On The Study Of Homer -- By: James R. Boise
On The Study Of Homer
We hail with peculiar pleasure the appearance of a new edition of Felton’s Iliad. In this age of books, when the press teems with innumerable productions, like flies in a summer’s day, just entering on their brief existence, it is pleasant now and then to be reminded of the past, to converse with those colossal minds which flourished when Carnac and the pyramids were built; and the monuments of whose genius, unlike those astounding piles of
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granite, have survived, unharmed, the shock of centuries. We are thus taught that there is something stable and enduring, even in our ephemeral race. The voice of that blind old bard, which was heard among the isles of Greece, when two hundred warriors with horses and chariots went forth from each of the hundred gates of the Egyptian Thebes,1 though it be almost silent in the land whereat was first uttered, has wandered far beyond the adventures of the much-wandering hero, beyond the gardens of the Hesperides, and the giant Atlas, who supports upon his shoulders the pillars of the heavens. There was a truth and a life in that voice which was almost divine; which, after so many generations of men, is sweet and charming as ever.
We cannot but respect the effort to preserve the best treasures which by-gone ages have bequeathed to us; especially, if we may, without fear of diminishing their value, make use of them ourselves, and be enriched and made happy by them. Our thanks, at least, are due to the man who offers us one of the best gifts which it was in the power of Alexander or of Caesar to confer. And we may feel a reasonable pride in being admitted to the society of one who has been, at different times, an intimate companion with Pericles, and Cicero, and Burke; with Virgil, and Dante, and Milton.
“The tale of Troy divine,” has ever been most admired by those who have read most extensively the best literature of other times and other languages; and by those to whom age has given most experience and most wisdom. The stripling, who has just mastered the rudiments of the Greek language, and who, with grammar and lexicon, hardly translates fifty lines a day into the most bald prose of his native tongue, knows as much of the harmony of these “words which flowed sweeter than honey,” as we should learn from the ploughboy’s carol, respecting the music of Handel or Mozart. Nor can he appreciate, any better, the truth, and simplicity, and energy of Homer’s characters and scenes. Something of the same sort, and equally calculated to inspire enthusiasm for an author, may be witnessed in the grammar school, where a boy is appointed his task “to parse” so many lines of Dryden or Pope. This uninviting exercise may be useful,...
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