The Classical Literature Thread

Diocletian

Sparrow
Does anybody else here read a lot of classical literature? Shakespeare, especially--his writings contain a lot of great observations on humanity, which was part of his genius. Read through his works and it becomes obvious why the modern liberal arts establishment denigrates his work and the rest of classical literature--too much wrongthink. If you read, discuss, and understand Shakespeare, or the Bible, Milton, Chaucer, etc. then the establishment runs the risk of people realizing that they've been lied to about reality and society.

If you've got thoughts about classical literature post them in this thread.

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Polonius' speech to Laertes in Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3 is a great condensation of how a man should live his life. It is a father giving this advice to his son. It describes much of what is lacking in modern Western society.

Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproprtion thought his act.
Don't let every man know all of your thoughts, and likewise control your actions--you don't need to act on every single thought that goes through your head.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
You shouldn't be overly formal and stuffy, but don't reduce yourself to your basest behavior. Don't curse, don't swear, but don't be insufferable and condescending.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.
Loyalty. To those friends of yours whom you know to be loyal--who you've gone through the trials and experiences of life with--you must return that loyalty absolutely. On the other hand, don't spend excessive amounts of time with every single new friend.

Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Don't be argumentative and quarrelsome; avoid arguments, fights, etc. whenever possible but if you must be in such a situation then you must always fight to win.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Be willing to listen to other men, but don't always give your thoughts and opinions on everything, and likewise take each man's criticism but don't always give out your own judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Dress well but within your means, wear nice clothes but not flashy clothes. People will judge you based on how you dress. If you dress like a slob then people will take you for a slob; if you dress like a thug then people will take you for a thug. In Shakespeare's day and in the time Hamlet was set France was considered one of the most civilized nations, and this should be taken as advice to emulate civilized people.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
Don't borrow money and don't lend money to other people. Debt will often neither be repaid; you will not only lose money but also the friend from whom you borrowed. On top of that, borrowing reduces personal initiative. If you have easy access to loans then you have little incentive to work hard and honestly increase your wealth.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
"Thou shalt not lie," either to yourself or to others.

Everything in this monoloque is precisely the opposite of the values our modern culture espouses. Stoicism, laconicism, loyalty to friends, and avoiding quarrels goes against the social media framework of exhibitionism, the sharing of every intimate detail, pointless keyboard debates, and judgement for every perceived slight. Modest attire and avoiding debt goes against consumerism.

Moreover, much of this contains either direct or indirect Biblical references that up until just a few decades ago even the poorest and least educated people would have recognized. In fact, much of it is taken directly from Proverbs. Shakespeare was well-versed in Scripture.

Thou shalt not lie.

Exodus 20:16
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

James 1:19
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array

1 Timothy 2:9
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17
The beginning of strife [is as] when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

Proverbs 17:14
Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.

Proverbs 3:14
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

Proverbs 4:1
Live by this wisdom and you can definitely have a good chance at a successful life, not just economically but socially and personally. There is a reason that this type of literature had been required reading in schools at all levels--apart from creating a unified culture, it also transmits universal truths that all men should live by.
 
Anton Chekhov’s short stories had a lot of insight into the various things that a human can feel and experience, on top of being one of the world’s all-time greatest fiction writers. Stories like “Misery” and “Gooseberries” you will likely never forget.

19th century Russian authors in general beat almost anything you’ll find in America, with the caveat that most of them had pessimistic outlooks on life. But in terms of writing talent they really can’t be beat, with the exception of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the USA and maybe Gustave Flaubert in France.
 

Aboulia

Robin
An excerpt from Gooseberries, because I wholeheartedly agree with that MichaelWitcoff's recommendation, although I never read "Misery" it's not in my collection

...evidently the happy man only feels at ease because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and without that silence, happiness would be impossible. It's a case of general hypnotism. There ought to be behind the door of every happy, contented man, someone with a hammer continually reminding with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her laws sooner or later, trouble will come for him --disease, poverty, losses, and no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears others
An excerpt from "The Pipe" (my personal favourite Checkhov story)

"But people have grown better," observed the bailiff
"In what way better"
"Cleverer"
"Cleverer, maybe, that's true, young man; but what's the use of that? What earthly good is cleverness to people on the brink of ruin? One can perish without cleverness. What's the good of cleverness to a huntsman if there is no game? What I think is that God has given men brains and taken away their strength. People have grown weak, exceedingly weak. Take me, for instance... I am not worth a halfpenny, I am the humblest peasant in the whole village, and yet, young man, I have strength. Mind you, I am in my seventies, and I tend my herd day in and day out, and keep the night watch too, for twenty kopecks, and I don't sleep, and I don't feel the cold; my son is cleverer than I am, but put him in my place and he would ask for a raise the next day, or would be going to the doctors. There it is, I eat nothing but bread, for 'Give us this day our daily bread,' and my father ate nothing but bread, and my grandfather; but the peasant nowadays must have tea and vodka and white loaves and must sleep from sunset to dawn, and he goes to the doctor and pampers himself in all sorts of ways. And why is it? He has grown weak; he has not the strength to endure. If he wants to stay awake, his eyes close-- there is no doing anything"
 
I’ve just started reading the Digenes Akritas, an ancient Greek Orthodox epic poem about a biracial Byzantine border guard (“Two-Blood Border Lord.”) It’s pretty great thus far.
 

kel

Pelican
Many years ago I resolved to go back through many of the books we read in high school - I, like many, read these books very half-heartedly at best originally - to give them a fair shot. I suggest others do the same. Find resources online to help you with context and such if necessary. Take time to really appreciate the when and why of it. You might still not actually like it, but you might be surprised. I loved the Great Gatsby the second time I read it (or the first time I read it for real, really), after having just gone through the motions in high school I really felt immersed in it.
 

bucky

Pelican
I’ve just started reading the Digenes Akritas, an ancient Greek Orthodox epic poem about a biracial Byzantine border guard (“Two-Blood Border Lord.”) It’s pretty great thus far.
Are you reading it in translation or the original? I tried to learn Koine Greek once, but I didn't get very far. Seems like it would be especially interesting for an Orthodox Christian.
 
Read it in English. It’s translated as free verse, not sure whether it rhymes in the original Greek. Great story either way and I recommend it, only takes an hour or so to read the whole thing.
 
I can recommend the 19 century writer Honoré de Balzac.
The guy was a power house. The amount, scope and level of writing is uncanny.
Seconded.

Start with one of these:
- Eugénie Grandet
- Le Père Goriot
- Histoire des treize

Then once read all of them, move on to:
- La Rabouilleuse
- Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes
- La Cousine Bette
- Le Cousin Pons

Of the English, you can't go wrong with Dickens:
- David Copperfield
- A Tale Of Two Cities
- Great Expectations

And Thomas Hardy:
- Jude The Obscure

One must read the great Russian novelists:
- Crime & Punishment (Dostoevsky)
- The Idiot (Dostoevsky)
- The Demons (Dostoevsky)
- The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky)
- War & Peace (Tolstoy)
- Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
- Fathers And Sons (Turgenev)

And the Germans:
- Magic Mountain (Mann)
- Narcissus & Goldmund (Hesse)
- The Glass Bead Game (Hesse)

And finally, don't discount the Americans:
- Moby Dick (Melville)
- The Ambassadors (Henry James)
- Daisy Miller (Henry James)
- The Turning Of The Screw (Henry James)
 
A great American writer is John Updike. His most famous work was the Rabbit Angstrom novels:
  • Rabbit, Run
  • Rabbit Redux
  • Rabit is Rich
They're an excellent read about the life of an unremarkable middle class man (Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom) and his family. It's very interesting to compare the life he lived growing up through the 20th century (and his views on the decay over that time) to what we are experiencing now.

Updike also wrote a book I enjoyed called Brazil which was written in a completely different style of mystical realism. Apparently it wasn't as well received as his other work, however, as a fan of travel and I found it an exciting read. A nice snapshot of 70s era Brazil as country as well if I remember...

For poetry, Pablo Neruda was an Chilean poet, diplomat, and Nobel prize winner. Great poems that speak to men about love, bravery, and adventure.
 

bucky

Pelican
A great American writer is John Updike. His most famous work was the Rabbit Angstrom novels:
  • Rabbit, Run
  • Rabbit Redux
  • Rabit is Rich
They're an excellent read about the life of an unremarkable middle class man (Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom) and his family. It's very interesting to compare the life he lived growing up through the 20th century (and his views on the decay over that time) to what we are experiencing now.

Updike also wrote a book I enjoyed called Brazil which was written in a completely different style of mystical realism. Apparently it wasn't as well received as his other work, however, as a fan of travel and I found it an exciting read. A nice snapshot of 70s era Brazil as country as well if I remember...

For poetry, Pablo Neruda was an Chilean poet, diplomat, and Nobel prize winner. Great poems that speak to men about love, bravery, and adventure.
I've never read any Updike, but I've heard about the Rabbit series and always wanted to check it out.
 
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