Sweetly where cavern’d Dirce flows
Do white-arm’d maidens chaunt my lay,
Flapping the while with laurel-rose
The honey-gathering tribes away;
And sweetly, sweetly Attic tongues
Lisp your Corinna’s early songs;
To her with feet more graceful come
The verses that have dwelt in kindred breasts at home.
O let thy children lean aslant
Against the tender mother’s knee,
And gaze into her face, and want
To know what magic there can be
In words that urge some eyes to dance,
While others as in holy trance
Look up to heaven: be such my praise!
Why linger? I must haste, or lose the Delphic bays.
[Footnote 1: The Works of Lucian of Samosata: translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler (Introduction, p. xxix). Oxford, Clarendon Press.]
[Footnote 2: “The Training of the Imagination”: by James Rhoades. London, John Lane, 1900.]
[Footnote 3: Landor: “AEsop and Rhodope.”]
ON READING THE BIBLE (I)
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 1918
‘Read not to Contradict and Confute,’ says Bacon of Studies in general: and you may be the better disposed, Gentlemen, to forgive my choice of subject to-day if in my first sentence I rule that way of reading the Bible completely out of court. You may say at once that, the Bible being so full of doctrine as it is, and such a storehouse for exegesis as it has been, this is more easily said than profitably done. You may grant me that the Scriptures in our Authorised Version are part and parcel of English Literature (and more than part and parcel); you may grant that a Professor of English Literature has therefore a claim, if not an obligation, to speak of them in that Version; you may— having granted my incessant refusal to disconnect our national literature from our national life, or to view them as disconnected—accept the conclusion which plainly flows from it; that no teacher of English can pardonably neglect what is at once the most majestic thing in our literature and by all odds the most spiritually living thing we inherit; in our courts at once superb monument and superabundant fountain of life; and yet you may discount beforehand what he must attempt.
For (say you) if he attempt the doctrine, he goes straight down to buffeted waters so broad that only stout theologians can win to shore; if, on the other hand, he ignore doctrine, the play is “Hamlet” with the Prince of Denmark left out. He reduces our Bible to ‘mere literature,’ to something ‘belletristic,’ pretty, an artifice, a flimsy, a gutted thing.