Every now and then in our reading we come suddenly face to face with, first things, the very elemental sources beyond which no man may go. There is a distinct satisfaction in dealing with such beginnings, and, when they are those of literature, the sense of freshness is nothing short of inspiring. To share the same lofty outlook, to breathe the same high air with those who first sensed a whole era of creative thoughts, is the next thing to being the gods chosen medium for those primal expressions. All this is not to say that the epic is the oldest form of literary expression, but it is the expression of the oldest literary ideas, for, even when the epic is not at all primitive in form, it deals essentially with elemental moods and ideals. Epical poetry is poetic not because it is metrical and conformative to rhythmical standards, though it usually is both, but it is poetry because of the high sweep of its emotional outlook, the bigness of its thought, the untamed passion of its language, and the musical flow of its utterance. Here, then, we have a veritable source book of the oldest ideas of the race; but,not.only that we are also led into the penetralia of the earliest thought of many separate nations, for when the epicis national, it is true ta the earliest genius of the people whose spirit it depicts. To be sure, much of literataye, and paraculariy the literature of the epic, is true rather to the tone of a nation than to its literal history by which I mean that Achilles was more really a Greek hero than any Greek who ever lived, because he was the apotheosis of Greek chivalry, and as such was the expression of the Greeks ra,ther than merely a Greek. The Iliad and the Odyssey are not merely epics of Greece they are Greek. This is an age of story-telling.
(Typographical errors above are due to OCR software and don't occur in the book.)
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Forgotten Books is a publisher of historica