Page images
PDF
EPUB

5. Is there not, and should there not be recognized and maintained, a difference between purely literary and strictly scientific writing in respect to the employment of synonyms? i.e., since, in science, specific objects and ideas are dealt with, and time is always worth saving, the reader should not be confused or his attention diverted by a variety of appellations; whereas in literature such pecilonymy may be warranted either to indicate shades of meaning or to avoid tedious repetition. The most perfect example of intentional pecilonymy known to me is the parody on “The House that Jack Built,” partly reproduced (from an unrecorded source) in the article, “Anatomical Terminology” (by Prof. S. H. Gage and myself) in the Reference Handbook of the Medical Sciences, ist ed., p. 529.

In urging the formulation, recognition, and application of paronymy and the other principles and methods discussed in this paper I have tried to keep constantly in mind the aphorism of Horace (Satires, i, 1, 106):

Est modus in rebus; sunt certi denique fines,

Ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum. In conclusion, I realize the fallibility of one whose training in the classics dates prior to 1860; for errors I bespeak helpful criticism; I venture to ask this Association to declare its recognition of what is involved in the linguistic side of Neuronymy, and its recommendation that individual members respond to requests for information and counsel.

On motion of Professor Sihler it was

Voted, that the Association accept with much pleasure the opportunity of assisting the labors of Professor Wilder in the simplification of scientific nomenclature.

7. On Iliad ii, 408: αυτόματος ... δ' ήλθε ... Μενέλαος, by Professor William E. Waters, of New York University (read by title).

Menelaus's appearance at this feast is usually supposed to be induced by sympathy for his brother ; “ for he knew how his brother was toiling." This translation, however, gives étroveito too pregnant a sense.

Menelaus knew that a dinner was on, he scented it and acted accordingly, coming as a welcome guest indeed, but the parent of all subsequent tapáo ito. In fact, we overlook the palpable fact that Homer handles Menelaus frequently in the Iliad with a sly humor. He is strong and vigorous, åpniøilos, shows courage and spirit as a warrior in fighting about Patroclus, but he is not so keen and bold as Ajax and Diomede (Il. xvii, 18 ff.). He is mild and generous. And some of the positions in which he is put are ridiculous, as that he should fight a duel at the suggestion of his arch-enemy, Paris, that he got only the latter's helmet for his pains, and pranced about after the abduction of Paris, vainly seeking for him brought back to Helen in the sweet. scented chamber. Cf. his willingness to let Adrestos go, Il. vi, 37 ff.

As the same light-hearted, weak, somewhat verspottete (by Homer) man, Menelaus comes to the scene in Il. ii, 408, αγαθός προς αγαθούς άνδρας εστιασοMEVOS : Kouvd ydp Tà TWv oliwv; cf. Bergk, Lyr. Gr. p. 704 ; Athen. i, 8a.

As to coming unbidden to a feast, two proverbs seem to have grown up, (1) αυτόματοι δ' αγαθοί αγαθών επί δαίτας ίασιν, and it seems that this was the earlier, attributed by Eustathius (II. xv, 376, p. 1148) to Archilochus. Zenobius, ii. 19, in the Paroemiographi, attributes it to Heraclitus. The other form of the proverb, quite as early, however, runs αυτόματοι δ' αγαθοί δειλών επί δαϊτας ίασι. The point in Socrates's joking with Aristodemus, in the Symposium, is that, as Homer had changed the spirit of the proverb from reading “ to the feast of the lowly the good unbidden go " so as to read “ to the feast of the good the lowly unbidden go,” so he will change the same to read “ to the feast of the good the unbidden go.” This would seem to imply that Plato took the form of the proverb with dellwv as the earlier ; and that would seem to be fair, the proverb having risen in those baronial days of Hesiod when such a thing as the bursting in of Heracles upon the banquet to Ceyx was possible. The nobler sentiment dyabol áyaôv, would then be the product of a gentler era, when nascent philosophy began to draw kindred souls (dyabol ayaw éti gaitas) together. Cf. Jahn's Plato's Symposium, p. 4; Hug, Disputatio de Graecorum proverbio, airbuatol ... lasiv, Turin, 1872.

Adjourned at 5.30 P.M.

JOINT SESSION WITH THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE.

WEDNESDAY EVENING, December 27. The Association met with the Archaeological Institute of America in Barnes Hall at 8 P.M., the President of the latter society, Professor Thomas Day Seymour, of Yale University, presiding.

After an address of welcome by President Schurman, of Cornell University, the societies were addressed by the President of the Association.

8. Aspects of Greek Conservatism, by Professor Herbert Weir Smyth, of Harvard University, President of the Association.

The predominating quality of the Hellenic mind is the capacity to create new ideas. But our approach to the individuality of that mind is largely by way of contrast to societies of men inimical to progress; and the movement of Greek thought was so rapid, the passion for change so intense, that we often overlook the forces regulative and restrictive of the creation of new ideas, forces that modify the full activity of the individual ; and above all the sentiment of the past in a society that seemed always to be adventuring the unknown.

The Greeks were more individual than the Romans, but, in comparison with the modern world, their life was more controlled by the collective restrictions of a national ideal in so far as there existed a national ideal in a civilization whose individuality lay in smaller race units, each with distinctive powers, each restrict. ing its activity to certain definite fields. Thus Greek poetry is under bonds to the language of the creators of any literary type ; and, except in Sappho and Alcaeus, never shows the pure idiom of the soil. ...

"To the restrictive influences exerted by the tribal aggregate upon literary types and upon language, there is added a further restriction that concerns the individual alone. Human nature,' says Plato, “seems to be incapable of imitating many things well. The effectiveness of Greek literature is, in part, the result of concentration of energy upon a series of single artistic purposes Within the province of his art the Greek of the classical age, working under the restriction of literary types, held in check the impulse to do many things well. There are indeed exceptions ; mysticism and mathematics meet in Pythagoras, for the warfare between science and theology was not universally imperative. The poet does not encroach upon the field of his brother artist in prose, and Ion of Chios presents the anomaly of being alike a writer of tragedy, lyric, historical memories, and philosophy. (The sportive intermingling of prose and verse was an audacity reserved for the much later Menippus.) Aristotle tried his hand at poetry, like Schelling and Hegel. The writer of prose, as the tragic poet, may indeed turn an epigram, but the epigram was often a mere metrical trick, and patient with mediocrity.

“In general, however, the law holds good : there is no intrusion into alien fields. There were no Lessings or Laniers to unite criticism of poetry with poetry itself. The Greek dramatist was by virtue of his art a lyrist as well, and the tragic and comic drama are mutually exclusive.

“But the restrictions and conservatisms we have been considering constitute only a fraction of the whole. Greek philosophy was intolerant of immobility and of repression ; yet dissent from the letter of the teachings of Epicurus was regarded as impiety ; and that, though Epicureanism is a more genuinely Greek philosophy than its great rival Stuicism, which bears the mark of a Semitic founder. Or take the conservatism manifested in the tardy use of writing, due in part to a meticulous distrust of symbols.

“The aspects of Greek conservatism are too numerous not to show that, with all the rapidity of the advance of ideas, the masses were static. On every hand we meet with the crudest contrasts. The idealistic dreams of Plato, the subtleties of the ontology of Aristotle, coexist with the gross superstitions of the sanatorium at Epidaurus. Athens still had her state seer in the age of rationalism; still removed from her territory any inanimate object which had been the instrument of death ; and for a like scruple, still forbade that an exile for involuntary homicide, and who had been accused of another murder, should be tried on the new charge except in a boat while the jury pronounced judgment from the inviolable shore. Athens still retained the archaic owl emblem on their coins when the mints of Syracuse were issuing the exquisite floating Victories that challenge our admiration to-day. In vase painting also the old forms hold ground, but are employed for purposes of embellishment and to fill out space. In language, words exercised a tyranny not less imperious than they do to-day. Not until Eratosthenes was any voice heard that reprehended the inhumanity in the traditional conception of Bápßapos, which, till his time, conveyed the idea of a difference between men not merely in degree but even in kind.

“Some of these conventions are trivialities, akin to those found in every society that safeguards its past, and leave no mark upon literature. But literature itself is permeated by conventionalisms. The sententious utterance which packs into few words the collective wisdom of an age is, in its primitive form, contemporaneous with the rudest stages of thought. In the sixth century B.C., the century of antitheses, when the traditionary beliefs were first readjusting themselves to the new speculation, the expansion of gnomic wisdom is not a retrogression to the age of Hesiod: it is part of the profounder attitude towards the inner and the outer life. But in the age of enlightenment, when the piecemeal logic of the maxim ceased to carry enough of that truth to contain the greater complexity of ethics, it still dominated literature. The Greeks were not men who appeased their souls by aphorisms nor did they reduce every phase of life to the terrors of a truism ; nevertheless what had once been a brilliant moral aperçu they retained in oratory and the drama in art as a foil against obsolescent ideas, in part also as a pure conventionalism ; just as much of their pessimism is mere literary veneer.

“ The drama is full of external and internal conventions that in large measure determine its character. We think at once of the constant presence of the chorus on the stage which necessitates the closest interrelation of the parts ; of the limitations caused by the number of the actors; of the avoidance of scenes of actual murder ; of the sheer restriction of the theme which, except in the case of the parts of a trilogy following each other in immediate succession, prevented the complete portrayal of the transformation of character as it crystallized into will under the pressure of fate or of the conflict of duty and desire. The unrepresented antecedents of tragedy constitute so large a feature that the play itself resembles only the climax of a modern drama. Then, too, as Mr. Brander Matthews has shown, the dramaturgist was not independent of the actor. Hamlet was no doubt · fat and scant of breath' because Burbage was waxing stout. Tradition expressly reports that Sophocles wrote with Tlepolemus in mind.

“Above all, invention was under bonds to tradition and to myth, which is not the same thing as tradition. But uudos was vivified by diádegis. The framework was permanent; originality clothed the skeleton with flesh. Into this Frankenstein the poet put his own soul. Living and working in the myth, he shaped details to the exigencies of his imagination, fashioned his fixed dramatic personages to different psychological values. But the freedom of individual conception was invaded by the law of his art, which made constant the actors in the struggle of antagonistic forces.

“And because of the inevitableness of the tragic personages, the end was con. stant. The dramaturgist may voice the changing aspirations of each age with its deepening intellectual and moral ideals, he may subtilize the lineaments of moral physiognomy; his very range may be wider than that of the modern playwright in whom the one passion of love eats out the rest; he may attain variety by creating different aspects of the same traditionary character — yet his theme was set by religious prescription, and it moved steadily towards a foreordained end. Because that end is known in advance, the poet relies in some measure on what stands outside the drama,' and does not depict with the precision of Shakespeare, the march to the end ; nor does he make the conclusion evolve itself with inevitable cogency from the scene he stages. Because the end is predetermined it is lame in comparison to the peripetia, lame in comparison with many modern dramas; though something may be said to show that all great works of literature show an ultimate subsidence of emotion. However that may be, I am concerned here with the larger aspect of the question. The fate of Greek tragic art is involved in the permanence of the same dramatis personae. The doers of tragic deeds remained the same because of the similarity of the legends most appropriate for tragic representation. This danger of similarity of theme is common to literature and to painting; as Leonardo da Vinci says in his Trattato della pittura : 'a face, motion, or an entire figure must not be repeated in another . . . picture.' And yet all the three great Attic dramatists dealt with the story of Oedipus, Philoctetes, Ixion, Palamedes, and Telephus. The heroes of Aeschylus and Sophocles are distinguished by majesty of soul and of station ; in Euripides they preserve only the trappings of their heroic estate. Berest of their nobility through rationalization, they shrink to the stature of common men with the complex impulses of common life; but their deeds are fixed by tradition and the doers have a religious inevitableness. Orestes and Electra must still wear the guise of princely national figures; even as the heroes of the Border ballads keep on fighting, though they have been dismembered.

“No people had a more distinctly national art than did the Greeks in their tragic drama ; but the very nationality of that art, because it was rooted in the past, was its undoing. It was the sentiment of the past that prevented the Greeks from utilizing the fruitful motive of Agathon's 'Flower,' the caprice of tragic art, the one drama in which all the personages and incidents were fictitious. The successors of the Tragic Three were Hellenic Levites, guardians of the heroic art, and their conservatism, enforcing a religious convention, of which it was an expression, crippled all effective progress. Dramatic invention found an outlet in the Platonie dialogue and in a realistic comedy that was under no bonds to an over-exacting past. For six centuries indeed the tragedies of the great Artic masters held the stage, but tragedy had been devitalized by its refusal to abandon a subject-matter that voiced with authority the sentiment of the past.

“Trageily, and lyric, and the epic as well, owed much of their enduring value in the estimation of the Greeks to their expression of veneration for the past. And yet the Egyptian priest, the exponent of an immemorial antiquity, said, Solon, you Greeks are always children.' Goethe bade us look upon the ancients as children, and another no less sympathetic worshipper of Hellas has said that the Greeks had no past. Measured by the sense of age that has come upon the modern world, the Greeks represent to us an immortal and irrevocable adolescence. Yet to themselves the past was forever present ; they lived for the reintegration, not for the disintegration of the forces consecrating their traditions; and no people has so indelibly wrought into a literature so inexhaustibly young such large collective sympathies with the past. Greece, too, had its Mayflower motive, for the foundation of cities had been a theme of poets long before it became the theme of civic genealogists. The Olympic victor who had attained the summit of human felicity, as he listened to Pindar's triumphant ode, soon lost himself in his heroic counterpart; the spectator as he sat crow led against his neighbor in the Dionysiac theatre beheld, in mythic semblance of his greater self, the traditional heroes of his race move in awful majesty to their self-wrought doom. Then, too, the continuity of the past was upheld by the survival at Athens of families not superior before the law, but still retaining social prestige by reason of their place in the Olympian and heroic peerage. The petty conflicts of com. mon life, its graver disharmonies, the impulses that incite to ambition and ven. geance, the intensities of a national life which affected an over-rapid translation of thought into action, — all the aspects of the drama of life were ennobled, when, by the visualizing power of art, they were transferred to the mythical world and embodied in actors divine and of the seed of gods. The past was

« PreviousContinue »