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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

Prometheus has a Titan for subject

poems of universal literature?

Let this stand as a tentative reply: Aeschylus's "Prometheus Bound," Dante's "Divine Comedy," Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Milton's "Paradise Lost," and Job, author unknown. To rank as a sublime production, theme and treatment must both be sublime, and the poem must be of dignified length. Prometheus has a Titan for subject; has magnanimity for occasion; has suffering, on account of his philanthropy, as tragic element; and the barren crags of Caucasus as theater; and the style is the loftiest of Aeschylus, sublimest of Greek dramatists. Perhaps "Oedipus Coloneus" is nearest approach among Greek tragedies to the elevation of "Prometheus Bound," and Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" has much of the Greek sublimity and more than the Greek frigidity. Dante is nearest neighbor to Aeschylus, though fifteen hundred years removed, and the "Divine Comedy" has all elements of sublimity. The time is eternal. The havoc of sin, the might of Christ, the freedom of the human spirit, the righteousness of God, the fate of souls, are materials out of which sublimer cathedral should be built than ever Gothic Christians wrought in poetry of stone. "Hamlet" is the sublimity of a soul fighting, single-handed, with innumerable foes, and dying--slain, but undefeated. "Paradise Lost" might easily be mistaken for the deep organ music of a stormy ocean, so matchless and sublime the melody. In theme, epic; in treatment, epic; in termination, tragic,--which melts into holy hope and radiant promise as a night
of storm and fearful darkness melts into the light and glory of the dawn and sunrise when the sky is fair. I can hear and see this blind old Puritan, chanting the drama of a lost cause as a David lamenting for his Absalom dead. Milton is sublime in history, misfortune, range of ideas, warrior strength, and prowess to fight and die undaunted. Not even his darkness makes him sob more than a moment. A rebellion in heaven, a war in consequence; the flaming legions of the skies led by Christ, God's Son; a conflict, whose clangor fills the vaulted skies in heaven with reverberating thunders, ending in defeat for evil which makes all Waterloos insignificant; the fall of Satanic legions from the thrones which once were theirs, when, with dolorous cry, they stumbled into hell; the counterplot of Lucifer; the voyage across the wastes "of chaos and old night;" the horrid birth of Sin; the apocalypse of Sin and Death in Eden; and the Promise, whose pierced hand, held out, saved from utter ruin those who,

"Hand in hand with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way."

Musician, instrument, and oratorio,--all sublime. "Last named, though first written, is the drama of Job, in which all things conspire to lift the argument into sublimity. Are seas in tempests sublime? What are they, matched with Job's stormy soul? Are thunders reverberating among mountains sublime? What are they when God's voice makes interrogatory? But above all, God walks into the drama as his right is to walk into human life; and God's appearance, whether at Sinai or Calvary, or in the weary watches of some heart's night of pain, makes mountain and hour and heart sublime.

Thomas Carlyle once, reading at prayers in a friend's house from the Book of Job, became oblivious to surroundings, and read on and on, till one by one the listeners arose and slipped out in silence, leaving the rapt reader alone, he holding on his solitary way until the last strophe fell from the reader's lips; nor can we wonder at him, for such must be the disposition of every thoughtful peruser of Job. As we will not care to lay Hamlet down till Fortinbras is taking Hamlet, with regal honors, from the scene, so we cling to Job till we see light break through the clouds, and the storm vanish, and the thunder cease.

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