Just when we're safest there's a sunset touch, a fancy from a flower bell, someone's death, a chorus ending from Euripides
C'était le printemps
Thus, the language is shifting; the Latins knew all about that. And the reader is shifting also. This brings us back to the old metaphor of the Greeks - the metaphor, or rather the truth, about no man stepping twice into the same river. And there is, I think, an element of fear here. At first we are apt to think of the river as flowing. We think, "Of course, the river goes on but the water is changing." Then, with an emerging sense of awe, we feel that we too are changing - that we are as shifting and evanescent as the river is.However, we need not worry too much about the fate of the classics, because beauty is always with us. Here I would like to quote another verse, by Browning, perhaps a now-forgotten poet. He says:
Just when we're safest,There's a sunset touch,A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,A chorus-ending from Euripides.Yet the first line is enough: "Just when we're safest . . ." That is to say, beauty is lurking all about us. It may come to us in the name of a film; it may come to us in some popular lyric; we may even find it in the pages of a great or famous writer.
J.L.B. in the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 1968.