Page:Sophocles - Seven Plays, 1900.djvu/20

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xiv
PREFATORY NOTE TO EDITION OF 1883

But on turning from the forms of Greek art to the substance of Greek literature, we find that Beauty, although everywhere an important element, is by means the sole or even the chief attribute of the greatest writings, nor is the Hellenic consciousness, confined within the life of Nature. unless this term is allowed to comprehend man with all his thoughts and aspirations. It was in this latter sense that Hegel recognized the union of depth with brightness in Greek culture: 'If, the first paradise was the paradise of nature, this is the second, the higher paradise of the human spirit, which in its fair naturalness, freedom, depth and brightness here comes forth like a bride out of her chamber. The first wild majesty of the rise of spiritual life in the East is here circumscribed by the dignity of form, and softened into beauty. Its depth shows itself no longer in confusion, obscurity, and inflation, but lies open before us in simple clearness. Its brightness (Heiterkeit) is not a childish play, but covers a sadness which knows the hardness of fate but is not by that knowledge driven out of freedom and measure.' Hegel’s Werke, vol. xvi. p. 139 (translated by Prof. Caird). The simplicity of Herodotus, for example, does not exclude far-reaching thoughts on the political advantages of liberty, nor such reflections on experience as are implied in the saying of Artabanus, that the transitoriness of human life is the least of its evils. And in what modern writing is more of the wisdom of life condensed than in the History of Thucydides? It is surely more true to say of Greek literature that it contains types of all things human, stamped with the freshness, simplicity, and directness which belong to first impressions, and to the first impressions of genius.

Now the 'thoughts and aspirations' which are ,nowhere absent from Greek literature, and make a centre of growing warmth and light in its Periclean period—when the conception of human nature for the first time takes definite shape—have no less of Religion in them than underlay the 'creed outworn.' To think otherwise would be an error of the same kind as that 'abuse