« FöregåendeFortsätt »
principles of art but by national thought and feeling. It will be acknowledged also that what is most vital in English literature, especially in the later periods, has connected itself more or less closely with the special problem and the great practical achievement of the Anglo-Saxon race, the working out of self-government. For this reason the emphasis on political materials, in so far as these materials embody principles rather than detailed applications, is justified, not only by their practical value in the problems and duties of citizenship, but by their adaptability to the broader end of humanistic culture.
That the book, however, is not an anthology of patriotic literature will be apparent upon examination of the table of contents. Indeed, the editors have carefully avoided the poetry and prose of national aggrandizement. The principle that has guided the choice of material has been that expressed by Arnold: “It is important, therefore, to hold fast to this: that poetry is at bottom a criticism of life; that the greatness of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life, to the question, How to live.” It is this quality of the poet as a teacher that the greatest English poets themselves have always insisted upon as the mark of their calling. Philip Sidney speaks of "that delightful teaching which must be the right describing note to know a poet by”; and, like others of his contemporaries, “a passionate lover of that unspeakable and everlasting beauty to be seen by the eyes of the mind,'' he regards poetry as the chief means by which to attain the end of knowledge—“to know, and by knowledge to lift up the mind from the dungeon of the body to the enjoying his own divine essence. One might make use of that time-honored device, the “roll-call,”' to show how continually this view is voiced by the greatest English poets. Spenser, the poet's poet, the embodiment of the qualities which seem to make of poetry a thing apart, nevertheless stated that his aim in writing the Faerie Queene was "to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. Milton summed his idea of Spenser, whose disciple he was, in the statement that he was “a better teacher than Aquinas,” and Milton's own writings bear abundant witness to his wish to be regarded as a teacher. In countless places in his poetry Wordsworth illustrated his faithfulness to the ideal which he professed: "Every great poet is a teacher; I wish to be considered as a teacher or as nothing." To him "poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science"; a belief which Shelley reiterates when he holds that poetry is “the center and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science”; and which rings out in the final words of his Defense: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
The task of the editors has been to select a body of prose and poetry that should not only illustrate the "planet-like music" of great thought clad in fitting vesture but should also reveal a great tradition, a constant and progressive commentary on what the race has achieved in the arts of life. It is what Shelley called “idealized history,” by which he meant events seen outward shadows of spiritual truths. It is a bible of the English speaking
peoples on both sides of the Atlantic, made up of scriptures that we value not for flawless art but for their interpretation of the spirit of the race. Whatever has been admitted has been chosen because it seemed to have some bearing on the right interpretation of this spirit and to have the quality of permanence. It will be found that the book includes most of the poetry and much of the prose that teachers have long agreed upon as the basis for an elementary college course. There is, therefore, ample material for the teacher who wishes to trace the historical development of English literature or for him who wishes to emphasize the imaginative sweep and the beauty of expression found in great literature. But it is felt that elementary students are more likely to arrive at some measure of appreciation of literature as belles lettres if little is said in class about the value of such appreciation. For such students the best method of approach would seem to be frankly intellectual: the attempt to answer the question “What does the author have to say in this piece of writing and how is this related to what we have studied or to what men have thought in the past or are thinking in the present ?" In order to assist the student in his effort to assimilate the material and to make it a permanent possession, a complete outline has been supplied and special titles are given, usually in the words of the author, for the selections from longer works.
But while the book contains a large amount of the material generally included in books designed for survey courses, presenting it, however, in such a way as to assist the pupil to get something permanent out of it, the editors have omitted many writers and works usually represented in such anthologies. Many authors, significant for historical reasons, are appropriately studied in advanced courses where the chief emphasis is on the history and development of English literature as an art, but have no value to the elementary student except for their contribution to his lumber-room of facts. Thus, Cowley is an important figure for the study of the growth of English classicism; his dates, his use of the couplet or the ode, and the names of his poems will not ordinarily be retained by a Sophomore beyond the date of the final examination in the course. We inflict such “discipline” upon him because of our own interests or our own scholarly training; we are not thinking of him at all. It ought not to fill us with pride if the examination books we read at the end of the term are mere compounds of more or less accurate information about the relations between Genesis A and Genesis B, the middle English dialects, the problem of authorship of Piers Plowman, the poetry of Crashaw, the use of the Spenserian stanza in the eighteenth century, “the return to nature," and the other disjecta membra of a Cook's tour through literature. Through the marvelous recuperative power of nature, the germs of such misinformation as may chance to find a temporary lodgment within the outer corridors of sophomore intelligence are lightly and easily brushed aside after the day of testing has passed, and things are as they were.
The space saved by these omissions and others like them has been used for presenting many new selections. These will be found valuable, it is believed, not only because of their timeliness but also because they help to give unity and solidity to the entire structure of the book. For example, we are accustomed to the use of selections from the essays of Lord Bacon. These, however, have not hitherto been related to present thought; they have been studied chiefly for their difficulties of style and vocabulary. But the Advancement of Learning, which is practically unknown to college students, contains many passages which are much easier for them to understand; it is also a trumpet-call for ambitious youth. Furthermore, when these passages from Bacon's treatise on learning in his own day are studied in connection with certain of his essay3, or counsels of experience, and along with selections from Elyot and Spenser which bear on the same subject,—the training of those who were to rule Britain, we have a sounder principle of organization than that given by literary bibliography, annotation, and criticism of style; we have also an excellent method for understanding the mind of the Renaissance; and, best of all, we have solid contribution to the education of those of this new day who are to rule in our commonwealth and in the new and greater commonwealth of the peoples of the world. As to timeliness of interest, examples are to be found in the scathing satire on war and governments in Swift's Gulliver, or in Thomas More's sarcasm on “a place in the sun” as given in Utopia, or in Hooker's judgment on the philosophy that led Germany to attack the world, or in the fine argument for a League to Enforce Peace contained in the extract from the Leviathan of Hobbes, or in the compact summary of the difference between the theory of government held by the late masters of Germany and the ideals of democracy set forth in the closing paragraph of Mills's essay on Liberty. This last example is one of many that are scattered through the book which serve to show the difference between the philosophy and ideals of militarist Germany and the philosophy and ideals of the allied democracies. Could anything be more timely from this standpoint than to have college men study Burke, not only for the splendors of his style, or as an illustrious exponent of the art of oratory, but for those great passages in which he sets forth the principles of justice, international honor, and free government? Consider, for example, in the light of present problems, his treatment of the nature of empire, or his warning against the attempt to draw an indictment against a whole people, or his conception of justice tempered with mercy—“not what I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do?'—or his insistence that the safety of the people consists not in documents and constitutions but in the spirit that informs them, a spirit as light as air, as strong as links of iron; or his definition of free government: “To make a government requires no great prudence. Settle the seat of power; teach obedience; and the work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein. But to form a free government; that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much thought; deep reflection; a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.” Throughout the book will be found such passages, sometimes familiar enough, but here thrown into new relief because of the quickening of our sensibilities in a time of national danger and triumph, or because of the setting in which they are here placed. Take for example Wordsworth's vision of the old chivalry and old romance in France, with the appeal that the thought of them made to his poet's imagination, and then his meeting with a "hunger-bitten girl” and his friend's comment, "' “”Tis against that that we are fighting.” The incident illuminates, as by a lightning's flash, the problem of present life. Or who among the throngs of
. students who learn, wearily enough, something about Milton would miss the thrill that comes from recognizing a familiar spirit if his "lesson” should contain the passage from the tract on Reformation in England, here printed on pages 161-162, in which Milton, more than a century and a quarter before Burke, spoke passionately in defence of America and of the spirit that led eventually to the founding of a new nation across the seas; or if it contained the paragraph from the Tenure of Kings in which Milton proclaims the brotherhood of man: “Who knows not that there is a mutual bond of amity and brotherhood between man and man over all the world, neither is it the English sea that can sever us from that duty and relation.” Such passages, made impressive because they become parts of a great tradition that the student gleans from the literature of centuries, are not transient steps toward a passmark; in the moments in which they are found there is stored up life and food for future years.
In order to bring out clearly the meanings that such a body of thought contains for us, the arrangement of the material differs widely from that usually employed. Chronology has been disregarded where it has seemed desirable to do so; dates have been supplied where necessary to the understanding of the selection, and not otherwise ; the same author may be represented under different headings. More important than these matters of detail is the outline, or syllabus, which is supplied as a guide. Thus, the sixteenth century is not studied as a time when certain authors wrote at certain times various poems, dramas, and prose works. The ideas which enable one to enter into the mind of the Renaissance, so far as this is possible in an elementary course, are impressed upon the student's mind through definition and illustration. So throughout the book the plan of listing chronologically a large number of authors, with specimens of their work, is abandoned. The ideas that are expressed by the author of the selection are what the pupil is expected to master. The Table of Contents is therefore an integral part of the method of the book; it is to be carefully studied in order that the relationship of the particular selection to that section in which it is placed may be fully understood. Further helps will be found in the Index, which again is not a mere catalogue of facts, or a body of notes, but a commentary. It follows from what has been said that annotation, in the ordinary sense, is not a part of the plan of the book. The editors believe that overannotation, for elementary classes, not only deadens interest but confuses the student's mind by leading him to think that the results of his study are to be tabulated like a dictionary or an encyclopædia instead of organized into a structure like a building.
In this combination of doctrine with discipline we find once more the old definition of Humanism. Such was the conception of the men who founded classical learning in the Renaissance. The discipline they sought in the orderly and precise study of the classics was not a philological discipline alone, a matter of syntax and Greek particles, but the rebirth of a civilization in the minds of men. And the doctrine was the translation of this discipline into terms of citizenship. For Vergerius and Vittorino in Italy and Erasmus and Thomas More in England sought always to train men to be governors. The movement took its strength from the desire to realize the great tradition of antiquity in order to translate it into an intense nationalism for new times. Italy knew little of her past; those who sought to create for her a soul founded their work on what they considered their true ancestry, ancient Rome, and, through Rome, Greece. Classical tradition was her tradition. So, too, Tudor England lacked national culture and sought the grounds for creating it in a similar study of a perfect civilization. There was reason, then, for the predominance of the classics in any scheme for the education of a gentleman. The new nations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries found in antiquity, classical and Hebraic, their Great Tradition.
The bearing of these facts on our present educational and national problems is unmistakable. We stand at the end of an era, at the dawn of a new day. The rise of the modern state in the Renaissance was not more completely a phenomenon in that time than the conquest of the world by democracy is destined to become in our own. Our need is the same as theirs : to realize a new humanism, competent to guide through doctrine and discipline. Our need is greater than theirs, because the chief responsibility in those days rested on kings. About the only hope held out by Castiglione, in his treatise on courtiership, was that the prince might be a decent fellow, amenable to suggestions offered by wise courtiers. In those days the prince was the state. It is not so with us, now that all the world is to be the inheritance of democracy, either a democracy in which liberty is connected with order, or a democracy in which all things are levelled; nothing is secure, a new chaos in which hot, cold, moist and dry strive for momentary mastery and are gone.
Now this need, overwhelming as it is, is met by a racial tradition as rich and as clearly defined as that of classical antiquity. It is only of late years that we have become somewhat aware of this,—fitfully, uncertainly, partially aware of it. For example, the teaching of history in our schools has somehow missed the fact that England and America are united not only by blood and speech but by a common tradition extending back through centuries; that American free institutions took form from the institutions of England; and that the American replution was one step in the great evolution of free government, a step as will ant for the mother country as for us. The full value of this stupendous