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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

THE USES OF TRADITION C. A. Trypanis, Greek Poetry from Homer to Seferis (Faber) £25.00

Greek Poetry from Homer to Seferis has 700 pages of text, 86 pages of notes, 100 pages of a bibliography 'which makes no claim whatever to completeness', and an index of poets running to about 800 names. It is a history of Greek poetry, covering 3000 years, stopping only at writers who are still alive. Poetry includes verse drama, so there are full chapters on ancient tragedy and comedy. Disappointingly, there is almost no quotation, but this must have been a ruthless decision at the outset or the book would have expanded to impossible dimensions. The author in his preface calls it a work 'more of love than of scholarship', but it is certainly both. Scholarship at its best, as here, is the means by which the love of one's subject may be properly expressed. Trypanis' book is full, exact and admirably clear. The table of contents itself is a pleasure to look at, the five parts of the book and the many sub-sections there being clearly disposed. Trypanis' method is to give a few pages of historical and cultural introduction to each age, then to divide the material of that period in the most appropriate way: for so long as the strict genres apply, into epic, lyric, dramatic; later into Christian and secular, later still according to provenance and schools. Thus one can consult the book for kinds and phases of poetry, as well as for information on individual authors. Since there are very many names to get ...


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