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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.
The first epics were intended for recitation; the literary epic is meant to be read.
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.
The epic poet collaborates with the spirit of his time in the composition of his work. That is, if he is successful; the time may refuse to work with him, but he may not refuse to work with his time.
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.
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.
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.
Poetry is the work of poets, not of peoples or communities; artistic creation can never be anything but the production of an individual mind.
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.
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.
It is more difficult to keep the attention of hearers than of readers.
If epic poetry is a definite species, the sagas do not fall within it.
For the stage displays the first vigorous expression, as the natural thing and without conspicuous restraint, of private individuality.
All I Want Is You
Sister In Law
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