Homer vs. Vergil (SPOILER: Vergil Loses)

William Gladstone, Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age:

“It appears, however, as if this great and splendid Poet, being thrown out of his true bearings in regard to all the deeper sources of interest on which an epic writer must depend, such as religion, patriotism, and liberty, became consequently reckless, alike in major and in minor matters, as to all the inner harmonies of his work, and contented himself with the most unwearied and fastidious labours in its outward elaboration, where he could give scope to his extraordinary powers of versification and of diction without fear of stumbling upon anything unfit for the artificial atmosphere of the Roman court. The consequence is, that a vein of untruthfulness runs throughout the whole Æneid, as strong and as remarkable as is the genuineness of thought and feeling in the Homeric poems. Homer walks in the open day, Virgil by lamplight. Homer gives us figures that breathe and move, Virgil usually treats us to waxwork. Homer has the full force and play of the drama, Virgil is essentially operatic. From Virgil back to Homer is a greater distance, than from Homer back to life.”

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