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they are extremely difficult and that you ought to obtain from the
recognition of this fact a new sense of the real value of your own short
forms of verse in the hands of a master. Effects can be produced in
Japanese which the Greeks could produce with few syllables, but which the
English can not. Now it strikes me that, instead of even thinking of
throwing away old forms of verse in order to invent new ones, the future
Japanese poets ought rather to develop and cultivate and prize the forms
already existing, which belong to the genius of the language, and which
have proved themselves capable of much that no English verse or even
French verse could accomplish. Perhaps only the Italian is really
comparable to Japanese in some respects; you can perform miracles with
Italian verse.




CHAPTER V

SOME FOREIGN POEMS ON JAPANESE SUBJECTS


The Western poet and writer of romance has exactly the same kind of
difficulty in comprehending Eastern subjects as you have in comprehending
Western subjects. You will commonly find references to Japanese love poems
of the popular kind made in such a way as to indicate the writer's belief
that such poems refer to married life or at least to a courtship relation.
No Western writer who has not lived for many years in the East, could
write correctly about anything on this subject; and even after a long stay
in the country he might be unable to understand. Therefore a great deal of
Western poetry written about Japan must seem to you all wrong, and I can
not hope to offer you many specimens of work in this direction that could
deserve your praise. Yet there is some poetry so fine on the subject of
Japan that I think you would admire it and I am sure that you should know
it. A proof of really great art is that it is generally true - it seldom
falls into the misapprehensions to which minor art is liable. What do you
think of the fact that the finest poetry ever written upon a Japanese
subject by any Western poet, has been written by a man who never saw the
land? But he is a member of the French Academy, a great and true lover of
art, and without a living superior in that most difficult form of poetry,
the sonnet. In the time of thirty years he produced only one very small
volume of sonnets, but so fine are these that they were lifted to the very
highest place in poetical distinction. I may say that there are now only
three really great French poets - survivals of the grand romantic school.
These are Leconte de Lisle, Sully-Prudhomme, and José Maria de Heredia. It
is the last of whom I am speaking. As you can tell by his name, he is not
a Frenchman either by birth or blood, but a Spaniard, or rather a Spanish
Creole, born in Cuba. Heredia knows Japan only through pictures, armour,
objects of art in museums, paintings and carvings. Remembering this, I
think that you will find that he does wonderfully well. It is true that he
puts a woman in one of his pictures, but I think that his management of
his subject is very much nearer the truth than that of almost any writer
who has attempted to describe old Japan. And you must understand that the
following sonnet is essentially intended to be a picture - to produce upon
the mind exactly the same effect that a picture does, with the addition of
such life as poetry can give.


LE SAMOURAI

D'un doigt distrait frôlant la sonore bîva,
A travers les bambous tressés en fine latte,
Elle a vu, par la plage éblouissante et plate,
S'avancer le vainqueur que son amour rêva.

C'est lui. Sabres au flanc, l'éventail haut, il va.
La cordelière rouge et le gland écarlate
Coupent l'armure sombre, et, sur l'épaule, éclate
Le blazon de Hizen ou de Tokungawa.

Ce beau guerrier vêtu de lames et de plaques,
Sous le bronze, la soie et les brillantes laques,
Semble un crustace noir, gigantesque et vermeil.

Il l'a vue. Il sourit dans la barbe du masque,
Et son pas plus hâtif fait reluire au soleil
Les deux antennes d'or qui tremblent à son casque.

"Lightly touching her _biva_ with heedless finger, she has perceived,
through the finely woven bamboo screen, the conqueror, lovingly thought
of, approach over the dazzling level of the beach.

"It is he. With his swords at his side he advances, holding up his fan.
The red girdle and the scarlet tassel appear in sharply cut relief against
the dark armour; and upon his shoulder glitters a crest of Hizen or of
Tokungawa.

"This handsome warrior sheathed with his scales and plates of metal, under
his bronze, his silk and glimmering lacquer, seems a crustacean, gigantic,
black and vermilion.

"He has caught sight of her. Under the beaver of the war mask he smiles,
and his quickened step makes to glitter in the sun the two antennæ of gold
that quiver upon his helmet."

The comparison of a warrior in full armour to a gigantic crab or lobster,
especially lobster, is not exactly new. Victor Hugo has used it before in
French literature, just as Carlyle has used it in English literature;
indeed the image could not fail to occur to the artist in any country
where the study of armour has been carried on. But here the poet does not
speak of any particular creature; he uses only the generic term,
crustacean, the vagueness of which makes the comparison much more
effective. I think you can see the whole picture at once. It is a Japanese
colour-print, - some ancient interior, lighted by the sun of a great summer
day; and a woman looking through a bamboo blind toward the seashore, where
she sees a warrior approaching. He divines that he is seen; but if he
smiles, it is only because the smile is hidden by his iron mask. The only
sign of any sentiment on his part is that he walks a little quicker. Still
more amazing is a companion picture, containing only a solitary figure:


LE DAIMIO (Matin de bataille)

Sous le noir fouet de guerre à quadruple pompon,
L'étalon belliqueux en hennissant se cabre,
Et fait bruire, avec de cliquetis de sabre,
La cuirasse de bronze aux lames du jupon.

Le Chef vêtu d'airain, de laque et de crépon,
Otant le masque à poils de son visage glabre,
Regarde le volcan sur un ciel de cinabre
Dresser la neige où rit l'aurore du Nippon.

Mais il a vu, vers l'Est éclaboussé d'or, l'astre,
Glorieux d'éclairer ce matin de désastre,
Poindre, orbe éblouissant, au-dessus de la mer;

Et pour couvrir ses yeux dont pas un cil ne bouge,
Il ouvre d'un seul coup son éventail de fer,
Où dans le satin blanc se lève un Soleil rouge.

"Under the black war whip with its quadruple pompon the fierce stallion,
whinnying, curvets, and makes the rider's bronze cuirass ring against the
plates of his shirt of mail, with a sound like the clashing of sword
blades.

"The Chief, clad in bronze and lacquer and silken crape, removing the
bearded masque from his beardless face, turns his gaze to the great
volcano, lifting its snows into the cinnabar sky where the dawn of Nippon
begins to smile.

"Nay! he has already seen the gold-spattered day star, gloriously
illuminating the morning of disaster, rise, a blinding disk, above the
seas. And to shade his eyes, on both of which not even a single eyelash
stirs, he opens with one quick movement his iron fan, wherein upon a field
of white satin there rises a crimson sun."

Of course this hasty translation is very poor; and you can only get from
it the signification and colour of the picture - the beautiful sonority and
luminosity of the French is all gone. Nevertheless, I am sure that the
more you study the original the more you will see how fine it is. Here
also is a Japanese colour print. We see the figure of the horseman on the
shore, in the light of dawn; behind him the still dark sky of night;
before him the crimson dawn, and Fuji white against the red sky. And in
the open fan, with its red sun, we have a grim suggestion of the day of
blood that is about to be; that is all. But whoever reads that sonnet will
never forget it; it burns into the memory. So, indeed, does everything
that Heredia writes. Unfortunately he has not yet written anything more
about Japan.

I have quoted Heredia because I think that no other poet has even
approached him in the attempt to make a Japanese picture - though many
others have tried; and the French, nearly always, have done much better
than the English, because they are more naturally artists. Indeed one must
be something of an artist to write anything in the way of good poetry on a
Japanese subject. If you look at the collection "Poems of Places," in the
library, you will see how poorly Japan is there represented; the only
respectable piece of foreign work being by Longfellow, and that is only
about Japanese vases. But since then some English poems have appeared
which are at least worthy of Japanese notice.




CHAPTER VI

THE BIBLE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE


It is no exaggeration to say that the English Bible is, next to
Shakespeare, the greatest work in English literature, and that it will
have much more influence than even Shakespeare upon the written and spoken
language of the English race. For this reason, to study English literature
without some general knowledge of the relation of the Bible to that
literature would be to leave one's literary education very incomplete. It
is not necessary to consider the work from a religious point of view at
all; indeed, to so consider it would be rather a hindrance to the
understanding of its literary excellence. Some persons have ventured to
say that it is only since Englishmen ceased to believe in the Bible that
they began to discover how beautiful it was. This is not altogether true;
but it is partly true. For it is one thing to consider every word of a
book as the word of God or gods, and another thing to consider it simply
as the work of men like ourselves. Naturally we should think it our duty
to suppose the work of a divine being perfect in itself, and to imagine
beauty and truth where neither really exists. The wonder of the English
Bible can really be best appreciated by those who, knowing it to be the
work of men much less educated and cultivated than the scholars of the
nineteenth century, nevertheless perceive that those men were able to do
in literature what no man of our own day could possibly do.

Of course in considering the work of the translators, we must remember the
magnificence of the original. I should not like to say that the Bible is
the greatest of all religious books. From the moral point of view it
contains very much that we can not to-day approve of; and what is good in
it can be found in the sacred books of other nations. Its ethics can not
even claim to be absolutely original. The ancient Egyptian scriptures
contain beauties almost superior in moral exaltation to anything contained
in the Old Testament; and the sacred books of other Eastern nations,
notably the sacred books of India, surpass the Hebrew scriptures in the
highest qualities of imagination and of profound thought. It is only of
late years that Europe, through the labour of Sanskrit and Pali scholars,
has become acquainted with the astonishing beauty of thought and feeling
which Indian scholars enshrined in scriptures much more voluminous than
the Hebrew Bible; and it is not impossible that this far-off literature
will some day influence European thought quite as much as the Jewish
Bible. Everywhere to-day in Europe and America the study of Buddhist and
Sanskrit literature is being pursued not only with eagerness but with
enthusiasm - an enthusiasm which sometimes reaches to curious extremes. I
might mention, in example, the case of a rich man who recently visited
Japan on his way from India. He had in New Zealand a valuable property; he
was a man of high culture, and of considerable social influence. One day
he happened to read an English translation of the "Bhagavad-Gita." Almost
immediately he resolved to devote the rest of his life to religious study
in India, in a monastery among the mountains; and he gave up wealth,
friends, society, everything that Western civilization could offer him, in
order to seek truth in a strange country. Certainly this is not the only
instance of the kind; and while such incidents can happen, we may feel
sure that the influence of religious literature is not likely to die for
centuries to come.

But every great scripture, whether Hebrew, Indian, Persian, or Chinese,
apart from its religious value will be found to have some rare and special
beauty of its own; and in this respect the original Bible stands very high
as a monument of sublime poetry and of artistic prose. If it is not the
greatest of religious books as a literary creation, it is at all events
one of the greatest; and the proof is to be found in the inspiration which
millions and hundreds of millions, dead and living, have obtained from its
utterances. The Semitic races have always possessed in a very high degree
the genius of poetry, especially poetry in which imagination plays a great
part; and the Bible is the monument of Semitic genius in this regard.
Something in the serious, stern, and reverential spirit of the genius
referred to made a particular appeal to Western races having certain
characteristics of the same kind. Themselves uncultivated in the time that
the Bible was first made known to them, they found in it almost everything
that they thought and felt, expressed in a much better way than they could
have expressed it. Accordingly the Northern races of Europe found their
inspiration in the Bible; and the enthusiasm for it has not yet quite
faded away.

But the value of the original, be it observed, did not make the value of
the English Bible. Certainly it was an inspiring force; but it was nothing
more. The English Bible is perhaps a much greater piece of fine
literature, altogether considered, than the Hebrew Bible. It was so for a
particular reason which it is very necessary for the student to
understand. The English Bible is a product of literary evolution.

In studying English criticisms upon different authors, I think that you
must have sometimes felt impatient with the critics who told you, for
example, that Tennyson was partly inspired by Wordsworth and partly by
Keats and partly by Coleridge; and that Coleridge was partly inspired by
Blake and Blake by the Elizabethans, and so on. You may have been tempted
to say, as I used very often myself to say, "What does it matter where the
man got his ideas from? I care only for the beauty that is in his work,
not for a history of his literary education." But to-day the value of the
study of such relations appears in quite a new light. Evolutional
philosophy, applied to the study of literature as to everything else, has
shown us conclusively that man is not a god who can make something out of
nothing, and that every great work of genius must depend even less upon
the man of genius himself than upon the labours of those who lived before
him. Every great author must draw his thoughts and his knowledge in part
from other great authors, and these again from previous authors, and so on
back, till we come to that far time in which there was no written
literature, but only verses learned by heart and memorized by all the
people of some one tribe or place, and taught by them to their children
and to their grandchildren. It is only in Greek mythology that the
divinity of Wisdom leaps out of a god's head, in full armour. In the world
of reality the more beautiful a work of art, the longer, we may be sure,
was the time required to make it, and the greater the number of different
minds which assisted in its development.

So with the English Bible. No one man could have made the translation of
1611. No one generation of men could have done it. It was not the labour
of a single century. It represented the work of hundreds of translators
working through hundreds of years, each succeeding generation improving a
little upon the work of the previous generation, until in the seventeenth
century the best had been done of which the English brain and the English
language was capable. In no other way can the surprising beauties of style
and expression be explained. No subsequent effort could improve the Bible
of King James. Every attempt made since the seventeenth century has only
resulted in spoiling and deforming the strength and the beauty of the
authorized text.

Now you will understand why, from the purely literary point of view, the
English Bible is of the utmost importance for study. Suppose we glance for
a moment at the principal events in the history of this evolution.

The first translation of the Bible into a Western tongue was that made by
Jerome (commonly called Saint Jerome) in the fourth century; he translated
directly from the Hebrew and other Arabic languages into Latin, then the
language of the Empire. This translation into Latin was called the
Vulgate, - from _vulgare_, "to make generally known." The Vulgate is still
used in the Roman church. The first English translations which have been
preserved to us were made from the Vulgate, not from the original tongues.
First of all, John Wycliffe's Bible may be called the foundation of the
seventeenth century Bible. Wycliffe's translation, in which he was helped
by many others, was published between 1380 and 1388. So we may say that
the foundation of the English Bible dates from the fourteenth century, one
thousand years after Jerome's Latin translation. But Wycliffe's version,
excellent as it was, could not serve very long: the English language was
changing too quickly. Accordingly, in the time of Henry VIII Tyndale and
Coverdale, with many others, made a new translation, this time not from
the Vulgate, but from the Greek text of the great scholar Erasmus. This
was the most important literary event of the time, for "it coloured the
entire complexion of subsequent English prose," - to use the words of
Professor Gosse. This means that all prose in English written since Henry
VIII has been influenced, directly or indirectly, by the prose of
Tyndale's Bible, which was completed about 1535. Almost at the same time a
number of English divines, under the superintendence of Archbishop
Cramner, gave to the English language a literary treasure scarcely
inferior to the Bible itself, and containing wonderful translations from
the Scriptures, - the "Book of Common Prayer." No English surpasses the
English of this book, still used by the Church; and many translators have
since found new inspiration from it.

A revision of this famous Bible was made in 1565, entitled "The Bishops'
Bible." The cause of the revision was largely doctrinal, and we need not
trouble ourselves about this translation farther than to remark that
Protestantism was reshaping the Scriptures to suit the new state religion.
Perhaps this edition may have had something to do with the determination
of the Roman Catholics to make an English Bible of their own. The Jesuits
began the work in 1582 at Rheims, and by 1610 the Roman Catholic version
known as the Douay (or Douai) version - because of its having been made
chiefly at the Catholic College of Douai in France - was completed. This
version has many merits; next to the wonderful King James version, it is
certainly the most poetical; and it has the further advantage of including
a number of books which Protestantism has thrown out of the authorized
version, but which have been used in the Roman church since its
foundation. But I am speaking of the book only as a literary English
production. It was not made with the help of original sources; its merits
are simply those of a melodious translation from the Latin Vulgate.

At last, in 1611, was made, under the auspices of King James, the famous
King James version; and this is the great literary monument of the English
language. It was the work of many learned men; but the chief worker and
supervisor was the Bishop of Winchester, Lancelot Andrews, perhaps the
most eloquent English preacher that ever lived. He was a natural-born
orator, with an exquisite ear for the cadences of language. To this
natural faculty of the Bishop's can be attributed much of the musical
charm of the English in which the Bible was written. Still, it must not be
supposed that he himself did all the work, or even more than a small
proportion of it. What he did was to tone it; he overlooked and corrected
all the text submitted to him, and suffered only the best forms to
survive. Yet what magnificent material he had to choose from! All the
translations of the Bible that had been made before his time were
carefully studied with a view to the conservation of the best phrases,
both for sound and for form. We must consider the result not merely as a
study of literature in itself, but also as a study of eloquence; for every
attention was given to those effects to be expected from an oratorical
recitation of the text in public.

This marks the end of the literary evolution of the Bible. Everything that
has since been done has only been in the direction of retrogression, of
injury to the text. We have now a great many later versions, much more
scholarly, so far as correct scholarship is concerned, than the King James
version, but none having any claim to literary importance. Unfortunately,
exact scholars are very seldom men of literary ability; the two faculties
are rarely united. The Bible of 1870, known as the Oxford Bible, and now
used in the Anglican state-church, evoked a great protest from the true
men of letters, the poets and critics who had found their inspirations in
the useful study of the old version. The new version was the work of
fourteen years; it was made by the united labour of the greatest scholars
in the English-speaking world; and it is far the most exact translation
that we have. Nevertheless the literary quality has been injured to such
an extent that no one will ever turn to the new revision for poetical
study. Even among the churches there was a decided condemnation of this
scholarly treatment of the old text; and many of the churches refused to
use the book. In this case, conservatism is doing the literary world a
service, keeping the old King James version in circulation, and insisting
especially upon its use in Sunday schools.

We may now take a few examples of the differences between the revised
version and the Bible of King James. Professor Saintsbury, in an essay
upon English prose, published some years ago, said that the most perfect
piece of English prose in the language was that comprised in the sixth and
seventh verses of the eighth chapter of the Song of Songs:

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine
arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave;
the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement
flame.

Many waters can not quench love, neither can the floods drown it:
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it
would utterly be condemned.

I should not like to say that the Professor is certainly right in calling
this the finest prose in the English language; but he is a very great
critic, whose opinion must be respected and considered, and the passage is
certainly very fine. But in the revised version, how tame the same text
has become in the hands of the scholarly translators!

The flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the Lord.

Now as a description of jealousy, not to speak of the literary execution
at all, which is the best? What, we may ask, has been gained by calling
jealousy "a flame of the Lord" or by substituting the word "flashes" for
"coals of fire"? All through the new version are things of this kind. For
example, in the same Song of Songs there is a beautiful description of
eyes, like "doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly
set." By substituting "rivers" only for "rivers of waters" the text may
have gained in exactness, but it has lost immeasurably, both in poetry and
in sound. Far more poetical is the verse as given in the Douai version:
"His eyes are as doves upon brooks of waters, which are washed with milk,
and sit beside the beautiful streams."

It may even be said without any question that the mistakes of the old
translators were often much more beautiful than the original. A splendid
example is given in the verse of Job, chapter twenty-six, verse thirteen:
"By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the
crooked serpent." By the crooked serpent was supposed to be signified the
grand constellation called _Draco_, or the Dragon. And the figure is
sublime. It is still more sublime in the Douai translation. "His obstetric


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