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objects are useful, and pursued as much of the humiliating as of the means for producing tangible and vi- cheering. We are more knowing than sible improvements in the external ac- our fathers, but the old breed was a commodation of man; another great noble one, and it may be worth our class of objects have, in most ages of while to consider with ourselves wheththe world, attracted the zeal of the er we may not deserve the reproach of finest spirits of the earth, although the satirist-Gens pusilla, acuta.. not leading to any thing so obviously Such reflections as these are not advantageous—have been pursued, in very common among the men of our a word, for their own sake alone, nation, but in the book which now lies and believed to bring with them abun- before us, and in many other works of dantly their own reward. In regard those whom Madame de Stael classes to the former class of objects, it must with its author, under the name of be admitted that the world was never “ces grand penseurs Allemands," we so well off as it is now; we suspect find sufficient proof that they are by that, in regard to the second, a little no means unusual among the reflective research would have a tendency to lead men of another nation, which, in so to a very different conclusion.
far at least as philosophy and art are In respect to those branches of hu- concerned, may be entitled to fully as man exertion which are most evident- much respect as our own. Although ly ornamental, our inferiority to for the last fifty years have produced in mer ages will not be disputed, even by Germany more great and valuable lithe warmest admirers of their own terary works than the last hundred time and of themselves. Our age pro- years among all the other nations of duces no paintings like those of Leo- Europe, even the authors of Germany nardo, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Core appear to be pretty free from that reggio, or even like those of Holbein. overweening self-complacency which In sculpture and architecture our po is so visible in the writings of their verty is equally apparent. If we are French and English brethren. The better than ourimmediate predecessors, truth is, that all the German writers if we no longer admire or imitate the of eminence are also scholars of emiabsurdities of such men as Bernini, nence. They read before they think still we can sustain no comparison with of writing. Their reverence for others the times of antiquity; nay, in regard tempers their confidence in themselves. to one of those arts we are utterly des. They labour to improve and adorn picable, when compared with those their age, but they are modest enough ages of inodern Europe which we are to consider no little preparation as nepleased to think and talk of as utterly cessary for those who would enter updark and barbarous. Whatever excel on such a vocation. In like manner. lence we attain in sculpture is derived their books are too full of learning for from a servile imitation of the antique ; our public, in its present state ; they and in regard to architecture, we seem make allusions which our wits would to be so impressed with a sense of laugh at as obscure, and pass into di littleness, that we have absolutely gressions which they would censure as given over attempting any thing that absurd. Nevertheless, they are worth is worthy of being called great. We the studying, and will repay the lamake no fresco paintings now-a-days, bour which they demand from those no colossal statues, no cathedrals. We who peruse them with advantage. may call this wisdom and philosophy According to the author of these if we will. We may rave about polis lectures, the chief cause of those detical economy and chemistry, and de- fects which may be discovered in the spise, if we choose, the simple ages art and literature of the present time, which were more occupied with art is to be found in the spirit of thought than with science, with feeling than introduced by the philosophy of the with analysing ; but to those who con- last century. The object of that phisider this world as a preparatory scene, losophy was revolution ; its engine and our earthly life as a school for our was derision. Its masters devoted all intellect, and man as an immortal their talents to destroy the habitual creature, whose desires and aspirations veneration with which their country, are at all times after the infinite, the men of France and of Europe were spectacle of this, our boasted age, may accustomed to regard the political, perhaps appear to partake at least as moral, and religious institutions of
their fathers. They strove to repre- gard to that great and splendid branch sent every thing beyond their own of human exertiòn, that he has chosen, sphere, as existing only in prejudice, in the first instance, to meet and comand held sacred only by folly. Above bat the purposes and opinions of his all things, it was their wish and pur- antagonists. It is not necessary for us pose to undermine those forms of gove to explain by what circumstances, in ernment which are established among the late history and present condiall the descendants of the Gothic con. tion of his country, his views have querors of Europe. In order to make been more immediately turned to the these appear ridiculous, they pointed consideration of some of those subjects the shafts of their wit, not only against which his present work is most calcu. the Gothic thrones themselves, but lated to elucidate. against all the art, and literature, and The truth is, that the old contest philosophy, which had sprung up un- between the friends and the enemies der their protection. Their sole topics of empiricism, which was sufficiently of praise were found either among the violent in the days of the Platonists republican peoples of antiquity, or a- and Peripatetics of antiquity, never atmong themselves ;—the former having tained its full height and vehemence to boast, as they asserted, of the only till of late. The balance inclines true artists, and their own age of the grievously to the meaner side. Manonly true sçavants.
kind are now every where ashamed of It is with a certain mingled feeling being, what the philosophers of the last of calmness and melancholy that we age were pleased to call unphilosophical. look back, from the present situation of Even the common people begin to take affairs, to the image of those old times more pride in having some general when the external aspect of things was ideas, than in retaining that warmth harsher and ruder, but when hearts of attachment to one set of objects, were warmer than they now are, and which entirely depends, as they have faith more firm. The history of the last told, upon ignorance of that which is century, may at times provoke a con- beyond their circle. The travelling tempt almost touching upon ridicule, regiments of books which pour in their but in general it is with feelings of a heterogeneous impressions from the very different nature indeed, that we four quarters of the heavens, level all connect the circumstances of that e- peculiarities before them, and turn the ventful period with those of our own. private enclosures of attachment and As when dark clouds are seen progres- opinion into a thorough-fare. When sively advancing over the face of a the mind is artificially supplied, by calm and lovely heaven, and the me
means of books, with more sources of mory of past tempests is revived in the sentiment than are able at once harapprehension of new, it is not without moniously to keep possession of it, the an anxious and a mournful expectation speculative understanding steps in to that we see the old bands every day settle their claims, and concludes by relaxing around us, and, under the leaving the whole man in a woful state specious name of improvement, every of obliteration, which corresponds with thing which our fathers loved and ve- Wordsworth's description of a moralist. nerated borne by slow but sure de “ One to whose smooth-rubbed soulcan cling grees, into the reach of that revolu No form nor feeling, great or small, tionary current which leads to a fear- A reasoning self-sufficing thing, ful, and as yet an unexplored, abyss.
An intellectual all-in-all." None seems to have contemplated the To trace with that boldness which tendency of this age with more concern can only be inspired by mature skil. than Frederick Schlegel. The work fulness, a map of the whole history of which we have just read is a noble ef- human literature; to show how in every fort to counteract and repel its effects, age, the action of literature upon nato arouse forgotten thoughts and des- tionality, and that of nationality upon pised feelings, and to make men be literature, have been strictly recipronational and religious once more, in cal; and thus, by past examples, to order that once more they may be warn the present generation of the great. He is quite right in believing dangers in which they have involved that, as the evil has proceeded, so themseives,-this was a great attempt, must the cure also proceed from the and we think Frederick Schlegel has influence of literature ; and it is in re- accomplished it with very singular
success. He inculcates, throughout, the particular part, either of narrative or necessity which there is, that literature disquisition, it has been derived. should have reference to an established There is, for instance, at least as much centre, namely, to religious faith, and of art, as of elegance and of feeling, in to national history and character, the view which he gives us of the Hothat its main employment should be meric writings. to nurse and strengthen our associa
“ There is only one production, the high tions
in relation to these objects,--and pre-eminence of which gives to the early that, instead of being applied at ran ages of the Greeks a decided superiority over dom as a stimulus to our faculties and those of every other people, the Homeric emotions, as meré abstract human be- poems, the still astonishing works of the ings, it should bend all its powers to- Iliad and the Odyssey. These indeed are wards tutoring and forming the feel the work of a preceding age ; but it is suffi
ciently evident from the language, the conings of men, destined to act a part as citizens of their respective communi- poems, that they were designed and com
tents, and above all, from the spirit of these ties. In doing so, literature gains, posed within a short time (probably within both by having a determinate purpose, a century) of the age of Solon. In his time, and by being the conservator of asso at all events, and partly by means of his ciations, which grow more and more personal exertions, they were first rescued valuable as they grow older. As every from the precariousness and forgetfulness of nation has its own mental character oral recitation, arranged in the order in and constitution propagated from ge- have ever since continued to be, the objects
which we see them, and rendered, as they neration to generation, no traditions or
of universal attention and regard. poetry can be so congenial to it, as those
“ Solon and his successors in the govern. which originated with itself in early ment of Athens, Pisistratus and the Pisisages, constituting tests of its true bias tratidæ, over and above the delight which and genius, and continuing, during the they must have derived from the composi. course of its history, to strengthen na tions themselves, were probably influenced ture itself by reacting upon the same by views of a nature purely political, to in. national temperament which at first
terest themselves in the preservation of the produced them. He shews that a great six hundred years before Christ, the inde
Homeric poems. About this period, that is national character can only be pre- pendence of the Greeks of Asia Minor was served, by endeavouring as much as
much threatened, not indeed as yet by the possible to cherish and keep alive the power of Persia, but by that of the Lydian characteristic spirit of our ancestors; monarchs, whose kingdom was soon after and that the literature of each nation, swallowed up in the immense empire of Cyinstead of embodying all kinds of hu As soon, however, as that conqueror man ideas indifferently, should aim at had overcome Cræsus, and extended his rivetting a peculiar set of impressions power over the lesser Asia, no clear-sighted proper to itself, which would have the patriot could any longer conceal from him.
self the great danger which was impendent advantage of gaining force by every re
over Greece. The greater part of the Gre. iteration, and of pervading the whole cian states, indeed, seem to have remained system both of private and public life. long in their security, without foreseeing the
Nothing can, we think, be more storm which was so near them, and which beautiful than the manner in which burst with such fury on their continent dur, Schlegel calls up in succession the ing the reigns of Darius and of Xerxes. master-spirits of antiquity, and ex But the danger must have been soon and tracts from their merits, and sometimes thoroughly perceived by Athens, linked as from their defects, confirmation of the atic Greeks, not only by all the ties of a
she was in the closest intimacy with the Asitheory which it is his purpose to de- flourishing commerce, but also by the com. fend.' The power, majesty, and en mon origin of their Ionic race. The revival during beauty of the Greek, and the of these old songs which relate how Grecian comparative poverty of the Roman li- heroes warred with united strength against terature, are both explained upon the Asia, and laid siege to the metropolis of same principle : and yet the general Priam, occurred, at least, at a very favourconclusions to which he would lead us able period, to nourish in the Greeks the are, throughout, so admirably blended pride of heroic feelings, and excite them to with the interesting and amusing por- dence.
like deeds in the cause of their indepentraiture of individual men and works,
" Whether any such event as the Trojan that however strong may be the im- war ever in reality took place, we have no pression of which we are conscious, positive means of deciding. The dynasty we cannot easily point out from what of Agamemnon and the Atreidæ, however,
falls almost within the limits of history. open to our view in the utmost beauty and Neither is it at all unlikely that much inter- clearness, a rich, a living, and an ever move course subsisted at a very early period be- ing picture. The two heroic personages of tween the Greek peninsula and Asia Minor; Achilles and Ulysses, which occupy the first for the inhabitants of the two countries were places in this new state of existence, embody kindred peoples, speaking nearly the same the whole of a set of universal ideas and cha. language, and Pelops, from whom the pen- racters which are to be found in almost all insula derived its name, was a native of the traditions of heroic ages, although noAsia. That the carrying away of a single where else so happily unfolded or delineated princess should have been the cause of an with so masterly a hand. Achilles, a youth. universal and long protracted war, is, at ful hero, who, in the fulness of his victorious least, abundantly consistent with the spirit strength and beauty, exhausts all the glories of the heroic times, and forcibly recalls to of the fleeting life of man, but is doomed to our recollection a parallel period in the his. an early death and a tragical destiny, is the tory of Christendom, and the chivalry of the first and the most lofty of these characters ; middle ages. However much of fable and and a character of the same species is to be allegory may have been weaved into the found in numberless poems of the heroic story of Helen and Froy, that many great age, but perhaps no where, if we except recollections of the remote ages were in some the writers of Greece, so well developed manner connected with the local situation of as in the sagas of our northern ancestors. Troy itself, is manifest from the graves of Even among the most lively nations, the heroes,—the earthen tumuli which are still traditions and recollections of the heroic visible on that part of the coast. That these times are invested with a half mournful and old Greek mounds or monuments, which melancholy feeling, a spirit of sorrow, somewere, according to universal tradition, point- times elegiac, more frequently tragical ed out as the graves of Achilles and Patroc. which speaks at once to our bosows from lus,-over one of which Alexander wept, the inmost soul of the poetry in which they envying the fate of the hero who had found are embodied : whether it be that the idea a Homer to celebrate him,—that these were of a long vanished age of freedom, greatin existence in the time of the poet himself ness, and heroism, stamps of necessity such is, I think, apparent from many passages of an impression on those who are accustomed the Iliad. It was reserved for the impious, to live among the narrow and limited inor at least the foolish curiosity of our own stitutions of after times; or whether it be age, to ransack these tombs, and violate the not rather that poets have chosen to express sacred repose of the ashes and arms of he- only in compositions of a certain sort and roes, which were found still to exist within in relation to certain periods, those feelings their recesses. But all these are matters of of distant reverence and self-abasement with no importance to the subject of which I am which it is natural to us at all times to reat present treating; for although the Tro- flect on the happiness and simplicity of ages jan war had been altogether the creation of that have long passed away, In Ulysses the poet's fancy, that circumstance could we have displayed another and a less elehave had little influence either on the object vated form of the heroic life, but one scarcewhich Solon and Pisistratus had in view, or ly less fertile in subjects for poetry, or less on the spirit of patriotism which was excited interesting to the curiosity of posterity. This by the revival of the Homeric poems. The is the voyaging and wandering hero, whose story was at all events universally believed, experience and acuteness are equal to his and listened to, as an incident of true and valour, who is alike prepared to suffer with authentic history.
patience every hardship, and to plunge with “ To the Greeks, accordingly, of every boldness into every adventure; and who age, these poems possessed a near and a na thus affords the most unlimited scope for tional interest of the most lively and touch- the poetical imagination, by giving the oping character, while to us their principal at- portunity of introducing and adorning whattraction consists in the more universal charm ever of wonderful or of rare is supposed, of beautiful narration, and in the lofty re- during the infancy of geography, by the presentations which they unfold of the he. simple people of early societies, to belong to toic life. For here there prevails not any ages and places with which they are perpeculiar mode of thinking, or system of pre- sonally unacquainted. The Homeric works judices, adapted to live only within a limit are equalled, or perhaps surpassed, in awful ed period, or exclusively to celebrate the strength and depth of feeling by the poetry fame and pre-eminence of some particular of the north—in audacity, in splendour, and race ;-defects which are so apparent both in pomp, by that of the oriental nations. in the old songs of the Arabians, and in the Their peculiar excellence lies in the intuiPoems of Ossian. There breathes through- tive perception of truth, the accuracy of out these poems a freer spirit, a sensibility description, and the great clearness of unmore open, more pure, and more universal derstanding, which are united in them, in a -alive to every feeling which can make an manner so unique, with all the simplicity impression on our nature, and extending to of childhood, and all the richness of an unevery circumstance and condition of the rivalled imagination. In them we find a great family of man. A whole world is laid mode of composition so full, that it often
becomes prolix, and yet we are never weary
ed itself into a little republic. This change of it, so matchless is the charm of the lan in the government of states, and the conguage, and so airy the lightness of the nar dition of their citizens, must have had a rative ; an almost dramatic developement of tendency to render the relations of society characters and passions, of speeches and re- every day more and more prosaic. The old plies ; and an almost historical fidelity in heroic tales must have by degrees become the description of incidents the most minute. foreign to the feelings of the people, and It is perhaps to this last peculiarity, which there can be little doubt that this universal distinguishes Homer so much, even among revolution of governments must have mainly the poets of his own country, that he is in contributed towards bringing Homer into debied for the name by which he is known that sort of oblivion, out of which he was
For Homeros signifies, in Greek, a first recalled by the efforts of Solon and Pi. witness or voucher, and this name has pro- sistratus. bably been given to him on account of his His account of the Greek dramatists, truth,—such truth I mean as it was in the historians, and philosophers, is equally power of a poet—especially a poet who ce- excellent: with regard to the last set lebrates heroic ages, to possess. To us he of writers, however, we suspect his is indeed a Honur-a faithful voucher, an unfalsifying witness
, of the true shape and observations are much better fitted for fashion of the heroic life. The other ex
German than for English readers. planation of the word Homeros a blind With the exception of the unhappy man'—is pointed out in the often repeated young gentlemen who are drilled into and vulgar history which has come down to a superficial and mechanical knowledge us of the life of a poet, concerning whom of some part of Aristotle's writings at we know absolutely nothing, and is without Oxford and Cambridge, the whole doubt altogether to be despised. In the subject of ancient philosophy is, we poetry of Milton, even without the assertion of the poet himself, we can disa verily believe, as little known in Engcover many, marks that he saw only with land as in Iceland. Even the most
disthe internal eye of the mind, but was de- tinguished of our philosophical writprived of the quickening and cheering in. ers, Mr Dugald Stewart, never touches Huence of the light of day. The poetry of upon it, without betraying ignorance Ossian is clothed, in like manner, with a unworthy of his great genius. We hope melancholy twilight, and seeins to be the day is not far distant, when the wrapped, as it were, in an everlasting cloud. example of the Germans, more lateIt is easy to perceive that the poet himself of the French themselves, may prowas in a similar condition. But he who duce an important and happy change, can conceive that the Iliad and the Odyssey; in this particular, among a set of mer the most clear and luminous of ancient poems, were composed by one deprived of who are far too good to be thrown ahis sight, mast, at least in some degree, way upon the vain work of doing over close his own eyes, before he can resist the again things that were as well underevidence of so many thousand circumstances stood two thousand years ago as they which testify, so incontrovertibly, the reverse.
As a specimen of the view which 6 In whatever way, and in whatever cen
our author takes of the history of the tury, the Homeric poems might be created and fashioned, they place before us a time literature of the Romans, we extract when the heroic age was on the decline, or the following very original, and, we had perhaps already gone by. For there think, satisfactory account of their are two different worlds which both exist drama. together in the compositions of Homer, “ In the drama the Romans were perpethe world of marvels and tradition, which tually making attempts, from the time of still however appears to be near and lively Ennius downwards. In truth, however, before the eyes of the poet; and the living they have left nothing in that department circumstances and present concerns of the of poetry except translations from the Greek, world which produced the poet himself. - more or less exact, but never executed This commingling of the present and the with sufficient spirit to entitle them even to past (by which the first is adorned and the the less servile name of imitations. The second illustrated), lends, in a pre-eminent lost tragedians, Pacuvius and Attius, were degree to the Homeric poems, that charm mere translators; and the same thing may which is so peculiarly their characteristic. be said of the two consic poets, Plautus and
“ Of old the whole of Greece was ruled Terence, whose writings are in our hands. by kings who claimed descent from the heroic That old domestic species of bantering coraces. This is still the case in the world of medy, which was known by the Oscian Homer. Very soon, however, after his name of fabula atellana, was not however time, the regnl form of government was en entirely laid aside. It still preserved its tirely laid aside, and every people which place as an amusement of society in the had power cnough to be independent, crect- merry meetings of the nobles; who, in the