« PoprzedniaDalej »
picture, in which the Coran and the Crescent were trampled under foot, his heart, embittered, would cloud his understanding, and prevent all access to my attempts. Apply these reflections to the true religion, and see if you have not failed entirely in a deplorable design.
Persecution, my dear Barlow, does not consist only in exiling, incarcerating, and assassinating men; Julian invented more cunning, and not less cruel vexations. They have been refined among us at the end of the eighteenth century, in harassing and lacerating the catholicks without cessation, by repeated invectives, by a multitude of those little means, whose application was continual torture impious verses, songs, epigrams, caricatures, every thing was made use of. You are very different from such men; but why resemble them in any thing? Your engraving is an offence against the freedom of religion; a sort of persecution which your heart disavows; reflection will bring on regret. Believe me, my friend, that these injured catholicks will not make use of reprisals; true piety opens her bosom to erring brethren, without opening it to errour; to enlighten them, she places the torch of truth in the hand of charity. Having but a moment to exist in this world, we should love our fellow men, be benevolent towards all, whatever may be their religion, their colour, or their country. Jesus Christ has given us both precept and example in their turn; he displayed alternately firmness and goodness towards the pharisees; his par able of the Samaritan is a perpetual judgment against perse
If you should say further, that France offers examples worthy of condemnation, and that previous to censuring an American, my zeal should be exercised to convert my countrymen; far from weakening the objection, I would fortify it. I would say, that, in a country where so many truths have returned to their wells, we see printed and circulated freely the obscene poetry of a member of the national institute, and the rhapsodies of romance writers, who serve up afresh impieties so many times refuted. I would say too, that, without respect to the first body of the state, which ought to give an example of decency, immorality is authorized, by peopling the garden of the palace with licentious statues, to such a degree that virtuous mothers dare not conduct their children thither.
You see that I am far from avoiding objections; but by my disapprobation of an offence, in which I have no share, and against which my colleague, Lanjuinais, protested vainly in full senate, though with the general assent of the senators, I have reserved to myself the right of telling you, that to recriminate is not to answer; and that what might be alleged as an example to follow, cannot be but as an abuse to reform. Gorani observes that the licentiousness of painting and sculpture had exercised a disastrous influence over Italy; that the master pieces of the arts had drawn away sound minds from useful and necessary studies, had depraved their man
ners, enervated their courage, and fomented the most hateful vices.* When publick shame is extinct, do not expect to preserve the private virtues; and when religion is publickly insulted, it is a wound to morality, a national calamity.
Many times I have repented having employed so many efforts to defend the arts and those who cultivate them against Vandalism ; not that those arts, which are called fine, and which are not always good, are bad in their very nature; but, almost always, they are flatterers and corrupters, which, by an inconceivable fatality, precede, bring on, escort, and follow depravation. Even in his time the illustrious Gersont complained of it, to whom France owes a monument, and whom she has almost forgotten; he was grieved to see scandalous pictures, and a libidinous work, the Romance of the Rose, exposed to the eyes of youth. At the moment I am writing, we are menaced with a new edition of it.
What will be the fruit of my remonstrance? You are not one of those men who are afraid to acknowledge that you are wrong. A man is always honoured in doing an act of reparation. I appeal to your loyalty, to your delicacy; this is to put you at strife with yourself.
My soul is oppressed in finding cause of blame in a man in whom I see so much to praise. Your character is not degraded by meanness, like that of the greater part of your brethren the poets; you have not prostituted your talents to adulation; do not tarnish them by incredulity, nor by a sort of persecution. Placed at the summit of the American Parnassus, a creditor of glory, you have sung in beautiful verses that liberty you defended with your arms; you came to render her homage at the bar of the national convention, where, as president, I answered in a manner that accorded with the principles you proclaimed. Our hearts were in unison.
The true foundation of political liberty is in the gospel, for it perpetually reminds men, that, having all proceeded from the same stock, they compose only one family; that there exists among them, not a species of relationship, as has been said in a well known work, but a real consanguinity, whose bond is indestructible. The gospel unceasingly inculcates on men a spirit of charity and fraternal sentiments. The christian religion would be perverted and disguised, if it were subordinate to the caprices of rulers and the passions; but well understood and rightly practised, it is the most certain guarantee of the purity of publick and private manners. Under its wings, my friend, your state of society was raised, and consolidated, and the domestick virtues hereditarily transmitted ; it is to that, without doubt, that you owe, among other advantages, that of having a wife gifted with so many rare qualities and inestimable virtues. Ingratitude alone could mistake the benefits of this august and divine religion; it would be like despising the bosom of our mother.
* See the preface to the Memoires secrets et critiques des cours des gouv ernans, des moeurs des principaux etats de l'Italie, by Gorani. Paris, 1793.
Vide his works, edit. Dupin. v. ii. p. 291, &c.
I have discharged, my dear Barlow, a very painful task in censuring, without human respect, what in your poem, offends christianity. The work being publick, I give the same publicity to my remonstrance; thus satisfying what is prescribed to me by my principles, my situation, my conscience, and my invariable friendship. H. GREGOIRE, former Bishop of Blois, Senator, &c.
Paris, 15th. March, 1809.
FOR THE ANTHOLOGY.
ON GREEK LITERATURE.
[Concluded from Vol. VI. page 399.]
THE very labour of learning Greek will make additions to the best Latin knowledge. The useful relations between the two languages are unlimited. These remarks may be properly closed with an idea once poetized by a Parisian scholar, of the ease and safety of* riding at two anchors.
A little Greek and a little Latin are common enough, and are usually united. But a critical knowledge is scarce even among professed scholars. There were many in the academy who knew not Plato. The display of quotation is an art of considerable facility and of some weight with the superficial. It has an air of antiquity; but the appearance is not lasting; it is confined to the length of the passage. On the other hand an education really liberal is not seen by glimpses in that manner, but shines in every line. Without a critical knowledge literary attainments must be moderate. And those who are delighted with a pittance of Grecian
* Duabus ancoris fultus. Frequently applied, says Claudius Minos, regius professor in Acad. Parisiensi, to an intimacy with Latin and Greek....qua de re et elegans editum a nostris quibusdam tetrastichon;
Fundabat satis Aonias una ancora puppes,
Dum tamen Ausoniis Musa nataret aquis.
When on the waters of the west
The little muses launch'd their bark,
The dangers of the deep and dark.
But pressing where the billows swell,
+ Multi thyrsigeri, pauci Bacchi. Herodes Atticns told a pretender, video barbam et pallium; philosophum nondum video.
literature will be apt to express their raptures in the bad Greek of the Persian Satrap" ως ηδομαι, και τερπομαι, και χαιρομαι.
Although grammar is degraded to the lowest class of letters, yet it is their foundation. Greek grammar appears more intricate than Latin, from the volubility of its metres, idioms, anomalies, synonimes, elliptical terms, and the variety of its dialects. But if it is, as the Spartan told her son, when he complained his sword was too short, it is only advancing. Labour is the condition of excellence; and our late president absolutely forbade us to think of being carried into the temple of science in the arms of our tutors. † It is not violation now, as it was in the time of Alcibiades, to break into the temple of the goddess of Athens in the night. It may take time too. Pythagoras enjoined silence upon his disciples five years. It was a good injunction both ways. They who drink, drink in silence; but the reproach of Anthony, S that he was an Egyptian dog and drank and ran, is intolerable.
Perhaps it is impossible always to preserve an intimate recollection of positive rules, when they are minute and complex. It may even be difficult to retain them for any length of time. But by diligent habits of reading and transcribing Greek with accuracy, a philosophical sense of the principles will survive the loss of the scientifick terms. The best learning of the best scholars must come to this at last, unless they are professors. Indeed, after any one has investigated the qualities and properties of a language himself, it seems no longer necessary for him to adhere to an arbitrary grammatical system. He may improve his own impressions and take the benefit of his own deductions by making and using an unwritten grammar of his own. Really the best grammars and the best lexicons must appear incomplete, since every new one purports to be improved, and the principle is admitted by those criticks who question the improvements.
Recommendations of Grecian literature seem liable to the sensible interruption the Greek gave a pedant, who was eulogizing Hercules without mitigation or remorse. "Who," said he, (6 ever found fault with him?" In every age it has had votaries of every kind, from the Saxon kings and the Medici to Dr. Parr and Charles Fox. Politian was the first among the moderns that professed this language. ¶ Leonce is said to have been the first who taught it in the west of Europe. Under the reign of Elizabeth the pursuit was disgraced by the ostentatious follies of amateurs, consisting of all sorts of men and women, as metaphysicks were a few years
* Datis, whence the Greeks called bad Greek datisms.
+ In epicedio Eteonei pueri αλλ' ωσπες οι διψώντες σιωπη πινουσιν, ουτως εκείνω ngκει δέχεσθαι τα λεγόμενα. JUNIUS.
Post fugam Marinensem, querentibus quid ageret Antonius, quidam familiaris ejus respondit, quod canis in Egypto bibit et fugit. MACROBIUS.
Tenhove's memoirs of the house of the Medici.
Or Leo Pilatus. I know not whether to give the precedence to Politian or Leontius.
since, and as chymistry has been lately. But the study has long been rescued from shops and parlours, and withdrawn into the closet. Indeed there has been no time since the revival of letters, in which a few have not been found set apart to the ministry of the Greek by which means certain traditions and the unwritten modes of initiation have been conducted to the present times in aliving line, like the mysteries of ancient philosophy and religion. When Brutus perished, the last of the Romans perished; but in the death of professor Porson it is to be hoped we have not lost the last of the Greeks.
At present the study seems on the decline in Italy. But it is still high in England. And in truth north of the Tweed, with the exception of the late professor Dalzel and his friends, they have been in the habit of considering English scholars a little spoiled by their classicks. In return the English reproach the Scotch with their fruitless metaphysicks. The Dutch were accounted the best Greeks for a season during the last century. The French have produced great scholars and fine criticks; but they appear at present to get their erudition from translations, and their Greek from anthologies. The study is not so fashionable in France as we should imagine from their academies, exhibitions, and the influences over such tempers as they possess, which we should be apt to ascribe to such noble galleries of antiquities as they have accumulated. Germany is now most distinguished, where the study is new and the colleges are numerous. The American clergy call themselves and are esteemed the only American scholars; but they have obtained no perceptible eminence in this branch.
It may not be amiss to introduce in this place some of the leading motives to this study, besides those which have already occurred at the turns of the present inquiry.
All learning is unintelligible without reference to first principles; without that recurrence every attainment is superficial. Not general and abstract principles, for it is they that are to be resolved, but original and simple ones. The initial principles of mathematical science are the first combinations of numbers and their earliest uses. The incipient principles of philosophy are the moral and natural facts, which were first investigated; the applications of them from time to time; and the laws, which were derived from the hints they appeared to give of some regular system, to which they belonged. In fine letters these original principles are the works of the elder historians, orators, and poets, and even of philosophers, when they have composed romances instead of theories. Every one of these first principles is the genuine property of the Greek language, which is the mother tongue of literature, as the Hebrew is of religion. The forms of the first researches into science, and of the first efforts of philosophy, the figures of the earliest specimens of eloquence wear "weeds of Athens." The first words of history and some of the oldest songs of poetry are Greek. Language itself is of the utmost importance; and let the most of the etymologies of the English language be where they may, the construction of the language is formed on the basis of the Latin and Greek. But the Latin was modelled on the Greek.