Monday, January 25, 2010

Arnold on intimations of antiquity

"These are no medieval personages; they belong to an older, pagan, mythological world.  The very first thing that strikes one, in reading the Mabinogion, is how evidently the medieval story-teller is pillaging an antiquity of which he does not fully possess the secret; he is like a peasant building his hut on the site of Halicarnassus or Ephesus; he builds, but what he builds is full of materials of which he knows not the history,or knows by a glimmering tradition merely;--stones 'not of this building,' but of an older architecture, greater, cunninger, more majestical."

Matthew Arnold, The study of Celtic literature (London:  Smith, Elder, & Co., 1891 [1867]), 51.

No comments: