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of these things, but it is not identical with any. It is itself and nothing else. But what is it? What is grandeur or greatness of style ?
Even Matthew Arnold, whose lectures on translating Homer are the locus classicus on this subject, seems to me to use the phrase “Grand Style’ in a wider sense than is desirable. For instance, when he appears to say that Homer is always in the Grand Style ; and when he replies to critics who point to the innumerable passages such as
ότρυνεν δε έκαστον επoιχόμενος επέεσσιν, ,
Μέσθλην τε, Γλαυκόν τε, Μέδοντά τε, Θερσίλοχόν τε, that 'these lines are very good poetry indeed, poetry of the best class, in that place', the answer, though good enough against those who deny the poetic quality of the lines, does not meet those who deny them the peculiar quality of the Grand Style. That quality they can hardly be said to possess in themselves, as he quotes them, but only, if at all, by association with greater things. This, however, may be a mere passing lapse, as his language elsewhere points to a stricter definition. But, however that may be, it seems plain that the first thing needful in this quest of the Grand Style, if we are to make it mean anything definite, is to realize that poetry can be extremely fine, can be perfect in its kind, without being in the Grand Style. Arnold's own definition of it brings this out. 'The Grand Style', he says, ' arises in poetry when a noble nature, poetically gifted, treats with simplicity or with severity a serious subject.' This is clearly a much more useful definition than Mr. Saintsbury's. It draws us in much closer to the object. It does not pretend to make the Grand Style co-extensive with every kind of good writing. Indeed, it clearly does not cover all the ground covered by fine poetry. For, according to Arnold, if a poem is to be in the Grand Style, the subject of it must be serious, the treatment simple or severe, the poet a man of noble nature. The first condition excludes The Rape of the Lock, the second Keats's Ode to the Nightingale, the third Don Juan. Yet all these are admirable poems, among the very finest in the English language. But the fact that it is a poetic jewel five cantos long will not give The Rape of the Lock a serious subject; the fact that Keats's Nightingale is the very breath and finer spirit of romance will not make its treatment either simple or severe ; the fact that Don Juan is an unsurpassed and irresistible torrent of poetic power will not make it the work of a man of noble nature, will not prevent it from being the work of the less noble side of a man whose nobleness was a thing of occasional flashes and not of abiding presence. Thus there are great exclusions even on the basis of Arnold's definition. But it is possible that even this definition might gain by a little tightening. The nature of the poet, for instance, may be left out; it concerns us only so far as it affects the poetry and is to be judged by the poetry. An ignoble man often has noble moments and may rise to the Grand Style in them. We know next to nothing of Sappho or Pindar, and not much of Shakespeare ; their poetry, or part of it, remains, and it is on its own qualities that it must be accorded or denied the supreme merit of the Grand Style. Then, again, another point that might perhaps be improved in the definition is the word 'serious ', which has in English a too exclusively moral connotation. Arnold means otrovdaios, which he elsewhere renders' nobly serious'. Perhaps“ great’ is nearer as well as simpler. Then it may be well to qualify the simplicity of the definition. Wordsworth was assuredly a noble nature, poetically gifted, and the subject of We are Seven is a serious one treated with simplicity, yet no one would say the poem was in the Grand Style. That is obviously because its simplicity is not the simplicity of the Grand Style. May we then provisionally revise Arnold's definition, and make it read something like this : The Grand Style arises in poetry when a great subject is treated by the action of the imagination with severity or with a noble simplicity'? I have added the words ' by the action of the imagination' as a substitute for Arnold's 'poetically gifted applied to the author ; the point being in either case that the simplicity or severity must be of a poetic order, that is, must produce an effect on the imagination.
But definitions are by themselves abstract things, and in these delicate matters of perception abstractions convey little unless illustrated by concrete instances. Where shall we go for passages of good poetry that are, and others that are not, in the Grand Style? There are a very few poets whose entire, or almost entire, work is in that style. Milton is the obvious and universally accepted instance ; Dante is almost certainly another ; some of us might take courage to add Pindar for a third, in spite of the opinion of the great critic whom we used to call Longinus, who speaks of Pindar as a great poet whose genius often suffers lamentable eclipse. But, however that may be, it is certain that no poet in the whole history of literature better illustrates the compelling power of style. His subjects are not by themselves great subjects ; they are the mere victories of aristocratic athletes or chariot-owners; but, and this is the important point, he seldom fails so to treat them that they become great, by bringing them into relation with things of inherent poetic greatness, the august beginnings of an ancient and noble house, the connexion of the human and the divine, the eternal majesty of law and right. By the greatness of his nature and the power of his style he carries the minds of his readers far away above his patron's personal achievements, fulfilling and exalting their imagination with the vision of high things of everlasting truth and import. He is a difficult poet ; but happily for those who are not perfect Grecians it is the same with him as with Dante and Shakespeare ; his very finest passages are often among those that are the easiest to read. Take, for instance, the noble ode which concludes the Olympians. It is quite short and
easy, and its proper subject is merely a boy's victory in a race. Yet what an astonishing achievement it is, the Grand Style at its highest height !
Kαφισίων υδάτων λαχούσαν αϊτε
έστεφάνωσε κυδίμων αέθλων πτεροΐσι χαίταν. It is impossible to translate poetry; above all, poetry like this. But even in the far-off shadow of such a prose rendering as this which I have attempted, some fragment of its peculiar majesty of beauty may shine through :
O ye who dwell in that home of fair steeds that has the waters of Cephisus for its portion, ye Graces, famed queens of the rich earth of Orchomenus, guardians of the ancient Minyans, hear my prayer, for I call. Where you come come all things sweet and joyous to men ; be a man wise, or fair, or nobly-famed, your gift it is. For apart from the holy Graces not even the gods set up any dance or feast ; but of all doings in Heaven the Graces have the ordering, and, seated on thrones next to Pythian Apollo of the golden bow, they do their reverence to the eternal glory of the father of Olympus.
O gracious Aglaia, and Euphrosyne that lovest song, daughters of the most high of the gods, hear me; and thou, Thalia, that delightest in music, look upon this choir of ours as it dances lightly along in all the joy of victory. I come to lift high with all my art in these Lydian strains the name of Asopicus because through him the Minyan city has by thy grace achieved Olympian victory. Go now, Echo, to the darkwalled house of Persephone, and bear the tale of glory to his father ; stand before Cleudamos and tell him that in the hollow lands of famous Pisa his son has crowned his young locks with the winged chaplet of Olympia's glorious games.
Unless the deficiencies of the translation are even greater than I fear, every reader who has a sense of what is meant by style will be ready to understand me when I ask, Can the force of poetic style go farther than this ? And it is not merely style in general, if there be such a thing, but it is the particular kind of style we are in search after. This, if anything, is surely the Grand Style. Here is certainly the great subject made great by the greatness of the poet's mind. His ostensible subject is indeed the victory of Asopicus in a race at Olympia ; and that is all the average man would have seen in it. But what does Pindar see? First he escapes from the individual point of view to the national or civic ; the boy belongs to Orchomenus, and his success is the success of his city. But that city is under the special protection of the Graces who had a shrine there ; and the thought of that carries us away up to the Graces, to all they are and mean in human life, and, more than that, in the life of the gods too. And so we have travelled from the individual to the state, from the human to the divine, from earth to heaven; and a poem that might have been a mere outburst of athleticism has become a song of thanksgiving and an act of prayer. By the last line of the first stanza we have reached the eternity of heaven. But the song is in the Lydian mode, says the poet, and, if Boeckh be right, that implies that it has in it the supplicant's cry. And so another eternity comes into the poet's mind; the eternity of the dead. And the last