Vivid and Loving Study

The Return of Persephone, bell-krater

‘But can one apply the same process to Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet? Can any one tell us in a few words what they come to? Or can a person get the good of them in any way except one–the way of vivid and loving study, following and feeling the author’s meaning all through? To suppose, as I believe some people do, that you can get the value of a great poem by studying an abstract of it in an encyclopaedia or by reading cursorily an average translation of it, argues really a kind of mental deficiency, like deafness or colour-blindness. The things that we have called eternal, the things of the spirit and the imagination, always seem to lie more in a process than in a result, and can only be reached and enjoyed by somehow going through the process again. If the value of a particular walk lies in the scenery, you do not get that value by taking a short cut or using a fast motor car.’ p.7

‘In the first place, it is not a beauty of ornament; it is a beauty of structure, a beauty of rightness and simplicity.’ p.9

‘I therefore cannot resist the conclusion that, if the language of Greek poetry has, to those who know it intimately, this special quality of keen austere beauty, it is because the minds of the poets who used that language were habitually toned to a higher level both of intensity and of nobility than ours.’ p.11

‘The power of seeing things straight and knowing what is beautiful or noble, quite undisturbed by momentary boredoms or changes of taste, is a very rare gift and never perhaps possessed in full by any one. But there is a profound rule of art, bidding a man in the midst of all his study of various styles or his pursuit of his own imaginations, from time to time se retremper dans la nature–’to steep himself again in nature’. And in something the same it seems as if the world ought from time to time to steep itself again in Hellenism: that is, it ought, amid all the varying affectations and extravagances and changes of convention in art and letters, to have some careful regard for those which arose when man first awoke to the meaning of truth and beauty and saw the world freely as a new thing.’
p. 21

The Value of Greece to The Future of the World by Gilbert Murray In: R.W. Livingstone. (Ed.). The Legacy of Greece. pp. 1-23.

2 thoughts on “Vivid and Loving Study

  1. A beautiful post. I’ve long admired Gilbert Murray, for his translations, his humane and inclusive vision of how classical drama should be available to everyone, not just scholars, and his work with the League of Nations and Oxfam.
    There’s a wonderful chapter in the Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, by Oliver Taplin, on the visual record of Greek drama as encoded on vases, bowls, etc.. Worth looking for…

    Liked by 2 people

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