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Thread: The Western Canon

  1. #31
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Oh, I meant in determining a Western tradition - Homer went two ways, we know, with Alexander, and Greek work in general was supported by Byzantines and Arabs when it was lost to the "West" - my choice of Dante is simply because he seems the first major major author who comes from a tradition that has separated itself from the rest of the world - for all the xenophobia in Herodotus, there is still an awareness and a dialog - there is no separate tradition, any more than there was during the Roman times when, though Roman authors were flourishing, Greek was still being read - by the time you hit Dante though, it's as if the world shuts off everything that doesn't follow a single trajectory, even if he can name Avicenna, who he more likely than not hadn't read.
    There are more Muslims in the Divine Comedy than just Avicenna. Averroes, Siger of Brabant, and Saladin come in for a share of honor. Let us not forget that after the Muslim conquest there was an Islamic presence in Europe from the 8th century to the 15th, particularly in Spain. Venice was a major sea port which had regular commerce with the Muslim world. There have been numerous papers published about the indirect influence of Islam on the Divine Comedy, including speculation that he might have borrowed certain incidents from the "Kitab al Miraj."

    I think Dante himself makes an argument for Homer being the center of the canon in the Divine Comedy. Though he's gone he's not forgotten.

    Homer is he, the poets' sovran lord;
    Next, Horace comes, the keen satirical;
    Ovid the third; and Lucan afterward.
    Just because they didn't have the text anymore doesn't mean they didn't know what was in it or the man's reputation in past ages. Petrarch even wrote a letter to Homer among his letters to famous dead people, so it shows his presence was felt, especially through Virgil. I might also remark that Ovid seems to have been more popular in the middle ages and during the Renaissance than Virgil was. To quote Petrarch himself from "An Excursion to Paris":
    But, lest you should be misled by my words, I hasten to add that there are no Virgils here, although many Ovids, so that you would say that the latter author was justified in his reliance upon his genius or the affection of posterity, when he placed at the end of his Metamorphoses that audacious prophecy where he ventures to claim that as far as the power of Rome shall extend, - nay, as far as the very name of Roman shall penetrate in a conquered world, - so widely shall his works be read by enthusiastic admirers.
    It seems as though Virgil has always been more admired than liked.


    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    It's the same way how 19th century authors "discovered" that there was a huge amount of excellent literature written outside of Western Europe - oh my god, those Muslims can write!
    I've found that most well read people seem to be aware of Firdawsi and the Mahabharata at least since the late 1700s. There was a flood of interest around the time that Goethe was imitating Hafiz with his West-Eastern Divan. This fascination with the far away and exotic seems to be an inspiration for such Enlightenment writings as Montesquieu's Persian Letters(1721). Sir William Jones takes up the torch later in the century translating all manner of Persian, Sanskrit, and Mandarin works, really doing some pioneering work in the area of Oriental Studies. However, there had been small chairs in language departments for Oriental Studies going back to the Renaissance, and I know that Christian missionaries were in those regions since at least the late 1500s. So you can't say we completely ignored them until the 19th century.


    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    - just wait until you drag that all the way to the far reaches of the world - Japan essentially brought it to them when they defeated Russia at war, finally ending the idea of the West (I believe in the united States itself Japanese people won at court the distinction of being "white" people, though their literature didn't emerge well until the 1950s into the mass population, where Haiku became a dominant form.
    I don't know that you can claim there was no interest in Japanese or Eastern literature before the 40's. Ezra Pound came out with his translation of Li Po "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter" in 1915. He tried to translate some other Chinese poems, with varying success. Arthur Waley made a prominent career out of translating Chinese and Japanese literature around the same time. He publishes The Tale of Genji in the 20s and 30s. The Harvard Classics came out in 1910 and included the works of Confucius, the Koran, and the Bhagavad-Gita. The Chinese play The Orphan of Chao was popular in Voltaire's day. Arthur and Edmond Warner translated the complete Shahnameh into verse in 1905. Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel Prize winner, translated Water Margin into English in 1933. Rabindranath Tagor, an Indian, won the Nobel Prize in 1913. Ganguli translated the complete Mahabharata into English in 1896. Goethe talks about how much he admired Kalidasa, and you can see the influence of Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection on his Faust.

    Before the 19th century, can you see the influence of European literature on China? What impact did Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, or Goethe make in those circles?
    Last edited by mortalterror; 04-10-2011 at 01:51 AM.
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  2. #32
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    You can see both the Old Testament and the Bible, as well as sources of culture going as far back as Rome - the connection was there - as for Shakespeare, he is one author, in a rather isolationist tradition, as for Goethe, he is a late 18th / 19th century author, so his presence in China cannot be said to have been justified before the 19th century - as for Homer, who can say, though I know for a fact Greek culture, perhaps not literature directly, had influence on China itself. Fashion, art, music, poetics, food - all of that came, but not from Western Europe of course - hell, Russia was part of China for a hundred years - the last Mongol battles were well into the middle east, bringing the plague that was traditionally credited with kicking off the renaissance. That isn't to say that there wasn't ethnocentricity - but entertainment was highly multi-cultural way up until the Ming dynasty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    There are more Muslims in the Divine Comedy than just Avicenna. Averroes, Siger of Brabant, and Saladin come in for a share of honor. Let us not forget that after the Muslim conquest there was an Islamic presence in Europe from the 8th century to the 15th, particularly in Spain. Venice was a major sea port which had regular commerce with the Muslim world. There have been numerous papers published about the indirect influence of Islam on the Divine Comedy, including speculation that he might have borrowed certain incidents from the "Kitab al Miraj."
    Well, Saladin the noble is more western than eastern. His fame decline and only him as the "great enemy" surived, being rediscovered much latter and a new cult to him was back on him land. Pretty much like the 1001 Nights. Albeit arabian, it is more western than eastern, in the sense their huge status is the history of western translations. In the end, like all generalization the notion of canon cann't survive critical analyses, but then, concepts like Canon, western culture, tradition cann't be trully limited, they somehow exist, but we affect only the center.

    I think Dante himself makes an argument for Homer being the center of the canon in the Divine Comedy. Though he's gone he's not forgotten.
    Dante basically build a canon. Let's be honest, everyone build a canon. That we agree Dante is there is a miracle. Even Dante and Shakespeare - if right now the format of literature is prose and novels, how they are more relevat to the canon than Cervantes (who by the way, had a more continuous reading than those two)? In a way, the formation of a canon can be interesting, we can pick details here and there, a good excuse for us to talk about Ovid without someone having a fit about it being out of place. But we will study the canon? I doubt so.



    Just because they didn't have the text anymore doesn't mean they didn't know what was in it or the man's reputation in past ages. Petrarch even wrote a letter to Homer among his letters to famous dead people, so it shows his presence was felt, especially through Virgil. I might also remark that Ovid seems to have been more popular in the middle ages and during the Renaissance than Virgil was. To quote Petrarch himself from "An Excursion to Paris":


    It seems as though Virgil has always been more admired than liked.
    Virgil was always the perfect model. Let's face it, Ovid is much more interesting, he is richer - he do tell stories. Without him, the classic myths would have other format (so he basic build a canon of them), he goes more sentimental than Virgil (Dido or not), he is funnier, he is sensual, he wrote more (Or more has survived), he laughed of his own flaws. Everyone wanted to be like Virgil, but write like Ovid. Dante picks Virgil, but it is not Virgil who fills his path, it is Ovid, because Ovid who told all the stories of the many people Dante placed in hell. But it is Virgil, that Dante faces as superior. Maybe it is like Dante or Bocaccio or Dante and Petrarch. Not many Dantes (how much real epics like the Comedy?) ,but hundred of Petrarchs, who is basically the lyrical model for Sonnets in the world... Or many Bocaccios...




    I've found that most well read people seem to be aware of Firdawsi and the Mahabharata at least since the late 1700s. There was a flood of interest around the time that Goethe was imitating Hafiz with his West-Eastern Divan. This fascination with the far away and exotic seems to be an inspiration for such Enlightenment writings as Montesquieu's Persian Letters(1721). Sir William Jones takes up the torch later in the century translating all manner of Persian, Sanskrit, and Mandarin works, really doing some pioneering work in the area of Oriental Studies. However, there had been small chairs in language departments for Oriental Studies going back to the Renaissance, and I know that Christian missionaries were in those regions since at least the late 1500s. So you can't say we completely ignored them until the 19th century.
    Camoes had a chinese lover, so he knew it. But lets face it, Japan killed occidentals going near it. Hindu-Indian influence was reasonably spread, budhists legends, gypsies, fables arrived on europe since middle age.

    I see only a problem with that is trying to imply the influence of China over europe (or vice-versa) is chronological. From the momment the Bible is accepted, there is a continual influence from orient... In the end, such questions is accepting the artificial aspect of the canon. For example, Garcia Lorca is clearly under muslim influence. His Duende is from there. He did not had influence from Muslims of XX century, but from Andaluzia past.




    I don't know that you can claim there was no interest in Japanese or Eastern literature before the 40's. Ezra Pound came out with his translation of Li Po "The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter" in 1915. He tried to translate some other Chinese poems, with varying success. Arthur Waley made a prominent career out of translating Chinese and Japanese literature around the same time. He publishes The Tale of Genji in the 20s and 30s. The Harvard Classics came out in 1910 and included the works of Confucius, the Koran, and the Bhagavad-Gita. The Chinese play The Orphan of Chao was popular in Voltaire's day. Arthur and Edmond Warner translated the complete Shahnameh into verse in 1905. Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel Prize winner, translated Water Margin into English in 1933. Rabindranath Tagor, an Indian, won the Nobel Prize in 1913. Ganguli translated the complete Mahabharata into English in 1896. Goethe talks about how much he admired Kalidasa, and you can see the influence of Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection on his Faust.
    Maybe he means as constant editions. Of course, Japanese culture after II war spread on american strongly, like never before, but Voltaire admired chinese philosophy, Schopenhauer too and he also came with Budhism, which arrived on Tolstoy too. In Brazil, japanese hai-kai magazines were present in the early XX century and the modernists of the first two decades worked with it. I do not know which is the point: Africa is more western politically wise and only recently there is a movement to read african authors. Before it, what we had ? Arabian-african literature. And Africa is just there and here.

  4. #34
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Not many Dantes (how much real epics like the Comedy?) ,but hundred of Petrarchs, who is basically the lyrical model for Sonnets in the world... Or many Bocaccios...
    Off the top of my head I can't think of many major authors who wrote like Dante (excepting Chaucer) until Blake. At least they don't seem to be imitating the Divine Comedy. Maybe his other poems have more imitators, especially in Italian. What about it JBI?

    Boccaccio and Petrarch had an even larger effect on Chaucer what with Canterbury Tales being a reworked poetic version of the Decameron and him stealing sonnets out of Petrarch for Troilus and Criseyde. Everyone and their mother started writing sonnets after that and Boccaccio became the model for short stories and Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron. On the one hand, Dante popularizes Italian as a language for poetry, but on the other Boccaccio and Petrarch are the major humanists who kick off the Renaissance. All three are highly influential, but who doubts that Dante is the better writer?

    Surely, the canon changes with time. But I think there is still some manner of constancy, at least for the very greatest works. So shouldn't we call the canon, that which is canonical which does not change? At this point, I think it would be very difficult to displace Homer, the Bible, and Shakespeare. Everything else may still be up for grabs.

    I'm reminded of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great English critic. In his time, Pope was almost what Shakespeare is in ours. And Joseph Addison's play Cato was the wonder of a century. Johnson called Dr. John Arbuthnot the finest man of letters in his day, and who remembers him now? Who remembers Johnson? If you look back upon his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, you will find a great many names which are no longer familiar. Of course, it can't be said that he left a single name of consequence out. This begs the question, in the creation of a canon, is it a graver sin to leave off a name of some worthy than to include one that may be unworthy?
    Last edited by mortalterror; 04-10-2011 at 04:35 AM.
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  5. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    You are seriously ignoring comentaries in the cover means square rat-***? It is just commun editiorial process to select friends to do it. It is not a text book, academic book, it is just a book, not deep or special.
    Normally I'd agree with you, but Bloom gets positive comments from *really* heavy-hitters like Frank Kermode, A.S. Byatt, Cristopher Ricks, Malcolm Bradbury, James Wood, Peter Ackroyd... These are not "friends", these are the gatekeepers of literature. You can't dismiss Bloom's book with unsupported comments like "senile" or "not deep or special".

  6. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Much of Bloom's analysis is a little iffy. I think he overestimates the importance of Wallace Stevens because he was a personal friend. He also overestimates his anxiety of influence theory, which has a grain of truth in it, past all reasonable bounds. I think he mentioned on the Charlie Rose Show that he thought Hadji Murat was Tolstoy's best book...
    "Think he mentioned"? I doubt he said it was "Tolstoy's best book".

    He praises it to the heights in "The Western Canon"- saying it's "the best story in the world" and his "personal touchstone for the sublime of prose fiction", and goes on to discuss it in some detail.

    But "best book?"

    I doubt he would say that... it's too short to compete with the "loose and baggy" magnificence of W&P and AK. In fact it usually comes with his six other short novels in a book that is still smaller than W&P!

    Bloom is very good on Tostoy, he inspired me to read beyond "the two big books". The big problem about Tolstoy is his turn to extreme Christianity after AK, which put me off reading beyond AK. Bloom, thankfully, turned me back on to reading late Tolstoy - all the short novels are wonderful.

    I'm reading Resurrection at the moment and I think Bloom is spot on when he says, "So powerful and sustained is Tolstoy's narrative gift that his sermonizing digressions do not disfigure his fiction much or render it tendentious."

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    "Think he mentioned"? I doubt he said it was "Tolstoy's best book".
    If you want, you can see where he mentions it at the tail end of the interview he gave when The Western Canon came out. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/7132 Skip to about 19:35 in the video to where Charlie starts reading his list of 26 canonical authors and questions him directly about Hadji Murat. Bloom says something about it being important in light of modern tensions in Chechnya. I don't own a copy of The Western Canon and it's been years since I read anything out of it; so I can't quote you anything he says there.
    Last edited by mortalterror; 04-10-2011 at 07:36 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Off the top of my head I can't think of many major authors who wrote like Dante (excepting Chaucer) until Blake. At least they don't seem to be imitating the Divine Comedy. Maybe his other poems have more imitators, especially in Italian. What about it JBI?

    Boccaccio and Petrarch had an even larger effect on Chaucer what with Canterbury Tales being a reworked poetic version of the Decameron and him stealing sonnets out of Petrarch for Troilus and Criseyde. Everyone and their mother started writing sonnets after that and Boccaccio became the model for short stories and Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron. On the one hand, Dante popularizes Italian as a language for poetry, but on the other Boccaccio and Petrarch are the major humanists who kick off the Renaissance. All three are highly influential, but who doubts that Dante is the better writer?

    Surely, the canon changes with time. But I think there is still some manner of constancy, at least for the very greatest works. So shouldn't we call the canon, that which is canonical which does not change? At this point, I think it would be very difficult to displace Homer, the Bible, and Shakespeare. Everything else may still be up for grabs.

    I'm reminded of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great English critic. In his time, Pope was almost what Shakespeare is in ours. And Joseph Addison's play Cato was the wonder of a century. Johnson called Dr. John Arbuthnot the finest man of letters in his day, and who remembers him now? Who remembers Johnson? If you look back upon his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, you will find a great many names which are no longer familiar. Of course, it can't be said that he left a single name of consequence out. This begs the question, in the creation of a canon, is it a graver sin to leave off a name of some worthy than to include one that may be unworthy?
    For the question addressed to me, Dante's metre is the Italian iambic pentameter or alexandrine though we credit Shakespeare and not the Earl of Surrey. There are traces elsewhere though, his tercets making there way into other places, such as Shelley.

    Though, it can be said that epics in general lack imitators that succeed - Virgil has no imitator but translators, who is writing in the style of Milton? what about Homer? Surely Goethe's Faust has its imitators? I did read somewhere that there were Virgil-era rival epics, though none survived because of the prowess of Virgil - perhaps it is true. The only real writing in the style of is Pope following Dryden, and they are close, and yet so distant. Then again, Spenser plays with it a bit in the Faerie Queene, as he does with Virgil in the rest (book three in particular is a nice game with Ariosto, the most imitated of all the epic-poets arguably).
    Last edited by JBI; 04-10-2011 at 07:50 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Normally I'd agree with you, but Bloom gets positive comments from *really* heavy-hitters like Frank Kermode, A.S. Byatt, Cristopher Ricks, Malcolm Bradbury, James Wood, Peter Ackroyd... These are not "friends", these are the gatekeepers of literature. You can't dismiss Bloom's book with unsupported comments like "senile" or "not deep or special".
    Gatekeeper? seriously that's a ridiculous notion, how can a single individual be a gatekeeper, much less they.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Though, it can be said that epics in general lack imitators that succeed - Virgil has no imitator but translators, who is writing in the style of Milton? what about Homer? Surely Goethe's Faust has its imitators? I did read somewhere that there were Virgil-era rival epics, though none survived because of the prowess of Virgil - perhaps it is true. The only real writing in the style of is Pope following Dryden, and they are close, and yet so distant. Then again, Spenser plays with it a bit in the Faerie Queene, as he does with Virgil in the rest (book three in particular is a nice game with Ariosto, the most imitated of all the epic-poets arguably).
    As far as Virgil's successful imitators go there's Lucan's Pharsalia and Statius' Thebaid, both of which Dante applauds in the Divine Comedy: mentioning Lucan in the same tercet as he mentions Homer and Ovid, then making Statius a major character and guide through Purgatory. I think that Milton is writing after the style of Virgil. To a certain extent so are Tasso, Camoes, and Spenser. Petrarch, like Dante, credits much of his poetic language to Virgil, though his prose is based on Cicero. So Homer and Virgil definitely have imitators, and they usually happen to be the greatest writers of all time.

    I'm not sure what you mean about Virgilian era epics not surviving. We don't have Ennius' Annals, which was the canonical Latin text before Virgil's Aeneid, but Horace and Ovid were both contemporary with Virgil and their work survives. We have Lucretius epic poem De Rerum Natura, Statius, and Lucan's works, of course. We have the texts of two crummy epic poems by Italicus and Flaccus.

    I think you might be confusing them with the lost epics that filled out the rest of the Trojan story around the Iliad and the Odyssey: The Cypria, The Nosti, Telegony, etc. Virgil actually borrowed from them, especially for Book 2, to write the Aeneid. However, it's likely that these other epics weren't anything special since Hesiod lived and wrote at the same time as Homer and we have his epics (which is not to say that only the worst die out).

    Come to think of it, Apollonius imitates Homer a bit in the Argonautica, which really deserves more love.

    I don't know that I'd claim Ariosto as the most imitated of epic poets. Surely, Spenser, Tasso, and Milton may lay claim to him but each of them have greater fathers still, and who else uses him for a model?
    Last edited by mortalterror; 04-10-2011 at 08:22 AM.
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    I meant in that sort of nationalist vein that Virgil was written in, that is, the founding of Rome myth, of course there are other writers. Milton may be imitating Virgil, but he is different, as are the Portuguese and Spanish poets before him. direct influence, and close imitation is far rarer, the closest being Spenser, who tried to mold the myth of himself as following the pattern of Virgil's career and life.

    As for Ariosto, was it not that every Renaissance nobleman had a Trojan ancestor?

    The exact imitation of an epic work though, that is something rare. Virgil is using a homeric model, but he is not imitating Homer. Very few canonical authors imitate.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    I meant in that sort of nationalist vein that Virgil was written in, that is, the founding of Rome myth, of course there are other writers. Milton may be imitating Virgil, but he is different, as are the Portuguese and Spanish poets before him. direct influence, and close imitation is far rarer, the closest being Spenser, who tried to mold the myth of himself as following the pattern of Virgil's career and life.

    As for Ariosto, was it not that every Renaissance nobleman had a Trojan ancestor?

    The exact imitation of an epic work though, that is something rare. Virgil is using a Homeric model, but he is not imitating Homer. Very few canonical authors imitate.
    Perhaps we are having a misunderstanding about what each of us believes to be the definition of imitation. When I say that Virgil imitates Homer I mean that he uses dactylic hexameter, the first half of his poem parallels point for point the Odyssey and the second half does the same for the Iliad. He fills his poem with characters, events, themes, and diction meant to evoke the earlier poet. Virgil had previously imitated Hesiod in the style and subject matter of the Georgics and likewise imitated Theocritus when he wrote his Eclogues.

    Milton imitates Virgil 1) in his latinate grammar and rhetoric. 2) in the 12 book structure of Paradise Lost. Spenser likewise structured his epic into 12 books of 12 cantos each to draw the comparison to Virgil's Aeneid, whether he survived to finish it is immaterial. Camoes is imitating Virgil by trying to write a heroic epic glorifying the Portuguese people.

    Just look at how each introduction is reminiscent of the earlier poems.

    Anger be now your song, immortal one,
    Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous,
    that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
    and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
    leaving so many dead men-carrion
    for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
    Iliad Fitzgerald translation

    Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
    of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
    the wanderer, harried for years on end,
    after he plundered the stronghold
    on the proud height of Troy.
    He saw the townlands
    and learned the minds of many distant men,
    and weathered many bitter nights and days
    in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
    to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
    But not by will nor valor could he save them,
    for their own recklessness destroyed them all —
    children and fools, they killed and feasted on
    the cattle of Lord HÍlios, the Sun,
    and he who moves all day through the heaven
    took from their eyes the dawn of their return.
    Odyssey Fitzgerald translation

    Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate,
    And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
    Expell'd and exil'd, left the Trojan shore.
    Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
    And in the doubtful war, before he won
    The Latian realm, and built the destin'd town;
    His banish'd gods restor'd to rites divine,
    And settled sure succession in his line,
    From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
    And the long glories of majestic Rome.
    O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
    What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate;
    For what offense the Queen of Heav'n began
    To persecute so brave, so just a man;
    Involv'd his anxious life in endless cares,
    Expos'd to wants, and hurried into wars!
    Can heav'nly minds such high resentment show,
    Or exercise their spite in human woe?
    Aeneid Dryden translation

    My intention is to tell of bodies changed
    To different forms; the gods, who made the changes,
    Will help me-or I hope so-with a poem
    That runs from the world's beginning to our own days.
    Metamorphoses Humphries translation

    Wars worse than civil on Emathian plains,
    And crime let loose we sing; how Rome's high race
    Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;
    Armies akin embattled, with the force
    Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;
    And burst asunder, to the common guilt,
    A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met,
    Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.

    Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust
    To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome?
    Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still,
    Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled,
    To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon?
    Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home?
    What lands, what oceans might have been the prize
    Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife!
    ...
    First of such deeds I purpose to unfold
    The causes -- task immense -- what drove to arms
    A maddened nation, and from all the world
    Struck peace away.
    Pharsalia by Lucan tr. Ridley

    I sing of knights and ladies, of love and arms, of courtly chivalry, of courageous deeds- all from the time when the Moors crossed the sea from Africa and wrought havoc in France. I shall tell of the anger, the fiery rage of young Agramant their king, whos boast it was that he would avenge himself on Charles, Emperor of Rome, for King Trojan's death. I shall tell of Orlando, too, setting down what has never before been recounted in prose or rhyme: of Orlando driven raving mad by love- and he a man who had been always esteemed for his great prudence-
    Orlando Furioso Waldman translation

    I sing the reverent armies, and that Chief
    who set the great tomb of our Savior free;
    much he performed with might and judgement, much
    he suffered in the glorious victory;
    in vain hell rose athwart his path, in vain
    two continents combined in mutiny.
    Heaven graced him with it's favor and restored
    his straying men to the banner of the Lord.

    O Muse, who do not string a garland of
    the fading laurel fronds of Helicon,
    but far in heaven among the blessed choirs
    wreathe deathless stars into a golden crown,
    breathe into my heart the fire of heavenly love,
    illuminate my song, and if I have sewn
    embroideries of the truth in any place,
    I ask forgiveness for their lesser grace.
    Jerusalem Delivered Tasso tr. Esolen

    ARMS and the Heroes, who from Lisbon’s shore,
    Thro’ seas where sail was never spread before,
    Beyond where Ceylon lifts her spicy breast,
    And waves her woods above the wat’ry waste,
    With prowess more than human forc’d their way
    To the fair kingdoms of the rising day:
    What wars they wag’d, what seas, what dangers pass’d,
    What glorious empire crown’d their toils at last,
    Vent’rous I sing, on soaring pinions borne,
    And all my country’s wars the song adorn;
    The Lusiad by Camoes tr. Mickle

    Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
    As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
    Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
    For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
    And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
    Whose prayses having slept in silence long,
    Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
    To blazon broade emongst her learned throng:
    Fierce warres and faithfull loves shall moralize my song.

    Helpe then, O holy Virgin chiefe of nine,
    Thy weaker Novice to performe thy will;
    Lay forth out of thine everlasting scryne
    The antique rolles, which there lye hidden still,
    Of Faerie knights and fairest Tanaquill,
    Whom that most noble Briton Prince so long
    Sought through the world, and suffered so much ill,
    That I must rue his undeserved wrong:
    O helpe thou my weake wit, and sharpen my dull tong.
    The Faerie Queene Spenser

    OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
    Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
    Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
    Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
    Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
    Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
    That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
    In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
    Rose out of Chaos. Or if Sion Hill
    Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
    Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
    Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
    That with no middle flight intends to soar
    Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues
    Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
    And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
    Before all Temples th' upright heart and pure,
    Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
    Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
    Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abyss
    And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is dark
    Illumine, what is low raise and support;
    That to the highth of this great Argument
    I may assert th' Eternal Providence,
    And justifie the wayes of God to men.
    Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view
    Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
    Mov'd our Grand Parents in that happy State,
    Favour'd of Heav'n so highly, to fall off
    From their Creator, and transgress his Will
    For one restraint, Lords of the World besides?
    Who first seduc'd them to that fowl revolt?
    Paradise Lost Milton

    WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,
    What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things,
    I sing -- This Verse to C---, Muse! is due;
    This, ev'n Belinda may vouchfafe to view:
    Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise,
    If She inspire, and He approve my Lays.
    Say what strange Motive, Goddess! cou'd compel
    A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?
    Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplor'd,
    Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
    And dwells such Rage in softest Bosoms then?
    And lodge such daring Souls in Little Men?
    The Rape of the Lock Pope
    Last edited by mortalterror; 04-10-2011 at 05:14 PM.
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  13. #43
    JCamillo and JBI, I know that influence isn't a simple thing and that I was being simplistic. I wasn't trying to say that Poe hasn't been widely read; merely that I see Whitman's revolutionary way of dealing with self, country, God and breaking with form as far more prevalent in the poetry of the last 100 years than Poe's work. But I may be wrong.

    As for the Joyce and Dostoevsky bit. Frank Budgen in his biography James joyce and the Making of Ulysses reports Joyce dismissing Dostoevsky (as well as Balzac, from memory) as poor renderers of real life and melodramatic, comparing them ill-favouredly with Tolstoy and Flaubert respectedly.

  14. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    I'm reminded of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great English critic. In his time, Pope was almost what Shakespeare is in ours. And Joseph Addison's play Cato was the wonder of a century. Johnson called Dr. John Arbuthnot the finest man of letters in his day, and who remembers him now? Who remembers Johnson? If you look back upon his Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, you will find a great many names which are no longer familiar. Of course, it can't be said that he left a single name of consequence out. This begs the question, in the creation of a canon, is it a graver sin to leave off a name of some worthy than to include one that may be unworthy?
    I think it's better to do the latter. If you leave someone worthy off you'll be branded an idiot; if you pick someone out of left-field you at least have a chance of seeming merely eccentric. Johnson had his hand forced on a number of those eminent poets though, didn't he? I remember reading that as much of his employment was based around trying to find good things in mundane writers as it was discussing those he admired. I still love Addison though. I recommend his 2-3 page rumination Westminster Abbey to anyone.

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Normally I'd agree with you, but Bloom gets positive comments from *really* heavy-hitters like Frank Kermode, A.S. Byatt, Cristopher Ricks, Malcolm Bradbury, James Wood, Peter Ackroyd... These are not "friends", these are the gatekeepers of literature. You can't dismiss Bloom's book with unsupported comments like "senile" or "not deep or special".
    They all work for the market, they would all write nice to dude (they do not need to be friends, they all are up with the defense of classics, so they would hardly go against an academic critic trying to make a popular run. It is just academic courtesy. Like Dawkins complimenting Gould books, even if they disagreed about what was said.

    And I read his book. It is not even theoretical and I never found Agnst of influence that original. His "enemies" Derridas and cia. are much more original than him, they do pointed to directions that nobody else looked then. Bloom is just reviewing Eliot, Borges and other champions of aeshetics.

    Conartist:

    Joyce, of course, drolls over Flaubert like crazy. It is his man. But he does not dismiss Dostoieviksy (how so, if the inner monologue, psychological narratives own so much to the russian), he just put him beneath Tolstoy and Flaubert. In terms of linguistic, there is of course, no comparassion, Tolstoy is superior. I have an theory, they all actually prefer Tchekhov who united the merits of Dostoievisky, Tolstoy (and even Gogol), but since Tchekhov is a short stories writer, and has not War and Peace or Brothers K on his pocket...

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