Quotation by C.M. Bowra

Homer sweeps us away by the irresistible movement of lines through a whole passage to a splendid climax. What counts is the singleness of his effect, the unbroken maintenance of a heroic or tragic mood, the concentration on some action vividly imagined and clearly portrayed without irrelevance or second thoughts or even those hints that lure into bypaths of fancy and suggest that there is more in the words than is obvious at first sight. But in Virgil, great though the paragraphs are, compelling though the climax is when it is reached, we are more concerned with the details, with each small effect and each deftly placed word, than with the whole. We linger over the richness of single phrases, over the "pathetic half-lines," over the precision or potency with which a word illuminates a sentence or a happy sequence of sounds imparts an inexplicable charm to something that might otherwise have been trivial. Of course, Homer has his magical phrases and Virgil his bold effects, but the distinction stands. It is a matter of composition, of art, and it marks the real difference between the two kinds of epic, which are not so much "authentic" and "literary" as oral and written.
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