Greek prose is a stubborn thing, and the biographer remembers being told that his was `the best, with the worst mistakes'; also frequently by Mr. Sellar, that it was `bald.' But Greek prose is splendid practice, and no less good practice is Greek and Latin verse. These exercises, so much sneered at, are the Dwellers on the Threshold of the life of letters. They are haunting forms of fear, but they have to be wrestled with, like the Angel (to change the figure), till they bless you, and make words become, in your hands, like the clay of the modeller. Could we write Greek like Mr. Jebb, we would never write anything else.
Murray had naturally, it seems, certainly not by dint of wrestling with Greek prose, the mastery of language. His light verse is wonderfully handled, quaint, fluent, right. Modest as he was, he was ambitious, as we said, but not ambitious of any gain; merely eager, in his own way, to excel. His ideal is plainly stated in the following verses:-
Ever to be the best. To lead In whatsoever things are true; Not stand among the halting crew, The faint of heart, the feeble-kneed, Who tarry for a certain sign To make them follow with the rest - Oh, let not their reproach be thine! But ever be the best.
For want of this aspiring soul, Great deeds on earth remain undone, But, sharpened by the sight of one, Many shall press toward the goal. Thou running foremost of the throng, The fire of striving in thy breast, Shalt win, although the race be long, And ever be the best.
And wilt thou question of the prize? `Tis not of silver or of gold, Nor in applauses manifold, But hidden in the heart it lies: To know that but for thee not one Had run the race or sought the quest, To know that thou hast ever done And ever been the best.
Murray was never a great athlete: his ambition did not lead him to desire a place in the Scottish Fifteen at Football. Probably he was more likely to be found matched against `The Man from Inversnaid.'
He brought a team from Inversnaid To play our Third Fifteen, A man whom none of us had played And very few had seen.
He weighed not less than eighteen stone, And to a practised eye He seemed as little fit to run As he was fit to fly.