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  • MUDBE'Sj^^ LIBRARY,

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    Cornell University Library

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    Essays of poets and poetr

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    Library

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  • ESSAYS OF POETS AND POETRY-

  • PREFACE

    It is needless to say that no one of the nine Essays contained in this volume has been written within

    the last two years and a half.

    The earliest, that on the " Art of Translation," was first published as long ago as 1895, in the Quarterly Review, the others in the same periodical,

    or in the Monthly Review, at intervals extending

    over some ten years. The latest, that on "In

    Memoriam after Fifty Years," appeared in the Edinburgh Review early in 1906, shortly after the

    first, and separate publication by Lord Tennyson of

    this poem with his father's annotations. I had hoped to have reprinted these Essays, as I am now doing, in book form, before the present date, but

    delayed to do so, promising myself more oppor-

    tunity of rehandling than I have ever found time

    to accomplish. When in 1906 I became Vice- Chancellor, all hope of considerable retouching in

    any near future entirely disappeared. I was con-

    fronted with the alternative of allowing them to

    wait still longer, or of reprinting them as they were,

    with such limited amount of revision as had been,

    or was now, possible.

    I have to thank my old friend and publisher, Mr John Murray, for much consideration and kindness added to that for which I was ah-eady

    largely in his debt, and I must express my

  • vi PREFACE

    acknowledgments to Messrs Longmans for allowing

    me to reprint the Edinburgh article. I am indebted to not a few friends who, at the time

    when the articles first appeared, or since, have

    furnished me with valuable corrections or sugges- tions, notably to Dr Paget Toynbee, who read through for me the article on " Dante and the Art of Translation," both when it first appeared and

    again in the proofs a short time ago.

    I am further under much obligation to Lord Fitzmam'ice, who wrote spontaneously to tell me that Gray's copy of Milton was to be found in his

    brother's Library at Bowood, and to Lord Lans-

    downe himself, for being at special pains to enable

    me to inspect this most interesting relic, which deserves more thorough study than I have yet

    been able to give to it.

    A word of sincere gratitude is also due fi'om me to Professor Ulrich von Wilamowitz-MoUendorf for letting me use the long and interesting extract from his letter on the article about Sophocles, an

    informal but, as I think scholars will agree, very

    valuable contribution toward our realisation of

    that ever-interesting figure.

    Finally, I have to thank Mr George Stuart Gordon, one of the junior Fellows of my College, for most kindly reading through the whole of the proofs as they were passing through the Press.

    T. H. W.

  • CONTENTS

    I. Sophocles and the Greek Genius

    II. Matthew Arnold

    III. The Art of Translation .... IV. Dante and the Art of Poetry

    V. Virgil and Tennyson : A Literary Parallel

    VI. Gray and Dante

    VII. Tennyson and Dante .... VIII. Ancient and Modern Classics as Instruments

    OF Education

    IX. "In Memoriam" after Fifty Years

    FASE

    1

    u 85

    134

    172

    217

    243"

    270

    290

    Appendix—Extract from a Letter of Prof. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Mollendorf 326

  • ESSAYS

    I.

    SOPHOCLES AND THE GKEEK GENIUS.

    " Fortunate Sophocles ! with wealth and wit Together blest, he lived, and full of days

    He died ; his many tragedies were fair. And fair his end, before the evil hour."

    So, at the death of the great Attic tragedian,

    sang the comic poet Phrynichus, one of his younger

    contemporaries ; and after-ages have always dwelt

    on the same characteristics, which are indeed

    singular and significant.

    The "lives" of "the poets" are only too often

    some of the saddest reading in the world. Truly

    they seem to have "learned in suffering" what

    they have "taught in song," and to have poured out

    their bitter-sweet notes, like the legendary nightin-

    gale, with their bosom against the thorn. Want,

    exile, passion ill-assorted, unhappy marriage, feuds

    with friend and foe, melancholy and madness,

    scBva indignatio, the pangs of envy or of sensitive-

    ness, an early or a tragic end—these have been not seldom their lot. Glory is theirs, but purchased

    at what a price

    !

    Some exceptions there have been—Sophocles, A

  • 2 SOPHOCLES AND THE GREEK GENIUS

    Virgil, Chaucer, Shakespeare probably, Ariosto,

    Goethe, Wordsworth, Tennyson. But conspicuous

    among the exceptions is Sophocles. Both the

    ancient and the modern world have agreed to

    account him among the very happiest of aU poets,

    happy in his era, happy in the circumstances of

    his life, happiest above all in his own sweet and sage temper ; " the happiest of all Greek poets on

    record," as Swinburne called him long since; the " gentle Sophocles," as, by a felicitous transference

    of Ben Jonson's well-known epithet for his im- mortal friend, he styled him the other day.

    Other contemporaries who were able to look back on the career of Sophocles echo the same

    note as Phrynichus. Aristophanes, whose glorious,

    graceless comedy spared no one else, spared him.

    The motive of the " Frogs " is, as every one knows, the proposal to recover for Athens, now sadly shorn of poets, one of the great tragedians of the

    generation which had just p9,ssed away.

    " Why do you not bring Sophocles back from the grave, if you want one of the dead poets on earth again?" says Heracles to Dionysus. "Because, my dear sir, he will not come. He's too happy where he is, his sweet temper, his bonhomie, make him welcome everywhere. When he arrived in the lower regions he found his old friend and rival ^schylus enthroned. He only kissed him and clasped his hand, bidding him keep the throne, and so preserves his character still, ' Serene in life and after life serene.' "

    And Plato, no lover of the poetic temperament, in the ever memorable opening of the " Eepublic," says the same, and uses the very same untranslat- able epithet. He introduces Sophocles as an

  • SOPHOCLES' SERENITY 3

    example of one who in his May of life had enjoyed gustful youth to the full, but who could grow old charmingly, with a resignation worldly at once and unworldly. Well balanced and "serene," when one asked him, "How is it with you and Love, Sophocles? Are you still the man you were?" "Hush! hush!" he said, "we must not use such talk. Rather I have gladly escaped from the

    tyranny of a wild and mad master." Doubtless he had escaped from other tyrannies

    and torments. Even he must have had his struggles. Good fortune brings its own enemies, its own friction of envy and detraction. Life had not

    always been smooth. He had not always been successful. His greatest play only won the second prize : once the Archon would not grant him a chorus at all. Gossip and scandal had gabbled

    and hissed around him. Lesser men, minor poets

    and interviewers, had presented him in their

    belittling mirror. It may be his own kin had sought to push him from his throne and try on Jiis

    royal crown before his death. One of the comic

    poets called his poems literally " dog rimes," and

    said he seemed in writing his plays "to have

    collaborated with a barking hound,"

    It is true that the details of his life must remain

    dubious, for the record is scanty and mainly tradi-

    tional. But, on the whole, tradition, in such

    matters once discredited, has rather recovered

    than lost authority. Such evidence as that of

    Plato and Aristophanes gives fixed points of light

    ;

    and the broad facts remain, especially that of his

    relation to the evolution of the Greek drama.

    JEschylus, with his magniloquence, nobly

  • 4 SOPHOCLES AND THE GREEK GENroS

    grandiose, like "the large utterance of the early

    gods," -i^schylus, whose

    " Bronze-throat eagle-bark at blood

    Has somehow spoilt my taste for twitterings ;

    "

    Sophocles, with the perfection of his art ; Euripides,

    with his romance and novelty—they are all Greek, and they are all great. It is, however, of the

    essence of Sophocles, it is the secret and the sum of hi