BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner


Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi


Lectures on the history of literature, ancient and modern

by Friedrich von Schlegel

Excerpt:

(The first great writer who sets before us a view of this decline and corruption of Greece, as manifested in the incidents of her political history, is ThucydidesA By the (loftiness of his style, and the depth of his reflectrons7)this author has secured to himself a place among the veryfirst writers of Greeea His history is the masterpiece of energetic representation,—such was the judgment of all antiquity concorning it, and on that account it was commonly said to be, not indeed a poetical, but a historical drama. And, truly, well might the history of that great civil war, which occasioned the decline, and ended in the ruin of his once flou■ rishing, happy, and powerful country, appear to the histo rian himself as possessing all the life and interest of a fearful tragedy: The events which he has recorded are indeed invested, to our eyes, with an interest yet more mighty; for to thein we can now trace consequences which in his time could not have been apparent—in them we perceive the causes of the decay and downfall, not of Athens only

30 THUCYDIDES

but of universal Greece. rThucydides both framed and per fected that form of historical writing which is peculiar to the Greeks/} The characteristics of his method of composing history consist, first, in the (interweaving of political speeches^ framed in a manner atSjnce clear and elaborate, which introduce us into the secret motives and councils by which the political events of the period were governed, enable us to survey every particular incident exactly from that point of view in which it was regarded by each of the most opposite parties, and lay open the most hidden wiles of confending statesmen, with an acumen superior to what was ever exerted by the craftiest of them all; secondly,/in an almost poetical, minute, energetic, and lively representation of battles, and] those (other external incidentsVhich occupy but too great a space in the history of human affairs; and lastlyjriji the accumulation of all those highest excellencies of style, which can be embodied in the richest, most ornamented, and most energetic prose. \ (^The similarity of their politicaTinstitutions, and the equal weight and influence which was, under their form of government, attached to popular oratory, enabled the Romans to naturalize among themselves this particular species ol writing, with greater ease, and a success more perfect than any other department of the literature of the Greeks?) With us ^jiodern Europeans the case is widely different [ our attempts towards imitation of the Greek historians have been in genera] lamentably unsuccessful^ The relations of society among us are totally of another sort from what they were in the republics of antiquity, and oratory exerts no longer over mankind that imperative and often destructive influence which it formerly possessed. Above all, such is trie erteel of that immense storehouse of facts which we have it in oui power to review in the collected history IJfjhe "world, that we have lest all taste for minute and poetical descriptions of battles, sieges, and other external incidents; we desire instead of these, short and precise sketches which carry us without any circumlocution to the point in_yiew, and explain in simple narrative, events as they really hap

(pened, with the true causes which brought them about. Herodotus, distinguished as he is by unadorned simplicity »ud beautiful clearness, possesses a much greater share oi

PECULIARITIES OF HIS STYLE. 81

(his expressive brevity, and coincides much more nearly with our ideas of excel lenceA-or at least with the scope of our own attempts in historicaicomposition, than Thucydides. He accordingly, is the model of modern historians, and indeed, he was the model of Thucydides himself who, hr wever in some respects^he"may fall short of perfection, holds unquestionably the first place among the historians of Greece."1 His want of perfection lies neither in the arrangement of his history as a whole, nor in the connection of its parts, for these are throughout dignified and exquisite, or as was expressed in the universal encomium of antiquity, well worthy of a great historical trpoedy; but merely in(his style, which is somewhat massive aud hard, and not unfrequently obscure-) Whether it be that the last touch of the master's hand was denied, not to the latter part alone and the conclusion, but (as it has been conjectured by a critic of great discernment), to the general review and polishing of the whole work; or whether it be, that it was impossible for one who composed before the expiration of the age in which the art of writins in prose was first created and fashioned—(more particularly for one who made use of a style so ambitious as that whicn was attempted by this prince of historians), to reach at once "the masterly eminence to which he has attained, without leaving behind him some traces of the laborious straining and toil which must have preceded the accomplishment of his daring undertaking; or whether it might not be that ^Thucydides found a style, such as he has employed, sublime and masterly, yet rough and in some measure repulsive, the most suitable vehicle for the dark contents of his tragic story^-the fearful catastrophes, the decay and the ruin of his cmintry,—in so much that he disdained to record and lament them, in the language of elegance, but considend himself throughout the progress of his work—(what he has powerfully declared himself in its commencement)—as one framing a history destined to be a possession unto eternity* (jNb\\e Thucydides has thus set before our eyes, and explained in a general manner, the causes and progress of in ternal corruption in all the states and societies of Greecay r' Aristophanes, on tho other hand, has par'nted the deep de

* Krityia it MU,


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