A New Perception of Things Beautiful

George Gissing, By the Ionian Sea:

“Last night the wind changed and the sky began to clear; this morning I awoke in sunshine, and with a feeling of eagerness for my journey. I shall look upon the Ionian Sea, not merely from a train or a steamboat as before, but at long leisure: I shall see the shores where once were Tarentum and Sybaris, Croton and Locri. Every man has his intellectual desire; mine is to escape life as I know it and dream myself into that old world which was the imaginative delight of my boyhood. The names of Greece and Italy draw me as no others; they make me young again, and restore the keen impressions of that time when every new page of Greek or Latin was a new perception of things beautiful. The world of the Greeks and Romans is my land of romance; a quotation in either language thrills me strangely, and there are passages of Greek and Latin verse which I cannot read without a dimming of the eyes, which I cannot repeat aloud because my voice fails me. In Magna Graecia the waters of two fountains mingle and flow together; how exquisite will be the draught!”

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2 thoughts on “A New Perception of Things Beautiful

  1. Greek and Latin mingle together just as those two fountains. Reminds me of Horace’s lines about the influence of the Greeks upon the Romans: Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit / et artes intulit agresti Latio.–Epodes 2.1.156,157. Both languages often seem to embrace each other, and there is beauty, the beauty of our universal humanity.

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