Page:Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica.djvu/17

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INTRODUCTION

could not be permanently successful, because the ubjects of which it treats — if susceptible of poetic treatment at all — were certainly not suited for epic treatment, where unity of action which will sustain interest, and to which each part should contribute, is absolutely necessary. While, therefore, an epic like the Odyssey is an organism and dramatic in structure, a work such as the Theogony is a merely artificial collocation of facts, and, at best, a pageant. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that from the first the Boeotian school is forced to season its matter with romantic episodes, and that later it tends more and more to revert (as in the Shield of Heracles' ) to the Homeric tradition.

The Boeotian School

How did the continental school of epic poetry arise? There is little definite material for an answer to this question, but the probability is that there were at least three contributory causes. First, it is likely that before the rise of the Ionian epos there existed in Boeotia a purely popular and indigenous poetry of a crude form: it comprised, we may suppose, versified proverbs and precepts relating to life in general, agricultural maxims, weather-lore, and the like. In this sense the Boeotian poetry may be taken to have its germ in maxims similar to our English

"Till May be out, ne'er cast a clout,"

or

"A rainbow in the morning
Is the Shepherd's warning."