Tatian, Hermas, Theophilus, and Tertullian savagely attacked profane poetry, and in defending it Basil, Athenagoras, Clement, and Origen were forced not unwillingly to rely more and more on the traditional moralistic theory of poetry which was so familiar to them. St. Chrysostom records that in the fourth century Homer was still taught as a guide to morals.
The moralistic type of humor, the crack of Juvenal's whip, as well as the delicate Horatian playing around the heart-strings, has characterized our humor and satire from the beginning. At bottom the American is serious. Beneath the surface of his jokes there is moral earnestness, there is ethical passion. Take, for example, some of the apothegms of "Josh Billings."
Later the system of Copernicus, incompatible at heart with the anthropocentric and moralistic view of the world which Christianity implies, was accepted by the church with some lame attempt to render it innocuous; but it remains an alien and hostile element, like a spent bullet lodged in the flesh.
Or finally, this, which has the perfect tone of the great French moralists: "It iz a verry delicate job to forgive a man without lowering him in his own estimashun, and yures too." See how the moralistic note is struck in the field of political satire. It is 1866, and "Petroleum V. Nasby," writing from "Confedrit X Roads," Kentucky, gives Deekin Pogram's views on education.
But as they actually come and are given, creation widens to the view of their recipients. They suggest that our natural experience, our strictly moralistic and prudential experience, may be only a fragment of real human experience. They soften nature's outlines and open out the strangest possibilities and perspectives.
But now it did not take the form of verse; he began to write moralistic essays, never finished, but full of severe comment on the folly of the world as he saw it. Sometimes they were examinations of himself, and his ideas and principles, his doctrines and practice, penetrating quests such as the theologians of an earlier day used to address to their consciences.
It is remote from the reality of experience where men stake all on a chance and, instead of receiving the good by an act of grace, wring it by blood and tears from evil. On much the same level of thinking is the moralistic theory which requires that the misfortunes of the hero should be the penalty for some fault or weakness.
It is not for him, therefore, that these final paragraphs are written, but rather for those lovers of poetry who recognize that it transcends all purely moralistic and utilitarian, as it does all historical and technical considerations, that it lifts the reader into a serene air where beauty and truth abide, while the perplexed generations of men appear and disappear.
As a matter of fact countless human imaginations live in this moralistic and epic kind of a universe, and find its disseminated and strung-along successes sufficient for their rational needs.
Their discussion revealed further that they were unable to accept themselves as human beings, and that they felt they had to justify themselves by doing good works and by moral living. That is the reason why Mrs. Strait holds to the moralistic concept of the Christian life. Separated from her husband and feared by her children, she feels acutely vulnerable and guilty.