That, more or less, is what Paley did upon Euripides, and how would you like it if a modern Greek did it upon Shakespeare? None the less I remember that my own first awed surmise of what Greek might mean came from a translated story of Herodotus—the story of Cleobis and Biton—at the tail of an old grammar-book, before I had learnt the Greek alphabet; and I am sure that the instinct of the old translators was sound; that somehow (as Wordsworth says somewhere) the present must be balanced on the wings of the past and the future, and that as you stretch out the one you stretch out the other to strength.
There is no derogation of new things in this plea I make specially to you who may be candidates in our School of English. You may remember my reading to you in a previous lecture that liberal poem of Cory’s invoking the spirit of ’dear divine Comatas,’ that
Two minds shall flow together, the English and the Greek.
Well, I would have your minds, as you read our literature, reach back to that Dorian shepherd through an atmosphere—his made ours—as through veils, each veil unfolding a value. So you will recognise how, from Chaucer down, our literature has panted after the Mediterranean water-brooks. So through an atmosphere you will link (let me say) Collins’s “Ode to Evening,” or Matthew Arnold’s “Strayed Reveller” up to the ‘Pervigilium Veneris,’ Mr Sturge Moore’s “Sicilian Vine-dresser” up to Theocritus, Pericles’ funeral oration down to Lincoln’s over the dead at Gettysburg. And as I read you just now some part of an English oration in the Latin manner, so I will conclude with some stanzas in the Greek manner. They are by Landor—a proud promise by a young writer, hopeful as I could wish any young learner here to be. The title—
Corinna, from Athens, to Tanagra
Tanagra! think not I forget
Thy beautifully storied streets;
Be sure my memory bathes yet
In clear Thermodon, and yet greets
The blithe and liberal shepherd-boy,
Whose sunny bosom swells with joy
When we accept his matted rushes
Upheav’d with sylvan fruit; away he bounds, and blushes.
A gift I promise: one I see
Which thou with transport wilt receive,
The only proper gift for thee,
Of which no mortal shall bereave
In later times thy mouldering walls,
Until the last old turret falls;
A crown, a crown from Athens won,
A crown no god can wear, beside Latona’s son.
There may be cities who refuse
To their own child the honours due,
And look ungently on the Muse;
But ever shall those cities rue
The dry, unyielding, niggard breast,
Offering no nourishment, no rest,
To that young head which soon shall rise
Disdainfully, in might and glory, to the skies.