But if anything be already said in the defence of sweet poetry, all concurreth to the maintaining the heroical, which is not only a kind, but the best and most accomplished kind of poetry.
For Sir Philip Sidney, from whose Defence of Poetry (1595) this quotation comes, heroic poetry is the best and most accomplished kind of poetry, because it “doth not only teach and move to a truth, but teacheth and moveth to the most high and excellent truth." 1. “Truth” is a key term in Sidney's Defence of Poetry: if poetry is true, its “backbiters, ” who criticize poetry as a tissue of lies and fables, must be wrong. But with poetry of the highest kind — heroic poetry or epic — other charges can be refuted as well, in particular that poetry is “the nurse of abuse, infecting us with many pestilent desires.” Far from it: “For as the image of each action stirreth and instructeth the mind, so the lofty image of such worthies [as Achilles] most inflameth the mind with desire to be worthy, and informs with counsel how to be worthy." 2. Although Sidney follows tradition in emphasizing the moral value of serious poetry such as epic, his insistence on the effect and function of heroic poetry nevertheless strikes a decidedly modern note. Ethnographic accounts of the performance of heroic poetry generally stress the close link between this type of poetry and the cultural values of an ethnic group. In fact, Sidney was clearly aware of this ethnographic dimension. Earlier in his Defence he mentions the singing of heroic songs which he had experienced during his stay in Hungary in the summer of 1573: “In Hungary I have seen it the manner at all feasts, and other such meetings, to have____________________