The Greek View of Poetry

The Greek View of Poetry

The Greek View of Poetry

The Greek View of Poetry

Excerpt

The object of this book is to examine the critical theories and--in a broader sense--the popular appreciation of poetry by the Greeks. Incidentally, for the sake of completeness, I have touched on the whole range of Greek critics, in their references to prose as well as poetry, so that the present work may, I hope, be regarded as material for the First Chapter in the History of Criticism. But I have chiefly concentrated on poetic theories for several reasons: firstly, because a full discussion of rhetoric would have swollen this book to an inordinate bulk; secondly, because the classical analysis of poetry for the most part applies to prose, owing to the Greek habit of regarding the Word as a unity, whether expressed "in metre or without it"; and thirdly, because a book--if it is to be even moderately successful--must be a labour of love, and, in my own love of Greek literature, Homer and Aeschylus, Aristophanes and Theocritus are still the first charge on a debt of half a century.

No sane man, of course, denies the supreme value of Greek poetry; but it is sometimes objected that the Greek poets builded better than they, or at least their critics, knew. There is some justification for this warning. As Longinus saw, criticism is "an after-growth of much experience"; and the first and even the last . . .

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