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A quest of the imagination.

Anima Naturaliter Pagana.

By J. B. Bury.

Andrew Lang, 1894. ‘The world of translators, from Chapman to Mr. Lang, is not Greek any more than the world of Keats.’ (Image: Century Magazine.)

IT IS COMMONPLACE with critics that the creative faculty in literature is well-nigh exhausted, and that all works produced nowadays are merely variations on old motives and modifications of old ideas. There is, it would seem, nothing harder than to “sing unto the Lord a new song.” Yet it might be plausibly argued that to understand what is really old requires a powerful imagination as to invent what is really new. Perhaps, indeed, both tasks are impossible, if “new” in the one case and “understand” in the other be taken in the strictest sense. But no one will lay such a heavy burden as is here implied on the word “understand,” unless he has a strong spiritual motive. It is just because so few have more than a merely speculative interest in the problem of understanding the mind and the art of the ancient Greeks, that the difficulties involved in that problem have seldom been sufficiently realised.

But we can easily conceive a mind to which that question would be of the greatest practical moment. Let us imagine a modern pagan who is out of sympathy with the tendencies of his age, and is at the same time unready to make useless attempts to counteract them. The decadence of Greece, the defeat of paganism, and the victory of Christianity are to him a painful subject. He feels impatient at the thought that, when the Spirit of humanity was standing on the brink of the abyss, about to project herself into the dark which she knew not—in tenebras, in ignotum—there was no god near at hand to pluck her back into the familiar light, no divine voice to whisper in her ears, as she bent forward,

Why wilt thou cast the roses from thine hair?

He is one of those in whose ears the music of Zeitgeist has a sound as of jangled bells, but he is not of a militant nature, and is disposed only to search out a retreat quite in the shade, where rays from the “world” never come through. He seeks a road which does not lead to the end of the world. Such blind sheltered lanes, leading nowhere, may perhaps be found in some regions of higher mathematics, where breathing an air unstirred by emotion a worker may well-nigh lose the sense of his own existence. But men are born mathematicians, and I know not if any one ever arose and followed Archimedes or Mr. Cayley for the sake of winning a spiritual retreat. More comprehensible, but akin, is that happy “imaginary portrait”—one of the most captivating of Mr. Pater’s sketches—of Sebastian van Storck, realising the aloofness demanded by his strange temper in the waste acosmic places of Spinoza’s metaphysics, with its geometrical methods. But such retreats as these, free from time and space, or perhaps dealing with space of unworldly dimensions, are only for the rare spirit, rara avis incoelis.

The imaginary man of whom I speak is of more human temper. He would not freeze his emotions but only direct them in a way where they should not meet the Zeitgeist and his noisy company. Such a nature, needing for its life a bright atmosphere, and, although disliking its spiritual environment, yet averse to the “bleak blown spaces” of Senancour and Amiel (which are so essentially modern), might naturally seek in pagan Greece a home for the imagination. But can he get there? It must soon become clear to him that grave difficulties beset the realisation of the old Greek spirit in its purity and the appreciation of Greek art, even for one who is naturally pagan, and feels belated in the dispensation under which he has been brought up. He has more joy in Sophocles’ hymn to Dionysos than in any modern poem, but how shall he ever understand that the lord of the wine is the choragos of the stars, or how taste with a Bacchant rout the savour of his sweetness on the mountains? He may know every curve on the broken marble limbs of the horseman who robe on the frieze of the Parthenon cella, but how could he feel what their models felt on the day of the great Panathenaic festival? The statue of Aphrodite which Melos gave us may be dearer to his soul than any mistress, but will the goddess ever open his eyes to behold the light that was in hers?

xWho shall discern or declare
In the uttermost depths of the sea
xThe light of thine eyelids and hair?

Is it possible to emancipate the imagination from the effects of the great ecumenical change which transformed the mind of man—effects like shadows, perceptible, or operative without out knowing it, in every nook of the intelligence? Is it possible to dull the ubiquitous echoes of the voice which “shrunk” the stream of Alpheus?

Of course a man, whose nature were so thoroughly and incorrigibly pagan as to resolve and seriously attempt to to sweep all modern things clean out of his mind in order to build a haunt for the imagination of the past, would be regarded as beyond the the verge of madness. Nevertheless it may be interesting to inquire, as a mere matter of speculation, whether such a quest is doomed to fail or destined to succeed; and the problem clearly touches on questions which have some importance for all students of literature, and especially for classical scholars. We hear a good deal, now and then, about the necessity of placing oneself at the ancient point of view, or of thinking oneself into the Greek mind. But how far it this psychologically possible? In some cases it is easy enough to recognise that the Greeks looked on such and such a matter in such and such a way, whereas modern civilisation regards the same thing otherwise. But this is by no means equivalent to the realisation of the Hellenic temper. To understand fully the aesthetic sense of the Greeks, and to look at the whole world through their eyes, is the ideal of our imaginary pagan. But a certain approximation at least to this ideal must be recognised as desirable by every student of Greek art and literature. And thus the problem on which it is proposed to offer a few remarks in this paper has some concern for others than the “homeless” one who stands like Goethe’s Iphigenie on the shore of the barbarous Tauri, “das Land der Griechen mit der Seele suchend.”

OF CHARACTERISTICS OF Greek art which render its appreciation in any real sense by the modern mind possible only after a careful training of the imagination, two are specially obvious. These are temperance and cheerfulness (σωϕροσύνη and ϵὐϕροσύνη). It is true that all art exacts a certain measure of self-restraint, but much of the best modern art expresses passions of a soul which does not care to control itself. Temperance was the note of the Greek spirit; whereas the modern spirit is naturally extravagant, and if gravitation to “the Infinite” is kept within due limits, that repression is due to our familiarity with classical models. As an example of the attitude of the undereducated imagination to classical self-restraint, I may take a familiar modern poem in “classical” as opposed to “romantic” style. The ordinary reader finds the sentiment in Rose Aylmer jejune, perhaps almost ridiculous; he expects the passionate consecration not of a night, but of a year at least, if not a life, of memories and sighs. Some adventurous German philologist, I believe, has not hesitated to “emend” it; for of course the High-Dutchman understands emendation better than self-repression. It requires a training in Greek art to apprehend the beauty of the severe expression of the mere truth in perfectly fitting words. For most of us the charm of self-restraint in works of the imagination is an acquired taste; while the rapture of the passion, sweeping along uncoerced, as it were, into boundless room, evokes at once an answer in the “romantic” soul. Mr. Swinburne’s expression of emotion,

I shall never be friends again with roses,
I shall hate sweet music my whole life long,”

touches immediately any imagination susceptible to poetry. But Landor’s lines—

A night of memories and sighs
I consecrate to thee,”

leave the natural modern man cold.

This instance is from a modern poet who made classical literature his model. We may now go to a Greek tragedian for another instance of classical beauty, which can be appreciated only by the educated taste. When Hippolytus, in the play of Euripides, is about to die and Artemis, who had been his invisible companion in the chase, and for whose sake he had incurred the wrath which brought about his death, leaves him without any display of emotion, he says to her,—

μακράν δϵ λϵίπϵις ῥᾳδίως ὁμιλίαν

(Thou lightly leavest a long companionship). In a modern drama such words would imply a reproach, and the spectator or reader would be disposed to censure them as a blot on the passage. But to the educated aesthetic faculty this verse is one of the felicities of the play. It does not convey a reproach, but a simple acquiescence in the fact that the “gods live easily,” and that grief for mortal friends lies lightly on them. This is the Greek σωϕροσύνη.

THE MODERN MAN may train himself to take pleasure in the temperance of Greek art, but he must remember that this vital difference between the Greek and the modern temper has wide effects in language and in small details, which with all watchfulness and subtlety he can hardly hope to follow. He will find it still more difficult to understand and appreciate another mark of the Greek mind and the art which it informed. The spirit of self-restraint was accompanied by cheerfulness. The Greeks were content with limits, and cheerful within them; as Mr. Matthew Arnold said, they were not “sick or sorry.” But it may well be questioned whether it is possible for us, for the most pagan nature among us, to look upon the true face of their mild Euphosyne. We too have the cheerful, we have literature animated by various forms of cheerfulness. But this only increases out difficult in realising the Greek mood; for we have to keep it uninfected by the somewhat grotesque cheerfulness of Rabelais on the one hand, and by what Bacon calls a “devout cheerfulness on the other. The humanist who revived the memories of antiquity, and awakened the world and conducted it out of darkness into a new light, did not succeed in reinstating the Greek Grace. She whom they set on the throne of Euphrosyne had gone through much tribulation, and, if the tears were wiped away, the memory thereof could not be effaced. The joyousness of Rabelais, who would fain have been physician to all men and solaced their troubles with his prescription Buvez! is quite different from the spirit of Pindar, when he says,—

ἂριστος ϵὐϕρσύνα πόνων … ἰατρός

(Euphrosyna is the best physician of labours). And the difference might be said to lie in this: Pindar’s physician had no rival, while the great shadow of “the good physician” lay across the path of Rabelais. Shakespeare was another who brought forth the fruits of humanism. Regarding the cheerful side of his world, bright enough in the comedies, we soon become aware that it is not warm with the gracious cheer of the Greeks. “Dost think because thou art virtuous we are to have no more cakes and ale?” This is thoroughly human; but the words themselves hint that not far off from the inn are lurking the pale shadows of protesting virtues. Or, again, “My little body is aweary of the great world.” Notes like that, light enough, but signs that Melancholia has passed by that way, sound again and again in the gayest music. It must be owned that Milton’s genius has succeeded in producing a poem to Euphrosyne in which no trace of the malady of the spirit can be found, when once Melancholia has been driven out of doors. But it is necessary to drive her out first, and we know that she will certainly return. To take another instance from Milton, the apology for “the perpetual fountain of domestic sweets,” in the Fourth Book of his great epic, shows the need which the new temper felt to justify itself; the shadow was still there. Nor has it yet disappeared. Gautier believed that it was his mission to banish as something uncanny the three dominant pale spectres, Virginity, Mysticism, and Melancholy—“trois maladies nouvelle apportées par le Christ.” His Mademoiselle de Maupin is typical of a certain pagan mood of the modern mind. But the Spirit of the book does not walk in the same ways or with the same gait as the true Euphrosyne. The step of Gautier’s Grace is light, but it is fantastical; it is not set to the Greek measure, and the woods of Arden, where she wanders, are haunted by melancholy men.

These instances of cheerfulness and temperance will illustrate our distance from Hellas. When we reflect, that, not only we ourselves have been brought up and live in an atmosphere wholly different from the Greek and inhabited by a music that is acquainted with emotions which to the Greeks were utterly unknown, but our forefathers, who made us what we are, have for centuries past been thinking things which never entered the thought of Plato, and feeling things of which Sophocles and Pericles never dreamed, we can apprehend the magnitude of the task awaiting him who would really cross the ages in the little bark of the mind. We no longer, indeed, look up to the ideals of our ancestors who fought, and loved, and prayed in the days of Barbarossa or Saint Louis; Ritterthum und Pfäfferei no longer possess the world. But these ideals brought forth their fruits, and they are psychologically affecting us still. They conditioned the growth of forces which overthrew them, and they formed minds which struck into new paths. The problem is, how far can we emancipate ourselves from the fatal constraint of heredity? Can we feel the charm of the true Εὐϕροσύνη, when those, whose blood is in our veins, regarded, in their most tolerant moments, the works of the Greeks as “heitere Sünden”? Will the authentic Charis be able to reveal herself to us, seeing that the eyes of our ancestors were dazzled by the glories of ladies benedight—

Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
Margaret and Rosalys?”

This is the question for the modern pagan: can he annihilate the thoughts and emotions, the dreams and fancies of more than two thousand years, by a supreme feat of imagination? Will not some magic herb, like that which “transhumanised” Glaucus, be needed to transmodernise him?

But the difficulties are by no means exhausted. There is a modern art amongst us, which deals in various ways with Hellenic subjects. Out of the stories of Greek myth modern poets and painters have constructed new “classical” worlds, not, however, really classical, but transmuted in their crucibles and tempered into romanticism. In spirit, if not in letter, the legends told and painted by the new artists are as unlike the old, as the Arcadia of the Renaissance is unlike the Arcadia of geography. But it is from the new vessels that we drink in our early childhood. By the time we can read Greek literature for ourselves, our imaginations are dyed with romantic colours; the poetry of Homer and Euripides is laden with imported qualities; the light of antiquity comes to us through painted panes. If we do not take good heed, the impression produced by Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters, a poem trembling with modern emotion, will imperceptibly adulterate the nature of our pleasure in the passage of Homer’s Lotophagoi with the melancholy languor of the afternoon. When Morris sails to Colchis in the Argo he is as modern as when he transports us to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Keats is as little classical as Shelley. The Sappho, of whose soft cheek he dreams in a sonnet, is not the lover of Anactoria, but a fancy of his fantastic brain. And all the romantic transfigurations of the subject of Greek literature are so many obstacles to our apprehending its true qualities. When we read the few fragments of the poetess of Mytilene which time has spared, perhaps against our will lines of Mr. Swinburne ring in our ears, we see

The lost white feverish limbs
Of the Lesbian Sappho, adrift,”

and the imagination is immediately coloured with the modern sentiment.

Again, we are constantly translating and reading the written translations of others. We must translate, to begin with, in order to master the language, and we never quite give up the habit of putting Greek mentally into English. Moreover, we sometimes read the renderings on which good scholars have spent much time and love. But the world of translators, from Chapman to Mr. Lang, is not Greek any more than the world of Keats. This is a hard saying, but it may easily be proved. In the first place, the translators themselves had not performed the mighty feat of imagination, spoken of above; their minds, like those of others, were conditioned by their environment and their forefathers. In the second place, even if they had thoroughly freed their imaginations from the mental fetters which history has laid upon her children, they have no instrument at their command to work upon the imaginations of others. Even if the words of Homer and Pindar conveyed to them exactly the same significance that they conveyed to the ears of those who heard the story of Troy recited in Chios, or the tale of Jason and Medea sung at Cyrene, they would be unable to reproduce that significance in a modern language.

For when we go beyond material objects and natural relations, the Greek and English words do not correspond. “Father” corresponds to πατήρ; “lion” corresponds to ἀρϵτή; and “grace” is not the equivalent of χάρις. In one direction the Greek words mean a little more than the English, and in another direction they mean a little less. And the really equivalent parts of the connotations are affected by their association with the parts which do not cover. And in literature these “little” differences are all important; it is the subtle flavours of words that determine the flavour of the work. It does not, perhaps, matter much whether we read in Greek or in English that Darius had two sons, Artaxerxes and Cyrus; but whether we read of ὑψηλαῐς αρϵταῐς or of “sublime virtues,” makes all the difference in Helicon. There are some words which are opposed by virtue of their whole history to Hellenedom and ought never to pass between our eyes and a Greek page. Such are righteousness, with its savour of the Old Testament, and meekness, with its savour of the New. Yet “righteousness” occurs more than once in a brilliant version of Pindar; and the author of the Data of Ethics has chosen the name of a peculiarity Christian virtue to render Aristotle’s πραότης. This is almost as unfortunate as it would be to translate Prindar’s καρπὸς ϕρϵνων by “fruits of the spirit,” a phrase from the Litany charged with Christian emotion. Such an epithet as knightly, suggesting a mediaeval ideal, would clearly be out of place in the translation of a Greek work.

It may be said that these are extreme cases, and that the reasons which render them unsuitable equivalents for Greek words of cognate meaning cannot fairly be urged in the vast majority of cases. But it is just the extreme and most obvious instances that are least dangerous. It is those cases where the differences are more subtle, which, if not attended to, must imperceptibly tend to place the modern mind at a totally false standpoint. For every word of spiritual significance has its history; and whether we know that history wholly or in part, or not, the emotion which it awakens in us is a result of that history. Every word has been in some way affected by the society in which it has been thrown, and has been refined or corrupted by the communications which it has held. A language reflects the light and the shadows which have fallen from generation to generation on the people who speak it; a breath of their joys and their pains passes into the words they utter. It would be an instructive page in history which traced the association that have gathered round the “world.” Long companionship with the flesh and the devil, new vista in astronomy, wider views of history, have all contributed their portion to a complex of associations united in that monosyllable. “World,” therefore, has no Greek equivalent. How could one render in Greek Wordsworth’s complaint that “the world is too much with us late and soon”? To find an equivalent for “old world pine forests” might not appear so hopeless; but ὠγύγιος does not really convey the same impression as “old world,” which implies a new world. There is nothing in Greek which could express the delicate suggestiveness of Othello’s “world of kisses.” And, conversely, if we use “world” in thought or speech as a counter for any Greek word, we unconsciously impede the imagination from reaching the Greek point of view. “Heart” might be taken as another example. Except in a physiological sense the Greek had no word for “heart”, which expresses a faculty of emotion which was differentiated after the rise of Christianity and the entrance of the German into Christendom. In the same way, if we wish to render χάρις or θαλϵρός or ἀρϵτή, we have no words which are not either inadequate or charged with meanings of which Hellas was innocent.

AND THUS WE are led to the strange conclusion, that the better a translation is from one point of view the worse it is from another. Versions which affect literary polish are those which are most likely to mislead, because they substitute in a more pronounced or more insinuating manner a modern for a Greek atmosphere. Professor ebb’s translations of Sophocles cannot be surpassed; but they are really works of English literature. They are efforts of modern art which deserve to be mentioned in a history of English literature as much as Pericles and Aspasia of Landor. But they do not represent Sophocles, and, as has been shown, they could not represent him, because words have histories, and in a work of literary merit, especially, words assert their significances. It is impossible not to add and not to take away. Rossetti’s translation of Villon’s version of “Ballad of Dead Ladies” and the original poem do not give exactly the same quality of pleasure; the English version has beauties that are not in the French, virtues that are all its own. And yet it is very faithful. But so it is with all beautiful translations of beautiful works; the quality of the beauty undergoes a change. Professor Jebb has certainly resisted far more than other translators who regard translation as a fine art the temptation to introduce echoes of modern and Christian literature. It is tempting to render the ὃττι καλὸν ϕίλον ϵστί of Theognis by “A thing of beauty is a joy”; but the phrase immediately transports us from the society of the Charities to the romantic ways in which the shepherd boy of Keats strayed and dreamed. It is tempting when we read in the Phaedo the saying about the initiated,

πολλοὶ μϵν ναοθηκόροι, Βάκχοι δϵ τϵ παυροι

(many wand-bearers, but few Bacchants), to recall the “parallel” from the New Testament: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Yet it might be held that if one would enter into the Greek spirit and keep the imagination pure, such a parallel should be conspicuous by its absence from the thoughts.

These remarks may be illustrated further by some instances from well-known translations. In the legend of Castor and Polydeukes told by Pindar in the Tenth Nemean Ode, the prayer of Polydeukes when he sees his brother dying begins thus: “On me too, O lord Zeus, lay the end of death,”—

καὶ ϵμοὶ θάνατον ϵπίτϵιλον, ἄνα.

It seems the first two words (καὶ ϵμοὶ) suggested to the mind of Mr. Ernest Myers a certain passage in Genesis, and that he was not proof against the temptation to introduce an echo of it in his prose version. At all events he renders thus: “Bid me, me also, O king, to die with him.” Perhaps the echo is not deliberate, but certainly it is unfortunate, for we are thus dragged from the scene in Laconia to the bed of a Hebrew patriarch; in the presence of the Tyndarids, those two strange young heroes, attached to each other by bonds of comradeship as well as of brotherhood, we are compelled to remember Esau and Jacob. And a little further, in the same tale, Zeus begins his replay to Polydeukes with these words:—

ϵσσι μοι υἱός.

Unwarily doubtless rather than intentionally Mr. Myers renders, “Thou art my son,” thus unfortunately suggesting a certain passage in the Bible.

For another example I go to a poetical work, Mr. Browning’s translation of the Agamemnon. We read there how the robbed vultures

Lament the bedded chicks, lost labour that was love.”

The Greek expression, δϵμιοτήρη πόνον ὀρταλίχων ὀλϵσαντϵς, reminded the English poet of the title of Shakespeare’s play, and he could not resist introducing the allusion at the cost of transporting our thoughts from the gloomy palace of Argos to the “nice” world of gallants and ladies in Navarre.

The most judicious will not go out of his way to woo echoes like these; but, though it is easy to avoid collocations of words, he cannot avoid words. The sad song of the Theban elders, when they learn part of the truth about their king, can openly reply with the words, “Alas, generations of men!” and with that word “generations” a foreign sound as of psalms, coming from places which the feet of Sophocles knew not, seems to ring through the streets of Thebes.

Translations then are inevitably delusive, and the best, the most so. I need not dwell on the element of metre which forms more than  half the charm in any poetical work, and which it is absolutely impossible to reproduce. In no language but Greek could there be achieved the effect of that song of the Theban elders in the Oedipus Tyrannos, to which the reference has just been made. Worsley’s Odyssey has been highly praised; but it should be observed that its metre alone disables it from reproducing the effect of Homer. The peculiar quality of the Spenserian stanza is so potently romantic that it determines the whole tone of a composition. And thus the tale of Odysseus is enveloped by its metre in an atmosphere of dreamy indolence, touched with melancholy; the continuous flow of the Greek hexameters is divided into monotonous sections, each falling away in a sort of long withdrawing langour.

I HAVE DWELT thus long on the difficulties of translation, because they illustrate the psychological hindrances that guard and bar the way to the true land of Greece. When he looks steadfastly into the face of these dragons, which the merciless will of history has set to baffle modern curiosity, even the most paganly minded amongst us may be forced to own that they are too strong for him. Let us fancy a man who has resolved for the sake of that quest to renounce the heritage that history has given him, and to use all his efforts to educate his imagination for living in the old Greek world. Standing, as it were, in a palaestra, he will slip off all superfluities of modern righteousness. He will say “Rejoice!” to the Kingdom of Heaven, that he may himself rejoice like a Greek. He will cast clean out of mind those who have fasted and prayed in the wilderness ; the selva selvaggia of mediævalism will fade, in his consciousness, into less than the shadow of a dream. He will shed no tear of pity for her who was unmade by Maremma, and the Love that moved the sun and stars will leave him cold. By the strange ways of the spirit, where Hamlet went darkling, he may dare to pass. To Melancholia, the vague one, above all, he must say, “Avoid!” and he will flee too from the ladies of Leonardo who know “the stars at noon.” The dark men of Rembrandt will be banished from the borders of his study. He will not gather “flowers of evil,” or strew rose or rue or laurel on him who sowed them, or visit Don Juan in the shades. He has forbidden himself to walk on the banks of willow-wood, or to look in Venus’ eyes for the gaze of Proserpine. He will not search in the waste garden for the flowers of Ilonka Világosi, or inquire for the unknown shore where the waves left Ophelia’s posy. He will refuse to see the “music” of Giorgione or hear the music of Beethoven. All these prohibitions he may observe fully, and a million more of the same kind; but however pagan be the quality of his mind, however jealously he supervise the workings of his imagination, however strictly and nicely he weigh all his thoughts, straining to live continually in the presence of Greek ideas and in the light of Greek beauties, we cannot expect that the temper of a modern pagan will really forget itself to the temper of the Greeks. For such a man is a fugitive, and this fact is fatal to him. He renounces his environment, and the mere fact that he has made a renunciation, however willingly, unfits his mind for achieving its desire. Dissatisfaction with the spiritual life that encompasses him is his starting-point; but from such a starting-point no road leads to the house of Euphorosyne. Though he know it not, the things which he eschews will attend him.

But it is possible that what is denied to a pagan of the present age may be in store for a pagan of the far future. As man travels farther from the East, in one sense, he is travelling nearer it in another. Politian knew more about ancient Athens than Alcuin; Wachsmuth and Dörpfeld know far more than Politian. The comprehension of the Greek spirit is a problem for the future, a task for many generations. A new method of historical psychology, a new method of historical aesthetic, must be instituted in order to solve the problem. The gradual growth through the ages of various emotions, and their delicate modifications, must be wrought out; a gigantic work, demanding a liberal grant of time, and needing the subtlest of brains. To define the infinite stages which lie between the world which conditioned the μϵγαλόψυχος of Aristotle and that in which such a character Daniel Deronda could be conceived; to determine in detail the innumerable phases which mediate between Phaedra and Anna Karenina; to show how from the imagination which found nothing sweeter than the smile of Sappho’s friend (καί γϵλαίσας ἰμϵροϵν), was fashioned cell by cell, in the course of the ages, the imagination which dreamed of the smile of Beatrice,—

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxun riso
tal che nel fuoco faria l’uom felice:”

—here is a work for which the hundred hands of history and grammar may be enlisted to hew wood and draw water.

When historical methods of aesthetic have been perfected, there may be some chance of sifting out the Greek ideas in comparative purity; and it may be possible for the imagination, in some measure, to grasp the Greek world. The processes of analysis are slow, and our race shall have seen many generations of historians pass, and shall have celebrated many a grammarian’s funeral, before the most skilful navigator can touch the shores of “Hellas” and behold the smoke curl upwards from the hall of Euphrosyne, even then only in the distance. Yet the time may come when the patient work of multitudes will have made a road to a region whither the clipped wings of the most ardent pagan Hellenist cannot bear him now. 


John Bagnell Bury (1861-1927) was an Irish-born historian and scholar. From 1902, he was Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University. He was the author of The Idea of Progress, along with several important works of Roman and Byzantine history.

This article, which was published as ‘Anima Naturaliter Pagana’, appeared in the January 1891 issue of the Fortnightly Review. It has been manually transcribed for the New Series and appears online here for the first time. Minor, non-textual alterations have been made to track subsequent usage.

Also in the FortnightlyRimbaud’s mad boat: Some thoughts on translating poetry by Martin Sorrell.

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