The life and works of William Cullen Bryant
good deal of miscellaneous reading, but it does not refer to
what cannot but be regarded as the greatest benefit he derived
from his studies there his introduction to the Greek poets.
It was more than an introduction in his case ; it was the awak
ening of his mind to the peculiar spirit and art of those writ
ers. At least, one is compelled to infer as much from the fact
that, from this time, for two or three years onward, his only
translations, excepting a few from Horace whose education
at Athens had made him more or less Grecian were confined
to the Greeks. Among these translations, in addition to four
of Lucian s & quot; Dialogues of the Dead, & quot; rendered in prose, were
several odes of Anacreon, the lines of Mimnermus of Colo
phon on the & quot; Beauty and Joy of Youth, & quot; one of Bion s idyls,
and choruses from Sophocles. It is true that seven months
are but a short period wherein to acquire a knowledge of the
rich world haunted by the Grecian muses (or of any other
knowledge, in fact), but it is long enough to awaken the curi
osity of a fresh and sympathetic young mind, endowed with
poetic sensibilities, and yearning with poetic ambitions. He
could hardly have acquired that familiarity with them, which
faithful translation implies, without acquiring also some per
ception of their spirit and tone. The peculiarities of Greek
literature lie deep, no doubt, and yet they are so pervasive
that they lie on the surface no less; and any quick and
thoughtful student, intent upon the object, may get at them in
a little while. The simplicity of diction, as we call that ex
quisite choice of words which has no word too much nor any
word out of place ; the harmonious rhythms, beating like the
pulses of a healthful body, and uniting the tenderest grace
with robust and masculine strength ; the vivid imaginative
ness, that finds for the most subtle and visionary gleams of
thought a perfect concrete form ; and the austerity of judg
ment, that binds the most impetuous flights of imagination
with chains of beauty, and subdues the ecstasies of passion
to a god-like repose these are qualities that may be seen at a
glance, although they furnish food for the studies of a lifetime.