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countries, as they appear before us in the transports of a sort of Beatific Vision, bowing down at the same shrines and glowing with the same holy love of whatever is most pure and fair and exalted and divine in human nature."
We meet, therefore, under the sanctions not only of our own convictions and experiences of the worth of classical studies, but of some of the purest examples in our local history of their power to inspire the human mind with sentiments which touch the chords of fraternal kinship throughout the world of genius and taste. How pleasant, too, to meet for once where harsh rivalries have no place! Strange, is it not? but true, that a more perfect peace reigns here than even in the assemblies where we meet to worship the Author of our being ? The vaulted roofs of gorgeous cathedrals, and the unadorned churches which suit the severity of the Puritan's faith, echo, how often, with words of denunciation and controversy! The Senate and the Forum, the marts of business and the baunts of fashion, are filled with the din and jostling of the seekers of wealth or fame. Be it so. Life is a warfare. I do not arraign the Providence which has so ordered. I honor the stout fighter. I reverence him who keeps his faith with God and mau, stern and true even to blood and death,—such men as “in the tapes, tried chambers of England's great sway, with stout sword on thigh and a stouter faith in the heart,
"Sat with Bibles open around the council board,
But who does not know that strength must be nourished and renewed by repose, that the tension of controversy must be followed by the relaxation of harmony? Here, in the fellowship of learning, under the truce of scholarship, no hostile chiefs are seen; no fluttering pennons of opposing squadrons greet the eye. Gentle influences rule here; sentiments common to all who have once been admitted to such scenes ; sympathies ardent, tender, far-reaching; generous aspirations; memories linking us to the pure and noble of earlier ages; hopes that run forward and paint the future with hues of millenial peace and glory :
-"the books, the arts, the Academes,
That show, contain and nourish all the world;" these are the monitors and benedictions of this hour.
On such an occasion there is but one theme for discourse. Assembled, as we are, to witness the results and assign the rewards of youthful efforts in classical scholarship, it is becoming that we should recall and set forth some of the grounds of the estimation in which we hold classical learning and studies. The occasion calls not so much for defence as exposition. I purpose, then, to inquire, in the first place, what are the classics, in respect to their objective form and subjective matter; in the second place, in what does their value consist as a means of education; in the third place, how are they related to practical success in life; and in the last place, what are the peculiar claims of the Greek language and literature to a leading place in the attention and love of scholars.
It is familiar that the term classic, as applied to works of literature, or of art generally, is no longer restricted to its older signification. It has come by a natural expansion of meaning to embrace all works of supreme excellence in literature and art. Each nation now boasts its classic writers, its classic works, its classic age. The English classics, the French classics, the German classics, the Hebrew classics, the Persian classics, are all recognized phrases designating those works which have stood the test of time, of the criticism of successive generations, and have finally by the consenting voices of scholars been assigned to the highest rank among the literary products of their respective nations and languages. But however widely or naturally the signification of the term has been expanded, the older and, I venture to say, the true signification remains,-a signification approved by its etymology as well as its earlier use, and denoting the highest and choicest productions of the Greek and Latin literatures, those productions which have come safely down across the flood of time and along the highways of twenty and thirty centuries to kindle the admiration and delight the taste of every enlightened age and people.
Here again we may note another, if I may so say, lateral expansion of the use of the epithet, classic, by which it is applied not only to the literature, but to the art, the genius, the civili
zation, and the modes of thought and life of the Greeks and Romans. The great classic age of Greece, however, embraces but a limited space of time, extending from the uncertain age of Homer, or about 900 B. C. to the death of Demosthenes, 322 B. C. of the authors who flourished during this period, the number of those who have been admitted to the world's literary Pantheon is still more limited, embracing, I think, in the judgment of the most competent authorities, scarcely more than sixteen names. The great classical age of Rome may simi. . larly be said to begin with Plautus, about 250 B. C., and to end with Tacitus, about 100 A. D., and embraces not more than fifteen unquestioned names. The age of Pericles, from 495 B. C. to 429 B. C., and the age of Augustus, from 63 B. C. to 14 A. D., are in a more limited and stricter sense the classical periods, respectively, of Greece and Rome. These periods embrace the names of hardly more than ten great classical authors. In the
proper and more legitimate use, however, of our term, clas. sic, as applied to Greek and Roman literature, it may be said to cover about six centuries of Greek, and about three and a half centuries of Roman life and history, and to include the names of about thirty authors. The entire works of these authors with which general classical scholarship interests itself, would be comprised, I think, within the compass of about fifty modern octavo volumes of three hundred pages each. Consider these facts for one moment.
How choice the products covered by the designation, classic! What winnowing of harvests! What purging of threshing floors! What burning up of chaff! How priceless the pure, selected grain! Twentyeight full centuries have come and gone; more than eighty-five generations of men have passed from cradle to grave; couutless millions of individuals have lived and died; epochs, eras, empires, dynasties, have marked and checkered the long course of human history; of making books there has been no end ; the great libraries of the ancient world have yielded to the flames or the ravages of time; the public libraries of Europe and the United States alone contain to-day more than sixteen millions of volumes; and out of all this ceaseless flow of human activity and production, the world to-day holds but about fifty small volumes which refined scholarship stamps with the preëminent title of classical literature.
Let us pause for another moment over this result. Does it not suggest reflections worthy of a moment's heed? Consider, first, the endless, measureless power of Art, as shown in the survival and power of the classics. What marvel like this ! If the material heavens that shone on Greece and Rome and met the gaze of Homer and Plato, of Cæsar and Tacitus, are unchanged, the earth, the solid globe itself, has changed its great natural features since these supreme artists wrought their unchanging works. The poems of Homer have immortalized Troy. Who that has read those poems, especially if in the slow and labored exercises of school and college, has not pic. tured the city, its wooded, many-fountained Ida, its brimming, silver-eddying Xanthus, its flowery plain, its lofty citadel Pergamos, the broad Hellespont rolling into the Aegean, -what youthful student, I say, has not imagined he could trace these physical features with easy certainty, as they presented themselves when Nestor harangued the long-haired, well-greaved Achæans close by the hollow, beaked ships? But the very site of Troy, I may still say, is in bopeless doubt. “A man may seek it," says Everett, “with Strabo in bis hand and Homer in his heart, and he shall not find it." The Thermopylæ, scene of a heroism which still warms the blood of every heart not insensible to fine emotions, who sball find it? It is gone. The narrow defile where Leonidas, with his three hundred, stayed for an hour the avalanche of Persian invasion, through which one hundred and fifty years later the gold of Philip, more persuasive than the voice of Demosthenes, pushed the Macedonian conqueror, is sought for today in vain. The field of Cannae, the plain of Pharsalia, the battle ground of Philippi, bright, immortal spots in Roman history, can no longer be identified.
Behold, then, the marvel! All else is changed: but the art of Homer, the sweet strains which the blind bard “not far from thirty centuries ago poured forth in the delighted ears of heroic Greece,"* the glorious music and majestic power of Demosthenes' oratory, the martial lyrics of Pindar, the sweet morality of Socrates, the lofty philosophy of Plato, the gloomy tragedies of Aeschylus, the melodious cadences of Cicero's
charmed voice, the glowing narrative of Livy, the deep, even tragic earnestness of Tacitus; in a word, the thought, the spirit, the life of lives, the garnered riches, of Greece and Rome are ours to-night, unchanged, fresh with immortal beauty as when the light of Athens' power streamed across the ancient world from her Acropolis, and the eagles of Rome returned home from the conquest of all nations to the Capitoline bill.
Such, my friends, are the studies which we are forced so often to hear dismissed with the well-worn phrase, dead languages, – “so called, I suppose," says another, “by antiphrasis, because some of them have outlived ninety generations of our race, and in all human probability will outlive as many more."
Consider, next, in how small a compass the great classics lie. With the limitations which I have already pointed out, the chief works, those which are essential to a full familiarity with all the masterpieces of Greece and Rome, in their strictly classical ages, are within the easy reach of every lover of learning, however bumble or poor. What a boon! The great classics are free to all! Of these the wealth of the world cannot purchase more than the mendicant monk, or the half-starved curate, the scholar of whatever condition of outward life, may possess. Nothing is requisite but the studious mind, the open sense, the earnest heart.
Such, in dim, imperfect outline, are the classics, considered in regard to their objective form—what I may call the body of the great classics. But what of the spirit there embodied ? Wbat of the vital soul?
“For of the soul the body form doth take,
For soul is form, and doth the body make."
In a word, what are the classics, considered in respect to their subject-matter? This is an inquiry not easily answered in the brief moments which I may give to it. This choice, selected product of art and genius has riches so various, qualities so wide in their range, the expression of sentiments and feelings so profound and universal, that it is difficult to characterize them in a few phrases or sentences. But it may perhaps be said with respect to their substance, that the classics are the best expression of the best thought of the two most cultivated nations of the