Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, January 15, 1884, Page 4, Image 7
THE HESPERIAN STUDENT. cal orator, had no hesitation in pointing his periods so as to tell against the pnrty ho felt himself bound to depre ciate. Keltic shows us in this matter whcroln Green has been unjustly criticised. An historian, we have recently been told, has no business to have any stylo at all; if ever he dares to broak out into criticism, or attempts any dra matic or picturesque reproduction of tho past, ho is at once to bo distrusted. His sacred duty, it has boon main ained, is to bo uniformly dull, to bo the moro recorder of bald facts and dates, to rigidly suppress every tendency to go beyond the role of tho chronicler and annalist. In tho science of geology itself one of the most useful of the haud-maids of history had the legitimate oxoicise of the imagination, tho reconstructive faculty, been for bidden, and the researches? of its devotees been confined to the more tabulation of minerals and fossils, all pro gress beyond a mere catalogue would have been impossi ble. On (lie other hand by tiie aid of one of tho most wonderful of human faculties, what stupendous advances have been i cached as to tho past history of our globe, even when all allowance is made for tho flights of un fettered fancy. In the case of tho historian it may take , he form ol the splendid panarama of Gibbon,;thc teeming style of Maculcy, the exhaustive analysis and graphic portraiture of Carlylc, or the intensely sympathetlcjreali zation of Green. To work he held always to bo his duly. Indeed he never ceased working. Tears before, lie had truly, though half lightly forecast his own epitaph, "Ho died learning." DllAMA-GHEEK AND ENQEISII. It is a noteworthy fact that the Greek drama attained its highest degreo of excellence in the half-century fol lowing the battle of Sal nmis. Tho war that had called into being all the energies of Athens ended in her proud triumph, leaving a country no longer oppresed by do mestic tyrants or devastated by barbarians. Her vast and varied powers Intellectual and spiritual as well as physical, awakened in this struggle for life, arc at its closo concentrated into one great force and directed to a single end the perfection of tho fine arts. Within this period sculpture passed through its several phases of austerity, of finished grace and had already taken upon itself elegance, the effeminate beauty of decay. ' Thus also had the Greek drama, this combination of all arts, exhibited in rapid succession tho colossal grandeur of .Eschylus, the perfection in form, the spotless purity of Sophocles and finally the refinement, tho scepticism, the Immorality of Euripides. The English drama lias its source on the forces set free by tho Protistant Reformation. In a period of thirty six years extending from Marlowe to Ford, doubtless the most active age in modern times, tills drama had ex hausted all available rosources, having passed through tho diiferent stages .of growth aualogous to thosoof tho Greek. Tho fact that the English drama has a religious origin points to no principal upon which an explanation of it may be grouuded. So far from being religious it has not oven amoral purpose. Shakespeare has been called tho great teacher of morality. He teaches how ever, by laying bare the whole being of man in its vilest as well as noblest forms. Nay, more, ho doll ghts In vill any as in virtue and his scliso of justlco is oxtromoly vague. That the object of tragedy is to mako men wiser and better was never conceived by Shakespearo and perhaps by none of his contemporios. Tho Grook drama is rollglous In Its origin and its essential object is tho inculcation of moral principles. Tho prevailing idea is that the fate whoso decrees are irrevocable against which even the gods may struggle In vain. This idea is more prominact in iEschylus and Sophocles than In the later tragedians1 The man who is ''hateful to tho gods' may bo unconscious of iguilt and upright In inten tion, yet, as in the case of Edipus, he is driven uniutcn tionally to tho commission of horrid crime. The religion of the Greeks was moro Intimately con nected with tho aflairs of life than that of the moderns; yet It was a religion that fctterod not a single faculty of their being. To tho Greeks tills Is a world of joy Human nature is in harmony with llio divino order of things not yet mobile, discordant, fallen from grace. Justice is meted out to each man In life. Tliero is no need of reward or punnishment beyond tho tomb licnco tl c efforts to mako this life enjoyable by adorning it with all that is elevating and ennobling in tho arti, hence also that quiet contentment whoso spirit is the re pose of sculptur. Christianity, on tlte contrary, exhibits this world as a scarely possible desert with a beautiful home nt the end. Life is a constant struggto with nisi erablc enemies as the still moro powerful demons, invisi ble, omnipresent hence the tumult of modern life. The soul of the Greek is an ever tranquil lake with its bosom open to tho sunny sky, while that of tho Christian is visited by tempests that rage ficrcoly over its surface and wreck all earthly hopes upon tho rocky shore. But the spirit of tho storm Is tho atmosphoreof painting, and of tho English drama. DcQuincy has explained tho differonco be'wcen tho ancient and modern drama by the statement in a novel form of the principle of art as a species of imitation. Mechanic art may bo distinguished by the expression "idem jn codevi" and fine art by "idem in ulio." Tho first aims at convoying tho same Impression as tho tiling imitated thought sitnilar means; the second effects tho same thought a different medium. For example, if wo represent a particular battle by wax-work, making move ments to correspond mechanically with the original we have simply mechanic art; but fine art, if wc produco the same effect through music, painting or acting. Art becomes less real, tho more It differs fiom the thing im itated. Tlio most natural form of tragedy is prose; but as the iambic mensure is tho natural languago of pas sion, only the tragic parts must ho metrical. Even tho English play, however, is idealized to a certain extent; hence the iambic Is regularly used. To idealize still further, as in the climax of passion or in representing a play within a play, rhyme is employed. Idealization in the Greek drama is perfect; hence it is removed tojaninfinite distance. This is accomplished by the use of complex metres, especially in the lyric parts, dancing and singing of the chorus and perhaps also of the actors, tho mask and cothwrnus, decoration, tho re ligious spirit, participations of gods, and finally the great size of tho stage. Tims it appears that while tho English tragedy is kin dred to the art of painting, that of the Greeks corresponds S.