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Rexroth on Homer and the Great Chinese Poets

As you read the Iliad and Odyssey, says Kenneth Rexroth,  the sublimity of the conception rises slowly through the sublimity of the language.

"An old man, blind now, who has known all the courts and ships and men and women of the Eastern Mediterranean, tells you, with all the conviction of total personal involvement in his speech – “The universe and its parts, the great forces of Nature, fire, sun, sky and storm, earth and procreation, viewed as persons are frivolous and dangerous, from the point of view of men often malicious, and always unpredictable. The thing that endures, that gives value to life, is comradeship, loyalty, bravery, magnanimity, love, the relations of men in direct communication with each other, personally, as persons, committed to each other. From this comes the beauty of life, its tragedy and its meaning, and from nowhere else.”

"The great Chinese poets say the same thing, except that they make no moral judgment of the universe. They have no gods to fight against. Man and his virtues are a part of the universe, like falling water and standing stone and drifting mist."



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One Response to “Rexroth on Homer and the Great Chinese Poets”

  1. Ken Knabb Says:

    Many more of Rexroth's essays (and poems and other writings) are online at

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