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yet the earth is our mother still-fruitful, life-giving.' This is a just specimen of that sort of application of modern sentiment to the ancients, against which a student who wishes to feel the ancients truly cannot too resolutely defend himself. . . . The reader may feel moved as he reads it; but it is not the less an example of 'le faux' in criticism; it is false.'
How does Matthew Arnold himself translate quoíçoos? He does not say; I greatly fear that if pressed he would have said it was merely an ornamental epithet'. As a matter of fact, I think we may safely say that it is an epithet steeped in primitive mysticism. Ruskin's error was that, not having the clue, he did not go far enough. His feeling about the word was right; but he stopped short at sentiment, whereas the word really connoted religion. The 'life-giving earth' is that most ancient goddess who is the cause not only of the quickening of seeds but of the resurrection of man. We are familiar with the thought from St. Paul's use of it as a metaphor. But the conception is far older than St. Paul, and lies in the very roots of Greek religion, as may be seen in Dieterich's Mutter Erde. The detailed evidence would, of course, take us too long; but I may dwell on it thus much. The word quoíçoos occurs only five times in ancient Greek poetry; twice it is applied to Castor and Pollux, who shared, as we all know, an alternate resurrection (Il. III, Od. XI); once in an indignant speech of Achilles (Il. XXI) it is used of a dead man who seems to have returned, 'with twenty mortal murders in his crown', from the grasp of the pvoísoos aîa; once in an oracle, quoted by Herodotus, of the dead yet ever-living Orestes, who holds the balance of victory between Sparta and her enemies. In the fifth instance (Hymn to Aphrodite, 125) this mystical reference is less clear, and I will not press it. The point may seem small, but it is of shades of meaning like these that the quality of language is formed. This is merely one of the cases in which greater knowledge has
widened and deepened our whole conception of Greek poetry, and swept magnificently away some of those limitations which we were taught to regard as 'Classic'.
Let us now take a few current judgements about Greek poetry and see what we can deduce from them. I will begin with some quotations from Coleridge's Literary Remains, as edited in Dent's Library by Professor Mackail:
'The Greeks were polytheists; their religion was local; almost the only object of all their knowledge, art, and taste was their gods; and accordingly their productions were, if the expression may be allowed, statuesque, whilst those of the moderns are picturesque. The Greeks reared a structure which, in its parts and as a whole, filled the mind with the calm and elevated impression of perfect beauty and symmetrical proportion.'
'Almost the only object of their knowledge, art, and taste was their gods'. That is in a sense true, though very misleading; for we know now that there were at least two stages in Greek religion: first, something more like the religion of other primitive though gifted races, something deep, turbid, formless, and impassioned; and secondly, an anthropomorphic movement, clarifying, humanizing, and artistic in its spirit, which led to the formation of the beautiful but somewhat unreal family of Olympian gods. Coleridge himself expresses the truth a little later in the phrase 'Bacchus, the vinum mundi'. A Greek eós is much more adequately conceived as the wine of the world' than as an anthropomorphic statue. It is in that sense that we can understand such a line as that of Euripides,
δουλεύομεν θεοῖς, ὅτι ποτ ̓ εἰσὶν οἱ θεοί.
Such coí are not anthropomorphic figures; they are wills or forces.
"Their productions were statuesque'. Coleridge explains what he means by this. "They reared a structure which in its parts and as a whole' made an 'impression of perfect
beauty and symmetrical proportion.' This criticism seems to me profoundly true, though I should almost have thought that a better word for it was 'architectural'. It is borne out in the old contrast between the Gothic church with its profusion of detail, always rich, always exciting, sometimes ugly, and constantly irrelevant, and the Greek temple, in which every part is severely subordinated to the whole.
Another remark of Coleridge is rather curious to read at the present day: 'the Greeks, except perhaps Homer, seem to have had no way of making their women interesting but by unsexing them, as in the tragic Medea, Electra, &c.'. Here I think there is little doubt that we have simply moved beyond Coleridge, and thereby come nearer the Greeks. Yet his words are perhaps in their literal sense true. The romantic heroines of Coleridge's day needed a good deal of 'unsexing before they stood fairly on their feet as human beings, with real minds and real characters. The romantic fiction of a generation or two ago could never look at its heroines except through a roseate mist of emotion. Greek tragedy saw its women straight; or, at most, saw them through a mist of religion, not through a mist of gallantry or sentimental romance. When people are accustomed, as Coleridge was, to that atmosphere, it is pitiful to see how chill and raw they feel when they are taken out of it. As a matter of fact, Greek tragedy as a whole spends a great deal more study and sympathy upon its women than its men, and I should have thought that, in the ordinary sense of the word, it was hard to speak of Antigone and Deianira and Medea, hard to speak of Andromache and Hecuba in the Troades, or even of Clytemnestra and Electra, as 'unsexed' creatures.
I will refrain from making quotations from Matthew Arnold on the subject of Greek religion. However tolerant the English Association may be, there are limits to the disrespect it will allow towards its great critics. But I must
protest in passing against his use of the Mime of Theocritus about Gorgo and Praxinoë as an instance of Greek feeling about religion. It is almost as if you took, as an instance of modern religion, one of Mr. Anstey's Voces Populi describing, say, a church parade.
The thing that troubles the ordinary English reader in Greek religion is that we are accustomed to a religion that is essentially moral and essentially dogmatic. Greek religion, in the first place, is not pre-eminently concerned with morality; it is concerned with man's relation to worldforces. In the second place, there is no omnipotent dogma.
I will, however, venture to take a sentence or two of Pater's. In one passage he sums up a discussion by saying that Greek art and literature are characterized by 'breadth, centrality, blitheness, and repose'. Now I daresay this is true, if only we understand the words as Pater meant them. But of course each word is really a species of shorthand, which summed up for him various long chains of thought. The danger is that we may accept them as catchwords.
'Breadth.' The word always reminds me of an ancient occasion when I was rehearsing a Greek play, and the stage-manager came forward in a cheery manner to the caste and said: 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, remember this is classical. Breadth! Breadth! No particular attention to meanings!' But I do not suggest that he was interpreting Pater rightly.
Centrality.' This seems true; at least the Greek poets have a clear normal tradition of style. They do not strike one as eccentric or cliquey. But we must remember that they are largely central just because other artists and poets have gathered round them. pened to be, and it is the rest of us that have made a centre of them.
They stood where they hap
Blitheness.' Well, their best work on the whole lies
in tragedies and dirges. I have tried hard to understand what the critics mean by the 'blitheness' of the Greeks. It perhaps means what I think would be quite true, that the Greeks have on the whole an intense sense of life, of the beauty of things beautiful, of the joyousness of things joyous, as well as of the solemnity or tragedy or horror of other things. Greek poetry in classical times is certainly hardly ever depressed or flat or flabby.
' Repose'. Yes; perfectly true, and undeniably characteristic. Every Greek tragedy, every great impassioned poem, ends upon a note of calm; and we all know the same quality in the paintings and statues.
Pater again makes great use of the word 'statuesque', and it is a word that I can never feel quite happy about. Stone, of which statues are made, has certain obvious qualities: it is cold, hard, immovable. Speech, of which literature is made, has its qualities also, and they are remarkably unlike those of stone. Speech is warm, swift, vibrating, transitory. The 'statuesque' theory is derived, I believe, from Winckelmann, who was very intimate with the statues and knew little of the literature; consequently he interpreted everything through the statues. And every dilettante is under the temptation of following him, since a decent acquaintance with the statues is an easy thing to acquire, and any first-hand acquaintance with the literature a hard one. We should also remember that the statues which Winckelmann and the critics of his time knew, and used to illustrate classical Greece, were almost without exception the work of the decadence, and to our present judgement markedly unlike the spirit of the great period.
Now what result emerges from this rather rough summary? First, that Greek poetry is full of religion. This is true and important, though religion, as we noticed, is not exactly what we mean by the word: classical Greek poetry is some