Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, November 03, 1887, Page 3, Image 3

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We cannot leave this number, that for September, by the
way, without expressing our particular gratification in Mr.
John Addington Symonds' article on "Realism and Ideal
ism". Like the other, its subject is old. The treatment,
however, is distinctively original, and the thought is just
what is needed. The subject is dealt with as it affects art in
sculpture and painting, but the author's ideas arc equally
applicable to literature, and in this connection they are no
less timely. The aim is to show that the two qualities, in
stead of being inherently antagonistic, are really very near
akin "twin sisters," as Mr. Symonds expresses it, and that
the perfection ot art is reached when the two are so combined
that neither is obstiusively present or conspicuously absent.
This idea receives our unreserved approval, and we sincerely
wish that Mr. Symonds or another writer of equal forje and
ability, if such another there be, nrxy take up the subject from
a literary standpoint and permit the public to have the bene
fit of his thought. The advocates of each school arc equally
at fault; the Idealists, because they imagine that a slovenly
inattention to details is necessary in order that the imagina
tion may not be hampered or the thoughts come too near real
life, for in this way, they think, would an clement of sublimi
ty be lost; the Realists also, for to them the evil in life seems
in direct contrast to idealism, and hence it must be the real.
While these schools exist reaction must follow reaction, for
the public can never tolerate a prolonged stay of cither. The
pendulum must continue to vibrate, but, we think, it will at
length find the happy medium and be content therewith.
Are the Realists justifiable in insisting that ugliness and vice
ate the characteristics of life; and arc not the Idealists at fault
when they suppose that sublimity consists in ignoring nature?
Both these views are cynical, and unworthy minds whose
province is to please, content, and instruct. If this life is a
school of preparation for a happy existence hereafter, and
even the Realists admit this, certainly our Master cannot
deem it wise to give us no intimation of what is to come. Truly,
"The whole history of the world proves that the good possess
es more of reality, more of promanence, than the bad."
Then there is another class of Realists which devotes its at
tention to the silly rather than that which is really evil. The
lattcrthey never attempt. Their works consist almost entirely of
efforts to tcpovl verbatim the flimsiest prattle of the most brain
less society. There is neither plot nor thought. Mr. Boyes
en attempts to account for this class of works by saying that
they are "written for the girls." Is this what the girls wish?
If so, there is an excuse for the writers.
As a summary: 'A writer should not aim at producing a
mere bare copy of his subject at some accidental moment, for
he knows that the thing itself is better than such a copy
would be. He should attempt to siezc and reveal its charac
ter at the very best, to represent what it strives to be, to ex
press its truest truth, not what is transitory and conditioned
by circumstance, but what is permanent and freed from limita
tions in it.' Idealism, when sound and healthy, is only
Realism in the intensest phase of veracity; it is truth quint
essenced and raised to the highest power."
The poetical world still imitates the ancient Grecian mas
ters. Homer's Iliad has been the model for all heroic poetry
extending over the period from Virgil to the present time.
Paradise Lost, the greatest Christian epic of modem times,
owes its style to Grecian art. Not only is this seen in its
form, buteven in its substance, it mingles its biblical story
with the legends of the Middle Ages and those of mythology.
In the drama the influence of the Greek mind has been felt
more, Aeschylus and Sophocles are the masters of tragedy
who have done more than any others, and since their day,
tragic poetry has been chiefly imitations of them. The Re
naissance was the revival of antique models. Everything
that was ancient was eagerly sought for, and imitation not in
vention became, in a greater degree than before the law of
genius. Literary productions were judged, not according to
their intrinsic merit, but in proportion to their conformity to
the ancient style. This gave an impetus to literary imitation
and led to the rise of the classic movements, whose influence
is felt even in the literature of today. Even the influence
which has spread since the time of the French Revolution
has not counteracted that of the classics. To be sure, poets
like Browning have arisen who strive to throw off entirely
the ancient yoke, and gradually literature is becoming eman
cipated. But in the realm of lyrical poetry, the moderns
have, to a large extent, freed themselves from the domina
tion of the old classic models, and here it is that .he spirit of
poetry attains the highest success. The elegiac and lyrical
poetry of modern times excels anything of the sort in Greek
literature. There is an individuality of character and pur
pose, and a purity of sentiment unknown to the ancients.
There is shown a higher form of virtue than physical courage
and prowess, an inner, rather than an outward beauty and
love rather than passion. There is a worship of nature for
its own sake, while the Greeks spiritualized natural forces
and objects. Shey invested the realm of nature with invisi
ble living beings, the creatures of their imagination. The
Greeks were worshipers of themselves, of the ideal man who
was a Greek, and each imagined that he was the most perfect
realization of that ideal; they adored beauty, especially that
of the human form. They endowed their divinities with the
ordinary attributes and passions of human nature, and clothed
them with the perfection of human forms. But nature to the
moderns means only ad in ration of hills, rivers and flowers.
One school of poets regards nature as one great plan of which
man is only an clement, and of no more importance than the
beasts or birds. But another ch; nge is being acomplished.
The theme of poetry is man and human nature. Nature is
now the back ground of the picture and only when the as
pects of nature are used to interpret the varying moods and
exercises of the soul, are they worthy to be the poet's theme.
The philosopy of Socrates is thought by some to be that
of the Sophists. This is a mistake. He was modest and
humble, while they were flippant and arrogant. His favorite
recreation was to encounter them, corner them, and show
them up for the amusement of others. But Socrates never
pretended to be a teacher so much as an inquirer of philoso
phy, and he had no ambition to found a system. He was
often seen in the market house, among shops and booths,
conversing with any who came in his way. His place was
among men in every vocation and condition of life living for
As to his particular doctrines it is hard to say, as he wrote
nothing himself, and disowns many of the sentiments ascribed
to him. He believed in the Grecian mythology, but regarded
them as divinities inferior to one supreme God, who coincided
with the God of the Christian religion. His theory of the
immortality of the soul was in opposition to the general belief
of the ancients, but he held to it firmly. His idea of virtue
is defective, as he held knowledge and virtue, ignorance and
vice, to be the same. Still he urged the practice of virtue and
denounced vice. He says: "If we would dcseive the favor
of the All-seeing Power, that delights only in goodness, if we
would be happy here and hereafter, we must live purely,
temperately and justly, and seek virtue more than riches,