This volume, originally published in 1937, is reissued with a new preface and a few small corrections. A brilliant study of the continuing and changing uses of classical mythology in English poetry, it treats most of the major and many of the minor English poets since 1680 and includes a chapter on the use of myth in American verse. It provides an illuminating overview of English poetry since the end of the Renaissance.
In his Preface to the new printing, Bush briefly surveys the various approaches to classical myth over the centuries. "During the last two generations," he observes, "most of the leading British and American poets (not to mention Rilke and others) have renewed the mythic or mythological tradition with fresh power. Thus, in spite of the accumulated pressures and threats of our time, the vitality and the necessity of myth remain." He also reminisces engagingly about the writing of the book and acknowledges that after three decades he does not find a great deal in it that he would wish to change.
It is not only the great body of material included in the book that makes it so remarkable. It is the masterly gifts of fresh, lucid, and illuminating analysis of great figures, the firm comments which tie together whole dozens and decades of writers, the vivid thumbnail portraits of the living men who wrote living poetry, the humor, the candor, and the gift of phrasing which make the book delightful to read… This is indeed what John Livingston Lowes calls ‘creative scholarship.’
Mr. Bush’s book is managed with learning, insight, and skill; the classical learning which he here exhibits in its depth and scope has become so rare as to be almost unique among American scholars… The task he has set himself—that of recounting the use of classical myth and story in the romantic tradition—he has done with a learning which few in this day can equal, with an associative memory that constantly supplies him with rich analogies, with an industry which is prodigious, and a subtle and critical insight… His volume is the more valuable for its Appendix, a list of mythological poems from 1680 to the present; an extensive bibliography; and a tremendous number of learned and helpful footnotes.
- 647 pages
- Harvard University Press
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