IN leaving Homer and Chaucer we pass away from the Middle Ages. These two poets, both so full of the unexhausted joy of life, both so steeped in what seems to us the radiance of morning, represent the final splendours of a day that was drawing near its close. Unlike in profound essentials as are the poetry of the Iliad and Odyssey on the one hand, the poetry of Troilus and the Knight's Tale on the other, they are alike in being the finished product of a modiæval art which perished in creating them. Once in the East, once again after more than two thousand years in the West, a modiæval period came to its final fruition in the two countries which lie on the extreme verges of the European world. When the darkness that follows these two great sunset splendours lifts we find ourselves in the pallor of a new dawn; here in modern England, there in a Hellenic world which, however we may speak or think of it as ancient, is in its whole quality as distinctively and as essentially modern.
The Iliad and the Odyssey are the treasure saved from the submerged world of pre-Hellenic Greece. Beyond what can be divined from the poems themselves, we know little or nothing of their poetic predecessors, and almost as little of their immediate poetic successors. Traces of pre-Homeric poetry are in the Iliad at all events extant, however much they may be elusive and however often debateable. Traces of post-Homeric poetry are to be found in accretions which have attached
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Publication information: Book title: Lectures on Poetry. Contributors: J. W. Mackail - Author. Publisher: Longmans Green and Co.. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1911. Page number: 23.
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