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Hunter Wood
Hunter Wood

Beyond Two Souls.torrent



To men in the early stages of society their physical existence must seem almost without end, and they live on through life with as little reference to Page 2 another state of being as we ourselves do in childhood. To minds in this state there was a remoteness in an event which had taken place one or two centuries before, of which we cannot conceive, and which rendered the time that Homer had chosen for his subject, though not materially differing in character, sufficiently remote for his purpose. If to these advantages possessed by Homer we add those which belonged to him from the religion of his times and from tradition, whose voice is to the poet more friendly than the plain written records of history, we must confess that the spot on which he built up his scenes of heroic wonder was peculiarly favorable. The advance, which the human mind had made towards civilization, prevented Virgil from making a like impression on his own age. To awaken admiration, he too was obliged to break from the bonds of the present, and soar beyond the bounds of history, before he could throw his spell of power over the mind. Why had he less influence? Because he could not, like Homer, carry into the past the spirit of his times. To the enlarged minds of Virgil's day, the interval between the siege of Troy and their own time did not seem wider than it did to those who lived in the time of Homer. The true distance in time was chosen by each, but the character of Æneas did not possess those great attributes which could render it the Achilles of the Page 3 Romans. Lucan, while his characters exhibit the true heroic spirit of his age, fails of giving to them their due influence, from the want of some region of fiction beyond the dominion of history in which to place them. He cannot break from the present without violating every law of probability. To escape this thraldom and reach a point from which the heroic character of their age might be seen dilated to its full height, modern poets have fled beyond the bounds of time and woke the echoes of eternity. It was only from this point that the Christian world could be moved; it is only in that region without bounds, that the heroism of immortality can be shown in visible action. Milton and Dante chose this spot, on which with almost creative power they might show to mankind worlds of their own, "won from the void and formless Infinite," and from which their own heroic spirits might be reflected back upon their own times in all their gigantic proportions. But such has been the progress of the human mind since their time, that it would seem to have reached already another stage in its development, to have unfolded a new form of the heroic character, one which finds no paradise, nay, no heaven for itself in the creations of Milton, and for which the frowns of Dante's hell have no terror. This new page of the heroic character naturally leads us to inquire, whether we are to have no great Page 4 representation of it, no embodying of this spirit in some gigantic form of action, which shall stalk before the age, and by the contemplation of which our minds may be fired to nobler deeds.




Beyond Two Souls.torrent



We have made this analysis of the Iliad, to show in what way all things combined in Homer's age to assist him in giving a perfect outward manifestation Page 8 of the heroic character of his times. He wrote in that stage of society when man's physical existence assumed an importance in the mind, like that of our immortality, and gave to all without a power and dignity not their own. This it was which imparted an heroic greatness to war which cannot now be seen in it. That far-reaching idea of time, which seems to expand our thoughts with limitless existence, gives to our mental struggles a greatness they could not have before had. We each of us feel within our own bosoms a great, an immortal foe, which, if we have subdued, we may meet with calmness every other, knowing that earth contains no greater; but which, if we have not, it will continually appear in those petty contests with others by which we do but show our own cowardice. The Greeks, on the contrary, lived only for their country, and drew everything within the sphere of their national views; their highest exemplification of morality was patriotism. Of Homer's heroes it may with peculiar propriety be said that they were but children of a larger growth, and they could have no conception of power that was not perceived in its visible effects. "The world," as Milton says of our first parents, "was all before them," and not within them, and their mission was to go forth and make a material impression on the material world. The soul of Homer was the mirror of this outward world, and in his verse we Page 9 have it shown to us with the distinctness and reality of the painter's page. Lucan calls him the prince of painters, and with him Cicero agrees, when he says, "Quæ species ac forma pugnæ, quæ acies, quod remigium, qui motus hominum, qui ferarum non ita expictus est, ut quæ ipse non viderit, nos ut videremus effecerit?" It is needless perhaps to say that this state of the mind gives both a reason and excuse for those many epithets, which a false criticism and a false delicacy of taste is so fond of censuring. Such critics would blame the poet for praising the physical strength of his heroes, in short for representing his gods such as they were believed to be, and painting his warriors such as they were. When we look back upon the pages of their history, we cannot contemplate the greatness there exhibited, without a feeling of sorrow that they had not lived under influences as favorable as our own, without a sense of unworthiness at not having exhibited characters corresponding with the high privileges we enjoy. We respect that grandeur of mind in the heroes of Homer which led them to sacrifice a mere earthly existence for the praise of all coming ages. They have not been disappointed. Worlds to them unknown have read of their deeds, and generations yet unborn shall honor them. They live on a page which the finger of time strives in vain to efface, which shall ever remain an eternal monument of Page 10 disgrace to those of after times, who, though gifted with higher views of excellence, have yet striven to erect a character on deeds like theirs. We reverence not in Hector and Achilles the mere display of physical power, we reverence not the manners of their times which but too often call forth our horror and disgust; but we do reverence and honor those motives which even in the infancy of the human mind served to raise it above the dominion of sense, and taught it to grasp at a life beyond the narrow limits of its earthly vision.


These remarks will show why it was that Virgil failed in making the same impression on his age, Page 16 that was made by his great model. His poem is but a lunar reflection of the Iliad; and it was perhaps from a deep consciousness of this, that he ordered it in his will to be burned. That poem, which was the natural expression of the early features of society, could only be faintly copied by the mimic hand of art. Virgil's subject is well chosen, and would not have shone with reflected light had it been treated of in the early days of Rome. He summoned again from their long sleep the heroes and gods of Troy, but they appeared with dimmed glory amid the brightness of another age. He had, as we have before observed, chosen the right point in time for his action, a time of tradition, affording him all the advantages possessed by Homer, but not to transgress the laws of probability, he could not give his hero the character of another age, he could not make Æneas the Achilles of the Romans. Virgil as well as Lucan has been blamed by the critics; the one, for not giving to his hero the dignity of thought becoming the heroic character of his own time; the other, for not placing his action beyond the strict bounds of history. In regard to each we think the critics have erred; for neither the time nor the characters could have been changed without producing a strange incongruity.


By removing the bounds of time, Christianity has, I think, rendered every finite subject unsuited for an epic poem. The Christian creed, in opening the Page 22 vista of eternity before the poet's view, and leaving him unrestrained by prescriptive forms, while it freed him from the bonds of history, by giving him a place beyond its limits where he might transfer the heroic spirit of his age, and surround his heroes with supernatural agents, capable of raising for his action the highest admiration, subjected him to a far greater difficulty than any yet experienced by former poets; that of finding a subject, an action to fill those boundless realms of space, and call forth the energies of the spirits that people it. In considering the efforts which Christian poets have made to overcome this difficulty, and bridge the space between time and eternity, we shall find the great reason for not expecting another attempt, so successful as that made by Milton, arising from circumstances which have rendered the difficulty far more formidable since his time.


The war ended with the collapse of four empires: German, Austrian, Russian, and Turkish. In conditions of civil war, influenza epidemics, and the violent establishment of successor states, populations melted and flowed across the continent. Germans crowded back from lost territories in East and West. The Poles resettled 1.4 million people in the eastern lands of their new state, but thousands froze to death in the refugee trains arriving from the depths of Russia. Jews poured out of the Ukraine into Romania; Hungarians fled from Transylvania and Slovakia into the Danube plains. And the defeated of the Russian civil war, whole armies with their destitute families, fled or were shipped west to temporary refuge in Constantinople and beyond. By 1924, well over a million Russians had become refugees abroad, most in Germany or France and no fewer than sixty thousand in Shanghai. 041b061a72


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