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But (as in sermons) even “lastly” is not the end: there is one matter more.
Goldsmith's ingenious Chinaman—to quote him once again—is demonstrated by the English writer of Eastern Tales to be no Chinaman at all, and to “have nothing of the true Eastern manner in his delivery.” The Orientalist then proceeds to detail the ingredients of the “true manner,” and among them boasts, “I have used thee and thou upon all occasions." So, too, our English classical convention, to the great misappreciation, I believe, of certain Greek authors.
If I am right in my estimate of the pitch of Sophocles' manner, then the indiscriminate use of thee and thou is ruled out by his deliberate approximation to the prose diction of his day; as for the discriminate use, an Age of Progress has unhappily shorn our language of this beautiful resource and given it to the Quakers. There are many verbs quite within the modern poetical range, which become uncouth when they are written in the second person singular, from the general disuse of that inflection. In the lyrics the case stands differently; the I wot and I ween style of English not unfairly renders the strange convention of dialect and diction which governs the Tragic Chcrus; and any extravagance is justified by the original. “ In no other instance does antiquity appear to me to have played the fool so much as in this sort of choruses, in which eloquence was debased by an excessive affectation of novelty, and in aiming at verbal miracles all grasp of reality was lost."
A harsh judgment, and conditioned perhaps by defective texts; yet not the judgment of a flippant schoolboy, but of the great Erasmus.
J. S. P.
Glasgow, June 1902.