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Three Philosophical Poets Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe   By: (1863-1952)

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First Page:

THREE PHILOSOPHICAL POETS

LUCRETIUS, DANTE, AND GOETHE

BY

GEORGE SANTAYANA

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY

HARVARD STUDIES IN COMPARATIVE LITERATURE

VOLUME I

CAMBRIDGE

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

1910

PREFACE

The present volume is composed, with a few additions, of six lectures read at Columbia University in February, 1910, and repeated in April of the same year, at the University of Wisconsin. These lectures, in turn, were based on a regular course which I had been giving for some time at Harvard College. Though produced under such learned auspices, my book can make no great claims to learning. It contains the impressions of an amateur, the appreciations of an ordinary reader, concerning three great writers, two of whom at least might furnish matter enough for the studies of a lifetime, and actually have academies, libraries, and university chairs especially consecrated to their memory. I am no specialist in the study of Lucretius; I am not a Dante scholar nor a Goethe scholar. I can report no facts and propose no hypotheses about these men which are not at hand in their familiar works, or in well known commentaries upon them. My excuse for writing about them, notwithstanding, is merely the human excuse which every new poet has for writing about the spring. They have attracted me; they have moved me to reflection; they have revealed to me certain aspects of nature and of philosophy which I am prompted by mere sincerity to express, if anybody seems interested or willing to listen. What I can offer the benevolent reader, therefore, is no learned investigation. It is only a piece of literary criticism, together with a first broad lesson in the history of philosophy and, perhaps, in philosophy itself.

G.S.

Harvard College

June, 1910

CONTENTS

I

INTRODUCTION

Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe sum up the chief phases of European philosophy, naturalism, supernaturalism, and romanticism Ideal relation between philosophy and poetry.

II

LUCRETIUS

Development of Greek cosmology Democritus Epicurean moral sentiment Changes inspired by it in the system of Democritus Accidental alliance of materialism with hedonism Imaginative value of naturalism: The Lucretian Venus, or the propitious movement in nature The Lucretian Mars, or the destructive movement Preponderant melancholy, and the reason for it Materiality of the soul The fear of death and the fear of life Lucretius a true poet of nature Comparison with Shelley and Wordsworth Things he might have added consistently: Indefeasible worth of his insight and sentiment.

III

DANTE

Character of Platonism Its cosmology a parable Combination of this with Hebraic philosophy of history Theory of the Papacy and the Empire adopted by Dante His judgement on Florence Dante as a lyric poet Beatrice the woman, the symbol, and the reality Love, magic, and symbolism constitutive principles of Dante's universe Idea of the Divine Comedy The scheme of virtues and vices Retributive theory of rewards and punishments Esoteric view of this, which makes even punishment intrinsic to the sins Examples Dantesque cosmography The genius of the poet His universal scope His triumphant execution of the Comedy His defects, in spite of which he remains the type of a supreme poet.

IV

GOETHE'S FAUST Page

The romantic spirit The ideals of the Renaissance Expression of both in the legendary Faust Marlowe's version Tendency to vindicate Faust Contrast with Calderon's "Wonder working Magician" The original Faust of Goethe, universal ambition and eternal dissatisfaction Modifications The series of experiments in living The story of Gretchen fitted in Goethe's naturalistic theory of life and rejuvenation: Helen The classic manner and the judgement on classicism Faust's last ambition The conflict over his soul and his ascent to heaven symbolical Moral of the whole... Continue reading book >>




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