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Mystic I called the tree, although I could
With high example follow the suggestion
Place man's botanic origin out of question.
And lo! with knowledge came the first sense of shame,
For Truth is naked as at first were we;
Drink to the great Ascidian with me.
W. W. L.
ON THE STEPS OF THE BEMA.
STUDIES IN THE ATTIC ORATORS.
The Attic Rowdy, OR WHERE IS THE Perlice ?
NARCHY plus a street constable” is, I believe, Mr.
I cannot join in the sneer at the civic functionary, and I am modern enough to miss the police in my Attic readings. Hegel said — and, like everybody else I know, I quote Hegel from memory of what somebody said he said — if it were proper for a philosopher to wish for anything, I should wish that I had been born at Aibens in her palmy days. Athens and her palmy days is well enough, but I should have added an unphilosophic proviso for the establishment of a substantial English police. It will be observed that I am not speaking of police in the wider sense ; the absence of that may have been made up for by the superabounding public spirit and private meanness of the Athenians. There were informers enough, detectives enough. I mean simply the constabulary, simply Policeman X; and I maintain that in those times Policeman X was to all intents and purposes an unknown quantity. I have not forgotten the valiant band of Scythian archers at Athens. These archers make a great show at public meetings, but in private encounters they were as nullibiquitous as the old-fashioned Charley. Of course I have not forgotten the archers. How could any student of Aristophanes forget the Toxotês who figures in the Thesmophoriazu sac and furnishes us with such admirable samples of broken Greek. I have an especial fondness for that scene, for it never fails to remind me of my early life in my native city and the High-Dutch "guardmen ” who patroled its streets and made havoc on the soft English that is spoken there.
But, doubtless, my younger readers will not be grieved to learn that in this article no police will mar the sport of the gay spirits of Athens ; and I will promise not to moralise too much as I hold up for their inspection a brace of Attic rowdies. The material is abundant, and the selection has puzzled me no little Almost every orator of the Attic canon might be called on for a sketch ; and as I write, a long procession of Athenian ruffians troop past my view, from Alcibiades, that prince of blackguards, to Meidias, who boxed the ears of the prince of orators. The student can have his choice of styles, from the sharp outline of Lysias to the encaustic coloring of Demosthenes; and it may be as well to take a specimen from each of these. But before I begin, in order to justify the title of these papers, which profess to be studies in the Attic orators, and not simply sketches of Attic life, I will say a word or two about the less famous and the less read of the two speakers.
An exacting friend of mine says that Pindar and Athenaeus are the touchstones of a knowledge of Greek; the former, I suppose, for
Ι the thought, the latter for the vocabulary. Leave out Athenaeus and put in Lysias, and I will accept the two as the touchstones of an appreciation of Greek — which is a very different thing. That any
modern ever enjoyed either Pindar or Lysias without severe study, I do not believe. That many mer have brought themselves to admire both, as in duty bound, I know very well; and I am not the man to condemn this dutiful conduct. For a large proportion of minds this is the only possible way to higher culture; most men must be taught what to admire and how to admire, and wherefore to admire ; and those who teach youths to criticise anybody but the youths' dear selves are unwise. In the modern rage for piquancy, it is too much the fashion to underrate the works of masters; and many recent histories of literature anger the true scholar by the contemptuous peremptoriness with which criticisms are delivered. In view of all this, I am very sorry that I called the illustrious orator, Isocrates, a bore. But that was in the last number, and I know better now. Still I am very much mistaken if most readers, even with a fair knowledge of Greek, would not put Lysias in exactly the same category to which in an unguarded moment I assigned Isocrates. Like the famous Aeginetan marbles in Munich, the form is anatomically irreproachable, but there is no light in the face and an unmeaning smile on the lips ; and yet as one advances in the study of Greek and becomes familiar with Greek modes of thought, the style of Lysias gains new significance and strange animation. In great crises, like ihe statue of the Commander in the Festin de Pierre, this rigid orator is a terrible guest.
The great effectiveness of the style of Lysias does not lie in the argument so much as in the narrative. His logic is cogent, his ques.
tions pungent. He does not inveigh, he stabs; and the horns of his dilemmas are sharpened to a diamond-point. But after all, the art is almost too apparent; and unless our sympathies go with him in his cause, as when for instance he personates the injured husband in his first oration, or prosecutes the murderer of his own brother in the twelfth, the balanced antithesis and the measured clause leave the hearer cold. Not so, however, when you anticipate the righteous doom of the guilty, and every polished period as it turns wheels the culprit to new torture and every sentence breaks another bone. But if his argument requires the interpretation of sympathy, the narrative prepares the sympathy; and I do not think that Lysias has his match for lucid, succinct, dramatic narrative. His clearness is not achieved at the expense of power, his succinctness is not gained by the sacrifice of effective detail. His step is measured ; but now it is the sweeping advance of Nemesis, who strides but counts, and now the steady tramp of the soldier, who marches right up to his foe, fearless and honest.
Accustomed to the overloading of modern descriptions, modern readers may deem the narrative of Lysias bald as well as his argument affected; yet if any such critic should undertake to tell a story after the ancient orator, he would learn to appreciate more correctly the art of the master. So, for instance, in the first oration, a few graphic sentences set before us the loving, trusting husband, his love and trust heightened by the blessing of fatherhood. Mutual affection lights up the modest home, and even the praise of the housewifely virtues of the woman who has betrayed her husband, gives the picture a touch of every-day truth. Then comes the temptation, "the little pitted speck in garnered fruit," and all the baseness that ensues.
The homely details, at which the coarse libertine might laugh, the mean treacheries, which find their counterpart in earlier and later novels, stand out in all their simple truth. One should say a Greek Hogarth, a Greek Defoe. And yet no libertine could laugh at the story as Lysias tells it; no Boccaccio, no Chaucer lightly recount those frauds. Above the counterfeited glee of the false wife, above the wailing of the innocent baby, we hear the knocking of doom. The light enters and throws a sickly glare upon the past. Then comes the silent, sure preparation for vengeance, and the guilty man awakes from his delirious joy to find the avenger before him, and about him the torches of the witnesses. “It is not I that shall kill thee, but the law of the State." And so he met the doom the law appoints. As we read over this chapter of human life, so old and yet so new, we cannot but think that Euphilêtus, the heathen husband, takes a loftier view of the offence than many a modern Christian. The law is on his side, and he executes the law; but in that supreme moment he speaks not so much of the wrong done to himself as the wrong done to his wife herself, and to his children.
But we have unconsciously strayed into the penumbra of a tragedy, and it is high time to take up our typical rowdy, for our subjects are to be of a lighter hue.
The rowdy speech of Lysias is the speech against Simon ; and as I take it in hand again, I almost repent of having mentioned it. Few authors, as I have intimated, suffer as much from translation as Lysias; few bear condensation so ill. “A word taken from Lysias,” said Favorinus, “is so much taken from the thought”; and the accent of honest indignation, the tone of simple, straightforward candor, the admirable touches by which the character of the aggrieved man is brought out in his own words — all this perishes in the transfer. And not only so, but the circumstances are so peculiarly Greek that the motives must be veiled and the transaction but summarily stated. Still the caput mortuum that remains will serve at least to point the querulous cry, Where is the police ?
After recounting the occasion of the grudge, the injured man says in substance :
“Simon came to my house at night, drunk ; broke open the door and entered in the ladies' apartment, while my sister and my nieces were there — ladies whose lives have been so eminently proper that they blush to be seen even by their relations."
This was bad enough, but we do not hear that he cursed the shrinking creatures right and left as one Meidias did Demosthenes' womankind ; and we are glad to find that the indecent fellow was promptly put out by the friends of both parties.
Where is the police ?
“Not satisfied with this, and not in the least sorry for his sin, Simon found out where I and my party were dining; and going to the house, called me out, and as soon as I came out he at once undertook to beat me ; and when I fought him off and pressed him right hard, he began to pelt me with stones. It so happened, however, that he missed me, but he mashed into a pulp the face of his friend, who had come with him.”
The poor fellow's sense of injury is utterly untranslatable. This man Simon's conduct was so out of place, so absurd, so wild, so fantastic that it seemed incredible to any one who did not know the animal. The idea of calling a gentleman away from his dinner, from a quiet social circle, for the infamous, outrageous purpose of beating him, was a miracle of devilishness in the eyes of this easy-going middle-aged Athenian Philistine.
“Well, anything, thinks I, to avoid a scandal, anything for the sake of peace.
So I went abroad for a while ; and having given Simon time to forget his grudge and repent of his sins, I came back. As soon as I came back, Simon got wind of it, and he and his crew posted sentinels on the roof of the house next to the one where I and a friend of mine were together, and solaced themselves with eating and drinking. After a little while we came out; but by this time they were royally drunk, and made at us. Some of the party would not join in the row; but Simon and three others pulled and hauled at my young friend, who let his shawl go and ran for it. And I, thinking that they would be shamed into turning back as soon as they met anybody, took my way down another street.”
The exceedingly conservative attitude of this gentleman, which certainly grazes cowardice, is to be explained by his desire to remove from the mind of the jury the impression which Simon had endeavored to make, that he, the speaker, was a fire-eater and dangerous character
generally. No bones were broken this time, and the police were not very much missed.
"After this my friend was attacked and took refuge in a fuller's shop. These people rushed in, and were for dragging him off by force in spite of his screams and shrieks and appeals to heaven. A crowd collected, and showed much indignation and said that it was an outrage. But the assailants cared nothing for mere moral arguments; and when Molon, the fuller, thinking the honor of his establishment involved, and some others came to the rescue, they knocked them into a cocked hat for their pains." The translation waxes as free as the fight.
By the merest accident, as I was walking alone, I stumbled on them, and considered it my duty to interfere ; and then they let the young fellow go and began to beat me. This time there was a regular fight. The young fellow pelted them and they pelted us ; they beat him and I fought them; and the crowd took our part, and in the course of the fight we got our heads broken all round.”
After this memorable affair, hostilities ceased. Simon and his set begged our friend's pardon ; but four years afterwards, finding that our unstable hero had got into trouble, Simon trumped up a charge against him, and to this piece of malice we owe this picture of Attic rowdyism. I wish we had Simon's story.
Before the next speaker mounts the bema, let us get off the steps and take a turn. The fact is I have a confession to make, which requires an effort of candor, and I have observed that walking is always a great relief in these embarrassing circumstances. I came within an ace of casting utter contempt on Dionysius of Halicarnassus. My friend, the editor, would doubtless say that one balf of my readers, and the fairer half, had never heard of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and that the other half did not care; and that if he were I, he would proceed with great composure to treat the lucubrations of the said Dionysius with the indifference which most of them deserve. But the very blunder that I came near committing is so instructive that I cannot withhold my confession.
I read largely without note or comment. After a man has made sufficient progress in a modern tongue to read it with a reasonable degree of Auency, he does not surround himself with commentaries, and dictionaries and grammars certainly not for his first reading. If he finds a hard sentence, a strange word, an obscure allusion, he may work at it; but who would dream of treating a French or German booklet, such as Edmond About's Le Nez du Notaire, or Auerbach's Barfüssle, in the way in which most men go at an ancient classic of the same compass ? What a man has to teach — ah, that is a different thing. No study can be too exhaustive. But what a man reads for his private delectation is not to be handled as David handled his foes. Yet that is what we are expected to do. We are expected to put the ancients under grammatical saws and under literary harrows and under critical axes, and to make them pass through the brick-kiln of commentators, before we are allowed to enter upon the possession of such enjoyment as these processes have left. Willing enough to be taught in all that pertains to the science of my profession, I am not willing to repeat anybody's literary creed ; and in order to form