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Shall I behold thee happy in the home
Of thy liege lord, and husband, as befits?"
And nestling in the beard, which now I clasp
A suppliant, I made answer unto thee;
"I too will welcome thee when grey with years
In the sweet shelter of my home, my Sire,
And with fond fostering recompense thy love."
Such were our words, I recollect them well;
But thou forgettest and wouldst take my life.
Be not so cruel! By thy father's love
I beg of thee, and by my mother's throes,
Who in her anguish feels those throes anew.
Say, what have I to do with the false vows
That Paris pledged to Helen-to my bane?
Look on me! give one parting look- -one kiss,
That when I die may remember thee,
Though with my words I may not bend thy will.
My brother, feeble infant as thou art,

Let thy tears flow with mine! Entreat our Sire,
If so thy sister may escape her doom.
The speechless infant hath a sense of ill;
See how his very silence is a prayer—
Have pity on me, father! spare my life!
'Tis sweet to gaze upon the blessed light:
The grave is nought! The fool resigns his breath;
The sorriest life is better than the noblest death !'

Yet even she, when she stands out with majesty from her former self, will not allow her mother to revile the weak and stricken Agamemnon, she will not allow the gallant Achilles to risk his life for her, she will not even allow her household to put on mourning, since she has entrusted to her the high mission of dying to save her country.

These are the women who have raised the ideal of the sex to such a region, that in looking upon them,

the world has passed from neglect to courtesy, from courtesy to veneration; these are they, who across many centuries, first of frivolity and sensuality, then of rudeness and barbarism, join hands with the ideals of our religion and our chivalry, the martyred saints, the chaste and holy virgins of romance, nay more with the true wives, the devoted mothers of our own day, whose loyalty and self-sacrifice in a cold and selfish generation, sustained through years of common-place duties and amid careless ingratitude, show with no uncertain sound, that they too are heroines of the first order, if society did but require of them more splendid, and therefore easier sacrifices.

When we read the systematic charges of Aristophanes against such a poet, that he traduced and blackened the female sex, that he hated women, that he delighted to represent their guilty passions on his stage; when we read these charges, made by the poet who of all others has spoken most vilely and scurrilously of the whole sex, and who of all known authors is the most open to the charge himself, we are led to wonder at his audacious buffoonery, and how a sense of common justice did not set his audience against him. But if we can explain this from the great popularity of his brilliant wit-and in no case is injustice more readily condoned-what shall we say of modern critics, who are led by the jeers of Aristophanes, who speak of Euripides as the painter of woman's passion and her crime, and who, in total oblivion of the splendid figures in his greatest tragedies, speak with pity and disgust of the immorality of Athenian women, and actually believe

that the greatest and most refined artistic and political civilisation of the world coexisted with the lowest and most brutal demoralisation of home and family relations1? As if the portraits of Cleon, and of Socrates, were not ample proof how totally Aristophanes disregarded truth for the sake of the theories of his party, and the exigencies of his boundless and uncontrolled humour! One is almost tempted to believe that the ordinary critics of Euripides have studied him in Aristophanes alone, and are ignorant that we have before us ample and clear refutations, not in the praise of partisans, not in the faint echoes of scattered fragments, but in a long series of plays, expressing his views on life and character, and above all establishing what might else have been fairly doubted, that the ideal woman of his day was as noble and as natural, as those of the best and most approved epochs of human morals.

1 E. g. Mr. Symonds, in his Greek Poets, p. 273.

2 I am quite aware that there is a picture of Socrates very different from that of Plato and from that of Xenophon, handed down to us in the fragments of Eupolis (Frag. Incert. 10, ed. Meineke, vol. ii. p. 553) and of the serious and learned Aristoxenus, who says he obtained his information from a personal friend of Socrates (Müller, Frag. Hist. Græc. ii. p. 280). But even this adverse picture is not the least like the grotesque distortion in Aristophanes.



BUT let us proceed to a closer examination of this Attic comedy. We look throughout it, in vain, for noble qualities, or even for refinement of feeling in the characters. The poet does indeed in some of his splendid parabases, strip off the veil of buffoonery and of satire to give serious advice to the assembled people, and there are not wanting pathetic touches in his rudest scenes. But, with these exceptions, coarseness and vice are perpetually before us. Women, for example, are almost invariably treated by Aristophanes and his fellow-poets with ridicule and contempt. They are derided for immorality and drunkeness, and such a picture is drawn of them as is quite appalling, if we are foolish enough to take it as evidence of Attic home life. The legion of critics who have made this mistake, in drawing inferences from Greek tragedy and Greek comedy, have ignored a remarkable feature in Greek literature, which I must again bring before the reader with fuller illustrations.

While we, both in strict history and in historical fiction, think it essential to adhere closely to traditional or well-attested types in describing celebrated

characters, the Greeks did not feel themselves so bound, but consulted rather the artistic proprieties and the requirements of the special occasion. Thus the artistic type of a hero, or of a class, was with them often consciously different from the received or real ́one, without shocking that tame and strict sense of accuracy, which, in the English, is a most serious hindrance to all imaginative art. Consider, for example, in such a history as that of Thucydides, the introduction of speeches which cannot pretend to be real; which are often in a dialect foreign to the speakers, and which so manifestly represent the theories of the writer and his mere notions of dramatic propriety, that such biographers as Plutarch totally ignore these harangues placed in the mouths of the men whose lives they are compiling from this very history. Thus of Pericles, who has several long speeches attributed to him in Thucydides, Plutarch says that he left nothing written, and that of his sayings hardly any are preserved.

In the dialogues of Plato, the next great prose writer, the same feature has been often noticed, and of late with great force by Mr. Jowett. Though celebrated names are introduced-men known to many of his readers-Plato is not at all careful of historical accuracy, nay even violates it so as to show plainly that he did not mean to be merely reproducing known and ordinary men. The case is more remarkable, as I have shown above, in the tragedians. For here not only do the types vary widely from the well-known originals in the old epic poems, but these types vary in different plays of the same poet. This is,

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