Theocritus in English Literature

Theocritus in English Literature

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Theocritus in English Literature

Theocritus in English Literature

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Excerpt

AIM.--To affirm that the influence of Greek or Latin literature upon English literature has been great, requires no vast erudition and implies no originality; and the statement is so general as to be valueless. Only a large number of special and well-defined investigations, dealing with particular periods and types, authors and works, or definite species of subject matter, can avail to satisfy the mind and give worth to generalizations. By thus dividing the field and advancing on different lines many students may coöperate in a conquest that shall greatly enlarge our knowledge of the history of literature in the broadest aspects of the subject.

But it is evident that in such an investigation as the present one, the start may be made in either English literature or some foreign literature. The student may select an English poet and trace his allusions, imitations, locutions, ideas and images to their sources in the Classics; or he may choose a Greek or Roman poet and trace his influence through all its channels in our literature. It is the latter kind of work I have undertaken with Theocritus. In either case the study assumes large proportions and the results are such as not only to increase in every way our knowledge of the particular author but also to illuminate the whole field of literature, more especially English literature.

For the kind of investigation undertaken by me, the advantages of my choice of author are conspicuous. His literary art is of the most definite and singular type. Theocritus was the creator and unrivalled exemplar of a distinct species of poetry: the Pastoral Idyll. His sentiments, his modes of expression, his attitude toward nature and toward humanity, his materials, and his architechtonics possess a distinction and a general appropriateness that make his influence quite definite and unmistakable. No ancient author has . . .

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