Excerpt from Poets and Poetry: Being Articles Reprinted From the Literary Supplement of "the Times"
The poet Rogers is reported to have had a saying, 'when a new book comes out I read an Old one.' If mottoes were any longer in fashion, that remark would do as well as any I could find to put before this little volume. Not that, Of course, the essays here collected carry the doctrine Of 'the Old is better' at all so far as Rogers. Indeed they could not well suggest the ignoring of new books; for it is to new books that they owe their existence. A man who never reads a new author is in danger of making his mind a mere museum of fossils. Or, if that puts it too strongly - for the immortals are after all the immortals, and live exempt from fears of fossil decay - yet the new are necessary interpreters of those among the Old who possess genius. For it is the privilege of genius to be inexhaustible. Every generation reads Dante afresh, and for each in turn he is, or may be, new-born. If a man could exclude from his mind all sub sequent literature and read Homer or Virgil just as the Alexandrian or Augustan scholars read them, he would simply have sacrificed life to archaeology, and his Homer, still more his Virgil, would be but a small fraction Of the full stature of the poet, which it has taken many generations of the human mind and many races of men to see in such completeness as we can see it to-day.
The new then are necessary to the Old. But even less than the Old can they stand alone. That is true even Of original and creative work, which builds on the sands if it forgets that the human mind is a thing of continuous life, for which all new departures must find their root and starting-point in something already accepted. Still more.
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