Tuesday, September 22, 2015


European Poetry Grows Up

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 37:
Vicit iter durum pietas; with this conception Virgil has added a new dimension to poetry. I have read that his Aeneas, so guided by dreams and omens, is hardly the shadow of a man beside Homer's Achilles. But a man, an adult, is precisely what he is: Achilles had been little more than a passionate boy. You may, of course, prefer the poetry of spontaneous passion to the poetry of passion at war with vocation, and finally reconciled. Every man to his taste. But we must not blame the second for not being the first. With Virgil European poetry grows up.
Id., p. 39:
'Twixt miserable longing for the present land
And the far realms that call them by the fates' command.
                                                                            (v, 656.)
It will be seen that in these two lines Virgil, with no intention of allegory, has described once and for all the very quality of most human life as it is experienced by any one who has not yet risen to holiness or sunk to animality. It is not thanks to the Fourth Eclogue alone that he has become almost a great Christian poet. In making his one legend symbolical of the destiny of Rome, he has, willy-nilly, symbolized the destiny of Man. His poem is 'great' in a sense in which no poem of the same type as the Iliad can ever be great.

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