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A Brief Appraisal Of The Greek Literature In Its Foremost Pretensions
by [?]

‘vos exemplaria Graeca,
Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.’

In fact, when we recollect that, in round numbers, we ourselves may be considered as two thousand years in advance of Christ, and that (by assuming less even than a mean between the different dates assigned to Homer) he stands a thousand years before Christ, we find between Homer and ourselves a gulf of three thousand years, or about one clear half of the total extent which we grant to the present duration of our planet. This in itself is so sublime a circumstance in the relations of Homer to our era, and the sense of power is so delightfully titillated to that man’s feeling, who, by means of Greek, and a very moderate skill in this fine language, is able to grasp the awful span, the vast arch of which one foot rest upon 1838, and the other almost upon the war of Troy–the mighty rainbow which, like the archangel in the Revelation, plants its western limb amongst the carnage and the magnificence of Waterloo, and the other amidst the vanishing gleams and the dusty clouds of Agamemnon’s rearguard–that we may pardon a little exultation to the man who can actually mutter to himself, as he rides home of a summer evening, the very words and vocal music of the old blind man at whose command

‘———-the Iliad and the Odyssey
Rose to the murmurs of the voiceful sea.’

But pleasures in this world fortunately are without end. And every man, after all, has many pleasures peculiar to himself–pleasures which no man shares with him, even as he is shut out from many of other men. To renounce one in particular, is no subject for sorrow, so long as many remain in that very class equal or superior. Elwood the Quaker had a luxury which none of us will ever have, in hearing the very voice and utterance of a poet quite as blind as Homer, and by many a thousand times more sublime. And yet Elwood was not perhaps much happier for that. For now, to proceed, reader–abstract from his sublime antiquity, and his being the very earliest of authors, allowance made for one or two Hebrew writers (who, being inspired, are scarcely to be viewed as human competitors), how much is there in Homer, intrinsically in Homer, stripped of his fine draperies of time and circumstance, in the naked Homer, disapparelled of the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious antiquity, to remunerate a man for his labour in acquiring Greek? Men think very differently about what will remunerate any given labour. A fool (professional fool) in Shakspeare ascertains, by a natural process of logic, that a ‘remuneration’ means a testern, which is just sixpence; and two remunerations, therefore, a testoon, or one shilling. But many men will consider the same service ill paid by a thousand pounds. So, of the reimbursement for learning a language. Lord Camden is said to have learned Spanish, merely to enjoy Don Quixote more racily. Cato, the elder Cato, after abusing Greek throughout his life, sat down in extreme old age to study it: and wherefore? Mr. Coleridge mentions an author, in whom, upon opening his pages with other expectations, he stumbled upon the following fragrant passage–‘But from this frivolous digression upon philosophy and the fine arts, let us return to a subject too little understood or appreciated in these sceptical days–the subject of dung.’ Now, that was precisely the course of thought with this old censorious Cato: So long as Greek offered, or seemed to offer, nothing but philosophy or poetry, he was clamorous against Greek; but he began to thaw and melt a little upon the charms of Greek–he ‘owned the soft impeachment,’ when he heard of some Grecian treatises upon beans and turnips; and, finally, he sank under its voluptuous seductions, when he heard of others upon DUNG. There are, therefore, as different notions about a ‘remuneration’ in this case, as the poor fool had met with it in his case. We, however, unappalled by the bad names of ‘Goth,’ ‘Vandal,’ and so forth, shall honestly lay before the reader our notions.