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John Stuart Blackie
Chapter XIV. Homer 1861 - 1866


IT seems to have been in August 1861 that Professor Blackie, on his way from Sudbrooke to South- sea, stopped at Winchfield and tramped over the brown heath to Eversley, to visit Kingsley.

At half-past seven I found myself before the dear, rustic, old English rectory, gracefully shaded by acacias and Scotch firs; and entering in by the open door of the dining-room, found the rector sitting alone over the remains of his dinner in a down-bent musing way. On my apparition, up lie started immediately, and with an English shake of the hand called out "Blackie!" I sat down and helped him to drain a bottle of Burgundy. He had been out fishing all day, and was glowing in face like a tropical copper sky. He was extremely agreeable all evening, and swung in a Manilla grass hammock which stretched across his study, in a style of the most complete negligé. His brother Henry came in about half-past eight, and we all smoked, and drank tea, and talked, and went early to bed. My room was low, with rafters in the old style, straw carpets, and engravings of the Madonna on the walls. I slept soundly; and next morning we had a bevy of bright-faced daughters at breakfast, with excellent bacon, fruit, and Devonshire cream. At tell bolted back to the train.

"Lectures on Education," on "Ancient and Modern Poetry," articles for 'Macmillan's' and other magazines, a paper on "Athens" for the Daily Review,' supplemented his work on Homer and his academical duties that year and the next. He spent May 1862 in London, and the summer months were divided between Methven, Dollar, and Lowland rambles. In October he paid Sheriff Glassford Bell a visit, and cemented his acquaintance with Dr Norman Macleod, who wrote in humorous allusion to Dr Guthrie's eloquence:-

I have neither grace nor rhetoric, sunsets nor sailors, wounded soldiers nor drunken mothers, Homerics nor Bucolies, but plain things in plain English to plain people. I utterly hate all critics; they are almost as great infidels as the clergy. So leave me alone with my mechanics, in Heaven with prose! But I should like to hear your poetry and to see your phiz. I am engaged every Monday night from eight till ten in my church singing with 300 of my people. But could you lunch with me on Monday at one sharp? Say Yes and "Yir a Gintleman."

The winter which followed was active and varied as usual, but it brought him a touch of bronchitis. This short illness gave him leisure for a study of the German influence on English literature, his reflections upon which took the form of a lecture. It was necessary to find subjects for the lectures which were demanded from him throughout Scotland—his modes of attack, his excellent common-sense, his effervescence of jocular personalities provoked by immediate conditions, making his appearance on provincial platforms especially welcome. But the habit of these appearances into which he fell - at first from good-nature and afterwards from enjoyment— had a deteriorating influence upon his study and treatment of the matters, literary, political, and historical, on which he dwelt. He got, from the enthusiastic welcome accorded him, a fixed impression that his somewhat crude meditations upon all subjects were of value, and this generated a tendency to lecture without sufficient preparation, trusting to a buoyant flow of irrelevant allusions, of nimble asides, of bold and uncompromising digressions, to sustain the credit of a really superficial prelection.

Rustic audiences delighted in the crackle of platform squibs, were contented with a small modicum of opinion which generally represented their own, were pleased with his good looks and hilarity, responded to his patriotism, and enjoyed his prejudices. These seldom wrung the withers of the middle-class Scot, who went home with a sense of being roused and entertained, flattered and counselled, and scarcely asked himself whether he had been enlightened. This was, however, a decadence from the rigorous industry and serious conscientiousness which were the hallmarks of his earlier work, and which still distinguished all his more important undertakings. No doubt this popular lecturing, of which these years were full, relieved him from the strain of strenuous study, gave him the movement and variety which were as needful to him as air, and freshened him with the breeze of social intercourse and popularity.

When the session was over, the Blackies, joined by Miss Fanny Stoddart, went to the Highlands in May 1863. They took up their quarters at Kinlochewe, in the comfortable little inn at the head of Loch Maree. There a sprained ankle kept Miss Stoddart a prisoner for some weeks, and the proposed excursion to Skye fell to the Professor's lonely lot. It was at Kinlochewe that his ear was opened to the philological importance of Gaelic. The post-laddie was waiting for letters at the inn door, and holding his pony by the bridle. "What is the Gaelic for horse?" asked the Professor, as he handed him a packet for the post. "Each," said the boy, and the sound set his questioner's mind aworking. Surely this was first cousin to equus, and was worthy of further research. And so germinated his interest in Gaelic, which grew to such purpose in after years. Later they settled in Oban for a couple of months, enchanted with the beauty of its bay and its marvellous sunsets. The little town had waxed, and modest lodgings were available, but it was still next neighbour to sweet solitude, and its heights were undefiled. The burnet rose perfumed seaward shelves of grass; the bogbean filled damp corners of the pastures; ferns fringed the old stone walls; in the niches by the rocks rose the slim purple butterwort. On the moors tottered and stumbled the baby peewits, and overhead from time to time there wheeled a golden eagle.

A first vague longing for a summer home was born in those July rambles along the Sound of Kerrera. One evening Miss Stoddart pointed to a little plateau which stretched between cliff and upland,—"There," she said, "build your cottage there."

Miss Bird and her sister, beloved in the islands, and Mr Hutcheson, the "Admiral of the West," were at Oban too that year, and piloted by them, they grew familiar with the beauty in which the town was set as in a ring.

An article on "Pulpit Eloquence" for the 'Musteum' occupied the Professor's leisure in October, and drew an appreciative letter from Dr Robert Lee. But that true friend commented wisely on the scene which the inaugural lecture of November excited in the Greek class-room:

If you put a large audience, especially a youthful audience, into roars of laughter in the beginning, it is almost impossible afterwards to get them to listen to anything sober and didactic. On the whole, I cannot help thinking that you do yourself an injustice by these opening lectures. Many hear them who never hear your steady, sober, and practical proceeding in your everyday work, and go away with an impression which is equally false and pernicious. None of the rest of us invite such gatherings—why do you?

It was matter for regret to all who knew his worth that his palate itched for this dubious popularity, and that the craving grew upon him. Boyhood in him survived its proper term, and its incalculable impulses, noisy, impish, laughter- loving, inconsiderate, checkered his character as a professor and as a lecturer. The presence of a motley audience, amongst whom were the grave and sensitive as well as the young and provocative, was like a match to these lines of explosives which veined the seriousness known best to his household. Gentle, tender, unselfish, tranquil, and wise at home, the intervention of a stranger transformed him into an excited, reckless, and startling being, and unfortunately many who saw him in a phase which themselves provoked, went away with an indelible impression as untrue as had been his behaviour. Only his friends could both tolerate and enjoy these extravagances, knowing through what sound and lovable reality they bubbled up into momentary effervescence.

On the 22d and 26th of April 1864 he lectured to the Royal institution of London on Lycurgus and the Spartan laws. He wrote from Dr Hodgson's house in St John's Wood, where he stayed during this epoch, to Mrs Blackie :—

The first London lecture is over, as comfortably as if it had been an address to my own students. Wilson and Christison were there to see how their colleague behaved. Wilson said there was no impropriety. I saw hosts of friends—the Archers, Mrs Gregory, the Kinglakes, John Stuart Glennie, Dr Priestley, Dallas, &c. I had some pleasant talk with Faraday and Bence Jones, a fine jolly Englishman. But the greatest luck was the presence of Bishop Thirlwall, who is on my side as against Grote, and who would be delighted to hear his old-fashioned sensible view of the Spartan agrarian laws vindicated against the brilliant novelties of a sceptical generation.

On the 25th he met Mr Herbert Spencer, not yet solemnised into his role of a philosophical Atlas, but the author of a series of essays on education in varied aspects, of whom. great things were expected.

He is quiet and unassuming [wrote the Professor], and most clear, accurate, and well-adjusted in his expressions, —a very lovable sort of man, logical without being angular. Yesterday, my second lecture went off with greater swing than the first. At all events, the subject was more interesting and more popular. The job is done. I made no great blunder, and the people seemed marvel- lously pleased. Only one gentleman was so offended by the eulogy that I made of war—as according to the order of Providence a great school of manhood—that he lifted up his voice openly against my doctrine and then walked out.

A very interesting habit was inaugurated during this visit to London. He wrote on May 5th :--

Yesterday I breakfasted with Gladstone in his Carleton Terrace house, just next door to where I so often enjoyed the sunlight of dear old Bunsen's countenance. Gladstone was extremely agreeable, easy, cheerful, and talkative, and not at all so wiry and dark as his photographs represent him. Present were his fair lady and daughter, Whewell of Trinity and his lady, before whom I exploded emphatically about the absurdity of English pronunciation of Greek and Latin, Gladstone being distinctly on my side, and the Cambridge don more than half. I told him roundly that the English schoolmasters were as hard-hided as a rhinoceros, and utterly impenetrable to reason, nature, and common-sense. The Lord Advocate, who was also present, told me he was perfectly delighted with the manner in which I walked round about the mighty Cambridge don. I did not mean to do anything of the kind; but of all exhibitions of poor, pretentious humanity, donnism is to me the most odious, so there was no harm done. I am sure I was not impertinent, only decidedly and distinctly explosive.

A. dinner with Kinglake, a visit to the Do- bells, a talk with Thiriwall on early Greek history—his memory of which was troubled by the misgiving that in the heat of argument he had put his hand in friendly fashion upon the episcopal knee—a call upon Grote, and a supper at Covent Garden Club, where he met a group of literary men perhaps less dignified and more entertaining, made up the sum of new, impressions during this eventful month in London.

On May 10th he wrote from Farringford, Freshwater:-

As soon as my London engagements were satisfied, I came down here. After half an hour's sail, quarter of an hour's drive brought me to this quiet and truly English little mansion. The lady of the house received me in the most gentle, gracious manner. She is of the genuine, sweet - blooded, sweet - voiced English style, dressed in black and white, loose-flowing. By this time it was five o'clock. The poet [Tennyson] came down-stairs from a hot bath which he had just been taking, quite in an easy unaffected style; a certain slow heaviness of motion be- longs essentially to his character, and contrasts strikingly with the alert quickness and sinewy energy of Kingsley; head Jovian, eye dark, pale face, black flowing locks, like a Spanish ship-captain or a captain of Italian brigands,— something not at all common and not the least English. We dined, talked, and smoked together, and got on admirably. He reads Greek readily, and has been translating bits of Homer lately in blank verse. This morning after breakfast we walked about, inspecting the beauties of the park and adjacent village; having a fine look-out through the trees to the sea both on the north and the south side of the island; quite an English scene—water, wood, and softly rounded green hills.

Long after, in his old age, the Professor spoke of this visit with a reverence very unusual to him in allusion to his contemporaries, and a few flowers gathered in Tennyson's garden were carefully pressed and affixed to his copy of "In Memoriam."

On the way home he spent a few days at Oxford, and met John Bright at a dinner-party given by the Professor of Political Economy.

I have seen only a glimpse of Jowett [he wrote]; he makes himself a perfect slave to his work, and is seldom visible.

Some weeks of autumn were spent in the West Highlands, and Oban began to weave meshes of association about them. The dream of a summer home by its bay grew familiar, and crept into their plans for the future as a cherished possibility, which was emboldened by the hearty welcome which it received in the place, by the smoothing away of obstacles, and by the discovery that the very plateau which suggested the dream was to be had for a building site. When they returned to Edinburgh it was with all the information needed for decision, and they had but to give the alternative freedom of movement its due weight. The Professor was strongly attracted by the scheme of a Highland home. There were mighty hens to be topped; there were breezy moors and heather-scented downs over which to stride in daily converse with the Muse; there were seas and islands for exploration; there were people in every glen who spoke a language of ancient origin, which bore the very features of its ancestral kinship millenniums back. Here was matter for contemplation, for study, for emotion, for new ventures in human intercourse, for a fresh world into which to withdraw when spring hung her scented tassels on the larch. Of all these lures the most powerful was the Gaelic language.

For Mrs Blackie the thought of a home by the blue sound, which should look over to the purple hills of Mull and Morven, a place of rest from the wearisome round of winter duties,—

"A resting-place from worries,
Door bells, dinners, notes, and hurries,"—

had become a craving. There was only one de- terrent consideration. If they built this cottage by the sea their wings would be clipped, and they must forbear variety. Already Mrs Blackie's health had begun to give way, and she had ceased to accept the invitations which were showered upon her husband and herself. It was the rule for him, justified by rare exception, to dine out alone. Her courage was daunted by illness into desire for rest. But she had still stores of energy, which found vent within her house in active hospitality. The Professor found only evening visitors convenient while he was engrossed with the work of the session, with his lectures and Homeric studies, but welcomed the prospect of a country home dedicated to guests. Deliberation swayed to the plan of a cottage at Oban; and their income, now increased from sources outside the emoluments of the chair, had left a margin, saved during several years, which sufficed for the cost of building.

That autumn, when the session began, his in augural lecture included—in its survey of philological topics—a special discourse on Gaelic as important to the study of language. This was fully reported, and drew from many educated Highlanders a warm acknowledgment. He had only begun to study Gaelic; but already its beauty, its poetic capabilities, its kinship to Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin, convinced him of the recklessness of letting the language perish. Amongst those who responded to his rally was Mr David Hutcheson, who sent the Professor a free pass for the year 1865 in all his West Highland steamers, reiterating the hope that Oban might soon claim him as a townsman. But the plan could not be immediately put into execution. There was first of all the publication of' Homer' to be arranged. He was in correspondence with Mr Theodore Martin, Mr Dallas, and Dr John Carlyle on the subject. All three urged on him the issue of his work by Murray, or failing that eminent publisher, by an Edinburgh firm. The manuscript had attained colossal proportions. In addition to three volumes of translation and notes, there was an introductory volume of Dissertations, ten in number, on the whole subject of the personal Homer, the Epic Cycle, the minstrel and epic artist, the authenticity of the text, and the various forms of translation. He decided to go to London and interview the publishers himself. A visit from the Henry Bunsens delayed him at home till the middle of May 1865, when he accepted an invitation to stay with Mr and Mrs James Archer in PhiIlirnore Gardens until his quest should be ended. Mr Dallas and Mr Martin introduced him to Messrs Longman, and his old acquaintance with the Macmillans gave him an opportunity to offer them his Homer' for publication. But both of these firms declined the risk attached to so bulky a production. Mr Grote gave him a letter to Murray which procured him an interview, and he was asked to forward Parts of both the introductory volume and of the translation for decision. This gave him courage to enjoy the remainder of his stay in town, which formed, as usual, a lively record of dinners and social successes. At home with artists, whose society he always preferred to that of scholars, lie enjoyed meeting and visiting the Faeds, Erskine Nicol, Spanish Phillip, and others of the genial and natural confraternity.

On his way home he spent a few days at Cambridge; but the absence of the Grecians whom he wished to consult was disappointing, and but for an encounter with the Miss Thackerays and Paley, and for the kind attentions of Mr Clark and Mr Aldis Wright, his halt would have proved unprofitable.

In Edinburgh, pending Murray's decision, he occupied himself with correspondence on the pronunciation of Greek, provoked by letters sent earlier in the year to both the 'Times' and the 'Scotsman.' But towards the end of June he was invited to be one of the examiners at the Inverness Academy, and received an honourable welcome from the local authorities. While there he went out to Blackhills, near Elgin, to see his colleague, Professor Aytoun, who was then dying, although he cheered up at sight of an old friend, and gave no sign of the approaching end. In August 1865 Mrs Aytoun wrote:-

You were the last of his Edinburgh friends to see him, and I am sure you could have had little idea that it was for the last time. Your visit was a real pleasure to him he thought it so kind of you to come so far out of your way to pay it. And lie had so much fellow-feeling for all his colleagues that the sight of one of them cheered him.

The 8th of July brought him Mr Murray's letter declining to publish 'Homer' on the ground of its bulk. A suggestion that the Dissertations might be issued without the translation was opposed to the Professor's aim, which it did not occur to him to modify. The blow was smart. Every London publisher of standing to whom he applied refused the enterprise, and his hope of impressive issue was checked. Doubtless the appearance of Lord Derby's 'Homer' two years earlier had forestalled what popular demand existed for a new translation. The classical readers to whom his manuscript had been submitted were averse to the ambling pace of his ballad measure, as unsuited to express the majestic march of the Homeric line. But it was just to that comfortable amble that he pinned his faith. His horizon was now narrowed to Scotland, and he proposed the publication to Messrs Edmonston & Douglas, who undertook it on the condition that they should be guaranteed against loss.

His acceptance of this disappointment illustrates one of the most beautiful features in a very lovable character. Its spirit is breathed in the closing lines of the Dissertations, which run :-

Whether or not I shall be judged to have made any thankworthy contribution to the translated literature of my country, the man who has spent twelve years of honest toil in the study of such an author as Homer has already received the better half of his reward.

No words of those who knew him well could better portray his constant attitude towards work and relatively towards success. The superficial effusive enjoyment of popularity, which led observers to credit him with vanity, was but the honest expression of what little vanity he had. At heart no man was ever more modest, was ever less tormented by over-estimate of himself, was ever more free from wounded egotism. He worked for work's sake, and kept his mind in sound activity, his disposition in love and tolerance toward all men. If rare invective whetted his sallies, it was against those only who would have cramped the flow and ebb of human thought into the dull ditch of their own dogmatism, never against those who depreciated himself.

A week after he received Mr Murray's letter he was at Broughton in Peebles, climbing hills, singing his new songs, exploring the Tweed to its source, making Mossfennan ring with sympathetic laughter.

'Homer' disposed of for the nonce, he and Mrs Blackie started for the Highlands in August. They went to Oban, where the site for their house had been secured. A walk of half a mile from the town round the southern horn of the bay led by the Sound of Kerrera to a cliff from whose brow retired a green and sheltered plateau. A bank led up to it on the townward side, flanked by a rocky gorge down which rattled a burn. The bank was flattened out below into a triangular field, where 'a mill utilised the stream. This field was unattainable, but the bank and the plateau and a bit of the rolling upland at its back were secured. The plan had outgrown its first projection, and promised a comfortable turreted house, whose many bedrooms were to express unstinted welcome. The architect, inspired by Mrs Blackie, achieved a complete and symmetrical design, and their stay was much engrossed with all the details of its execution. Larches and firs were set where the ground was exposed, the bank was laid out in grassy terraces, and shrubs which sea-air fosters were planted at every point of vantage. When all was set agoing they went to Mull, an island always magnetic to the Professor.

They returned to Edinburgh to the growing interest of Carlvle's installation as Lord Rector of the University.

DEAR BLACKIE [Carlyle wrote on November 13],—I am thinking seriously about the assessorship; also about studying the Installation speech, if that be at all feasible. Assist me in that if you humanly can ! From Sir D. Brewster I have a note, brief as your own and touching upon the same topics. Is that to be the commencement to me of this fine Dignity; or am I to expect something more formally official?

The world knows all the details of that installation now, and of the tragedy so soon to overshadow its chief actor.

The proofs of the Dissertations and the translation were issuing from the press. Professor Blackie sent copies to Dr George Macdonald, to Theodore Martin, to Dr Donaldson, and to Sheriff Trotter at Dumfries, asking for ample criticism. From these friends he received both excellent amendments and comments upon the looseness of his versification, on the ground of which he corrected many lines, and these obligations he has recorded in his preface. Of them all Sheriff Trotter seems to have spoken most plainly, and to have effected the largest number of corrections, but to Dr Donaldson's fine scholarship he owed a thorough revisal of the notes. The winter was occupied with proof-correcting, and a correspondence with Mr Scaramanga points to a vigorous revival of the Hellenic Society, for the further hellenisation of whose members he ordered some dozeis of various Greek wines.

The Baroness Bunsen had begged him to translate for her a number of poems by her husband, which were the expression of strong feeling at different crises of Bunsen's life, and he was able to return them to her in English dress at Christmas-time.

In January 1866 he was much encouraged by a letter from Mr Theodore Martin, with an opinion on the Dissertations, which had been sent to him in proof-sheets :-

I feel confident that the hook will be welcome to all who care about good literature, be they scholars or no. I think your chapter on the Wolfian theory masterly.

Another interest of the month was the impeachment of Dr Norman Macleod by the Judaic party in the Scottish Church, and a very natural outburst of sympathy reached the culprit at Osborne, from which dignified sanctuary he responded:-

I am in a sort of way acknowledging the kind letters sent to inc during this time of, let me frankly confess it, severe trial to me. I thank you very cordially for yours. God bless you for it. A day of freedom is coming—I could die to usher it sooner in by an hour. As I write I see the white houses of Portsmouth and the big black ships like Leviathans afloat, but my heart's in the Highlands. Hurrah! there screams the bagpipe! Ross, bless him, is pouring forth his notes like the cries of sea-birds in a storm. I wish I saw Drs Muir, Gibson, and company dancing the Reel of Hoolachan. It would humanise them more than all the presbyteries in Scotland. I begin to dislike the clergy! Heaven forgive me - I suppose there is some wicked inspiration in me!

The correcting of 'Homer' lasted through the session and occupied the summer months. Early in August they returned to Oban. Altnacraig was nearly finished, and had received its name from the burn which dashed down its rocky glen. All Mrs Blackie's art was given to its plenishing; and already the promise of a home with comfort and beauty for twin presences smiled upon its owners. While her orders were in execution, they made a Hebridean tour, first taking Mull, where they paid Dr Cumming a visit at the "Parva Domus," abode of "Magna Ques."

The Constables were at Greshornish, and attracted them thither, so that the royal Cuchullins in sunset purple and gold became familiar to them. When they returned to Oban, it was to take possession of their Highland home. Miss Henrietta Bird was the welcoming bard :-

"Thus at last hath the ideal
On this rock become the real,
Born of bright imagination,
Outlined forth by contemplation,
Reared in fancies vague.
Now at last in fair expansion
Standeth it,— a goodly mansion.
Blessings on its walls and towers,
On its gardens and its bowers,
Beauteous Altnacraig!"

One of its towers was the Professor's own domain, and was soon lined with books and supplied with writing-table and easy-chairs. Here he could croon over Gaelic and shout over Greek, and fill his soul with thankful adoration, when he gazed from the window over green Kerrera and the Sound to the dreamy Bens of Mull. Downstairs three large sitting-rooms, all looking to the sea, opened one into the other, and breathed warmth, comfort, home in every nook. The road, which ran below, was lost, to sight, but voices and laughter reached the loungers on the heather- cushioned verge of the cliff, and there a seat was set to watch the white yachts as they stole along the Sound, or glided like spectres beyond Kerrera. Through the young firs glowed the crimson sunset, flushing the long vista of waves in Morven Sound. The seat upon the cliff became the tryst- ing-place of hosts and guests at teatime, and on balmy nights they reassembled there, sometimes to look on the moonlit sea, often to waft on high a hymn of praise.

Almost simultaneous with this home - coming was the appearance of the four Homeric volumes. They were dedicated to Professor Weicker at Bonn, to Dr George Finlay at Athens, and to Mr W. G. Clark of Trinity College, Cambridge. The first copies were sent to them, and to all who had assisted the Professor in correcting the proofs. Mr Robert Horn, Mr David Hutcheson, Mr Duncan M'Laren. Professor Daniel Wilson at Toronto, are conspicuous amongst the friends outside that group of helpful Homerids who received copies.

The aim of the whole undertaking was to exhibit the Homeric Epics to the intelligent readers of our country, so translated and so complemented by treatise and explanation that the lack of Greek might prove no barrier to full enjoyment of their themes. It was therefore to a popular and not to an academical public that Professor Blackie appealed. This aim, so far as he was concerned, was amply fulfilled; but the apathy of a full-fed middle class to the banquets of gods and heroes, its aversion to the lofty survivals of remote ages—an aversion extended to the Bible, as well as to Homer, the Vedas, the Shastras—defeated the better half of an unselfish purpose. Four stout volumes full of however readable matter weighed deterrently on the imagination. The epoch of serials had begun to run its stormy course, and the nation liked its literature cheap. Inevitably the book was bought by men who knew and cared for Greek, and its estimate was decided by the very class for whom it was not written. The class is small, and the sale failed to cover the cost of publication. The Professor lost £200 by the venture, and doubtless most of those writers who devote themselves to classical literature have paid a like penalty for their preference.

The ten dissertations which occupy the first volume are brimming with the interest which inspired their author. No more vivid chapter was ever written than that which deals with the historic personality of Homer. Of the personal Homer he had no manner of doubt. '' The Greeks did not forget Homer. He was as living in their memory, through their whole history, as the person of Robert Burns is in the heart of every true Scot." Wolf and his followers had indeed raised the question, but the "taint of misty negation" was wont to come from Germany on each and every subject of intrinsic evidence. He did not despise the research and the discoveries of Wolf, but he refused his conclusions, for which these discoveries afforded scanty ground. Faith in Homer "rests directly and naturally on the double fact that there exists a great poem, which demands the existence of a great author, and that this authorship has been constantly recognised by the consciousness of the Greek people in the person of Homer."

Having championed the man Homer against all comers,—German heretics and their English proselytes,—he proceeded to make prominent his dramatic methods. These were illustrated by fifteen marks of Epic poetry, such as magnitude, national significance, grandeur of expression, unity, rapidity of movement, the superhuman element, and other cognate and dependent conditions. Homer's acceptance with the Greeks, who reverenced him in a common national sentiment which overbore all tribal feud, admitted him to the highest rank amongst poets for ever, because the Greeks were nothing if not critical, and what they placed above the scathe of criticism cannot be challenged. Homer lasted as the main influence over the best Hellenic mind, and when his loftier theology and his robuster manliness ceased to educate, the doom of Greece was at hand. The preservation of the Homeric text; the interpolations, continuations, and corruptions due to successive generations of Homerids; the various English translations; the choice of rhythm in each,—these occupied the concluding dissertatiors. In the last Professor Blackie justified his adoption of the ballad-couplet on the ground that the poems were ballads, arid that, transferred from the ballad hexameters of Homer to the ballad measure of the English popular songs, they can best render their character and significance to the English mind.

Corning to that transference, we find a comfortable version of the great epics, sometimes rising to their own candid grandeur, but on the whole more fluent than impressive. It is difficult to acknowledge Homer's supremacy, if the language employed in this translation keenly conveys the original. Only now and then do the epithets satisfy the ear; only now and then do they overtop the level of easy descriptive verse. None the less the series of scenic episodes is well presented, and if robed in less than epic majesty, their heroes condescend the more readily to the sympathies of the general. An impression is left on the mind of too facile execution, and the attention wearies somewhat of the long, low rise and fall of the ballad couplets, varied here and there by prolongation and by triplets. But in spite of a form which depresses the "strong- wing'd music of Homer," making it flag with drooping pinion, the purpose of popularising its subject - matter is fully achieved, and would have been widely recognised had Professor Blackie issued a work more moderate in bulk and cost. Admirable as are the Dissertations, they are swollen with analogies and illustrations sometimes far-fetched, and often amplified at the expense of their argumentative value. Had all these superfluities, these vague reiterations, been eliminated, there would have remained a small volume of the greatest worth, the outcome of rare industry and scholarship, couched in clear and vigorous language, and conveying to every educated reader the very pith and marrow of its subject. Perhaps this audacious criticism, of a labour vast beyond the critic's ken, may be ended by quoting a fine and well-known passage from the second book of the 'Iliad' as a specimen of the many successful transmutations achieved :-

"And now the war was sweeter far to each well-greaved Achean,
Than to seek his home across the foam of the billowy broad Ægean.
As when destroying fire bath caught a stretch of dry old pines
High on a hill-top, and afar the blazing forest shines;
So shone the copper-coated host, as rank on rank advances,
While flash quick brands in a thousand hands, and gleam the eager lances.
And as the uncounted tribes that scour the sky with mighty vans
Of geese or vagrant-banded cranes, or the long-necked race of swans,
Where far the Asian lowland spreads, and by Cajster's flow,
Freely on joyful pinions sail, and wander to and fro,
And with their clanging wings loud rings the mead where they alight;
Thus swarmed the Greeks from ship and tent, to find the fateful fight
Far o'er Scamander's plain and earth rebellowed to the sound,
As the mail-clad men and the four-hoofed horse tramped o'er the hollow ground,
Till on the broad grass mead they stood, a marshalled multitude,
Countless as flowers in flowery spring, or leaves in a leafy wood.
And even as swarms of busy flies on buzzing wings are spread,
Drifting in clusters through the air, close by some shepherd's shed,
In the spring-time, when in the pail the creaming milk doth flow
Not fewer then the Argive men in many a glittering row
Stood; while each long-haired warrior pants to pierce some Trojan foe."


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