STUDIES IN VIRGIL

CHAPTER I
THE AGE AND THE MAN

Οι + ’′δαμεν γὰρ ὅτι πa + ́ + ̀σα ἡ κτίσις συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει. -- ST. PAUL.

IT is a commonplace that to understand a poet we need some knowledge of his time and place. His mind will take colour from his surroundings, by sympathy or antipathy. He will share at least some of the limitations of his age and generation, while, in common with his contemporaries, he belongs to a stage of moral and intellectual development in advance of his predecessors. At the same time it must be remembered that a great poet will generally also be in advance of his contemporaries in the fullness with which he realizes the life of his day, with its problems and its solutions of those problems, and he will represent in some measure, whether he means it or not, the standpoint of a later age1. He will have grasped all that his own age has to say, and he will feel more than other men the weak points in a position with which they are satisfied. Even if he does not consciously feel these weak points, they will often be brought out by his work. For while a great poet's work will rise to a region of feeling and insight where he has to handle things of eternal and universal significance, and where we forget that he is a poet of a certain time and place, so truly does he present to us the permanent and common life of man, yet even in such a region will his own age claim him, as he develops those aspects of truth which are wanting to the common thought of his day. Not that the poet is didactic, or consciously a preacher of forgotten

____________________
1
'The artist,' said Schiller, 'it is true, is the son of his time; but pity for him, if he is its pupil, or even its favourite.'

-1-

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