But the gravest difficulty, and perhaps the most important, in poetry meant solely for recitation, is the difficulty of achieving verbal beauty, or rather of making verbal beauty tell.
The balance of private good and general welfare is at the bottom of civilized morals but the morals of the Heroic Age are founded on individuality, and on nothing else.
The reason can only be this: heroic poetry depends on an heroic age, and an age is heroic because of what it is, not because of what it does.
No poet will ever take the written word as a substitute for the spoken word he knows that it is on the spoken word, and the spoken word only, that his art is founded.
Epic poetry exhibits life in some great symbolic attitude. It cannot strictly be said to symbolize life itself, but always some manner of life.
There is only one thing which can master the perplexed stuff of epic material into unity and that is, an ability to see in particular human experience some significant symbolism of man's general destiny.
That is to say, epic poetry has been invented many times and independently but, as the needs which prompted the invention have been broadly similar, so the invention itself has been.
If epic poetry is a definite species, the sagas do not fall within it.
Poetry is the work of poets, not of peoples or communities artistic creation can never be anything but the production of an individual mind.
With several different kinds of poetry to choose from, a man would decide that he would like best to be an epic poet, and he would set out, in conscious determination, on an epic poem.
Traditional matter must be glorified, since it would be easier to listen to the re-creation of familiar stories than to quite new and unexpected things the listeners, we must remember, needed poetry chiefly as the re-creation of tired hours.
By the general process of epic poetry, I mean the way this form of art has constantly responded to the profound needs of the society in which it was made.