THE GOLDEN ODES
THE lectures which I have hitherto given from this Chair have dealt, at one or another point, and in one or another aspect, with a single subject. That subject is the progress of poetry within what may be called broadly the European or Western civilisation; within the world from which we directly inherit, and to which we primarily belong. But that world is not the whole world. Wherever the human mind is, it strikes inward and outward; it brings with itself the processes of reflection and creation: it seeks instinctively after some interpretation and pattern of life in the forms of patterned and interpretative speech; and the product of that instinct is poetry.
Within the closed field of European poetry there is indeed room enough to expatiate: and for English students and artists the main current of progress to be traced in history is the current which passed, in Gray's brief and pregnant phrase, from Greece to Italy, and from Italy to England. But that current is neither single nor continuous. It is true that the more we study it, the more we are impressed with the element of continuity in it. Of no age in poetry, as of no single poem, can we say that it is isolated and unaccountable, that it is a thing which happens. That doctrine has been laid down, not merely of poetry but of all art, by artists whose opinions are not negligible. But it is merely the reaction from another doctrine which is