Homer and the Epic

Homer and the Epic

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Homer and the Epic

Homer and the Epic

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Excerpt

The Homeric question, the question of the unity of authorship, is a literary problem, yet attempts are constantly made to solve it by other than literary methods. Here are two poems: does each bear the mark and stamp of a single authorship, in harmony of tone, in a preconceived catastrophe to which all tends, in dramatic consonance of character, in grandeur of style? These are matters of art, but they are often approached, not in the spirit of art, but in that of a cross-examining barrister, or of an historical student testing the accuracy of a statement of facts. The habit of minute analysis, as Signor Comparetti says, produces a mental short-sightedness, and Homeric commentators see the mote immensely magnified, but have no eyes for the beam. They pore over the hyssop on the wall, but are blind to the cedar of Lebanon. They pick out, or invent, blemishes all but invisible, discrepancies which must exist in every fictitious narrative, and they regard these as only to be explained by diversity of authorship, and by the redacting, patching, and combining into a mechanical whole, of lays, fragments, and mutilated epics wrought by many hands in many ages.

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