There is only one thing which can master the perplexed stuff of epic material into unity; and that is, an ability to see in particular human experience some significant symbolism of man's general destiny.
But the gravest difficulty, and perhaps the most important, in poetry meant solely for recitation, is the difficulty of achieving verbal beauty, or rather of making verbal beauty tell.
The reason can only be this: heroic poetry depends on an heroic age, and an age is heroic because of what it is, not because of what it does.
Epic poetry exhibits life in some great symbolic attitude. It cannot strictly be said to symbolize life itself, but always some manner of life.
The balance of private good and general welfare is at the bottom of civilized morals; but the morals of the Heroic Age are founded on individuality, and on nothing else.
The first epics were intended for recitation; the literary epic is meant to be read.
An epic is not made by piecing together a set of heroic lays, adjusting their discrepancies and making them into a continuous narrative.
No poet will ever take the written word as a substitute for the spoken word; he knows that it is on the spoken word, and the spoken word only, that his art is founded.
The Border Ballads, for instance, and the Robin Hood Ballads, clearly suppose a state of society which is nothing but a very circumscribed and not very important heroic age.
That is to say, epic poetry has been invented many times and independently; but, as the needs which prompted the invention have been broadly similar, so the invention itself has been.
The epic poet has behind him a tradition of matter and a tradition of style; and that is what every other poet has behind him too; only, for the epic poet, tradition is rather narrower, rather more strictly compelling.
It seems difficult, sometimes, to believe that there was a time when sentiments now become habitual, sentiments that imply not only the original imperative of conduct, but the original metaphysic of living, were by no means altogether habitual.
If epic poetry is a definite species, the sagas do not fall within it.
Poetry is the work of poets, not of peoples or communities; artistic creation can never be anything but the production of an individual mind.
It is more difficult to keep the attention of hearers than of readers.
For un-subscribe please check the mail footer.