The Epic - An Essay
by Lascelles Abercrombie (9781406703184)

The Epic - An Essay
Lascelles Abercrombie
Release Date: 01 March 2007
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 136
Category: Literature & Literary Studies
ISBN: 9781406703184
ISBN-10: 1406703184

The Epic an Essay By Lascelles Abercrombie. By the same Author Towards a Theory of Art Speculative Dialogues Four Short Plays Thomas Hardy A Critical Study Principles of English Prosody First published 1914 New Edition, reset 1922 CONDON MARTIN BECKER LTD. 1922 PREFACE As this essay is disposed to consider epic poetry as a species of literature, and not as a department of sociology or archeology or ethnology, the reader will not find it anything material to the Discussion which may be typified in those very interesting works, Gilbert Murrays The Rise of the Greek Epic and Andrew Langs The World of Honor The distinction between a literary and a scientific attitude to Homer and all other authentic epic is, I think, finally summed up in Mr. Mackays Lectures on Greek Poetry the following pages, at any rate, assume that this is so. Theories about epic origins were there fore indifferent to my purpose. Besides, I do not see the need for any theories I think it need only be said, of any epic poem whatever, that it was composed by a man and transmitted by men. But this is not to say that investigation of the authentic epic poets milieu may not be extremely profitable and for settling the preliminaries of this essay, I owe a 5 Preface great deal to Mr. Chadwicks profoundly interesting study, The Heroic Age though I daresay Mr. Chadwick would repudiate some of my conclusions. I must also acknowledge suggestions taken from Mr. Macneile Dixons learned and vigorous English Epic and Heroic Poetry and especially the assistance of Mr. John Clarks History of Epic Poetry. Mr. Clarks book is so thorough and so adequate that my own would certainly have been superfluous, were it not that I have taken aparticular point of view which his method seems to rule out a point of view which seemed well worth taking. This is my excuse, too, for considering only the most conspicuous instances of epic poetry. They have been discussed often enough but not often, so far as I know, primarily as stages of one continuous artistic development. BEGINNINGS invention of epic poetry corresponds with A a definite and, in the history of the world, often recurring state of society. 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. Most nations have passed through the same sort of chemistry. Before their hot racial elements have been thoroughly com pounded, and thence have cooled into the stable convenience of routine which is the material shape of civilization before this has firmly occurred, there has usually been what is called an Heroic Age. It is apt to be the hottest and most glowing stage of the process. So much is commonplace Exactly The Epic what causes the racial elements of a nation, with all their varying properties, to flash suddenly as it seems into the splendid incandescence of an Heroic Age, and thence to shift again into a comparatively rigid and perhaps comparatively lustreless civilization this difficult matter has been very nicely investigated of late, and to interesting, though not decided, result. But I may not concern myself with this nor even with the detailed characteristics, alleged or ascertained, of the Heroic Age of nations. It is enough for the purpose of this book that the name Heroic Age is a good one for this stage of the business it isobviously, and on the whole rightly, descriptive. For the stage displays the first vigorous expression, as the natural thing and without conspicuous restraint, of private individuality. In savagery, thought, sentiment, religion and social organization may be exceedingly complicated, full of the most subtle and strange relationships but they exist as complete and determined wholes, each part absolutely bound up with the rest. Analysis has never come near them...

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