On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

Let me quote you for better encouragement, as well as for relief, a passage from Matthew Arnold on the Authorised Version: 

The effect of Hebrew poetry can be preserved and transferred in a foreign language as the effect of other great poetry cannot.  The effect of Homer, the effect of Dante, is and must be in great measure lost in a translation, because their poetry is a poetry of metre, or of rhyme, or both; and the effect of these is not really transferable.  A man may make a good English poem with the matter and thoughts of Homer and Dante, may even try to reproduce their metre, or rhyme:  but the metre and rhyme will be in truth his own, and the effect will be his, not the effect of Homer or Dante.  Isaiah’s, on the other hand, is a poetry, as is well known, of parallelism; it depends not on metre and rhyme, but on a balance of thought, conveyed by a corresponding balance of sentence; and the effect of this can be transferred to another language....  Hebrew poetry has in addition the effect of assonance and other effects which cannot perhaps be transferred; but its main effect, its effect of parallelism of thought and sentence, can.

I take this from the preface to his little volume in which Arnold confesses that his ‘paramount object is to get Isaiah enjoyed.’


Sundry men of letters besides Matthew Arnold have pleaded for a literary study of the Bible, and specially of our English Version, that we may thereby enhance our enjoyment of the work itself and, through this, enjoyment and understanding of the rest of English Literature, from 1611 down.  Specially among these pleaders let me mention Mr F. B. Money-Coutts (now Lord Latymer) and a Cambridge man, Dr R. G. Moulton, now Professor of Literary Theory and Interpretation in the University of Chicago.  Of both these writers I shall have something to say.  But first and generally, if you ask me why all their pleas have not yet prevailed, I will give you my own answer—­the fault as usual lies in ourselves—­in our own tameness and incuriosity.

There is no real trouble with the taboo set up by professionals and puritans, if we have the courage to walk past it as Christian walked between the lions; no real tyranny we could not overthrow, if it were worth while, with a push; no need at all for us to `wreathe our sword in myrtle boughs.’  What tyranny exists has grown up through the quite well-meaning labours of quite well-meaning men:  and, as I started this lecture by saying, I have never heard any serious reason given why we should not include portions of the English Bible in our English Tripos, if we choose.

                    Nos te,
     Nos facimus, Scriptura, deam.

Then why don’t we choose?

To answer this, we must (I suggest) seek somewhat further back.  The Bible—­that is to say the body of the old Hebrew Literature clothed for us in English—­comes to us in our childhood.  But how does it come?

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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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