The Story of the Iliad

The Story of the Iliad

The Story of the Iliad

The Story of the Iliad

Excerpt

The clumsy-sounding title I have given this book defines its purpose with fair exactness. I am shutting out all questions about the Iliad except one—what makes it, just as it stands, a well-told story. That it is so there can be no reasonable doubt. The Iliad as an artistic success does not abide our question; for centuries its story, as the poem tells it, has held its listeners spell-bound. I wish, by following the way it is told, to see, if I can, how it works its spell.

With the Homeric controversy, then, this book has nothing to do. No one denies that the Iliad we possess, in whatever circumstances and from whatever sources it was put together, was designed to be taken as a single poem, as a continuous story. It is this poem only that I am talking about, not its history nor its authorship, but itself, and with a view, not to establishing, but to accounting for, its artistic integrity. In doing so I am not presuming to criticize the critics; I do not imagine I am disproving or discrediting any theories about the origin and growth of the poem; I am simply taking a position further along the line, so to speak, at the point, whenever it was, that the Iliad attained its present form. For, after all, this is the poem that chiefly concerns the student of literature. Historically we have in our Iliad the acknowledged master piece of masterpieces, the poem that first taught the world how to tell a story greatly; and when the Homeric question is settled once for all and the poem finally disintegrated into its . . .

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