Only by courtesy can it be said to be a study in comparative literature. I am interested in poetry. I have attempted to examine certain forces, elements or qualities which were potent in the mediaeval literature of the Latin tongues, and are, as I believe, still potent in our own. The history of an art is the history of masterwork, not of failures, or of mediocrity. The omniscient historian would display the masterpieces, their causes and their inter-relation. The study of literature is hero-worship. It is a refinement, or, if you will, a perversion of that primitive religion. I have floundered somewhat ineffectually through the slough of philology, but I look forward to the time when it will be possible for the lover of poetry to study poetry even the poetry of recondite times and places without burdening himself with the rags of morphology, epigraphy, privatleben and the kindred delights of the archaelogical or scholarly mind. I make no plea for superficiality. But I consider it quite as justifiable that a man should wish to study the poetry and nothing but the poetry of a certain period, as that he should study its antiquities, phonetics or palaeography and be, at the end of his labours, incapable of discerning a refinement of style or a banality of diction.
(Typographical errors above are due to OCR software and don't occur in the book.)
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