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In 1870, the year before Schliemann's work at Hissarlik began, Rev. G. W. Cox, an accomplished English scholar, published his “ Mythology of the Aryan Nations.” This book was an argument for the hypothesis that “the epic poems of the Aryan nations are simply different versions of one and the same story," having its origin in the phenomena of the natural world, and the course of the day and the year.” Thus the whole Achilleis is reduced to nothing more than a magnificent solar epic.
The critical study of Homeric antiquity having come to such a pass, the publications of Schliemann naturally produced a profound sensation, which was followed, however, by an equally profound skepticism as to the character and significance of the results reported. And the further explorations — of which a report was made in 1880 in the work entitled * Ilios," and still another in 1884 in the work entitled “ Troja” — have not been able to prove indisputably that we have at Hissarlik the site and remains of Homeric Ilium. Professor Jebb goes so far as to imply that, even if it could be proved that the remains at Hissarlik are unmistakably “those of a town which was once taken after a siege, and which originally gave us the legend of Troy," it was most certainly not the locality which the Homeric poet was thinking of when he sang of “lofty Ilium.” On the other hand, the last work (February, 1890) of Drs. Schliemann and Dörpfeld at Hissarlik (Dörpfeld's report is in “ Athen. Mittheil.,” xv. 2, pp. 226–229) undoubtedly furnishes additional and very weighty evidence for the belief that Homer's Troy stood at Hissarlik.
Schliemann seems to have had an almost unerring judgment as to the place to search for archæological “ finds.” Contrary to the general view, therefore, he held that a proper interpretation of Pausanias (ii. 16, 6) would lead one to look for the Royal Tombs of Mykenæ on the acropolis, and not in the lower town. His new interpretation found no favor among scholars till, in 1876, extensive excavations on the acropolis at Mykenæ startled the scientific world with their marvelous discoveries. These discoveries included a veritable treasury, embracing more than 20,000 separate objects of gold, silver, or bronze. Some of these objects exhibit exquisite workmanship, both in intaglio and repoussé ; while those in gold amount in weight to nearly one hundred pounds. The report of these excavations was published under the title of “ Mycenæ and Tiryns” (1878), richly illustrated.
It is difficult to believe, with Schliemann, that the tombs discovered at Mykenæ are really those of Agamemnon and his companions, murdered by Ægisthus and Clytæmnestra. In the opinion of Collignon, however, it is considered quite probable that they date from the epoch of Æchæan domination in the Peloponnesus, — being, next to the ruins found at Hissarlik and Santorin, the oldest known monuments of Greek antiquity ; Kekulé puts thein as early as 1000 B. C. On the other hand, the treasures of gold, silver, bronze, etc., already mentioned, have given rise to many new problems in the study of archæology and art. They have, in fact, become themselves the starting-point for the study of a hitherto comparatively unknown prehistoric Greek civilization, which can be at present distinguished and designated only as “Mykenæan civilization.” Furthermore, they are from time to time gaining new and increasing importance, in the light of similar discoveries still being made in different parts of the Greek world.
Most notable among these subsequent discoveries are those which were made at Tiryns in 1884–85 by Schliemann himself, most ably assisted, however, both in conducting the excavations and making the report thereon, by Dr. William Dörpfeld. An extended notice of this report (Tiryns, 1885) appeared in a former number of this “ Review” (March, 1886). The estimate then made of the work, that it was “ likely to prove the most valuable, as it is also the most scientific in character, of all Schliemann's publications," has been remarkably sustained. It has proved an "epoch-making book " indeed ; and scholars are tending more and more toward agreement with Dörpfeld, that many questions to which the acuteness of the most accomplished commentators on Homer could give no answer in the words of the poet, can now be answered from the palace at Tiryns.
In the pursuit of archæological studies by excavation, Schliemann was the pioneer. And though his fame will rest chiefly on his contributions to the study of Greek and secular history, yet to him in large measure is due also the enthusiasm with which work similar to his has been so extensively carried on in Egypt and Palestine. He thus not only revolutionized Greek archæological studies, but furnished a new inspiration and method for archæological studies in every field. Not himself a great scholar, he nevertheless enriched the scholarship of the world with contributions of extraordinary interest; not himself a scientific archæologist, as one might say, he yet confronted the scientific world with problems in archæology which still elude the wisdom and baffle the skill of the best trained specialists.
Those who may have been repelled by the bulkiness of the volumes in which Dr. Schliemann usually published his investigations, will find a convenient summary of them, presented in the light of recent knowledge, by Dr. Carl Schuchhardt, a translation of whose book has recently been promised by Messrs. Macmillan & Co., New York.
NOTE. A COMMUNICATION from Mr. F. B. Sanborn respecting some statements in “ The Preludes of Harper's Ferry,” published in this “ Review,” arrived too late for this number, but will appear in our next issue.
LETTERS AND LIFE.
This Department of the “Review" is under the editorial care of Professor
A. S. HARDY.
RABELAIS. The lack of contemporary biographies and criticism on the greatest names of national literatures gives full scope to the modern commentator who may wish to run riot among his own opinions or those of others; so that it often happens that we possess a good deal of criti cal literature concerning some literary Titan, without any final decision upon his work. This is markedly the case with Chaucer, and was so until quite lately with Rabelais. It is a remarkable fact, says M. Paul Stapfer, whose admirable book " has suggested the best of what is to follow, that though there are plenty of short essays, critical “ bird's-eye views," and even careful studies of some features of the great humorist, a want had long been felt of a complete treatment, popular, scholarly, and yet compact. Now that such a monograph exists, it is time to present it to English readers who love and enjoy Rabelais, and will greet a work that shows a judicial spirit with a comprehensive knowledge of the man and his environment. “Maître Alcofribas Nasier, abstracteur de quintessence,” as he humorously calls himself in an anagram of his own name, is a nature so full, many-sided, and perplexing that no two commentators are in entire harmony upon the main characteristics of the man or of his life's work. Between the rare judgments of his contemporaries and the average opinion of the nineteenth century the chasm is wide. To the men of his day he appeared an encyclopædic biped, wise, influential among the great, good-natured, charitable to a fault, and brimming over with fun ; while in our time the points most emphasized are his rollicking humor, his satirical power, his whole-souled epicureanism of the grosser sort, and his amor immunditiæ. All this he is, and much more.
About the few facts known regarding his life tradition has busily woven many a “yarn,” which must, however reluctantly, be rejected, one and all. Rabelais, who was born in 1490(?), spent most of his life in wandering about from city to city, from France to Italy and back again, at the bidding of his noble friends du Bellai and d'Estissac, practicing all the while the profession of medicine as a relief from the strict duties of the monkish order to which he belonged, and finally, after alternate pettings and buffetings from fortune, he settled down to the peace and quasi-seclusion of his vicarage at Meudon, where he died about 1553, and where, alas, the enthusiast now seeks in vain for a trace of his dwell. ing. This is all it really imports to know of his varied and roving life.
The running fire of satirical comment upon men and things contained i Rabelais, sa personne, son génie, son auvre. Par Paul Stapfer, professeur à la faculté de lettres de Bordeaux. Paris. 1889.
in “Gargantua ” and “Pantagruel” bears, with but one or two exceptions, no mark of bitterness and passion ; it is the satire of the humorist, and is never misanthropic, for Rabelais, probably from his checkered life and his profession, had kept too much good feeling and genial common sense to rail at a world in which, he could say to himself, there were still left good fellows, wine and pasties, and books enow for any one so lucky as to get his share. Even in his numerous shots at the monks, whose bigotry and vices he had only too good reason to remember, severity was softened with touches of kindly feeling for those dullards who had tried to stifle his youthful eagerness for the things of the mind. The plan of the famous abbey of Thelema is absolutely monastic (minus one or two regulations), showing that a strong impression had been left on his mind by the order, gentle discipline, quiet, and general harmony of movement that form the basis of cloister life. And further, as Mr. Besant, following M. Eugène Noël, once pointed out, in the great fiction of “Gargantua and Pantagruel ” woman plays no part. She is admitted to Thelema, it is true, but her presence there has no bearing on the general scheme ; in life she is to be an accident and nothing more, for the student and the thinker are better off without her, — a silent exclusion that can be the result of nothing but early monastic training. There is no room for a woman's gentle influence and the affections of home in Rabelais' busy life, and he seems never to have felt the want of them, if one can judge from his silence over the loss of an infant son, whose existence was only lately discovered through an old register, as well as from the fact that the mother's name has remained unknown. For two classes of men, however, Rabelais nursed a most terrible hatred ; all the more intense, perhaps, that it was mingled with terror. Every limb of the law, from the judge to the bailiff, and the despotic priests of the Sorbonne who managed the religious affairs of France in a scholastic spirit of reaction against the new learning of which Rabelais was a brilliant representative, were in his judgment incarnations of selfishness, narrowness, and cruelty. He was probably not far astray. At all events, he never inissed an opportunity to fling sneering epigrams and sarcasm at them, and even on occasion could turn his hand to rather telling vituperation. These are the men he holds up for ridicule and contempt by inventing for them names of withering scorn, as in the Grippeminaud and Chatzfourrez communities, and in the pictures of “budge doctors,” la gent sorbonagre, sorbonigene, sorbonicole ; towards the latter especially he points his hatred of all pharisaical priestcraft (capharderie). He could have joined M. Leconte de l'Isle in his outpourings against the instruments of harsh mediæval justice, and the bigots whose coarse ignorance was equaled by their intolerance. Of this species of satire much had to be couched in allegorical form, — a necessity that has led more than one commentator into the toils of conjecture as to the amount of hidden allusion in the writings of Rabelais. But from the fact that satire is in. terspersed here and there, veiled under an allegorical reference or an apologue, to conclude that all contemporary history and social conditions are to be read between the lines is indeed making a rope of sand. The absence of systematic development is quite enough to render useless all • keys ” with which conjecture is too ready to supply the student. It may be suggested to some ingenious analyst yet unborn that the Donnelly method of seeing a Lord Chancellor's hand in the Shakespearean drama might so be applied to “ Pantagruel” as to show that the real author was the great Erasmus, to whom, as is well known, Rabelais more than once covertly alludes.
The moral and religious teachings contained in the great fiction do not call for long or profound treatment, because Rabelais, in spite of all he has to say concerning man and society, marriage and its risks, the bringing up and teaching of children, God and his relations to the human soul, is no systematic teacher of theological or of ethical principles. No sect or school claims him as an ally. In the conduct of life, we can fancy him to say, the main object should be to aim at results, and to live happily, considerately towards others, whatever rules may be devised for the more complete attainment of good. To borrow the formulas of logic: the practice of living is not to be deduced from a set of moral maxims, transcendentally acquired, but to be reasoned out inductively from the experience of countless generations from whose registered accumulations alone can a true philosophy of conduct be gathered. The motto of “ Fay ce que vouldras,” which is the golden rule at Thelema and of Rabelais' own life, and on the ground of which many accusations of epicureanism, sensualism, and what not have been laid to the author's charge, is not to be interpreted too baldly : it is distinctly understood that the wish which is father to the deed must be guided by good feelings and a clear conscience. Towards this position the following causes seem chiefly to have tended. In Rabelais' eyes scholastic formalism and pedantry, for which he always showed a most rooted aversion, were simply a cloak for hypocrisy and shams in general; they also represented the reactionary element of mediæval life. Further, when it is remembered that the deepest inspiration of his life's work is drawn, not from the Reformation, with its passionate ideals of creed and conduct, but from the colder enthusiasm of the Revival of Learning, where intellect counted for more than conscience and soul, then one can understand the comparatively lukewarm interest he takes in moral and religious problems, and the intensity with which he thirsts after that Castalian fount of knowledge the intoxication of whose draughts still throbbed through his every fibre. For him learning is the end and aim of existence. That oracle of " la dive Bouteille,” the enigmatical word TRINQ, is no exhortation to orgies, but a serious counsel to the pursuit of science. After the interminable wanderings of the good-natured Pantagruel to still the doubts that haunt the mind of Panurge as to the probable results of marriage, this, in short, seems to be the final advice of the prophetess and of the book :