Prometheus Bound. Mrs. Browning .... 88

Introductory Note 136

Antigone. Plumptre 138


Introductory Note 191

Heracles. Browning.

The Fate of Heracles . . 193

The Madness of Heracles 197

Alcestis. Browning 201


Introductory Note 249

The Birds. Frere . . . . . . • • 251

The Frogs. Frere ^ 286


Introductory Note 292

Extracts from the History. Rawlinson.

The Taking of Babylo^ 293

Persian Customs 29o

The Nile 297

Egyptian Customs 304

Crocodiles and the Hippopotamus 306

Sesostris 308

The Pyramid of Cheops . . . . • • • .312

The Battle of Marathon 314

Introductory Note ....«••• 319


Extracts from the History of the Peloponnesian War.

The Plague at Athens 320

Public Funeral at Athens ....... 327

The Siege of Plataea . , . r . , . 332

The Retreat from Syracuse .... ... 337


Introductory Note 350

Memorabilia. Dakyns.

Socrates and Aristodemus ....,,, 351

The Choice of Heracles ■....,.. 355

Socrates and Chaerecrates ....... 360

Anabasis. Dakyns.

The Battle of Cunaxa • . . 365

The First Glimpse of the Sea 368

Introductory Note . . . , , , , .371
Note on Socrates .....,,. 373
GoRGiAs. Jowett,

The True Politician 374

*-€rito. Jowett , , 377

'■?H:AEf)0. Jowett.

The Death of Socrates ........ 395

The Republic. Jowett.

The Ship of State 401

^ -TKe Allegory of the Cave 408


Introductory Note . 417

Oration on the Crown. Lord Brougham . . . . 418

Introductory Note 429

Idyl I. The Death of Daphnis. Calverley . . . 430
Idyl VII. Harvest Home. Calverley .... 435

Idyl XV. The Festival of Adonis. Arnold . . . 438
Introductory Note . . . ... . , . 444

TiMON OF Athens. Act. III. Sheldon .... 445

A Dialogue of the Dead. Sheldon .... 453

Pebegbinus. Sheldon 454


The idea of collecting and publishing represent-
ative selections of Greek literature is not a new one
with us of the twentieth century. Especially in the
later periods of the life of the Greeks and Romans
such selections were made in the Florilegia that have
come down to us, and in other earlier and later collec-
tions and compilations that are now lost. These were
made primarily for the use of students, but the needs
and tastes of other readers were also consulted.

The chief value of a good collection of specimens is
that a book of them gives, in concrete examples, a
summary view of the various sorts of literature. And
if the extracts are accompanied by suitable introduc-
tory biographical notes, wherein, with other informa-
tion, the relation of the different forms of literary
expression to each other and of their development are
duly set forth, we have in the work what is in effect a
useful illustrated history of literature. But with these
advantages we must not fail to recognize that there
are disadvantages in a book of selections of Greek
prose and poetry. These disadvantages are due, in
part, to the fact that the book is a book of extracts and
fragments, and, in part, to the fact that a book isstr^^
English readers can contain only translations. The
task of selecting the extracts, especially from a lit-
erature so abundant, varied, and rich as is Greek
literature, is at once easy and difficult. It is easy be-


cause of the great wealth of material at our disposal ;
difficult because of the necessity, for lack of space, of
omitting much that has as strong a claim to admission
as most that is actually admitted. Indeed, a dozen
books of Greek masterpieces might be prepared, each
one of which would be as representative as any of the
others. The chief disadvantage, then, of a single vol-
ume of selections, like the present one, is that it must
be incomplete. Extracts and fragments for the most
part can alone be given, and fragments, though inter-
esting in themselves, can afford no idea of the com-
plete works from which they are taken. Furthermore,
Greek literature itself, owing to the marvellous or-
ganic development through which it came into being,
is, as it were, itself a literary whole, and a book of
minor extracts, being in itself only a fragment of some-
thing greater, can hardly be completely satisfying.

The fact that a book intended for English readers
must be a collection of translations is likewise a disad-
vantage. " No work of genius," as Mr. Lowell says,
" can be adequately translated, because every word of
it is permeated with what Milton calls ' the precious
life-blood of a master spirit,' which cannot be trans-
fused into the veins of the best translation." No
translation of a piece of literary art can ever be en-
tirely satisfactory. The original work has a distinct
individuality that it is impossible to reproduce, an in-
dividuality which is determined not only by the sub-
stance of thought embodied in it, but by the aesthetic
form in which it is cast and the language in which
this thought finds expression. Indeed, a perfect trans-
lation is as impossible as the duplication of an individ-
uality, and approximations to perfect translation are
difficult in proportion to the richness and complexity


of the original. A great painting may be copied, —
translated, as it were ; but even here, where the me-
dium of translation is the same as that which was used
in the original, color and drawing, how inadequate and
disappointing the result ! Still more is this the case
when the medium of translation is something wholly
different from the original medium, as when a work in
one language is translated into another of alien spirit
and genius. In all translations something is lost,
something is added. If all the thoughts of the original
are preserved, something of the color, form, atmos-
phere necessarily disappears ; and when the transla-
tion is made from Greek into a language like English,
— at once rich and poor, brilliant and bizarre, parti-
colored and bald, each word in its vocabulary sur-
charged with manifold meanings and associations, — it
is inevitable that even at the hands of the most com-
petent and careful of translators much should be im-
ported into the translation that was not in the original,
the language of which is, above all, simple, direct,
vivid, " fitting aptest words to things," only the trans-
lucent veil of thought, not its cumbrous garment.

But translations have been made, and many of
them are as successful as the limitations and conditions
of the problem will allow. The requisites of what
may be called a successful translation are twofold :
not only scholarship to know, and fully and delicately
to appreciate, all that was in the original — substance
of thought, form, tone, color ; but also Creative literary
power, often the poetic gift, so to render the original
into English phrase that it may prodl^ce on the un-
learned modern reader the entire effect, so far as may
be, that it produced on the readers for whom it was
first designed. In translations to be included in a


book of masterpieces these two conditions should be
fulfilled, and when we have at our command versions
by masters in English expression, great poets and
prose writers of the time, these should be chosen in
preference to others. Such choices have been made
in the selections included in this volume.

Though all translation, certainly from the aesthetic
point of view, is disappointing and inadequate, there
are other points of view from which good translations
are of the highest importance and value. For persons
who have not easy access to the original fountains,
they are convenient as a sort of substitute for those
clear springs of utterance. They swiftly bring the
modern reader at least to the crude thought of the
original, to the bare facts there recounted, and where
these are, as so often, thoughts of wisdom and facts of
vast significance, their value is incontestable. Perhaps
one may not go quite so far as Emerson in saying that
" What is really best in any book is translatable, —
any real insight or broad human sentiment," remem-
bering Emerson's other saying, " I confide in your
scholarly character that you spurn translations and
read Greek." It still remains true that the best
translations preserve for such as read with open and
discerning minds very much " that was in their ori-
ginals to enlarge, liberalize, and refine the mind.*'
Some English translations, too, have a value which is
not dependent upon their relation to their originals.
They gain this by their own native charm, being
themselves English classics. Such is Pope's Miady
of which Bentley said, " It is a pretty poem, but
must not be called Homer." Paraphrases of this
character are of course in no sense substitutes for the
original. All translations, however, whether mere


echoes, or whether fairly successful and adequate or
the contrary, if they possess an independent literary
qualit}^ have the merit of guiding the sympathetic
and ambitious reader to the original. It is to be
hoped that this will be the outcome for many readers
of these pages.

In the present volume the attempt has been made,
and in my opinion happily made, to group together a
considerable number of representative passages, each
of distinct intrinsic interest, from Greek poetry and
prose, mainly of the classical age, in the best available
translations ; the translations, so far as possible, come
from the hands of acknowledged masters of English
speech. The selections from each author are accom-
panied by brief biographical sketches and other notes
in which the place of the author in Greek literature
is sketched, and other pertinent information is given.

We have here representation of nearly all the classes
of extant Greek poetry. Three memorable passages
from the Iliad which recount scenes in the life of
Hector and the mourning for him (in Bryant's trans-
lation), followed by one book of the Odyssey — Odys-
seus and Polyphemus — (in Worsley's version) open
the volume and give us a glimpse of epic poetry.
What we call lyric poetry is represented in selections
from Tyrtaeus and Archilochus, in three interesting
specimens of Scolia, and in entire poems or fragments
of Alcaeus, Sappho, Simonides of Ceos, and Pindar.
Then follow Mrs. Browning's Prometheus Bound of
Aeschyhis and Plumptre's Antigone of Sophocles, each
entire. These, with selections from the Mad Hera-
cles and nearly the whole of the Alcestis of Euripides,
in Mr. Browning's transcripts, stand for Greek tra-


gedy. Scenes from tlie Birds and the Frogs of
Aristophanes, the two most important of the plays of
this writer, in Frere's paraphrases, show the reader
Greek comedy at its best.

Greek classical prose, on the other hand, is repre-
sented, first, by short extracts from the historians
Herodotus and Thucydides, and from Xenophon, the
essayist and bright story-teller, with a few scenes
from the pages of Plato, poet and philosopher in one,
Jowett's classic versions being used for Thucydides
and Plato. Several of these passages from Xenophon
and Plato have reference to that most unique and
striking personality in ancient thought, the Athenian
Socrates. Then follows, in Lord Brougham's spirited
rendering, a brief extract from the speech of Demos-
thenes On the Crown^ a speech of which David Hume
said "that it is the most perfect production of the
human intellect." The poetry of the post-classical
age is represented by three of the Idyls of Theocritus,
and by eight or ten of the little pieces which have
been, though incorrectly, ascribed to Anacreon. The
book closes with three selections from Lucian, a prose
writer of the second century of our era, who, in his
satirical Dialogues^ marks a new departure in litera-
ture and seems in many ways to link together the
ancient and the modern world.

This volume and other books like it will appeal to
readers of various classes. We may read literature
for the information on matters of fact that it affords,
or for the aesthetic pleasure and quickening that it
yields, or for the new light it casts on human life, or
for its effect upon our manner of thinking and upon our
expression of thought ; we may read it also as students


Njf great achievements in thought, or as lovers of the
beautiful, the knowledge of which elevates and ennobles
life, of things that " soothe the cares and lift the
thoughts of men." The reasons why Greek literature
in particular, which is represented in this volume, has
this„.universal appeal, are numerous. The literature^
of the Greeks, in its varied types, in its perfection of
form, and in the richness and fruitfulness of its con-
tent, was the most significant contribution made by
the ancient world to civilization. It impressed itself
on Rome, both in the models it furnished and in the
ideas it conveyed, and the rediscovery of it after the
Dark Ages was one of the chief causes of that new
birth or awakening of the human spirit which in its
results means the modern world. The chief instru-
ment of the liberal education of the people of Rome
and Byzantium, it became not long after the Re-
naissance one of the most important elements in the
systems of the higher education as these were framed
on the Continent and in England. Its influence, then,
has been both direct and indirect in contributins: to
the creation of that great unseen world of ideas and
ideals in which all generous souls now live and long
have lived, and will live in time to come. It is im-
possible for us to know this world or to know ourselves,
who are a part of it, or our work, which is conditioned
by it, without some knowledge of the sources from
which arose this mighty fabric, which

" like a dome of many colored g-lass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity."

Greek literature owes its commanding place in the
realm of the spirit to several causes. It is the ade-
quate expression in uttered words — as Greek art is
the expression in plastic forms — of ideals of thought.


The thought is large and free and fine and enlighten-
ing, beholding the things of the spirit as they are,
" steadily " and " whole," and the expression of the
thought is as perfect as human speech can make it,
helped as this expression here is by a language that
is marvellous and unmatched in its power, delicacy,
and range. Greek poetry is thus what Wordsworth
says all poetry is, —

" Wisdom married to immortal verse."

Here is above all a noble originality. Practically
everything in Greek poetry, forms of art and themes,
and for that matter almost everything in European
literature, is original in Greece, and so far as we know
has no organic or derivative connection with anything
outside of Greece, except now and then some minor
matter or motif — as, perhaps, the strophic forms of
poetry from the Babylonians and flute music from
Phrygia. The Greeks inherited, it is true, from their
ancestors certain poetic impulses and forms, but as
Greek poetry dawns upon us in Homer it is something
wonderfully in advance of the crude Indo-European
beginnings such as we infer these to have been from
Sanskrit literature. The Greeks borrowed, it is also
true, but in borrowing they so transformed and re-
created what they borrowed, transfiguring it into a
larger life, that it seems to be and to the eye of the
soul really is a new creation. The author of the
Platonic Epinomis felt this truth, which finds illus-
tration not only in literature but in all other forms
of artistic expression, when he said, " Whatever the
Greeks take over from the foreign world they fashion
into something far more beautiful." Other nations
have struck out on new lines in many things, but in
none has the world ever beheld such a transcendent


wealth of original tendencies, impulses, products.
Think of what — to speak of forms of poetry only —
we owe in their beginnings to the Greeks : epic poetry,
lyric £oetry, tragedy, comedy. These comprise nearly
the whole of poetry, and these were not only initiated by
the Hellenic people, but were brought to such complete-
ness and perfection of growth that subsequent poetic
achievement, at least in the ancient world, was hardly
more than an intended imitation, or an unconscious
echo, of the voices and notes of Hellas.

But originality is not enough. Originality, except
in things themselves nobly worth while, may be a
bane and not a benefit. The originality of the Greeks
led to the production of works of poetic art which in
themselves, on their own intrinsic merits, stand su-
preme. It is the manifold and universal excellence
of the several kinds of Greek poetry — their perennial t

freshness, vigor, spontaneous vitality^ their lucidity -^r

and ^their enkindling light — more than anything else
that establishes the claim of Greek literature to its
high place in the traditions and elements of civiliza-

Greek literature — poetry, and to a certain extent
prose also — has these peculiar excellences to so signal
a degree, because it stood, as no other literature has
since stood, in intimate relations with the whole of
the life whence it sprung. Greek civilization had
a solidarity and unity, and withal a noble simplicity,
that gave to all parts and elements of it a vital inter-
relation and connection. Life, the whole life of the
city-state, and sometimes of the whole nation, was
the poet's inspirer, regulator, test. The poet was the
consummate product, the epitome, as it were, of his . *
age, not a wandering voice : he sang the true heart of


the people, whether in their higher aspirations or in
their grosser desires. And just here lies much of the
meaning of Greek poetry for the student of humanity.
It is the spontaneous and universal expression of the
life and character of the Greeks ; it is the compre-
hensive interpretation of the essential qualities of the
^acej) in it is sounded the diapason of the capacities
of this people ; it is, as Sir Richard Jebb has said,
the " index of their capacity." Literature, especially
poetry, is national life expressed, not, as to-day, an
individual's " criticism of life."

How does this relation show itself? In the first
place, in the uni versality ,q£ GrreekL_poetry, and in its
infinite variety within certain grand types, which had
been developed by the reaction of poets on their en-
vironment. Besides the great branches of poetic art,
with the scant fragments of which we are familiar, it
must be remembered that every class in society had
its peculiar form of poetic utterance. The originals
are gone, leaving only scant allusions to them in such
writers as Athenaeus and Plutarch : there was poetry
for each time of life, from cradle songs to dirges for
the aged dead ; each occupation had its peculiar poetry
— watchmen, waterdrawers, shepherds, weavers, har-
vesters, soldiers. There were choral songs, in part
rude and improvised, in part original artistic creations
of famous poets, in part re-fashioned by great poets
from rude popular originals. In the glad festivals of
Dionysus there were choral songs of great variety,
from two kinds of which Attic drama, both tragedy
and comedy, in an unprecedented development, drew
its origin, Plutarch tells of the hymn of invocation
to Dionysus, sung by the women of Elis at Olympia :
we read of the free and unrestrained songs of guilds


of roving beggars, sung at spring and autumn gather-
ings. It was songs of this character that gave rise to
the idea of responsive recitation, which when accom-
panied by intricate dance movements led to the highly
artistic framework of subsequent choral poetry with
its elaborate correspondences and symmetries. Espe-
cially interesting are the songs that were sung at
convivial gatherings ; traces of such songs are found
in all branches of the Hellenic stock, as the elegiac
verses of the lonians, and the scolia which were popu-
lar with the Athenians in the classical age. Exam-
ples of the latter are given in the following pages.

The .use of poetry in Greek education, indeed its
almost exclusive use here, is another evidence of the
intimate relation and interrelation of poetry and life.
Plato tells us that " Homer is the teacher of Greece."
At school, so soon as the boy could read he was intro-
duced to the poets, and the purpose of this study was
a moral one, having regard to the precepts of the
poets, and to the praises of the great men of old, " in
order," says Plato, " that the boy may emulate their
examples and strive to become such as they." Pre-
cisely the reasons that we of to-day urge for the study
of the Bible were by the Greeks urged for the study
of Homer, and many more. A striking passage in
Plato's Laics sets forth the practice of the Greeks of
his day in reference to the use of poetry in education :
" We have a great many poets writing in hexameter
[Homer, Hesiod, Theognis], trimeter [the dramatists
and others], and all sorts of measures — some who are
serious, others who aim only at raising a laugh ; and all
mankind declare that the youths who are rightly edu-
cated should be brought up in them and saturated
with them ; some insist that they should be constantly


hearing them read aloud, and always learning them,
so as to get by heart entire poets ; while others select
choice passages and long speeches, and make compen-
diums of them, saying that these ought to be commit-
ted to memory, if a man is to be made good and wise
by experience and learning of many things." The
object of this literary study, as already suggested,
was not to impart learned lore, to delight and en-
rich the imagination, to refine the taste, but to shape
character. Aeschines, the orator, expresses the same
conception when he says : " I recite these verses, for I
maintain that the reason why we learn by heart in

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 1 of 29)