Among Famous Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 221 pages of information about Among Famous Books.

The third essential development of Marius’ thought is that of the City of God, which for him assumes the shape of a perfected and purified Rome, the concrete embodiment of the ideals of life and character.  This is indeed the inevitable sequel of any such spiritual developments as the fear of enemies and the sense of an unseen companion.  Man moves inevitably to the city, and all his ideals demand an embodiment in social form before they reach their full power and truth.  In that house of life which he calls society, he longs to see his noblest dreams find a local habitation and a name.  This is the grand ideal passed from hand to hand by the greatest and most outstanding of the world’s seers—­from Plato to Augustine, from Augustine to Dante—­the ideal of the City of God.  It is but little developed in the book which we are now considering, for that would be beside the purpose of so intimate and inward a history.  Yet we see, as it were, the towers and palaces of this “dear City of Zeus” shining in the clear light of the early Christian time, like the break of day over some vast prospect, with the new City, as it were some celestial new Rome, in the midst of it.

These are but a few glimpses at this very significant and far-reaching book, which indeed takes for its theme the very development from pagan to Christian idealism with which we are dealing.  In it, in countless bright and vivid glances, the beauty of the world is seen with virgin eye.  Many phases of that beauty belong to the paganism which surrounds us as we read, yet these are purified from all elements that would make them pagan in the lower sense, and under our eyes they free themselves for spiritual flights which find their resting-place at last and become at once intelligible and permanent in the faith of Jesus Christ.

LECTURE III

THE TWO FAUSTS

It may seem strange to pass immediately from the time of Marcus Aurelius to Marlowe and Goethe, and yet the tale upon which these two poets wrought is one whose roots are very deep in history, and which revives in a peculiarly vital and interesting fashion the age-long story of man’s great conflict.  Indeed the saga on which it is founded belongs properly to no one period, but is the tragic drama of humanity.  It tells, through all the ages, the tale of the struggle between earth and the spiritual world above it; and the pagan forms which are introduced take us back into the classical mythology, and indeed into still more ancient times.

The hero of the story must be clearly distinguished from Fust the printer, a wealthy goldsmith of Mayence, who, in the middle of the fifteenth century, was partner with Gutenberg in the new enterprise of printing.  Robert Browning, in Fust and his Friends, tells us, with great vivacity, the story of the monks who tried to exorcise the magic spirits from Fust, but forgot their psalm, and so caused an awkward pause during which Fust retired and brought out a printed copy of the psalm for each of them.  The only connection with magic which this Fust had, was that so long as this or any other process was kept secret, it was attributed to supernatural powers.

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Among Famous Books from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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