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T. S. Eliot, European Culture is One & Multicultural !

From Eliot's Notes towards the Definition of Culture - Appendix: The Unity of European Culture


Past is Still Present!

The "timeless present", which is an essential characteristic of Literature, means that the literature of the past can always be active in that of the present. Thus, Homer in Virgil, Virgil in Dante, Plutarch and Seneca in Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Goethe's Gotz von Berlinchingen, Euripides in Racine's and Goethe's Iphigenia. Or, in more recent times, The Thousand and One Nights and Calderon in Hofmannsthal, the Odyssey in Joyce and Aeschylus, Petronius, Dante, Tristan Corbiere and Spanish mysticism in T.S. Eliot. The wealth of possible interrelationships is endless. And then there is the myriad of literary forms, from genre, metric form and strophe to the processes of rhetoric and narrative motifs. Finally, there is the rich spectrum of figures that literature has created who may pass indefinitely into new works: Achilles, Oedipus, Semiramis, Faust or Don Juan.

Curtius, Introduction to the European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages

It has often been claimed that English, of all the languages of modern Europe, is the richest for the purposes of writing poetry. I think that this claim is justified. (…) [The reason for this], in my opinion, is the variety of the elements of which English is made up.

First, of course, there is the Germanic foundation… After this we find a considerable Scandinavian element, due in the first place to the Danish conquest. Then there is the Norman French element, after the Norman Conquest. After this there followed a succession of French influences, traceable through words adopted at different periods. The sixteenth century saw a great increase of new words coined from the Latin... [Finally,] not so easy to trace, but I think of considerable importance, the Celtic. But I am not thinking, in all this history, only of the Words, I am thinking, for poetry, primarily of the Rhythms. Each of these languages brought its own music: and the richness of the English language for poetry is first of all in its variety of metrical elements. There is the rhythm of early Saxon verse, the rhythm of the Norman French, the rhythm of the Welsh, and also the influence of generations of study of Latin and Greek poetry. And even today, the English language enjoys constant possibilities of refreshment from its several centres: apart from the vocabulary, poems by Englishmen, Welshmen, Scots and Irishmen, all written in English, continue to show differences in their Music... I think the reason why English is such a good language for poetry is that it is a composite from so many European sources.

See also: M. V. Llosa, The culture of liberty  * Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


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