Now that the Museums of Athens have been set in order, and well arranged, the visitor Cannot but still feel some disappointment not only at the poverty in works of the golden age, but also at the mutilated condition of what has survived. In Italy restorations, generally faulty, have at least produced their general effect.
But I am bound to add that every patient observer who sets to work in spite of his disappointment, and examines with honest care these ‘ disjecta membra’ of Attic artany one who will replace in imagination the tips of nosesany one who will stoop over lying statues, and guess at the context of broken limbssuch an observer will find his vexation gradually changing into wonder, and will at last come to see that all the smoothly-restored Greek work in Italian museums is not worth a tithe of some shattered fragments in the real home and citadel of pure art. This is especially true of the museum on the Acropolis. It is, however, also true of the other museums, and more obviously true of the reliefs upon the tombs. The assistance of an experienced Athenian antiquary is also required, who knows his way among the fragments, and who can tell the history of the discovery, and the theories of the purport of each. There are a good many men of ability and learning connected with the University of Athens, who describe each object in the antiquarian papers as it is discovered. But when I asked whether I could buy or subscribe to any recognised organ for such information, I was told (as I might have expected) that no single paper or periodical was so recognised. Clashing interests and personal friendships determine where each discovery is to be announced ; so that often the professedly archaeological journals contain no mention of such things, while the common daily papers secure the information.
Here, again, we feel the want of some stronger government some despotic assertion of a law of gravitation to a common centreto counteract the centrifugal forces acting all through Greek society. The old autonomy of the Greeksthat old assertion of local independence which was at once their greatness and their ruinthis strong instinct has lasted undiminished to the present day. They seem even now to hate `pulling together,’ as we say. They seem always ready to assert their individual rights and claims against those of the community or the public. The old Greeks had as a safeguard their divisions into little cities and territories ; so that their passion for autonomy was expended on their city interests, in which the individual could forget himself. But as the old Greeks were often too selfish for this, and asserted their personal autonomy against their own city, so the modern Greek, who has not this safety-valve, finds it difficult to rise to the height of acting in the interests of the nation at large ; and though he converses much and brilliantly about Hellenic unity, he generally allows smaller interests to outweigh this splendid general conception. I will here add a most annoying example of this particularist feeling, which obtrudes itself upon every visitor to Athens. The most trying thing in the streets is the want of shade, and the consequent glare of the houses and roadway. Yet along every street there are planted pepper trees of graceful growth and of delicious scent. But why are they all so wretchedly small and bare ? Because each inhabitant chooses to hack away the growing branches in front of his own door. The Prime Minister, who deplored this curious Vandalism, said he was powerless to check it. Until, however, the Athenians learn to control themselves, and let their trees grow, Athens will be an ugly and disagreeable city.
So, then, the Greeks will not even agree to tell us where we may find a complete list of newly-discovered antiquities. Nor, indeed, does the Athenian public care very much, beyond a certain vague pride, for such things, if we except one peculiar kind, which took among them somewhat the place of old china among us. There have been found in many Greek cemeteriesin Megara, in Cyrene, still more in great abundance and excellence at Tanagra, in Boeotia little figures of terra-cotta, often delicately modelled and richly coloured both in dress and limbs. These figures are ordinarily from eight to twelve inches high, and represent ladies both sitting and standing in graceful attitudes, young men in pastoral life, and other such subjects. I was informed that some had been found in various places through Greece, but the main source of themand a very rich sourcewas the Necropolis at Tanagra. There are several collections of these figures in cupboards and cabinets in private houses at Athens, all remarkable for the marvellous modernness of their appearance. The graceful drapery of the ladies is very like modern dress, and many have on their heads flat round hats, quite similar in design to the gipsy hats much worn among ladies of late years. But above all, the hair was drawn back from the forehead, not at all in what is considered Greek style, but rather a l’Eugénie, as we used to say when we were young. Many hold in their hands large fans, like those which we make of peacocks feathers. No conclusive theory has yet been started, so far as I know, concerning the object or intention of these figures. So many of them are female figures, that it seems unlikely they were portraits of the deceased ; and the frequent occurrence of two figures together, especially one woman being carried by another, seems almost to dissuade us from such a theory. They seem to be the figures called Ko’pai by many old Greeks, which were used as toys by children, and, perhaps, as ornaments. sculptors. Most of them are, indeed, badly modelled, and evidently the work of ignorant tradesmen. If it could be shown that they were only found in the graves of children, it would be a touching sign of that world-wide feeling among the human race, to bury with the dead friend whatever he loved and enjoyed in his life on earth, that he might not feel lonely in his cold and gloomy grave.’ But it seems unlikely that this limitation can ever be proved.
There is an equal difficulty as to their age. The Greeks say that the tombs in which they are found are not later than the second century B.C., and it is, indeed, hard to conceive at what later period there was enough wealth and art to produce such often elegant, and often costly, results. Tanagra and Thespiae were, in Strabo’s day,’ the only remaining cities of Boeotia ; the rest, he says, were but ruins and names. But we may be certain that in that time of universal decay the remaining towns must have been as poor and insignificant as they now are. Thus, we seem thrown back into classical or Alexandrian days for the origin of these figures, which in their bright colouringpink and blue dresses, often gilded fringes, the hair always fair, so far as I could findare, indeed, like what we know of old Greek statuary, but, in other respects surprisingly modern? If their antiquity can be strictly demonstrated, it will but show another case of the versatility of the Greeks in all things relating to art : how, with the simplest material, and at a long distance from the great art centres, they produced a type of exceeding grace and refinement totally foreign to their great old models, varying in dress, attitudein every point of stylefrom ordinary Greek sculpture, and anticipating much of the modern ideals of beauty and elegance.
But it is necessary to suspend our judgment, and wait for further and closer investigation. The work-men at Tanagra were forbidden to sell these objects to private fanciers ; and in consequence, their price rose so enormously, that those in the market, if of real elegance and artistic merit, could not be obtained for less than from £40 to £6o. As much as 2000 francs has been paid for one, when they were less common. From this price downward they can still be bought in Athens, the rude and badly finished specimens being cheap enough. The only other method of procuring them, or of procuring them more cheaply, is to make diligent inquiries when travelling in the interior, where they may often be bought from poor people, either at Megara, Tanagra, or elsewhere, who have chanced to find them, and are willing enough to part with them after a certain amount of bargaining.
It is convenient to dispose of this peculiar and distinct kind of Greek antiquities, because they seem foreign to the rest, and cannot be brought under any other head. These figurines have now found their way into most European museums 1
I pass to the public collections at Athens, in which we find few of these figures, and which rather contain the usual products of Greek plastic artstatues, reliefs, as well as pottery and inscriptions. As I have said, the statues are in the most lamentable condition, shattered into fragments, without any attempt at restoring even such losses as can be supplied with certainty. What mischief might be done by such wholesale restoration as was practised in Italy some fifty years ago, it is hard to say. But perhaps the reaction against that error has driven us to an opposite extreme.
There is, indeed, onea naked athlete, with his cloak hanging over the left shoulder, and coiled round the left forearmwhich seems almost as good as any strong male figure which we now possess. While it has almost exactly the same treatment of the cloak on the left arm which we see in the celebrated Hermes of the Vatican,’ the proportions of the figure are nearer the celebrated Discobolus (numbered 126, Braccio Nuovo). There are two other copies at Florence, and one at Naples. These repetitions point to some very celebrated original, which the critics consider to be of the older school of Polycleitus, and even imagine may possibly be a copy of his Doryphorus, which was called the Canon statue, or model of the perfect manly form. The Hermes has too strong a likeness to Lysippus’s Apoxyomenos not to be recognised as of the newer school. What we have, then, in this Attic statue seems an intermediate type between the earlier and stronger school of Polycleitus and the more elegant and newer school of Lysippus in Alexander’s day.
There can, however, be no doubt that it does not date from the older and severer age of sculpture, of which Pheidias and Polycleitus were the highest representatives. Any one who studies Greek art perceives how remarkably not only the style of dress and orna-ment, but even the proportions of the figure change, as we come down from generation to generation in the long line of Greek sculptors. The friezes of Selinus (now at Palermo), and those of Aegina (now in Munich), which are among our earliest classical specimens, are remarkable for short, thick-set forms. The men are men five feet seven, or, at most, eight inches high, and their figures are squat even for that height. In the specimens we have of the days of Pheidias and Polycleitus these proportions are altered. The head of the Doryphorus, if we can depend upon our supposed copies, is still heavy, and the figure bulky, though taller in proportion. He looks a man of five feet ten inches at least. The statue we are just considering is even taller, and is like the copies we have of Lysippus’s work, the figure apparently of a man of six feet high ; but his head is not so small, nor is he so slender and light as this type is usually found.
It is not very easy to give a full account of this change. There is, of course, one general reason well known–the art of the Greeks, like almost all such developments, went through stiffness and clumsiness into dignity and strength, to which it presently added that grace which raises strength into majesty. But in time the seeking after grace becomes too prominent, and so strength, and with it the majesty which requires strength as well as grace, is gradually lost. Thus we arrive at a period when the forms are merely elegant or voluptuous, without any assertion of power. I will speak of a similar development among female figures in connection with another subject.
This can only be made plain by a series of illustrations. Of course, the difficulty of obtaining really archaic statues was very great .l They were mostly sacred images of the gods, esteemed venerable and interesting by the Greeks, but seldom copied. Happily, the Romans, when they set themselves to admire and procure Greek statues, had fits of what we now call pre-Raphaelitism–fits of admiration for the archaic and devout, even if ungraceful, in preference to the more perfect forms of later art. Hence, we find in Italy a number of statues which, if not really archaic, are at least archaistic, as the critics call itimitations or copies of archaic statues. With these we need now no longer be content. And we may pause a moment on the question of archaic Greek art, because, apart from the imitations of the time of Augustus and Hadrian, we had already some really genuine fragments in the little museum in the Acropolisfragments saved, not from the present Parthenon, but rather from about the ruins of the older Parthenon. This temple was destroyed by the Persians, and the materials were built into the surrounding wall or used to make a larger platform by the Athenians, when they began to strengthen and beautify the Acropolis at the opening of their career of dominion and wealth. The stains of fire are said to be still visible on these drums of pillars now built into the fortification, and there can be no doubt of their belonging to the old temple, as it is well attested. But I do not agree with the statement that these older materials were so used in order to nurse a perpetual hatred against the Persians in the minds of the people, who saw daily before them the evidence of the ancient wrong done to their temples? I believe this sentimental twaddle to be quite foreign to all Greek feeling. The materials were used in the wall because they were unsuitable for the newer temples, and because they must otherwise be greatly in the way on the limited surface of the Acropolis.
A fair specimen of the old sculptures first found is a very stiff; and, ‘to us, comical figure, which has lost its legs, but is otherwise fairly preserved, and which depicts a male personage with curious conventional hair, and still more conventional beard, holding by its four legs a bull or calf, which he is carrying on his shoulders. The eyes are now hollow, and were evidently once filled with something different from the marble of which the statue is made. The whole pose and style of the work is stiff and expressionless, and it is one of the most characteristic remains of the older Attic art.
Happily there is little doubt what the statue means. It is the votive offering of the Marathonians, which Pausanias saw in the Acropolis, and which commemorated the legend of Theseus having brought the wild bull, sent against them by Minos, from Marathon to the Acropolis, where he sacrificed it. Pausanias does not say how Theseus was represented with the bull ; but it certainly was not a groupsuch a thing is clearly beyond the narrow and timid conceptions of the artists of that day. It being difficult to represent this hero and bull together except by representing the man carrying the bull, the artist has made the animal full grown in type, but as small as a calf, and has, of course, not attempted any expression of hostility between the two. The peaceful look, which merely arises from the inability of the artist to render expression, had led many good art critics to call it not a Theseus but a Hermes. Such being the history of the statue, it is not difficult to note its characteristics. We see the conventional treatment of the hair, the curious transparent garments lying close to the skin, and the very heavy muscular forms of the arms and body. The whole figure is stiff and expressionless, and strictly in what is called the hieratic or old religious style, as opposed to an ideal or artistic conception.
There are two full-length reliefsone which I first saw in a little church near Orchomenus, and a couple more at Athens in the Theseonwhich are plainly of the same epoch and style of art. The most complete Athenian one is inscribed as the stele of Aristion, and as the work of Aristocles, doubtless an artist known as contemporary with those who fought at the battle of Marathon. Thus we obtain a very good clue to the date at which this art flourished. There is also the relief of a head of a similar figure, with the hair long, and fastened in a knot behind, and with a discus raised above the shoulder, so as to look like a nimbus round the head, which is one of the most interesting objects in the collection. But of the rest the pedestal only is preserved. Any impartial observer will see in these figures strong traces of the influence of Asiatic style. This influence seems about as certain, and almost as much disputed, as the Egyptian influences on the Doric style of architecture. To an unbiassed observer these influences speak so plainly, that, in the absence of strict demonstration to the contrary, one feels bound to admit themthe more so, as we know that the Greeks, like all other people of genius, were ever ready and anxious to borrow from others. It should be often repeated, because it is usually ignored, that it is a most original gift to know how to borrow ; and that those only who feel wanting in originality are anxious to assert it. Thus the Romans, who borrowed without assimilating, are always asserting their originality ; the Greeks, who borrowed more and better, because they made what they borrowed their own, never care to do so. The hackneyed parallel of Shakespeare will occur to all.
Unfortunately, the museums of Athens show us but few examples of the transition state of art between this and the perfect work of Pheidias’s school.’ The Aeginetan marbles are less developed than Pheidias’s work ; but from the relief of Aristion, and the Theseus of the Acropolis, to these, is a wide gulf in artistic feeling. The former is the work of children shackled by their material, still more by conventional rules ; the latter the work of men. There is also the well-known Apollo of Thera ; a similar Apollo found at Athens, with very conventional curls, and now in the National Museum ; and two or three small sitting statues of Athene which, though very archaic, begin to approach the grace of artistic sculpture. But Italy is sufficiently rich in imitations of this very period. There are four very remarkable statues of this kind in a small room of the Villa Albani, near Rome. We have also among the bronzes found at Pompeii statues precisely of this style, evidently copies from old Greek originals, and made to satisfy the pre-Raphaelitism (as I have already called it) of Italian amateurs. The general features of the old Greek face in monuments were a retreating forehead, a peaked nose, slightly turned up at the end, the mouth drawn in, and the corners turned up, flat elongated eyes (especially full in the profiles of reliefs), a prominent angular chin, lank cheeks, and high ears. These lovely features can be found on hundreds of vases, because, vase-making being rather a trade than an art, men kept close to the old models long after great sculptors and painters had, like Polygnotus, begun to depart from the antique stiffness of the countenance. The pose of the arms is stiff, and the attitude that of stepping forward, which is very usual in archaic figuresI suppose because it enlarged the base of the statue, and made it stand more firmly in its place. The absence of any girdle or delaying fold in the garments is one of the most marked contrasts with the later draping of such figures.
But now at last we can show the reader how far the antiquaries of later days were able to imitate archaic sculpture. There are seventeen statues found in 1885-86 on the Acropolis, where they had been piled together with portions of pillars and other stones to extend the platform for new buildings. The style and the mutilation of all these statues, which are most probably votive offerings, point to their being the actual statues which the Persians overthrew when ravaging the Acropolis (48o B.C.). They were so broken and spoilt that the Athenians, when restoring and rebuilding their temples, determined to use them for rubbish. Thus we have now a perfectly authentic group of works showing us the art of the older Athens before the Persian Wars. They are each made of several pieces of marble, apparently Parian, dowelled together like wooden work, and some have a bronze pin protruding from the head, apparently to hold a nimbus or covering of metal. They were all richly coloured, as many traces upon them still show.
Let us now leave this archaic art and go to the street of tombs, where we can find some specimens of rare merit, and in such condition as to be easily intelligible. A good many of these reliefs have been removed to the national Museum, where they are no doubt safer, and more easily studied and compared, though there is something lost in not having them upon their original site, with some at least of their original surroundings. What I have said of the museums is, even so, disappointing, as indeed it should be, if the feelings of the visitor are to be faithfully reproduced. But I must not fail to add, before turning to other places, that in inscriptions these museums are very rich, as well as also in Attic vases, and lamps, and other articles of great importance in our estimate of old Greek life. The professors of the University have been particularly diligent in deciphering and explaining the inscriptions, and with the aid of the Germans (especially of Professor Wilhelm), who have collected, and are still collecting, these scattered documents in a complete publication, we are daily having new light thrown upon Greek history. Thus Kohler was able from the recovered Attic tribute-lists to construct a map of the Athenian maritime empire with its dependencies, which tells the student more in five minutes than hours of laborious reading. The study of vases and lamps is beyond my present scope ; and the former so wide and complicated a subject, that it cannot be mastered without long study and trouble.
I pass, therefore, from the museums to the street of tombs, which Thucydides tells us to find in the fairest suburb of the city, as we go out westward towards the groves of Academe, and before we turn slightly to the south on our way to the Peiræus. Thucydides has described the funeral ceremonies held in this famous place, and has composed for us a funeral oration, which he has put in the mouth of Pericles. It is with this oration, probably the best-known passage in Thucydides’s great history, in our minds, that we approach the avenue where the Athenians laid their dead. We have to pass through the poorest portion of modern Athens, through wretched bazaars and dirty markets, which abut upon the main street. Amid all this squalor and poverty, all this complete denial of art and leisure, there are still features which faintly echo old Greek life. There is the bright colour of the dresses the predominance of white, and red, and blue, of which the old Athenians were so fond ; and there is among the poorest classes a great deal of that striking beauty which recalls to us the old statues. More especially in the form of the head, and in the expression, of the children, we see types not easily to be found elsewhere in Europe, and which, if not derived from classical Greece, are at all events very beautiful.
We then come on to a railway station, which is, indeed, in this place, as elsewhere, very offensive. With its grimy smoke, its shrill sounds, and all its other hard unloveliness, it is not a meet neighbour for the tombs of the old Greeks, which are close to it on all sides.
They lieas almost all old ruins dofar below the present level of the ground, and have, therefore, to be exhumed by careful digging. When this had been done they were covered with a rude door, to protect their sculptured face; and when I first saw them were standing about, without any order or regularity, close to the spots where they had been found.
A proper estimate of these tombs cannot be attained without appreciating the feelings with which the survivors set them up. And we must consider not only the general attitude of Greek literature on the all-important question of the state of man after death, but also the thousands of inscriptions upon tombs, both with and without sculptured reliefs, if we will form a clear opinion about the feelings of the bereaved in these bygone days.
We know from Homer and from Mimnermus that in the earlier periods, though the Greeks were unable to shake off a belief in existence after death, they could not conceive that state as anything but a shadowy and wretched echo of the real life upon earth. It was a gloomy afterlude, burdened with the memory of lost happiness and the longing for lost enjoyment. To the Homeric Greeks death was a dark unavoidable fate, without hope and without reward. It is, indeed, true that we find in Pindar thoughts and aspirations of a very different kind. We have in the fragments of his poetry more than one passage asserting the rewards of the just, and the splendours of a future life far happier than that which we now enjoy. But, notwithstanding these noble visions, such high expectation laid no large hold upon the imagination of the Greek world. The poems of Pindar, we are told, soon ceased to be popular, and his visions are but a streak of light amid general gloom. The kingdom of the dead in Aeschylus is evidently, as in Homer, but a weary echo of this life, where honour can only be attained by the pious service of loving kinsfolk, whose duty paid to the dead affects him in his gloomier state, and raises him in the esteem of his less-remembered fellows. Sophocles says nothing to clear away the night ; nay rather his deepest and maturest contemplation regards death as the worst of ills to the happy mana sorry refuge to the miserable. Euripides longs that there may be no future state ; and Plato only secures the immortality of the soul by severing it from the personthe man, and all his interests.
It is plain, from this evidence, that the Greeks must have looked upon the death of those they loved with unmixed sorrow. It was the final parting, when all the good and pleasant things are remembered ; when men seek, as it were, to increase the pang, by clothing the dead in all his sweetest and dearest presence. But this was not done by pompous inscriptions, or by a vain enumeration of all the deceased had performedinscriptions which, among us, tell more of the vanity than of the grief of the survivors. The commonest epitaph was a simple farewell ; and it is this single word, so full and deep in its meaning to those who love, which is pictured in the tomb reliefs. They are simple parting scenes, expressing the grief of the survivors, and the great sadness of the sufferer, who is to be left in his long home.
Nevertheless, what strikes us forcibly in these remarkable monuments is the chastened expression of sorrow which they display. There is no violence, no despair, no extravaganceall is simple and noble ; thus combining purity of art with a far deeper pathos a far nobler griefthan that of the exaggerated paintings and sculptures which seek to express mourning in later and less cultivated ages.’ We may defy any art to produce truer or more poignant pictures or real sorrowa sorrow, as I have explained, far deeper and more hopeless than any Christian sorrow ; and yet there is no wringing of hands, no swooning, no defacing with sackcloth and ashes. Sometimes, indeed, as in the celebrated tomb of Dexileos, a mere portrait of the dead in active life was put upon his tomb, and private grief would not assert itself in presence of the record of his public services.
I know not that any other remnants of Greek art bring home to us more plainly one of its eternal and divine featuresor shall I rather say, one of its eternal and human features ?the greatest, if not the main feature, which has made it the ever new and ever lasting lawgiver to men in their efforts to represent the ideal.
If I am to permit myself any digression whatever, we cannot do better than conclude this chapter with some reflections on the reserve of Greek artI mean the reserve in the displaying of emotion, in the portraying of the fierce outbursts of joy or grief; and again, more generally, the reserve in the exhibiting of peculiar or personal features, passing interests, or momentary emotions.
In a philosophy now rather forgotten than extinct, and which once commanded no small attention, Adam’ Smith was led to analyse the indirect effects of sympathy, from which, as a single principle, he desired to deduce all the rules of ethics. While straining many points unduly, he must be confessed to have explained with great justice the origin of good taste or tact in ordinary life, which he saw to be the careful watching of the interest of others in our own affairs, and the feeling that we must not force upon them what concerns ourselves, unless we are sure to carry with us their active sympathy. Good breeding, he says, consists in a delicate perception how far this will go, and in suppressing those of our feelings which, though they affect us strongly, cannot be expected to affect in like manner our neighbour. There can be no doubt that whatever other elements come in, this analysis is true, so far as it goes. The very same principle applies still more strongly and universally in art. As tragedy is bound to treat ideal griefs and joys of so large and broad a kind that every spectator may merge in them his petty troubles, so sculpture and painting are only ideal, so far as they represent those large and eternal features in human nature which must always command the sympathy of every pure human heart.
Let us dispose at once of an apparent exceptionthe medieval pictures of the Passion of Christ, and the sorrows of the Virgin Mary. Here the artist allowed himself the most extreme treatment, because the objects were necessarily the centre of the very highest sympathy. No expression of the grief of Christ could be thought exaggerated in the Middle Ages, because in this very exaggeration lay the centre point of men’s religion. But when no such object of universal and all-absorbing sympathy can be found (and there was none such in pagan life), then the Greek artist must attain by his treatment of the object what the Christian artist obtained by the object itself. Assuming, then, a mastery over his material, and sufficient power of execution, the next feature to be looked for in Greek art, and especially in Greek sculpture, is a certain modesty and reserve in expression, which will not portray slight defects in picturing a man, but represent that eternal or ideal character in him, which remains in our memory when he is gone. Such, for example, is the famous portrait-statue of Sophocles in the Lateran.
Such are also all that great series of ideal figures which meet us in the galleries of ancient art. They seldom, show us any violent emotion ; they are seldom even in so special an attitude that critics cannot interpret it in several different ways, or as suitable to several myths. It is not passing states of feeling, but the eternal and ideal beauty of human nature, which Greek sculpture seeks to represent ; and for this reason it has held its sway through all the centuries which have since gone by. This was the calm art of Pheidias, and Polycleitus, and Polygnotus, in sentiment not differing from the rigid awkwardness of their predecessors, but attaining, in mastery of proportions and of difficulties, the grace in which the others had failed. To this general law there are, no doubt, exceptions, and perhaps very brilliant ones ; yet they are exceptions, and even in them, if we consider them attentively, we can see the universal features, and the points of sympathy for all mankind. But if the appeal for sympathy is indeed overstrained, then, however successful in its own society and its own social atmosphere, the work of art loses power when offered to another generation. Thus Euripides, though justly considered in his own society the most tragic of poets, has for this very reason ceased to appeal to us as Aeschylus still appeals. For Aeschylus kept within the proper bounds dictated by the reserve of art ; Euripides often did not, and his work, though great and full of genius, suffered accordingly.
It seems to me that the tombs before us are remark-able as exemplifying this true and perfect reserve. They are simple pictures of the grief of partingof the recollection of pleasant days of love and friendship of the gloom of the unknown future. But there is no exaggeration, nor specialityno individuality, I had almost saidin the picture. I feel no curiosity to inquire who these people arewhat were their names even what was the relationship of the deceased. For I am perfectly satisfied with an ideal portrait of the grief of partinga grief that comes to us all, and lays bitter hold of us at some season of life ; and it is this universal sorrowthis great jar in our liveswhich the Greek artist has brought before us, and which calls forth our deepest sympathy. There will be future occasion to come back upon this all-important feature in connection with the action in Greek sculpture, and even with the draping of their statuesin all of which the calm and chaste reserve of the better Greek art contrasts strangely with the Michael Angelos, and Berninis, and Canovas of other days; nay, even with the Greek sculpture of a no less brilliant but less refined age.
But, in concluding this digression, I will call attention to a modern parallel in the portraiture of grief, and of grief at final parting. This parallel is not a piece of sculpture, but a poem, perhaps the most remarkable poem of the last generationthe In Memoriam of Tennyson. Though written from personal feeling, and to commemorate a special personArthur Hallamwhom some of us even knew, has this poem laid hold of the imagination of men strongly and lastingly owing to the poet’s special loss ? Certainly not. I do not even think that this great dirgethis magnificent funeral poemhas excited in most of us any strong interest in Arthur Hallam. In fact, any other friend of the poet’s would have suited the general reader equally well as the exciting cause of a poem, which we delight in, because it puts into great words the ever-recurring and permanent features in such griefthose dark longings about the future ; those suggestions of despair, of discontent with the providence of the world, of wild speculation about its laws ; those struggles to reconcile our own loss, and that of the human race, with some larger law of wisdom and of benevolence. To the poet, of course, his own particular friend was the great centre point of the whole. But to us, in reading it, there is a wide distinction between the personal passagesI mean those which give family details, and special circumstances in Hallam’s life, or his intimacy with the poetand the purely poetical or artistic stanzas, which soar away into a region far above all special detail, and sing of the great gloom which hangs over the future, and of the vehement beating of the human soul against the bars of its prison-house, when one is taken, and another left, not merely at apparent random, but with apparent injustice and damage to mankind. Hence, every man in grief for a lost friend will read this poem to his great comfort, and will then only see clearly what it means ; and he will find it speak to him specially and particularly, not in its personal passages, but in its general features ; in its hard metaphysics; in its mystical theology ; in its angry and uncertain ethics. For even the commonest mind is forced by grief out of its vulgarity, and attacks the world-problems, which at other times it has no power or taste to approach.
By this illustration, then, the distinction between the universal and the personal features of grief can be clearly seen ; and the reader will admit that, though it would be most unreasonable to dictate to the poet, or to imagine that he should have omitted the stanzas which refer specially to his friend, and which were to him of vital importance, yet to us it is no loss to forget that name and those circumstances, and hold fast to the really eternal (and because eternal, really artistic) features, in that very noble symphony shall I say of half-resolved discords, or of suspended harmonies, which faith may reconcile, but which reason can hardly analyse or understand ?
Within a few minutes’ walk of these splendid records of the dead, the traveller who returns to the town across the Observatory Hill will find a very different cemetery. For here he suddenly comes up to a long cleft in the rock, running parallel with the road below, and therefore quite invisible from it. The rising ground towards the city hides it equally from the Acropolis, and accordingly from all Athens. This gorge, some two hundred yards long, sixty wide, and over thirty feet deep, is the notorious Barathrum, the place of execution in old days ; the place where criminals were cast out, and where the public executioner resided. It has been falsely inferred by the old scholiasts that the Athenians cast men alive into the pit. It is not nearly deep enough now to cause death in this way, and there seems no reason why its original depth should have been diminished by any accumulation of rubbish, such as is common on inhabited sites. ‘Casting into the Barathrum’ referred rather to the refusing the rights of burial to executed criminalsan additional disgrace, and to the Greeks a grave additional penalty. Honour among the dead was held to follow in exact proportion to the continued honours paid by surviving friends.
Here, then, out of view of all the temples and hallowed sites of the city, dwelt the public slave, with his instruments of death, perhaps in a cave or grotto, still to be seen in the higher wall of the gorge, and situated close to the point where an old path leads over the hill towards the city. Plato speaks of young men turning aside, as they came from Peiraeus, to see the dead lying in charge of this official; and there must have been times in the older history of Athens when this cleft in the rock was a place of carnage and of horror. The gentler law of later days seems to have felt it an outrage on human feeling, and instead of casting the dead into this gorge, it was merely added to the sentence that the body should not be buried within the boundaries of Attica. Yet, though the Barathrum may have been no longer used, the accursed gate still led to it from the city, and the old associations clung about its gloomy seclusion. Even in the last century, the Turks, whether from instinct, or led by old tradition, still used it as a place of execution.
In the present day, all traces of this hideous history have long passed away, and I found a little field of corn waving upon the level ground beneath, which had once been the Aceldama of Athens. But even now there seemed a certain loneliness and weirdness about the placesilent and deserted in the midst of thoroughfares, hidden from the haunts of men, and hiding them from view by its massive walls. Nay, as if to bring back the dark memories of the past, great blood-red poppies stained the ground in patches as it were with slaughter, and hawks and ravens were still circling about overhead, as their ancestors did in the days of death ; attached, I suppose, by hereditary instinct to this fatal place, for where the carcase is, there shall the eagles be gathered together.