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Assurement il sera bon que le boiteux de la tragédie boite comme Hephaistos; il sera bon que l'insensé s'abandonne aux fureurs d'Ajax, que la femme incestueuse renouvelle les crimes de Phèdre, que le traitre trahisse, que le fourbe mente, que le meutrier tue, et quand la piece sera jouée, tous les acteurs, rois, justes, tyrans, sanguinaires, vierges, pieuses, epouses impudiques, citoyens magnanimes et lâches assassins recevront du poète une part égale de felicitations.
THE SUBSTANCE OF LITERATURE
Literature is of course not simply words, the literal succession of vocables in an intelligible form. It is not essentially bound books and printed pages. Its nature is more correctly perhaps a class of mental impressions in the production of which these signs and forms and sensible manifestations, and embodiments are today associated. But such physical renditions of literature are not necessary, and the traditional welding of stories and events, ideas and religious rites into verbal compositions repeated by word of mouth, and “learned by heart," is the well known form which literature presents in the earlier days, where the vehicle becomes reduced to the thinnest possible objective form, a series of audible articulations, lost almost in their utterance. In this phase of literary activity literature reveals its real character, and is detached from the secondary and artificial media by which it is made negotiable, permanent and ponderable.
Max Muller says, “how then were these ancient hymns and the Brahmanas and, it may be said, the
Sutras too, preserved? Entirely by memory, but by memory kept under the strictest discipline.
“As far back as we know anything of India, we find that the years which we spend at school, and at university, were spent by the sons of the three higher classes in learning from the mouth of a teacher their sacred literature. * * * * These men, I know it as a fact, know the whole Rig Veda by heart, just as their ancestors did, three or four thousand years ago; and though they have MSS and though they now have a printed text, they do not learn their sacred lore from them. They learn it as their ancestors learnt it, thousands of years ago, from the mouth of a teacher, so that the Vedic succession should never be broken.” A friend of Prof. Muller engaged in preparing notes for the professor's edition of the Rig Veda wrote to him, referring to these men, “I am collecting a few of our walking Rig Veda MSS, taking your text as a basis, I find a good many differences which I shall soon be able to examine more closely, when I may be able to say whether they are various readings or not."
Gladstone (Juventus Mundi) discussing the objections made to the acceptance of the authenticity of the Homeric poems, on the ground of the difficulty of their retention by unaided memory, says, “that they could not be transmitted orally, is also very com