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effect, as existing between the University system of education, and the prize poems there produced, beyond a certain knack and facility of handling a very limited poetical phraseology, with a very slight degree of grace, which may, perhaps, liave been partly acquired by frequent practice of Latin versification ; this of itself is no evil, and accounts rather for the number than the quality of the poems which compete for the prize. Many of the successful candidates, however, have been notoriously indifferent scholars; the style of the poems does not in the slightest degree partake of that of any of the masterpieces of the Greek or Latin muse. It rather oscillates between the Goldsmith and Campbell school,-a style easily caught, easily commending itself to the uneducated ear, and relished perhaps more than any other by nine out of ten of a mixed audience. . A style too, which, we will venture to say, would be adopted by the majority of youthful candidates, if a prize were offered for public competition, out of the Universities. If there must be a pattern, it would be far more in character to award a prize to some sketch or description after the manner of Milton, or Spenser, as our great English classic poets. We have not even observed in these juvenile efforts, a predominance of words of Latin over those of Saxon derivation. In fact, as they are meant for public recitation, we have always considered the whole affair as a concession to popular, rather than as a specimen of University taste. If the reader answers that it ought not to be so, we must say that herein we agree with him, though we altogether absolve the classics themselves of share in the evil. Again, to speak of the professional question, and the clamour raised, by some ignorantly, by others maliciously, and with a desire of leading the public to draw an unjust inference. The Universities are expected, it would seem, to have ever in readiness a first rate fire-new poet for every vacancy in the Professor's seat; and those who would be ready to deny the Universities the power of producing any thing great and original, must affect an indignant surprise that something great and original is not forthcoming as soon as required. Aid us, Paris, Bologna, Salamanca,-tell us, ye universities from Gottingen to Gower Street, how we may afford decennial contradiction to the “ Poeta nascitur non fit;" how we may save ourselves from the obloquy of being baffled by the refusal of spirits “ to come when we do call them.” We do not suspect for a moment any individual of ordinary intelligence, of joining in this ridiculous cry; but is there any one of the rabble who first raised it, so ignorant as not to know, that cramping, and stultifying as they would wish to make the Universities appear, from them have proceeded the three greatest poets of the last half century, to say nothing of Coleridge, Wilson, Heber, Talfourd, and many other names highly distinguished in poetry and criticism; and that looking back to the Fathers of English Song, they have produced, or at least have not blighted when entrusted to their nurture, far more than their proportion of our noblest poets.
We are fully sensible of the injury which English poetry has sustained at the hands of those who have studied the poets of Greece and Rome, less for the purpose of being imbued with the better and
purer portion of their spirit, than of bodily carrying off some of their materials, servilely following mere outside form, and adopting a mythological apparatus. There are few who will dispute this, and it has often struck us that a distinguished modern bard was quixotically late in appearing in the field, against a cause for which, if rightly understood, scarcely any one would break a lance with him. It is not especially as an anti-classical school, that Bowles and his followers have rendered an important service, but as a school opposed to copyists, and mere followers of forms, and the supremacy of any limited, prescribed phraseology, over thought and feeling. Those who cannot be original will find something to imitate; and the question may reasonably be asked, whether, if the Greek and Latin poets had never found their way into England at all, we might not have been as weary of Thor and Odin, Sir Lancelot, and Sir Gawain, Oberon and Puck, as subjects, and of the old ballad style, as we really have been of the worshipful company of Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, &c., of English Pastorals, and long-winded odes, miscalled Pindaric. We verily believe more so; and we would not give a pin for the principle of the so called Natural School, unless it is calculated to protect us against the former abuse, as well as the latter. Inferior poets such as these there always have been, and such we suppose there always will be, who subsist, not on the æthereal, but on the more gross and palpable and material parts of those whom they choose to imitate. No really good poet was ever injured by studying the classic models ; and in the case of the ordinary student, there is, after all, little of that mannerism about the best productions, which should make them dangerous as subjects. Take Homer, like his own “ocean stream," all-embracing, all-reflecting, ever fresh, free, and musical. Who ever caught the trick of Homer, or the severe, statue-like grace of Sophocles, or the unprotrusive, slowly winning, shy beauties of Virgil ? They have no false nor even laboured effect, no catching peculiarity on which a school could be founded.
Ausus idem. Irrespective of their having been written in what are called the learned languages, and solely with a view to their effects upon the taste, we question whether any other set of authors could be substituted as objects of contemplation and study with less danger of abuse.
But though we find no fault with these, we think the inquiry may fairly be made, whether beyond the mere exhibition of them by accurate translation, much further pains is taken at our Universities towards the education of the Asthetic faculty; whether the imagination and taste are not almost left to shift for themselves, whilst the memory, the reasoning power, and minute verbal criticism receive a full share of attention. We think that the influence of University training on taste is at any rate somewhat of a negative kind. It prescribes indeed a quietism, and dryness, and, as a general rule, is adverse to ornament when unaccompanied with solidity: rampant verbiage, and Hibernian exuberance are treated with the most profound con
tempt,* an order of things to which the recitation of the Newdigate has always appeared to us, as we before stated, a sort of Saturnalian exception for the indulgence of the multitude assembled on that occasion. So far, well, but might we not expect something rather more positive than this? Go to the College lecture room when an ancient is the subject, and in nine cases out of ten does it not remind us of the anatomist's dissecting-room, where the nerves and veins of the dead subject are laid bare, and scrutinized with unfeeling precision, rather than the artist's studio, where the divine graces, the exquisite proportions of the living flesh, or the halfliving marble, are dilated on with infectious ardour, or to change the metaphor, is not the student often hurried by his trainer through the most lovely regions, where enjoyment of the scene might be made to accompany the exercise which is imparting vigour, with, to all appearance, no other object than that of preparing, by mere sudorific excitement, the classical athlete for the senate house or the schools,--a purpose for which the shapeless Salebræ of Lycophron might almost be made to serve as well? Or take the first handful of Cambridge Examination Papers, on some five or six of the ancient Tragedies. We have often thought that the editors of the theatre of the Greeks must be almost ashamed of their own success. Surely some of its most minute details were intended as answers-not to some scores of Examination Papers, but to a few very inquiring minds, making their researches in a particular direction. As à liber inter libros it is excelleot, and contains much, not merely useful, but necessary information, but it ought not to be as, we fear it is, the main stock in trade of the majority of college tutors and university examiners. Ask one of these gentlemen why the classic poets are so much studied, he will unquestionably answer with a view to the improvement of taste; is the fact consistent with this profession? If it is said that it is sufficient to reveal the Classic Poets, and then to leave the mind to observe and select for itself, what it is to admire, we answer, should we be satisfied with the professor, or even the mere amateur, in the other elegant imitative arts, if lie turned us into the Louvre, or the Vatican, without troubling himself about putting us into good lights, or pointing out perfections of which he ought to be a better judge than ourselves, but should rather prefer dwelling at length on such subjects as the dates of pictures, and the grinding and mixing of colours ? Surely not. To awaken any thing like ardour, or to create susceptibility, would, in the case of some pupils, be exceedingly difficult, or perhaps the attempt might end in a total failure; but with many it would succeed at all events the trial ought to be made more frequently than it is.
Let us not be supposed for one moment to underrate critical scholarship, or to forget our obligations to such men as Stanley, Porson and others, whom we might name, who are far above any shaft of ours if we were rash or ungrateful enough to aim one. They have served the purpose of skilful opticians. Lens after lens have they formed,
* Some, of course, come forth incurable and are guilty of spasmodic varieties and “ fantastic tricks before high heaven" and fashionable congregations, which they dare not for their lives commit under the eye of their Alma Mater.
and adopted, till we have seen more and more distinctly and minutely the beauties and the purport of things far off in the vista of time. Some of them have evidently enjoyed the visions which their own ingenuity has rendered distinct, more have congratulated themselves in that ingenuity, applying their eye to the glass for scarcely any other purpose than that of testing its clearness or its power. Do we now busy ourselves most with the telescope, or the prospect which it reveals; we fear, with the former, and when is this to end?
At the limited training of the Æsthetic faculty in one of its most important branches, the work which we have at present before us, whether intentionally or not, is evidently pointing. Strange to say, up to the time of its appearance, no one, if we except Mr. Howell,* has brought any store of English reading worth mention, to bear upon any one of the classic poets. Their sentiments, constructions, and metaphors, have, as a rule, been illustrated only by classical citations, and if parallels could not be obtained from the ancient sources, no efforts have been made to supply them from any other quarter ; though here and there a few privileged students may have met with a tutor of more taste and general reading than ordinary, who has indulged them now and then with a quotation from more modern literature. The interest with which these are often listened to, might, we think, ere now, have suggested to some one amongst the many thousands of students of the ancient poets such a work as that which we are reviewing, as a refreshing change amidst prosodiacal discussions, corrections of texts, and the thumbing of scholiasts and original manuscripts. That exemplifications of the kind, here referred to, may be useful to the scholar we consider as admitted by the meagre citations of Monk, Blomfield, Burges, and Peile, for we can scarcely suppose that out of mere whim or vanity they would have made useless additions to the enormous bulk of letter-press which seems to be a necessary appendage to the Greek play. “Why," however, as Mr. Boyes observes, in speaking on this subject, “if the principle is a sound one, is it not worth following
We will not quote his apology for the learned editors, which savours rather too much of charity, the penuriousness of their illustrations having, we imagine, been consented to rather by their poverty than their will. For what they have done we thank them, and only wish it had been more.
We have no words to throw away upon the man who can take no interest in a comparison of the thoughts of great minds, of whatever age or country. * Expression,” too, " the dress of thought," with its endless modifications, varying according to the character of mind, and the capacity of language, and influenced by climate, custom, and religion, the aspect of the same immutable truths as they have been uttered by the Christian or Heathen moralist, the yearning of those affections, which are the common inheritance of humanity, in every age and clime. But we must break off where we feel most tempted to let our thoughts have their run, and proceed to observe, that another valuable end is likely to be gained by the publication of such works
* This gentleman some years ago edited the Odes and Epodes of Horace, with illustrations from the English Poets.
as that which we are now noticing, if thereby any breach is made in the barrier to which we have referred at the commencement of our remarks. If, in the department of poetry, the university man is led to turn his attention more than he has bitherto done to the treasures of his “ land's language,” and if to the students of English poetry it has been shown, that there are at least some amongst those whom he has perhaps been in the habit of considering as mere scholars, who can sympathise in his pleasures, and who consider his pursuits as no less important and interesting than those which are more immediately their own, who are happy to meet him on common ground, and who would willingly tempt him at the expense of a little labour to partake of that which they do not wish in selfish exclusiveness to enjoy."
Our readers will see that we have availed ourselves of the appearance of the present work for the purpose of saying a few things which have long wanted saying, and which are of far more importance than a mere review of any particular book; we must not, however, altogether neglect details. That the reader may be enabled to judge how far Mr. Boyes is qualified, by familiarity with his authors, for the task which he has undertaken, we will give a specimen of his introduction : he is dwelling upon some of the leading peculiarities of Greek expressions, confirming them by copious references, which, however, we need not extract. “It is not by long strains of commendation that the child expresses its attachment to the parent, in whose smile and by whose side' it has lived from its infancy,—it has a thousand simpler and more genuine earnests of its affections; so it is not in their exquisite descriptions that we have the truest evidence of the love of the Athenians for external nature. We need do no more than advert to their tendency to anthropomorphism, or the worship of the human form, admirably treated of by Mr. Coleridge in connection with this principle. I will collect some of their most common phrases and expressions, and consider them with reference to it. Let us notice, for instance, the high importance which they attach to that grand key of external nature, the eye. Why, by a readily adopted eastern metaphor, is the monarch or the magistrate the eye of the state, but that the eye was held to be the monarch of the senses? It is probable that all, but especially the Oriental nations, give the vision this pre-eminence ! none, however, show it so distinctly as the Greeks. The voice and the clash are seen; the pæan flashes; and the echo gleams back from the distant rock; by the voice the blind beholds; the ears of the deaf are sightless; as in Hebrew poetry, the possession of this faculty makes the grand difference between the living and the dead, for light and life are one. Not merely is the eye the means of discovering, but by a bold conversion the means of discovery are the eye. Words referring to a definite and beneficial object are seeing words. The eyes are dearer than children, and the warrior values his lance, not merely above the gods, but above his very eyes. When the poet wishes to put into the mouths of the Persian chorus the highest title for their queen, she is a light equal to the eyes of the gods.' Orestes is the only hope, the precious eye of his house, and of his sister.
• To continue the argument, and at the same time to give further instances of the favourite expressions of these two poets, (Æschylus and