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"The Governor-General of Belgium.`But it was the good Lord who put it in his mind,' said she.
The evolution of Greek tragic poetry bears witness to the same transformation of taste. On comparing Sophocles with Aeschylus, we are struck by a change of tone analogous to that which distinguishes Thucydides from Herodotus. It has been shown in our first chapter how the elder dramatist delights in tracing events and institutions back to their first origin, and in following derivations through the steps of a genealogical sequence. Sophocles, on the other hand, limits himself to a close analysis of the action immediately represented, the motives by which his characters are in91fluenced, and the arguments by which their conduct is justified or condemned. We have already touched on the very different attitude assumed towards religion by these two great poets. Here we have only to add that while Aeschylus fills his dramas with supernatural beings, and frequently restricts his mortal actors to the interpretation or execution of a divine mandate, Sophocles, representing the spirit of Greek Humanism, only once brings a god on the stage, and dwells exclusively on the emotions of pride, ambition, revenge, terror, pity, and affection, by which men and women of a lofty type are actuated. Again (and this is one of his poetic superiorities), Aeschylus has an open sense for the external world; his imagination ranges far and wide from land to land; his pages are filled with the fire and light, the music and movement of Nature in a Southern country. He leads before us in splendid procession the starry-kirtled night; the bright rulers that bring round winter and summer; the dazzling sunshine; the forked flashes of lightning; the roaring thunder; the white-winged snow-flakes; the rain descending on thirsty flowers; the sea now rippling with infinite laughter, now moaning on the shingle, growing hoary under rough blasts, with its eastern waves dashing against the new-risen sun, or, again, lulled to waveless, windless, noonday sleep; the volcano with its volleys of fire-breathing spray and fierce jaws of devouring lava; the eddying whorls of dust; the resistless mountain-torrent; the meadow-dews; the flowers of spring and fruits of summer; the evergreen olive, and trees that give leafy shelter from dogstar heat. For all this world of wonder and beauty Sophocles offers only a few meagre allusions to the phenomena presented by sunshine and storm. No poet has ever so entirely concentrated his attention on human deeds and human passions. Only the grove of Col?nus, interwoven with his own earliest recollections, had power to draw from him, in extreme old age, a song such as the nightingale might have warbled amid those92 inviolable recesses where the ivy and laurel, the vine and olive gave a never-failing shelter against sun and wind alike. Yet even this leafy covert is but an image of the poets own imagination, undisturbed by outward influences, self-involved, self-protected, and self-sustained. Of course, we are only restating in different language what has long been known, that the epic element of poetry, before so prominent, was with Sophocles entirely displaced by the dramatic; but if Sophocles became the greatest dramatist of antiquity, it was precisely because no other writer could, like him, work out a catastrophe solely through the action of mind on mind, without any intervention of physical force; and if he possessed this faculty, it was because Greek thought as a whole had been turned inward; because he shared in the devotion to psychological studies equally exemplified by his younger contemporaries, Protagoras, Thucydides, and Socrates, all of whom might have taken for their motto the noble lines
In the John Grier Home! And it's good, Daddy, I actually believe
And so the time passed, each day full of interest and pleasure, in the gayest and most delightful capital in the world; while the witty, charming, light-hearted society who sang and danced and acted and talked so brilliantly, felt, for the most part, no misgivings about the future, no doubt that this agreeable, satisfactory state of things would go on indefinitely, although they were now only a very few years from the fearful catastrophe towards which they were so rapidly advancing, and in which most of them would be overwhelmed. Death, ruin, exile, horrible prisons, hardships, and dangers of all sorts were in store for them, and those who escaped by good fortune, by the devotion or kindness of others, and occasionally by their own courage, foresight, or presence of mind, met each other again years afterwards as if they had indeed passed through the valley of the shadow of death.
After resolving virtue into knowledge of pleasure, the next questions which would present themselves to so keen a thinker were obviously, What is knowledge? and What is pleasure? The Theaettus is chiefly occupied with a discussion of the various answers already given to the first of these enquiries. It seems, therefore, to come naturally next after the Protagoras; and our conjecture receives a further confirmation when we find that here also a large place is given to the opinions of the Sophist after whom that dialogue is named; the chief difference being that the points selected for controversy are of a speculative rather than of a practical character. There is, however, a close connexion between the argument by which Protagoras had endeavoured to prove that all mankind are teachers of virtue, and his more general principle that man is the measure of all things. And perhaps it was the more obvious difficulties attending the latter view which led Plato, after some hesitation, to reject the former along206 with it. In an earlier chapter we gave some reasons for believing that Protagoras did not erect every individual into an arbiter of truth in the sweeping sense afterwards put upon his words. He was probably opposing a human to a theological or a naturalistic standard. Nevertheless, it does not follow that Plato was fighting with a shadow when he pressed the Protagorean dictum to its most literal interpretation. There are plenty of people still who would maintain it to that extent. Wherever and whenever the authority of ancient traditions is broken down, the doctrine that one mans opinion is as good as anothers immediately takes its place; or rather the doctrine in question is a survival of traditionalism in an extremely pulverised form. And when we are told that the majority must be rightwhich is a very different principle from holding that the majority should be obeyedwe may take it as a sign that the loose particles are beginning to coalesce again. The substitution of an individual for a universal standard of truth is, according to Plato, a direct consequence of the theory which identifies knowledge with sense-perception. It is, at any rate, certain that the most vehement assertors of the former doctrine are also those who are fondest of appealing to what they and their friends have seen, heard, or felt; and the more educated among them place enormous confidence in statistics. They are also fond of repeating the adage that an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory, without considering that theory alone can furnish the balance in which facts are weighed. Plato does not go very deep into the rationale of observation, nor in the infancy of exact science was it to be expected that he should. He fully recognised the presence of two factors, an objective and a subjective, in every sensation, but lost his hold on the true method in attempting to trace a like dualism through the whole of consciousness. Where we should distinguish between the mental energies and the physical processes underlying them, or between the207 elements respectively contributed to every cognition by immediate experience and reflection, he conceived the inner and outer worlds as two analogous series related to one another as an image to its original.
So far we have contrasted the Apologia with the Memorabilia. We have now to consider in what relation it stands to Platos other writings. The constructive dogmatic Socrates, who is a principal spokesman in some of them, differs widely from the sceptical Socrates of the famous Defence, and the difference has been urged as an argument for the historical authenticity of the latter.85 Plato, it is implied, would not115 have departed so far from his usual conception of the sage, had he not been desirous of reproducing the actual words spoken on so solemn an occasion. There are, however, several dialogues which seem to have been composed for the express purpose of illustrating the negative method supposed to have been described by Socrates to his judges, investigations the sole result of which is to upset the theories of other thinkers, or to show that ordinary men act without being able to assign a reason for their conduct. Even the Republic is professedly tentative in its procedure, and only follows out a train of thought which has presented itself almost by accident to the company. Unlike Charles Lambs Scotchman, the leading spokesman does not bring, but find, and you are invited to cry halves to whatever turns up in his company.