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in real estate has its corresponding dollar of loss in some part of the country. The successful towns have been built upon the ruins of others less successful. The advancing prices of land in Kansas or California only keep pace with the falling prices in the hill towns of New England. The gains of the non-producing western speculator are accounted for in the scanty living of the producing farmers and other laborers in the East.
From an economic point of view speculation in land or in any other commodity where there is actual ownership and transfer of property, is much less harmful than the paper contracts and speculation in margins, since it is necessarily limited in amount. Ethically, however, there is no difference. Every form of trade whose profits do not represent real earnings but are derived from artificial changes in the market, is morally wrong even though its economic effect be unappreciable. Any person who draws a dollar from the treasury of society without making an equivalent return is dishonest.
Every social problem presents two phases, the economic and the ethical. These are in a sense wholly independent of each other, yet they are always harmonious. That is to say, the economic effect of a custom or institution cannot be attributed directly to its ethical character, nor, on the other hand, is its ethical status to be determined by its economic effect alone. Still it is doubtless true in every instance that, in the broadest view, the economically expedient is also the ethically right. Of the two elements the ethical is the more important, since it lies at the foundation of all social relations. No custom can be beneficial to society, no economic system can be satisfactory, no state of society can be permanently harmonious, that does not rest on'a sound ethical basis. Furthermore, any plan for the solution of existing difficulties that takes no account of the ethical principles involved must prove a signal failure. It is of little use to change external forms unless our work goes deeper. To legislate evils out of existence is impossible. Economic changes and reformatory legislation are of value only when they express a real advance in the moral sentiment of the people.
The evils which exist in American society to-day and which cause so much trouble and unrest are not the result of an imperfect social system merely. They spring chiefly from a lack of true moral principle. The popular conscience is not as keen as it should be, especially in matters where large sums of money are involved. It is difficult to persuade a man that the business by means of which he has accumulated great wealth is morally wrong. The selfish love of money lies athwart the path of every moral reform and clogs the wheels of human progress. For many years slavery was declared to be a Christian institution, because there was money in it. Hundreds of men will not see the real iniquity of the liquor traffic because they derive a large revenue from it. So it is with speculation. The large fortunes that have been quickly and easily acquired by this form of trade have made men willingly blind to its real character. It has appeared so respectable in many cases as to deceive even the very elect.
But the time is coming when this disguise must be removed. The spirit of the age demands it. A moral evil requires a moral remedy. Social changes may accomplish something in this matter; but there must also be a thorough change of moral sentiment. The conscience of the people must be more finely tempered. The work of reform will not be complete till the speculator is degraded from the ranks of honest trade and compelled to take his place beside gamblers and other social outlaws.
GEORGE H. HUBBARD.
CLASSICAL AND PHILOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF YALE
On November 6th, Professor Reynolds presented a communication on the
CLASSICAL AND MODERN TRAGEDY. Greek drama presents many features in marked contrast to modern drama; and since its traditions have been set up by a certain school of dramatists in modern times as a criterion of excellence, an examination of its origin and environment sheds light on the question of what in its form is essential and what incidental.
Greek tragedy had its origin in the dithyrambic choruses which were sung in honor of the god Dionysus. Originally religious in subject and always religious in its outward purpose if not in its inner meaning, it was shielded by religious conservatism from rapid change. Early tradition as well as good taste limited the choice of subject in the main to events in the remote past,at first, to events in the life of Dionysus. Unlike modern poets, the Greeks were not jaded in the search for novel themes. Different poets often treated the same subject and even the same poet sometimes wrote more than one play on the same theme. Their work was judged not by the novelty of the theme but by the dramatic garb with which in was invested. The traditional costume, the masks, and the size of the theater which necessitated slowness of utterance, forbade lively action on the stage and produced a certain statuesque effect. The fewness of the actors, which is explained by the origin of the Greek drama, had a very material influence in simplifying the scenes and determining their succession. Each actor generally took more than one rôle. Even the time to make a change of costume had often to be taken into consideration. A certain economy had to be exercised in employing the leading actor, who would perhaps appear in more than one drama in a single day.
The constant presence of the chorus forbade any great lapse of
time to be imagined between scenes; while the added elements of deficient stage machinery and absence of a curtain would make a frequent change of scene jar on the dramatic illusion. The Greek poet therefore had to group the action around one place and one time; whatever else was necessary to the action such as battles, etc., was introduced by means of the reports of heralds, which were an integral part of the drama. The so-called unity of action or arrangement of events in a sequence of cause and effect was perhaps more strictly maintained than in modern times,
The paper further pointed out that Aristotle, the acknowledged authority of the French classical school, while he lays especial stress on the unity of action and mentions the unity of time, nowhere alludes to the unity of place. Violations of the unities were then mentioned both in Greek tragedy and in the modern classical and romantic drama. Instances were shown where the French dramatists adhered to the unities and violated all probabilities. In the absence of a chorus the need of a strict observance of the unity of time and place was wanting and the romantic school represented by Shakspeare freely violated both.
In the subordination of incident and diction to the central idea of the drama the ancients were manifestly superior. Attention was called to the fact that while Greek plays were composed in the form in which they were acted, modern plays are usually “adapted” for the stage. The paper closed with a criticism, from the above mentioned points of view, of Shakspeare's King Lear and Browning's Best in the 'Scutcheon.
On November 25th, Mr. W. I. Hunt read a paper on
WIT AND HUMOR IN HOMER.
The epic poem is not naturally witty or humorous. Its dignity and sternness preclude small talk. So on Homeric battlefields stern irony and sarcasm are used in mocking an enemy, exulting over a fallen foe, or spurring on a friend. Irony is heightened by intensive particles which make the contrast greater between the speaker's real view and his statement, or by weakening particles which state as contingent that which the speaker looks upon as certain. Irony is also indicated by using words of pleasant meaning in a bad sense, or by stating that which is feared as the object of the action. “ Draw near that you may die !"
While there is no lack of wit and humor in Homer, many things are treated seriously which we should look upon as absurd. Homeric wit is broad not subtle, objective not subjective. It has to do with external objects and is aimed at definite persons. There is sometimes a humor in the grouping of events, as in the comical scenes in which Aphrodite figures, or in the prize-fight between Odysseus and Irus. Odysseus in the cave of the Cyclops saves his life by a pun. There is more humor in the Odyssey than in the Iliad. In the Iliad the wit is largely irony and sarcasm, for the Iliad is a stern tragedy, while the Odyssey is a novel.
The Secretary translated, with comments, Professor Jebb's Greek Ode to the University of Bologna at its Eight-Hundredth Anniversary. Few scholars would attempt to compose an ode of one hundred and fifty verses in Pindaric style, dialect and rhythm. Probably no other living scholar would have been so successful as Professor Jebb. The ode is by no means a cento,” yet every stanza contains Pindaric idioms and reminiscences. Some of the most ethereal of Pindar's characteristics reappear here.
The Greek hexameters, elegiacs, and Sapphic verses which have been composed and published occasionally during the last four centuries are all trifling and rude work, when compared with this ode.
The papers presented have been-
Nov. 6. Nature and the Universal in English Poetry. Mr. J. H. Tufts.
Nov. 20. Philosophical Basis of Ritschl's Theology. Professor Russell.
Dec. 4. Hebrew and Greek Conceptions of the Relation between Body and Soul. Mr. F. C. Porter.
Dec. 18. Pessimism. Mr. B. M. Wright.