662: Idols & Idolaters.

Why cannot the modernists live and let live? Do they think that by eating their grandfathers they will acquire all their virtue and reputation? It was not always so. Literature presents the spectacle of a long procession of great writers holding by each others’ robes, and, incidentally, with their hands in each others’ pockets. Virgil pays Homer the flattery of continuous imitation. To Dante, Virgil is the highest type of human reason. Milton bows to “blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides.” Even the leaders of a rival school, the earlier rationalists and realists, were true to their forbears. Voltaire held by the Greek tragedians. Pope and Dr. Johnson edited Shakespeare and praised him nobly. The great writers of the last century, — Goethe, Hugo, Scott, Tennyson, — prostrated themselves before their predecessors. Thackeray wanted to black Shakespeare’s boots. In general, every one who has become an idol has been an idolater.

(Charles Leonard Moore, “The ‘Waning’ Classics,The Dial, Vol. LX, 1916, p. 71).

662: Idols & Idolaters.

605: A Soundless World.

It is curious to remark that Dante’s Paradise — the farthest reach of the human imagination in picturing the unknown — is a soundless world. There are no harps or citherns or orchestras there. There is nothing but light, dancing, and philosophical discourses. Critics there have been who thought it grotesque; and unquestionably the spectacle of grave Doctors of the Church gyrating on one toe, or wheeling three times about Dante and his guide, or flocking together like cranes and writing out symbolical letters on the sky, might make a thoughtless reader smile. But philosophically speaking, Dante was quite right.

(Charles Leonard Moore, “Literature, Music and Morals,” The Dial, Vol. XXVII, 1899, p. 166).

605: A Soundless World.

565: The Living Are Under the Dominion of the Dead.

To go into a library is like the wandering into some great cathedral church and looking at the monuments on the walls. Every one there was in his or her day the pattern of all the virtues, the best father, the tenderest wife, the most devoted child. Never were such soldiers and sailors as those whose crossed swords or gallant ships are graven in marble above their tombs; every dead sovereign was virtuous as Marcus Aurelius, every bishop as blameless as Berkeley. The inscriptions are all of the kind which George IV. put on the statue of George III. at the end of the “Long Walk” at Windsor. Having embittered his father’s life while that father had mind enough to know the baseness of his son, he called him “pater optimus” best of fathers! This same George, it may be said in a parenthesis, gave to the library of Eton School, not such a tomb of dead books as is the library of Eton College, the dead Delphin Classics, which have been well described as “the useless present of a royal rake.”

Yet those names so forgotten which meet us in the Church were not without their influence. If there be one statement more than another to be disputed among those made by Shakespeare’s Mark Antony it is —

“The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones.”

It has a truth, but a less truth than that the good more often lives, and passes into other lives to be renewed and carried forward with fresh vigour in the coming age. Were it not so the human race would steadily deteriorate, weltering down into a black and brutal corruption, ever quickening, if at all, into lower forms. As it is we know that the race, with all its imperfections, “moves upward, working out the beast, and lets the ape and tiger die.” The great men stand like stars at distant intervals, individuals grander, perhaps, than ever will be again, each in his own way; but still the average level of every succeeding age is higher than that which went before it. We may never again have an Homer, Aristotle, Archimedes, St. Paul, Cæsar, or Charlemagne; but in all things those great ones who forecast philosophy, or science, or mediæval civilization bear sway over us still, — “the living are under the dominion of the dead.” Those lesser forgotten ones of whom we have spoken have carried on the torch of life in his or her own home circle, were influential even if not widely known, and have helped to make humanity what she is and will be, — our lady, our mistress, our mother, and our queen.

It is the same with literature. The shelves of a library are catacombs. There stand out among the dead who are yet alive such names, to speak only of more modem days, as Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, “on whose forehead climb the crowns o’ the world. O! eyes sublime, With tears and laughter for all time”; there too are ”the ingenious” Mr. This, or “the celebrated” Mr. That, now forgotten. But they too have formed the literature which is ours. Does a modem strive after originality, ten chances to one his best things have been said before him; the only true originality is to reconstruct, recast, and transmit, with just the additions enforced by the special circumstances of the time. Again: “the living are under the dominion of the dead.”

(C. Kegan Paul, “The Production and Life of Books,The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XXXIX, 1883, pp. 497–499).

565: The Living Are Under the Dominion of the Dead.

417: A Sort of Necessary Evil.

All immediate comparisons between the art of the ancients and the moderns, will have more or less the same defect. For both are in their inmost essence not only distinct, but completely opposite, and hence cannot be measured by a common standard. The art of the Greeks commenced with the body — that of the moderns with the soul. In the representations of the Greeks, the human frame was set forth in all the perfection of its structure; all its movements and exertions of strength were expressed with inimitable energy before the soul was revealed in the brow. Nay, that beauty and dignity of the head, which, independently of expression, depends on the relative proportion of different parts, was discovered by the Greeks at only a comparatively late period. Among the old Christian painters, on the other hand, the body is imperfectly sketched, and is, as it were, thrown in as a sort of necessary evil; whereas in the different physiognomies they knew how to reveal all the tenderest varieties of feeling, and portray the real beauty of the soul. These artists looked on the world, indeed, with another and more spiritual eye; but they also had before them a world essentially changed. In depicting the human frame, the moderns have attained to excellence only by an imitation of the ancients. It is for the historian of art to shew how the difference of religion has brought about these opposite systems. When we go back to the beginnings of ancient as well as of modern art, we find it exclusively devoted to divine service, and influenced by religious conceptions. With the progress of time, art has ever become more secular; and this has usually been the period of its decay.

In our age, it is attempted to elevate art by mere worldly motives and views; but such an attempt can never succeed. All science — all observation of actual things, does not suffice to inspire the artist with true, original creations. He must receive a higher consecration, whether as among the Greeks, in the sphere of the living powers of nature, or a among the elder Christian painters, in the spiritual kingdom of man’s inward regeneration. Art, as a reflection of the divine in the visible world, is a concern and a want of mankind, on which, as Dante says of his Divine Comedy,

‘il poema sacro,
Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra:’

heaven and earth must set their hands to the work, if it is to succeed.

(August Wilhelm Schlegel; quoted in James Burton Robertson, “The Life and Writings of Augustus Wilhelm von Schlegel,” The Rambler, Vol. IV, 1849, p. 374).

417: A Sort of Necessary Evil.

344: The World of Hicks and Slobs.

He was a far more voracious reader than I, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least thirty years. “That’s the only kind of book I can trust,” he said.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in contemporary literature,” he added, “but I don’t want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short.”

“What kind of authors do you like?” I asked, speaking in respectful tones to this man two years my senior. “Balzac, Dante, Joseph Conrad, Dickens,” he answered without hesitation.

“Not exactly fashionable.”

“That’s why I read them. If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That’s the world of hicks and slobs.

(Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood. New York: Vintage Books, 2000, pp. 30–31).

344: The World of Hicks and Slobs.

92: Sinais.

Um dos sinais mais patentes de incultura é a propensão ou hábito de crer que a boa escrita é apenas um adorno exterior, alheio à qualidade do pensamento. Dante explicava que a gramática é a estrutura material do pensamento expresso. Se você não apreende sequer a estrutura material, como vai orientar-se nas abstrações da lógica, nas sutilezas psicológicas da retórica?

(Olavo de Carvalho, “Burros, Presunçosos e Mentirosos,” Sapientiam Autem Non Vincit Malitia, 25 de Outubro de 2009).

92: Sinais.