網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

smouldered. She matured and perfected the art of historical composition, of political and forensic eloquence, of popular legislation, of lyric and dramatic poetry, of music, painting, architecture, and sculpture; she unfolded the 6 mathematics, theoretically and practically, and clothed the moral and metaphysical sciences in the brief sententious wisdom of the myriad-minded Aristotle, and the honeyed eloquence of Plato.

Rome overran the world with her arms, and though she

10 did not always spare the subject, she beat down the proud, and laid her laws upon the prostrate nations. Greece fell before the universal victor, but she still asserted her intellectual supremacy, and, as even the Roman poet confessed, the conquered became the teacher and guide of the con

15 queror.

At the present moment, the intellectual dominion of Greece — or rather of Athens, the school of Greece—is more absolute than ever. Her Plato is still the unsurpassed teacher of moral wisdom; her Aristotle has not

20 been excelled as a philosophic observer; her ^Eschylus and Sophocles have been equalled only by Shakspeare. On the field of Marathon, we call up the shock of battle and the defeat of the Barbarian host; but with deeper interest still we remember that the great dramatic poet fought for

25 his country's freedom in that brave muster. As we gaze over the blue waters of Salamis, we think not only of the clash of triremes, the shout of the onset, the paean of victory; but of the magnificent lyrical drama in which the martial poet worthily commemorated the naval triumph

30 which he had worthily helped to achieve.

All these things suggest lessons for us, even now. We have the Roman passion for universal empire, under the names of Manifest Destiny and Annexation. I do not deny the good there is in this, nor the greatness inherent

35 in extended empire, bravely and fairly won. But the empire of science, letters, and art is honorable and enviable, because it is gained by no unjust aggression on neighboring countries; by no subjection of weaker nations to the rights of the stronger; by no stricken fields, reddened with the blood of slaughtered myriads. No crimes of vio5 lence or fraud sow the seed of disease, which must in time lay it prostrate in the dust; its foundations are as immovable as virtue, and its structure as imperishable as the heavens.

If we must add province to province, let us add realm

10 to realm in our intellectual march. If we must enlarge our territory till the continent can no longer contain us, let us not forget to enlarge, with equal step, the boundaries of science and the triumphs of art. I confess I would rather, for human progress, that the poet of America gave

15 a new charm to the incantations of the Muse; that the orator of America spoke in new and loftier tones of civic and philosophic eloquence; that the artist of America overmatched the godlike forms, whose placid beauty looks out upon us from the great past, — than annex to a country,

20 already overgrown, every acre of desert land, from ocean to ocean, and from pole to pole.

If we combine the Roman character with the Greek, the Roman has had its sway long enough, and it is time the Greek should take its turn. Vast extent is something,

25 but not everything. The magnificent civilization of England, and her imperial sway over the minds of men, are the trophies of a realm, geographically considered, but a satellite to the continent of Europe, which you can traverse in a single day.

30 The states of Greece were of insignificant extent. On the map of the world they fill a scarcely visible space, and Attica is a microscopic dot. From the heights of Parnassus, from the Acrocorinthos, the eye ranges over the whole land which has filled the universe with the renown of its

35 mighty names.

From the Acropolis of Athens we trace the scenes where Socrates conversed and taught and died; where Demos, thenes breathed deliberate valor into the despairing hearts of his countrymen; where the dramatists exhibited their matchless tragedy and comedy; where Plato charmed the 5 hearers of the Academy with the divinest teaching of Philosophy, while the Cephissus murmured by under the shadow of immemorial olive-groves, and the Hill of Mars; where St . Paul taught the wondering but respectful sages of Agora, the knowledge of the living God, and the

10 resurrection to life eternal.

There stand the ruins of the Parthenon, saluted and transfigured by the rising and the setting sun, or the unspeakable loveliness of the Grecian night; beautiful, solemn, pathetic. In that focus of an hour's easy walk, the

15 lights of ancient culture condensed their burning rays; and from this centre they have lighted all time and the whole world.

LXXXIX. — GREECE, IN 1809.

[george Gordox Byron, Lord Byron, was born in London, January 28, 1788, nnd died at Missolonghi, in Greece, April 19, 1824. In March, 1812, he published the first two cantos of his splendid poem, *' Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," which produced an impression upon the public almost without precedent in English literature, and gained him the very highest place among the poets of the day. From that time till his death he poured forth a rapid succession of brilliant and striking productions, varying in degrees of merit, but all contributing to maintain him in his lofty literary position, and keeping his name ever fresh upon men's lips. The interest which he awakened as a poet was further enhanced by a wayward and irregular life, by an unhappy marriage, a separation from his wife, and by his finally joining the Greeks in their struggles against the Turks. Perhaps no man of letters was ever so much talked about, written about, attacked and defended, in his own life, as he.

Lord Byron's fame with posterity will not equal the prodigious popularity he enjoyed among his contemporaries. And yet his poetry has, in an intellectual point of view, some great and enduring excellences. In description and in the expression of passion he is unrivalled. His power over the resources of the language is great, though he is not a careful or accurate writer. His poetry abounds with passages of melting tenderness and exquisite sweetness, which

take captive and bear away the susceptible heart. His wit, too, Is playful and brilliant, and his sarcasm venomous and blistering. His leading character is tio is energy: he is never languid or tame; and in his highest moods, his words flash and burn like lightning from the cloud, and hurry the reader along with the breathless speed of the tempest.

Much of Lord Byron's poetry is objectionable in a moral point of view. Some of it ministers undisguiscdly to the evil passions, and confounds the distinctions between right and wrong; and still more of it is false and morbid in its tone, and teaches, directly or indirectly, the mischievous and irreligious doctrine, that the unhappiness of men is just in proportion to their intellectual superiority.

There was little that was respectable or estimable in Lord Byron's life. He had no fixed principles, and was the sport of every whim or passion that asBailed him. For many years, he lived an outcast from his home and country, In open defiance of the laws of God and man; not without spasms of selfreproach and half purposes of reform. His joining the Greeks showed that his profligate and self-indulgent habits had not destroyed in him the power of vigorous action and generous sacrifice.

The following extract is from " Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." Thermopylae is a narrow pass leading from Thessaly into Southern Greece, where Leonidas, and a small band of Spartan heroes, resisting an immense Persian host, were all slain. The town of Sparta, or Lacedaemon. was upon the river Kurotas. Thrasybulus was an Athenian general who overthrew the power of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens B. C. 403. He first seized the fortress of Phyle, which was about fifteen miles from Athens. The Helots were slaves to the Spartans. Colonna, or Colonni, anciently Sunium, is a promontory forming the southern extremity of Attica, where there was a temple to Minerva, who was also called Tritonia. Hymettus and Pentelieus were mountains near Athens, the former famou J for honey, and the latter for marble. The modern name of Pentelicus is Mendeli. Athena was a name by which the Greeks called Minerva, the literary goddess of Athens.]

1 Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!

Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great!
Who now shall lead thy scattered children forth,

And long accustomed bondage uncreate?

Not such thy sons who whilome did await—
The hopeless warriors of a willing doom —

In bleak Thermopylae's sepulchral strait:
O! who that gallant spirit shall resume,
Leap from Eurotas' banks and call thee from the tomb?

2 Spirit of Freedom! when on Phyle's brow

Thou sat'st with Thrasybulus and his train,
Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour that now
Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?

Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain,
But every carle can lord it o'er thy land;Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain,
Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand,
From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed, unmanned

8 In all, save form alone, how changed! and who
That marks the fire still sparkling in each eye,
Who but would deem their bosoms burned anew
With thy unquenched beam, lost Liberty!And many dream withal the hour is nigh
That gives them back their fathers' heritage;
For foreign arms and aid they fondly sigh,
Nor solely dare encounter hostile rage,
Or tear their name defiled from Slavery's mournful page.

4 Hereditary bondmen! know ye not

Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow?
By their right arms the conquest must be wrought:Will Gaul, or Muscovite, redress ye? — No!True, they may lay your proud despoilers low;
But not for you will Freedom's altars flame.

Shades of the Helots! triumph o'er your foe! Greece! change thy lords: thy state is still the same: Thy glorious day is o'er, but not thy years of shame.

5 When riseth Lacedaemon's hardihood,

When Thebes Epaminondas rears again,
When Athens' children are with hearts endued, When Grecian mothers shall give birth to men,

Then thou mayst be restored; but not till then.
A thousand years scarce serve to form a state;

An hour may lay it in the dust; and when
Can man its shattered splendor renovate?
Recall its virtues back, and vanquish Time and Fate?

« 上一頁繼續 »