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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/220

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

if we had all of that comedy which is represented by Aristophanes alone; if we had all of the more ancient comedy, all of the middle period and all of the new, with Menander who since the Renaissance is the regret of all critics of fine apprehension—all this poetry could not exhaust the multiple fecundity and the prodigious richness of the imagination which created it. If malevolent Fortune had decreed the destruction of every bit of Greek plastic art we should have been condemned to perpetual ignorance of many aspects and methods of the Greek soul. Is there anything in literature worth the little clay figures of Tanagra in making clear how the Greeks apprehended and enjoyed female beauty: how they loved it not only in the noble and serious types of a Pallas or an Aphrodite, but even as presented by the humble inhabitants of little villages in the graceful abandon of their everyday life and in the liberty of their most ordinary attitudes? If we base an opinion of the religion of the Greeks only upon the epithets used by poets in defining the gods and upon actions they attributed to them, we run the risk of judging wrongly. In contemplating their images we obtain clearer notions of the ideas associated with each divine type. Alas! we do not possess the great works of Phidias which according to men of authority made men more religious—the Athene of the Parthenon and the Zeus of Olympia. But even in the reduced copies of these two masterpieces which have reached down to our time we can divine how the master expressed in the one the idea of calm and luminous intelligence and of supreme wisdom, and in the other the idea of that sovereign force in repose and of that omnipotence, tempered by goodness, which were conceived to exist in the sovereign of the universe, the father of gods and men.

In subsequent paragraphs Perrot imagines the Greek statues of the Louvre thus addressing a classical student:

"Young man, you who are studying Greece in Homer and Plato, in Sophocles and Herodotus, do not pass us by so quickly. We also belong to that Greece which you discern and which you seek in their writings, of which not without difficulty you decipher the prose and the verse. To understand and to love us, to read in our features the thoughts of which we are the expression, to seize in the modeling of our flesh and in the pure outline of our limbs the secret of the genius which created us, no grammar nor dictionary is needed; only apply yourself to the education of your eye. In this exercise, in this apprenticeship, yon will find a pleasure which will become more and more keen as yon become more capable of perceiving rapidly the finest gradations. If you aspire to become an authorized interpreter of Greek genius, do not fear that