Children of Homer: the Epic Strain in Modern Greek Literature

  • Paul Merchant


European writers of this century have not generally responded to their times through the medium of epic, and where they have done so, they have been most successful in epic theatre and novel. The confusion and despair expressed by Eliot in The Waste Land has encouraged, as William Carlos Williams had feared,1 the development of the tentative and the introspective as the characteristic voice of modern European poetry. Taking his hint from Whitman, Pound invented an epic form which allowed for leaps and ellipses of subject-matter and style, a form which answered to the increasing complexity of his world; and Williams and Olson have continued that process. In their hands the long poem is an attempt to respond to the full range of life’s impact, a synthesis of the influences of locality, tradition, culture, politics, art.2 In Europe, however, the strength of the lyric tradition had combined with our moral and ideological uncertainties to produce the characteristic short personal poem, limited to the description of the emotions attached to a single event. There have, of course, been European poets of larger scope; in Britain there were MacDiarmid, Bunting, David Jones; and recently two shorthand versions of epics, Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns and Ted Hughes’s Crow.


Lightning Flash Modern Poetry Epic Theatre Short Poem Epic Form 
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Copyright information

© Tom Winnifrith, Penelope Murray and K. W. Gransden 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Merchant

There are no affiliations available

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