« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
mated, by his conjectural emendations of Milton's " Paradise Lost." Porson was an eminent scholar ; but he did very little, indeed, for the promotion of classical learning ; and even that little, particularly in the department of metre, is of no great value at present. It is very curious to observe, how mechanical and slavish English scholarship has been since ; and with what reverence the dicta of a few distinguished men have been almost universally received and regarded. For example, if an expression is found in a Greek tragedian, which defies the canons of the great masters, the commentator remarks, “ This expression violates the canon of Dawes,” or - This line cannot be reconciled with the principle of Porson,' or “ Porson says it must be so and so ;” as if the canon of Dawes and the principles of Porson were the first authorities to be consulted, and the ancient author himself really had but little to do with settling the question ; and the chances are, that the genuine text will be mutilated, to make it correspond with the rule so mechanically laid down. Elmsley's ludicrous fanaticism against anapæsts in Tragic Iambic verse is a fair example of the epidemic pedantry among the older English scholars. Blomfield's Æschylus, a work, upon the whole, of creditable learning, offers readings which the poet-soldier, if he could rise from his grave, would look upon with wonder, if not with indignation. It is impossible to conceive a more atrocious piece of literary quackery, than cutting and slashing the lines of an ancient poet, to enable the modern reader to count off the syllables at his fingers' ends. Poetical rhythm is to be judged more by the musical sense, than by the tum-ti systems of learned gentlemen, who have deadened their perceptions of nature by the thousand-fold subtilties of mere verbal criticism. A better spirit bas been recently shown among the Hellenists of England. Mitchell's edition of a part of the Comedies is an honor to British scholarship; and the same may be said of Arnold's Thucydides. Thirlwall's “ History of Greece,” also, is entitled to very high praise.
In Germany, on the contrary, the study of classical antiquity has been prosecuted with boundless industry and learning. The German scholars, apart from the concerns of practical and political life, have created, in regions of science, letters, and art, a career of intellectual activity, which they have followed up with a zeal and enthusiasm elsewhere unequalled. The two languages of classical antiquity have been explored by them with the most minute and searching care ; they have
been illustrated from every conceivable source ; and if their full import has not been perfectly brought to light, it is because of the impossibility of restoring all the ineaning and variety of languages, which have ceased to be used in the living intercourse of men. The best grammars of the Latin and Greek languages have been written by Germans ; except the immortal work of Forcellini (the “ Totius Latinitatis Lexicon”), incomparably the best dictionaries of the Latin and Greek languages have been written by Germans ; the most learned, comprehensive, and thorough works on the arts and antiquities of the Greeks and Romans have been written by Germans ; so that the classical scholar, who is ignorant of what the Germans have done, in every department of ancient learning, must be content to remain far behind the scholarship of
But the peculiar circumstances, in which the German literati are placed, have led them as a body, into faults of a grave character, which the American student must sedulously guard himself against. They are much inclined to paradoxical opinions for the sake of their novelty ; their theoretical views are not sufficiently tempered down by common sense and the experience of daily life ; they are apt to lose themselves in the airy regions of abstruse speculation ; they often reject old views for no better reason than that they are old, and supply their place by new ones, which are supported by the slenderest possible proofs ; they elevate a single fact, or a mere hint, by itself of little or no consequence, into an unwarranted dignity, by making it the basis of a theory, or a leading idea of some startling and paradoxical system ; and it must be confessed, they are fond of abusing their privilege of being mystical and obscure in their style, to a degree unheard of among other nations. All these remarks are supported, also, by the admissions of some of their most sensible writers. Thus it happens, that, while we may regard the German scholars as admirable models of patient research, and conscientious industry, and while we must resort to the treasures which they have accumulated, if we would investigate any department of learning to the best advantage, still we must enter a protest against taking them, as a general rule, for models of arrangement, style, and reasoning. The perfect ideal of a scholar would be one, who should unite the labor and learning of the German, the practical sense of the Englishman, and the transparent clearness and admirable method of the Frenchman.
But it is time to return to the work, whose title is placed at the head of this article. It is marked, both by the excellences and defects, which belong to its German origin. In learning, it is minute, extensive, and profound. Scarcely a fact, in the history of those branches of Greek literature, which are taken up in the volumes already published, has escaped the author's vigilant eye. Every topic, both of fact and speculation, every question, both of ancient and modern criticism, every view, that has heretofore been presented on the contested points of Greek learning, is dealt with according to the author's judgment of its importance. But this truly German method has led him into an excessive detail, which grows occasionally tedious, even to the most conscientious reader. Amidst such a multiplicity of particulars, we fail to arrive at distinct, general views. We lose our way in the labyrinth of minute discussions, and look about us in vain for some Ariadne's thread to guide us out into the clear light of day. The author fails, too often, to gather up the separated lines of his learned inquiries, and draw them all into a single, irresistible conclusion. The work is not a well-proportioned edifice. Some parts are dwelt upon altogether too long, and are raised to an importance wholly out of proportion to their general bearing upon the rest. But he frequently presents illustrations of his views, drawn from the world of ancient art, that are at once beautiful and instructive; and we do not know a writer, who has more successfully availed himself of this abundant source of tasteful analogies and convincing argument. Besides excessive details, it seems to us, that the learned author has erred on the side of excessive divisions and subdivisions of his subject matter. It may, perhaps, be a question, whether the literature of any nation can be adequately set forth, upon any other plan than that of taking up its several branches, and completing the history of each by itself. But we are inclined to think, that a history which should present all the literary phenomena, as they arose, giving to each its proper place and its just weight, and blending the political fortunes of the nation, so far as would be necessary to present a complete, well-proportioned, and harmonious picture of the collective intellect of the people, would be more satisfactory, than the most elaborate and able work, which represents the literary achievements of a people, as it were, by piecemeal. This remark is particularly true, when we apply it to the literature of the Greeks, on account of the extraordinary homogeneousness of all their intellectual achievements, as we have before observed. A work upon the other principle, especially if its author sees fit to publish it by single volumes, almost necessarily loses the interest of a completed whole, and fails to give the pleasing impression of correct proportions. Now these two things are the leading characteristics of all the productions of Grecian genius, and ought to characterize every work devoted to the exposition of the intellectual life of the Greeks. We cannot affirm, that Dr. Bode's work fulfills this condition.
The first volume is devoted to the history of epic poetry, and we quote from the Introduction the following passage, for the sake of letting the author express the principles by which he has been guided, in his own way.
“ The poetry of the Greeks was unfolded from the very midst of the whole nation, like an intellectual power ; it was not propagated under a stiff and contracted form, by artificial and toilsome care, as the heir-loom of particular classes. It may be set forth under two principal historical bearings. We may consider it as a complete whole, though its inward connexion is often made out only from uncertain fragmentary accounts; in the frequently recurring voids, the connexion can, for the most part, be divined only by analogies drawn from free combinations, and can rarely be ascertained with clearness. Then the history of it must endeavour to grasp the intellectual spirit and purport of the national life, so far as they have been expressed under the forms of poetry, and to follow them out, through all the steps of culture, and in all their phenomena. By this psychological method, our investigation brings us to a clear perception of the interior course of poetry, and might furnish no small contribution towards the history of man, if, at the same time, it should point out the close connexion, which was kept up, with ever increasing importance, between the poetical activity of the Greeks and all their political relations, however modified by considerations of morality and religion, from the earliest beginnings of their national existence, to the period when their political and intellectual powers were completely unfolded. The delineation will, therefore, dwell longer upon the most eminent minds, because by their creations we are most exactly acquainted with every step in the progress of the national mind, VOL. L. - No. 107.
and because they have at the same time given the most powerful impulse to new careers of activity. Regarding these, then, as the main pillars, on which the whole structure is supported, we shall find it easy to point out by analogy the symmetrical proportions of the single parts to the whole, which whole consists in what may be called an intellectual unity, even with regard to the connecting links which have been lost; for all the forms of Grecian poetry have been unfolded by a growth so perfectly natural and regular, that each makes a whole of itself, and is guarded against all intermixture with other species, by a definite type and outline, within which the same conformity to law prevails. Such a representation of Grecian poetry' from within, however, and the treatment of its external history, which is the other point of view from which it may be delineated, are by no means to be divided, if all the peculiarities and phenomena, embraced by the comprehensive province of poetical activity, are to be historically recorded, and brought under a general view coextensive with the purpose to be accomplished.
“A distribution of the whole into definite portions and classes is the more necessary here, since a mere record of all the monuments of poetry, without classification, would only have the appearance of an unorganized mass. But, while making such an external disposition of the parts, we must be careful never to lose sight of the collective culture of the nation, so far as this has been taken up into the poetical literature, and made a portion of its conscious existence. It forms what may be called the frame-work to the proper picture of the poetry, referring, as it does, to the personal relations of the several poets after the received accounts of the ancients, defining the peculiarities of their art, according to their works, or to fragments of their works, and seeking to give a fair view of their poetical import, according to settled principles of criticism. By this method, we can easily take the several species of poetry from the great affluence of the literary phenomena and trace them out by themselves. These various kinds of poetry have exercised the powers of genius in very different gradations, sometimes freely and nobly; at others, under a contracted form, and merely by accident. Besides, as long as the separated races of the collective Hellenic nation existed free and independent, the different species of poetry also were freely and independently unfolded, and their peculiar tendencies may, therefore, be easily detected, and arranged under the given classes. But the literary historian must not make this specification of classes his final aim; on the contrary, it must be subordinated to the higher laws of the inner repre