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emotion. When we add also to the happy temperament which their clime and their landscapes were so likely to impress on them, their striking flexibility of genius, which seems to have been assigned to them in distinction from almost all other people, as a special gift of nature; we can easily account for the exquisite finish and taste dis. played so early in their intellectual efforts. Although a primitive production in every region, yet nowhere else, as in Greece, has poetry, so early in the progress of society, ever reached its acme of excellence; exhibiting such an inexhaustible vigor of ideal power in combining at pleasure the elements of the beautiful, the graceful, the tender, the pathetic, the grand, the terrible. The echoes of the Delphic groves continued to excite the muse, in measures either of Ionian melody, or of Doric and Attic splendor, till every chord of the human soul had responded to the spirit of genius. Whether the Grecian lyre were swept in epic song, or in the wild dithyrambic, or in the grand pean, or in mournful elegy, it rendered the national mind passionate for elegance, exuberance, and power.

Nor was it unnatural that religious emotion, one of the most vivid and universal feelings of human nature, should come in as an auxiliary to the poetic structure of the Grecian mind. Possessing the aid neither of an improved philosophy, nor of divine revelation, it is not surprising they should adore with almost a superstitious reverence every indication of Deity, whether observed in the energies of man or in the visible world. And far less wonderful is it, that they should deify both man and nature, since with them, more than with other communities usually, abounded a greater variety of agreeable, brilliant, and alarming phenomena, which could so afford vivacity and excitement to human character as to prompt it to the greatest of physical and mental achievements. Hence their manifold theogony; of which it were out of place here to affirm any thing more than that with them, both the outward and invisible worlds were not only instinct with life, but even peopled with almost innumerable divinities. Whence, then, could spring a deeper poetry than from the religion which assigned to the universe a master, and a distinct ruling spirit to every object in all animate and inanimate creation ? New elements of intense feeling must have been evolved by every recurrence of the idea, that the heavens, the earth, the seas, the rivers, groves, foun. tains, glens, and hilltops, the zephyr and the tornado, and their own domestic altars and firesides, were each the abode of some presiding divinity.

Thus were this land and people adapted to the birth of that trans. cendent genius, who, if indeed he has since been equalled, has cer. tainly never been surpassed. To Homer alone has posterity been disposed to award the honor of bringing out to permanent view a nation's highest glory—its 'intellect, its wisdom. For twenty-seven centuries he has stood up an intellectual beacon for the world's gaze

nd improvement. His age and his country furnished him with a rich profusion of appropriate and inspiring themes, on which to exer. cise the astonishing attributes of his mind. And remarkable must be the stupidity that checks all joyous gratitude for his success in bestowing on the world such a noble specimen of a language--all wrought

up into the most exquisite structure, and characterized by unusual copiousness and melody.

A twofold interest is added to the Homeric verse, by the striking uniformity into which the discordant elements of the early mythology are blended, and by the ambition with which it inspired genius of succeeding generations. The one established sincerity and devotion in a fabulous religion : the other introduced many provinces of thought, in which minds, whether poetically or philosophically cast, have shown surprising acuteness and versatility: and both caused the star of Greece, as to its literature, to remain in the ascendent long after its civil power was crushed. To be assured of such an effect of the early epic song, it were only necessary to observe the fresh impulse given by Homer's genius to the great religious festivals of the nation; at which mind contested most powerfully with mind before tasteful auditories that could decide unerringly on merit and demerit. In this way, chiefly, were brought out a splendid and ver. satile intelleet that thrilled Greece, and impressed the world. Anacreon and Pindar were aroused to bursts of lyric sweetness and grandeur : Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, sung in notes of wo to tragic destiny: Aristophanes flashed wit and burning satire on a dissipated metropolis : Herodotus, and Thucydides, and Xenophon clothed in simple majesty and gave to posterity desultory and consecutive history, On the mind of Socrates beamed a ray of inspired truth; to embellish which, and to incorporate it into an elegant philosophy, Plato ex. hausted all the treasures of the Grecian tongue. Aristotle stands out as a rival yet with the world in analytic subtlety. Nor have the thunderings of the Athenian orator yet died away on the ear of posterity.

Such is a mere glance at some of the displays of Grecian intellect, unparalleled in any previous age of the world.

of the world. To whatever depart. ment of a literature thus developed we attend, or whatever trait in any one of its departments we may investigate-whether the grandeur and melody of song, or the wildness and stately gloom of tragedy, or the elegance, the strength, and manly tone of history, philosophy, or eloquence—we are constrained to the belief that mankind through this means were advanced several degrees in the scale of intellectual ele. vation, from which they have never yet fallen.

We deem it now proper to ascertain, if possible, whether Grecian literature is entitled to the rank we claim for it, from examples of its actual contributions to the elevation of society. And in noticing only the more decisive cases of its influence, we should in the first place, as would seem natural, regard its bearing on the intellect of the Roman nation.

It is interesting to a mind accustomed to trace the causes of moral, political, and intellectual changes, to observe the striking revolutions of various character that occurred from the first to the last of Roman history. But claiming for themselves such an origin and such auspices as they did, it is not surprising the Romans should assiduously apply themselves to military rigor merely, during the many ages in which the Grecians were excelling all the world in intellectual splendor. The wonder is that they should become so suddenly attached to literature. This, however, was the direct result of one of those con



tingences from which, in the order of Providence, follow the greatest of intellectual and moral consequences. The Roman sword had sub. jugated Greece, whence were sent to Rome, under the Achæan league, a thousand deputies, among whom were men of profound and various erudition. A rigorous jealousy required their detention many years, during which they so applied their mental resources as to obtain a proud honor for their country-an acknowledged superiority of the conquered to the conquerors. Roman pride was in this manner stung to exertion; the emulation excited could not be satisfied till Grecian taste and learning were adopted as the standard of excellence and of attainment. Hitherto a fervid imagination had kindled the fires of genius only in a few cases--so many obstacles were there to beset the full exercise of the mind's noblest powers. Plautus, Andronicus, Terence, and others had previously sung, it is true, and sung glo. riously; but not on those subjects and in that spirit, certainly, for which their land, and clime, and genius afforded such various facilities, Conquest continually introduced them to whatever was useful in science, beautiful and grand in art, and elegant in literature. Every thing that could yield to their avidity was transferred to their own eternal city. Spain, and Greece, and Sicily were plundered of their richest ornaments, their public galleries, and museums, and libraries. Then commenced the glorious career of Latin letters. The liberal leisure enjoyed at Rome, from the great influx of the wealth of conquered nations, was all exacted for liberal research and application. But the spirit, the genius of literature was yet abroad. Athens was still the seat of universal learning; for, though shorn of her splendor and her greatness, she had yet to boast of her schools and her scholars. Her venerable groves, and learned shades, and winding walks ; her academy, and porch, and temples-all which for ages had been consecrated to genius—were yet living lectures of elegance and erudition. She became the alma mater to the illustrious scholars at Rome-the most distinguished contributors to Latin literature. Thither they repaired to study and acquire her philosophy, her arts, her poetry, and her eloquence. Her influence had subdued the fero. cious sentiment among them that military prowess alone could secure a nation's glory and power. They assiduously applied their borrowed resources to whatever changes improved intellectual habits and new modes of life demanded, till their character assumed such a modified form as to partake somewhat still of their early hardihood, of the refinement of the neighboring cities of Greece, and of the softness and luxury of oriental nations,

To some, indeed, it may seem a little preposterous to affirm that much, very much of Roman literature is mere imitation that in its essential character it is generally devoid of originality. Local circumstances, it is true, rendered it independent and original in some of those forms in which it became a medium of such strong thought in the strength of idiom and force of expression, which peculiarly recommend all the effort that can be directed to its thorough acquisition. But little is hazarded, we think, in saying that, though it indicated a splendid age-a richly cultivated age--it nevertheless is molded into such shape as but too obviously betrays an abundant use of materials, and, in some instances, a genius not its own. There are more traces of an Attic spirit within it, than of an Attic delicacy, Attic copiousness, or versatility. There are evidences on all the face of Latin literature that it never could have existed as it did exist, but for influences and materials that came from over the Ionian Sea. The Romans had been masters of the world, doubtless, by the mere exercise of military power even; but never had Rome been the mistress and attraction of the world, except she had employed the vast intellectual treasures of her neighbor as her most effectual auxiliary in learning and in art.

Another remarkable bearing of Greek literature is apparent from the influence it exerted in elevating the universal mind to a fit con. dition for awaiting that important event of the moral world—the ad. vent of the Saviour.

The astonishing maturity which the Grecian intellect attained, with so few of those adventitious helps that have usually been employed to form the literature of other nations, is, in all respects, a point of very great interest in the history of providence. But the conspicuous part to which it was assigned in promoting the object for which the world has been kept so long in existence, establishes additional evidence of the agency of Heaven in combining and directing those influences which led to a wonderful cultivation of intellect in the Grecian provinces. Such evidence could be adduced abundantly by a mere recital of facts of history. But is a recital necessary? Is it difficult for us to believe that no important relation subsisted be. tween Greece, in the zenith of its literary glory, and some thrilling contemporaneous events in the land of Judea? No two nations could have been more distinct from each other than they were. The latter, indeed, aimed at complete separation from all the world. But nothing is more improbable than that the Grecians, in search of wisdom from every source, should not derive advantage from hints and circumstances presented by such a heaven-favored people. And from some facts in respect to Grecian philosophy, unaccountable on any other conjecture, we feel it safe to judge that what they obtained from such a source was appropriated to a use, the result of which was infinitely valuable to mankind. Who has traced the reasonings of Plato, and not felt their force the more, by their analogy to sentiments of divine inspira. tion? And who could doubt their influence in preserving a moral and mental equilibrium over the nations “till their fullness of time was come ?" By the victories of Alexander, a door was opened for the diffusion of Greek learning over half the globe. Athens remained long the capital of the intellectual world, whence issued influences in every direction to humanize and to enlighten ; but which in the mind of Jehovah were doubtless designed to bear on the grand event of the world's redemption. Alexandria and Rome had received their full share of that influence, and had sent it abroad to act and react, till nowhere in the civilized world could be found a people that did not feel directly or indirectly the power of the Hellenic mind and language.

It were easy to show that it was a providential policy in the Romans, as well as in the Macedonians before them, to establish means for an extensive acquaintance with the Grecian tongue. But it needs only to be asserted, perhaps, for the present purpose, that a

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clearer medium could not have been devised for an intercommunication so essentially important, on the one hand, to affairs of state ; and, on the other, to the great purposes of Christianity. With these circumstances was combined another of equal interest. As fast as the general mind made improvement under the influence of Greek learn. ing, an increasing skepticism obtained, in regard to most of the religious systems of the world. With the learned, superstition and cre. dulity found no quarter. Sharpened wits exposed to contempt every thing that claimed to be supernatural. A species of infidelity, in the form of Epicureanism, (which maintained the indifference of human actions and the cessation of life at death,) had swallowed up all other creeds. The classic religion scarcely received any appeals, except to beautify a thought, or for purposes of influence over the unwary and the ignorant. Clearly, therefore, does this point of time seem to us to have commanded for itself the resources of a literature the richest and most productive the world had yet known. For ages they had been collecting and combining, and, by direct and indirect means, had now become prepared to forward a dispensation in which were centred the eternal interests of the human family—the dead, the living, and the unborn.

To this period of antiquity we look back with intense interest, because it was distinguished by a transaction that has no parallel in the annals of all time or eternity. And we feel that it occurred when the world was fully ripe for it. Nothing had succeeded less then than an imposture. An array of talent stood up formidably before every unsalutary innovation on philosophy or religion. Since, therefore, we can recognize the movements of an omnipotent hand in that long train of intellectual and social means that for ages had been bearing on to this issue, we could ask for no stronger proof that the literature of Greece was designed not merely to bless the world with its general results, but especially to prepare it for the grandest event that will ever transpire on the theatre of the universe.

We might with profit pursue the history of Greek literature, and observe how remarkably it survived the languages of other people, who successively passed away from the world of nations. We might contemplate it as exiled from the land of its birth to imperial Rome, and thence persecuted, by the fury of northern invaders, to the splendid court of the eastern empire, where it was long cultivated and idolized; and, finally, as seeking refuge in Italy again, where it excited the genius of Danté, of Petrarch, of Boccacio. We might trace its general influence on the various continental literature of Europe, when all Christendom had fully aroused to intellectual life and freedom, from that dreary mental night of a thousand years. But our limits forbid. It must be enough merely to allude to what it wrought on the language and literature of the British isles.

We glory in the ease, the majesty, and the stately diction of our own mother tongue. Whatever force it possesses from conciseness, penetration, and majestic forms, we must assign to its appropriate origin-to the tribes, who, one after another, lived in Britain and molded its speech. But all that is peculiar to deep thought and learning in English literature, all that is delicate in conception or language, all that is calın and graceful, fertile and exuberant, as exhibited at VOL. XI. - July, 1840.


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