look back and over

Time, in fact, effects that for a fine poem which distance performs for a fine view. When we look at a magnificent city from some height that is above and beyond it, we are sufficiently removed to lose sight of its little alleys, blind lanes, and paltry habitations; we can discover nothing but its lofty spires, monuments, and towers, its palaces and its sanctuaries. And so it is with a poem, when we look back upon it through a long interval of time. We have been in the habit of hearing only the finest passages, because these only are repeated; the flats and failings we either have not read, or do not remember. The finest passages of Milton, or of Shakespeare, can be rehearsed by many who have never waded through all the pages of either. Dacier observed that Homer was a thousand years more beautiful than Virgil, as if Calliope traced the etymology of her name to her wrinkles, rather than her dimples. Voltaire carried this opinion so far, that he seems to infer that distance of time might make a poet still more interesting by making him invisible; for he asserts that the reputation of Dante will continually be growing greater and greater, because there is nobody now that reads him. This sentiment must be a source of great consolation to many of our modern poets, who have already lived to see themselves at this point of greatness, and may in some sort be said to have survived their own apotheosis.

Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon: or, Many things in few words
(London: Williams Tegg. 1866)

1 comment:

matt at shadow of iris said...

If I only put on my blog the poems I really thought passed muster, the whole blog would be empty. Maybe the thing is just to write and write and write. No, that can't be it.