PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions Specialising in large archives and delivering content across platforms, Exact Editions offers the most diverse and broadly accessible content available for libraries and businesses by working with hundreds of publishers to bring valuable historical and current publications to life on web, iOS and Android platforms. read more
Most Read... Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Sasha DugdaleJoy
(PN Review 227)
Matías Serra Bradfordinterviews Roger Langley The Long Question of Poetry: A Quiz for R.F. Langley
(PN Review 199)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Litro Magazine
The Poetry Society
Next Issue Alex Wylie sponsors the Secular Games Emma Wilson quizzes Carol Mavor Anna Jackson's Dear Reader Freddie Raphael's Dear Lord Byron David Herd on Poetry and Deportation

This report is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

Poets in Paradise: Chaucer, Pound, Eliot Michael Alexander

In the fourth canto of the Inferno Dante has Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan welcome Virgil and then invite him, Dante, to join them. This immodesty is not unjustified: Dante is the first major poet in the new literatures of Europe who can stand the comparison with the great ones of antiquity. His work has a greater scope than that of Horace, Ovid and Lucan, and his style has all the terseness of Horace and the authority of Virgil. Of subsequent European poets I can read, only Milton has an ambition and stylistic command comparable with Dante's. But Milton's epic suffers at times from the author's egotism and the controversialist nature of his Christianity. Mediaeval Catholicism offered a grand structure strong enough to resist Dante's fierce sense of grievance; which is one reason why his humility (though he is so confident about ultimate destinations) seems more genuine than Milton's. Shakespeare is both greater and more humane than Milton, by reason of his profound interest in all sorts of other people and their predicaments, and his ability to forget himself. As befits a dramatist, Shakespeare is also more varied and accessible than the epic poets; though The Odyssey is more varied than Racine.

Varied, humane and accessible are words which apply also to Chaucer, who is the first English poet to place himself in the European tradition. Towards the end of his Troilus and Criseyde, he instructs his 'little ...
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image