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Chance gains, and humble thrift,
With shyness much like thieving,
No notice with the gift,
No thanks with the receiving.

Oh peasant, when thou starvest
Outside the fair domain,
Imagine there's a harvest
In every treasured grain.

Make with thy thoughts high cheer,
Say grace for others dining,
And keep thy pittance clear
From poison of repining.

There is an almost intolerable acuity of sadness in the last two mocking
verses, but how pretty and how tender the whole thing is, and how
gentle-hearted must have been the man who wrote it! The same tenderness
reappears in references to children of a larger growth, the boys of his
school. Sometimes he very much regrets the necessity of discipline, and
advocates a wiser method of dealing with the young. How very pretty is
this little verse about the boy he loves.

Sweet eyes, that aim a level shaft,
At pleasure flying from afar,
Sweet lips, just parted for a draught
Of Hebe's nectar, shall I mar
By stress of disciplinal craft
The joys that in your freedom are?

But a little reflection further on in the same poem reminds us how
necessary the discipline must be for the battle of life, inasmuch as each
of those charming boys will have to fight against evil -

yet shall ye cope
With worlding wrapped in silken lies,
With pedant, hypocrite, and pope.

One might easily lecture about this little volume for many more days, so
beautiful are the things which fill it. But enough has been cited to
exemplify its unique value. If you reread these quotations, I think you
will find each time new beauty in them. And the beauty is quite peculiar.
Such poetry could have been written only under two conditions. The first
is that the poet be a consummate scholar. The second is that he must have
suffered, as only a great mind and heart could suffer, from want of
affection.




CHAPTER XV

OLD GREEK FRAGMENTS


The other day when we were reading some of the poems in "Ionica," I
promised to speak in another short essay of Theocritus and his songs or
idyls of Greek peasant life, but in speaking of him it will be well also
to speak of others who equally illustrate the fact that everywhere there
is truth and beauty for the mind that can see. I spoke last week about
what I thought the highest possible kind of literary art might become. But
the possible becoming is yet far away; and in speaking of some old Greek
writers I want only to emphasize the fact that modern literary art as well
as ancient literary art produced their best results from a close study of
human nature.

Although Theocritus and others who wrote idyls found their chief
inspiration in the life of the peasants, they sometimes also wrote about
the life of cities. Human nature may be studied in the city as well as in
the country, provided that a man knows how to look for it. It is not in
the courts of princes nor the houses of nobles nor the residences of the
wealthy that such study can be made. These superior classes have found it
necessary to show themselves to the world very cautiously; they live by
rule, they conceal their emotions, they move theatrically. But the
ordinary, everyday people of cities are very different; they speak their
thoughts, they keep their hearts open, and they let us see, just as
children do, the good or the evil side of their characters. So a good poet
and a good observer can find in the life of cities subjects of study
almost as easily as in the country. Theocritus has done this in his
fifteenth idyl. This idyl is very famous, and it has been translated
hundreds of times into various languages. Perhaps you may have seen one
version of it which was made by Matthew Arnold. But I think that the
version made by Lang is even better.

The scene is laid in Alexandria, probably some two thousand years ago, and
the occasion is a religious holiday - a _matsuri_, as we call it in Japan.
Two women have made an appointment to go together to the temple, to see
the festival and to see the people. The poet begins his study by
introducing us to the chamber of one of the women.

GORGO. "Is Praxinoe at home?"

PRAXINOE. "Dear Gorgo, how long is it since you have been here! She is at
home. The wonder is that you have got here at last! Eunoe, come and see
that she has a chair and put a cushion on it!"

G. "It does most charmingly as it is."

P. "Do sit down."

How natural this is. There is nothing Greek about it any more than there
is Japanese; it is simply human. It is something that happens in Tokyo
every day, certainly in houses where there are chairs and where it is a
custom to put a cushion on the chair for the visitor. But remember, this
was two thousand years ago. Now listen to what the visitor has to say.

"I have scarcely got to you at all, Praxinoe! What a huge crowd, what
hosts of carriages! Everywhere cavalry boots, everywhere men in uniform!
And the road is endless; yes, you really live too far away!"

Praxinoe answers:

"It is all for that mad man of mine. Here he came to the ends of the earth
and took a hall, not a house, and all that we might not be neighbours. The
jealous wretch, always the same, ever for spite."

She is speaking half in jest, half in earnest; but she forgets that her
little boy is present, and the visitor reminds her of the fact:

"Don't talk of your husband like that, my dear girl, before the little
boy, - look how he is staring at you! - Never mind, Zaphyrion, sweet child,
she is not speaking about papa."

P. "Our Lady! (Persephone) The child takes notice!"

Then the visitor to comfort the child says "Nice papa," and the
conversation proceeds. The two talk about their husbands, about their
dresses, about the cost of things in the shops; but in order to see the
festival Praxinoe must dress herself quickly, and woman, two thousand
years ago, just as now, takes a long time to dress. Hear Praxinoe talking
to her maid-servant while she hurries to get ready:

"Eunoe, bring the water and put it down in the middle of the room, - lazy
creature that you are. Cat-like, always trying to sleep soft! Come,
bustle, bring the water; quicker! I want water first, - and how she carries
it! Give it me all the same; - don't pour out so much, you extravagant
thing! Stupid girl! Why are you wetting my dress? There, stop, I have
washed my hands as heaven would have it. Where is the key of the big
chest? Bring it here."

This is life, natural and true; we can see those three together, the
girlish young wife hurrying and scolding and chattering naturally and half
childishly, the patient servant girl smiling at the hurry of her mistress,
and the visitor looking at her friend's new dress, wondering how much it
cost and presently asking her the price. At last all is ready. But the
little boy sees his mother go out and he wants to go out too, though it
has been decided not to take him, because the crowd is too rough and he
might be hurt. Here the mother first explains, then speaks firmly:

"No, child, I don't mean to take you. Boo! Bogies! There is a horse that
bites! Cry as much as you please, but I cannot have you maimed."

They go out, Praxinoe and Gorgo and the maid-servant Eunoe. The crowd is
tremendous, and they find it very hard to advance. Sometimes there are
horses in the way, sometimes wagons, occasionally a legion of cavalry. We
know all this, because we hear the chatter of the women as they make their
way through the press.

"Give me your hand, and you, Eunoe, catch hold of Eutychis, - for fear lest
you get lost.... Here come the kings on horses! My dear man, don't trample
on me. Eunoe, you fool-hardy girl, will you never keep out of the way? Oh!
How tiresome, Gorgo, my muslin veil is torn in two already.... For
heaven's sake, sir, if you ever wish to be fortunate, take care of my
shawl!"

STRANGER. "I can hardly help myself, but for all that I will be as helpful
as I can."

The strange man helps the women and children through the pushing crowd,
and they thank him very prettily, praying that he may have good fortune
all his life. But not all the strangers who come in contact with them
happen to be so kind. They come at last into that part of the temple
ground where the image of Adonis is displayed; the beauty of the statue
moves them, and they utter exclamations of delight. This does not please
some of the male spectators, one of whom exclaims, "You tiresome women, do
cease your endless cooing talk! They bore one to death with their eternal
broad vowels!"

They are country women, and their critic is probably a purist - somebody
who has studied Greek as it is pronounced and spoken in Athens. But the
women bravely resent this interference with their rights.

GORGO. "Indeed! And where may this person come from? What is it to you if
we are chatterboxes? Give orders to your own servants, sir. Do you pretend
to command the ladies of Syracuse? If you must know, we are Corinthians by
descent, like Bellerophon himself, and we speak Peloponnesian. Dorian
women may lawfully speak Doric, I presume."

This is enough to silence the critic, but the other young woman also turns
upon him, and we may suppose that he is glad to escape from their tongues.
And then everybody becomes silent, for the religious services begin. The
priestess, a comely girl, chants the psalm of Adonis, the beautiful old
pagan hymn, more beautiful and more sensuous than anything uttered by the
later religious poets of the West; and all listen in delighted stillness.
As the hymn ends, Gorgo bursts out in exclamation of praise:

"Praxinoe! The woman is cleverer than we fancied! Happy woman to know so
much! - Thrice happy to have so sweet a voice! Well, all the same, it is
time to be making for home; Diocleides has not had his dinner, and the man
is all vinegar, - don't venture near him when he is kept waiting for
dinner. Farewell, beloved Adonis - may you find us glad at your next
coming."

And with this natural mingling of the sentimental and the commonplace the
little composition ends. It is as though we were looking through some
window into the life of two thousand years ago. Read the whole thing over
to yourselves when you have time to find the book in the library, and see
how true to human nature it is. There is nothing in it except the
wonderful hymn, which does not belong to to-day as much as to the long
ago, to modern Tokyo as much as to ancient Greece. That is what makes the
immortality of any literary production - not simply truth to the life of
one time, but truth to the life of every time and place.

Not many years ago there was discovered a book by Herodas, a Greek writer
of about the same period. It is called the "Mimes," a series of little
dramatic studies picturing the life of the time. One of these is well
worthy of rank with the idyl of Theocritus above mentioned. It is the
study of a conversation between a young woman and an old woman. The young
woman has a husband, who left her to join a military expedition and has
not been heard of for several years. The old woman is a go-between, and
she comes to see the young person on behalf of another young man, who
admires her. But as soon as she states the nature of her errand, the young
lady becomes very angry and feigns much virtuous indignation. There is a
quarrel. Then the two become friends, and we know that the old woman's
coming is likely to bring about the result desired. Now the wonder of this
little study also is the play of emotion which it reveals. Such emotions
are common to all ages of humanity; we feel the freshness of this
reflection as we read, to such a degree that we cannot think of the matter
as having happened long ago. Yet even the city in which these episodes
took place has vanished from the face of the earth.

In the case of the studies of peasant life, there is also value of another
kind. Here we have not only studies of human nature, but studies of
particular social conditions. The quarrels of peasants, half good natured
and nearly always happily ending; their account of their sorrows; their
gossip about their work in the fields - all this might happen almost
anywhere and at almost any time. But the song contest, the prize given for
the best composition upon a chosen subject, this is particularly Greek,
and has never perhaps existed outside of some place among the peasant
folk. It was the poetical side of this Greek life of the peasants, as
recorded by Theocritus, which so much influenced the literatures of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in France and in England. But neither
in France nor in England has there ever really been, at any time, any life
resembling that portrayed by Theocritus; to-day nothing appears to us more
absurd than the eighteenth century habit of picturing the Greek shepherd
life in English or French landscapes. What really may have existed among
the shepherds of the antique world could not possibly exist in modern
times. But how pretty it is! I think that the tenth idyl of Theocritus is
perhaps the prettiest example of the whole series, thirty in number, which
have been preserved for us. The plan is of the simplest. Two young
peasants, respectively named Battus and Milon, meeting together in the
field, talk about their sweethearts. One of them works lazily and is
jeered by the other in consequence. The subject of the jeering
acknowledges that he works badly because his mind is disturbed - he has
fallen in love. Then the other expresses sympathy for him, and tells him
that the best thing he can do to cheer himself up will be to make a song
about the girl, and to sing it as he works. Then he makes a song, which
has been the admiration of the world for twenty centuries and lifts been
translated into almost every language possessing a literature.

"They all call thee a gipsy, gracious Bombyca, and lean, and
sunburnt; - 'tis only I that call thee honey-pale.

"Yea, and the violet is swart and swart the lettered hyacinth; but yet
these flowers are chosen the first in garlands.

"The goat runs after cytisus, the wolf pursues the goat, the crane follows
the plough, - but I am wild for love of thee.

"Would it were mine, all the wealth whereof Croesus was lord, as men tell!
Then images of us, all in gold, should be dedicated to Aphrodite, thou
with thy flute, and a rose, yea, or an apple, and I in fair attire and new
shoon of Amyclae on both my feet.

"Ah, gracious Bombyca, thy feet are fashioned like carven ivory, thy voice
is drowsy sweet, and thy ways - I can not tell of them."

Even through the disguise of an English prose translation, you will see
how pretty and how simple this little song must have been in the Greek,
and how very natural is the language of it. Our young peasant has fallen
in love with the girl who is employed to play the flute for the reapers,
as the peasants like to work to the sound of music. His comrades do not
much admire Bombyca; one calls her "a long grasshopper of a girl"; another
finds her too thin; a third calls her a gipsy, such a dark brown her skin
has become by constant exposure to the summer sun. And the lover, looking
at her, is obliged to acknowledge in his own mind that she is long and
lean and dark and like a gipsy; but he finds beauty in all these
characteristics, nevertheless. What if she is dark? The sweetest honey is
darkish, like amber, and so are beautiful flowers, the best of all
flowers, flowers given to Aphrodite; and the sacred hyacinth on whose
leaves appear the letters of the word of lamentation "Ai! Ai!" - that is
also dark like Bombyca. Her darkness is that of honey and flowers. What a
charming apology! He cannot deny that she is long and lean, and he remains
silent on these points, but here we must all sympathize with him. He shows
good taste. It is the tall slender girl that is really the most beautiful
and the most graceful, not the large-limbed, strong-bodied peasant type
that his companions would prefer. Without knowing it, he has fallen in
love like an artist. And he is not blind to the, grace of slenderness and
of form, though he cannot express it in artistic language. He can only
compare the shape of the girl's feet to the ivory feet of the divinities
in the temples - perhaps he is thinking of some ivory image of Aphrodite
which he has seen. But how charming an image does he make to arise before
us! Beautiful is the description of the girl's voice as "drowsy sweet."
But the most exquisite thing in the whole song is the final despairing
admission that he can not describe her at all - "and thy ways, I can not
tell of them"! This is one of the most beautiful expressions in any poem
ancient or modern, because of its supreme truth. What mortal ever could
describe the charm of manner, voice, smile, address, in mere words? Such
things are felt, they can not be described; and the peasant boy reaches
the highest height of true lyrical poetry when he cries out "I can not
tell of them." The great French critic Sainte-Beuve attempted to render
this line as follows - "_Quant à ta manière, je ne puis la rendre!"_ This
is very good; and you can take your choice between it and any English
translation. But good judges say that nothing in English of French equals
the charm of the original.

You will find three different classes of idyls in Theocritus; the idyl
which is a simple song of peasant life, a pure lyric expressing only a
single emotion; the idyl which is a little story, usually a story about
the gods or heroes; and lastly, the idyl which is presented in the form of
a dialogue, or even of a conversation between three or four persons. All
these forms of idyl, but especially the first and the third, were
afterward beautifully imitated by the Roman poets; then very imperfectly
imitated by modern poets. The imitation still goes on, but the very best
English poets have never really been able to give us anything worthy of
Theocritus himself.

However, this study of the Greek model has given some terms to English
literature which every student ought to know. One of these terms is
amoebæan, - amoebæan poetry being dialogue poetry composed in the form of
question and reply. The original Greek signification was that of alternate
speaking. Please do not forget the word. You may often find it in critical
studies in essays upon contemporary literature; and when you see it again,
remember Theocritus and the school of Greek poets who first introduced the
charm of amoebæan poetry. I hope that this little lecture will interest
some of you in Theocritus sufficiently to induce you to read him carefully
through and through. But remember that you can not get the value of even a
single poem of his at a single reading. We have become so much accustomed
to conventional forms of literature that the simple art of poetry like
this quite escapes us at first sight. We have to read it over and over
again many times, and to think about it; then only we feel the wonderful
charm.




INDEX

[Transcriber's note: Page numbers have been converted to chapter
numbers in this index.]

"A dry cicale chirps to a lass making hay," 14
Aicard, Jean, 11
Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 4
"Along the garden ways just now," 2
"Amaturus," 3
"A Ma Future," 3
"Amelia," 2
"Amis and Amile," Introduction, 13
"Amphibian," 10
Andrews, Bishop Lancelot, 6
"Angel in the House, The," 2
"An Invocation," 14
"Appreciations of Poetry," Introduction
"Arabian Nights, The," 13
"Arachne," 10
Arnold, Sir Edwin, 3
Arnold, Matthew, 7, 15
"Art of Worldly Wisdom, The," 7
Ashe, Thomas, 3
"A simple ring with a simple stone," 3
"Atalanta in Calydon," 12
"Atalanta's Race," 2

"Bhagavad-Gita, The," 6
Bible, The, Introduction, 3, 6, 12, 13
Bion, 14
Blake, William, 6, 10
Book of Common Prayer, The, 12
Breton, Jules, 11
"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art," 2
Browning, Robert, 2, 3, 10, 14
"Burly, dozing humble bee," 10
"Busy, curious thirsty fly," 10
Byron, George Gordon, Lord, 2, 3

Carew, Thomas, 3
Carlyle, Thomas, 5, 6
Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Fourth Earl of, 7
Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 2
Coleridge, Hartley, 3
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 2, 6, 10
"Conservative, A," 10
Cooke, Rose Terry, 10
Cory, William, Introduction, 3, 14
Crashaw, Richard, 3

Dante Alighieri, 2
"Daughter of Cleomenes, The," 14
Descartes, Rene, 10
"Deteriora," 14
Dickens, Charles, Introduction
"Djins, Les," 4
"Dream of Fair Women, A," 14

"Emaux et Camées," 11
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 4, 10
"Epigramme Funeraire," 11
"Evelyn Hope," 3

"Fable, A," 14
"Fifine at the Fair," 10
Francis of Assisi, Saint, 10
Freneau, Philip, 10

Gautier, Théophile, 11
"Gazing on stars, my star?" 2
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 4
"Golden Legend, The," 13
Gracian, Baltasar, 7
"Grasshopper, The," 11
Gray, Thomas, 10
"Greater Memory," 2
Greek Anthology, Introduction, 4, 14
"Grillon solitaire," 11

"Havamal, The," Introduction, 6
Hearn, Lafcadio, Introduction
Heredia, José, Maria de, Introduction, 5, 11
Herodas, 15
Herrick, Robert, 4
"He that loves a rosy cheek," 3
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 10
Hood, Thomas, 3
Hugo, Victor, 2, 2, 4, 5, 11

"Idyls of the King," 14
"I love to hear thine earnest voice," 10
"In a branch of willow hid," 10
"Interpretations of Literature," Introduction
"Ionica," Introduction, 3
"I strove with none, for none was worth my strife," 4
"It is a golden morning of the spring," 2

Jonson, Ben, 3, 4

"Kalevala, The," Introduction, 12
Keats, John, Introduction, 2, 6, 10
"King Solomon and the Ants," 10

"La Demoiselle," 11
"Lady of Shalott, The," 11
Landor, Walter Savage, 4
Lang, Andrew, Introduction, 15
Lamartine, 11
Lamb, Charles, 10
"Le Daimio," 5
Lemerre, Alphonse, 10
"Le Samourai," 5
"Les Cigales," 11
"Life and Literature," Introduction
de Lisle, Leconte, 87
"Lives there whom pain has evermore passed by," 4
Locker-Lampson, Frederic, 3, 10
"Locksley Hall," 2
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13
Lönnrot, 12
Lovelace, Richard, 11
Lubbock, Sir John, 8

Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 10
"Ma Libellule," 11
"Maud," 2
Meredith, George, Introduction, 7
"Mimes," 15
"Mimnermus in church," 14
Moschus, 14

"Nay but you, who do not love her," 3
"Never the time and the place," 2
"New Ethics, The," Introduction
"New Year's Day, A," 14
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 8
"Njal-Saga, The." 1

"Ode on the Spring," 10
Oldys, William, 10
O'Shaughnessy, Arthur, 2

"Pansie," 3
"Patchwork," 3
Pater, Walter, Introduction, 13
Patmore, Coventry, 2, 10
"Pause, A," 2
Plato, 2
Poe, Edgar Allan, 12
"Poems of Places," 5
Porson, Richard, 10
Powell, Frederick York, 7
"Princess, The," Introduction

Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur Thomas, 10

"Reparabo," 14
Rossetti, Christina, 2, 3
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 2, 11
Ruskin, John, 6, 9
"Ruth," 3

"Saga of King Olaf, The," 7
Sainte-Beuve, 15
Saintsbury, Professor George, 6
"Scheveningen Avenue," 14
Scott, Sir Walter, 7
Shakespeare, William, 11
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 2
"She walks in beauty, like the night," 3
"She was a phantom of delight," 3
"Solitary-Hearted, The," 3
"Somewhere or other," 3
"Song in time of Revolution, A," 12
"Song of Hiawatha, The," 12
"Song of Songs," 10
Spencer, Herbert, 2, 7, 8
"Stay near me, do not take thy flight" 10
Stetson, Charlotte Perkins, 10
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 2
"Story of Burnt Njal, The," 1
"Studies in Greek Poets," 4
"Such Kings of shreds have wooed and won her," 4
"Sudden Light," 2
Sully-Prudhomme, René, François Armande, 5
"Summum Bonum," 3
Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 12
Symonds, John Addington, 2, 4

Ten Brink, Bernhard Egidius Konrad, 13
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, Introduction, 2, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14
Tennyson, Frederick, 2
Thackeray, William Makepeace, Introduction
"The butterfly the ancient Grecians made," 10
Theocritus, Introduction, 14, 15
"The poetry of earth is never dead," 10
"The thousand painful steps at last are trod," 4
"The trembling arm I pressed," 2
"They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead," 14


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