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ners which gave them birth'. If so, Hesiod has told us what the poor man thought and felt, while the Homeric poet pictured how kings and ladies ought, in his opinion, to have lived and loved. And with all the contrasts, I think we can see conclusively that the fundamental features were the same, and that they were the legitimate seed from which sprang the Greeks of historic times.
I may add, in conclusion, that this great contrast between the fair exterior and the misery and injustice within, though it has been now put very strongly in the case of the Greeks, was not peculiar to them, but has probably existed in all history where a favoured caste has ruled in its own interest, and to the exclusion of the general mass of the people. It was so in ancient Egypt, it was so in ancient India-indeed, in India at all times,—and it was so in mediæval Europe.
But in most of these cases the stronger classes write their own history and chant their own praises, whilst the wrongs and troubles of the poor transpire but rarely and by accident. So, the miseries of the old
1 The usual theory makes the authors of the Iliad and Odyssey Asiatic Greeks, living among the Ionians, though of Æolian extraction. If this were so, the contrasts of Asiatic luxury and Greek poverty might be brought in to explain the striking differences between the two poets. For we know that the Asiatic Greeks attained to wealth and luxury long before their brethren in Greece. Mr. Gladstone, however, in the Contemporary Review for June 1874, contends earnestly that Homer composed his poems in Greece. If we adopt this theory, the remarks in the text will be even more pointed, and the contrast more remarkable, between the refinement of the upper classes and the rudeness of the lower, in immediate contact throughout the same, or adjoining, districts.
Egyptian poor have chanced to be transmitted to us by the boasts of reckless kings, who so loved their own glory, and to magnify their own deeds, that they confessed the ruthless waste of human life with which they completed their eternal monuments. And again, a letter of a scribe has reached us, calling on a friend to embrace a literary life, and contrasting the poverty and the oppression under which the farming class suffered, with the comforts of his own calling. These chance pieces of evidence lay open to us great social sores, great sorrows of humanity covered with a surface of unjust and heartless splendour. Can we imagine that in the Middle Ages, in the days of troubadours and tournaments, of moated castles and rich abbeys, when the rude baron and the wily abbot divided the spoil that then the lower strata of society fared in proportion, and that we could fairly consider them as sharing the splendour and the refinement of the old romances and ballads? I need not speak of persecuted races like the Jews, who were so barbarously treated that injustice towards them lost its very meaning to their oppressors, who have vaunted their own thefts and rapine and murder as the execution of Divine commands, and the spreading of the gospel of mercy through the world. But even in the case of the poor and the unprotected, the orphan and the widow, the sick and the destitute, it is but too certain that all the earth was full of violence; and that hearts were broken and honour trampled in the dust with little compassion, when no law was found to punish transgression.
Feudal times may be brilliant, they may produce both sentiment and heroism in the baron; to the many they are days of turmoil and misery, of uncertain and scanty comfort, of certain oppression and wrong. What are the social pictures drawn of these times in the novels of Sir Walter Scott-books which contain more and truer history than most of the dry annals professing to be history? Consider Ivanhoe, or Quentin Durward, or the Fair Maid of Perth, are they not all darkened with the cry of the poor for justice and mercy, while the rich and powerful are made to suffer by the novelist the punishments which they escaped in real life? These things should moderate our contempt for the Homeric Greeks, even though we have stripped off the husk, and shown the bitterness of the fruit within. They were unjust and cruel and coarse below the surface; but so were our ancestors, ay, within a century of to-day. After all it is the democratic spirit—vulgar, unsentimental, litigious spirit that it is-which first overthrew this feudalism in the world; and in ancient Greece, in Rome, and in the Europe of to-day, has redressed social grievances, forbidden injustice, and punished violence and wrong.
THE GREEKS OF THE LYRIC AGE.
WHEN we pass the gap that separates Homeric from historical Greece we find ourselves in presence of a very different type of literary men. The tooth of time has eaten their works into fragments. We can find no continuous picture, no complete sketch of life, in these scanty remnants; but still there is a something in the briefest of them that speaks to us with a different tone from that of the smooth and courtly rhapsodists. The lyric poets had lost interest in old kings and bygone glories; they wrote about the present, they told about themselves, they spoke out the plain truth. We can see in the earliest of them, such as Archilochus, a clear reaction against the perpetual singing of antique glory, and the false palliation of heroic crimes. 'Had not the poet himself told us,' says an old writer', 'we should never have known that he was the son of a slave, and that he was driven from his country (Paros) by poverty and want, to Thasos, where he became very unpopular; nor should we have known that he abused friends and foes alike, nor that he was
1 Critias, quoted by Ælian, in Bergk, Fragg. Lyric. Græc. p. 724, from which I quote throughout.
an adulterer, except from his own words, nor that he was sensual and insolent, nor, worst of all, that he threw away his shield. Archilochus, therefore, was no good witness against himself.'
And yet this poet was unanimously placed by the Greeks next to Homer in popularity. We are, therefore, no longer in the presence of Greek Spensers and Miltons, who forgot themselves and their age to sing about gods and heroes, but in the presence of a Greek Byron, who not only applied his transcendent genius to satirise the men and the social laws of his own time, but who flaunted before the world the worst passages of an evil life, and, as a fanfaron de vices, gloried in violating the holiest obligations which restrain ordinary men in every civilised community. The same outspokenness, though it did not reach the same extremes, marks the fragments of Alcæus, of Sappho, of Theognis, and of Solon. They stand totally apart in spirit from the old rhapsodists, and in contact with the moderns. They were strict realists in their art, not approaching the ideal save in the hymns they composed for the public worship of the gods.
The self-assertion of cowardice in so many of these poets is a feature well worth noticing more particularly. Not only have we the evidence just quoted about Archilochus, but Herodotus (v. 95), and afterwards Strabo (xiii. 600), tell us a similar story of Alcæus, who actually wrote a poem to a friend, and published it, detailing how he had thrown away his shield in battle, and how the Athenians, with whom he had fought, had hung it up as a trophy in Sigeum. We are not