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William Blake (1757–1827). The Poetical Works. 1908.

Appendix to the Prophetic Books

On Homer’s Poetry

EVERY poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homer’s is peculiarly so I cannot tell: he has told the story of Bellerophon, and omitted the Judgement of Paris, which is not only a part but a principal part of Homer’s subject.

But when a work has Unity, it is as much in a part as in the whole. The Torso is as much a Unity as the Laocoon.

As Unity is the cloak of Folly, so Goodness is the cloak of Knavery. Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out with a Moral like a sting in the tail. Aristotle says Characters are either good or bad; now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do with Character. An apple tree, a pear tree, a horse, a lion are Characters; but a good apple tree or a bad is an apple tree still: a horse is not more a lion for being a bad horse; that is its Character: its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.

It is the same with the Moral of a whole poem as with the Moral Goodness of its parts. Unity and Morality are secondary considerations, and belong to Philosophy and not to poetry, to Exception and not to Rule, to Accident and not to Substance. The Ancients called it eating of the Tree of Good and Evil.

The Classics! it is the Classics, and not Goths nor Monks, that desolate Europe with wars.